Digital transformation in the Kyrgyz Republic

03 Mar 2021 (Find the story behind this photo at the bottom of the article). The Kyrgyz Republic has an ambitious digital transformation policy. And it needs to be ambitious! The country is almost entirely mountainous – 94% of the country lies at over 1000 metres above sea level – so building internet infrastructure is a challenge to […]

Fostering young journalistic talent and media literacy in Central Asia

18 Feb 2021 ‘Zira’ [cumin] is a key ingredient in the Central Asian rice dish plov. The spice is also the inspiration for the name of an online media platform – Zira Media – founded and run by Muhaiyo Nozimova (Tajikistan, 2018) which aims to develop journalistic skills and media literacy among young people in Central Asia. Muhaiyo […]

Advancing the integrity of Moldova’s justice system

12 Feb 2021 The landslide victory of the opposition candidate, Maia Sandu, in Moldova’s presidential elections in November 2020 signaled a decisive change in the country’s direction. Sandu, who favours closer ties with the EU, won the run-off by harnessing voters’ anger and exhaustion with political scandal and endemic corruption. ‘Moldovans need a state that does not steal, […]

Reshaping urban living in the Russian Far North

03 Feb 2021 The sun does not rise above the horizon at all between early December and mid January in Murmansk, the northernmost city in Russia and largest in the world above the Arctic Circle. Primarily an industrial city with a population of just under 300,000, Murmansk is also known as a place for prolific crab fishing and fantastic sightings of the Northern Lights. The North […]

Changing civil service culture in Ukraine

21 Jan 2021 Ukraine is lucky to have citizens like Artem Shaipov.  Young professionals who already have important day jobs but who also are driven to contribute to the advancement of their country’s development through pro bono work. In Artem’s case, he is a Cambridge-educated lawyer working on legal reforms but who has also taken on the huge […]

Reducing poverty – and increasing vegetarianism – in Tajikistan

15 Jan 2021 Almost 70% of Tajikistan’s population makes a living from the agricultural sector with 30% of the country’s rural areas living below the poverty line.  Steady progress has been made in growing the economy but as one of the least developed countries in the world, the effects of climate change on Tajikistan’s rural population hits hard, […]

Championing employment for persons with disability in Turkmenistan

08 Jan 2021 (PHOTO: Kumush Atayeva with the bust of John Smith in the Scottish Parliament) Kumush Atayeva is passionate about improving access to employment for people with disabilities and aiding their inclusion in the labour market.  She is making a significant difference in her home country of Turkmenistan where those living with disabilities have historically faced great […]

Public service reform in Uzbekistan

16 Dec 2020 At a recent John Smith Trust (JST) online event on digital governance, Mirzokhid Karshiev was reunited with Julie Kane, Head of Digital Strategy and Policy for the Scottish Government.  Mirzokhid, a governance specialist from Uzbekistan, had met Julie in 2017 while in the UK on a John Smith Trust Fellowship Programme.  Along with a number of […]

Pioneering Recycling Culture in Armenia

10 Dec 2020 Armenia has a massive rubbish problem.  Despite its small geographical size and a population of only 3 million, it is the sixth highest waste-producing state in the world according to the UN. Mkhitar Avetisyan (JST 2019), formerly a leading specialist at the Ministry of Nature Protection, is a recycling pioneer in Armenia.  In 2017, determined to improve the waste […]

Supporting Mental Health in Russia

30 Nov 2020 (Photo: Artem Novikov, far right of the picture, in front of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh with his fellow John Smith Trust Fellows from Russia) Dr Artem Novikov (JST 2019) is a Moscow-based psychiatrist specialising in children and adolescents. As well as having his own practice, he also works for the Centre for Curative Pedagogics […]

Youth Advocacy in Kyrgyzstan

12 Nov 2020 Zamira Isakova (JST 2018) is a political analyst and peacebuilding specialist from Kyrgyzstan’s ‘southern capital’ Osh. This old Silk Road city at the heart of the Ferghana Valley is known for its rich cultural heritage and ethnic diversity. The population is comprised of citizens with ethnic Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Uighur, Turkish and Russian backgrounds amongst other […]

Uniting civil society in Georgia during Covid-19

06 Nov 2020 Little did Ketevan Chachava know that the concepts for civic initiatives she developed while in the UK in 2019 on her John Smith Trust Fellowship Programme would be a life line for many less than a year later during a global pandemic! Ketevan is at the heart of civil society organising in Tbilisi, Georgia. She […]

Developing financial services in Turkmenistan

15 Oct 2020   The John Smith Trust has welcomed Fellows from Turkmenistan to its Fellowship Programmes since 2012 – and Maksat Keshiyev was our first. Turkmenistan has been taking steps to modernise its banking industry in recent years. Investment in financial institutions, modernisation and greater economic diversification are considered essential for Turkmenistan’s sustainable economic development. At the […]

Protecting the Environment in Belarus

08 Oct 2020 Anastasia Zhdanovich (JST Belarus Fellow) with Baroness Catherine Ashton, then Chair of the John Smith Trust. Anastasia Zhdanovich is a lawyer from Minsk – a 3rd generation lawyer in a family of lawyers in fact.  Deeply impacted by the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster she saw around her while growing up, she was determined […]

Access to pro-bono legal services in Azerbaijan

02 Oct 2020 Legal aid and pro bono legal services are available in Azerbaijan in some form, but a structured and efficient system at the national level which guarantees access to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups is not yet in place. Steps are being taken by some institutions to establish a more robust system to give timely access to […]

Leadership in Kazakhstan’s Akmola Region

24 Sep 2020 One hour outside Nur Sultan is the rural village of Rodina in the Akmola region.  Rodina is the home of Bella Gazdiyeva (JST 2017, Kazakhstan), a passionate educationalist and environmentalist. Bella has had a spectacular career progression in recent years against all the odds for her age, gender and ethnic background. She has gone from […]

Dialogue and Devolution in Moldova

18 Sep 2020 Following the finalising of a protracted and controversial governmental reform process, the 12-month period between 2018 and 2019 in Moldova was politically turbulent. Parliamentary elections were followed by political crises and the inability for three months to form a coalition government – which, having finally been established, was then dismissed five months later. This unsettled […]

Innovation for citizen participation in Ukraine

11 Sep 2020 Vadim Georgienko (JST 2006, Ukraine) is a social entrepreneur working to find innovative solutions for development challenges. He has an impressive track record for innovation and problem-solving in the area of civil society and citizen empowerment. Most recently Vadim co-founded ‘Smart Interactions’ (SI), a new type of system architecture which is aimed at addressing local issues and global challenges on […]

Medical Ombudsman’s Institute in Armenia

03 Sep 2020 Currently medical errors in Armenia are considered a crime and judged according to criminal law.  Without the independent and impartial investigation of an ombudsmen the rights of both patient and doctor are not protected, making it harder to achieve transparency, accountability or clarity in healthcare provision.  Determined to change this, Meri Katvalyan (JST, 2018) has […]

Promoting impact investing in Russia

27 Aug 2020 Social entrepreneurship in Russia is a relatively recent concept but in the past 12 years it has been actively developing. So in 2017, when Sergei Ponomarev applied for the John Smith Trust Fellowship Programme as a researcher at a Russian social entrepreneurship NGO, he was looking to glean as much as he could from the […]