The OLF will focus on a resilient society

Vilnius, April 18. (BNS). The Open Lithuania Foundation (OLF) is reopening its operations with a promise to focus on increasing its society’s resilience and on the country’s internal issues that are sometimes driven by corruption, nepotism and social inequality.

According to the Chairperson of the Board, Dr. Milda Ališauskienė, having first operated from the early days of the reestablishment of Lithuania’s independence until 2008, the Foundation is reopening thanks to its Honorary Chairperson, Dr. Irena Veisaitė,  who has called for a  reconsideration of key emerging threats to society, such as social inequality, a lack of trust in state institutions, corruption, nepotism, and media illiteracy.

“The Open Lithuania Foundation is restarting its activities with a new Board and new areas of priority <…>. We  see a need for a common space for discussion where different organizations can meet, identify problems and perhaps look for solutions and how to implement them together. The Open Lithuania Foundation is interested in offering this platform to people willing and able to change something”, said M. Ališauskienė at the press conference.

The OLF is going to consolidate the efforts of about 20 currently operating NGOs founded by the foundation, including Transparency International, the Human Rights Monitoring Institute etc., and other successful non-governmental players in the human rights and other fields, said the Head of the Foundation, Sandra Adomavičiūtė.

The OLF will focus on three activities: encouraging a resilient society, revisiting and reconsidering the idea of the European Union, and  monitoring as well as analyzing public policy.

According to S. Adomavičiūtė, opening and organizing the activities of the Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis is the foundation’s key task for this year. She promises that the think tank will pull together the efforts of experts from different backgrounds and viewpoints, including political scientists, lawyers, journalists, sociologists, and other analysts, with ideas and studies for assessing public policy processes, such as corruption, nepotism, passivity, a lack of trust in government, as well as media literacy, fake news and issues of media standards.

“The analysts of the Institute will also closely follow trends in European politics. They will be active in commenting on and evaluating developments in security and activism in Europe”, said S. Adomavičiūtė.

Search for a European Idea will be a series of discussions with Lithuanian, Polish, German, and American intellectuals that will be launched at the end of April. The series of approximately 10 discussions will focus on the idea of Europe and historical memory.

Within the parameters of its Resilient Society program, the OLF is going to give priority to municipalities that have still not shed a longstanding authoritarian “nomenklatura” system. According to S. Adomavičiūtė, “There are still places where high-level bullying and intimidation enjoy perfect impunity and are widely tolerated and people are still dreaming of freedom to act within a legal framework.” The situation in southeast Lithuania has come under particular scrutiny. Fundraising is underway to support discussions, local initiatives and, most importantly, individual activists, who are “still oppressed in some municipalities”.

“Our Resilient Society program is also going to tackle the efforts of large, unfriendly neighboring states against the resilience of our state and society”, said Adomavičiūtė.

In the opinion of Justinas Žilinskas, a lawyer and OLF member of the Board, the foundation’s mission is particularly important now when there is “so much shouting and so little listening” and the trend is to oversimplify complex problems as well as reject serious scrutiny, while “building walls and a strong hand” are often portrayed as an all-cure recipe against problems, both real and illusionary.

Open Lithuania Foundation’s member of the Board businessperson Domas Dargis noted that communities in provincial areas are less resilient to disinformation and fake news. He highlighted the OLF’s intention to counterbalance disinformation by building support for members of the diaspora returning home and strengthening the voice of local progressive opinion leaders.

The reestablishment of the OLF has secured support for three years from George Soros, the globally prominent American businessman and philanthropist, with hopes for continuous sustainability thereafter supported with state money for NGO projects. The average annual subsidy for these three years is almost 700,000 USD (approximately EUR 660,000). The OLF asserts that it has implemented and supported over 50 projects and programs in the areas of education, science, culture, information, and civil society, with the total amount of support exceeding 70 million USD.

The Board of the Foundation includes representatives of Lithuanian culture, academia and business.

Author: Ignas Jačauskas; politika@bns.lt.