Kyrgyzstan drafts ethnic development plan
  • Mon, 04/11/2011 - 12:00

By Asker Sultanov

BISHKEK – To avoid a repeat of last year’s ethnic riots that left more than 400 dead, experts from the Kyrgyz Government, the OSCE, civil society, and ethnic minority groups are drafting a plan to improve multi-ethnic relations.

The group has been working approximately five months on the Concept for Ethnic Development and Societal Consolidation project, which soon will undergo expert review, said Mira Karybayeva, head of the presidential administration’s Development Department.

Laying foundations in school

It’s important to lay the foundation for ethnic tolerance in school, Karybayeva said “The draft Concept provides for the implementation of practical measures such as creating an environment in Kyrgyzstan’s schools (for students) to study Uzbek, Tajik, Korean, Uighur, Tartar and German.

We will prepare the necessary methodological materials for teaching (them) in schools.” In addition, “To promote ethnic tolerance, we are going to involve filmmakers, do cross-cultural festivals and support the activities of NGOs, researchers and journalists who advocate ethnic diversity in Kyrgyzstan as an investment in a successful state.”

The government doesn’t always treat minorities well, said National Institute of Strategic Studies Director Ikbaljan Mirsayitov.

“In Kyrgyzstan, government officials both at the local level and in the security agencies still violate ethnic minorities’ rights,” he said. Under the guise of countering organised crime, police officers will often violate the rights of national minorities, arbitrarily searching and arresting them, Mirsayitov said.

This is why, according to Karybayeva, the working group is advocating tougher criminal and administrative penalties for violations of minority rights.

“The Concept will also cover the activities of state agencies, and there is a plan to raise awareness among state agencies’ press offices on the multi-ethnic aspect of government work,” she said. T

he group is also proposing a review of Kyrgyzstan’s regulatory agencies in order to make recommendations for improvement.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan adopted the most progressive legislation on minority rights in the post-Soviet space, but the government failed to enforce it, University of Manas instructor Zakir Chotayev said. “In many ways, ethnic minorities’ not knowing their own rights have contributed to this,” he explained.

The draft Concept is meant to fix those laws while raising minorities’ awareness.

Minorities few and far between in government

The group also suggests revising the ethnic composition of agencies’ personnel. Fundamental changes are needed to this regard, Chotayev said: “For example … 408 of the 436 judges are Kyrgyz. In the prosecutor’s office, only four of the 53 prosecutors are ethnic minorities.

This poor representation … is also (seen) in the oblast government agencies, for example, in Osh and Dzhalal-Abad oblasts.”

In contrast, 71% of the general population of 5.36m are ethnic Kyrgyz, according to the 2009 census, which listed more than 80 ethnic groups. Uzbeks (14.3%) and Russians are the largest minority groups.

“It is very likely that implementing all of these measures will require substantial spending, and so we are now trying to calculate the financial resources (needed) to implement the Concept,” Karybayeva said.

OSCE ready to help

The OSCE is ready to financially support such a project, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebæk said. “Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic diversity should be one of its strengths,” he said.

Vollebæk believes the Concept could significantly help stabilize all of Central Asia. “… It is particularly encouraging that the current authorities are demonstrating the political will – after consulting with the ethnic minorities – to adopt such a bill,” OSCE Centre in Bishkek senior policy advisor Aleksandr Vinnikov said.

The executive branch and parliament both will consider adopting the plan in the coming months.