Empowering lives and building resilience in Naryn

07 May 2015

image Beneficiaries of the project in Naryn. Credit: UNDP

Naryn Area-Based Development Programme is the third project implemented by UNDP in Kyrgyzstan through application of comprehensive area-based approach. Although the approach and the goal are the same as previous ones, the current one has a different exit strategy which is so vital as the practice shows that many projects tend to end with their closure. As one of our field specialist noted, the difference is that we work closely with heads of local self-government (LSG) bodies in each target districts, train them to develop project proposals, evaluate and monitor implementation.   The process was challenging as we started transferring funds through accounts of the LSGs instead of giving direct grants to beneficiaries. Most of the local self-governments never received funding from external sources through the centralized treasury of the Ministry of Finance, meaning they did not have mechanisms in place. This led to increased sense of ownership and responsibility. These grants directed at addressing socio-economic issues and creation of businesses and jobs became more associated with people and local governments rather than with UNDP.   At the last grant committee meeting heads of local governments were very keen on presenting the results of 2014 projects and highlighted that with support  Read More

A symbolic change: Time to rebrand justice?

23 Apr 2015


Justice is often symbolized as a blindfolded woman holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. I believe this symbol contributes to the ongoing perception that justice is closely linked with coercion. In line with global efforts to ensure access to justice, I would like to suggest looking for a new symbol that can better convey these principles. Time and again, I have conducted small experiments with many people from diverse backgrounds – including teenagers, university students, lawyers, journalists and pensioners.  Most commonly relate the concept of justice to prison bars, handcuffs, or police officers. Many witty answers focus on the blindfolding. Once a student joked that Lady Justice would hopefully hit with the sword only after taking off the cover on her eyes. Somebody else quipped that she would be peeping the whole time through the blindfold. A bit of history   Justice through the ages: Maat, Themis and Iustitia The origins of the symbol are not fully known, but most experts agree that it originates with the Egyptian Goddess Maat - whose first representation goes back over 4,300 years. Looking at the picture, we can notice a scepter in her right hand – a sign of power. There is  Read More

When electronic governance is more human governance

30 Mar 2015


Initially, my boss’s assignment seemed quite easy and even enjoyable: I was expected to have a trip out of town to pick up a long-awaited cargo from a government body. The bright and sunny morning cheered me up. I expected to get the equipment easily. But, as so often happens, the bureaucratic reality not only showed itself in all its glory, but spoiled the mood as well. Once there, I found long lines to each window and office, where I was supposed to stand. I walked around the building from one office to another, changing lines and getting more and more papers. Experienced people running around the building noticed my face of a confused and angry novice in this business. Their eloquent glances said: "Here is another newbie who is to struggle through all the procedures. Oh well, no pain no gain” I do not remember how many times I visited the warehouse and cashier. The lunch break which I spent waiting for office workers to return was over. It seemed that I would not get my package today… And I may spend here days… The lines did not get smaller. They seemed dissonant against the backdrop of modern office equipment  Read More

Measure better to manage better

20 Mar 2015

The title of this post reflects the very essence of the System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA)  that we’re about to introduce to the statistics system of Kyrgyzstan. The process was initiated by the National Statistics Committee and the Kyrgyz State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry and supported by UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI). SEEA is a system that integrates environmental and economic statistics to help countries to take path of economic development with consideration of environmental aspects. It helps to measure better, which is key to managing better. What is the problem? Economic development can not take place without the contribution of natural ecosystems. Today, Kyrgyzstan’s economy is putting a major pressure on it’s ecosystems. According to expert findings, more than 75% of the country’s territory is facing high risks of natural capital degradation.[1] This is the result of many factors such as “increasing resource consumption, growing poverty, lack of infrastructural development, demographic growth exacerbated by irrational management of natural resources and environmental pollution[2]. What to do? Managing those emerging risks requires concerted efforts of decision-makers from different fields: economy, environment and statistics. There is a good understanding of the need for coherent indicators and descriptive statistics to monitor  Read More

Let’s stop calling it bride kidnapping!

20 Feb 2015

One of the first things associated with Kyrgyzstan alongside its beautiful nature and mountains is the cruel phenomenon of bride kidnapping. Recent researches from local NGOs show that at least 50 % of the marriages in the country involve some sort of elements of this brutal ritual. The so called bride kidnapping fundamentally is the ritual of ambushing a young woman from a public place, seizing her and detaining her in the house of the man who took her away. In the best case she is subject to enormous psychological pressure and brainwash from female relatives of the kidnapper to accept the marriage, in the rest of the cases she is subject of rape. I read a lot of sad stories about it as well as cultural justifications based on the poor economic situation and traditions but nothing can compare with the direct account of a dark eye young woman who I will call Roza. She has been kidnapped twice, first at the age of nineteen, the second time at the age of twenty-three. In both cases she clearly remembers the applauses welcoming the kidnapper when he brought her home. They  seemed like heroes coming back from a victorious battle. She  Read More

Corruption explained to children …. and adults

30 Oct 2014


There is nothing giving you more energy, enthusiasm and vision for the future than talking to children. Over the last days, I visited several schools in Bishkek to talk about my work with the United Nations and get their views on important topics. I talked with children from the age of five to seventeen and indeed I have learned so much about this country and about my work. One of the topics I talked about is corruption and the damages it does to the society. I simply started asking them how they would feel if a classmate was paying the teacher to get higher grades. Almost everybody rose up their hands telling that this wouldn’t be right. Some added that if this was the case, they would stop obeying the teacher. Others added that the bad student would soon become ignorant and eventually fail because you cannot buy all the teachers and sooner or later you will be caught and kicked out from the school.  I then asked how they would prevent this from happening. Many answered that the most important thing is to have good teachers, to pay them well and to be sure that homework and grades are accessible  Read More

STANDARDS: from chaos to order

15 Oct 2014

A few months ago, I visited a state body to get a certificate necessary to complete my transaction with another state agency. In addition to the set of documents enclosed in a related governmental decree, a civil servant demanded extra papers that were not on the list. But the civil servant with a reference to the same decree, very strictly and earnestly asked me to bring these extra documents. I came to this office for the first time and a number of people have already lined up behind me. I had to follow the official civil servant’s instructions. Collecting additional paperwork consumed my precious time. The official during my next visit just put these papers in stack of the required documents without even glancing at them. Our life is full of formal rules and procedures we have to follow. And right here, in the area of civil rights, the state and its citizens interact in the roles of the “duty bearer” and the “rights holder.” My appeal to this government body was among hundreds others for a public service that the state has to provide to its citizens. In response to his or her initial appeal, oftentimes, a citizen faces a  Read More

Sustainable development: is there a place for women?

08 Jul 2014


Onol lives in the village with her younger daughter and her husband who drinks from the first days of their family life and hasn’t worked anywhere for the last 15 years. At the age of 50 she weighs 45 kilos, has a thyroid disease, heart and renal failure. Despite poor health, she still works on the family farm land and runs the house. The biggest problem for Onol in summer is watering the field, since irrigation water is reducing each year. During irrigation season one has to reserve a spot in line for water at 3 am and it’s managed mostly by men. Onol and other women who manage irrigation themselves are usually last which leads to a poor harvest. She does not keep livestock, because she does not have the money to feed it in winter. Kymbat was kidnapped by her ex-husband at the age of 18 after two days of dating and was taken to a distant pasture where there was no electricity. Kymbat had to do the hardest work – milking cows and horses, cook food over a campfire, take care of children and in-laws. Every year the amount of grass on the pasture was diminishing so Kymbat’s  Read More

FaceJustice: innovating rule of law

01 Jul 2014

Having worked for over 13 years on issues related to the rule of law, I have often wondered how we can make the justice system more open and accessible to citizens, which would ultimately make it fairer. In this regard, modern technologies, whatever we mean for such a general expression, give us new horizons to explore. Our commitment, as professionals in this sector, should be to find a way to link these technologies with the justice system, which, by and large, operates with methods inherited from previous centuries.  With this idea in mind, I have developed a proposal to create a social network for monitoring trial activities. The idea is simple: any interested person, lawyers and non-lawyers, can share trial monitoring observations through a website that would become a worldwide hub and platform in the sector. The vast majority of trials are public – anyone can attend them. This is a great opportunity to show how the legal system works on a daily basis to promote justice via mass crowdsourcing. It would open the doors of trials to whoever is interested across the globe, making the legal system more transparent, visible and understandable. It would also become a fantastic learning tool  Read More

Governments can save money by spending more on free legal aid

28 May 2014

One of my first activities, once I started my assignment as Chief Technical Adviser on Rule of Law in the Kyrgyz Republic has been to look at sustainable and effective methods in increasing the access to justice. The project Widening Access to Justice for Legal Empowerment in the Kyrgyz Republic , financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland has given a perfect opportunity to look at this fundamental matter in a systematic manner with a special focus on rural women, children and people with disabilities. In this context I have participated to several meetings and working groups tasked to draft the new Law on Free Legal Aid. One of my observations relates to the often forgotten economic argument. Comparative studies on the cost of the justice systems often show how countries that spend the most on free legal aid services have lower expenditures in the justice system as a whole. For example, quality free legal aid services can help resolve cases faster through mediation, when applicable, or through abbreviated proceedings, which saves time and money that otherwise will be spent on long legal procedures. This means that money spent on the provision of free legal aid can become a  Read More

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