2024: Reflections for the Year Ahead

January 3, 2024
Six people gather around a table with a large sheet of paper on it, making a mind map of project ideas. The image focuses on one young man, who is wearing a CAYLA t-shirt with the Uzbek word

By Lisa Coll, EF President

As we enter 2024, Eurasia Foundation is poised at the edge of a new horizon. The last year ushered in exciting changes as our digital governance and disability rights portfolios expanded rapidly, and we amplified the achievements of emerging changemakers on a bigger stage than ever before. These changes do not mark a departure from our work as usual. Instead, they are the culmination of diligence, care, and years-long partnerships with participants, peers, and donors.

A photo shot from the second floor balcony in a theatre shows a stage with blue and yellow lights and a large backdrop reading
Journalist Kara Swisher interviews USAID Administrator Samantha Power and Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov during Diia in DC.

Spotlight on Ukraine 

An early highlight of 2023 was Diia in DC. Over 1,000 attendees came to learn about Diia, Ukraine’s e-services platform that connects 19 million Ukrainians with more than 120 government services. Eurasia Foundation’s Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (TAPAS) project supported the Government of Ukraine to launch many of these e-services and other e-governance solutions aimed at eliminating corruption and fostering public trust. These reforms have proven vital to sustaining Ukrainians during the war. At Diia in DC, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced that USAID will allocate $650,000 to support countries around the world—including Ecuador, Colombia, and Zambia—to launch Diia-like systems of their own. 

The expansion of TAPAS’s work did not end there. In late December, US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink announced the Ukraine Digital Transformation Activity—a five-year, $150 million award by USAID and UK Dev. Through this activity, Eurasia Foundation will continue to enhance Ukraine’s digital capabilities, including Diia, and, together with its partners, build resilient systems for a secure, prosperous future. The Digital Transformation Activity expands on TAPAS’s work to promote three core objectives: economic revitalization, transparency in reconstruction, and democratic governance during the ongoing war and beyond. We are deeply proud to carry our partnership with the Government of Ukraine forward.

A group of approximately 20 people pose and smile for a photo. Many are people with disabilities. All wear beige scarves featuring blue embroidery, the USAID logo, and the Eurasia Foundation logo.
Participants in ADCA’s first training for organizations of persons with disabilities pose for a photo.

Centering Disability Rights 

Alongside our digital governance work, our programs promoting disability rights blossomed in 2023. In October, we launched the Judy Initiative in Armenia and Moldova. The program honors the legacy of disability rights activist Judith “Judy” Heumann, a trailblazer and mentor to many young people with disabilities. Through the Judy Initiative, Eurasia Foundation will work with local organizations of people with disabilities, international disability rights experts, and youth advocacy experts to amplify the voices of youth with disabilities between ages 18 and 30. 

Our Social Innovation in Central Asia project also adopted a new focus area: the intersection of climate change and disability. This new initiative, Advocating for Disability-Inclusive Climate Action (ADCA), centers people with disabilities in critical climate conversations. The initiative will support advocates with disabilities and organizations of people with disabilities as they advance practical and inclusive solutions to the ecological changes impacting Central Asia.

Ambassador Markarova delivers her award acceptance speech as EF Chair Pamela Spratlen and EF Chair Emeritus Jan Kalicki look on.
Ambassador Oksana Markarova delivers her Sarah Carey Award acceptance speech as EF Chair Pamela L. Spratlen and EF Chair Emeritus Jan Kalicki look on.

Celebrating Future Leaders 

While ADCA began, another chapter of the Social Innovation in Central Asia project drew to a close. The Central Asia Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) welcomed its third and final cohort of young leaders from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, bringing the total number of CAYLA participants to 480 in just three years. As ever, CAYLA offered these young leaders a space to collaborate with like-minded peers and to pilot new project ideas with ongoing mentorship from EF. Before activities concluded, CAYLA graduates elected two “ambassadors” from each participating country. These leaders will strengthen and sustain the CAYLA alumni community far beyond the program’s end. 

We also had the privilege of celebrating emerging leaders at Eurasia Foundation’s Future Changemakers Forum at Ukraine House. The event honored Ukraine’s Ambassador Oksana Markarova for her unwavering commitment to advancing transparent governance in Ukraine. We also welcomed three members of the inaugural cohort of the Fellowship for Women Changemakers from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

I am grateful to everyone who helped us navigate new changes and challenges in 2023. We are thrilled to carry this positive momentum into 2024 with you at our side. 

May the new year bring peace and prosperity to you all. Happy New Year!