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e-Interview with Sabir Agabalayev on implementation of Goal 16 in Turkmenistan


Sabir Agabalayev, Deputy Director Keik Okara

This interview has been prepared for UNDP SDG 16 info digest – edition 10

UNDP:  Welcome and thank you for being part of this interview. Let’s start by you telling us a little about yourself and what you do and where you work?

Mr. Agabalayev: Thank you! My name is Sabir Agabalayev and I work as deputy director of “Keik Okara” public organization in Ashgabat. My background is in health services and finances, organizational administration and NGO management. I joined “Keik Okara” in 2000 and since then I have lead projects on social and legal support to refugees in Turkmenistan for stateless persons, prevention of domestic violence and support to its victims through running a shelter. I am responsible for financial sustainability of the organization, registration of projects and human resources.

UNDP:  How has your organisation led the work on SDG16 (and what have been some of the challenges, etc)?

Mr. Agabalayev: We started off a public organization providing legal services and social support to refugees in late 1990s. Today, responding to the demands of the local community that we serve, we have grown into an organization that provides psychological rehabilitation support to victims of domestic violence; legal aid through consultations of lawyers to victims of domestic violence, refugees and stateless people; social support to vulnerable families, families with children with disabilities, with many children, old people. In partnership with another public organization “Ynam” and with support from donor organizations, we run a hotline for prevention of domestic violence. In addition, we also support youth conducting leadership training, promoting healthy lifestyles though peer education and promoting volunteerism.

We collect and generate data in our database and then share with the relevant national authorities, including Sate Migration Services on the issues of refugees, National Statistics Committee on the number of victims of the domestic violence, and others. So, with the cooperation of national authorities we are trying to build an effective, accountable and inclusive society where everyone feels safe and included, which responds to the requirements of Goal 16.

After attending the Global Alliance meeting in Oslo in September 2017, I organized a public awareness campaign on SDG 16 for the personnel of our organization, beneficiaries and other civil society organizations. It was important for me to make sure that each member of “Keik Okara” understands what SDGs are in general and how each of us can contribute to implementation of the Goal 16. I have also held student debates on SDG 16 to popularize the goal among younger generations.

I should also mention that while the process of nationalizing the SDGs in Turkmenistan involved the government sector, we have contributed to the planning and execution of actions for the implementation of particular goals related to our organization’s mandate. We are also active participants of the regional and global workshops and seminars where we represent our organization and Turkmenistan in reporting on SDG 16 implementation.

UNDP: How have you been partnering with the UN system and UNDP in Turkmenistan?

Mr. Agabalayev: “Keik Okara” is a long-serving partner of several UN agencies in Turkmenistan. For over 20 years, we used to be an executive partner of UNHCR working on reduction of the statelessness in Turkmenistan and providing support to incoming refugees. We are now part of Central Asian statelessness network initiative working on the regional level with similar organization in five states.

We are also active participants of UNDP projects, including workshops, trainings and conferences on SDG 16. During its events UNDP provides methodological and informational support on SDG 16 that we use during our seminars. Most recently, we were involved into the initiation stage of the new project where the civil society sector will provide its input and build capacities to support implementation of the National human rights action plan of Turkmenistan.

UNDP: Can you tell us about your future planning for leading the work on SDG 16?

Mr. Agabalayev: We are going to continue providing services and collecting databases, share our experience with partnering organizations and contribute to raising living conditions, education, health services, economic activities and gender equality.

We are also going to work on achieving SDG 16 target 9 ensuring that each citizen has a legal document confirming his/her person, including the certificate of birth. In particular, we will continue working with the State Migration Service in addressing the SDG 16.9 solving problems of Afghan refugees residing in Turkmenistan without passports, as well as supporting stateless persons in receiving birth registration from Turkmenistan for their children.

We have recently launched a new Youth Centre, which serves as a resource information sharing centre. Youth can come in here any time they need advice, support or just want to spend time with their peers for learning and exploring new educational and career opportunities. We are planning to raise awareness on SDG 16 among youth during our activities in the Youth Centre.

UNDP:  Can you tell us how Turkmenistan is sharing its experiences and knowledge on SDG16 with others (or is planning to do so in the future)?

Mr. Agabalayev: On behalf of “Keik Okara”, I participated in the Workshop of Global Alliance Initiative for Reporting Progress on Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies (SDG 16) in September 2017 held in Oslo, Norway. Participation in the workshop gave me a globally diverse overview of different approaches and experiences of implementation of SDG 16 with involvement of civil society, private sector, academia and NHRIs. It was interesting to learn experiences from the CIS countries in the region, namely Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Moldova on the nationalization process of the SDGs.

In 2018, I  also attended a conference on “prevention of -terrorism” in Rome, Italy, where the issues of SDG implementation were raised. I presented the work of “Keik Okara” in the area of prevention of terrorism in public awareness campaigns. We hope to continue to work with the Government of Turkmenistan, the UN and UNDP and other partners in sharing our SDG 16 related experiences with other countries in the future.


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