Deputy Executive Head Annika Savill met with Rodion Sulyandziga, First Vice-President of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North at UN headquarters on 22 March, in connection with an UNDEF-funded project to support democratic participation of northern indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation. With vast natural resources, Russia’s northern regions are of national and global importance. They are also home to vast numbers of indigenous peoples striving to maintain their livelihoods and traditional way of life.
Asia and Pacific
In Bangladesh, UNDEF funds an initiative to advance pro-poor and democratic governance in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The project works in over 200 villages to step up interaction between organizations of poor tribal peoples and local government administration. It recently held a series of activities in the districts of Baghaichari, Rangamati and Kaptai, including courtyard capacity building sessions on democracy and good governance; sharing sessions between villagers and field staff; advocacy facilitation; group work presentation; baseline survey sessions; and social mapping.
An UNDEF-funded online directory of parliamentary committees and NGOs was launched to bridge the divide between Pakistan’s Parliament and civil society. It will serve as a resource tool for Parliament to facilitate the use of professional research sources in addressing issues relevant to the Committees. This is essential in Pakistan, where Parliament and parliamentary committees have limited in-house research capacity.
In Central Asia, NGOs and independent media often have nowhere to turn for support on new media technology, with little or no in-house knowledge and commercial alternatives that are far too expensive. That’s why UNDEF funds a new media clinic in the region. A new group of Central Asian journalists and NGO workers just completed a two-month training programme, which is run by TOL and focuses on using social media for advancing organizations’ content and causes, as well as managing and maintaining websites in general.
A task force formed to support China's rural women’s participation in local politics convened in Shaanxi province in November 2011, as part of an UNDEF-funded project to empower women in areas where patriarchal values still dominate village governance. The group brought together representatives from Shaanxi, Heilongjiang and Hebei as well as Huazhong Normal University to discuss strategies and best practices. A few weeks earlier, the project held extensive training sessions in survey and interviewing techniques in Heibei Province.
An UNDEF-funded project in Rajasthan, India, completed its work in 2011 to strengthen the leadership of women elected to Gram Panchayats, or village councils. The project provided training to more than 2,000 elected women and raised the profile of women's political leadership by engaging with the Ministry of Rural Development, media, the state election commission, and civil society. In addition to strengthening the knowledge and confidence of elected women, the programme addressed practical concerns, misinformation, and women's legal rights.
In the 25 years since Vietnam introduced the doi moi programme of reforms, citizens have come to participate far more actively in politics at both commune and village levels. But government is still not fully accountable, especially on issues impacting the environment.
In eight countries of Central Asia and South Caucasus, UNDEF funds a project to increase public participation and make governance more accountable through independent monitoring of public policy-making and implementation. The initiative relies on expertise from independent policy centres with experience of democratic transformation. Through mentoring, training, regional networking and exchange of know-how, civil society organizations are learning to build new channels of dialogue with governments at the national and local levels.
In Azerbaijan, a transitional society shaped by vast oil and gas resources, UNDEF funds a new project to create the country's first women's parliament. The initiative will serve as tool to give more meaning to women’s rights in Azerbaijan, while strengthening efforts to improve governance in the country as a whole. Two decades after independence, the country faces challenges related to both its post-Soviet legacy and the male-dominated culture of traditional Islam.
India has the largest tribal population in the world, with more than 460 tribes comprising some 85 million people. Almost one third are in the Himalayan region. They face a range of challenges, from displacement and exclusion to poverty and illiteracy. An UNDEF-funded project works to strengthen civic participation among high-altitude tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.