The first large-scale people’s forum that brought together representatives of all regions of the country – people of different social groups, professions, and ages – took place in Belarus in October 1996. They gathered to discuss vital matters concerning the life of the society and the state.
This consolidated way of discussing key tasks and guidelines for the country’s future development took root: since Belarus gained independence, the Belarusian People’s Congress has been held five times already – in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2010, and 2016.
The Belarusian People’s Congress has become a special form of grassroots democracy. It is a democratic institution that allows Belarus citizens to more broadly exercise their right to take part in national affairs – not only via elections of various levels and referendums, the operation of the parliament and municipal councils of deputies, through communication with people’s deputies.
The nationwide forum will gather delegates from every region of the country: representatives of all the branches of power, all spheres of the production sector, the private sector, science and education sectors, healthcare and culture, university students and veterans. These respected people – professionals, leaders, who are ready to speak up on topical affairs and make their own proposals – are nominated and elected in labor collectives and during public meetings.
Apart from that, representatives of the diplomatic corps, Belarusian diasporas, international organizations, and foreign guests are invited to take part in the Belarusian People’s Congress.
Following the established tradition, the Belarusian People’s Congress is arranged every five years. The format of the event is two days of active work of delegates from all over the country.
However, in practice preparations for the forum and the summing up of the results take many months. It is the period when public discussions of the accomplishments and problems of the country are at their peak, when results of the previous five-year term are summarized, when proposals concerning the future development strategy are put forth.
19-20 October 1996
Delegates: 4,740 people
The President’s report – "Only the nation has the right to determine its destiny"
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was the one to put forth the initiative to arrange a nationwide forum. In his speech the head of state analyzed the country’s development in the first few years of independence and his work as the country’s president in addition to the consequent strategy with a focus on a socially-oriented market economy.
Key topics and decisions: during the first Belarusian People’s Congress the program on Belarus’ social and economic development in 1996-2000 was discussed and adopted. The program focused on export of merchandise and services, housing construction, agribusiness development. The initiative to arrange a national referendum to amend the Constitution was put forth.
18-19 May 2001
Delegates: 2,500 people
The slogan – "For a strong and prosperous Belarus"
Key topics and decisions: results were summed up and tangible accomplishments of the five-year term were recalled. The delegates discussed the program on Belarus’ social and economic development in 2001-2005, which outlined consequent priorities and reference points – food security, export, housing, innovations and investments.
2-3 March 2006
Delegates: over 2,500 people
The slogan – "The state for the people"
Key topics and decisions: results of the 2001-2005 national social and economic development program were summed up. The draft strategic plan for the country’s development till 2010 was discussed. The focus was made on all-round human development, higher real revenues of the population, innovation-driven development of the economy, energy and resource-saving efforts, the role of export and ways to raise the competitive ability of Belarusian products, development of agriculture and revival of rural areas, housing construction and development of small urban communities.
As part of the third Belarusian People’s Congress a phone hotline was available: Belarusians were able to make suggestions concerning the topics being discussed and could send questions to the country’s president.
6-7 December 2010
Delegates: 2,500 people
Key topics and decisions: the delegates reviewed key results of the previous five-year term and adopted the program on Belarus’ social and economic development in 2011-2015. The discussions focused on preserving the national model of a socially-oriented economy, improvement of the investment and business climate, the development of high-tech manufacturing, efforts to raise export.
The address by participants of the 4th Belarusian People’s Congress