From UNDP to UNICEF, delivering as one
Reflections of the Chief Technical Adviser on Rule of Law upon leaving UNDP Kyrgyz Republic after four years.
I arrived to Bishkek on 18 of November 2013. It was a snowy day. One of the first people I met was the landlord of my apartment who asked me what was my field of work. When I told him that I was going to work on improving the Rule of Law, I remember distinctly, he put his hands on the top of his head as to show a state of chaos and despair. As he explained me, he was a businessman and quickly provided me with many examples on the need to improve the Justice system and reduce the endemic corruption.
Four years down the road, I feel the country has done a lot of progress in the field of Rule of Law and Human Rights. Perhaps not the progress that we would all hoped for but still a meaningful journey towards the effective realization of people’s rights. I also hope to have had some role in contributing to this endeavor.
To measure the progress, I could resort to some of the most common international indicators in the sector but I think that they would fall short of communicating what I really feel. Let me use then four forward looking examples, one for each year of work.
Today, a new Law forbidding child marriages is in place in the country and is effectively implemented through extensive educational campaigns. According to the last available survey, 14% of the women in the Kyrgyz Republic married before the age of 18. I trust that this figure will considerably drop in the upcoming years.
A new comprehensive Judicial reform has been developed. Contrary to the previous experiences all new legislation has been costed to make it financially sustainable for the state. The reform will enter into force as of next year when all preparations for such comprehensive process is in place.
A new Law on Free Legal Aid has been developed and is now implemented throughout the country. Well over ten thousand citizens, over the last year, have been receiving free legal advice on matters of life importance for them. I am proud to say that most of the beneficiaries have been vulnerable groups including women and people with disabilities.
Biometric registration of citizens contributed to the peaceful parliamentary and presidential elections with a peaceful transition of powers. The first one in Central Asia.
Today I met my landlord again and asked if he had noticed any improvement in the Rule of Law over the last years. He waved his head saying that some improvement took place but not enough. I agreed with him. He also asked me what was going to be next for me. I told him that I was going to join UNICEF, still in the Kyrgyz Republic, and work on Protection and Peacebuilding issues. He again put his hands on the top of his head…
Today is a sunny day and I very much looking forward to keep working with the United Nations in the Kyrgyz Republic. UNDP or UNICEF doesn’t really matter, we are all together for one cause:
To assist the State in improving people’s lives and to leave none behind.
Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Adviser