Abstract

Global trajectories of development embedded in core Western notions of 'good governance', economic progress and democracy promotion, are being increasingly challenged by the rise of smaller states, emergent new orders and their counter geopolitical configurations. In their perception, the western approach still remains essentially 'unilateral', predicated on the 'universalism' of western norms and their seeming 'exceptionalism' rooted in a historic success and post-colonial discourses of Europe (Nikolaidis 2015). Therefore it comes as no surprise that 'good governance' as a way to structure external relations, encounters defiance and resistance from a non-European outside, who feel that their way of being, belonging and believing is ignored, excluded and even 'threatened'. COMPASS advocates for a new conceptual and practical approach to 'good governance', which would place more emphasis on local 'peoplehood' by way of capacity-building, on 'othering' as a way to de-centre and prioritise the needs of local communities, and on connectivity with all-level stakeholders, to ensure lasting and legitimate transformative effect, and dialogue.

The project thus seeks to set up the 'hubs of excellence' at the leading HEIs in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The chosen countries are former Soviet Republics, who share the legacies of the past including unreformed and heavily bureaucratised public sector, autocratic governance, outdated and inequitable education. Furthermore, they remain relatively inaccessible to the international community, and suffer from economic hardship, ongoing ethnic conflicts and Russia's geopolitical pressure.

COMPASS does not only aim to address the societal challenges of facilitating sustainable governance, equitable education and resilient and conflict-free communities in the developing countries. It also sets to develop lasting research partnerships with hitherto closed regimes, seeking to bring about change by way of inter-disciplinary research integration in the UK and European research frameworks.

In particular, drawing fully on our long-established contacts with the scholars of the region we seek to achieve 3 specific objectives:
- promote internationally recognisable specialist excellence capacity for each partner
- develop research synergies and joint projects
- integrate and disseminate output activities to scholarly, policy and public communities, regionally and internationally

To do so, we will establish knowledge platforms in the chosen countries, selected on the basis of their inter-disciplinarity, high research potential, specialist subject niche and connectivity with all-level stakeholders. They include:
- Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, Centre of Excellence for European Studies, specialising in European Studies, regional security and energy diplomacy
- Belarusian State University, specialising in peace-building straddling History, Sociology, Economics and IR
- Tajikistan International Shahidi Foundation, specialising in Cultural Anthropology, Identity and Social Psychology
- Uzbek University of World Economy and Diplomacy, specialising in Eurasian economic relations and diplomacy practice

By conducting a wide range of research workshops, pilot projects, learning and training activities, policy forums, and public events, we would seek to positively impact on the welfare provisions in the developing countries. Looking prospectively, established strategic partnerships and research networks would also greatly enhance the UK academia and the work of the consortium with a long-standing interest in the eastern region and Central Asia. This will be achieved by providing direct and privileged access into hitherto closed autocratic regimes, and insightful research opportunities and synergies. Additionally, it would greatly contribute to the UK and EU policy sectors, offering first-hand evidence on regional security, economic, cultural and diplomatic cooperation.