Helen Clark: Address to the Donor Forum on Kyrgyzstan
I would like to thank President Otunbayeva and her colleagues from the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic for this opportunity to hear about their vision for the future, the development challenges their country faces, and how the UN development system and international community at large can assist them in achieving their goals.
Kyrgyzstan is a country at a crossroads.
One the one hand, it is a country with a leadership committed to building a new democratic and accountable system which delivers prosperity for all.
Over the past decade Kyrgyzstan has also made impressive strides towards the MDGs – most notably in the reduction of extreme poverty and in ensuring environmental sustainability.
On the other hand the country has gone through a difficult economic slowdown, a painful conflict with continued fragility in the South, and still faces challenges to make its governance system more effective.
Challenges also remain on the MDG front, with, for example, high infant and maternal mortality.
The challenges faced by the caretaker government, and those by the government which will be elected on 10 October, are therefore serious.
But they can certainly be overcome.
Moreover, the ingredients for moving forward successfully and peacefully are there – it is now time to ensure that these ingredients bind well together.
Kyrgyzstan’s record since April has already defied many predictions, showing that important lessons from the transition decades have been taken on board by the authorities and the Kyrgyz people.
First, over the past months the provisional leadership has led a genuinely participatory and consultative process, defining a constitutional framework which aims to prevent the future capture of power by narrow interest groups.
Second, this leadership has recognized that the establishment of a democratic parliamentary system will neither be simple nor straightforward. As experience elsewhere shows - including in transition Europe - parliamentary democracies are not built easily or overnight.
Therefore, the leadership currently in place has provided for an eighteen month transition period through the presidential office which was confirmed by the same referendum which approved the new constitution last June.
Third, both the new constitution and the interim President were supported by a strong vote of popular confidence and support - a demonstration of the people´s desire to place their country on a path towards greater stability.
Fourth, while the flare-up of ethnic conflict in the South last June was very serious – a nationwide meltdown was averted.
While the South continues to be fragile, and much attention, work, and many resources will be needed to bring stability and inter-ethnic harmony there, the authorities have succeeded in stabilizing governance more broadly in the country. The interim Government has kept its finances in order, and has been able to continue investing in infrastructure.
As you will hear, the government’s priorities emphasize the importance of immediate and targeted humanitarian assistance, strong support for early recovery and reconciliation efforts, and investments in infrastructure and governance reform.
These priorities, together with the Joint Economic Assessment conducted by a large number of development partners and the UN Flash Appeal provide a good framework for advancing Kyrgyzstan’s social and economic aspirations.
The UN stands ready to assist along the way. Our funds, programmes, and agencies have devised a number of strategies which support Kyrgyzstan advancing these priorities.
Already, we have helped address the most immediate humanitarian needs, and are helping a return to normality for those affected by the conflict in the South, including refugees and IDPs.
At this juncture in Kyrgyzstan, peace building and early recovery efforts can make a world of difference. The UN organizations can work within communities to promote confidence building and conflict resolution, rebuild lives and livelihoods, and engage young people in constructive activities.
We have been attending to the situation of the most vulnerable, and supporting them in addressing human rights concerns quickly and transparently. At UNDP in particular, we have come up with a three part strategy comprising support for peace building, early recovery, and building democratic governance.
In addition to support for the election and to the parliament, UNDP is also assisting the Government to advance its short and longer term governance priorities through a two-pronged capacity building initiative.
In the short term - building on our experience in Georgia, Moldova, Serbia and elsewhere – UNDP has set up an “on-demand” facility which fills the capacity gaps of key government institutions by providing ministers and other senior officials with access to critical expertise.
In the longer term, we aim to provide support to the state institutions – who must be effective to underpin the nascent democracy - through reorganization, civil service development, and the use of stronger incentive systems for civil servants engaged in key reform initiatives.
The UN´s Resident Co-ordinator in Kyrgyzstan, Neal Walker, will speak about the work and plans of the UN Country Team shortly.
We can tap into a wealth of experience and lessons learned from efforts elsewhere to overcome challenges similar to those faced now in Kyrgyzstan. The UN development system stands ready to facilitate knowledge transfer about those experiences to Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan is at a turning point. It certainly faces risks, but they can be overcome.
The international community can make a critical difference to Kyrgyzstan’s future by bringing fairly modest resources to the table in support of the important early recovery and reform agenda.
It is important that we act together now to enable Kyrgyzstan to make the most of this fresh start.