Case Study on Narrowing the Gaps for Equity
PROMOTING EQUITY IN THE MOST DEPRIVED AND REMOTE COMMUNITIES IN BATKEN
A recent series of socio-economic, political and security shocks in the Kyrgyz Republic adversely affected the lives of the poor and disadvantaged and slowed progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). UNICEF and its partners have supported government and civil society in alleviating the impact of those shocks by refocusing on programmes benefiting the poorest and most vulnerable children and families.
In 2011, a pilot was designed to remove barriers and bottlenecks to equitable access to a range of essential services in 18 disadvantaged villages in remote Batken province. The pilot aimed to tackle supply and demand side issues by increasing the capacity of service providers and bridging the knowledge and information gap of service-users.
The project demonstrated the role UNICEF can play in addressing discrepancies between the formal provisions of national laws and policies and the realities of their implementation at local level. It also evidenced the need to increase families’ awareness of their social entitlements and of remedies in the event of violations. The lessons learned from the Batken project have informed the design of a new Country Programme. Funding has now been secured from DFID to expand the piloted equity-based approach to a further 55 disadvantaged municipalities in the Southern provinces of Batken, Osh and Jalal-Abad.
Kyrgyzstan became independent in 1991 with the break-up of the Soviet Union. Its population of just over 5 million is concentrated in two fertile valley regions while the majority of the country is mountainous and sparsely populated. It is one of the poorest countries in the CEE/CIS region with a Gross National Income of $2291 per capita in 2008.
Kyrgyzstan has had mixed results in its efforts to meet its commitments envisaged in the Millenium Declaration. It has shown progress in tackling extreme poverty, yet poverty levels remain significant and raise major equity concerns. Children are among the most vulnerable with almost half the country’s children (48.5%) living in poverty. Progress has been reported on MDGs 7 and 8, but the achievement of MDGs in the health sector remains a serious challenge and there are concerns over quality in the education system.
The country has additionally been hit by several major shocks in recent years. Problems of food and energy insecurity in the period 2007-2009 fuelled significant social discontent that reached a head in early 2010. In April 2010, violent protests in the capital ended with the overthrow of the Government of then president Bakiev. In June 2010, persistent social tensions that had been on the rise in the South, where large ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities live side by side, climaxed in violent inter-ethnic clashes over several days. At least 415 people lost their lives in the violence and large numbers fled their homes. An estimated 400,000 children were directly or indirectly affected by the conflict.
A joint economic assessment carried out by several international organizations found that socioeconomic stresses had aggravated the conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan. These included poor state accountability and service delivery, chronic poverty and widening socioeconomic disparities, competition over resources, widespread unemployment and underemployment and a lack of civic participation in wider social, political and economic processes.
Informed by these recent events, and in order to explore how equity programming could be integrated into UNICEF’s 2012-16 Country Programme, a pilot project, “Promoting equity in the most deprived and remote communities”, was initiated in 2011.