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child well-being in Kazakhstan

April 21, 2011

 

This week saw the launch of a child well-being study in Kazakhstan. Together with the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and a local research team from the Academy of Public Administration, I will conduct a study on child well-being in the country for UNICEF. Kazakhstan is a remarkable country in the Central Asia with a history and cultural and ethnic background that is unfamiliar to most but very interesting. It is one of the richer countries in the region with many positive developments in the last decade in terms of economic growth and living standards for people. Having said that, there are large disparities in the vast country which is about the size of Argentina but with a population of the Netherlands. Many children still live in institutions, suicide rates are high and domestic violence is common. The capital Astana in the middle of the steppe might seem like a modern architectural experiment, many people in rural and remote areas are less fortunate.

Nevertheless, the people of Kazakhstan are very proud of their country (and especially of their surreal capital Astana) and rightly so. Historically, the country has seen many hardships during Tsarist and Soviet times with many ethnic groups migrating in and out of the country. As a result, Kazakhstan is a melting pot, as they refer to it themselves. I never liked the Borat film but being here and meeting so many warm and interesting people makes it even clearer to me that it is a real shame that this film is the only exposure that many in Europe or the US have had to the country as it is by no means a reflection of reality.

More information about the launch of the study can be found on the website of UNICEF Kazakhstan.

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