Written by Madina Aliberdieva, Social Accountability Specialist for the GPSA
The young people of Khorog, a town situated in the picturesque mountains of Pamir (usually referred to as ‘the roof of the world’) in Badakhshan, Tajikistan are excited to launch their first Youth Council to promote youth voices and their meaningful participation in development. The project ‘Youth engagement in economic development through collaborative social accountability in Tajikistan’ supported by the Global Partnership for Social Accountability managed by the World Bank aims at improving coordination and cooperation for addressing youth unemployment, primarily between public sector institutions, CSOs, and the private sector as well as with international cooperation actors.
Engaging youth in policy dialogue on socio economic issues affecting and bringing out the voices of the most marginalized and disadvantaged youth is at the heart of the project. In order to achieve that over the next few months the Youth Council of Badakhshan will learn and put in practice essential components of collaborative engagement through social accountability tools and mechanisms.
Social accountability in practice is not a new concept for Tajikistan. After the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan opted in to the GPSA in 2013, successful experiences with social accountability projects were observed in the drinking water and sanitation sector. The Consumer Union of Tajikistan was the leading local CSO that spearheaded social accountability processes at the national and local levels in public service sectors such as energy and water.
Today, the Consumer Union is continuing its work on capacity development in social accountability in the most remote and isolated region of Badakhshan, this time supporting youth voices for better jobs and inclusion in development processes. According to Ilhom Abidov, the Executive Director of the Consumer Union of Tajikistan (CUT), “it is important to increase the capacity of youth as citizens in order for them to fully and meaningfully participate in the processes that affect their daily lives. Today we are discussing social accountability tools and mechanisms that youth can use to advance their rights and responsibilities, and gain equal access to essential public services. More importantly, youth need to be heard and social accountability gives them an opportunity to express themselves and for their voices be counted when decisions affecting their lives are taken. Tajikistan has the necessary legal preconditions that support engaging young people in the development of programs that concern them. For example, in the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan entitled "On Youth and State Youth Policy," the creation of favorable conditions for their use of socioeconomic, political and personal rights and the involvement of young people to directly participate in the formulation and implementation of policies and programs concerning young people are defined as the principles on which state youth policy is based.”
CUT’s partner in Badakhshan, NGO Madina is supporting the project through youth mobilization. NGO Madina has been working on youth issues for over a decade. Nabot Dodikhudoeva, the NGO’s director, mentioned that “Badakhshan youth have a lot of energy and determination, and it is important help youth become more productive by supporting platforms where they can come together and discuss issues in a collaborative manner; this is especially critical in such small isolated rural communities such as ours. We strongly believe that, when given enough support, our youth will be able to effectively engage, discuss, collaborate and promote their interests for the benefit of their community.” Indeed, the first few hours of CUT training sessions with youth in Khorog illustrated the great enthusiasm and dedication of youth who are willing to advance and improve their quality of life. One of the members from the Youth Council, Khudobakhev Khodobakhsh said “Here [..at the training] we are building a strong foundation, which will enable us to participate better and improve the situation for youth.” During the training participants were convinced that by learning how to work collaboratively with all stakeholders they can achieve better results for youth. Building trust and open dialogue between the local authorities and youth will also influence how development investments can better benefit young people.
The issue of youth engagement also resonated with the local authorities, who are also aiming to better involve youth in the development process. The Office of the Khorog Mayor and the State Committee of Youth officially endorsed the Youth Council at the official meeting in Khorog Town Hall. The youth Council will bring together all actors to discuss socio-economic issues and improve access to jobs a midst high unemployment rates, which leads to idling youth.
The experience in Tajikistan shows that while youth-led social accountability projects are still evolving, it is important that young people are not only seen as beneficiaries of the projects, but rather as partners and leaders of their communities. For youth of Badakhshan more jobs mean less involvement in risky deviant behaviors and healthier, safer and more resilient and thriving communities living on the ‘roof of the world”, the Pamirs