Analysts and experts from the four Central Asian states have discussed the quality of expert materials and mechanisms of their implementation in the CABAR.asia discussion club.
The discussion has been held within the framework of the regional meeting of participants of the CABAR.asia School of Analytics. Young analysts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have delivered their reports there. The event was organized with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway and the British Embassy in Bishkek.
More details about the regional meeting
Overall, regional countries have similar trends in the performance of think-tanks: availability of state and subordinate organisations, non-governmental centres and a stratum of independent experts and researchers.
Think-tanks in Central Asia are institutionalising their activities, improving communications with state bodies and improving the quality of their analysis and expert examination.
Askar Mukashev, alumnus of the CABAR.asia School of Analytics from Astana, has reported that the Institute of Economic Studies at the Ministry of National Economy was established in 1961. Performance of think-tanks has been monitored since then. After the independence, in 1991, both government and independent think-tanks have emerged in Kazakstan.
According to Mukashev, think-tanks cannot be said to influence the decision-making process.
“However, Kazakstan faces a peculiar trend: many government and private think-tanks have their own pages in internet, where they publish their reports and statements. They have instant feedback and you can request analytical work from them. For example, media often publishes such work,” Mukashev said.
“Speaking about the problems faced by think-tanks, we can note that domestic think-tanks are rather young. Also they face a problem of insufficient resources: material, human, and organisational,” he added in his speech.
Think-tanks do not have the decision-making monopoly in the country – the leadership of the republic and the rest of key officials have their inner circles, employees, close experts compare publications in the media, including materials of think-tanks, as participants of the CABAR.asia School of Analytics in Kyrgyzstan noted.
“A decision is made on the basis of the current situation,” Timur Toktonaliev said.
The main “think-tank” in the republic is the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NISI) at the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, which was established in 1994 by president Akayev. In addition to it, there are dozens of non-governmental organisations in the country, which identify themselves as research and analytical organisations, yet only few of them work continuously and routinely in offices and have regular office staff.
“Very often the performance of such think-tanks depends on grants, funding and orders they receive. In many cases, a representative of a think-tank is an expert, who is also a director,” Toktonaliev said.
The Institute for Public Policy (IPP) was one of the largest independent think-tanks in the history of independent Kyrgyzstan and existed from 2005 to 2014. Its activity was based on various grants and was continuous – they discussed relevant issues of the republic, published articles on their website, compiled collection of articles dedicated to different problems and distributed them among government organisations.
Recently the president of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Zheenbekov has received a large group of representatives of the civil society, including many prominent experts in various areas of expertise. The president has claimed he needs an unbiased view on certain problems and recommendations to solve them. It gives a hope that the influence of experts, their products and their think-tanks will increase, that the role of analytics will be increased, and it will firmly take its place in the public sphere decision-making system, as reporters from Kyrgyzstan noted.
As analysts say, the number of think-tanks has been gradually increasing in this country lately. According to a Dushanbe-based political analyst Muslimbek Buriev, there were four think-tanks in 2014, and seven in 2017.
In his report, he emphasised that the cooperation between governmental and non-governmental think-tanks should be strengthened. Think-tanks should publish their researches and expert examinations in the public domain, political analyst said, so that the general public could have access to them and come to their own conclusions.
Deputy Director of the Centre for Islamic Studies at the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Rustam Azizi said that when authorities make official inquiries to them, they are determined to make a decision and they need their expert and analytical support.
“We send analytical notes and recommendations to the executive office of the president, different ministries and agencies. Sometimes they make decisions on the basis of our recommendations, and sometimes they contact us for additional information,” Azizi said.
A Tashkent-based political analyst Shokhrukh Abdullaev noted that their national universities still have no political science departments, which affects negatively the performance of think-tanks.
After the death of the former Uzbek president, a few local think-tanks appeared in 2017, which identify themselves as “independent”. Currently, Uzbekistan has recognised governmental, subordinate think-tanks and least recognised non-governmental research institutions, research centres, which have been established with the support of international organisations.
“As to the influence on decision-making process, all information and analysis are provided by governmental think-tanks depending on the customer, i.e. the state,” Abdullaev said.
Situation in Russia and Europe
As to the influence of Russian think-tanks (governmental and independent), four tools can be distinguished: maintaining informal contacts with decision-makers; participation in discussion forms of communication with politicians; participation in formal procedures: parliament hearings and “contract work”; participation in discussions in the media and within expert communities, Askar Mukashev said.
A Kyrgyzstan-based analyst, Nurbek Bekmurzaev, on the basis of his experience of participation in the studies of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, noted that there is no single success formula of influence on decision-making process because many things depend on the context sand resources of such think-tanks.
Farkhod Mirzabaev, an Uzbekistan-based analytical journalist, told about his experience of work with foreign analytical outlets. According to Farkhod Mirzabaev, he initially wanted to convey the Uzbek point of view on certain regional issues in Central Asia to the global community. He explained that he wanted to provide alternative opinion in addition to the opinion prevailing in Western analytical circles about the countries in the region.
Kahramon Bakozoda, a founder and leader of Zerkalo [Mirror] think-tank (Dushanbe) with 25 employees, has summarised the discussion. His think-tank has been operating for 20 years and his team carries out studies in Tajikistan and neighbouring countries. Mirzabaev explained that he published materials in analytical outlets because he wanted to help decision-makers to better understand both regional and domestic policy trends in Central Asian countries.
Bakozoda in his speech told about the peculiarities of performance of think-tanks in Tajikistan and shared his practical experience.
“An analyst is a ‘universal soldier’, who should have a wide range of competencies,” Kahramon Bakozoda said.