Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 14:04 GMT

Kyrgyz youth activists struggle to find place in Bishkek's new order

Publisher EurasiaNet
Publication Date 24 May 2010
Cite as EurasiaNet, Kyrgyz youth activists struggle to find place in Bishkek's new order, 24 May 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c15f7d71a.html [accessed 16 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

May 24, 2010 – 2:12pm, by Dalton Bennett

Some of the loudest criticism of Kyrgyzstan's provisional government is coming from youth groups. Many youth activists feel they played a key role in forcing Kurmanbek Bakiyev's administration from power and now they expect a say in how things are run in Bishkek.

"We youth feel responsible for the overthrow of Bakiyev's corrupt regime. We were in the square dying, but now the question is of how will the government improve the youth situation, and to whom to delegate power," Meerim Shamyrkanova, a recent college graduate and member the youth wing of Rosa Otunbayeva's Social Democratic Party (SDPK), told EurasiaNet.org. Otunbayeva heads the provisional government in Bishkek.

The provisional government's main response so far has been the creation of a Ministry of Youth. Just under a month old, it remains unclear how the new ministry will promote the participation of young people in the political process.

"Young people were the driving force behind this revolution, yet [they are being] overlooked by the government. The ministry could help them to express themselves and be heard. Furthermore, this ministry could lead to the creation of an equal partnership between today's youth and the government," said Zaure Sydykova, the director of Open Kyrgyzstan, a non-governmental organization.

Renat Samudinov leader of the SDPK's youth wing says the ministry could serve as a training ground, where young people could gain practical experience in the art of public policymaking and governing. Ultimately, it could act as a springboard for young men and women who are interested in going into government service. "The creation of a Ministry of Youth will allow us train Kyrgyzstan's newly active youth and show them how to govern," said Samudinov.

Other youth activists are skeptical about the ministry's usefulness. Ulan Urozbaev, a member of the Ata-Meken Party's youth wing and leader of Students Against Corruption at the Kyrgyz National University, described the ministry as an instrument designed to sideline young people, not get them more involved. "It's a good thing that the new government is trying to create a dialogue with the youth, but they are doing it all wrong. We view it as a complete insult. They say they want to include us in the political process on paper, but their policies say otherwise," Urozbaev told EurasiaNet.org.

"Instead of thinking about how to structure a ministry, we should be discussing how to influence and add our input into the constitution," Urozbaev added.

The changes lack substance, and may discourage young people from participating in politics, agreed Aigul Dogdurova, former manager of youth programs at UNDP. "I really doubt the Ministry of Youth and the government's current approach toward youth will be successful because it looks like the provisional government is using the same method as the previous government," Dogdurova told EurasiaNet.org. "They want to create an empty Soviet-type institution instead of embracing new methods of working with youth.... A huge number of young people [are] losing confidence in this government."

Most agree that the major problems facing Kyrgyzstan's alienated youth need to be solved outside of one ministry. There are other government agencies that are tasked with addressing youth-related issues, including high unemployment and the lack of educational opportunities. But many young people question not only the provisional government's commitment, but its ability to finance programs that would benefit young people.

"I am not sure if the government can really change the worrisome economic and social problems for young people," said Aida Alymbaeva, director of the Social Research Center at the American University of Central Asia and a policy expert on youth issues in Kyrgyzstan. A ministry "will not solve wider problems such as high unemployment and the meager education system until major investment in the public sector occurs. The bigger question is where will the money come from, given Kyrgyzstan's financial situation."

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