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Only a Bad Central Asian Expert Doesn’t Dream of Visiting Georgia

From 10 to 21 June 2019, young experts, active participants of the CABAR.asia School of Analytics from Central Asian countries have been trained in advanced think-tanks of Georgia to exchange experience.

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Askar Mukashev, participant of the CABAR.asia School of Analytics (Nur-Sultan)

Askar Mukashev. Photo: cabar.asia

It is never too late to learn … So did young analysts from Central Asia thought, who had been on a two-week internship at the best research centers in Georgia to improve their knowledge and learn from the experience of their Georgian colleagues.

Thanks to the CABAR.asia School of Analytics, I had the honor to represent Kazakhstan during my internship and to share experiences with colleagues from the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC).

The main goal of this Center is to create the first international standard think tank in Georgia aimed at maintaining and developing a new format of economic thinking among specialists, as well as at introducing new analytical and research tools to study unexplored phenomena in the country’s economy.

Askar Mukashev and Tamar Horbaladze at EPRC. Photo: A. Mukashev.

We must give a proper respect to the high professionalism of each EPRC team members. Right from the first days, the high level of work organization and the involvement of the team in the activities of the Center impressed me a lot. One of such highly qualified specialists was Mrs. Tamar Khorbaladze, who was my mentor during the internship in Tbilisi. I consider myself lucky, since I met such a competent and responsible person who loves with her job. During the two weeks of my internship, Ms. Tamar helped me in every way to find the necessary information for my article, and provided me with relevant literature and Internet sources.

Moreover, despite the high workload, the Center team organized a mini round table where we were able to exchange information about our countries, including such topics as the socio-economic development of countries, freedom of speech and government regulation of the media sphere, small and medium business development in Kazakhstan and much more. During the discussions, the specialists of the Center also willingly shared Georgian experience and talked about the ongoing research within the walls of the EPRC. I take this opportunity to thank Tamar Khorbaladze and in her person the whole EPRC team for their hospitality and invaluable assistance in writing an article for the CABAR.asia platform.

As the matter stands, all this wouldn’t happen without the organizers. That is why I express my greatest respect and gratitude for such a unique opportunity to gain invaluable experience. I believe that the results of common efforts will not take long to wait for, and we will all soon be witnessing new interesting materials and joint projects with our Georgian colleagues!

Nurbek Bekmurzaev, independent researcher, participant of the School of Analytics CABAR.asia (Bishkek)

Nurbek Bekmurzaev. Photos from Facebook personal page.

My internship took place at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies – Rondeli Foundation, where I studied the experience of Georgia in the areas of digital transformation and cyber security. The Rondeli Foundation is considered as one of the foremost research centers that studies strategically important political and economic issues, as well as topics related to the country’s foreign policy.

A significant advantage of the Rondeli Foundation is the number of researchers based in it, which consist of scientific community representatives, former diplomats, as well as former high-ranking government officials. Thus, a basis for studying various problems, both from an academic point of view and from a practical perspective was created.  

The internship curator, Andro Gotsiridze, embodies the approach of the Rondeli Foundation very well. He has worked for the Cyber ​​Security Bureau of the Ministry of Defense of Georgia. In addition, he is a member of a working group responsible for developing cyber security strategies. By the way, Georgia has gone far ahead and is on the verge of adopting the third cyber security strategy, while the Kyrgyz government is not in a big hurry to approve a similar document, the draft of which was submitted in December last year.

Nurbek Bekmurzaev in Rondeli Foundation, Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies.

I am very pleased with the interesting, informative and fruitful internship I had at the Rondeli Foundation and with Georgia in general. During the two weeks, I was able to familiarize myself with the construction of cyber and information security architecture, and the mechanisms of interaction between various government structures among themselves and with the private sector. The issue of cyber security is one of the strategic components of ensuring national security for Georgia. During the military conflict with Russia, Georgia became the first state in history to be targeted by physical and cyber-attacks. Thus, cyber threats overnight, respectively, turned into a national security threat. However, even without an external major enemy with advanced capabilities for launching cyber-attacks, ensuring cyber and information security is a necessity for today’s high-tech world. Cyber ​​security is of particular relevance in relation to digital transformation.

With the adoption of the Digital Transformation Concept “Sanarip Kyrgyzstan 2019-2023”, Kyrgyzstan is at an early stage. Here and now, it is necessary to take measures to ensure cyber security in the country. Kyrgyzstan has a lot to learn from Georgia, as from one of the advanced countries in ensuring cyber security, not only among the post-Soviet countries, but throughout the world. It is necessary to establish mechanisms for developing and amending the legal framework, to create a list of critical communications infrastructure subjects, a platform for conducting dialogue between government agencies and the private sector, as well as conduct continuous work on highlighting cyber security topics and training government officials, who are working with data. In addition, it is important to cooperate actively with other countries and international partners, since cybercrimes have a special cross-border nature. All this information and other details will be discussed more deeply in my article.

Muslimbek Buriev, political scientist, participant of the CABAR.asia School of Analytics (Dushanbe)

Muslimbek Buriev. Photo: cabar.asia

Two weeks of practice at the Caucasus Institute for Peace Democracy and Development (CIPDD) demonstrated many differences in the way how non-governmental organizations work in Tajikistan. The cooperation of such structures with state institutions is much closer in Georgia. The latter are considered as a direct customer of research and projects, for example, as in the case of CIPDD aimed at the integration of ethnic and religious minorities. Projects developed by the organization are aimed at shaping state policy with respect to such groups, often with which many problematic issues are associated. Moreover, there are many such organizations in Georgia that deal with ethnic minorities. Unfortunately, here as well the difference is noticeable, since analogous organizations do not exist in Tajikistan, instead, there are diaspora associations that prioritize the preservation of language and culture in their work.

Muslimbek Buriev speaks at a panel discussion on the role of the media.

Since I am currently studying the ethnic policy of Tajikistan, such observations are of great importance for the study. Especially for a comparative analysis with Georgia – this can be counted as the main result of my internship.

One of the most vivid impressions for me was the participation in a panel discussion on the role of civil society and the media in management, where I presented a small report. I spoke in the section, which was on the topic of how the media and civil society can contribute to improving the rights and status of minorities. In the report, I talked about how topics related to ethnic minorities are covered by the Tajik media.

The seminar was very productive. I was not only able to talk about the media situation in Tajikistan, but also exchange information with Georgian journalists who are interested in covering the processes in Central Asia.

The analytical portal CABAR.asia gave me a great chance to get a lot of practical and theoretical experience during these two weeks in Georgia, and also to establish network with experts who are dealing with ethnic politics. This opportunity is very important for me in terms of professional development, which allowed me to move internationally as an analyst, both within the framework of CABAR.asia platform and beyond.

Yuri Sarukhanyan, International Relations Specialist, participant of the CABAR.asia School of Analytics (Tashkent)

Yuri Sarukhanyan. Photo: cabar.asia

Paraphrasing a famous statement, only a bad Central Asian expert doesn’t dream of visiting Georgia. The very country, that was able to do it, is interesting to study its experience in political and socio-economic reforms, the style of regional politics and the manner of building cooperation with leading actors in international relations. Probably, the Georgian case can provide answers to a number of relevant issues for all Central Asian states, as well as become an example of solving public administration problems.  

Internship at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS) was an excellent opportunity for me to improve my analytical skills, study the activities and functioning system of one of the leading Georgian analytical centers, as well as get acquainted with new methods of analysis.

Yuri Sarukhanyan and Giorgi Bilanishvili at the Rondeli Foundation, Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies

In two weeks spent in GFSIS, I was able to learn more about the political system of Georgia, its foreign policy orientations and geopolitical self-identification. The meetings held with leading experts helped to look at the problems of the South Caucasus region from inside, to understand Georgia’s perception of modern international relations, and to learn how Tbilisi is going to build relations with the international community. The meeting with the researcher Giorgi Bilanishvili was especially interesting. During the conversation with him, I was able to get a general picture of how the analytical centers in Georgia function, how their coordinate system differs from the Central Asian one and due to what the effectiveness of local research centers needs to be escalated. In addition, during meetings with GFSIS experts, I was able to understand how Georgia sees itself in the medium term in modern international relations, what development challenges Tbilisi prioritizes and what the country’s leadership is trying to take for prevention.

I believe that such internships are very useful for the new generation of Central Asian analysts. They allow establishing professional contacts, forming a network of cooperation with colleagues from other post-Soviet countries and contributing to a deeper understanding of the post-Soviet region realities. This, in turn, broadens the mind, reduces the level of the cliche in analysts’ way of thinking and contributes to a better analytical product.

Ermek Baisalov, editor of analytical materials CABAR.asia

Ermek Baisalov. Photo: cabar.asia

Along with the other members of CABAR.asia School of Analytics, I completed an internship at the Media Development Foundation in Tbilisi (MDF). This organization promotes standards of journalistic ethics and media literacy, monitors the media, protects freedom of speech, human rights, encourages youth initiatives and civic engagement, etc.

Two weeks flew very quickly in a friendly and cohesive team, where I felt like at home. These are very simple, but progressive folks and true professionals. Georgian colleagues helped in every possible way and gave me useful advice on work. During this time, I published several articles for the local fact-checking resource Myth Detector, collected the necessary information about the Georgian experience in dealing with fake news and the development of media literacy.

Ermek Baisalov and some members of the MDF team.

Together with CABAR.asia analysts we took part in a panel discussion on the role of civil society and the media in governance. The event was organized by the IWPR office in the Caucasus. In addition to representatives of the Central Asia countries and Georgia, journalists and media specialists from Ukraine and Moldova took part in the meeting. There was an interesting exchange of views of different regions on state accountability, development of investigative journalism, the role of media and civil society in protecting the rights of minorities, etc. In addition, I made a small report on the situation and the fight against misinformation, “fake news” in Kyrgyzstan.

In general, I noticed that we often face similar problems and challenges in our countries. It is a pity that the Georgian colleagues know little about our Central Asian region, except for some common things. We need to get together more often and exchange views at the regional level.

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