Annual meeting of SIPD Steering Committee: results, way forward and challenges

June 8, 2020

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On 5 June 2020, the Annual Steering Committee meeting of the project “Strong and Inclusive Parliamentary Democracy” (SIPD) funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by the UNDP in Kyrgyzstan has been held via online mode. The meeting was joined by the Vice-Speakers of Jogorku Kenesh, Ms. Aida Kasymalieva and Mr. Mirlan Bakirov, Members of Parliament, Ms. Ainura Altybaeva and Mr. Abdyvahap Nurbaev, Ambassador of Switzerland in the Kyrgyz Republic, Ms. H.E. Véronique Hulmann,  UNDP Resident Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, Ms. Louise Chamberlain, and also by the Head of Press-Service of the Parliament, Mr. Ibraim Nurakun Uulu, Deputy Head of the Parliament’s Apparatus, Mr. Suyunbek Kasmambetov, and a wide range of civil society organizations which play key role in the implementation of the project.

The meeting was opened by Mr. Mirlan Bakirov, Vice-Speaker of Jogorku Kenesh and the Chair of SIPD Steering Committee. He expressed his gratitude to all stakeholders and marked the meetings as an important and timely relevant due to social and economic challenges imposed by the lockdown. He highlighted that the project contributes in the implementation of the Development Strategy of Jogorku Kenesh until 2021 and National Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2018-2040. 

“The leadership and role of the Parliament is crucial during crises”

Ms. Véronique Hulmann, Ambassador of Switzerland in the Kyrgyz Republic and Co-chair of SIPD Steering Committee stated that parliamentary oversight and cooperation with civil society will enable the achievement of the strategies of both Jogorku Kenesh and the Kyrgyz Republic:

I am glad that the Switzerland supports this long-term program, which aims to promote the solid parliamentary oversight considering inclusiveness, interests of different groups and diversity. Parliamentary system is quite new, and we need to consolidate our efforts to have a strong political will to build it. There are discussions in the public whether Kyrgyzstan needs a presidential or parliamentary system which means we need to show the role of the Parliament through transparency and accountability” – said Ms. Hulmann.

She also stressed the necessity for smooth transition of the project and its results to the new Parliament after the elections.

Ms. Louise Chamberlain, UNDP RR emphasized the important role of the civil society members in this process. RR expressed her gratitude for the long-term commitment of the SDC to the development of parliamentary democracy in the Kyrgyz Republic: “We need Kyrgyz type of democracy. These times the Kyrgyz Republic needs to live it up its commitment to SDGs because “eradicating poverty and leaving no one behind” never have been that important than nowadays. This applies to all countries of the world, not only Kyrgyzstan. And when the pandemic affects the poorest the most, the leadership of the Parliament seems to be very important”, said Louise Chamberlain. She also shared her expectations regarding elections in the autumn to be safe and satisfactory.  

Project results and challenges

Project and parliamentary teams presented progress reports of the project for 2019. Mr. Zhenishbek Arzymatov, UNDP Senior Advisor Strengthening Parliamentary Democracy and Rule of Law/SIPD Project Coordinator shared about major project achievements on Parliament’s oversight function, consultation processes between citizens and Parliament, Parliament’s transparency and inclusiveness, Civic Action Fund’s progress. Among other accomplishments, he also noted that a club of parliamentary journalists was organized to communicate about Jogorku Kenesh in the public.

Ms. Aida Kasymalieva reported on the progress of the Open Parliament Initiative. She shared positive results on engagement with the civil society, commitments of the working group including an online portal for public hearings, working group on prevention of corruption, access of citizens to the premises of Jogorku Kenesh, and informing the public about Parliament’s work tailoring it for people with disabilities. 

The Project team also highlighted challenges of implementation as lowering the level of trust to Parliament, resistance from group of MPs to civic engagement, low gender sensitivity and complexity of political environment. Mr. Timur Shaikhutdinov, representative of Civic Action Fund’s grant recipients, Co-Chair of Civic Union Public Association presented overview of challenges in dialogue between the Parliament and civic organizations. He highlighted high dependency of the cooperation on personalities of the MPs, low level of awareness of Parliament about the project, lack of institutional sustainability, discriminative draft laws which limit NGO’s performance, dominance of political and corporate interests and a low capacity of NGOs for cooperation with the Parliament. Timur shared consolidated recommendations for improving civil society and parliamentary dialogue mechanisms.

It is expected that the project will focus on the following areas in 2020:

  • Strengthening consultation mechanisms between citizens and Parliament;
  • Strengthening Parliament’s oversight functions;
  • Supporting activities of Parliamentary SDG working group on achievement and implementation of SDGs in the Kyrgyz Republic;
  • Implementation of 1) Open Parliament Initiative’s Action Plan; 2) Parliament’s Public Outreach Strategy; 3) Gender Sensitivity Roadmap;
  • Capacity building of staffers of Parliament’s Apparatus;
  • Completion of Civic Action Fund’s supported initiatives and institutionalization of Public Councils’ collaboration with Parliament;
  • Project Final Evaluation & Design of Phase 2. 

Participants have also shared recommendations on further actions and organized questions & answers in the end of the meeting. Important to note, that the meeting has played a role of platform for dialogue and discussion between MPs and civil society on timely relevant topics.

The Strong and Inclusive Parliamentary Democracy project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is being implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in Kyrgyzstan. It is a 10-year program aimed at strengthening parliamentary democracy in Kyrgyzstan by making it more inclusive and centered on the needs of citizens. First 4 years of the project will end by April 2021.