How is civil society important for democracy in Kyrgyzstan?

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Aisalkyn Alimbaeva

Research Paper

Politics of Kyrgyzstan

How is civil society important for democracy in Kyrgyzstan?

In my research paper I want to analyze how civil society in reality is important for democracy. In modern way of understanding, democracy is a type of government, which cannot exist without right of the people�, where individual is not a subject of the government but where "government of the people, by the people and for the people"�. Government tries to help and directs all its politics in developing person as an individual. This change in government's priority helps to develop good relationship between civil society and democratic government, which will play a big role in the state. Civil society plays a main role in democratization of the country. There are different aspects and concepts of importance of civil society in the democratic state. Some political scientists think that civil society is important in democracy for limiting the state power which will not admit authoritarian regime in the country; others argue that civil society is "opposition to the state".�

My position approves both of these concepts. In order to answer this question more clearly we need to define civil society. According to the dictionary, civil society is "changing theoretical attitudes towards the relationship between economy, society and state"�. But most of the people understand civil society as "the realm of organized social life that is voluntary, self-generating, (largely) self-supporting, and autonomous from the state, and bound by a legal order or set of shared rules."� All actors of civil society such as non-governmental organizations, mass media, civil, business and religious groups are important for democracy because they limit state power, encourage political participation, develop democratic principles, give a good political ground for the future leaders, connect to bound people.

First of all, civil society in democracy limits the power of state. Today many people organize political organizations, associations and other groups to assure that there will be no one-dominating party or one-organization that will lead and handle the power in one hand. Consequently to provide and support democracy, it is very important to limit power, civil society will "lobby for access to information, including freedom of information laws and rules, and institutions to control corruption".� For example in Kyrgyzstan, Orfus Center observes and checks what kind of changes government makes in Convention. This action does not allow government to do something against the law. Limitation of the power does not let government to have all control of the state.

Secondly, promoting political participation "those actions of private citizens by which they seek to influence or to support government and politics"� is one of the main features of the democratic system. For many years people could not understand the new reality in political life of the country. Most of people believed that they are for power but not the power for them and the constitution provides human and political rights for the people. In former Soviet Union Constitution was proclaimed political rights but actually people had no rights and if somebody decided to struggle for the political rights they would be sent to jail or out of the country. Anyway the situation has been changed and people use the constitution to build a new, open society based on democratic principles. Free and democratic system of elections in the country helped leaders to realize new independent policy, which served for the people. People became more active in political participation. Citizens are more interested in elections and high debating on different political issues. Free and fair elections are a basic goal of democracy. The organization Kel kel in Kyrgyzstan monitors the elections systems, providing more democratic elections.� Civil society like any association or organization helps to observe and not to admit any corruption actions in elections like falsification of the ballots. For example, Women non-governmental organization in Kyrgyzstan monitored last president elections in 2005 where they found some violation in Mailuu-Suu electoral area. This breach helped the main electoral area to evaluate results and job that was made during elections. On the other hand of political participations is debating people's views. It is always important to know people's opinion of one or another issue and decision that was made by the government which will help to prevent mistakes, to improve current situation or even to find a solution.

Civil society also develops democratic principles such as tolerance, moderation, compromise, and respect for opposing points of view. In democracy it is constantly essential to fight, argue and discuss any attitudes but at the same time to be polite and respect the person who does not agree with you. This importance needs to be known by everyone who wants to live in a democratic country. �

Next importance is mediating and helping to resolve conflict in the society. It is important to avoid some local or even international conflicts by civil society in democratic system. Many non-governmental organizations work in the field of conflict resolution between communities from different states. These organizations play intermediary role in different kinds of conflicts. For example, NGO "Tashtar-Ata helped to solve conflict based on difficulties in water distribution between Uzbek Community and Kyrgyz Community developing schedule of water distribution in the communities.

Community has tools to influence on the policy and work of local and central power of the country. One of these tools is a process of lobbying. Some of the people understand lobbying as a corruption in the power but it could be in a different way. For example, the community of Mailuusuu has a deep problem with nuclear tailing dumps and has no resources to solve this problem. On the other hand central power has another point of view on this problem and is sure that this problem is not so important. The non-governmental organization "Civica" made a social and ecological research and based on this material created Internet site in English. Moreover, participants of this organization published some articles on this problem in national newspaper. Next step of "Civica" was to establish relations with international organizations to help with the problem. In this way, for eight years international and public opinion on the problem of Mailuusuu has been formed. Under the pressure of public opinion power decided to begin the work on this problem. In our days the construction companies begin to reload and reconstruct nuclear tailing dumps of Mailuusuu.� As we can see on the example above civil society connects bounding people to lobby for the needs and concerns of their members, as environmentalists, growers that help to solve some problems.

Good democratic state had to have a well-educated people in order to improve the economy, politics and life in general. Civil society gives a political background. Through participating in different projects, seminars and trainings citizens get knowledge, civil skills, experience, self-confidence and self of efficacy. For example, NGO "Issyk-Kol sabaty" organized seminars and trainings to develop partnership projects for strength social sphere in regions.� Knowledge getting from these seminars helped people to build their own society and better cooperates with the government.

Civil society plays the most important role in the process of democratization our society as well as independent mass media. Mass media in our days reflects different points of events but does not provide the policy of the government. Modern mass media became more critical and gives journalists the opportunity to reflect not only events but also comment these events from different angles. Moreover it is interesting to read newspapers and to watch TV programs. Mass media through its articles, radio and TV programs forms public opinion on different problems and influences decisions of the government. It plays important role in the local communities, helps people to get information, reflects problems inside the communities, and helps to find the decision on this or that problem.

There are about four thousand non-governmental organizations in Kyrgyzstan� more than in any other Central Asian Republics taken together. This makes Kyrgyzstan attractive to different foreign investments. Of course, most of them are not really influential, because of the lack of financial support. But they still try to find a way to somehow be a part of all the reforms that are happening in Kyrgyzstan. Because of the strong civil society Kyrgyzstan became more democratic state in Central Asia. Civil Society is a way to build democracy in a region that has never seen such a word.

Work Cited

Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Penguin Books, p. 275

Hann, C. (1996) Civil Society: Challenging western models. New York: Routledge.

Introduction to Political Studies. (2004). Bishkek.

Janda, K. (1997). The challenge of Democracy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Karabekov, K. (2002). Grajdanskoe obshestvo I Gosudarstvo v Kyrgyzstane. Bishkek: UNDP.

Keane, J. (1998). Civil Society: Old images, new visions. California: Stanford University Press.

Mayer, J. (1969). Democracy in America. USA: Anchor Books.

Mudimbe, V. (1997). Civil Society and Fanaticism. California: Stanford University Press. Accessed February 10, 2004,<>, Accessed September 12, 2004, <>

Soos, G. (2002). The state of local democracy in Central Europe. Budapest: Createch Ltd.

Tismaneanu, V. (1995). Political culture and civil society in Russia and the new states of Eurasia. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

� Civil Society and state of Kyrgyzstan, page 83

� Democracy in America, page 268

� Civil Society: Challenging western models, page 5

� Dictionary of sociology, page 55

� Introduction to Political Studies, page 78

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� The Challenge of democracy, page 213

� Civil Society and state of Kyrgyzstan, page 116

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� Civil Society and state of Kyrgyzstan, page 142

� Civil Society and state of Kyrgyzstan, page 128