Research Findings: Civil Society and COVID-19 Crisis Management in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
The EurasiaLab Fellows
The team consists of the three aspiring researchers Azizjon Berdiqulov, Muslimbek Buriev and Sergey Marinin, who work in different spheres but share a common academic background. Having run multiple research projects, they advanced both their research and project management skills. Closely cooperating with expert communities, state and non-state actors, they gained solid expertise in analysing the policies of Central Asia concerning civil society and democratisation processes, human rights and political mobilisation of minorities.
Project Description and Methods
The research project aimed to identify and categorise the dynamics of civil society organisations’ (CSOs) activities during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Particularly, they assessed which roles CSOs assumed to assist the local populations throughout the crisis. The key purpose was to analyse and provide recommendations on how local governments and international organisations can integrate strategies of non-state crisis-driven activism into their respective policies.
In a first step, the fellows have conducted several interviews with civil society actors and representatives of international organisations in both countries. The fellows have then analysed the findings of these interviews with regards to CSOs’ strategies and cooperation with state entities after the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Different contexts for NGO work in both countries and the levels of political freedom influenced slightly divergent paths of how civil societies reacted to the crisis caused by the pandemic. However, the project has shown that there are clear tendencies in both states that NGOs and multiple volunteer groups have either replaced the state entirely or bridged multiple gaps left from the state negligence in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, civil societies in both countries have selected a cooperative rather than vicarious model of interaction and state-NGO interplay was moderately successful on the lower levels.
The fellows identified several common trends among non-state actors in both countries: Firstly, they observed that CSO’s started dividing their duties in order to reach higher coordination and efficiency during the pandemic. Secondly, they extensively made use of digital technologies for fundraising, promotion, and communication. Cooperation with state bodies was sought, which proved especially useful when it came to transporting goods, medicine, food, and equipment. After the first wave of the pandemic, some respondents of newly created CSOs in Kyrgyzstan reported their intention to run for seats in local councils or even formed political parties. In response to the pandemic, many organisations decided to cooperate and complement state activities in order to tackle the crisis. State agencies showed a high willingness to cooperate and in most cases refrained from impeding the activities of CSOs.
On the basis of these results, Azizjon, Muslimbek and Sergey formulated three sets of recommendations:
- Civil society actors should initiate peer-to-peer training and exchange skills on mobilisation strategies and crises management in order to diversify fundraising strategies and resources and to reduce the dependence on donors.
- International organisations should enhance policy dialogue and facilitate cooperation between state and non-state actors and continue capacity-building initiatives for civil society actors.
- State entities should permanently involve CSOs and other non-state actors in crisis management to benefit from their experience, networks and knowledge. They should furthermore simplify the registration procedure for new CSOs and create digital platforms for joint coordination with CSOs during the emergencies.
You can learn more about Azizjon, Muslimbek and Sergey’s research project on the “Eurasia on the Move” podcast here.
Furthermore, the fellows have summarised their findings and analysis in the paper “Civil Society and the Covid-19 Governance Crises in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan” that can be accessed in English and in Russian.