The final day of the conference was organised in a very interesting World Cafe format. Participants were to take part in the development of recommendations on key components to further regional cooperation development in Central Asia. We were offered three ‘themes’ or areas in need and participants could choose where they wanted to go and give recommendations and best practice ideas. Some contributions worth mentioning are greater capacity building, tackling the terrorism threat, dealing with the language barrier, further developing the mechanisms for effective interregional cooperation and so on. Participants were then invited to visit rooms offering the findings of other themes before heading down to the Great Hall of KIMEP University for the summary of recommendations and results as well as the Closing Ceremony. After the Closing Ceremony the participants from Pakistan and Afghanistan were presented with a beautiful picture book of Kazakhstan as a token of appreciation by ARGO. ARGO which stands for the Civil Society Development Association brings together more than 80% of civil society organisations in the 14 regions of Kazakhstan and has been doing a fantastic job by providing a platform uniting all CSO’s of the region for the past five years.
After the conference ended, there was still time to cram in some last minute shopping. The two well known malls there Mega Center and Essentai Mall are both fun places to visit and offer a massive variety of outlets, however upon closer inspection we realised that foreign goods were marked by on average by 30%. We were told some locals that this was due to the country being landlocked which meant that all imports need to mainly be brought in by air which makes them quite costly along with various taxes applied to them. We also made a final trek to the Green Bazaar for souvenirs and the famous Kazakh dry fruit.
In a span of just four days we have made many friends, some for life. The mission of participating CSO’s was quite evident as was the dedication of the trainees. The Pakistan delegation was an impressively experienced bunch and this did not go unnoticed by the organisers. Their contribution and enthusiasm at being there was contagious. It was heartwarming to have met such individuals from Central Asia as well as Pakistan. People who had dedicated their lives to helping others. It was a bittersweet farewell to Almaty and our fellow participants. But it was time to take the important lessons learned here home and get back to work.