On October 15, 2017, the nation of Kyrgyzstan made its historic choice. The country’s president was elected for the next six years. Sooronbay Jeenbekov, the candidate from the ruling Social Democratic Party, became President. We conducted a special survey among civil activists to find out what expectations they have from the new head of the state, what is worth changing, and what suggestions they have for further democratic and sustainable development of the country.
While Kyrgyzstan has been a parliamentary republic since 2010, much in the country depends upon the presidential course. In one way or another, the President has influence on the creation of conditions in all areas and policies of the state.
Almost all civil society sector representatives from our survey consider that the President should enhance cooperation between the state and civil society organizations. Ways to do that include supporting civil society sector efforts in development programs, creating conditions for sustainable strategic partnership between the state and civil society sector, and increasing a number of platforms for community engagement in decision making processes. Overall, CSOs representatives are confident that such issues as providing freedom of speech, educational and judicial system reform, combating corruption, tackling social problems, and transition to a ‘green economy’ should become a priority for Kyrgyzstan over the next 6 years.
Erkina Ubysheva, Director of Public Fund “Civic Participation,” believes that the relations between citizens and the government, and the structure and quality of the government itself are at the core of the country’s political development. Simple delegation of powers of authority through the election system does not work for citizens of Kyrgyzstan. The President must become a unifying force for all citizens of Kyrgyzstan.
There has been a long-felt need in the country for recognizing citizen participation in state administration as the most important prerequisite for effective functioning and self-reproduction of the democratic political system in the country. Against this background, it is necessary to develop a new system of relations between citizens and their government authority representatives elected by them. As a specific proposal for the President of KR Ms. Ubysheva suggests that development and adoption of the “Zharan” Agreement be initiated between the government and citizens.
It is a political document prepared at the initiative of citizens in cooperation with the authorities that will define complementary roles of government and citizens, principles of their interaction, spheres of mutual focus, and mechanisms of how to regulate them while shaping and implementing public policy with a view to democratic and sustainable development of Kyrgyzstan,” – noted Ubysheva.
A result of the concept’s implementation should be Kyrgyzstan’s citizens’ development of civic consciousness that will encompass the political and legal culture, a sense of self-dignity, and inner freedom. Care for the state’s priorities and friendly relationships in the world community are also priority results.
Akylbek Tashbulatov, Leader of Public Fund “Center for Support of International Protection,” specifies that the state has to improve the quality of public services in partnership with CSOs.
In addition, it is necessary to establish cooperation with civil society organizations on prevention of torture and enhance providing citizens the right to freedom of speech and opinion,” – the civil activist stated.
Gulgaky Mamasaliyeva, Leader of International Center “Interbilim-Osh,” also believes that freedom of speech in the country has yet to occur. In the activist’s opinion, the practice of persecution of civil activists, mass media and political opponents needs to be stopped.
As a specific proposal, I believe it’s necessary to introduce a lustration rule in Kyrgyzstan, enact Law “On Lustration”, and ensure maximum transparency and impartiality of judges in investigation of cases of civil activists, journalists, and political prisoners in a final instance of legal proceedings,” -noted Mamasaliyeva.
The amendments in relation to judges will enter effect in December 2017. According to them, judges will be subject to rotation under the KR President’s order. There are high risks in impartiality of the judiciary.
Almaz Tazhybay from Public Fund “Peremena” (Change) also distinguishes judicial reform as one of the main actions to ensure primacy of law in the country and development of genuine democracy.
I want to treat anti-corruption as a separate block, but of most concern for me is adoption of a non-discrimination law – including language, religious, ethnic discrimination and respect for human rights. Adoption of such a law is indispensable for Kyrgyzstan,” – stated social activist Almaz Tazhybay.
Darika Amanbayeva, a program officer of “IDEA Central Asia,” agrees with the Tazhybay:
Our President must be a symbol of a citizen who respects the country’s laws and respects the citizens’ rights. The President should be committed to equality so that everyone feels safe and is aware of having all conditions to enjoy their own rights and obligations. Enjoying the rights should not depend upon citizens’ religion, sexual identity, ethnic background or other characteristics. Kyrgyzstan citizens may at any time freely express their own opinion, not being afraid for their own safety.”
In addition, civil activists stand for private property protection, de-politicization of law enforcement agencies, courts and the State Committee for National Security, and for an educational reform.
Darika Amanbayeva adds that one of the important resources for development in Kyrgyzstan is human capital, and deems it necessary to pay attention to quality of education throughout the educational system.
Currently, methods of teaching and the material being taught in secondary and higher educational institutions do not promote successful employment or consider citizens’ quality of life. Disciplines are necessary that would develop communication, decision-making, information analysis and critical thinking skills, and ‘independent thinking.’ There’s a need for developing life skills that can help a student be flexible and adaptive to the changing conditions, and successfully implement their own contributions to community development.”
It is important to contribute to changing attitudes toward the role of the youth in society, considering youth as contributing participants and not dependents. It is necessary to create conditions for their harmonious development and potential improvement.
The country’s economic development is undoubtedly one of the priorities of any state. Ms. Amanbayeva is confident that the President should define a niche on the world market for economic development of Kyrgyzstan, and create conditions for small and medium business development in the country.
According to some experts, authorities are currently working to prioritize addressing economic and social problems in the country. Although the social sector very often remains last by priority, Zainap Eshmuratova from Public Fund “Center for Development and Protection of Vulnerable Groups of Population” hopes that the new President will be concerned with ratification of the UN Convention for Protection of the Rights of People with Disabilities, which Kyrgyzstan joined in 2014.
Other proposals are on the table as well. Environmental engineer Baktygul Stakeyeva from the youth environmental movement “MoveGreen” believes that for the 26 years that independent Kyrgyzstan has been developing, environmental issues have always been secondary after economic and social issues. Focusing on economic development, the Government and citizens did not think much of environmental protection, and there are lots of examples that prove it. These include downgrading the status of the environmental authority from ministry to agency, and minor changes in laws to the unfavorable urban environment and various environmental problems existing in the country.
From the perspective of atmospheric air protection, all over the world – both in developed countries and countries with weaker economies – governments take big steps to ensure a more favorable environment. Clean air is a pledge of a healthy nation and ensures healthy future generations.
It’s so pleasant to see that current politicians in developed and other countries take into consideration the latest scientific research and achievements, build upon statistics, and attempt to achieve goals for a short period of time. Environmental problems require that urgent measures be taken,” – stated Ms. Stakeyeva.
For example, in many European countries politicians develop public transport, make narrower highways for cars, and expand them for bike lanes and pedestrians. Some intend to completely refuse cars that strongly pollute the air and cause climate change on a global basis.
Not having a developed economy, in general Kyrgyzstan does not greatly affect the climate change problem. We encounter adaptation issues rather than mitigation ones. But if we consider the urban environment and our large cities where the country’s main population is concentrated, transport issues pose a threat to residents not only from the standpoint of car accidents, but in the first place from the standpoint of air quality and health of citizens,” – concluded Stakeyeva, an environmental engineer.
Stakeyeva hopes very much that over the course of the next six years the President will focus on addressing environmental problems and will set a course for ‘greening’ the economy. She also hopes that he will improve the legislation on environmental protection and strengthen the requirements to projects, enterprises, etc. in line with environmental protection requirements and ‘green economy’ principles. Baktygul Stakeyeva hopes that these measures will affect improvement of the atmospheric air quality and ensure a favorable urban environment.
Urban specialist Aikanysh Derbisheva from the Public Organization “Urban Initiatives” also calls upon the new President to build upon research for decision making, hold public hearings and provide open access to information.