Return of the state to development: the state, donors, and NGOs in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan
Jailobaeva, Kanykey Bayalieva
The thesis explores international donors’ promotion of civil society in post- Soviet Kyrgyzstan since the mid 2000s with a particular focus on how policy changes in the promotion of civil society have influenced Kyrgyz non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and their relations with the state. The thesis is based on tenmonths field research, which involved ninety semi-structured interviews with nineteen donors, forty-seven NGOs, six community based organisations, and three representatives of local authorities, together with two small-scale surveys with twenty-five NGO employees and thirty-three NGO leaders. The key finding is that donors’ focus on civil society promotion in Kyrgyzstan has decreased since the mid 2000s rather their agenda now aims at state capacity-building. Donors’ more limited funding to NGOs is targeted toward the promotion of NGOs’ advocacy role and the encouragement of collaborative relations between NGOs and the state. These findings indicate a shift from donors’ civil society promotion in the 1990s where the key stress was on building civil society in Kyrgyzstan from scratch. Consequently, the thesis discusses the return of the state to donor agenda and the interaction between the state, donors, and NGOs in Kyrgyzstan. These changes have impacted the NGOs sector in Kyrgyzstan. The research has revealed that, as a result of these changes, NGOs are becoming more professional and formal. The thesis argues that reduced donor funding has resulted in a stronger competition among NGOs for funds, while increased interaction with the state institutions has also placed pressure on NGOs to become more professional and to increase their institutional capacity. The thesis suggests that relations between the state and NGOs are characterised by apparently contradictory elements in which both cooperation and counterbalance feature. Notwithstanding the prevailing trend toward NGO professionalisation and formalisation, the thesis argues that NGOs also display other features such as voluntarism, philanthropy, and constituency responsiveness. Consequently, the thesis makes a contribution to the literature on civil society in Central Asia by providing a detailed account of the complex and diverse NGO sector in Kyrgyzstan.