Week Five

Coming out of last week’s hectic schedule, this week was perhaps thankfully, but other times unfortunately, much less busy. I suppose my view on this depended on my state of mind on any given workday. The Rule of Law (RoL) Component’s put efforts toward planning for journalist training sessions that will be conducted in the south. However, I was not involved in this process this week. Instead, I assisted with planning for a meeting next Thursday, which will bring together other NGOs focusing on rule of law issues, as well as members of the Ministry of Justice and other government offices. My task was to write the English and Russian language agenda for this meeting, make a template for the meeting minutes, and then request that Operations reserve the conference room and order tea and snacks for the meeting.

The purpose of Rule of Law Committee meetings is to ensure that various NGOs and the government are aware of what one another are doing. In this way, each organization can avoid using its resources to accomplish a task that another organization has already started on, or is perhaps better equipped to accomplish. During the meeting, each organization will provide an update on what it plans to do, as well as its progress on current objectives. The group will then coordinate future activities. The meeting will be conducted in Russian, so it will be interesting to take notes and formulate the final minutes. However, all RoL members will be taking notes, so between all of us, I should certainly have all the necessary information to integrate into the final minutes.

I hope that the meeting will still occur on Thursday, however, for reasons I probably should not say, and that remain unknown to me anyway, a shift in organizational policy now requires us to report any and all meetings with government officials. We must then receive approval before conducting the meeting. I hope that this new policy will not interrupt the planned meeting. Other than planning for this meeting, the only other major task I assisted with was editing the English language content of another USAID success story. The success story focused on an organization in Osh that improved the cleanliness of residential areas by cleaning up litter and refuse from green spaces such as yards and courtyards.

For the rest of this post, I would like to share some observations about Bishkek, which I have accumulated through my many evening walks over the past few weeks. Overall, I think that Bishkek is a wonderful city. But, with that in mind, it is still a growing, developing city. As of now, there are countless ten-story residential buildings being constructed around the city. In fact, my apartment is in a building that was completed less than two years ago. Slowly, but surely, new buildings are replacing dilapidated remnants of the Soviet era, whether they be residential, or some form of government office that has fallen into disuse.

However, with this existing dynamic, the city is still dotted with seemingly abandoned buildings, some of which scream Soviet classical or brutalist architecture. In that sense, parts of Bishkek would be a dream come true for urban explorers.

In some parts of the city, there are Soviet buildings that either continue to serve their purpose, or have been repurposed. I think that this is an intelligent decision. Given how large and well-built some of these buildings are, it may indeed require more resources to demolish and replace them than to simply find another use. Also, doing so will retain some of the history of the city while continuing to allow for useful space.

Above is an example of a traditional building stye on the the main square. Below is what seems to be a repurposed building. Inside there appears to still be office space, but local businesses occupy the lower floors.

Moreover, the juxtaposition of seemingly hundred-year-old traditional wood and stucco houses and modern ten-story apartments is a common sight near the outer part of downtown.

Above is an old house, but then, immediately across the street we see...

I imagine that in the near future, as the city develops and the population increases, property conflicts will arise. The inevitable hold-out problem, which we discussed more than once in Property Law, will be a real issue for those owning small properties near the city center. It is unclear to me how easy it will be for these landowners to fairly capitalize on their properties. Reflecting on this dynamic, I decided to finally make progress on De Soto’s “The Mystery of Capital,” however, for due practice I am reading it in Russian (“Загадка капитала”). As I learn more about how this issue plays out in Bishkek, I should have a helpful background in the subject as it relates to the city’s overall future well-being.

Next week will be shorter, only four days, because we get Monday off for the holiday. In addition to work, I look forward to planning two additional short trips before the end of my internship: the first to Almaty, and the second to Issyk Kul.