For the first time in years, the United States Government (USG) had an opportunity to expand cooperation with and assistance to the people of Turkmenistan. The peaceful transition from the previous government presented a prime opportunity for the USG to work with this transitioning nation to forge a democratic, prosperous, and stable independent nation that respects international human rights standards. In the peace and security area, the objective of USG foreign assistance was to enhance border security to prevent narcotics trafficking and the proliferation of technology and materials related to the production of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The USG worked to promote good governance through the establishment of productive relations with reinvigorated Turkmen Government entities who had wide mandates to implement President Berdimuhamedov’s reforms. Additionally, USG assistance sought to improve accountability and transparency of public expenditures and economic reforms by helping key institutions improve their ability to develop and manage economic policies to support steady growth and improve social benefits. U.S. efforts in the energy area were designed to facilitate Turkmenistan’s participation in regional electricity markets and supported government efforts to diversify natural gas exports and attract foreign investment in the hydrocarbon sector. Work in the social sector focused on improving standards of heath care and education.
(*Foreign Operations appropriated assistance, excluding Peace Corps funds and centrally managed Foreign Operations funds that are not budgeted for specific countries.)
Highlights of FY 2008 Performance by Area of Focus
Peace and Security
In FY 2008, USG assistance:
- Continued to work with the Government of Turkmenistan on the development of comprehensive export control laws and border enforcement programs. In July - August, two U.S. border security specialists held a series of meetings with Turkmen officials to establish a better understanding of the existing information technology, infrastructure and capabilities, and automation and integration requirements. The Turkmen government has agreed to discuss the security of radioactive sources, and participate in workshops on the legal and regulatory framework to implement and enforce export controls, WMD commodity identification training, and in-country and U.S.-based border enforcement training for customs officials and border guards.
- Supported the ongoing construction of the Farap border crossing checkpoint (Uzbek border), which is an effective station for interdicting illegal narcotics trafficking. The State Counter Narcotics Service (SCNS) is planning to engage in further cooperation with the USG.
- Organized a number of training courses and study tours for Turkmen officials as part of its law and drug enforcement activities. USG assistance also funded a training course in port security for 23 participants from five Turkmen government agencies. These activities exposed Turkmen law enforcement officials to U.S. law enforcement standards and procedures. More importantly, it brought mid- and senior-level officials in contact with their U.S. counterparts to further enhance U.S.-Turkmen cooperation.
- Worked with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to bring government forensic laboratories and technicians up to international standards. The program provided modern scientific equipment and exposure to the international forensic science community through the American Academy of Forensic Science Annual Meeting where the Turkmen scientists were exposed for the first time to the concepts of quality assurance and international accreditation. The Turkmen were also able to meet and interact with other forensic specialists from Central Asia fostering greater regional cooperation.
Governing Justly and Democratically
In FY 2008, USG assistance:
Investing in People
- Continued to actively engage local government officials involved with the U.S.-sponsored community empowerment project. As a result of the program, 310 local government representatives improved their service-providing capacity. Participating communities raised $100,000 for community level small grants including projects to improve the social and economic life of citizens and workshops to stimulate better partnership with local governments and demonstrate cohesion of the community, which resulted in an increased citizen participation in resolution of social and economic issues. The USG funded civic education and leadership program supported the participation of 1,330 youths in community based initiatives in farming, infrastructure building, ecology, and sports.
- Supported a network of 11 lawyers who provided consultations on NGO registration, tax issues, land use, labor, and social laws. Through hotlines, a referral network, and mobile legal clinics, USG assistance helped meet the needs of more than 9,400 people. By empowering 123 civic groups, including NGOs, community members, farmers’ associations, and youth through civic education, economic training, access to information, grant support, and access to legal information; USG assistance provided tools and knowledge to promote a broad, grassroots base for democratic reforms. In addition, an intensive seminar on NGO legislation was conducted for over 30 Turkmen officials, an unprecedented event in the history of independent Turkmenistan. In July 2008, the first independent NGO was registered in Turkmenistan in over three years.
- Continued to provide internet access through five internet centers and technology workshops for regular and underprivileged citizens including the disabled. USG small grants provided employment for 18 people with disabilities. In addition, the USG supported exchange programs for approximately 20 Turkmen citizens, including local/national government officials and media professionals. Using knowledge and skills gained during the program, an alumna from the “Youth Alternatives to Drug Use” program opened a resource center for youth in a remote district. The center operates a small sewing workshop and a training facility, and serves approximately 35 people per week.
- Supported a small grants program that benefited specific projects initiated by civil society groups. In FY 2008, $175,000 – a record year for the program in Turkmenistan – was spent on NGO projects including 19 youth summer camps, most focusing on civic education and/or leadership skills, three rural information resource centers, three projects to raise awareness of social issues, four projects to support the economic or social integration of women, three projects to assist private farmers with market economy skills, and two projects to teach profitable work skills to the disabled. The USG also provided small grants for USG exchange alumni to help them share their U.S. experience with others.
In FY 2008, USG assistance:
- Opened a Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Center in cooperation with the national AIDS Prevention Center and a private organization. Seventeen Turkmen students along with government officials received training certifications for HIV Awareness and Prevention. These students volunteer at the Center and provide their peers with accurate information about the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDs. Since the center opened in March 2008, 1,700 young adults attended peer-led HIV prevention and risk education sessions, 637 youth participated in risk reduction activities, and 100 young people received counseling from a specialist on sexually-transmitted infections, a gynecologist or a psychologist.
- Helped the Government of Turkmenistan draft a new strategy for 2008-2010 to expand the Tuberculosis (TB) Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) program countrywide and addressed issues related to Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) TB. USG assistance worked to ensure the sustainability of the National DOTS program by supporting the TB Department of Turkmen State Medical Institute, assisting the Ministry of Healthcare and Medical Industry (MOHMI) in drafting a National Logistics Management Information System strategy, and introducing a TB Electronic Surveillance and Case Management system. USG assistance continued to train family practitioners in DOTS and assisted the Turkmenistan Government to improve national TB treatment performance.
- Continued to expand the World Health Organization “Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses” (IMCI) strategy into new primary health care institutions. The IMCI strategy is now implemented in 14 districts, including at least two districts in each of the five provinces with approximately 30 percent of all primary health care professionals having received training. The hospital module was translated into Turkmen and was approved by the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry. In FY 2008, 343 people (238 female and 105 male) were trained in child health, including 143 family doctors, 100 family nurses, and 100 hospital specialists.
- Supported the Maternal and Child Health Institute in initiating a training program in four maternity hospitals. In FY 2008, a total of 500 health professionals received clinical training or clinical mentoring related to improving maternal and newborn care. Courses included effective perinatal and antenatal care and follow-up mentoring for obstetricians, gynecologists, midwives, neo-natologists, and nurses. The United States also advised the Ministry of Health on its effort to standardize epidemiologic standards in maternity hospitals.
- Sponsored 65 students to attend U.S. high schools and live with American families. During 2008, the Ministry of Education refrained from interference in the exchange program and cooperated in the testing and recruitment process at a level unseen in previous years. Also in FY 2008, the USG funded 17 students to attend the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Under the Turkmenistan AUCA Scholarship Program (TASP) students are provided with a full four-year scholarship to earn a Bachelor’s degree in an American-style university. Students are majoring in International Relations, Journalism, Business, American Studies, and other fields. USG assistance also funded exchange programs for ten Turkmenistan undergraduates and five fellows who attended U.S. universities at the graduate level.
In FY 2008, USG assistance:
- Enhanced the capacity for public sector audit in line with international best practices through workshops on international best practices and experience in development planning, project management, performance management, financial markets management, and macroeconomic modeling and forecasting. As a result of this technical advice and supporting information, the government engaged U.S. experts in developing its “Concept for Private Sector Development,” which when adopted will set the foundation for private sector development programs in coming years.
- Provided industry-specific training on market-economic principles and practices in the United States for ten Turkmen business leaders and officials. Participating professionals visited the United States and received instruction in water resource management, food processing and packaging, road construction, port development, and hotel management.
- Continued support to strengthen private sector accounting through the Russian-language Certified Accounting Practitioner (CAP) and Certified International Professional Accountant (CIPA) training, examination, and certification program. In FY 2008, 26 Turkmen received the internationally recognized Certified Accounting Practitioner certification bringing the total to 158. In addition, significant developments occurred including a series of unprecedented cooperative activities with the Supreme Council for Science and Technology. These included programs to strengthen the national accounting education curriculum, increase the number of certified accountancy trainers, and special methodological/pedagogical training for accounting professors.
- Worked with the Ministry of Energy and Industry and Turkmen Energy specialists to increase regional cooperation in the electric power sector and established a sound commercial and economic basis for cross-border energy resource development for regional trade and investment. Accomplishments included the delivery of Power System Simulation software and technical assistance and training to the Turkmen National Electric Authority, TurkmenEnergo. Support led to the development of a national transmission planning model, which will be integrated with the models from other republics in Central Asia to create a region-wide model. The model can be used to justify investments in generation, transmission and distribution systems and can increase the reliability and efficiency of the entire energy sector. Additionally, the model can be used to analyze bottlenecks in the regional transmission system and to justify regional electricity trade. In FY 2008, the USG also assisted the Ministry of Energy and Industry of Turkmenistan in discussions with the Ministry of Energy and Water of Afghanistan, which focused on increasing the supply of electricity to Afghanistan through the construction of a new power line. A Joint Working Group was established to coordinate these technical discussions.
- Constructed two pilot greenhouses that showed farmers how to more than double their winter production. The United States funded a report detailing export market opportunities and challenges and supported trial air shipments of tomatoes and cucumbers to foreign markets. Other USG support included the establishment of five private soil testing laboratories in farmer coops and in demonstration greenhouse sites. Thirty-four farmers were trained in greenhouse construction and management while 370 farmers received production-oriented training.
- Educated 11,437 students (933 middle school and 10,504 high school) and more than 500 teachers on the basics of market economics. Economic courses were offered at 184 schools in 2008 as extracurricular elective courses. The USG-sponsored module was translated into Turkmen and integrated by the government into to the new social science curriculum.
Youth HIV Awareness and Education Center Opens – After years of official obstruction the Youth HIV Awareness and Education Center finally opened in Ashgabat in March 2008. In just a few months of operation the Center educated more than 1,700 young Turkmen about HIV/AIDS using a comprehensive seminar on HIV transmission, prevention, risk factors and discrimination. In addition, hundreds of young people regularly attend the center’s English and technology classes. Turkmen youth were previously left completely in the dark about the risks of HIV/AIDS as the government ignored a growing drug problem and denied the existence of HIV in the population until recently. This program is all the more impressive considering that teenage volunteer peer educators, most of them women, delivered the vast majority of the seminars in this predominantly Muslim country. The impact of this program on HIV awareness in Turkmenistan is still being measured but the stark contrast from the previous state of denial to the current spirit of compassion and community responsibility taught at the Center has already been noticed by hundreds of young Turkmen and is sure to have a profoundly positive impact.
Opening of the HIV/AIDS Awareness Center in Ashgabat.