WASHINGTON -- The United Nations’ top official in Belarus warned against the danger of politicizing human rights issues in the country, and called for more international engagement with Belarusian society and average citizens.
Sanaka Samarasinha made the comments at a July 21 hearing by the Helsinki Commission, a U.S. government agency charged with monitoring human rights in Europe and elsewhere.
Samarasinha said Belarus had made progress in alleviating poverty over the past two decades, and working to curtail human trafficking.
He said those achievements should be acknowledged by foreign governments and civil society groups.
Other experts speaking at the commission said democratic and economic reforms had stagnated, fueling in part the massive street protests that rattled the country this spring.
Samarasinha said younger Belarusians were getting independent news and information not through traditional media, such as radio and television, but through social media, via smart phones.
Katie Fox, a Eurasia expert with the National Democratic Institute, warned that cuts to international aid and development budgets proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration could leave a void in Belarusian civil society that could then be filled by the Russian government.