Promoting Good Governance in the Former Soviet space

JST has worked in the former Soviet space for almost two decades and over this time the landscape of the region and the issues it has faced have changed vastly. Today, in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the EU Association Agreements and recent elections, there exists a mixed picture of some robust and some weak democratic processes across the region. For many states, institutional structures have remained underdeveloped, civil society organisations are increasingly marginalised, and separatist regions and ‘frozen conflicts’ have presented on-going governance issues. JST is therefore dedicated to expanding the capacity of its network to address and overcome such problems.

Law, criminal justice and the courts
JST Fellows have been a driving force behind judicial reform in their countries with an emphasis on anti-corruption and the promotion of human rights. Measures they have improved include court procedures, the delivery of legal aid, and the capacity to deliver social rehabilitation through probation. Fellows are formulating legal opinion on issues related to infrastructure, the environment and corporate social responsibility.  

Fellow’s Story: According to the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, “the delivery of civil and criminal justice [in Moldova] is hampered by government interference, corruption and violations of due process”. In response to such challenges Olimpia Gribincea used her Fellowship experience, particularly meetings she had with Scottish advocates, to make several recommendations to the Bar Association on how to improve legal apprenticeships in Moldova. Her recommendations, including an explanation of the Scottish apprenticeship scheme (deviling), were subsequently published in a set of guidebooks produced by the ABARLI. By incorporating ethical values and judgments into training at apprenticeship level, Olimpia aims to create a new generation of Moldovan lawyers whose practice is built upon the rule of law.

Public service
Fellows include politicians, government ministers, mayors, bureaucrats, diplomats and presidential advisers. They are working nationally and internationally to promote understanding of transparency, anti-corruption, the environment, road safety, conflict transformation and peacebuilding. 

Fellow’s Story: With red tape blocking new ideas for economic, cultural, political and social development, tackling corruption is essential for modernisation in Russia. Alexander Konkov’s idea was to stem corruption by building a comprehensive performance-based governance system which would increase government accountability, transparency and efficiency. Between 2011–2012 he personally conducted efficiency evaluations of several National Programmes, promoted relations with international institutions, conducted research into Russian business development in Europe and contributed to formulating several performance-based indicators for the Russian Government. This included developing performance targets for President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev.

Civil Society
Many Fellows have not only established local NGOs which work on everything from gender equality to road safety; they also work for international NGOs and the United Nations in the fields of development, human rights, trafficking, child protection, anti-corruption, transparency, HIV/AIDS, and conflict resolution.

Fellow's Story: In 2009 Georgia signed the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but it was never ratified and people with disabilities in Georgia continued to be exploited and have their rights denied. Tinna Goletiani’s action plan therefore was to create a coalition of NGOs to lobby the government for the ratification of the Convention. Through Georgia’s Reform Associates (a non‐governmental policy watchdog) Tinna established a coalition that included a number of international and domestic NGOs and in December 2013, after an intensive lobbying campaign, the Government of Georgia ratified the Convention. Georgia’s Reform Associates is continuing in a consultancy role to raise awareness among disabled persons as the legal aspects of the Convention, including training on how they can write a petition to the UN and stand up for their rights legally.

Numerous Fellows have risen to prominence in print, radio and TV journalism as well as in public relations, promoting accountability and freedom of expression. 

Fellow’s Story: Press Freedom in Ukraine has never been entirely free, with journalists having only limited access to public information. In 2011 a law was passed to address this issue but Sergii Andrushko, a prominent Ukrainian journalist, felt frustrated as the law was rarely applied. As a JST Fellow therefore Sergii made it his goal to raise awareness and activate the law to ensure that the government could no longer operate behind closed doors. He launched an intensive campaign which involved: promoting the law amongst journalists and local officials; commenting on national talk shows; participating in protest marches; and editing his own “Open Access” documentary which followed the stories of five individuals and groups and their struggles in obtaining information using the law. As a result of his efforts the number of ‘Access to Information’ requests increased 110-fold within one year.

Economic Development
Fellows are directly responsible for formulating and implementing monetary policy, managing revenue, encouraging enterprise, and building transparent relationships between parliamentarians and the business sector.

Fellow’s Story: With 90% of industrial output in the Syunik region of Armenia dependent on mining Armen Shahbazyan recognised the need to diversify the economy in order to create jobs, generate income and raise tax revenue. Through his attachments programme in the UK Armen was to introduced to the concept of evidence-based policy making which could be used to encourage the government to diversify. Upon his return home, Armen designed a new economic model based upon his attachment meeting with an Economist from Leeds who continued to advise him as he developed his ideas; and whom Armen subsequently invited to speak at the First Investment Forum in the Syunik region. In February 2014 the Government of Armenia adopted Armen’s diversification plan and is now about to implement it across the Syunik region. 

Education and policy-making
Fellows include academics and teachers working in universities and think tanks. Their output includes analysis of political and economic developments nationally and regionally.

Fellow’s Story: Despite laws and regulations to protect the rights of women and girls in Azerbaijan, they are rarely applied at a local level. Government statistics reveal that 37% of women marry before the age of 18 while as many as 6% of girls in the south of the country are already married by the age of 12. Firuza Aliyeva was so concerned about the rights of women she was determined to use education prevent early marriage and her action plan focused on ways to do this. Since her Fellowship in 2013 Firuza has conducted awareness raising training programmes for parents from six of the poorest areas of rural Azerbaijan and seen a 4% increase in the number of young people from rural communities going to university. Soon she will launch a two-year family support programme with the Ministry of Social Development to work with children from these areas and encourage more to go to university. By offering greater access to education Firuza aims to raise awareness and change attitudes about early marriage in relation to women’s rights.

Click here for profiles and stories on all JST FSU Fellows.