Effective oversight may be the most important long-term contribution that parliamentarians can make to democracy and good governance in their country, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli said in a keynote speech to the participants of the international seminar on strengthening parliamentary oversight in Kyrgyzstan on September 27.

The two-day seminar, organized by the United Nations Development Programme in Kyrgyzstan, together with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and the Bishkek-based Legal Clinic Adilet, seeks to take stock of the current status of parliamentary oversight functions in the Kyrgyz Republic and in other countries. Participants discussed progress made and shared best practices and innovative approaches that specific national parliaments have taken to engage in oversight of government activity.

The international seminar brought together over 120 participants from 10 different countries.

“Even if oversight is embedded in law, the political will to drive the process forward remains a key requirement for effective implementation,” said President Tsereteli. “Finding the political will to hold governments to account can be hard to find – especially if they are your political friends.”

“We should also bear in mind the problems parliamentarians face related to access to information and also that some sensitive topics, such as investigating corruption issues, may even require providing security to parliamentarians who are conducting their legitimate oversight work,” he added.

Tsereteli called upon members of parliament to lead by example and adhere to the same strict standards which they demand of members of government.

In his address, President Tsereteli also stressed the need for a vibrant civil society, a free and professional media as well as representative parliaments which reflect the diversity of society and the plurality of political opinions, as preconditions for effective parliamentary oversight.

In a bilateral meeting with the Speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic Dastanbek Dzhumabekov, Tsereteli underlined the Kyrgyz Republic’s strong engagement within the OSCE PA, as demonstrated by its hosting of the 2018 Autumn Meeting in Bishkek and its commitment to strengthening democracy and parliamentarism, the need for an engaged civil society and the need to promote fundamental rights and freedoms.

Noting that the negative trend of deterioration of the media environment which occurred in the run-up to the 2017 presidential election seemed to have been reversed, Tsereteli expressed the hope that Kyrgyz authorities would continue to promote respect for freedom of the media and expression.

Tsereteli reiterated the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s steadfast commitment to support Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to strengthen its parliamentary democracy and to build a society based on law and order. Tsereteli in particular noted the readiness of the ODIHR to offer its legal expertise in relation to legislative reform.

Tsereteli and Dzhumabekov also discussed preliminary preparations for the 2020 parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan, which the President said the OSCE PA stands ready to observe.

Speaker Dzhumabekov also encouraged the international community to promote economic and social development in Kyrgyzstan in order to reinforce its efforts to implement democratic reforms.

The Kyrgyz Republic was the first country in Central Asia to adopt a parliamentary democracy. Earlier this week President Tsereteli was in Kazakhstan to attend the Fourth Meeting of Speakers of Eurasian Countries’ Parliaments and to hold bilateral meetings with high-level Kazakh officials.