On August 17, 2020, the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan signed a decree launching a pilot project that for the first time will allow the public to comment on draft legislation online. The decree requires all executive bodies in the government to post their draft legal acts for discussion on a new Ministry of Justice public portal.
The new initiative is an important legacy of EWMI’s recently completed USAID Collaborative Governance Program (CGP) in Kyrgyzstan. One of the CGP’s important priorities was expanding opportunities for civic engagement in the lawmaking process. Prior to EWMI’s engagement, there were no clear and operative feedback mechanisms through which citizens and civil society organizations could submit comments to the initiators of draft legal acts. In many cases, the public found out about new laws only after their adoption.
Beginning in 2019, EWMI worked with the Ministry of Justice to develop an online portal for the public discussion of draft legal acts, so as to make the lawmaking process more transparent, participatory, and responsive to citizen concerns. The concept of such a portal had been put forward by a number of civil society groups and supported by the Open Government Partnership Forum, which tasked the Ministry with developing the portal. The Ministry established a working group to that end, and, at EWMI’s request, included in the group representatives of the civil society organizations that had championed the idea. To promote broad public engagement in the development of the portal, EWMI helped the Ministry hold public hearings in seven cities around the country. The hearings allowed the Ministry to solicit ideas about the functionality of the portal so that it would be as user-friendly as possible and contain the necessary features to enhance citizen participation in the lawmaking process. EWMI and a local contractor subsequently developed the portal software and a mobile application in close collaboration with the Ministry.
During the pilot period, which will run through February 2021, the Ministry will monitor the use of the portal and collect recommendations to improve the online public discussion procedures. The monitoring results and the recommendations will inform a new permanent decree that the Prime Minister is expected to issue in March 2021. A draft law on Amendments to the Law on Normative Legal Acts, which would make the posting of draft laws on the portal obligatory for all lawmaking bodies, passed its first reading in the Kyrgyz Parliament in June 2020. After the parliamentary elections in October, the Ministry of Justice plans to work with the new Parliament to ensure the adoption of this draft law.
The Collaborative Governance Program was made possible by the generous support of the American people through a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to EWMI.