For the past three weeks, I've been working part-time at the International Center for Not-for-profit Law (ICNL). icnl.org. They are a subcontractor for the main project I've been working on. They offer legal services to individuals, NGOs, government officials, and international organizations. The organization has a network of offices around the world. The office here in Bishkek has three full-time employees and a few consultants and interns. My primary task is editing translated documents. Though it can be tedious, it allows me to read reports and draft laws and I learn more about legal work abroad with each new document I edit. I just completed a draft law on social procurement, which is the law that ICNL is writing for CGP (my main project). After reading hundreds of pages of translated documents, I've decided I never want to be a translator or a professional editor. Russian is a difficult language to translate into English because you need far more Russian words to convey certain concepts in English and far fewer words to communicate other concepts. Many of the verbs used in Russian are passive, so when documents are translated, the English is often understandable but poorly-written. Sentences are often 50+ words. Subordinate clauses abound. Thankfully, I also get to edit the content, not just the grammar, of many of the documents.
The draft Law on Social Procurement was particularly interesting to read and edit. The law creates a mechanism for government bodies to pay private organizations to deliver social services. Social service providers (or "performers" as the law said before I commented that Americans generally think of actors and singers when we hear the word "performer") have three ways to contract with the government: 1) Organizations provide services in exchange for vouchers and receive payment from the government each month. These providers already provide social services for a fee as part of a business. 2) The government sends out a request for proposals and organizations bid to deliver specific services. The providers submit budgets as part of their bid and a committee chooses the winner. 3) The government announces a competition, but the parameters are broad and it is up to bidders to define how they will achieve the goal the government sets.
The process of passing a law here is quite long. Laws start in ministries and go through three readings in Parliament (Jogorku Kenesh) before the president signs them. The government shuts down for two months in the summer, so the draft law I worked on will be submitted in September. I feel honored to work on a piece of legislation that could significantly change the social services system in Kyrgyzstan.
Another part of ICNL's work is providing free consultations to civil society organization (CSO) members. The consultations are conducted in Russian, so I cannot participate as they occur, but it's been interesting to see the types of legal problems CSOs face. One woman wanted to create a CSO that would combine two CSOs, but she needed one of the founding CSOs to have more decision-making power. She applied to register her new CSO with the government (not currently required by law, but there are benefits to registration) and her application was denied. She wanted to know if she should appeal the decision or reapply with a different management structure. The lawyers at ICNL looked over her application and the rejection from the government and gave her a few options. This aspect of ICNL's work is the most attractive to me out of all the work I've witnessed over the past two months. Meeting with clients and providing immediate feedback that could potentially have a significant impact on their future appeals to me. These clients rarely have the resources to pay for an attorney, so they have to have consultations on an ad hoc basis. The lawyers are required to know the law well enough to advise clients quickly and effectively without hours of research. Of course, they follow up with clients after meetings, but their initial advice often guides the client's actions.
Only two weeks left and the time is going by quickly. This is my last weekend in the city because next weekend I'm taking a trip to a vacation spot, Lake Issyk-kul, and I fly out the following Saturday. I miss some things about America, but I'd be happy to stay a bit longer if I could.
Here are a couple of pictures just for fun: