Creating Effective Public Councils in Kyrgyzstan

11 March 2011

One of the key challenges to democracy in Kyrgyzstan is fighting corruption in state institutions. The Kyrgyz President, Ms. Roza Otunbaeva, recently signed a decree that created an institutionalized forum for citizen participation in government called public councils. Public councils were created to oversee the work of state bodies. Ms. Rita Karasartova, member of PC under the Tax Service of the Kyrgyz Republic. Photo by Kenesh Bakiruulu.Unfortunately, the decree stipulated that the representatives of public councils will be appointed and their activity will be regulated by the state bodies they are suppose to oversee. This made it nearly impossible for public councils to perform their supervisory functions. As such, they could not be a truly independent voice for public involvement in government decision making.

The ICNL Alliance helped a working group of NGO and government representatives draft amendments that would make public councils more independent from the state bodies with whom they work.  The ICNL Alliance worked closely with the NGO-government working group to draft the necessary language and provided the legal arguments supporting the amendments. The proposed amendments were approved at public hearings attended by more than 60 representatives of state bodies, public councils, NGOs, and international organizations. The approved amendments were then sent to the office of the President.

On March 5, 2011 President Otunbaeva signed amendments to the decree that consisted mostly of the amendments approved by the working group. Now, the decree allows for public councils to be independent by: 1) limiting the discretion of state bodies over public council activities, and 2) by appointing public council representatives through a special independent commission rather than by the state body itself. This will allow public councils to perform their supervisory functions without the risk of being pressured by state bodies.  The new amendments will strengthen citizen participation in government policy-making. In turn, citizen participation and transparency will be powerful tools in the fight against government corruption in Kyrgyzstan.

Photo caption: Ms. Rita Karasartova, member of PC under the Tax Service of the Kyrgyz Republic. Photo by Kenesh Bakiruulu.