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.

Project Results

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Inter­na­tional organ­i­sa­tions should enhance policy dialogue and facil­itate cooper­ation between state and non-state actors and continue capacity-building initia­tives for civil society actors.
  3. 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.

Project Outcomes

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.

EN Civil Society & COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan