Akmal Rustamovich

“I am a patriot” says Akmal Rustamovich, a 25 year old international relations student, whose organisation GIV-Accent joined the PWYP-Tajikistan coalition in 2013. Proud of his country where 60% of the population is aged under 30, Akmal is part of a small team that runs GIV-Accent. Based in Khujand city, in the Northern part of the country, this NGO was founded in 2002 to familiarise young people with democratic values and political practices through debate clubs, educational workshops or by training groups of young people to act as observers during general elections, such as those coming up to elect a new Parliament in February 2015.

Raising awareness among the youth about their right to vote and their duties as citizens has been Akmal’s passion since he started studying and became acquainted with critical thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson, to whom he delightfully referred to explain the rationale behind his organisation’s work: “What does democracy mean? It means that citizens are free to develop their independent mind.” Unfortunately, in Central Asia this does not come naturally, Akmal believes, and this is why his organisation’s work is crucial in educating capable and informed citizens. This is also the reason why GIV-Accent decided to affiliate with the PWYP coalition established in Tajikistan in 2011. “We are a very rich country. We have gold, silver, uranium… a lot of water. Tajikistan has a lot of potential” claims Akmal who wants to “open young people’s eyes about our natural resources.”

Indeed, information is key to a healthy relationship between a government and its people because without information, citizens are not able to hold their decision-makers to account and ensure that the latter enact policies that are in the country’s best interest. In a resource rich country like Tajikistan, this particularly applies to the extractive sector. Yet, secrecy has so far prevailed. “Truth must be the priority of a democracy” argues Akmal who supports PWYP’s ambitious Vision 20/20 and initiatives like the EITI, which will allow the Tajik population to know exactly how much natural resource extraction contributes to the state budget. In particular, Akmal welcomes Tajikistan’s decision to take part in the beneficial ownership disclosure pilot, whereby the real owners of extractive companies operating in Tajikistan will be made public: “It’s very strategic, it will allow young people to do their own analysis, to unveil for instance any politically exposed person who owns extractive licenses in Tajikistan. Politicians will become fearful of those who speak the truth.” Living in an age of information, Akmal believes that freedom comes from widening one’s knowledge through access to information: “Smart men run for the truth, not for money.”

Rano Jumaeva

Our main target is to work with youth, especially with girls from remote areas and villages. We promote education among young girls. We also work with their parents to explain how important it is for women to be educated.

We faced different challenges but never gave up. It is hard to locomote between the regions and also often we simply don’t have an electricity to use projector or show documentaries. That is why we use performances to illustrate the issues and challenges that women face but also their successes. We encourage the audience to think, discuss and even to come up with alternative ending.

It was hard to understand my role in extractive industries transparency until I heard of the gender sensitive value chain (Extracting Equality) at the Publish What You Pay workshop. This gave me an idea of how we can combine work with women and extracting industries. I think we need to continue our training for young women adding an element of extraction knowledge, using value chain for women.

So far, the reality shows that most of people that live in the regions of extraction do not know how much money companies pay and how much money should return to the region. Local population doesn’t understand the implications and benefits from the mining in their region. Before the country signed up to EITI no one ever talked of transparency. Now that we have started to be involved with implementation of EITI, more information is coming and we can raise common awareness.

Communiqué of PWYP Eurasia meeting

On 27-29 April 2015 representatives of civil society from Albania, Azerbaijan, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Ukraine gathered in Kyev, Ukraine for the workshop on Ukrainian and Eurasian civil society in the EITI: Common challenges – joint approaches.
Civil society in the region faces similar difficulties in the implementation of EITI, whether that is ensuring that civil society is an effective participant of the multistakeholder group, having to operate in a restrictive environment or a lack of funding opportunities. The need for civil society to have a deeper knowledge of EITI and be better coordinated was expressed, and so this workshop also aimed to strengthen the network of PWYP Eurasia members with a view to promote sharing resources and information.

In order to face these challenges, participants met to not only share their experiences and best practices – in order for national coalitions to improve their own strategies based on shared knowledge – but also to strategise on how they could work together as a region to better implement and use EITI.

To this end, participants identified a series of best practices for benchmarking MSGs, which include the recommendations of holding the meetings in an extractive region outside the capital and the need for consultations with local communities in order to inform citizens about EITI. Participants also pooled their knowledge to map important extractive companies operating in their country, so as to find targets for joint advocacy and areas of common ground. Participants also agreed on a 2015 – 2017 joint action plan to promote and defend EITI implementation in the region.

Civil society organisations in the region are committed to EITI implementation in their respectful countries and share a number of recommendations.

That governments in the region ensure free, full, independent, active and effective participation of civil society in the EITI implementation process. Publish What You Pay members will monitor the situation in various countries and support members that face a deteriorating environment.
That governments embed EITI Standards in their national legal frameworks.
We call on global donor organisations to recognise that Eurasia is a region with much potential that faces many challenges, and to support projects in the region, particularly those related to transparency and accountability in the extractive sector.

We call on all extractive companies to adhere to and respect their EITI obligations in the respective countries of Eurasia. Too many companies are in breach of environmental regulation or fail to disclose their payments.

To call upon other countries in the region such as Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Romania to commit to the principals of transparency and accountability and implement EITI.

All decisions and recommendations are based on the principle that natural resources belong to the citizens and need to be managed responsibly and equitable so that women, men and youth in resource rich countries benefit.

Women of the East – a name that turned into a lifelong mission

The role of women in Central Asia has never been an easy one as they have had to take care of husbands, raise children and manage a household; many of them have had to do this while also living in poverty and being subject to society’s strict gender rules.

Today, on top of this, women are striving to become leaders and decision makers at the local and national level. Indeed, in Tajikistan civil society mostly consists of women and women take on more responsibilities in their local communities. This is a result not only of the strong will and endurance of the eastern women, but also due to the very high level of men’s migration. According to interviews with women activists over 20% of men in Tajikistan have emigrated for labor purposes and in remote regions this number reaches 50%. Women are often at the forefront of the campaign to protect Tajikistani communities from the effects of mining and ensuring that citizens see some benefit. This is a crucial task in a country where 80% of citizens live below the poverty line.

“Our mission is to create conditions for the development of women and their rights, to involve women in the decision-making process at all levels: family, community and country”, says Zanonimar Sharipovaa trainer-facilitator with 22 years of experience as a school principal. Her lifelong mission is to teach and provide support to women and children, “I am inspired by the opportunity to contribute to the development of today’s society”.

“We started our NGO Zanu ni shark in 1995 in Panjakent, Tajikistan. It was hard at first, we struggled for funding but eventually succeeded, it helped that we had a catchy name – Women of the East! (Zanu ni shark)”, remembers Zanonimar.

Panjakent is a city in Sughd Province which is rich with gold and other ores of nonferrous and precious metals. “The Chinese-Tajik golden mine extracts gold of the highest quality. The Chinese export 75% of gold and 25% remains in Tajikistan. We don’t know how much the company pays to the government”, explains Zanomimar. “Moreover, we don’t know what’s inside the contract – how much does the company extract, how much money does it pay? For example, the company holds a license for gold but while extracting the gold it can find an uranium ore and extract uranium illegally. And this remains hidden from the government because we don’t know what are our natural resources! That is why transparency at all levels is crucial both for citizens and the state.”

Local communities in Sughd Province are concerned with the deterioration of the environment in recent years. The main cause of pollution is believed to be irresponsible mining with use of cyanide. The infrastructure in the region is neglected and social conditions are very poor.

“I think the companies need to take more responsibility over the region where they extract precious minerals and listen to the voices of communities. We also need to know how much money the state receives from the mining in our region and how does it use them? I hope that EITI can help to find these answers”, explained Zanonimar. “But I think that Publish What You Pay has good approaches. Those examples from other coalitions that I’ve heard inspired me and gave me hope that we can do the same. We can initiate a model agreement between companies and communities, we can start asking questions and demanding transparency and accountability”.

Zanonimar thinks that more active involvement by women in issues like mining is very important for Tajikistan. Women still lack education and understanding of human rights, therefore training of women on transparency in natural resources is essential. “I believe in our women. They are enduring, flexible and diplomatic. This is all they need to extract right information. That is why I admire our Tajik women, their potential and bright ideas.”