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Civic Bridges-Central Asia

          Civic Bridges–Central Asia, an interconnected, cross-border initiative funded by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the Department of State from 2003 to 2005, was a program aimed at fostering civil society, democratic development, political and religious moderation, and social and ethnic reconciliation in all five countries of Central Asia. It is such non-violent, cross-border programs that establish common bonds for cross-border dialogue and cooperation and thus deter extremism.

           For this project, IDEE partnered with 5 NGO partners, one in each country, to implement a range of activities aimed at strengthening pro-democratic, non-violent, and moderate civic forces in the region. In this way, the program was able to foster alternatives to the region's dominant poles: non-democratic, repressive regimes on the one side and the emergence of extremist movements advocating violence and theocracy on the other. While the program included all five countries of Central Asia, it focused particular attention on the countries sharing the conflict region of the Ferghana Valley (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan). 

           Civic Bridges expanded the Centers for Pluralism framework for Central Asia with the aim of overcoming the tendency towards national insularity and helping to build an effective five-country network of democracy activists. It was modeled in part on a similar program IDEE developed in Yugoslavia, also called Civic Bridges, which fostered a community of more than 500 NGOs across the isolated and fractured republics of former Yugoslavia through different civic and civic education initiatives. In the Central Asia program, there were three main parts: Regional Networking, Civic Leadership, and Citizens' Participation. 

          IDEE and its partners organized the following:

  • 2 Regional Networking Meetings involving all told more than 60 civic and community leaders, human rights activists, journalists, and educators from all five countries of Central Asia, joined by a dozen representatives from leading NGOs throughout Eastern Europe;
  • 4 Working Groups for increasing citizen participation based on themes such as NGOs and Citizen Mobilization, Anti-Corruption and Transparency, Civic Education, and Community Participation, each of which were facilitated by experienced trainers from Eastern Europe, who helped the gorups develop dozens of proposals and initiatives that the participants took back with them to their communities;
  • 4 NGO/Civic Leadership and Advocacy Regional Workshops, connected to the Working Groups, but with greater emphasis on Women's Leadership. In these workshops, participants learned about how to conduct successful Citizens' Forums and increasing citizens participation;
  • 51 Citizens' Forums (more than twice the number originally planned) organized at the local level following the Leadership Workshops. They covered such topics as police and border control corruption, local education, women's involvement in local communities, the responsibility of local community organizations, and other topics promoting citizens' involvement, accountability of public officials, and civic education;
  • 15 NGO/Citizens' Participation/Advocacy Small Grant Awards for participating NGOs to implement advocacy plans, including special grants for a new initiative to organize film and book clubs as a a way of promoting open discusions, especially among youth, that are not possible in more formal settings like schools and public squares. 
  • 21 Internships for Central Asian NGOs, nearly double the number planned, with counterpart organizations in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In addition to the internships, nine Central Asians participated in election monitoring in Belarus and Ukraine, providing them even greater experience.
         By the conclusion of the program, IDEE involved more than 50 NGOs from throughout the region in a common network aimed at fostering the values of liberal democracy, basic democratic institutions, government accountability, reforms, and democratic changes. Overall, the program reached more than 4,000 people through the Citizens' Forums and Small Grants Programs all of which fostered the ideas of pluralism, democracy, and human and women's rights. 

          For further information regarding this program, please contact Eric Chenoweth or Irena Lasota at

The Civic Bidges--Central Asia program was funded by the: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. Department of State

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