Efforts to curb corruption appear to be gaining crucial momentum in Kyrgyzstan, as a bill on conflict of interest gathers cross-sector support. The bill, drafted with technical help from the USAID-IDLO Kyrgyzstan Judicial Strengthening Program, is being formally championed by Erkin Alymbekov, chairman of the Human Rights committee of the Kyrgyz parliament.
“Corruption is a threat to our national security, Mr. Alymbekov said on Thursday, at a roundtable in Bishkek dedicated to the draft law. Although Kyrgyzstan had moved from authoritarian rule to democracy, he added, graft remained rife in state agencies. “Corruption,’ Mr. Alymbek concluded, “is the end of nations.”
Analysts and campaigners are describing the move against conflict of interest as remarkable in a small society – Kyrgyzstan has just 5.5 million people – where rural traditions are strong, families large, and a culture of favors and client relations well established. When you have dozens of second-cousins, not hiring one when you have a job to fill is about more than integrity: it is double the effort.
Speaking at the round table, civil society activist Dinara Oshurahunova commended the bill as “powerful” and “brave”. But even as she argued for quick passage through parliament, she cautioned of likely resistance ahead.
Decisive impetus, meanwhile, may come from the Kyrgyz judiciary, which thanks in part to USAID-IDLO training and assistance has become increasingly assertive. Judges voiced their support for the bill once it became clear that all public officials, and not the judiciary alone, would be covered by its provisions.
The law, if passed, would ban any payment from interested parties, either in money or in kind, as well as gifts material or immaterial. This includes property, foreign travel or invitations to banquets, shows and sporting events. Diplomatic presents are exempt – but only up to a certain value to be determined, beyond which they pass to the state. Despite occasional hurdles and backsliding, international agencies and the development community remain convinced that Kyrgyzstan represents the best bet for the rule of law in a region where it is in short supply. Passage of the conflict-of-interest bill, they say, would firm up the country’s rejection of authoritarian rule and nepotistic government.