UNDP promotes peace in Kyrgyzstan

Women in Uzgen, Kyrgyzstan Credit: UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Uzgen, Kyrgyzstan: In a region beset with inter-ethnic violence, a UNDP supported scheme is training media, promoting conflict resolution and even fostering cross cultural friendships to strengthen peace.  


Three elderly women sit in the sun talking and sipping tea. They have been good friends for nearly 20 years, which is not unusual. What is unusual in their home of Southern Kyrgyzstan is that their friendship spans two ethnic groups in an area where such relationships are uncommon and sometimes even dangerous.


The women are meeting thanks to the multi-ethnic Uzgen Local Authority Advisory Committee, which receives money and advice from UNDP and is helping women in the community to respond to political instability, resolve conflict and ease inter-ethnic tension. In Uzgen, as well as meeting regularly to identify conflict tends and mediating disputes, the Committee has helped organize cultural and social exchanges between Kyrgyz and Uzbek women.


The evidence shows that this localised approach to peacebuilding works. During the 2010 violence in Kyrgyzstan, the Uzgen District remained peaceful as much of the rest of the country experienced violence and looting. The group says that this is mainly due to its members actively discouraging their husbands and sons from taking part in the riots in Osh city and the surrounding area.


Gulnara Mataeva, an ethnic Kyrgyz, says that the women in the group took to the streets during the unrest. “We convinced mothers and wives to call their sons and husbands back, shouting at the young men, preventing them from getting into cars and collecting weapons!” she says.


The Uzgen committee is one of 15 provincial and local committees in the country. It is a small but crucial part of UNDP’s broader support to the Infrastructure for Peace project in Kyrgyzstan that includes training parliamentarians in conflict prevention; training the media to be conflict sensitive and less inflammatory in its coverage; and training youth leaders and members of civil society organisations to identify areas where conflict may potentially develop and act to help defuse the situation.


Kyrgyzstan has been blighted by ethnic tension since independence from the Soviet Union, which has erupted into violence on two occasions, once in 1990 and more recently in 2010. Although reliable figures are hard to come by, the latest riots are estimated to have killed about 420 people and 2,000 injured, with up to an estimated 100,000 displaced. Many of the women in the group say they lost husbands during the 1990 violence and riots.

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