On October 23, 2013, EWMI’s Collaborative Governance Program organized a conference entitled “Social Procurement: International and Kyrgyzstan Experience” in partnership with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and UNICEF. Representatives of Kyrgyzstan’s government, including the Minister of Social Development and senior officials from other ministries, along with local authorities, civil society organizations and representatives from several international organizations were among the conference’s 70 participants. The conference featured four key experts in social procurement from Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and the United States as speakers.
Both Kyrgyz and international participants shared their experiences in developing and implementing social procurement in order to provide a broader context for enhancing the legislative and procedural framework for social procurement in Kyrgyzstan. Aside from exchanging vital information and experience, the Conference was also a forum to begin the process of establishing a working group of representatives from these various stakeholder organizations to provide critical input to improve the mechanisms and process of procurement of social services in Kyrgyzstan.
According to a report cited by Irina Lukashova, a consultant for EWMI CGP, the number of non-profit organizations applying for social service delivery projects in Kyrgyzstan has tripled over the last three years, from only about 42 applicant organizations in 2009, to 132 organizations in 2012. These funding requests were to support a variety of social projects, such as preventing child abandonment, neglect and child labor, or improving the social integration of children with special needs.
State funding allocated for social procurement has also jumped substantially. In 2009, the allocated budget was just over 4 million KGS, or about $82 thousand USD. As of this year, fund allocation has reached nearly 14 million KGS, according to Kudaibergen Bazarbaev, Minister of Social Development. Minister Bazarbaev openly expressed his support for social procurement as a mechanism through which the government can successfully engage NGOs in social service delivery, and he hopes that the momentum gained by his ministry will attract other material and financial resources and be replicated by other ministries. He noted that a growing social service sector will increase competition, thereby improving the quality of social services provided. He also supports development of an improved legal mechanism to better ensure fair and efficient provision of social services. Djoldosheva Nuriyla, Head of the Department of Social Development in Kyrgyzstan, contributed to the discussion, adding that the success of other countries in providing social service delivery through NGOs confirms that social procurement is beneficial for everyone, including the state. It allows the state to provide services in more locations, with better overall quality and typically at a cheaper price, while simultaneous improving the professionalism and sustainability of the NGO sector.
Overall, conference participants were supportive of the need for social procurement reforms. Participants were pleased to support further development of social procurement mechanisms in order to contribute to the improvement of social services, services which are a lifeline for many citizens throughout Kyrgyzstan.