The Institute for Public Policy is a Bishkek-based independent organization that was founded in April 2005. It aims at promoting formation of a practice of public policy and development of mechanisms of constructive interaction between state institutions, civil society, mass media and businesses.
The Institute for Public Policy asked Kyrgyz experts to comment on the necessity of national dialogue in the country.
Anar Musabayeva, a political analyst, expressed her opinion on the matter: "I think we have long needed such a dialogue in Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately, the hopes and expectations of people about the major changes during the post-April period were not realized. I think we are still in a situation, when our society develops by itself, and the government develops separately from the society. Therefore, there is an urgent need in a national dialogue on the national level. It is necessary to involve all parties who make up the fabric of our society, in order to come to a consensus the further development of the country.
Another question is whether the parties are ready for it? First of all, it is important to have political will on the part of those in power, and they really must have will, not just an imitation of it. This is a disastrous path for the country, when we get money from donors, simulating such a dialogue, just to show that we are moving toward democracy. We have already had this under Akayev, Bakiyev and the Provisional Government. If it happens again, the consequences for our country will be much more dramatic.
Not only the government must be ready for a serious national dialogue, but also by the active part of society. First of all, it should include civil society organizations that choose not to any local issues or concerns a particular group to which they are relevant, namely, those organizations that have a broader public purpose, to address the generally problems relevant for the entire society.
Unfortunately, the civil society in Kyrgyzstan is in its infancy, and there have been many issues that affect the capacity of civil society. Now that civil society has a very low level of self-organization, lack of ability to articulate clearly the interests of the general public and defend its position.
But, nevertheless, a national dialogue is needed, because previously we had only an imitation of it. For example, there have been attempts to build a dialogue with the business community, between the government and the employees who work in different institutions. It was also a kind of imitation, because we have not had any serious trade union movements, which would articulate the interests of workers, any consolidated business community, which understands common interests and can act as part of a social dialogue. So far, we had very "parochial" private commercial interests. The society, roughly speaking, did not take its shape structurally. There are historical reasons behind it, as we are an ex-Soviet republis", said Musabayeva.
During the interview, Anar Musabayeva drew attention to the format of the national dialogue: "Of course, there were many areas of communication, but the results were poor. Nevertheless, it is necessary to use different formats. These formats may include expert meetings with government officials, business community and discussion in the media. In the end, we could use the new institute, which was established under the President of the transitional period, i.e. public supervisory boards in the executive branch. The problem is that these boards have many disadvantages in their professional and advisory capacity.
We must use all possible legal formats for the construction of a national dialogue, including Kurultays since this idea is very popular and has many supporters. All the more the Kurultays unite people who, shall we say, were in opposition to the current government. The Kurultays include certain interest groups, so we cannot simply ignore them.
The national dialogue is an area of coordination of interests. We need to understand that society in its structure consists of different segments, and everybody has its own interests, but in order to make the country move forward, we need a social contract, agreement of different interests, including the conflicting parties."
Talking about who can be the moderator of the dialogue, Anar Musabayeva said: "Sometimes the moderator can be the authority itself, and sometimes - civil society. In our case, I think the moderators should be neutral non-governmental organizations. Political parties and the government cannot be moderators, because there is little confidence in them among the population. The moderator should not be just one organization. It may be a community of organizations, who will assume the function of an impartial and objective moderator of this process, which is a very difficult task, given our low level of cultural consensus. After all, why has this dialogue not yet taken place in Kyrgyzstan? Because people cannot negotiate and come to an agreement", said Musabayeva.
The expert believes that the construction of a national dialogue, "above all, must involve the political parties and nongovernmental organizations": "Also the business community, professional associations of doctors, teachers and employees of the social sphere can participate in this process. So, all those groups who are aware of the presence of their interests can articulate these interests and bring them to the general public.
Regarding the agenda, there are many issues. First of all, one of the key issues is a matter of national security, territorial integrity and state-building with all its effective institutions that would carry out its functions. That is, the question is whether Kyrgyzstan is an independent state. It is necessary to speak about restoring manageability, restoration of the legal system, legal environment, law and order.
In addition, a very important issue is an internal consolidation of the citizens of the state associated with our regional division into the north and the south. Solving problems in inter-ethnic field is one of the key issues, as we are now seeing the negative migration trends of national minorities of the country. These trends will have implications for the development of the country in the future.
There are also issues of another order, but I have already outlined the most important ones. Only after we solve our key issues, can we talk about other issues, which are also not less important. For example, what state we must have, whether we can afford the welfare state, and many other questions that relate to future projects in education, innovation development of economy".
Anar Musabayeva also noted that "the government, civil society, experts and the media are the main parties who should be involved in the national dialogue." "The role of the media is especially important, because if we take, for example, the theme for National Dialogue: “Consolidation of society", even in this case, the media can play both negative and positive roles. It depends on their approach, positions, because if the media potentially create conflicts all the time, exacerbate and inflame them, make an enemy image, it will only exacerbate the overall situation. If this action is aimed at objective covering the existing problem in a society, with a neutral position, then the media will play a positive role.
Since the government is the main institution in the social structure, which determines the rules of the game, the role of government should be the key one, in order to make this dialogue work. If we take the path of imitation of that dialogue, or, even worse, the path of reprisals against any dissent, criticism of the society, it will bring nothing good. But I again want to emphasize that in our context, when the government is associated with evil in the minds of ordinary people, the civil sector must be a kind of moderator and an active component of the dialogue.
The role of experts is to create and share some knowledge and to provide recommendations, which are based on an analysis of the real situation. That is, experts must spread the knowledge they possess, and based on their knowledge, give recommendations. Based on these recommendations, other actors can make decisions. In other words, the role of experts is informing and educating.
But again, there must be political will on the part of government, because when the government tries to listen to the experts and to put reasonable recommendations into service, it is one situation, but when they perceive experts, roughly, as a "class of servicemen” who have to ideologically justify policies and actions already being taken, is a completely different situation”.
According to Anar Musabayeva, "it is difficult to say whether we can expect some results from a national dialogue": "Maybe we should think, first of all, how to consolidate the society, because it is now proved to be so much divided that even there is such a term as "a divided society." I think that Kyrgyzstan is now a divided society, and perhaps, developing some vision, some kind of state ideology or some of its elements would be one possible outcome of such a dialogue.
It may be some specific policies, such as the consolidation and establishment of inter-ethnic peace. Maybe, it's some kind of a program that will focus on the integration of various segments of the population that is now divided into a number of attributes: class, social, professional belonging.
The result will depend on the topic of the national dialogue. For example, restoration of law, development of any new format of control by civil society over the government, different branches of power, not only over the executive, but also over the judiciary", said Anar Musabayeva.
Tamerlan Ibraimov, Director, Center for Political and Legal Studies, also believes that "some general understanding of the most important social issues is necessary": "The national dialogue in Kyrgyzstan is a right thing, especially when you consider that our society is very fragmented by regional, ethnic and religion-based criteria. In this sense, it is necessary to have a national dialogue on various subjects and issues.
I understand the national dialogue as a process, i.e. this dialogue should not take the form of a single event or a chain of events lined up one after the other. I would say that it should be wide. There must be held constant activities and events of a different sort. A national question must always be on the agenda, it must be a part of the public and the political process. It must not be something like campaigning, like, for example, we hold a national dialogue during a month, and then, during the following 11 months of the year, we do not talk about anything and do not discuss anything.
The national dialogue is necessary to understand who we really are, what we want to do, and how we will deal with it.
Tamerlan Ibraimov also noted that "national dialogue formats can be different": "There are different kinds of communication channels, such as discussions, meetings, round tables and so on. It is important that the dialogue took place in a constructive format, and most importantly, the ideas expressed, different kinds of questions that are being discussed must be of applied nature. Of course, the theoretical discussion should be also, but we have much theorizing, a lot of talk, and very few applied research activities with respect to the specific nature of Kyrgyzstan.
There have been a lot of talks about the Kurultay, but its effectiveness remains questionable. In some sense, Kurultay is something traditional that is designed to create an effective system of public administration in Kyrgyzstan, and, based on our traditions, the experience of our ancestors, we can resolve the political crisis, which exists in our country. However, there is also a notion that the Kurultay is something archaic, obsolete, and today, in modern Kyrgyzstan, it is absolutely not appropriate. I hold the view that the Kurultay is, in principle, good and positive enough. The only thing is that the Kurultay should not replace the supreme organ of state power. In this sense, Kurultay should serve as still one of the platforms that really have its own traditions; it could be perceived as one of many tools for building a national dialogue.
But one should not bank on the kurultay as a management body. As soon as it becomes a public body, there will be many questions, first of all, what the powers of the Kurultay are, how it differs from the Jogorku Kenesh, and whether it is legitimate or not.
If we talk about the moderation of the process, if the role of a moderator will be assigned to some group or person, immediately the question arises, why they were appointed and not others. I think the government as the most powerful organization in the society could somehow trigger the problematic issues for discussion. Perhaps, civil society could do it, too, because we have fairly active community organizations, regional groups, and if the initiative comes from their part, I think it's perfectly normal. There are so many issues that their initiative could promote.
So I would not say unequivocally that only the government, only the President or any other body could moderate this process. I think this is a fairly wide range of issues, and different segments of society could promote them", said the expert.
Talking about the political forces that should participate in the national dialogue and about the agenda, Tamerlan Ibraimov said: "All political forces that wish to participate in a national dialogue should participate in it, and no one has a right to say that these political forces can participate while the others cannot. In our country, there is political pluralism, where everyone can take part in events.
Regarding the agenda, it is formed of pressing issues and challenges that exist today. First of all, they include a public administration reform, judicial reform, economic transformation, the issues related to water and energy not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also throughout Central Asia, the issues related to combating corruption, reforming the police and so on ".
Assessing the role of the government, civil society, experts and the media in the process of building a national dialogue, Tamerlan Ibraimov said: "The government, as always, is very important, perhaps, one of the most important roles belongs to the government. The civil society is also important, because the national dialogue is impossible without civil society organizations. Therefore, it must be said that the government is very important, but the role of the civil society is indispensable.
Experts are a part of civil society, but only if we are talking about independent experts, not government officials, because the latter work for the government and get paid for it from the state budget. If we are talking about experts as part of civil society, in any case it requires an expert point of view, because we can begin to discuss the issues at the amateurish level, but when we come to development of some problems and methods to solve these problems, we need professional experts.
The mass media are not a party, which discusses, it is rather the party that covers and helps make the process accessible to all discussions. "
Tamerlan Ibraimov said that in his opinion, we can expect results from the national dialogue: "If we talk about the results of a national dialogue, it all depends on what will be discussed. National dialogue is a process that contributes to better understanding of each other in society and to develop some basic trends in society, so that when the trend is developed, and the work begins, we already knew how to come to the desired results", said Tamerlan Ibraimov.
Answering the question of whether Kyrgyzstan had need in the national dialogue, Sheradil Baktygulov, an expert on public administration, said: "First of all, we must begin with an explanation of two terms – “national" and “dialogue”. If we say "national", what kind of representation and at what level are we speaking about? We understand that all the 5 million 20 thousand citizens of Kyrgyzstan cannot be collected in one place or in one room. This raises the question of what categories of people will be selected to participate in this very national dialogue.
On the other hand, when we speak of a "dialogue", we always imply convention of certain parties. What parties do we see as participants in this dialogue? They are representatives of the President, government, representatives of the Jogorku Kenesh deputies, Ministers, chairmen of committees or political parties, or the emerging civil society, and so on. You can also add such a segment, as representatives of international organizations, who by their actions and programs have a strong influence on the process of decision-making. Moreover, if we take the work of international organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, they have an impact on the financial policy of the Kyrgyz Republic, that is, they affect our own lives.
Then the scope of this national dialogue is wider. It is assumed that, first of all, it will involve representatives of various ethnic groups living in Kyrgyzstan, as well as people occupying certain positions in the government of the Kyrgyz Republic. Usually, however, when the process occurs in such a format, it immediately causes resistance. On the one hand, there are public officials, on the other hand, there are all the others. But sometimes there is a third party, again, if an international organization is invited. Then there is not a dialogue but mutual recriminations. Those who are not in power are beginning to make claims and, just like during the Soviet time, they give instructions, what to do, in their opinion, what is necessary to develop and so on. For their part, statesmen are trying to talk about what they have done to achieve a bright future in Kyrgyzstan.
In this regard, we had a lot of areas, starting with the creation of the Assembly of the People of Kyrgyzstan as a kind of platform for national dialogue, to conduct a variety of forums in various formats, conferences, and finishing by the very apotheosis of all that was achieved during the last four years - kurultays. All of this worked out, people were involved in such activities. The question then arises, what the format of the national dialogue should be, who should be involved, how and in what manner it should take place. When the answers to these questions are found, perhaps the national dialogue can take place".
Speaking about the format of the national dialogue, Sheradil Baktygulov noted that "those formats that have been used before, proved to be ineffective ": "If we talk about the formats of national dialogue, we could apply the principle of a network. It has not previously been used, but it is actively used in business. For example, many of you know such a term as "network marketing", where products are distributed through a network of so-called distributors. This is precisely the new principle of work through networks. When people have network proximity, it is easier to define an influential man of this network, who will represent it at a big forum, when, say, 300 people are gathered in one place.
When there is a meeting in Bishkek, for example, in the Philharmonic Hall, which involves 300 to 2,000 delegates, it is a symbol of the fact that representatives of different networks and different groups have come together to discuss the problem. Moreover, we also understand that when so many people come together, there is no effective discussion. The only thing is that at such an event one can say "yes" or "no" when solving a problem.
To make a forum a real platform for discussion, it is necessary to understand which issues must be discussed, and in which forms these issues must be presented. The experience of similar activities has shown that it usually happens like this: people come together, 5-6 people “on duty” make speeches, the media ask some questions, and then again specially trained people express gratitude to the organizers of the event, and that's all.
When we talk about the national dialogue that goes beyond the formal framework, we return to the network organization of such events. The network should be built not on the basis of ethnic, religious or professional affiliation, but on the interest. For example, athletes: there are a lot of people of different religious, ethnic and regional affiliation. They are networked together around one sport, and they have one coach. Accordingly, if they meet athletes from other regions, they will have normal relationship with them, they will understand each other and speak the same language. This is just an example of network organizations.
Now we do not have it. We are divided on religious principles: Orthodox, Muslim, Sunni, Shia, Protestants, Buddhists, cultists, and so on. We have more than 80 nationalities. We have people that are divided by tribal lines. So it's hard even to identify people who have authority in their district, because a district is a conglomerate of different villages, each of which has its own authority, and often they do not listen to the opinion of each other.
On this basis, successful national dialogue requires creating of such networks. A convocation of the conference at the district, regional or national level is a formal structure, formalization of some relationships. As I said earlier, if you collect 500 or 300 people at least at the district level, the dialogue will not take place, it would rather be a monologue when speakers raise the questions that touch the interests of those present. In this case, we cannot talk about a meaningful dialogue, it will be a monologue.
As for the moderation of this process, the culture of moderation of events is still being formed in our country. Monitoring various events have shown that we still use an outdated Soviet approach during public events. The President leads the process and gives all sorts of promises to the participants. This approach was relevant up to the 1990s. At that time, a man was personally responsible for all promises given and knew that he would be severely punished for all unfulfilled promises. The situation has changed dramatically since the country became independent. Ordinary citizens are still waiting for promises and assessments, and politicians “hand out” such promises. But no one fulfills promises, and most importantly, no one is responsible for it. Therefore, the confidence of the participants to the organizers of such events has been steadily declining. The main incentive to participate in such events is the opportunity to visit Bishkek.
At the same time, the institution of moderation has long been used in the world. It is a new institution in our country. Briefly, the moderator is a kind of dispatcher, a person responsible for the logistics of the event and keeping the stated framework for discussion of the topic. This person does not give estimates or promises. Moreover, the broad social polarity of views on each issue makes it virtually impossible for the presence of single-valued estimates.
In the case of the President's participation as a moderator for this event, participants will wait for a 'good' assessment of their words and promises on the part of the President. Therefore, there is a risk of constructive conversation rolling to the commonplace exchange good wishes.
If we talk about who should be the moderator of this process, usually the oldest or most respected person is invited to be the moderator of any event. But the problem is that such a moderator gradually becomes a kind of a little dictator, who begins to command in an incomprehensible way. Much depends on the moderator, firstly, the quality of the debate and organization of this event. In this regard, the moderator does not have to be a man with big powers. But, of course, it should be a fairly well-known face to the conference participants, so that the audience could recognize the man. In this regard, there is no difference whether this will be a man or a woman; the age or ethnic belonging will not matter either, because the main thing is that this person must be recognizable. For example, it may be a popular TV announcer or the journalists who organized the debates between the presidential candidates. It must be a person who is not afraid of large crowds, who feels confident in the sights of TV cameras, spotlights and other things. He will surely steer these discussions in accordance with the agenda", said the expert.
During the interview, Sheradil Baktygulov also spoke in detail about what political forces should participate in the national dialogue, in his view, and what the agenda should be: "It's hard to say what political forces should participate in the dialogue, as there is still ongoing formation of political forces in the country. For example, political Islam is also gaining momentum. Very few people pay attention to it. But, nevertheless, there are two or three members of the parliament, representing Islam, and furthermore, these people can claim that they are representatives of political Islam. The political forces in the country are various, and this is a normal process, because they do not have to be uniform. Each political group represents the interest that are formed in the country on different grounds: it can be traditional tribal political forces, it may be political forces formed by some ideological grounds, religious grounds and so on.
Each of these political forces should participate in the dialogue. There is a saying: "If the battle does not go on in civilized conditions, for example, as part of a forum or in the Parliament, these battles will go on in the street". From this point of view, it is very useful to have representatives of all political forces emerging in the country, as well as claiming to be a political force. They must participate in these meetings and such events.
Of course, the national dialogue is needed, and it is connected with the agenda. Now part of our citizens want to bring back the past, but unfortunately this is impossible. Almost everyone knows what's going on in the country, almost everyone has his own recipe and a vision of how this current problem can be solved. But almost no one talks about the direction, in which Kyrgyzstan should move, for example, 50, in 100, 200, 500 years. People do not rise such issues.
The proposals on how to withdraw from the situation, which is in Kyrgyzstan today, will be additional components of the global goal to be achieved. Drawing up the agenda of national dialogue will raise the question of how to Kyrgyzstan must develop in 50, 200 years. It is not even about what Kyrgyzstan will be like when our children or grandchildren grow up, we must talk about how Kyrgyzstan will develop after 10-20 generations, starting in 2011. Accordingly, we can build a development strategy, and most importantly - the methods for achieving these goals, in accordance with this discussion. Then something can finally happen.
If we again raise today’s problems, the solution will be directed to the immediate situation. For example, in the judicial branch, specific issues related to specific judges, with real names, as well as with people who are trying to control the judicial branch, are being discussed. But again, this approach will lead to a change of only one group of persons who control the judicial branch. Accordingly, the change of government, once again, for example, in connection with the new presidential election or in connection with parliamentary elections in 2014 or in 2016 will lead to the fact that the existing order will change again. In this regard, we will make no headway.
If we want to promote something, if people are going to raise a global issue at the national dialogue, we must deal not with today's problems, such as the judiciary reform, but ensure that the judicial branch functions well even after 10 generations in Kyrgyzstan, so that rights and interests of all citizens were protected.
Speaking about the role of the state, civil society, experts and the media in building a national dialogue, the expert said: "These are the groups of people who are the key actors in shaping public opinion. The government, of course, is the most powerful tool for shaping public opinion. Actions or inactions of any public officer cause reaction from the public, either positive or negative.
With regard to civil society, it is the most active part of the population, and it is still in its infancy, and now the main task of civil society is to detect any defects and inform the relevant structures. This is a nice feature when the civil society is active, where the government lacks an eye. The civil society shows the government where there is something wrong and some action must be made.
If we are talking about the community of experts, the expert community is also still being formed, but, nevertheless, we have people who can analyze the situation and offer different options for solving it. This is a group of individuals who would like to participate and work in this process. There is a vision of government bodies on how to solve a particular issue on the agenda, but there is another view in the face of civil and expert communities.
As for the media, no wonder they are called the fourth branch of government. Their vision and interpretations of what is said in the agenda affect the vision and interpretation made by an ordinary citizen. Perhaps, 50 percent of success of the national dialogue depends on the work of the mass media. Any good initiative can be interpreted in such a way that people would be against it. At the same time, the media can interpret the issues in way it really was intended by the organizers and participants of the national dialogue, and, accordingly, not only the participants in this dialogue, but the rest of the country's citizens will understand what is happening and why this is done", said Baktygulov.
Sheradil Baktygulov commented on what results to expect from a serious national dialogue: "If this is a serious dialogue, one of the first results should be the concept of seeing the country, i.e. what Kyrgyzstan will be like, say, 200 years later.
The second result is a consensus on how to achieve the ultimate goal. Depending on the kind of situation in our country, there are many materials, but there must a set of tools and methods used to achieve the ultimate goal.
The third result is that we would not confine to the framework of purely political reorganization of the state. We must go back and look at the history of economic development, review financial and fiscal relations, as they have become obsolete. They must meet the needs of the country today.
Now, in anticipation of joining the Customs Union, and the logic of global development suggests that, in principle, we are lagging behind. Therefore we must work on economic, fiscal and financial unit of reform. When all these basic things are determined, and some sort of agreement will be achieved, we can confidently say that social commitments in relation to pensioners, to those who can not earn enough money for a comfortable existence, will be resolved.
At the conference, you cannot discuss many issues. Two or three questions will be enough, but they should be key questions", said Sheradil Baktygulov.
The fact that Kyrgyzstan needs to build a national dialogue was confirmed by Tatiana Vygovskaya, a conflict specialist, CEO of PF "Egalitee": "We have an ongoing analysis of the relationship of inter-ethnic area, from which it can be concluded that the ethnic sector is experiencing a very strong influence of political and economic and social levels. The biggest influence on the scope of inter-ethnic relations is exercised by the politics. Accordingly, here we are faced with such categories as statements by politicians, campaign promises and people's reactions to these promises. But on the other hand, we can observe that different groups have different views on the content of these promises, statements, decisions. It would be very good, if a national dialogue allow seeing - from the upper level of the powerful to the lowest social level - and understanding what they want to say to each other and how they can come to common understanding of the problem. "
At the same time, Tatiana Vygovskaya stressed "national Kurultay, where there are many delegates proved to be ineffective". "We are not ready for such a dialogue. So I think that the easiest way is to organize a multi-step format. First, there must be discussions between the two parties that represent different interests. For example, the government and people - small groups, which represent some interests, such as farmers' group, a group of socially vulnerable persons, a group of businesses. But the issue under discussion should be only one.
If, for example, economic reforms are discussed, they must be discussed with anyone, until full understanding is reached, and only then we can move on to another question. That is, 10 questions with a hundred thousand participants - this is inefficient. Further, the practice is established to work with interest groups and directly with leadership teams that can spread the result of the dialogue among their groups: information, knowledge, understanding. Only then we can talk about organizing a dialogue in the usual format of Kurultay. That is, those leaders who are the transmitters of information, they should be professional enough not to distort information, in order to well represent the interests of their groups.
For example, the Chui region has a problem of migrants. First you need to have a dialogue at the level of the governor- mayor - local government - community. But governors and mayors in this case should act as agents of central government decisions, i.e. not to voice their opinion or what they are doing, but articulate a clear position, which comes from the government but is little known. Further, when these discussions take place, which will last about three months, there must be held a dialogue with interest groups, among the same workers and local communities with the government, which is directly involved in decision-making. It also takes about three months. Six months should be spent to ensure that these problems are identified as a result of this dialogue, and the decisions are fulfilled. And, of course, this process should be covered in the media.
The dialogue on one question should take at least a year before we reach some effectiveness. Yes, indeed, it is a long time. But 20 years of experience have shown that this strategy of blitzkrieg - quick solutions, quick actions – is ineffective in our country. On this basis, we should not fear such a long time.
The moderator of this process should be the government, and its services should be paid, because it is the main player interested in such a dialogue, because it wants the people to understand the government's actions. Before it starts moderating the dialogue, the moderator itself must be very well self-coordinated, it should have a vision of what the dialogue should bring as a result. That is, if, for example, if the main goal is to reach an agreement, it requires one moderator, but so far it is too early to speak about reaching an agreement. Now, most likely the target will be to effectively clarify the mutual positions, and the moderator should help the parties to identify their positions as clearly as possible", said the expert.
Tatiana Vygovskaya expressed her opinion about the agenda for a national dialogue and the political forces that should participate in it: "The fact is that the agenda is very broad, and it is constantly discussed. From this agenda, we must choose some point questions, because the format of the Kurultay and effective national dialogue can be reached in ten years, so we have a lot of time if we start now.
First of all, this is what we see today: people do not know how they will live, for example, what will be the effect of the same economic reform for them, and what exactly they have to expect. So, I think, first of all, we must think about the economic agenda.
As for the political forces, I would first recommend the dialogue “ the government - the population”, then “the government - the opposition - the population”, then “the people - the opposition”, and finally again a common dialogue, because I'm afraid that if all talk at once, there will be only mutual accusations, pulling out some facts, some things behind the scenes. As an example, we recently witnessed the story with the Speaker. Honestly, even is Mr. Keldibekov is 10 000 times guilty in all these accusations, still it was unethical to act so. We have proclaimed the principle of presumption of innocence, but it turns out that it does not work. Now it is likely that we will find only a scandal, if we bring people, the opposition and the government to one negotiation table".
Also Vygovskaya commented on the role of the government, civil society, experts and the media in the construction of a national dialogue: "The role of the media is clear. They should cover the national dialogue, not only who said what, but also the content of the problem, and, preferably, in the most comprehensible way.
The government should act as a catalyst, as a customer of this dialogue, and it must find the resources to make the results of the dialogue processed, i.e. the outcome of the dialogue should not be just a general report, as it happened before. There must an analysis of why a particular group expressed certain opinion and so on.
With regard to the civil sector, I have very serious doubts in it, although I am also a functionary of the civil sector. Now I see a lot of contradictions, which prevent from calling it a civil society in general. Whom do we wish to see in this dialogue - NGOs dealing with human rights or experts?
If we want to see experts, whom exactly do we want to see? The expert community is also heterogeneous. The civil sector should be very carefully handled with, because it very often makes a mess during negotiations. If we are talking about the civil sector, the selection of participants must be very careful. No need to invite those representatives of the civil society who will express the unanimous approval, but at the same time, we should not allow such a situation, when representatives of the civil society only criticize the government's actions and suggest some inappropriate ways to address this situation.
I think that, in principle, the civilian sector can be involved if there is a special department, for example, in the President’s Office or the Government Office that will be engaged in this dialogue. The Department of ethnic and religious policies and interaction with civil society is not enough for such activities. It is desirable to have another department that would be involved in this dialogue; it must be specialized in keeping regular contact with permanent participants to the dialogue. That is, it will be very helpful for both for the government and civil society.
The civil society in this case would understand what the problem is, what they must change in their activities, so that people in the government could hear them. And the government, in turn, would understand how the institutions of civil society are working, and what they think about the current situation. It will be very positive experience. If the national dialogue will continue to be held with the participation of these individuals, in the format of some kind of point of negotiations, it will be effective".
Speaking about the results to be expected from a serious national dialogue, Vygovskaya said: "The national dialogue is able to give a clearer picture of the groups we have in our society, what they really want and their vision. Perhaps, they lack information about the government activities. It will coordinate many processes and, above all, the feedback process between the government and society".
Sergei Masaulov, president of the Center for Advanced Research, believes that "no doubt, Kyrgyzstan needs to build a national dialogue": “I don’t know for how many years, one of the main problems in our country is the lack of real place for negotiations. Where is the institution, through which the treaty would have a real organization with real consequences? We haven’t such an institution. I think this is necessary because, as we see, every change of government, whether by coup or by election, so far does not lead to a situation, in which there would be public bodies accepted by all the groups. Therefore, the problem of formation of such a structure or similar places where they could negotiate is still there.
Speaking of the Parliament, I think that the Parliament in the form, in which it exists now, cannot be such a place. The Parliament cannot be the place of the national contract, because it is a place for speaking, not for negotiating.
The place for national dialogue for Kyrgyzstan is likely to be determined at least by two institutions. I think we should restore the Supreme Kurultay as a constitutional body, the Supreme Kurultay as a representative of the ethnic and religious interests and the interests of local communities. In addition to the Parliament and Kurultay, we need a third institution. I would have started to speak directly about the need for the State Council under the President of the KR as a place where possible pre-formulated solutions could be then encapsulated in the form by the will of the President and so forth. "
Responding to a question about the format of a national dialogue, Sergey Masaulov said: "The national dialogue must not necessarily be in the form of the Kurultay. It can pass through certain political institutions. We do not have institutions for such a complex organizational form in which Kyrgyzstan lives, do not have institutions that could somehow channel this form. Again, the parliament may be a place where rules are produced, the Kurultay may be a place where the government consults with the people and where the government receives the feedback about the situation, and the State Council under the President may be a place where various options and their consequences would be elaborated, then these options would be offered to the President for the final decision. In the presence of such institutions it would be possible to talk about the decisions that would be acceptable for a large number of community groups in the country. I think the moderator of this process should be the President".
Sergei Masaulov also expressed his views on what political forces should participate in a national dialogue, and what should be the agenda: "It seems to me that we were witnessing the birth of Russian society. You can just say that on December 10, 2011, Russian civil society was born. If we had something like that, i.e. not generals of civil society, the civil society would represent real public institutions in the form of real parties and really organized social interests. But since there we don’t have it, it is clear that this could be an agreement between the "strong men", people who have authority, money, no matter how they earned it, influential people in the media and so on. It should be their agreement. Kyrgyzstan is shaken every time, because after another shake-up that supposedly installs everything in its place, in fact, but in fact, every shake-up is only changing mosaic of the same shape.
With regard to the agenda, if this the Kurultay, then the first question that should be discussed is the course of development, i.e. the most basic guidelines on the horizon, where the country should move. If this were the State Council, I would like first of all raise the question of the energy sector. It would seem like a very down to earth matter, but in fact it is the central question, and maybe even a matter of national security.
And for the Parliament it is high time to solve the issue of establishing a real constitutional majority, which will be able to start constitutional reforms in the country, because the constitutional framework in which we are now does not allow solving the problems of the country", said the expert.
Sergei Masaulov added that the government, civil society, experts and the media play different roles in building a national dialogue: "It seems to me that in a situation, which has developed in our country now, the government should play the key role, because the media are generally maintaining the lowest level, i.e. the level of speculations, so at best the media can fix some opinions, but they are not able to formulate a point of view, not to mention a position.
The expert community is not a community, it is not united. Experts are making money in different structures, and our national expert community as such is still in its infancy. But experts in this area are very useful, and, of course, we must engage them.
Civil society for us is still a neologism. We have no civil society".
Masaulov told what results he expected from the national dialogue: "A serious national dialogue must first of all squeeze marginal political outcasts, i.e. the people calling for radical actions, out of the normal civilized plane of communications and discussions. Second, it should create conditions for normal working of political institutions that meet the challenges of the current Kyrgyz society".
According to Pavel Dyatlenko, an expert on political affairs, analytical center "Polis Asia", candidate of historical sciences, "a national dialogue should take place in any democratic country at certain institutions. We have serious problems with these institutions, for example, with political parties, public associations, trade unions... The situation with non-governmental sector is much better, because we have active non-governmental organizations.
We must select certain communication platforms to conduct this dialogue. These platforms are often used by the political elites to lobby for their interests, for example, Kurultays, which were conducted under A. Akayev and Bakiyev. We must understand well what kind of platforms they are, who gets there and what they will talk about, or which ideas would they lobby through these platforms.
But the national dialogue is necessary, because the last few years in Kyrgyzstan were marked by political instability, which was combined with economic problems and inter-ethnic problems. These are problems that are best discussed in advance, we must not wait until they escalate".
Talking about the format of this national dialogue, Pavel Dyatlenko said: "There are several options. Formally, we have created the Public Chamber, and it would be good if it worked. We have a site that the opposition parties created - an online parliament. There have been attempts to create such sites, where they politically active forces could participate, and not only those associated with the state's position, with the government.
Perhaps, we should create neutral sites of communication, accessible to all, because it makes no sense to convene a Kurultay, because again there will start various operations to select the “right” candidates. We can repeat the sad experience of the past 20 years, when Kurultays were a docile instrument of political will of the country's leader. Both Akaev and Bakiev used Kurultays to their advantage. People gathered, the President promoted a program that required popular support, and the people supported it, thus the President could overcome the resistance of the parliament and government.
We need such communication platforms that could really represent the interests of various strata and sectors of society. They must be more independent, so that no actor, for example, political or economic, could control this communications platform. So I am skeptical about the official Kurultay, which is usually convened by the presidential administration".
Pavel Dyatlenko also told, who, in his opinion, should be the moderator of this process: "This moderator must be acknowledged by all participants, he should not be associated with the state, because it will automatically make people suspicious that he puts out some themes, while promoting the other. The second quality, which a facilitator or mediator should have, is public authority, not even political. He must enjoy the recognition by different social groups and strata.
There are different options. The moderator of a national dialogue can be a s popular well-known figure, or perhaps an organization, because we must select a moderator that would satisfy the vast majority of participants, because if someone will be against the moderator, the discussion will not happen. This is a question of legitimacy, because the moderator will have to guide the discussion, but it can be done only if the moderator or an organization-moderator must have authority and legitimacy. Otherwise, it will be like Bakiyev’s Kurultay of Concord, a kind of universal acceptance. When there were drastic changes, the Kurultay of Concorde disappeared.
If we consider as an example, who would fit the role of a moderator Chingiz Aitmatov would be the best figure, because he was popular and respected at different times due to personal characteristics, social attitudes and social activities. This person must be the arbiter of conflict or debate. The main criterion is that the moderator is not affiliated with the government or a political party, otherwise the moderator will not be recognized", said the expert.
During the interview, Pavel Dyatlenko noted that "the agenda should be formed on the basis of the issues raised by the participants of this communication platform. Political forces, NGOs and the business community may be the parties to the communication process. There are others, for example, local communities, who have problems that need to be discussed at the national level, i.e. different members of the overall process, which must agree on the solution of common significant problems. These must be vital topics that relate to everyone, because politicians are interested to deal with the problems that have been proposed not by them, but by various groups. It is easier to perform than to make such decisions, because a politician who makes decisions on the acute problem is risking his career and popularity. But if a decision was a result of public consensus on a recognized communication platform, politicians may refer to the fact that they implement the decision of the people. The political elites are also interested in the effective work of such platforms".
Dyatlenko expressed his view on the role of the civil sector, experts and the media in the development of the national dialogue: "The government agencies may participate in this dialogue through various branches of power and propose questions for discussion. For example, the judicial reform stalled and stopped, then they could try to find social consensus on that problems during the process of the national dialogue. Then the Parliament, government and the President will only have to implement a ready-made solution. State structures with different interests can be participants, propose solutions and raise their questions.
The national dialogue will not take place without the participation of non-governmental sector and the media, because any solution of the national dialogue should be communicated to the widest range of people quickly and fully. Only the media and NGOs can do it. In addition, they will play a balancing role in this national dialogue, because the political parties and government agencies will lobby their own solutions, and multidirectional media, non-governmental sector and international organizations could counterweight. We must find common ground for everyone, and it will be easier to do it, if our civil society takes an active part here.
The expert community can be involved in this national dialogue directly, through the inclusion of analytical, research organizations, universities, the National Academy of Sciences, to ensure the participation of the expert community, or indirectly - through the participation of experts as representatives of other agencies. The expert community can participate as independent experts, as representatives of analytical frameworks, as representatives of political parties, government agencies, NGOs, international organizations, because the expert community is very diverse, and many experts are working in different structures".
Answering the question of what to expect from a serious national dialogue, Pavel Dyatlenko said: "The results of this dialogue will not be seen right away. Maybe, very long time will be required to implement the decisions. The society has been disintegrated, divided by different markers and boundaries, and it will be very difficult to adopt and implement reasonable and effective solution to urgent problems.
For example, almost one year and a half have passed after the June conflict of 2010, but there have not been attempts to analytically discuss and interpret the tragedy in our society. There are just a lot of different emotions and political statements. There has been no attempt to understand what happened and to build our future, so that it would not happen again in the future. To understand what happened and take action, we will need a neutral analytic estimate. There are sharp conflict issues, which will be very difficult to discuss in a disintegrated society", concluded Pavel Dyatlenko.
This material was prepared by Tatyana Vikhareva and Anna Kapushenko