Power to the people

Kazakhstan is making moves to empower communities to become more involved in taking the decisions that matter most to them. It is striving to create an environment where people can get together and come up with solutions to their problems at a local level, rather than waiting for assistance from above.

UNDP has been working with the Government of Kazakhstan to enhance local self-governance and enable people to participate in the decision-making that affects their lives. Drawing on experience from countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic, UNDP has piloted several projects in Zaisan, East Kazakhstan Region that equip people with the necessary tools to participate in making decisions.

Zaisan’s residents came together to consider what would most improve their children’s lives. With cold, snowy winters, East Kazakhstan Region offers few prospects for fun outdoors in the colder months. They chose an indoor swimming pool as the ideal solution to this problem and then made a successful bid for a UNDP grant to help fund its construction.

“We really needed this swimming pool. Kids want to go swimming but they could swim only in summer,” says Almas Ondakanov, Zaisan’s mayor. People with disabilities and children from vulnerable families are able to use the swimming pool for free.

“I never thought that I could ever take a swim when the temperature plunges as low as minus 40, which is the norm here,” says 15-year old Ulas Umyt-uly, a broad smile on his face. “It’ll be fun to come here with my friends.”

UNDP conducted workshops to help stimulate this decentralisation process, covering the issues of how people and governors can work together to plan, monitor and evaluate social projects and set budgets.

“Local residents are now liaising with governors and communicating their needs to them. Interaction has clearly become more direct and constructive between decision makers and the people,” says UNDP Project Manager Assima Sultanova.

In addition, UNDP offered training to mayors in East Kazakhstan Region which focused on how to interact with the public and help people solve the problems that they were facing.

“The local development projects supported by UNDP helped improve the flow of constructive feedback from people to decision makers and vice versa. We can definitely see that the trust between us is growing stronger,” says Adylbek Ramazanov, mayor of the rural district of Tavriya.

“People are happier when they are the ones who run projects themselves and make their own decisions on the things that affect their lives and well-being. Who else other than the people themselves know what they need the most? That’s self-evident,” says Zulfiya Alimova, Ulas Umyt-uly’s mother.

Efforts like these empower people to play a meaningful role in decision making and UNDP actively supports Government initiatives, such as the 100 Concrete Steps reform programme, unveiled by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in May 2015, which have a focus on building the capacity for local self-governance.

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