Skip to main content

Redefining Civil Society in Central Asia

10 April 2023

UCA’s Civil Society Initiative (CSI) recently held a series of in-person and virtual discussions as part of the ‘CSI Talks’ series, focusing on the study of civil society in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Attended by representatives from academia, civil society, and international organisations, the discussions presented a new agenda for studying civil society in the region. The attendees discussed the need to define “civil society” broadly to encompass a wider audience and not restricting it only to non-governmental organizations. ‘The role of civil society actors initiating self-organization and mobilizing resources to overcome major crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the mechanisms for such mobilization and their sustainability’ was presented by CSI as the next research topic.

CSI researchers Medet Tyulegenov and Nargis Kuchakshoeva presented the results of a systematic literature review of studies on civil society in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan conducted since the 1990s. The discussion aimed to explore the existing conceptual definitions of civil society and identify areas that require further research.

According to Aizharkyn Kozhobekova, CSI Director, “Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the civil society of Central Asia, in the context of the post-Soviet transition, has been the subject of study for researchers both from the region and from outside. After three decades of research, there is a need to discuss and rethink what has been studied and what needs to be studied regarding civil society.” Based on the research findings, the researchers noted that there is a need to clearly define the conceptualization of civil society in all its diversity to the community of practice. Nargis Kuchakshoeva underlined that the reviewed sources supported the general belief that the civil society concept is in constant evolution.

Participants of CSI Talks in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

The Civil Society Initiative was established in 2017 by UCA’s Graduate School of Development to foster an enabling policy and administrative environment for civil society in Central Asia and assist the development of a broad spectrum of civil society actors. Through the ‘CSI Talks’ series, the initiative aims to generate new insights and recommendations for the development of civil society in the region.