Voices from Eurasia


What does inequality look like?

15 Sep 2017 by Jodi Hilton, Photojournalist

Photographer Jodi Hilton traveled to 5 countries in Europe & Central Asia to document inequalities for UNDP’s Regional Human Development Report. Here is what she saw through her lens. … Read more

In remote Kyrgyzstan, itinerary justice under a tree

04 Aug 2017 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Adviser on Peace. Justice and Accountability, UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Photo: UNDP in Kyrgyzstan
At 10 in the morning, when I arrive in the village of Baitik, it’s already 30 degrees and there is not a single cloud in the sky. Today, I took a break from the computer and meetings and am following the “Bus of Solidarity” of the Ministry of Justice, which our team working on access to justice is supporting. The idea is as simple as it is effective: a group of lawyers are touring remote villages on a bus, giving free legal aid to those who can’t afford going to court or obtaining paperwork. After setting up a small tent a table and few chairs in the shade, the consultations begin. There are about forty women and men waiting in line, having been informed about the arrival of the bus through a village message board. Once the consultations with the lawyers are over, I decide to speak to them. … Read more

In Kyrgyzstan, a new law protects girls against early marriage

25 Nov 2016 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Advisor on Rule of Law

In only the first five months of this year, 49 children committed suicide in Kyrgyzstan. A helpline set up to assist children saw 476 cases. Too many young people in Kyrgyzstan feel hopeless and try to end their lives. In many cases, suicides of girls are prompted by sexual violence and the so-called local practice of “bride kidnapping.” The numbers are staggering: The latest study on a state-representative survey showed that 38 percent of Kyrgyz women married through such a practice. This averages 32 bride kidnapping a day, with 40 percent of them including rape. Nearly 14 percent of women currently aged 25 to 49 in Kyrgyzstan report having married by age 18. … Read more

Central Asia: a greener path to achieving the Global Goals

01 Nov 2016 by George Bouma, Team leader for Sustainable Development

Protecting nature in Uzbekistan. Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan
In the Central Asia region, the depletion of natural capital has become an urgent concern. A stark reminder of the region’s challenges is the drying up of the Aral Sea, which remains one of the world’s largest human-made ecological disasters. The following numbers are particularly worrying: Tajikistan loses $442 million annually, almost 8 percent of GDP, due to land degradation; improving land management could generate a net benefit of $583 per person annually. In Uzbekistan, 41 percent of the cultivated land is used to grow cotton, which requires more than 90% of extracted freshwater for irrigation. However, 20% of water is lost due to inefficiencies and structural deficiencies. These figures reflect decades of intensive and pesticide-based agriculture, breakneck extraction of minerals and razing of forests. And they should serve as a wake-up call to do things differently. … Read more

When it comes to law reform, think long-term: Plan ahead, plan better

16 Jun 2016 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Advisor on Rule of Law, UNDP Kyrgyzstan

In the Kyrgyz Republic, there are 172,800 people with disabilities – corresponding to 2.9 percent of the population. Out of these, 28,200 are children living in orphanages. The average amount of the monthly benefit is of US$ 35 and represents a significant financial burden on the state. It is clear that we need to invest more strongly in justice systems, paying particular attention to most vulnerable groups. But it’s always the same story: You meet with national authorities to discuss how to improve rule of law, or access to justice for the citizens or most vulnerable groups. The conversation is going well but when it comes to discussing finances, you hit a wall. And it’s understandable – deciding how to allocate a budget is a difficult endeavor, whether you are in a lower, middle or higher income country. And it’s a matter of national priorities, so international organizations can only go so far to make a difference. National ownership of reforms is a key principle without exceptions. … Read more

How do we fight corruption in law? We tried something different in Kyrgyzstan

31 Aug 2015 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Advisor on Rule of Law, UNDP Kyrgzstan

Despite tangible progress in the justice system, the trust of the Kyrgyz citizens to the court system remains very low. A recent survey shows that 51% of the population believe judges are “very corrupt”, with another 37% thinking they are “somewhat corrupt.” … Read more

Kyrgyzstan: what does it take to make the invisible visible?

16 Jun 2015 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Advisor on Rule of Law, UNDP Kyrgyzstan

And justice for all? Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan
A friend in Kyrgyzstan recently told me about the first time she saw a person with disabilities: She had just turned 19 and left the country to study abroad. Day-to-day life makes it easy to forget the people with disabilities who live among us. There are few accessible ramps in Bishkek. A recent trip to the northern part of Kyrgyzstan drove this point home even more. I was in Kara Balta, a remote town populated by fewer than 40,000 inhabitants, and an economy largely dominated by the mining industry. … Read more

A symbolic change: Time to rebrand justice?

10 Apr 2015 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Advisor on Rule of Law, UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Redrawing justice: What picture would you choose to represent justice?
Justice is often symbolized as a blindfolded woman holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. I believe this symbol contributes to the ongoing perception that justice is closely linked with coercion. In line with global efforts to ensure access to justice, I would like to suggest looking for a new symbol that can better convey these principles. Time and again, I have conducted small experiments with many people from diverse backgrounds – including teenagers, university students, lawyers, journalists and pensioners. Most commonly relate the concept of justice to prison bars, handcuffs, or police officers. Many witty answers focus on the blindfolding. Once a student joked that Lady Justice would hopefully hit with the sword only after taking off the cover on her eyes. Somebody else quipped that she would be peeping the whole time through the blindfold. … Read more

A Call to Action: Stop “Bride Kidnapping"

26 Feb 2015 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Advisor on Rule of Law, UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Although local activists continue their efforts to stop the tradition of bride kidnapping, more work is needed to make a difference.
One of the less pleasant things associated with Kyrgyzstan is the cruel tradition of “bride kidnapping”. Recent research from local NGOs show that at least fifty percent of the marriages in the country involve elements of this ritual. Essentially, “bride kidnapping” is the ritual of ambushing a young woman and detaining her until she agrees to marry her kidnapper. In the best-case scenario, she is subject to enormous psychological pressure and brainwash from female relatives of the kidnapper to accept the marriage; the rest of the time, she is a subject of rape. I read a lot of sad stories about this tradition, most of which consist of cultural justifications based on the poor economic situation of Kyrgyzstan. But perhaps the most striking story of all is the direct account of a dark-eyed young woman who I will call Roza. … Read more

A child’s guide to corruption in Kyrgyzstan

03 Nov 2014 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Advisor on Rule of Law, UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan
There is nothing that gives me more energy, enthusiasm, and excitement for the future than talking with children. Over past few days, I had the opportunity to visit several schools in Bishkek to talk about my work with UNDP in Kyrgyzstan and the Rule of Law team. I spoke with children between the ages of five and 17, and I have to be honest: I learned a great deal about both this country and my work. One of the topics I talked about was corruption and the damages it wreaks on a society. I started by asking the students how they would feel if a classmate was paying the teacher to get higher grades. Almost everybody raised his or her hands, crying out that this was wrong. … Read more

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