August 11, 2023

In a rapidly changing world, the importance of empowering and engaging youth cannot be overstated. As more than half of Kyrgyzstan's population is under the age of 25, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Kyrgyz Republic recognizes the immense potential of its youth demographic to drive positive change and sustainable development. In this blog, we will delve into the inspiring work undertaken by UNDP in the Kyrgyz Republic, focusing on the achievements in youth empowerment and the call to action for greater youth representation and involvement at both national and international levels.

Empowering Youth through Skills-Building Initiatives

UNDP takes a holistic approach to youth empowerment by focusing on various interconnected aspects that nurture the potential of young people. One of the key strategies is through digital skills-building initiatives. Recognizing the growing importance of technology in the job market, UNDP supports youth-friendly educational programs that equip young men and women with relevant competencies. Vocational training, entrepreneurship development, and digital literacy initiatives have proven instrumental in making youth more competitive in the digital age.

The establishment of the first IT-Hub in Osh city along with hubs in universities in Bishkek and Osh cities and hundreds online learning modules, supported by the Russian Federation, further enhances the digital education infrastructure in the country. The hubs serve as platforms to train young people and students in creative digital professions, meeting the demands of the fast-changing technological labor market and contributing to Kyrgyzstan's nationwide digital transformation.

IT-Hub Osh is the first new-format digital education hub in the south of the country and strengthens the education system and applies new educational standards in the field of digital skills to better prepare young people for the fast-changing world and contribute to the creative economy. The activities of the hub contributes to nationwide digital transformation programme "Sanarip Kyrgyzstan" launched by the government in 2017 to create a transparent and knowledge-based economy, improve living standards and the business environment.

Promoting Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

UNDP actively promotes gender equality and women's empowerment by breaking down societal barriers and providing mentorship opportunities for young women. This enables them to pursue their dreams and ambitions fearlessly. By fostering an environment that encourages women to embrace technology and entrepreneurship, UNDP ensures that the digital divide is reduced, and the talents of young women are fully harnessed.

Digital Aiymdar project participants

In particular, the "Sanarip Ayimdar" program has empowered 150 girls and young women with IT and digital courses, including leadership, entrepreneurship, and computer literacy.

Youth Participation in Decision-Making

Youth engagement in policymaking and governance is a cornerstone of UNDP's efforts in the Kyrgyz Republic. Recognizing the value of young voices in shaping policies that impact their lives, UNDP has established 11 Youth Centers and 11 in coming two years across the country in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports, and Youth Policy. These centers aim to ensure the active participation of young people in various aspects of local communities' socio-economic, cultural, educational, and socio-political life.

Young people are discussing ideas in a event

Through these centers, more than 4,000 young people have been trained in entrepreneurship, youth policy, local development, partnership with authorities, and conflict prevention. Young people have also developed Youth Action Plans, securing support from local budgets amounting to $188,000 during the period 2018-2020. Furthermore, UNDP has actively contributed to civic education and voter engagement to increase the involvement of first-time voters in electoral processes.

Creating Sustainable Livelihood Opportunities

To combat youth unemployment, UNDP collaborates closely with local partners to promote entrepreneurship and create sustainable livelihood opportunities. Young entrepreneurs receive support through access to microfinance, business incubation programs, and market linkages, laying the foundation for successful and thriving businesses. UNDP in recent years supported more than 113 youth led small businesses with a total budget of around 18 million soms. 

UNDP has a significant niche in creative industries in Kyrgyz Republic. Within the peacebuilding portfolio creative industries support is framed through three aspects: Talented people, Tolerance of society and development and availability of Technologies linking them to social cohesion and tolerance in society, encouraging talented young people and creating peace infrastructure such as youth centers, creative hubs, creativity centers and others.

Young entrepreneur with new equipment, he received as a grant

After conducting comprehensive research on creative industries, with more than 1500 respondents in 2023, UNDP developed key recommendations for the creation of educational content on creative industries for young people. This includes online courses aiming at formation of the required skills for youth’s growth in the creative economy. According to a survey, young people need the development of creative communities, spaces, and legal framework. In this regard, activities are carried out to support communities of practice involved in creative industries. For example, the first largest fest of creative industries “Create4”, the “RHYTM of the CITY  festival held in Osh is a vivid example of the ability of representatives of creative industries communities to unite and create platforms for dialogue. 

Youth Political Participation

Recognizing the importance of active youth engagement in the democratic process, UNDP in the Kyrgyz Republic has taken significant steps to promote youth political participation. In 2020, over 100,000 people, including young individuals, were informed about the electoral law and the Central Elections Committee's (CEC) activities through an updated telegram BOT and an informational campaign. To increase the involvement of first-time voters in electoral processes, UNDP strengthened the activities of the Civic Education Center under the CEC. This initiative reached approximately 18,000 young people out of the total 80,000 first-time voters, fostering their understanding of the democratic process and their role in shaping the nation's future. By empowering young people with civic education and information on the electoral process, UNDP is actively working towards enhancing political participation and ensuring that the youth's voices are heard in shaping the country's governance and policies.

Youth-Led Action on Climate Change

Young people in Kyrgyzstan are actively leading the charge towards green development by raising awareness of global environmental issues and solutions. With support from UNDP and the British Embassy, the first Local Conference of Youth (LCoY) on climate change took place in 2021. Organized by "Students of Kyrgyzstan for a Green Economy" (SKGE) in collaboration with young representatives from other organizations and higher education institutions, this conference serves as a testament to the youth's commitment to addressing climate challenges.

Local UN climate change conference of youth – <a href="https://www.lcoy.earth/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">LCOY</a> participants

Call to Action: Engage Youth in Decision-Making on International Levels

As we celebrate the remarkable achievements of UNDP in the Kyrgyz Republic and their tireless efforts to empower and engage the youth, it is essential to align these endeavors with the global UN and UNDP youth agenda. The UN's Youth 2030 Strategy sets a powerful precedent for youth empowerment, emphasizing the need to actively involve young people in decision-making, advocate for their rights, and promote their access to education and decent livelihoods. Building on this global vision, UNDP's work in the Kyrgyz Republic exemplifies the transformative impact of supporting youth through digital skills-building, promoting gender equality, fostering youth political participation, and creating sustainable livelihood opportunities. Our call to action is clear - let us continue to invest in the potential of young people, not only at the national level but also on the international stage. By amplifying youth voices and ensuring their representation in different UN structures and agencies, we can create a more inclusive and sustainable world for generations to come. Together, let us work towards a brighter future, where the youth play an instrumental role in shaping a prosperous and equitable society for all.

As we move forward, let us heed the call to action and continue supporting the active engagement of youth not only on national levels but also in international decision-making processes. By doing so, we can unlock the true potential of the youth demographic and work together towards a more sustainable and prosperous world for generations to come. Together, we can create a brighter future for all.