Author: Kanykey Jailobaeva
Title: The associational life: Kyrgyzstan and Scotland
Donors have used Tocqueville’s work on democracy in America as a basis for their strategy on civil society building in the post-soviet area. This article examines how ideas of Tocqueville have been translated into actual activities of donors in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan. It is argued that, in practice, donor activities have deviated from Tocqueville’s ideas. Donors were interested in Tocqueville’s statement that the operation of different political and civil associations generates democracy. Since their ultimate goal was to build democracy in the newly independent countries, they made this statement an underlying principle of their activities. However, in fact, donors have merely promoted NGOs, which have been modeled on their western equivalents, under the banner of the associational life. To assess how successful donors have been in NGO promotion in Kyrgyzstan, NGOs in Scotland, which are taken as a model, are compared to ones in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz NGOs differ from their Scottish counterparts considerably. There is a common tendency among Kyrgyz NGOs to follow western ones, particularly with regard to their organisation. However, they are extremely donor dependent. This has a number of consequences, such as undermining the independence of NGOs. To tackle this problem, NGOs need to find other sources of funding, such as membership fees, donation, philanthropy and others. However, the sense of joining, volunteering for and donating to NGOs is very low in Kyrgyzstan. Political associations should be promoted in Kyrgyzstan since it is they, which diffuse the sense of and skills of association. These associations should be numerous and diverse. They should also welcome the independence of their members and promote peaceful debate and joint decision-making.