Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic, is a land locked mountainous country in Central Asia. While enjoying several years of relatively stable growth, the country is one of the poorest in the region. Roughly 2.3 million of the country’s 5.3 million people are poor and live below the national poverty line. In 2008, inflation soared to nearly 30%. While the rate has since dropped significantly, it remains a challenge to the country.
Kyrgyzstan’s rural population makes up nearly two thirds of its people and embraces about three quarters of the countries poor (1.8 million). While agriculture is the backbone of the economy with over half the population working in this sector, its share in GDP decreased to only 30 percent in 2005.
Aid effectiveness and CSOs: the Experience of the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan civil society organisations (CSOs) include diverse organisations of different sizes and thematic interests from across the country. As such, they operate in very different circumstances, engage in varied development programs, projects and advocacies, and have roots in various communities and sectors including women, youth and children, rural communities and others.
Coalition of CSOs on Aid Effectiveness
One of these organizations is the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan (FWNGO). The FWNGO started its work on aid effectiveness in 2007, and in 2008, it initiated a coalition of CSO networks on aid effectiveness with well-known NGOs in Kyrgyzstan: Citizens against Corruption, Association of Centers for support to civil society organizations and Osh Media Resource Center. The coalition has now expanded and includes more than twenty (20) organizations from various sectors and based in different provinces of the country.
FWNGO worked not only in Kyrgyzstan but also in other parts of Central Asia where it attracted other CSOs for joint work for bettering aid and also to ensure meaningful participation by CSOs in the Accra High Level Forum follow-up and AAA implementation.
Start of the Long Road for Partnership
If the first actions were initiated by the FWNGO to raise awareness among CSOs on aid effectiveness, the follow-up actions were done under the auspices of the new informal coalition on aid effectiveness. FWNGO started its work on aid effectiveness through its national and international advocacy and lobbying for inclusion and integration of gender equality issues in the aid effectiveness agenda. Meaningful participation of women’s organizations was key to ensure that the voices, concerns and proposals of women were taken into account.
Forms of Engagement of the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan (FWNGO)
Being a women’s organization, FWNGO started its aid effectiveness engagement through the gender equality lens, with focus on women’s rights in aid effectiveness. Further engagement was inspired by the chance to start creating inclusive dialogues, discuss aid effectiveness for development results, integrate collective CSOs’ voice and recommendations into PD and AAA evaluations and to ensure that human rights, women’s rights and gender equality were part of the aid effectiveness agenda. CSOs decided to set up a sustainable mechanism of consultation and cooperation for this.
Engagement varied from CSO awareness building towards monitoring and advocating for the widening of the ownership principle and the implementation of PD and AAA commitments by different actors. The longer-term objectives of such engagement were to institutionalize policy dialogue spaces, strengthen the enabling environment for partnership, advance the CSO effectiveness process, and promote democratic ownership processes. Thus, the coalition participated in and organized CSO consultations on aid effectiveness issues, translated and disseminated international CSOs’ position paper on ownership, held an Open Forum on issues of CSOs’ own effectiveness as development actors, held trainings for CSOs on capacity building actions, and performed monitoring work. Diverse communication mechanisms were used.
Engagement with decision-makers in the state and donors’ bodies took various forms of work such as advocacy and lobbying and organizing of debates, dialogues and round table discussions among CSOs and diverse stakeholders. These were intended to bring to their attention such concerns as gender equality, human rights, democratic ownership and mutual accountability.
Through these actions, CSOs have made their voices heard and have increased the importance of their role in the aid effectiveness dialogue. However, there have not yet been much success in setting up a working mechanism for real partnership for development. For instance, in promoting equal participation in the monitoring of official development aid (ODA), CSOs have been working on their own capacity with minimum support from the State or donors.
A crucial element in the work of the CSOs was the engagement of international CSOs in the aid process. Without political and practical spaces and links with the international advocacy of CSOs, the level of the CSOs’ local work on effectiveness would have been lower. To illustrate: the local CSOs were able to deepen their analysis of such issues as modalities of aid effectiveness reform, the AAA implementation and the role of local CSOs in the process of development and improving aid effectiveness during the regional Central Asian CSOs and multi-stakeholders’ consultation workshop conducted in October 2008 in partnership with experienced organizations such as IBON International and the Reality of Aid (ROA) Network.
Substance of Engagement – ODA and Aid Effectiveness in Kyrgyzstan: Issues of CSOs’ Concerns
It is clear that visible poverty reduction, increased gender equality, fully practiced human rights, social justice and ecological sustainability should be major results and measures of the aid effectiveness process, but without pressure from the CSOs, these are not possible to achieve. Issues of corruption, debt, rising prices and a highly formal approach to gender equality remain as challenges to development. Apart from these, there are other more specific issues in ensuring more effective CSO action for aid and development effectiveness.
Transparency and Accountability
The mutual accountability mechanism is under construction and the local CSOs worked for this to be open, transparent and regular, with real room for citizens’ participation. Since 2008, there has been progress but the pace has shown how slow commitments to ‘mutual accountability’ are being met. It has only been CSOs who have initiated actions to broaden transparency and accountability; no State nor donors’ initiatives have taken place.
In fact, in the first aid effectiveness meetings, CSOs in Kyrgyzstan agreed that the function of a new multi-stakeholder mechanism should be to hold governments and donors to account. Such mechanisms have been developed under strong CSO pressure. During the 2010 communication process, the coalition of CSOs on aid effectiveness had difficulties obtaining information from the state and donors, such as their country plans on AAA implementation or at least the preliminary results of the evaluation of PD and AAA implementation in Kyrgyzstan. The CSOs, for their part, shared the matrix they used for monitoring AAA implementation.
Recommendations from CSOs stressed that (a) all aid effectiveness and country development strategy reports related to aid should be published and made available to the public, and (b) the government should make regular reports to the National Parliament. The creation of councils on development at various levels in the country was also posed as a possible segment of the transparency and accountability mechanism, with an aim to control aid effectiveness and AAA implementation. Such councils should include CSOs as members.
Gender Equality in Aid and Development Effectiveness
The FWNGO clearly has seen and challenged the lack of prioritization, synchronization and proper allocation of resources for gender equality. Gender equality has not been financially recognized in the Kyrgyzstan Country Development Strategy as a development goal. The FWNGO made numerous efforts to address the lack of gender equality in official aid processes and the lack of working mechanisms to channel CSOs’ concerns on women’s rights into official development projects and programs.
Official development assistance has not been geared to strengthen gender equality, social justice and human rights in Kyrgyzstan. After the Fourth High Level Forum (HLF4) in Accra in 2008, there were no policy changes with regard to the development of women as a disadvantaged group in the country. In Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia, initiatives to promote women’s health, women’s participation in political processes, reduction of poverty among women and the struggle with violence against women have not enjoyed an enabling environment.
At the multi-stakeholders’ meeting of the Open Forum country consultation on CSO development effectiveness held last April 2010 in Bishkek, neither the State nor the donors were ready to share their AAA action plans, because such action plans to implement AAA commitments do not exist in reality in Kyrgyzstan. The local CSOs have tried to put gender equality and human rights issues in the ODA agenda, with little success, and have even made an issue of joint multi-stakeholders’ discussion and revisiting country development priorities.
The CSOs have also been struggling to stop the practice of funding women’s rights and gender equality programs through the international system, for example, the UN. The women’s CSOs are advocating for agender equality State Plan being funded by ODA through the state budget, leading to a stronger national gender equality machinery.
Issues of Ownership
One of the participants in a CSO meeting said, “We don’t have any influence over donors and their funding, but without civil society, the donors are nothing. It has already been five years since the Paris Declaration, but nothing has changed. We need to go back to our villages and tell the people about the Accra Agenda for Action.”
One of the effective ways to increase CSOs’ ownership over aid effectiveness in the country is to create an effective and relevant independent monitoring and evaluation system of the Paris Declaration and the AAA and their impact on development outcomes. To be able to do this, a training workshop was held in October 2010 for CSOs from various sectors and provinces on the basics of aid and on the matrix of indicators to monitor PD and AAA. In this activity, participants from the state and donor agencies were invited to discuss a new multi-stakeholder mechanism that would increase the voice and consider the recommendations of CSOs to direct ODA towards poverty eradication and the promotion of human rights.
CSOs and Issues of Enabling Environment
The CSO coalition under the leadership of the FWNGO of Kyrgyzstan started to advocate for the strengthening of the enabling environment for partnership. Creating or improving the enabling environment for partnership was noted by CSOs as an area for joint action by all stakeholders. It was envisioned to include the development of CSOs’ capacity as partners in the promotion of aid effectiveness, in AAA implementation and in other aid and development-related processes. This would also include the CSOs’ capacity to engage the state and donors in PD and AAA implementation and monitoring, analyze aid effectiveness and development effectiveness, broaden CSOs’ awareness on PD and AAA, and finally, strengthen CSOs’ own effectiveness.
Apparently, the role and plans of the donors for contributing to the enabling environment for partnership with CSOs were not clear even to the state and donors themselves, despite their commitments in the AAA. To help improve this situation, the CSO coalition on aid effectiveness has been undertaking different ways and means for the effective involvement and participation of CSO representatives in the country teams on aid monitoring and other relevant groups. The CSOs have also been employing various modes to integrate their recommendations into the country aid and AAA implementation and evaluation processes.
In relation to an enabling environment for CSOs working in the aid agenda, the key challenges identified by CSOs are the following: the existing level of legislation related to CSOs (e.g., laws governing NGOs, laws on peaceful assemblies, on religion, on TV and radio); selectiveness or favoritism in working with or partnering with CSOs; pressure related to the activities of CSOs; official decision-making without taking into account the opinions and recommendations from CSOs; false understanding of charity; lack of resources and of information about CSOs among donors and the state; lack of trust on CSOs by business; and lack of tax benefits for businesses that support CSOs.
At another level, the challenges faced by CSOs in their advocacy for better aid in the country include the lack or difficulty of access to country donors’ and state bodies’ information on aid processes and results. Another challenge is for CSOs to ensure that their voice and their recommendations are substantially reflected in the PD and AAA evaluation, to stress the focus on human rights, women’s rights and gender equality and ecological sustainability. To overcome these challenges, the CSOs are creating a multi-stakeholders’ communication and partnership mechanism, which still has to be realized. One of the steps is the involvement of CSO representatives in the country’s aid monitoring team.
More strategically, there is a need to continue an awareness raising process on the PD and AAA in the country for CSOs. This is coupled with the need to intensify the capacity development of CSOs to enable them to work effectively as partners in this process. An asset or positive side of the CSO coalition is its wide links with grassroots organisations and NGOs in the country. But despite continuous efforts to broaden the space for CSOs, the implementation of PD and AAA in the country has not substantially changed the access to and availability of information, has not really strengthened the enabling environment for CSOs, and has not improved accountability and transparency from a CSO perspective. Development results – which CSOs are looking for – are not visible and aid results are still a mystery to CSOs. CSOs’ efforts play a crucial role to make governments and donors accountable and transparent, to reach real democratic ownership of ODA. Challenges confronting CSOs in Kyrgyzstan for making aid more effective and development results-oriented require complex measures from all stakeholders, including the State and donors. The CSO coalition on aid effectiveness in Kyrgyzstan also plans to work with local governments and the Parliament to strengthen democratic ownership. The work of CSOs towards strengthening comprehensive partnership mechanisms for making aid better will continue.
Where We are Now
While ODA is still blind and non-sensitive to the voice of CSOs, the consolidation of CSOs, under the leadership of the FWNGO of Kyrgyzstan, for bettering aid and making development effective has led to a stronger civil society formation and greater awareness on aid and development issues. The CSOs are exerting efforts to optimise broad stakeholders’ policy dialogues on the implementation and review of the PD and AAA to make aid more transparent in the short term, and to bring a better life for poor people in the long term.
The workshop entitled, “Aid effectiveness: further actions on aid effectiveness and AAA implementation”, was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
by Nurgul Dzhanaeva
The Kyrgyz Republic before 1991 was part of the Soviet Union. The transition from socialism to a capitalist market economy has since shaped the course of economic development. Poverty today is at all time highs, reaching rates of 37%2. Lack of jobs has led to high levels of migration, one of the most significant characteristics of the current socioeconomic context of the country. As UNDP estimates, the total number of labour migrants from Kyrgyzstan is between 700 thousand to 1 million – this is in a country with a little more than 5.5 million population.
Development remains dependent on external ODA. In the context of high levels of corruption, poor management of ODA, growing inequality and big burden of debt repayment it is crucial that CSOs remain engaged in aid and development effectiveness processes at the national and international levels. There are positive aspects with regard to CSO engagement in development, but in general CSOs lack institutionalised space in the spirit of a “partnership for development.”
There are no multi-stakeholder discussions over critical aid and development effectiveness issues. Nevertheless, Kyrgyzstan’s CSOs are proactively taking steps toward meaningful participation in the aid and development effectiveness process. But a lot remains to be done to improve the enabling environment for CSOs’ effective involvement. Women, feminists and women’s organizations and movements play key roles in development at all levels. CSOs are, in addition, concerned with restrictive laws relating to CSO voices, access to information, and advocacy initiatives.
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