Expressing support for our Belarusian member upon being shut down by the government

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On 18 March the Supreme Court of Belarus forced our member BirdLife Belarus/APB to cease operations and liquidated the organisation. We are deeply saddened by this effort to silence our internationally renowned partner.

APB was a frontrunner of wetlands protection and conservation. Since its establishment in 1998, APB became the largest environmental NGO in Belarus with more than 2000 members. APB was continuously active for the protection and management of important nature areas in Belarus, with a focus on the protection of wetlands and birds. APB did this in close cooperation with responsible Belarusian government ministries, the Belarusian Academy of Sciences, and with the support from many international organisations and partners.

This news comes one year before APB was to celebrate its 25th birthday. Over nearly a quarter-century of dedication and commitment, APB greatly benefited both Belarusian society and European conservation. They compiled an inspiring track record of conservation successes, with an impeccable reputation for both the quality of the work and the character of the people working there. Not only was APB active in creating awareness about the beauty of bird watching and the need to protect their habitats, but it was instrumental in conserving the Aquatic Warbler and in designing and managing peatland restoration projects, including the restoration of more than 17,200 hectares of drained peatlands, which benefited biodiversity and stopped the release of huge amounts of CO2.

The reason given for the liquidation is not very clear, but it is part of a broader campaign by the government to silence the voices of civil society. In the past seven months 550 NGOs have been shut down in Belarus, including those active in environment, sports, animal welfare, and culture. We are convinced that the sole mission of APB was to protect nature for the benefit of the Belarusian society, and this loss will be felt both within Belarus and in wider European conservation efforts.

APB became a member of the Wetlands International – European Association in 2021. While APB is now shut down, we remain inspired by their legacy of outstanding work and will continue to work with Belarusian experts on wetlands conservation to benefit both nature and people.

Photo Credit: An aerial photo of the River Pripyat and its surrounding floodplain meadows, wetlands and oxbow lakes. This is an extremely important site for migrating birds (mainly waders) that stop to feed on the abundance of food before continuing their migration. Turov area, Polesie, Belarus. © Daniel Rosengren