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.
Sheradil Baktygulov: "International organizations: is there cause for concern?"
Behind the words "international organization", "representative of an international organization", "project”, “program”, are real people with specific names, positions, knowledge and attitudes,” noted Sheradil Baktygulov, expert on public administration, in his article, written exclusively for the IPP.
International organizations have played an important role in the history of sovereign Kyrgyzstan. Through their activities systems of governance, education, health and other areas were kept from collapse. It is known that the risk of collapse can be averted by creating sustainable systems. There is a great role to be played here by international organizations, but now there is a growing concern among the expert community that the focus of efforts by the international community is merely to prevent these systems from collapsing. This is in spite of the fact that the logic of national development dictates the necessity of consolidating such systems.
If you look at the myriad of activities in Kyrgyzstan as concerning interstate, intergovernmental and international non-profit organizations, international development agencies and international financial and credit institutions (international organizations), it should be noted that today there is cause for concern.
Significant damage to the prestige of international organizations has been brought about by the slow growth of the economy following recommendations by international organizations, domestic scandals in a number of international organizations, politicians who appear to answer to the interests of these organizations, promoting vague ideas and concepts rather than solving the real problems of the country.
In Kyrgyzstan, billions of dollars have been “injected”, and the country's GDP in 2011, twenty years after the collapse of the USSR, is still below that of the 1990 level in the union of Soviet republics.
Another issue is the fact that the international organizations themselves have ceased to be role models in the development of guidelines for working in a particular industry, personnel management, and budgetary transparency. The customary explanation for the failure of projects and programs, namely the corruption and incompetence of officials, is already causing irritation for the simple reason that it means representatives of international organizations have failed to fulfill their primary function - to monitor the progress of these projects and programs. It is no secret that in many cases the incompetence and corruption of employees in international organizations themselves has been a factor.
The traditional "scapegoats" in the failure of these programs and projects tend to be local contractors and officials, the revolution, global warming and violations of norms in implementation.
However, be aware of the reverse side of the coin. Any success or breach in the project or program impacts on the reputation of the international organization itself. Therefore, the flip side is that international organizations, in the event of violations and failure, do not fulfill their primary function - supervising the implementation of projects and programs. If international organizations see that the projects are carried out with gross violations, their implementation should be suspended, in order not to burden the country with unnecessary debts or obligations.
Here are some facts. In 1996 a still-smoldering scandal broke out surrounding the purchase of Australian sheep. Animals, which cost 300-350 USD each on the domestic market at that time, were purchased by Kyrgyzstan for $ 3,000. The purchase was made under the guise of the project "Development of Sheep husbandry", which was undertaken by a foreign citizen with a diploma in construction.
In March 2008 at the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila, Philippines, Kyrgyz NGOs demanded the cancellation of a $ 36 million loan, allocated by ADB to build infrastructure (water networks, sewage treatment plants, etc.) to provide clean water to villages in Chui, Osh and Jalal-Abad and Batken regions.
The essence of the claim was as follows. Of the 700 villages the program planned to reach only 400 villages were covered. On paper, drinking water was provided to the villages, but in fact, according to the NGOs, half of the villages certified as "hydrated" did not have access to clean water. During the construction of pipelines and pumping stations inappropriate building materials were employed. In total the ADB program, Taza Suu, saw 31 criminal cases opened, while the heads of at least five companies – contractors - are still on the run.
Also on the recommendation of a respected organization, a foreign consulting company, whose services were valued at 3, 138, 000 USD of a 36,000,000 USD loan, was chosen. In the summer of 2006 (when the scandal, including criminal cases was already raging) it was revealed that they had already been paid 1,086,000 USD.
In general, in these and in other cases, local consultants have played a negative role. After all, under their procedures tender documents were prepared, contracts were closed, sub-projects were monitored and so on. In the end, it turned out that all these procedural mechanisms for tracking the quality of measures against corruption did not work. We must remember that these cases were publicized only after they became objects of independent monitoring and their results were published.
Besides, no one is aware of how much money is actually received and is operating in Kyrgyzstan through international organizations.
Moreover, the practice of implementing the projects of international organizations shows that the money works to create jobs for their own citizens. The fact is that the projects and programs implemented in Kyrgyzstan are mostly executed by consulting firms whose primary purpose is to earn fees for consulting services. This means that from 40 -60% of the amount of aid issued which does not leave the country, goes to them. This money is often left to cover the administrative and other expenses of the company that received the contract for the implementation of a given project, as well as consulting services, which as a rule, go to the citizens of that state.
International financial and credit organizations are no exception. Thus, by the terms of the World Bank, the International Development Agency and others, the allocation of credits requires the hiring of foreign consultants or consulting firms, as a minimum. The policies of UNDP and other organizations also involve the active participation of foreign consultants. In this sense, at least 10% of the project budget is ring-fenced to allow for the participation of foreign consultants.
Here emerges another problem - the quality of work of both foreign and local consultants. Inside the walls of the Audit Chamber officials still remember one foreign consultant who, in the pages of his report, had forgotten to change the name of one African country to Kyrgyzstan. Another of his colleagues demanded the adoption a Code of Ethics for auditors, despite the fact that such a code has already been accepted, and that his proposals did not differ from those already taken. Nevertheless, he continued to make demands and threatened all sorts of "punishments". His behavior is explained by the fact that the development and adoption of a Code of Ethics for auditors was included into his terms of reference.
This example illustrates the poor work, not only of foreign but also of local project staff. It is possible that at the time the technical task was created for the foreign member of staff, there was a need to develop and adopt a code of ethics for audits. But at the same time, no-one kept track of whether such a code had been subsequently adopted or not. If this has already happened, then it is necessary to change or clarify the terms of reference. Fulfilling the standards of a given code always requires additional legal regulations. None of this had been done, and the auditors and officials of the Audit Chamber that didn’t “understand” the meaning of the consultant’s proposal became the “whipping boy” for international organizations.
People develop texts, guidelines, and requirements for the implementation of programs. Consultations with the Kyrgyz side should be held in order to clarify subject matter and standard operating procedures. Discrepancies between the texts and the guidelines should be regarded as a failure of the project or program.
In fact, this approach resembles the "Procrustean bed". The weary traveler is placed in a short bed, and then anything that does not fit - head, feet and hand – is simply amputated. As it turns out, in such cases, the country must comply with the texts and manuals. If they do not match, then declarations of incompetence, corruption, frequent changes of leadership, global warming and other things are declared as the reasons.
But the solution lies elsewhere - the texts and manuals have to meet the needs of the country. That was demonstrated by Hercules, who destroyed the bed, which could not match his size.
There are examples closer to our reality. Apologists for the market economy, Joseph Stiglitz, Lawrence Klein, James Tobin, Milton Friedman and other Nobel laureates in economics, who all promoted the ideas of privatization in Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 90s, now recognize the error of their proposals.
Later the Nobel Prize winners acknowledged that foreign theories and practices do not always take root in local conditions, and can translate into destructive consequences. Meanwhile, in international organizations, theories based on the guidelines of these same Nobel Prize winners, continue to be propagated.
The human factor has played one more cruel trick on international organizations. In defining the problem or its dynamics, people are trying to develop proposals to resolve a situation. Then the organization's resources are deployed according to a plan developed and approved through certain measures. But at the implementation stage it appears that the same measures and solution have been proposed, and implemented by another organization.
Furthermore, this is a problem of a kind. A simplified formulation of the problem is represented by the phrase "We have started to execute, so you can leave." Efforts to coordinate projects are limited to the exchange of information such as "we continue to work." What does this lead to?
According to specialists and experts in the judicial branch, laws developed with support from international organizations and adopted during the period from 2010 to 2012 - laws governing the various aspects of the local courts, the Supreme Court, the selection, appointment of judges - not only contradict each other, but contain internal contradictions.
Previously, the main purpose of the staff of international organizations was to promote knowledge and sensible policies. Today it seems that the only meaning of the activities of international organizations and their employees is to achieve intermediate and final indicators.
Achievement for a person and a project now means its completion in a timely manner with a prescribed set of measures and plans to keep them in good standing with the leadership at the head office outside the Kyrgyz Republic, in order to earn them another contract with a higher fee, if not in this country, then in another.
You can write a lot about the results of such approaches in international organizations and their relationship with Kyrgyz partners. The most apt and succinct allegory for the situation can be illustrated in the following anecdote: A hedgehog rushes across a meadow, enveloped in flames. Nowhere can it find an escape from the ring of fire. When he looks at a tree he sees a wise owl sitting. The hedgehog runs over to the owl and asks hopefully: "Owl, how must I save myself?" The Owl thinks judiciously, and says: "Hedgehog, you have to grow wings and fly away." The hedgehog was surprised and then asked: "Owl, I am a hedgehog, we do not grow wings!" The owl looked at him and replied: “Hedgehog, this is your problem, my job is to give advice, and yours is to execute it."
It is therefore logical that in the spring of 2012, Vice-Prime Minister Jomart Otorbaev announced in Washington DC at the office of the National Democratic Institute, that the World Bank (WB) and IMF did not provide timely advice, particularly on the development of the mining industry. He also noted that Kyrgyzstan is increasingly forced to resort to the help of China, which will mean a significant increase in its role in our country.
Nor must it be forgotten that behind the words "international organization", "representative of an international organization", "project”, “program”, are real people with specific names, positions, knowledge and attitudes. It may be citizens of different countries, including Kyrgyzstan. Therefore, we must remember that people come and go, but their actions form the image of a specific international organization and the attitude of the population towards it. It is no secret that the increasing profile of international organizations has not prevented, and in some cases may have contributed to the removal from office of a series of heads of international organizations or projects in the Kyrgyz Republic on suspicion of improper conduct.
International organizations and their work with Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyzstanis are increasingly the subjects of unflattering assessments. This is a paradox: the more international organizations promote the ideas of democracy and market economy, the more these ideas are rejected and the stronger is the growth of radical religious, right-wing and leftist sentiments that may soon be drawn towards real political power.
A simulation of the further development of the situation with different variables shows that in the long run, the situation may end in the failure of the projects and programs of international organizations, and their subsequent withdrawal from a country with the well-founded formulation "due to the deteriorating situation in the country…"
At best, the projects and programs of international organizations can be said to mutate in the "salary projects" of local consultants. But in any case, the battle for a bright democratic future may be lost permanently. Then, defeat in this battle will be accompanied by another huge effort on the part of international organizations to support and promote democracy.
Another threat to the activities of international organizations is a bill designed back in 2009 by deputies of that convocation of the Kyrgyz parliament to regulate the conditions of local non-profit organizations (NPOs), which operate on funds from international organizations.
The bill is still there, and the concept of the bill is actually aimed against international organizations not subject to the control of anyone except their bosses at headquarters, located outside of Kyrgyzstan.
If you cannot directly affect them, it is quite possible to do this indirectly by impacting on their results, the achievement of which is the main – if not only -purpose of the activities of international organizations in Kyrgyzstan in the first place. In general, it would be a good idea to make the country development goals the cornerstone, rather than interests of members of the ruling group.
This threat is on the rise in the short term, and there is a precedent for it already. The Russian State Duma, on July 6, 2012, unanimously adopted a law on foreign financing at the first reading. The Federation Council (upper house of the Russian Parliament) approved the bill on July 18 and the President signed this law on July 21. This law classifies NGOs that receive foreign funding as a "foreign agents".
Under the bill, all NGOs that receive foreign funding will be required to undergo a special registration procedure as a "foreign agents", to take additional types of statements, subject to additional inspections and label all material published and distributed as "material issued by a Non-Governmental Organization acting as a foreign agent."
The idea embodied by this bill may appear in the bowels of the Jogorku Kenesh by the end of 2012, where the bill’s concept of setting tasks to position precisely how NGOs promote their ideas, whether they are monetarists, Keynesians, globalists, NATO affiliates, and so the list goes on, may prove interesting and attractive to the government.
The problem of the bill is that these Non-Governmental Organizations can then be labeled "enemies of the people." In turn, this will give rise to "latent" instincts in society of distrust and active rejection of any initiatives, not only the government, but NGOs, too. The emergence of NGOs funded by Kyrgyz businesses, meanwhile, remains unlikely.
The question arises: what to do in this situation? In my opinion, we should start from the beginning. First of all, it is necessary to harmonize the management and policies of international organizations with one other at the country level, so that they can be further adapted to the conditions of Kyrgyzstan. It should be remembered that in Kyrgyzstan, however, as in any country in the world, there are some absolutely like-minded groups, which will be good at creating their own support groups and networks, but it is no fact that these groups will shape public opinion and work in the interests of the country as a whole.
The second step is to implement a practice of public policy analysis to predict the outcome of policies and activities. Even coffee-breaks should be treated as an opportunity to continue informal discussions and exchange information.
As a third step, a database of foreign and local consultants who have violated the norms of the country's laws, rules and procedures of international organizations in the procurement of goods and services, committed corruption, or damaged ethics, all in the abuse of their official positions, should be created.
International organizations have an important mission in Kyrgyzstan – to show Kyrgyzstanis new opportunities and horizons for growth and development. The success of each project executed by an international organization in Kyrgyzstan means success for the residents of the country, not just for the employees of this organization. To date, international organizations - despite criticism leveled against them - remain some of the most expeditious and innovative actors in all areas of life and work in this society and state. It is desirable that the work of international organizations now rises to new heights and brings more tangible benefits to Kyrgyzstan.