Regional and local development for the purposes of this study is a broad range of social, environmental, and economic processes at the level of subnational entities (oblasts, districts, towns, cities, rural settlements). A general simplified way to find out the situation with regional and local development is to ask local people the question “So, how are things with you here?”
An view from outside, experts’ opinions, scientific analysis, comparing indicators with other regions make it possible to obtain a more accurate picture of local development, and use this information as a basis for identifying areas for improvement.
A broadly accepted indicator for the positive regional and local development is its sustainability (functioning based on the principles of sustainable development). Currently Belarus suffers from the depopulation of rural areas and small towns, a low level of income of the population living in the regions (with few exceptions), lack of the social infrastructure and the low quality of services provided to the population. Many districts are still loss-making, small and medium businesses develop slowly. Minsk and large cities remain the “centres of attraction” for investments. Least-developed regions and local communities are not attractive for investors.
For the several recent decades a number of negative trends in the regulatory area and governance have remained characteristic for the country related both to regional development as a whole, and the functioning of the civil society sector in particular. These trends include the following:
- a formal, declarative character of the state policy in regional and local development;
- poor awareness of the general public about the activity of civil society organizations in regional and local development;
- such organizations are not perceived by the authorities and the population as serious enough actors, partners, and resources for the regional and local development;
- civil society entities working in the area of regional and local development depend to a large extent on foreign support;
- the conditions for the establishment and state support to NGOs remain unsatisfactory (prohibition to register at the residence address, lack of laws on charity, a complicated bureaucratic registration system for the projects with foreign funding, not yet developed social contracting system).