Kyrgyzstan has since its independence in 1991, similar to its neighboring countries in Central Asia, become a new market for foreign aid. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been providing assistance to Kyrgyzstan since 1992 and is the largest single-country donor organization in the country. According to USAID, it has provided around US$ 460 million in programs aimed at supporting the country’s development in various sectors such as health care, the economy and democratic institutions. In Kyrgyzstan, USAID works in various fields such as education, economic growth and trade, agriculture and food security, global health, democracy, human rights and governance, and crisis and conflict management.
Over 21 years of assistance from USAID, Kyrgyzstan has overcome various obstacles as a nation-state. It went from being an authoritarian regime to having a parliamentary system. With two revolutions in 2005 and 2010 which were accompanied by violence, Kyrgyzstan is today working towards establishing government accountability and transparency. The flow of foreign aid greatly assists the government in creating a favorable environment in this regard.
According to the U.S. Annual Submission to the OECD/DAC via USAID’s Foreign Assistance Database, Kyrgyzstan received US$ 54.1 million from USAID alone in 2011, and an additional US$ 4.3 million from the U.S. Department of State. The same year, Central Asia as a region received a total of US$ 28.9 million from both U.S. agencies. Out of all Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan was the largest recipient of USAID assistance in the region in 2011, whereas Uzbekistan received the smallest amount. The State Department’s aid to the region of Central Asia in 2013 would amount in total to US$ 118.3 million. Compared to 2012, the overall aid to the region has been cut by US$ 15.3 million. However, despite the drop in aid, U.S. security assistance to the region will remain largely unchanged.
According to the Department of State’s foreign assistance program, the main U.S. objective in Kyrgyzstan in 2013 will be “the consolidation of democratic gains in the country and the development of a more representative government that provides improved access to justice and better citizen services.” In other words, the U.S. will in 2013 allocate funding for programs that will focus on supporting democratic processes and building democratic institutions, respect for human rights and rule of law, and decreasing the level of inter-ethnic conflict. Like in previous years, the U.S. will continue to support the development of a parliamentary system and engagement of civil society.
Under the Peace and Security category, the U.S. will work with the government of Kyrgyzstan to fight corruption and raise overall capacity and professionalism. Programs under this category will focus on combating human trafficking, improving border control and security, increase the level of military professionals, reforming the state’s security structure, and fight international terrorism including early detection of terrorist threats. It is clear that such programs aim to secure the borders of Central Asian states ahead of NATO’s 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Under the Governing Justly and Democratically category, aid programs aim to assist the government in developing a more transparent and representative government. In order to achieve the aim, programs will focus on the parliament, applicable ministries, civil society representatives and media. Previous assistance from the U.S. to Kyrgyzstan has targeted programs aimed at supporting parliament and civil society.
Despite the cut in aid, Kyrgyzstan remains the biggest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance among the Central Asian countries. With the new foreign assistance program for 2013, it becomes evident that with troops pulling out in Afghanistan in 2014, the U.S. is preparing so called “transit countries,” Kyrgyzstan being one of them, for future threats involving international terrorism. Thus, despite the recommended cut in aid to the region, programs directed toward security will continue to receive approximately the same amount of aid. Programs under the Peace and Security category will hence be the main focus of U.S. foreign aid policy in Kyrgyzstan.