«It is necessary to assign some state functions to civil society organizations. Outsourcing is already required for certain things», – notes Azimjon Sayfiddinov, director of the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia (EFCA)–Tajikistan, in an interview for CABAR.asia about the state of civil society in Tajikistan.Русский – Interview is translated from Russian language.
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How do you assess the current situation with civil society organizations (CSOs) in Tajikistan? How many are functioning today and what is their legal status?
Civil society includes all non-state institutions that are located in Tajikistan. For example, under Tajik law, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and public foundations constitute a civil society. In addition, there are numerous non-profit organizations (NPOs) and associations that unite and operate in the country. There are also trade unions, industry associations, political parties, which are a major part of civil society.If we compare it with the previous figures, most recently there has been a decline and a regression of the CSOs activity, because at some point, in Tajikistan there were over 3,700 public organizations. There were reasons for the reduction of civil society actors: The first reason is – inadequate legislation; The second reason is – a reduction in funding from the donor community; The third reason is – the low potential of CSOs at the local level; The fourth reason is – the requirements for CSOs functioning and maintenance in accordance with the legislation, which I consider to be quite tough. For example, the payment of electricity for public organizations is considered as for a commercial organization, although CSOs should not and do not do business and do not receive profits from their activities. Did the recent massive outcry in civil sector against the price hike on mobile Internet demonstrate the civic engagement? Do you think it is necessary for civil society to be exposed to such stressful policy-making cases to be active?
Bloggers and IT associations are now actively functioning as part of civil society in Tajikistan. Of course, the increase in payment for the mobile Internet is a sore subject for Tajikistan.Since mobile companies that provide Internet services depend on the Communications Office and the anti-monopoly committee, they were forced to introduce, execute and comply with the requirements of the state agency. I, as a lawyer, believe that this decision was illegal. Because, in accordance with the requirements of the statutory and regulatory enactments of Tajikistan, if new rules are established for everyone, the state decision-making body is obliged to comply with the requirements of the above mentioned acts. That is, it was necessary to register the decision as a normative act – as a document compulsory for everyone, in the Ministry of Justice of Tajikistan. Unfortunately, this procedure didn’t take place.
I can tell that more than 60-70% of staff in the non-governmental organizations in Tajikistan are women. There are very few men in these organizations.What role does the youth of Tajikistan play in decision making? What is the situation with youth organizations? There are a large number of youth organizations in Tajikistan. For example, the “Association of Youth Organizations of Tajikistan”, which includes 146 youth organizations that deal with the issues of young people. They can express their opinion, influence some issues through these organizations, but I have not observed any independent, spontaneous activity among the youth. There are also business associations, youth startups, which also require attention of the government. In addition, there is a Committee on Youth Affairs and Sports under the Government of Republic of Tajikistan, which actively cooperates with these public organizations. They promote and carry out a lot of projects at the local level.
What prevents youth from being more than just ‘netizens’ (online citizens)?Probably, this segment of activists believes that online queries are more accessible, will attract supporters and affect something more quickly. Wherever they are, with the help of the Internet, they can express their existing requirements. And to apply independently to any state body is their right, but I don’t know why “online citizens” do not visit state bodies with appeals and statements. The country has a law on appeals, that they can easily appeal a statement and get an answer. I do not think that there is a fear, most likely there is not enough potential for appeals. After all, young people use Internet resources more than they read something. This is probably their choice – the Internet platform for civic engagement. What measures must be taken in order to improve the situation with CSOs in the country? The measures, I believe, should be very constructive. First, for the sustainability of the civil society development, it is necessary to provide access to information. Second, there is a need for financial support of organizations. Third, it is necessary to give an incentive, relief through legislation. Fourth, it is necessary to encourage the projects that are implemented by civil society organizations, in particular – public organizations. And last, it is necessary to assign some state functions to civil society organizations. Outsourcing is already required for certain things, for example, in the social sphere, when people work in nursing homes. Civil society is able to conduct such activities not of governmental importance, not of a governmental nature, not to engage in politics, but to provide social services, minor social services.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.