Civil Action Lab: fostering potential of Tajik CSOs and grass-root informal groups via participatory dialogue and consultation on public space in Tajikistan - Concept Note

  • TajikistanCountry
  • EuropeAidDonor
  • ENGLanguage
  • social involvementPublic spaceembracing community NGOscapacity buildingTopics

The Applicant/ Leader (in English)

Development Policy Foundation    

The Applicant/ Leader (in local language)

Fundacja Polityki Rozowjowej

Overall objective or goal

Overall: To contribute to the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law and respect for all HR in TJ in line with EU policies; 

Specific objective(s)

To introduce, develop, test&disseminate innovative e-tools/public consultation formulas enabling Tajik grass-root NGOs to engage in micro-scale participatory decision-making schemes, focusing on accessibility&inclusiveness of public space as relatively ‘save’: non-political& non-contentious, public issue.    

Target groups & final beneficiaries:

Target groups:

&profess. from TJ 3rdsector+infor. groups using the education materials on the e-learning platform & part in sessions, workshops, consult.; local leaders&active civil society members taking part in volunteering&microgrant implem.; inhabit. of the pilot areas (Ishkoshim/GBAO, Panjakent) taking part in live & on-line consult (model on: e.g. gopriplus.org, Southern UKR). which will develop ownership & civil society skills; comm. users of hot-spots: benefiting from access to info & improv. of NGO capacities; beneficiaries of the micro-granting action which will solve accessibility problems in public spaces.    

Final beneficiaries:

NGOs/CSOs/infor. groups: improved inter-sectoral dialogue:CSO-LA & CB in public consult.& proposal design + praxis on empowerment of vulnerable/risk groups.; Local leaders & community groups benefiting from better integration and develop. of the 3rd sector; TJ civil society incl. in border areas, profiting from increased credibility and capacities of the 3rd sector, avoiding the risk of margin. of diverse groups, risk or radic.&violence(Panjakent) or underdevelop.&poverty & discrimination (Ishkoshim, GBAO).    

 Final beneficiaries:

-           NGO (>50% of 3000 NGO in TJ: +/- 15,000 ppl) profiting from improved inter-sectoral dialogue (CSO/informal groups-LA) in TJ, capacity building in the field of public consultations and proposal design, help in finding practical answers to the needs of vulnerable groups/at the risk of margin.: esp. women, the disabled and inhabitants of remote areas;

-           Local leaders & comm. groups benefiting from better integration and develop. of the third sector, incl. legal knowledge&program design& experience sharing within the third sector&external experts;

-           Tajik civil society incl. societies in border areas, profiting from increased credibility and capacities of the third sector, avoiding the risk of margin. of diverse groups, risk or radic.&violence (Panjakent) or underdevelop.&poverty (Ishkoshim).

Target groups:

-           NGO/CSO/local comm. volunteers&professionals using the education materials on the e-learning platform &taking part in sessions, workshops, consult.; >60 sectoral workers will improve their capacity& gain experience;

-           >60 local leaders&active civil society members will take part in volunteering&microgrant implem., increase their involvement and credibility;

-           >240 people in the pilot areas (Ishkoshim, Panjakent) taking part in live and on-line consult. will develop the ownership and civil society skills, promote the idea of dialogue, participation and the third sector role;  

-           >400 users of the Internet for NGO, benefiting from access to info and improv. of NGO organiz. capacities;

-           >2000 people, beneficiaries of the micro-granting action which will solve accessibility problems in public space and promote the third sector as a provider of practical answers to social problems.

Outputs or immediate project products or results:

Hot spots & free internet/access to info for local NGO/communities in Ishkoshim and Panjakent (under co-payment sustainability formula); Testing of at least 3 various public consultation tools (online voting, charrette, participatory assessment) +evaluation; Realization of the undertakings/problem selected via voting & elaborated during the charrette; Est. & dissemination of interactive need-analysis e-/off-learning tool: ready to use scenario of evaluation focus, examples successful projects proposals including public consultation component + e/off-interactive materials cross-cutting & cross-disciplinary issues in project management & praxis edu on micro-scale participatory actions: TJ tailored & semi-algorithmic on-line search for grant opportunities available: TJ tailored;    

Project Summary

Pilot consult.: Public space accessibility needs assment.; consolidation session/problem analysis + est. e-tool; Both e-voting&offline voting for 2 intervention zones/areas in each town: in total 4 interventions chosen; 2 charrette family consult. events. Provision of 2 grants of 10,000 EUR for 2 comm. (4 grants in total) to carry out “an informal initiative” to solve the public space inclusiveness problem selected via voting & dealt under the charrette. Evaluation of consult. tools its mainstreaning. Installation of the hot-spots/free Internet;  Launch & feeding of e-learning tool: expert advice & e-tools on pub. consultations. Series of know-how dissemination & consolidation workshops for CSOs & informal groups throughout TJ;    

Description of the activities

The proposal is based on a joint (by the co/applicants) needs analysis of a long-term cooper. (since 2013,by MFA of PL and EST & PAFF, WAW, PL) led in rural, remote, border areas of TJ (GBAO + other areas) to empower women, foster social entrepren. and support NGOs: gornobadakhshan.org

The project aims at introducing, developing, testing&disseminating innovative e-tools/public consult.. formulas which will enable Tajik grass-root NGOs to engage in micro-scale participatory decision-making schemes, focusing on accessibility&inclusiveness of public space as relatively ‘save’, i.e. non-political& non-contentious, public spheres (thus feasible in the current highly turbulent country context).

The project target groups are TJ NGO community&initiative groups&local leaders, selected on the basis of 2 criteria: they operate in remote/border areas, threatened with the risk of radicaliz. (active recruitment /influence of IS or other Islamic org. from the Gulf/UZB&AFG); they address their activities to the marginalized, esp. ethnical and national minorities, women, people with disabilities etc. The life-lab where the consult. will be held are: Ishkoshim in GBAO on the Afghani border (religious Ismaeli minority, victimized by the civil war in the 90s, still suffering from economical&political persecutions, at the risk of criminaliz. due to high international traffic, incl. drug traffic); Panjakent, a town in Sugd Province (N.W. TJ), multi-ethnic (25% Uzbeks + Shia Iranians, Tatars: a town at the risk of radicaliz., suffering from severe poverty&marginaliz., affected with all the disadvantages of a cross-border nexus. Experts recomm. from the past evaluation TJ reports (GIZ, UNDEF,UNDP, UNICEF, EU, USAID + NED, SIDA, PL & EST MFA), based on diverse methods (focus groups engag. local comm., interviews with the key personnel/participants in the projects, and surveys) were duly taken into account during proposal develop. The local leaders expressed their interest in a sustainable, need tailored, educative program&consultancy tool (addressing the needs of local leaders&NGO comm.) as well as in implementing community-based&convincing public actions to empower civil society, increase the quality of dialogue with LA, and engage people in solving everyday problems (CSO/3rd sector standing enhancement).

These needs are reflected in the project scheme&activities. The pilot consult. will be provided: a life lab entailing estimation of easy map-based, mobile e-tools: to test/visualize public space&accessibility needs; a participatory public space accessibility needs assessment; a consolidation session/problem analysis; both e-voting&offline/paper voting for 2 intervention zones/areas (in each small city: 4 interventions in total to be chosen in a participatory process), eventually a charrette family consultation event. Further 2 grants of 10,000 EUR for each communities (4 grants in total) will be provided to carry out an informal initiative to tackle/solve the accessibility problem selected via voting & dealt under the charrette. All the consult. methods will be widely evaluated (evaluation focus, schematize interviews) and promoted among NGO. The tested&evaluated pilot formula of public consult. will be pro-actively disseminated.The e-learning portal providing further expert advice (both professional & voluntary based) and several e-tools (providing a number of off-line tools for remote areas) will be designed to extend the contents&range of the mayor Tajik NGO comm. portal: tajikngo.tj, operated by one of the TJ project’s partners. All the implemented consult. tools, best practices and drafted consult. Scenarios/formulas/ will be disseminated via extended series of workshops in throughout TJ. An e-tool adaptation & adjustment assistance will be provided for other Tajik grass-root CSOs/informal groups (as easy adaptable open source data/soft). Other elem. of e-learning: interactive need-analysis e-/off-learning tool, ready to use scenario of evaluation focus (easy to tailor), examples of 3 successful projects proposals from 3 topical groups of proposals, e/off-learning interactive materials on the cross-cutting & cross-disciplinary issues in project management, praxis edu-material on micro-scale participatory projects (TJ context tailored), finally TJ tailored, semi-algorithmic on-line search engine for current grant opportunities available for i.a. TJ CSOs & NGOs. The overall impact of the project will be enhanced by the establish. of an e-learning portal to simulate & support community-driven micro-participatory initiatives by Tajik CSO’s/grass-root NGOs/informal groups.  Besides, a hot-spot with free Internet for NGO/local leaders will be established in both towns. The project will last 24 months. The operation on Pamir is restricted between Nov-May due to extreme weather conditions (high risk of snow&stones avalanches). Additional restrictions, as a result of political persecutions and change in safety requirem., can be introduced by the govern. during the implement. period.

Background Outline & Justification

1.1.1.               Relevance to the objectives/sectors/themes/specific priorities of the call for proposals

The project fits in with the Council concl. on the EU Strategy for Central Asia of 22 June 2015 & EU human rights dialogues in Central Asia, esp. as regards: support for vulnerable groups by working with the disabled, women, street children and the elderly; involv. of grass-roots groups in sharing experiences&building networks; involv. of local people in decision-making and building links between CSO and LA; enhanced cooperation between non-state actors and LA. The actions are implemented within the frames of Area iv: they improve inclusiveness&pluralism in line with EIDHR CBSS TJ. The project directly contributes to develop. and consolid. of democracy in TJ, supporting civil society develop. through promoting&implementing&evaluating participatory actions, civil institutions and inter-sectoral dialogue. The 2. Call priority, Promotion of Human Rights, is accomplished via direct actions& empowering civil institutions in the field of protecting social, economic and cultural rights of marginalized groups: women, elders, people with disabilities, ethnic&religious&national minorities, etc. The project contributes to develop. of democratic political culture (Priority 3) by encouraging&empowering local&community leaders to create civil institutions and tackle meaningful local problems.  

1.2.2. Relevance to the particular needs and constraints of the target country/countries, region(s) and/or relevant sectors (including synergy with other EU initiatives and avoidance of duplication)

Tajikistan is a former Soviet republic led by the authoritarian regime of Emomali Rahmon with feasible develop. of the political system into authoritarian dynasty (after the May 2016 Constitution change). The regime has frequently obstructed the political pluralism and genuine choice in the elections (Last voting in March 2015, described as “deeply flawed”, Freedom House status: not free 6/7 rank in political rights and civil liberties). The regime is accused of repression of political activists and opposition members, including repressions and tortures when imprisoned and denial right to fair trial. Corruption on all levels is a systemic problem (152/180 in the Transparency International Index), which results in very little trust to public authorities (including LAs).

Economy strongly depends on remittances (migration to Russia and the Gulf countries to work in construction and households), which made 50% of the GDP in 2012. In 2015 a 30% decrease in value was noticed (first six months of 2015 vide 2014) as a side effect of the economic crises in Russia and lower value of work abroad. Notwithstanding expectations, migrants did not massively come back home (a stable number of 2-3% of returning migrants/month) and the risk of pressure on local economy and security has not increased. The high migration of young men has a crucial impact on both social & security issues.

The World Bank and Listening2Tajikistan report (based on microeconomic data) shows a significant decrease in the number of households purchasing power and a rise in prices. In May 2015 67% of respondents declared they could buy enough food. By August that quantity had fallen to 56%. The slight gains made in poverty reduction over the last few years are at risk as an economic malaise continues to blanket the region. The slightly increasing value of local economy (self-employment and agriculture) – about 6% in 2015, with the GDP growth up to 1%, does not change the picture. The external public debt to GDP ratio dropped to below 20%.

That process is linked with different social trends, like family model changes (high migration rate: lack of fathers/authorities within families), regaining the Muslim identity after the Soviet laicization, active attitude of rich Sunni countries in the region, radicalization / regaining identity while working abroad in RUS / Gulf countries in a religious/ confrontational milieu.

Tajikistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country (religious minorities: Sunni Muslim 80%, Sh'ia (Ismaili) Muslim 5%, other 15%; ethnic: Tajik 67%, Uzbek 23%, Russian 3.5%, other 6.5%.), with minorities still victimized with the civil war 1994-97, of with estimated death toll of 100,000 and around 1,2 refugees inside and outside the country. The project activities directly address religious (Pamirians) and ethnic (Uzbeks) minorities. The TJ official media underline the supposed terrorist menace: an increasing number of Afghan tribes and militants influenced by IS along the Tajik border, radicaliz. of the Taliban in AFG, risk of penetration of ideas and militants to Central Asia. This influences the external relations of TJ, the strengthening of Russian military presence in TJ (foreseen increase in the number of Russian troops in TJ from 5,900 to 9,000 and up to 1.2 billion USD military aid in next 5 years). A number of Tajik citizens fight in IS troops (including Sugd). In May 2015 Gulmurod Khalimov, a head of elite Tajik security forces, left the country to lead a military group, self-denominating as IS-linked and claiming to establish a sharia state in TJ, which terrified society (The Fragile States Index status: very high warning). The security issues are directly related with the situation within the project area. The Pamiri mountains (GBAO autonomic region, Ishkoshimi district). The terror menace is used to strengthen control and violate the rights of the Pamiri minorities (control of roads/ traffic/ corruption practices) in GBAO autonomic region and political rights within the country (in July 2015 IRTP leader was sentenced after an obscure trial to 5 years in prison for supposed weapon keeping). The risk of radicalization is real in Panjakent, Sugd Province, also used to violate the political rights of the local community.

The pilot actions will be implemented in two different border, outlying areas. This choice contributes to the improvement of dialogue within the country & reconciliation process.

1. Ishkoshim, town of 7,000 inhabitants and significant administrative functions (raion) Gornobadakshan Autonomic Region (GBAO) – the poorest and most remote area in TJ (24h-trip to Dushanbe), populated by the Shia (Ismaeli) minority, ethnically diversified (several languages threatened by eradication) and common identification (Pamiri). The position of women&education prestige is higher than in other TJ regions (influence of the leader Aga Khan granting&supporting education + culture preservation). Due to haunting memories of the civil war persecutions, society is terrified with any rumours about outside danger, radicaliz. of the administ. However, society is accused of linkages with familiars on the Afghani side of the river Panj. There are no minority members in the parliament, whereas informal taxes and corruption, high militarization of the region, security forces not depending on LA pose further problems. This complex situation sparked violent riots in 2014 in Khorogh (the region was closed again) – probably related to a drug control conflict at the state level and some conflicts in the Afghan city of Ishkoshim in 2015 (on the other side of the river Panj, the sister town to Ishkoshim). In 2006 a bridge between the two sides of the river Panj was built (international resources: Aga Khan and German Marshal Found) to facilitate trade in the Noones land and allow society of both sides to increase income. Recently, 2015, the passage was closed for security reasons.

2. Panjakent Town, population of 25,000, situated in Sugd Porivince, N.W. TJ. Multi-ethnic town with a significant number of Uzbek minority (25%), along with Shia/ Iranians and Tatars; A cross-border nexus, with a high risk of radicaliz.; The most wealthy region in TJ, generating 40% of income from production in TJ and 30% from agriculture. Free trade area in TJ. Society lives both by trade&qualified tourism, the women’s position is severally restricted (early marriage, low access to education&health services, low income).

Civil society constitutes one of the most dynamically developing sectors in TJ: however can be judged detached from public (SIDA, 2015). In 1997, there were 300 CSOs formally registered in TJ; by 2006 the number had grown to more than 2,700. After adoption of the new Law on Public Associations in 2007, which required all existing CSOs to undergo re-registration or face termination, the number of CSO decreased. Currently, the number of CSOs in TJ is about 3000. Registration procedures for public associations are overly bureaucratic, with excessive document. requirements. On 19 May 2009, the President signed the new Law on State Registration of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs. The Law envisions two channels of state registration for CSOs: by the Ministry of Justice (90%: public assoc.) and by the local tax entities. The process is bureaucratic and related with corruption risk. In August 2015 new amendments to the Law on Public Associations were adopted by the Parliament: require Public Associations to notify the Ministry of Justice about grants and other aid received from foreign sources. These restrictive initiatives underscore the fact that the legal environ. for civil society in TJ is not fully enabling and faces ongoing challenges and threats. However, it should be noted that within the project areas NGOs were given LA declaration of their readiness to cooperate, which boosts the chances of a successful project outcome. The NGO sector in TJ is atomized and with low access to info about grant possib./financing their own activities and proposal develop. (practical questions, correct need analysis, linkage between the needs and implemented methods), international partnerships&networks, pilot initiatives &good practices & implement. of prodemocratic&civil actions; lack of actual knowledge essential during proposal preparation (economic&sociological basic terms). The project fully addresses this need and is complimentary with the existing initiatives in this field: the portal tajikngo.tj (an e-learning tool integrated with the existing portal) and the unique e-learning platform in Russian on this portal (not effective due to RU not EN basis). Any actions involving civil society in TJ run a risk of political / anti-government interpretation, thus the project focuses on social issues and a politically neutral sphere: rights of women (incl. mothers), elders, people with disabilities and their access to public space/universal design: as a life-lab of the consultancy methods (first NGO addressed educational action of this type): involving, modern, easy to promote and with tangible results (grant action following the consultancies). The majority of the consultancy methods implemented (on-line map based alerts, participatory assessment) are uncommon for the Tajik NGO/CSOs and deserve promotion.

Another problem in TJ is the low quality of internet access outside metro areas: contributing to low information access &NGO/civil society capacity. The project addresses this need by creating two hotspots for NGO in remote areas (Iskoshim, Panjakent). It is worth mentioning here the recently (June 2016) amended Law on Citizen Petitions: from now on NGO/CSOs (no longer only individuals) can file petitions or requests to any public authority, incl., what’s new, officially via email/ e-communication platforms or media.

Last but not least, the access to public infrastructure / participation in the social life of the direct beneficiaries (women, elders, people with disabilities) is significantly restricted due to lack of any law based guaranties addressing the accessibility and degradation of the public infrastructure & low quality of social services. Unfortunately TJ is not a party to UN Convention on the Rights of PWDs; The only genuine & fully-fledged participatory revitalization project in TJ till now: Khorog Park, 2005-9: the municipal green space in this community, was undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), in collaboration with the Governorate of GBAO (focus on culture preservation/ education quality). No current action on women/ PWDs/ elders rights directly address the public participation. In 2013-15 a project led by the Applicant focusing on CSO empowerment and access to information was implemented. With the support of Polish Aid and Polish-American Freedom Foundation the mobile internet was provided to the co-applicant Gulu Gyoh in Avj, Ishkoshimi District amongst other: gornobadakhshan.org. Further the lead PL applicant is implementing/ed similar actions to the current project in turbulent Southern Ukraine: gopriplus.org &  garnank.org & Central Tunisia: fixkairouan.org + Life Lab for PWDs/Kakheti, GEO: soeasty.eu; Similarly, German & EST co-applicants commend huge praxis know-how on participatory development & public consultations in turbulent contexts.

The action addresses the needs identified in:

At the national level: Tajikistan's National Development Strategy/NDS, 2016-30 and its mid-term 2016-20 (on participatory urban/comm. develop., empowerment of women & PWDs in all aspects of public life, CSO-LA coop.); the updated Public Finance Management (PFM) Strategy of Rep of TJ for 2009-2018, highlighting priority of financial decentralization & public space related CSO-LA coop. and public consult. on it; 2008’s Action plan for Urban Planning and Construction Activities & 2008’s Tajikistan Town Planning Action plan, formally envisaging public consult. concerning public planning (however, no clear implementation framework exists); 2011’s TJ Roadmap for Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its provisions on equality to women, in access to public space as well as particip. in decision-making; National Health Strategy of the Republic of Tajikistan for 2010-2020 (improved accessibility for poor &disfranchised&PWDs); Education Development Strategy (2012-2020): universal access to quality education, including PWDs (priority III); updated National Plan on Implementation of Aarhus Convention in TJ (provisions on access to information & decision making on environment/lack of capacity & know-how); Tajikistan National Mine Action Strategic Plan, update 2015, incl. provision on rights of landmines victims and other PWDs categories (APMBC & Protocol V based);

Regional & local: General Development Plans of GBAO as well as Sughd Oblsat/ Soghd region of TJ, in terms of quality & accessibility & universal design of public infrastructure & participation of communities in decision concerning public infrastructure, including its sub-components: Iskhashim, GBAO and Pajakent, Sogd District/Rayon Dev. Plan.

Cross-cutting issues & project & added-value & gender & environmental & PWDs & innovation employed

Building basis for mutual, trans sectoral understanding; practical involvement of CSO/civil society in solving tangible local problems (enhancing dented public trust in TJ CSOs/3rd sector: perceived as “grants’ swallowing institutions”); building sustainable & modern& easy to tailor tools for public engagement; addressing cross-cutting issues via empowerment of leaders/NGO working in different social fields (women, poverty, remote areas, intercultural dialogue, PWDs);