Turkmenistan: The modern village as a countrywide model of local governance

Citizens in villages lead development of their community

Grade nine student Annayeva Ashirgul and her 320 classmates now go to school full time.

Before their new school was built in the village of Belek in December 2012, students would go to school in shifts. The old school could not accommodate all the children at the same time, and was in need of major repairs.  

"Classes in the second shift affected the quality of Ashirgul’s learning and organization of her educational process as a whole," says Ashirgul’s mother, Annayeva Bayramgul.

"As any other child, she wanted to have rest from school in the evening, enjoy the company of friends and family, and morning time was never enough for doing school homework."

The villagers prioritized their development needs and came up with a plan - anew school was at the top of the list, as well as getting a regular supply of electricity and water to a number of homes in more remote areas of the village.

"Our proposal to build a new school was included in the socio-economic development plan for our village, that we called ‘The Future Model of My Village’," says chairman of the Belek village council, Suleiman Begliyev.

New high school in Belek was at the top of the list for the community

Belek’s local development plan was later included in the development plan for the region, as part of a national programme to improve the quality of life for people in villages and towns.

With funds from the state budget, local authorities built a new kindergarten, a recreation centre, a hospital and a shopping centre. They reconstructed therailway station, set up telephone connections for 512 subscribers, and built 6.5 kilometres of new roads.  

With help from UNDP grants, residents in Belek partnered with local authorities to build an 800-metre water pipeline, electricity towers with new transmission lines and an additional transformer to ensure a steady supply of clean drinking water and electricity to 1,174 people.

UNDP grants totalling more than $90,000 funded 14 mini-projects in all pilot Gengeshliks (territorial units consisting of one or several villages), helped to connect homes to uninterrupted supplies of electricity, renovate schools, buildroads and provide access to drinking water.

Communities choose priorities and lead local development plans

Over two years (2008 and 2009), citizens, local community leaders and representatives of local councils in 10 pilot Gengeshliks, and the city of Ashgabat, learned about:

  • Administrative management of local councils

  • Budgeting

  • Project management and planning

  • Community mobilization

  • How to strengthen collaboration between local councils and citizens

The training sessions were part of a three-year (2007-2010) joint project of the Parliament of Turkmenistan (Mejlis) and UNDP - with a budget of approximately $500,000 - to improve the quality of public services at the local level through strengthening capacities of local councils in 10 Gengeshliks.

Citizens know best: Locals decide on priorities for their communities

UNDP also worked at the central level to improve the legal and policy framework for further development of local self-governance in Turkmenistan.

Pilot project grows into nationwide initiative

"The new form of interaction with local communities in the pilot Gengeshliks ... is now widely and successfully used in the system of state administration and management at the national level," said Chairman of the Mejlis Committee on relations with local authorities and local councils, Ahmed Chariyev.

During the project, Members of Parliament and others working in the Mejlis met regularly with more than 800 heads of local administrations, community leaders and citizens, responding to requests and suggestions.

The Mejlis is now building on this experience as they develop a country-wide model of local governance that supports villages, Gengeshliks and districts to lead their own strategic planning so they can improve the quality of life within communities. The local development plans are then used to inform supporting national plans and budgets.

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