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Civil Society and Social Movements Programme Paper 11: Post-Soviet Institutional Design, NGOs and Rural Livelihoods in Uzbekistan

19 Jan 2005

  • Author(s): Deniz Kandiyoti

Section one introduces the institutional framework that all former republics of the Soviet Union shared. The erosion of rural livelihoods in Uzbekistan, as in the rest of Central Asia, is understood as a result of the decay of an ensemble of institutions involved in production, distribution, vocational training and service delivery. Membership of rural enterprises (sovkhozy—state farms, and kolkhozy—collective farms) comprised entitlements to household plots, housing, welfare benefits (pension, maternity and disability benefits) and access to kindergartens. Consumer Cooperative Associations provided access to subsidized essential foodstuffs, marketing outlets for surplus private production, vocational training and services.

Section two describes change in five major areas: land tenure reform, agricultural enterprise restructuring, the transformation of trade unions and Women’s and Youth Committees into voluntary membership organizations, the devolution of targeted social welfare assistance through mahalla (neighbourhood) committees, and the interventions of new institutional players, namely international donors and the NGO sector. It is found that the current institutional framework of Uzbekistan is now a patchwork of modified Soviet successor organizations, inadequate new palliative structures and donor-driven initiatives. Recent land tenure reform and agricultural enterprise restructuring in Uzbekistan were designed to give a longer lease of life to the command economy.

Section three discusses a new architecture of provision involving international donors and NGOs. A rural income-generation and microcredit scheme is analyzed to illustrate such new partnerships. This study finds that a disabling policy environment and lack of capacity in the NGO sector have meant that donor-led efforts to ameliorate rural livelihoods have had very limited impact. The employment effects of market reform have been given scant attention and investment in rural job creation has been extremely weak. The question of how this institutional vacuum might be filled and what forms populist protest might take is key to the future stability of the Central Asian region.

Deniz Kandiyoti is reader in the Department of Development Studies and chair of the Centre of Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London in the United Kingdom.

Order CSSMPP 11 from UNRISD (US$ 12 for readers in industrialized countries and US$ 6 for readers in developing and transitional countries and for students).