Good morning. On behalf of United Nations Development Programme in the Kyrgyz Republic, I am delighted to welcome you to this important roundtable organized in collaboration with the Ombudsman’s Institute of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Association of Legal Clinics of Kyrgyzstan under a project dedicated to support inclusive and multi-sectoral responses to address the Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 in the Kyrgyz Republic, with funding from the Government of Japan.
Since the establishment of the Ombudsman’s Office as main national human rights institution, UNDP has been collaborating with the Akyikatchy to promote a national, home-grown human rights agenda in the Kyrgyz Republic. I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Ombudsman himself, Mr. Tokon Mamytov for this fruitful collaboration, and commend the work of his team for the progress achieved so far. Under Mr Mamytov’s leadership, the quality of parliamentary oversight over the State’s adherence to the rights and freedoms of the people of the Kyrgyz Republic has significantly improved.
I would like to also express our appreciation to the Ambassador of Japan for continuing constructive partnership and critical assistance provided in Kyrgyzstan to build a more peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development; and to the Ambassador of Finland, acknowledging the strong cooperation we have enjoyed in Kyrgyzstan since 2014 to advance a comprehensive and sustainable legal aid system, and to strengthen the access to justice and human rights protection framework of the country with a focus on vulnerable groups, in particular women and people with disabilities.
I also wish to express our heartfelt thanks for the significant contribution of partners in the legal community and the civil society, without whose commitment all the progress we are going to present today would not have been possible.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The pandemic hit Kyrgyzstan hard, not only by its impact on health, but triggering an unprecedented socio-economic crisis, that fast became also a human rights crisis. Many people suffered from a lack of access to critical services at a time of crisis, and others suffered stigma and discrimination in accessing vital health care or trying to cope with economic shocks to their families, especially where one or more members lost their incomes.
A survey on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on households conducted by the National Statistical Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic in October 2020 indicated that more than two-thirds of households experienced challenges in accessing basic services, and almost as many struggled to access health care. A majority of households had some form of impact on their livelihood. From other data we know that violence against women increased substantially during the crisis.
What has been encouraging however, is the opportunity of crisis as a tool for innovation and adoption of innovative digital tools. The aim of today’s roundtable is to showcase several new initiatives promoted under the leadership of the Ombudsman Institute in coordination with the Ministry of Justice and other relevant governmental institutions, to safeguard human rights, improve access to justice and provide legal assistance and information to the people across the country, specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These initiatives are very important, because the pandemic also had a serious impact on access to justice and the justice system as a whole, as courts and other important government services, such as free legal aid and crisis centers for victims of domestic violence, were closed or forced to reduce their operations during the peak of the emergency, when their services were needed the most.
UNDP, as part of the wider UN system in Kyrgyzstan, has provided comprehensive support to the people of Kyrgyzstan in the Covid-19 response, including through the government. At an early stage, we conducted a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment together with the Asian Development Bank, and identified the economic impacts of the pandemic for the poorest and most vulnerable. This has informed the UN’s response framework and support for government Anti-Crisis Plans for the COVID-19 crisis through assistance to the health sector and the economy.
As the outbreak of COVID-19 is now entering its third wave, National Human Rights Institutions can play a key role in supporting vulnerable populations, addressing stigma and discrimination, helping the public get transparent access to information. Above all, by ensuring that fundamental freedoms and human rights continue to be monitored, promoted and protected during both the emergency and the crisis’ recovery period.
As digital platforms have become the new “public square”, new technologies have created additional spaces for exchange, mobilization and participation. In this regard, by recognizing the need for leveraging these new, accessible and safe technologies, we congratulate you on the launching of the legal chatbot Akyikatchy-bot 115, which we expect to become an important tool for effectively increase public participation and access to legal and human rights information in this new environment.
Going forward, it is my hope that the Ombudsman’s office can build on such successes in human rights promotion in supporting also the emerging rights issues, such as non-discriminatory access to a vaccine for everyone who needs it, inclusive participation in socioeconomic recovery, and transparency and access to information on the national COVID-response. Let us especially focus on the rights of women and girls to participate effectively in all aspects of the response, and to be protected from violence. Of course, with the recent case of Aizada’s tragic death in fresh memory, we hope and expect that the justice system can more effectively support those who depend on it for their survival.
Let me end by reassuring you, Ladies and Gentlemen that UNDP is committed to continue to partner with all key institutions in protecting human rights while the country fights to overcome this pandemic.