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Back | Programme Area: Civil Society and Social Movements (2000 - 2009)

Post-Soviet Institutional Design, NGOs and Rural Livelihoods in Uzbekistan

The purpose of this study is to analyse the processes of post-Soviet transformation of rural institutions and to discuss their implications for the welfare and livelihoods of the rural population in Uzbekistan.

The first section 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, must be 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. Trade unions (Agriprom, in this case) provided pension and sickness benefits, access to household durables and free holi-days. Organs of the Communist Party such as the Women’s Committee and the Youth Committee played an adjunct role by protecting members’ interests and providing vocational training.

The second section describes change in five major areas: land tenure reform, agricultural enter-prise 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 non-governmental organization (NGO) sector. The current institutional framework of Uzbekistan may best be described as a patchwork of modified Soviet successor organizations, inadequate new palliative structures and donor-driven initiatives. The package of land tenure reform and agricultural enterprise restructuring measures in Uzbekistan suggests that the measures were in fact designed to give a longer lease of life to the mechanisms and institutions of the command economy. However, even partial reforms have led to the decay of Soviet institutions without the creation of workable alternatives, leaving rural populations exposed to increasing levels of vulnerability. Two types of palliative institutions have been introduced: mahalla committees, which are used as vehicles to direct benefits to the neediest; and the Dekhan and Farmers’ Association, which is intended to assist both private farmers and smallholders and to represent their interests. These institutions are meant to perform a regulatory function on behalf of the state authorities and to represent the interests of their members, albeit with a restricted financial and organizational base. Soviet successor institutions (such as the heirs to the Women’s and Youth Committees) have transformed from party organs into government-sponsored NGOs based on voluntary membership. These changes have created a network of “hollow” institutions characterized by an extensive network of subsidiaries from provincial to district level; a precarious financial base that severely restricts their operations; and an ambiguous mandate whereby the protection of members’ interests and performing the role of “conveyor belt” for government directives and legislation are simultaneously held objectives.

The third section discusses a new architecture of provision involving international donors and NGOs. A rural income-generation and microcredit scheme is analysed as an illustration of such new partnerships. 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 received little 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.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Nov 2004
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8178
    From: UNRISD