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Improving the Quality of Life of People through Mining Projects

While large-scale infrastructure projects represent a key mechanism of economic growth, they may also bring unintended negative consequences to local populations and environments. This is exactly the case in Kyrgyzstan, where investments into the extractive industry do not necessarily lead to a win-win situation for both investors and local communities. Kyrgyzstan is a small mountainous republic endowed with significant deposits of gold. However, since its independence from the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has benefited insufficiently from its natural resource wealth and remains one of the poorest countries in the region. Despite being identified as a strategic priority by Kyrgyzstan’s political leaders, the country’s mining sector has stagnated over decades and makes up around 10% of the country’s overall GDP.

More importantly, the efforts of Kyrgyz governments to develop the mining sector present socio-political and environmental challenges that trigger resource contestation between communities and foreign investors. Accordingly, the University of Central Asia’s Institute of Public Policy and Administration (UCA IPPA) has collaborated with the University of Oxford and the Independent Research Institute of Mongolia to address those challenges and foster trust, transparency and cooperation between all stakeholders. With funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) and Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the collaborative project “Gobi Framework for Sustainable Infrastructure Partnerships” pioneers a dispute resolution model that seeks to ensure both peaceful social fabric and inclusive economic development.

Not only is the team of researchers investigating the root sources of mining conflict in Kyrgyzstan, but it is developing tools to enhance the capacity of communities and government to minimise negative impacts of infrastructure projects.

One such solution is the delivery of complex knowledge products on mining-related issues to local stakeholders in a relevant and accessible way through a mobile application platform. As advised by Kemel Toktomushev, UCA IPPA’s Senior Research Fellow and Co-Principal Investigator of the project, “A good investment climate is not solely about creating favourable conditions for private investors to generate profit. A good investment climate is about creating favourable conditions for all actors to prosper, including the improvement of the quality of life of local communities and the provision of the welfare effects of mining to all affected constituencies.”

The need to find a new path, which combines economic growth and investment with social inclusion, is pressing for political stability in Kyrgyzstan.