“Kyrgyzstan must have a national program to develop the institutions of civil society. Civil society must adequately react to existing problems”, said Alexander Rusetski, director of the South Caucasus Institute for Regional Security (Georgia), in an interview for IPP.
IPP: In your opinion, what are the main sources of conflict in the post-Soviet space?
Alexander Rusetski: We are studying conflicts, and our findings could be useful for conflict management, including in Kyrgyzstan.
First of all, I would like to speak about mistakes that are often made during conflict analysis and the peacemaking process.
The first mistake is that experts and analysts study conflicts but do not study the peacemaking process, i.e. there are many more conflict studies than studies on the peacemaking process.
Specialists of the South Caucasus Institute for Regional Security (Georgia) have done much to change attitudes toward this question. As a result, we have a very interesting analytical model that studies at least two processes: the danger of conflict, and the peacemaking process. Thus, there is correlation between these two processes and conflicts, i.e. whether peacemaking processes correspond to conflict itself, its structure, sociology and dynamics.
We received very interesting results. Peacemaking processes do not correspond to conflicts, i.e. billions of dollars, euros, rubles and other currencies are spent for so called peacemaking processes that we call “pseudo-peacemaking”.
Thus, we are using improper means to cure a “patient” (i.e. conflict). We must revise international politics and all activities related to conflict resolution, because we must not spend so much time and money on a pseudo-peacemaking processes. The problem is that pseudo-peacemaking processes do not resolve conflict; they exacerbate it.
In parallel with these three concepts (conflict, peacemaking process and pseudo-peacemaking process) we consider one more phenomenon – pseudo-conflict. Analyzing these conflicts, we came to a conclusion that experts, political analysts, politicians and journalists look only at one component of complex conflicts – the inter-ethnic component. Actually, such conflicts consist of many components, and most often they are geopolitical in character. It is wrong that experts analyze only the inter-ethnic component of such complex conflicts. It means that we make the wrong diagnosis, and therefore, we treat «the patient» the wrong way. Unfortunately, the world community has ignored this fact for many years. The dynamics and paradigms of the conflict resolution process are evaluated incorrectly. Thus, an incorrect «diagnosis» leads to a flawed organization of the peacemaking process. No wonder that we do not have positive results.
Different kinds of conflict have different sources, but speaking in general, each conflict has an economic basis. Almost all conflicts in the world occur because of somebody’s economic interests.
For example, the war in 2008 was interpreted by international analysts and the mass media as a conflict between Georgia and Russia, but actually it is a geopolitical conflict that involved more than just the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. However, there is not a single international document that reflects it. We give false information and we are involved in false peacemaking processes. No conflict can be settled as long as there is no adequate diagnosis, and as long as we do not understand the motivations behind the actions of the belligerent parties.
If we talk about the dominant source of conflict which occurs in all countries, we should talk about economic factors.
The problem of post-Soviet countries and current world civilization is that political systems and laws are not sufficiently legitimate. If specific segments of the population, whether it is a minority or majority, do not participate in passing of certain laws, such laws are illegitimate. We can say that this is actually legitimization or institutionalization of conflict. Issues related to the legitimization of legislative regulations, the levels of legitimacy of political systems and political structures are possible reasons for conflict development. Laws must help solve problems. They must not create new problems. Therefore, the monitoring of legislation is very important, especially looking at how it takes into account the interests of different groups. Illegitimate laws are also a source of conflict.
Another source of conflict is often inter-ethnic relations. Those who provoke and create inter-ethnic conflicts try to hide from the public. They try to “promote” the idea of conflict between different ethnic groups, in order to conceal the real face of the conflict. Often those actors that trigger these conflicts then play the role of peacekeepers. Thus, there is pseudo-mediation and pseudo-peacemaking in general.
It is possible that provocateurs use ethnic conflict to hide something else during analysis, but this does not mean that ethnic conflicts do not exist. They certainly exist but they are secondary products of conflicts that are hidden from public view. If we want to resolve an existing inter-ethnic conflict, and ethnic conflicts are part of complex multipartite conflicts, we must bear in mind that this is just a component of the overall conflict. We must not simplify a complex conflict and unambiguously reduce it to an ethnic conflict. Even the conflicts which go beyond the borders of individual states (international conflicts) are also internal conflicts. Primitivization of conflict is the main mistake made during analysis and, respectively, in the planning of peace-building initiatives.
Elections, of course, can be a source of conflict. The more difficult the political situation is, the stronger the tension. And the closer the date of the election is, the higher the tension. During this period, any existing conflicts could escalate. New sources of conflicts can emerge, too.
IPP: Based on the experience of your country, what effective methods of resolving such conflicts on the part of the state would you like to highlight?
Alexander Rusetski: The main problem is that incompetent people often work in governmental bodies and international organizations. When governmental bodies have a low level of competence, they cannot control these processes. Moreover, they are so ambitious that they actually believe that they are the most intelligent. They do not want to interact with professional experts. They are, so to speak, willfully trying to solve these problems by their own efforts. The result is a terrible picture, which worries citizens of the post-Soviet space for many years.
I again want to emphasize that the problem is not only the incompetence of state institutions, but also the incompetence of various international organizations. The extremely low level of competence leads to the fact that they are, perhaps, willing to contribute to the settlement of conflicts, but in practice fail to do this. The government in all these situations makes the situation worse.
Neither Georgia nor any other former Soviet country can suggest professional approaches to resolve these conflicts.
IPP: How does civil society participate in the process of conflict resolution?
Alexander Rusetski: Civil society is trying to participate and organize various peacekeeping initiatives, but civil institutions are also in thrall to mistaken views, which I spoke about. They consider these conflicts inter-ethnic and instead of creating a political framework for resolution of these conflicts, they are engaged in pseudo-peacemaking, thus strengthening the pseudo-peacemaking process.
We can say that they do not affect the strategic situation. They affect the tactics a bit. A positive point is that they maintain and develop links between people at this level.
IPP: Will Kyrgyzstan be able to reduce the intensity of “rally democracy” in the near future?
Alexander Rusetski: I think the rallies show freedom of expression, but these gatherings should be more civilized. There are two options. First, there are certain rules of ethics and political culture that prevent rallies from creating a threat to public safety. On the other hand, mass rallies are an indicator of a low level of civic culture and an indicator of a crisis of civil institutions. It is the absence or weakness of institutions of civil society, which have different strategies and management practices. Their weakness leads to the fact that attempts to solve many problems turn to mass movements of a revolutionary character. We have observed it recently in the Middle East.
Kyrgyzstan, for example, should have a national program for development of civil society. Civil society must adequately respond to existing problems. If, for example, there is a family conflict, a relevant organization must exist and must work in this direction. Linguistic problems that you have must be solved by dedicated institutions. Professionals must be members of these institutions, and their level of professionalism should continue to grow. That is, in fact, we are talking about building the institutions of civil society, which should be adequate to the problems that exist.
Institutions of civil society are the best medicine to contain emotions, to contain violence. They bring time-tested technologies and management processes. It is democracy. However, in post-Soviet countries, we often call everything democracy. People believe that a democrat is somebody who cries a lot. Therefore, we are building pseudo-democratic structures and pseudo-democracy.
Prepared by Anna Kapushenko