Civil society in Tajikistan has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade. Registered non-profit or non-governmental organizations grew tenfold from 1997, rising from 300 to 3,000 in 2013. CSOs play an important role in Tajikistan’s growth and development by providing seeds to farmers and micro financing for women’s working groups, promoting budget transparency, improving access to justice, and helping youth with educational opportunities. However, these organizations must overcome several constraints in order to contribute to economic development and improve accountability of service delivery.
Local CSOs have been involved in different facets of World Bank operations in Tajikistan, from disseminating information to monitoring projects. As an example, a specialized CSO in education conducted an independent monitoring of all school rehabilitation works implemented by the Government with Bank’s funding. Another civil society group managed beneficiary selection, public awareness and communication components, verification of beneficiary lists and field-level data collection for a Bank-funded project that aimed to raise households’ incomes through public works program. Nevertheless, the World Bank believes there is room for better collaboration with civil society.
To facilitate increased communication and interaction among civil society, the World Bank, and the government, the World Bank supported a series of discussions in Dushanbe and in the regions of Khatlon Oblast, Sughd Oblast, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, and the valleys of Rasht and Zerafshan recently. This was done as part of the Fostering Demand for Good Governance Project, funded by the Governance Partnership Facility. The discussions aimed to strengthen and build capacity for local CSO networks, lay the groundwork to foster better communication between them and the government, and to establish a feedback loop on government services.
In 2013, the Tajikistan National NGO Association was competitively chosen to design and implement the events that focus on monitoring and evaluating World Bank projects. The organization first conducted a survey to measure the capacity and interest of local organizations to participate in project activities such as monitoring and evaluation, their perspectives on sustainable development of CSOs and associated challenges. In response to the survey’s results, the association designed and implemented seven roundtable events that brought together over 200 participants representing CSOs, the government, private businesses, media and international organizations from across the country.
The learning modules employed methods such as case studies and real-world examples to design indicators and measurement tools that can be used for Bank-funded or government projects. The events also promoted collaboration with the Bank by providing training and information on projects and programs of the World Bank in Tajikistan. At each event, organizations already involved in World Bank financed projects shared their experiences and discussed ways to improve further collaboration in sectors like agriculture, health, education, service delivery and youth participation.
The final event held in Dushanbe provided a backdrop for the World Bank to consult with CSOs on key priorities that will contribute to the Country Partnership Strategy between the World Bank and Tajikistan for 2015-2018, which is currently in preparation. The key issues highlighted included limited cooperation between Tajik CSOs and limited opportunities due to language barriers, resulting in difficulties in directly accessing information and other resources. The main messages to the World Bank focused on encouraging collaboration with and engaging CSOs in project design and implementation. They highlighted areas such as the contributions of non-governmental organizations, including training government staff and administration, working with women and children, the disabled and those unable to work, cooperation in the field of health and education, and improving legal education for citizens, among others.
But how can the cooperation of CSOs with the World Bank on the one hand, and with the government on the other, change the face of development in Tajikistan? What additional steps are needed to further integrate CSOs into World Bank operations and government projects?
Participants at the discussion offered several recommendations, including completing a follow-up study on the potential of civil society for solving social problems in Tajikistan; contributing to a new overarching strategy for developing civil society, and continuing to support capacity building to improve skills of CSO representatives on topics such as conducting specialized research, lobbying and advocacy, increasing cooperation at the local levels, and organizing and implementing monitoring and evaluation activities for public projects.
Further enhancement of the skills and networks of these organizations will continue to strengthen ties, increase participation, and empower these organizations to contribute to further development in Tajikistan.