Tajikistan is divided into five provinces or regions, including the capital city Dushanbe, which are further sub-divided into raions (district-level), jamoats (township-level), and deha (village-levels). Decision making is concentrated in the state apparatus, with local governments having little to no autonomy over budgeting and other procedures.
Good governance is central to the effective functioning of society at all levels, be it political, economic, or social. We believe there is massive potential to develop civil society and good governance at the grassroots level, through active cooperation with government bodies and local civil society organisations (CSOs).
EFCA-Tajikistan has administered the Good Governance Initiative Fund (GGIF) in conjunction with USAID since October 2014. The project is a multi-million dollar grant which aims to provide support for CSOs across the country, to strengthen capacity building and other institutional mechanisms. Some of our project highlights include empowering women to take on leadership positions in government, strengthening local governance by engaging deputies and jamoat leaders, and promoting community activism in large-scale apartment complexes. We have undertaken projects across the country, both in the capital Dushanbe and other towns such as Shaartuz and Qurgonteppa.
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Survey, Tajikistan ranks 132nd in the world for ease of doing business, far behind its neighbours such as Kazakhstan (41st), Kyrgyzstan (67th), and Uzbekistan (87th). Although the government has implemented a number of reforms in recent years, by making it easier for entrepreneurs to register a new business and pay corporate taxes online, we believe that fostering entrepreneurship and innovation is vital to the long-term future of the country.
Entrepreneurship is vital to a country heavily reliant on foreign remittances, which account for more than 50% of GDP. Creating domestic competitiveness through business will help Tajikistan maintain its position in the region, while also empowering local groups and communities. Women and youth in particular often face considerable barriers to employment, and setting up a business can help these groups to overcome social and economic dislocation.
EFCA-Tajikistan was one of the organisers for the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in Tajikistan, in conjunction with the American Chamber of Commerce. The GEW aims to raise awareness on entrepreneurship in Tajikistan, and included segments and talks on startups and business innovation. The GEW was attended by more than 2,000 participants, and received coverage on national television, radio, and print media. We have also worked on a number of projects with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to promote private sector development in Tajikistan, through film and other multimedia platforms. A large part of our work also revolves around empowering women and other marginalised groups through means such as local handicrafts, which increase their earning potential and status in the community.
Corruption is a major problem in Tajikistan, with the country ranking 136th out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s global database. 80% of respondents to a 2010 UNDP survey identified corruption as a major impediment to development, and believed that corruption was present in both the private and public spheres.
According to the World Bank, corruption is one of the main impediments to business and entrepreneurship, discouraging not only foreign investment but also the development of domestic competitiveness. Corruption also serves as an obstacle to effective governance and meritocracy, by favouring the private interests of the political and business elite.
Anti-corruption is one of the core tenets of EFCA-Tajikistan’s activities. We have worked with the Canada Fund and the local NGO Marifat in Khatlon province to reduce the incidence of corruption in small businesses, and change citizens’ attitudes towards corruption through a mass education campaign. We were able to increase knowledge of anti-corruption legislation by 400%, and doubled citizens’ ability to identify corrupt practices. Under the USAID-supported Good Governance Initiative Fund (GGIF), we have also worked to increase the transparency of public agencies and organisations such as the state energy company Barqi Tojik, and ensure the accountability of civil servants in their work.
The Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia – Tajikistan and the State Agency for Financial Management and the Fight against Corruption signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding, committing the two to work together in the fight against corruption. The document is available for download at the link below.
The UN Human Rights Commission’s 2013 Shadow Report identified deep-seated patriarchal norms that limited women to a “secondary role in family and society”. High youth unemployment also leads to increased risk of radicalisation, and disillusionment towards society. In addition, there remains considerable social stigma towards vulnerable groups such as the disabled, which prevents them from playing a meaningful role in society.
Community empowerment is essential to creating sustainable development in Tajikistan, and ensures that economic growth does not come at the expense of vulnerable groups such as women, children, or the disabled. With 25% of its population between 15 and 25 years old, Tajikistan has one of the youngest populations in the world, and engaging this group is necessary to building a long-term future for the country. Finally, community empowerment helps to create an inclusive society at all levels, by fostering a humanitarian-based approach to poverty reduction and development.
EFCA-Tajikistan has worked with a variety of local NGOs across communities in Penjakent, Istaravshan, and Khuruson to empower marginalised community groups such as the disabled. We have been successful in lobbying for new legislative mechanisms such as elevators in buildings, to create a disabled-friendly environment. In conjunction with the UN Democracy Fund, we have also worked to engage youth living in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) in democratic procedures and leadership training. We have also worked with the New Zealand Embassy in Moscow to empower women in Khuruson district through skills training in technology, handicrafts, and entrepreneurship, with all participants either finding gainful employment after the project, or choosing to set up their own businesses.
Rule of law remains a big issue in Tajikistan and Central Asia, with the region attracting criticism from international observers over issues such as transparency and human rights. In recent years, the government has engaged in several key plans to advance the rule of law and court system in Tajikistan. These have included the 2011-2013 National Program on Legal and Judicial Reform, as well as the adoption of a new criminal code. Nonetheless, the lack of state resources mean that it is necessary for CSOs to step in, and supplement gaps in legislation.
Rule of law constitutes the backbone for many of EFCA-Tajikistan’s core areas, including good governance, anti-corruption, and entrepreneurship. Rule of law is essential to maintaining the balance of power between public and private stakeholders, and ensuring a thriving civil society. Finally, rule of law is a key area of cooperation between Tajikistan and external organisations such as the European Union.
EFCA-Tajikistan has completed a number of projects such as “Equal Before The Law”, which aimed to raise awareness of the rule of law in rural communities. Equality of legal access is a big issue in Tajikistan, with a 2016 Z-Analytics survey reporting a widespread belief that legislation tended to favour men over women in areas such as divorce or gender-based violence. Many of our projects that focus on good governance and anti-corruption also have a strong bearing on rule of law, with the common goal of increasing the accountability of state agencies and officials. We target civil society both on a grassroots and governmental level, in order to create a healthy and stable system for community groups and individuals.