Nov 21

Governance and development in Central Asia: challenges and opportunities

Knightly, University of Exeter

22 November, 2019

9am. Arrival /Coffee

9.15am. Welcome to Exeter / Introductions – Professor John Heathershaw (University of Exeter)

9.30am. PANEL 1: Local Governance, citizenship and capacity building in Central Asia

Convenor and Introducer: Dr Saipira Furstenberg (University of Exeter)

Central Asian JST Fellows:

Symbat Maratbek: political participation in the regions and ways to enhance women/civic participation at the local level in Kyrgyzstan

Dilfuza Kurolova: mechanisms for civic engagement on public education in Uzbekistan

Dauren Kaliaskarov: citizen participation in local government decision-making in rural Kazakhstan

External speakers:

Negar Behzadi (King’s College London): Local resource governance in Tajikistan: from transnational resource struggles to everyday coal mining conflicts in the village of Kante

Speakers will address the following questions:

1) Which mechanisms are available at the local level to enhance civic participation in local governance?

2) Which obstacles exist to the implementation of more effective citizen participation and oversight of governance and public service delivery?

3) In what ways and to what extent are public ideas of citizenship changing in the post-Soviet era, and why are they changing?

11am. Coffee Break

11.30am. PANEL 2: Transparency, Anti-corruption and good governance

Convenor and Introducer: Tom Mayne (University of Exeter)

Central Asian JST Fellows:

Mederbek Israilov: corruption and civil service reform in Kyrgyzstan

Karmina Shukurova: lessons learnt about corruption from Tajikistan’s first wave of privatisations

Rano Ismailova: access to justice and transparency in Uzbekistan

External speaker:

Saipira Furstenberg:  Global Governance and anti-corruption research: the case of the Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiatives in Central Asia.

Speakers will address the following questions:

  1. What is the role of the state in everyday life and how does it figure in people’s perception of good governance?
  2. To what extent is corruption correlated with weak state capacities?
  3. What are the existing tools used in Central Asian states for addressing corruption? How effective are they and how can they be improved?

1pm. Lunch

1.45pm. Short walking tour of campus [Optional and weather-permitting]

2.30pm PANEL 3: Leveraging digital technology for Development in Central Asia

Convenor and Introducer: Professor Oliver James (University of Exeter)

Central Asian JST Fellows:

Jahongir Aminjonov: using fintech solutions to increase financial inclusion in Tajikistan

Farruh Tuychiev: digitalising services at the Ministry of Justice in Uzbekistan

Abdylkaiyr Eshmamatov: digitalisation and its impact on development in Chon-Alai, Kyrgyzstan

Damel Mektepbaeva: digitalisation in the sphere of education and medicine in Kazakhstan

Speakers will address the following questions:

  1. How should Central Asia engage with digital transformation?
  2. What are the existing methods for digital learning and development in Central Asia?
  3. What are the challenges faced by Central Asian governments in the field of digital development and how (if at all) may these be overcome?

4pm. Thanks and Close



Saipira Furstenberg is a research associate of the University of Exeter. She previously taught Politics modules at Oxford Brooks University. She has been a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Exeter on Central Asia Political Exiles Project for the period since 2017. She holds a PhD in Politics from University of Bremen. Her PhD examined the topic of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in countries of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Saipira’s research interests are in political regimes of post-Soviet regions of Central Asia, transnational repression, migration studies, international dimensions of democracy and democratisation as well as on global governance and critical security studies. Her research appeared in Central Asia Survey, Extractive Industries and Society Journal, Foreign Policy Centre, OpenDemocracy and EurasiaNet.

John Heathershaw is Professor of International Relations at the University of Exeter. His research addresses conflict and security in authoritarian political environments, especially in post-Soviet Central Asia. It considers how and how effectively conflict is managed in authoritarian states. He convenes the Exeter Central Asian Studies (ExCAS) research network and directs its Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) project. Heathershaw has previously led a large ESRC research project Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia (2012-2016) and from 2019 will lead a new DFID-funded project on money and reputation laundering by Central Asian and African elites. He is Vice-President of the European Society for Central Asian Studies (ESCAS) and chair of the organising committeefor ESCAS’s 2019 conference which will be held in Exeter, John’s most recent publications are Dictators Without Borders: power and money in Central Asia (Yale 2017), ‘Laundering Cash, Whitewashing Reputations’ (Journal of Democracy, 2018) and ‘How postcolonial is post-Western IR?’ (Review of International Studies, 2018).

Thomas Mayne is a Research Fellow at the University of Exeter. For twelve years he was responsible for Eurasian and Central Asian investigations at Global Witness, an anticorruption NGO that campaigns to end the exploitation of natural resources. He has worked extensively on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and assisted with regional training sessions in Central Asia, especially on the issue of beneficial ownership. After leaving Global Witness he has worked for a variety of NGOs on projects regarding Central Asia and good governance. At the University of Exeter, he is researching the facilitation of Eurasian money laundering by professional ‘enablers’ in the UK in a project funded by the the Global Integrity Anti Corruption Evidence project.

Oliver James is Professor of Public Policy at the University of Exeter working on the politics of public services, citizen-provider relationships, public sector organisation and reform, executive politics (particularly politician-administrator relations) and regulation of publicly owned and/or funded bodies and services. He uses a range of methods including survey and field experiments. Following his undergraduate BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford he completed his MSc (with Distinction) and PhD in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics, University of London. He has held academic posts at LSE (lecturer) and at Exeter (lecturer, senior lecturer and reader). He has also worked in HM Treasury on an academic placement and with bodies including the World Bank, OECD, UK National Audit Office and Audit Commission. He supervises several PhD students and teaches courses on the Exeter MPA programme, runs methods courses and teaches about the politics of public services.


Negar Behzadi is a French/Iranian feminist geographer of environment and development, trained in France and the UK. For several years, she was an environmental and social executive for a multilateral development project in Southeast Asia. In 2012, she graduated with a first-class degree in Environment and Development (MA Geography) at King’s College London. She then carried on her academic training with a DPhil in Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford (2018). Negar’s doctoral research explored the working lives of men, women and children in a context of politico-ecological transformation in post-Soviet Tajikistan. In observing gendered work and resource struggles, Negar’s research built a complex understanding of how gender comes into being in this post-Soviet Muslim context, marked by significant political and environmental shifts. Her work investigated how gender, Muslimness and tradition were reconfigured in the wake of broader politico-ecological transformations and their local impacts through work and resource struggles. Negar is also an aspiring documentary filmmaker – interested in the connections between visual and embodied approaches to research and social sciences methodologies. She is currently working on a short documentary based on her ethnographic work in Tajikistan, and is also coordinating the Visual and Embodied Methodologies (VEM) network at King’s.


Mederbek Israilov is Head of the Training and External Relations Department of the State Personnel Service of Kyrgyzstan.He is in charge of developing and implementing public policy to ensure the correct training for civil servants is in place and to ensure that his Department cooperates with civil society, non-governmental organisations and international organisations in the sphere of training civil servants. He is bo also a member of a working group which is devising a strategy to develop the civil service and municipal service by 2025. One of the key initiatives will be to reform the recruitment system. Mederbek has a Master’s in Public Policy from Meiji University, Tokyo.His action plan will contribute to Kyrgyzstan’s civil service reform by providing the foundations for the design of an effective recruitment process based on meritocratic principles.

Symbat Maratbek is the Assistant to the Leader of the Bir Bol (Be United) political party in Kyrgyzstan and advises on legislative initiatives and proposals in the field of good governance and public management. Symbat has a BA in International Relations from the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs and an MSc in Energy Economics from the University of Leipzig. She has previously worked for a local think-tank and international NGO, focusing mainly on strengthening the civil society sector in Kyrgyzstan. She is currently working with experts to develop a new policy platform for the Bir Bol party which will include proposals on the reform of the local self-governance system to make it more efficient and responsive to citizens’ needs. Symbat’s action plan is to design an effective process for developing and communicating a political platform for her party and potentially other political parties in Kyrgyzstan. She will explore policy and political manifesto development processes in the UK, particularly in relation to local service delivery.

Abdylkaiyr Eshmamatov is an IT Project Manager at the international IT company, Zensoft in Kyrgyzstan. As well as delivering IT solutions to international companies, Abdylkayir is passionate about sharing skills with underprivileged communities. He teaches IT skills part time at a school in Bishkek and has co-founded ‘El Dobor’ public foundation to support teachers in the remote mountainous Chong Alai region of Kyrgyzstan. He has previously worked for think tanks, international organisations and universities. Abdylkayir has a BA in International Economics from Alatoo International University and an MA in Economic Governance and Development from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek. Abdylkaiyr’s action plan aims to popularise STEM teaching and use of up-to-date methodologies in classrooms in remote Chong Alai. He will develop and formalise his current app-based support to reach more schools and provide more systematic support to a network of remote teachers. He believes that STEM can become a tool for equalising opportunities for peripheral communities and advancing social justice in his country.

Jahongir Aminjanov is a Deputy Head of the Payment Systems Department and the Head of the Digital Financial Services Unit at the National Bank of Tajikistan (NBT).  Jahongir’s main role at NBT is to increase access to formal financial services through technology and to create favourable regulatory conditions for market participants, including FinTech. He previously worked for a mobile network operator where he was in charge of developing broadband connectivity. Jahongir has a degree from the University of Montana School of Business Administration in Strategic Management and International Business with a minor in Economics. Jahongir’s Action Plan is focused on providing affordable and accessible financial services to improve financial inclusion, particularly for young people and women in Tajik society.

Karminahon Shukurova is a lawyer and the Senior Specialist in the Department of Legal Assurance at Tajikistan’s State Committee on Investment and State Property Management. She is at the same time writing a dissertation on the problems of the privatisation process in Tajikistan. Karminahon has a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Moscow’s Lomonosov State University, a master’s degree in law from the Russian-Tajik Slavonic University in Dushanbe and is currently completing a PhD in civil law at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. Karminahon’s action plan is to put forward a comprehensive draft plan for legislation for Tajikistan’s new nationalisation programme. This draft plan will be informed by the lessons learnt in the UK from its historical privatisation and nationalisation experiences and Karminahon’s analysis of Tajikistan’s first wave of privatisations.

Farruh Tuychiev is a chief consultant and lawyer at the ICT Development Center for the regional branches of the Ministry of Justice in Uzbekistan. He participates as a lawyer in developing and promoting national legal portals and other types of software programs, such as “Notary”, “” for the purpose of increasing the legal literacy of the population and digitalising the legal services of the ministry. Farruh studied international law at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (LLB), and has recently completed an LLM in International Commercial Law and Arbitration at Nagoya University, Japan. His professional background includes public service, international commercial law and arbitration, ADR, legal and policy analysis, and legal research. Farruh’s action plan is to develop and unify the legal portals of the Ministry of Justice for the purpose of increasing the legal literacy of the population, improving the “one-stop-service” policy in the portals and digitalising the legal services of the ministry. In addition, he also wants to improve the activity of the MoJ’s unified software program for the development and approval of the drafts of laws of Uzbekistan.

Rano Ismailova works as a Task Manager for a joint project between the UNDP and the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan’s ‘Rule of law partnership in Uzbekistan’. Her role predominantly focuses on court administration, court budgeting and mediation issues. Rano is also undertaking a PhD at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, looking at the enforcement of transportation agreements and the resolution of transportation disputes, having previously worked in commercial law. Rano’s action plan focuses on mediation issues, especially mediation in vehicle transportation disputes. She plans to implement the UK’s best practices in mediation in Uzbekistan.

Dilfuza Kurolova is a consultant and civic activist who promotes international standards in economic, social and cultural rights through her work with civil society organisations, government and international donors. Dilfuza works as for the International Commission of Jurists as well as the World Bank’s citizen engagement project. She is part of Uzbekistan’s TEDxMustaqillikSquare team. Previously, she worked at the ILO covering labour rights and feedback mechanisms during cotton harvests. Dilfuza has a Master`s in Politics and Security from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek and an LLM  from Tashkent State University of Law. Dilfuza’s action plan is about enhancing the way that citizens engage with local authorities to ensure that their social, economic and cultural rights are protected and their needs are met. In the UK she hopes to learn more about processes that local authorities use to ensure sustained engagement of citizens at all stages of the policy cycle and maintain a high standard of local service delivery.

Damel Mektepbayeva is a Senior Manager at the Innovations Development Department of Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. She is a mentor to several Kazakhstani medical start-ups, the ABC QuickStart program at Nazarbayev University and the group of gifted students of the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools. In 2017, Damel co-founded a mentoring platform,, to support the research activities of young researchers, innovators and students in Kazakhstan. Damel has BS and MS degrees in Biotechnology from Indiana University (USA) and Ecole Superieure (France). While training at the NASA Research Center (USA), she invented a test ring for remotely determining the presence of the most common infectious diseases. Damel has presented scientific works at international conferences held in the USA, Singapore, France, Mexico and Peru. In 2014, Damel received the Patriot Award of the year, and in 2015 she became one of the winners of the “Best Young Scientist” contest. Damel is a member of the youth council under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the public council of Astana EXPO – 2017, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Nur-Sultan Orphanage, a speaker at platforms such as TEDx Astana, TechConnect, Social Good Summit. Damel’s action plan aims at promoting mentoring for girls in Kazakhstan. Her intention is to combine live mentoring sessions provided by leading women in Kazakhstan and online mentoring provided by outstanding role models from outside of the country.

Dauren Kaliaskarov is a Managing Director at the national company Food Contract Corporation in Kazakhstan. Dauren has a Master’s degree in Public Administration and International Development from the University of York. He has worked at Kazakhstan’s national development institutions, specialising in agriculture and food production industries. Dauren’s action plan focuses on improving living standards in rural areas. He wants to explore the effect of good governance in solving infrastructure issues, and ensuring easy access to education for young people in rural areas. Dauren plans to launch a pilot project for a regional rural development programme with a view to taking a successful pilot project to central go