Third Party Inquiries: Lessons Learned from the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission of 2011

Publication date: November 1, 2014
Publication author: Brendan McAllister, Miguel Varela

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“A journey of a single step begins with a thousand miles”.

The teaching ascribed to the ancient Chinese philisopher Lao Tzu — “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” — can be turned on its head for the story of the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC). As an independent international commission with a reconciliation and peacebuilding component in its mandate, and the first of its kind to be allowed into a country in Central Asia, what lessons can the international community learn from the KIC?

In June 2010, an outbreak of ethnic violence left nearly 500 people dead, forced many thousands to flee from their homes, and raised widespread concern about the stability of the country. In the aftermath, the President of Kyrgyzstan, Roza Otunbayeva, established an independent, international commission of inquiry, headed by Finnish MP Kimmo Kiljunen. When the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC) published its report in June 2011, the reception within the country was hostile. However, as the first and only inquiry ever permitted by a state in Central Asia, the experience of the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission remains signficant for the international community.

In January 2014, mediatEUr was invited by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland to identify lessons learned from the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission of 2011 on good practice in the conduct of independent, third-party inquiries into societal conflict. As the first and only inquiry ever to be permitted by a state in Central Asia, the experience of the KIC remains significant for the international community.

mediatEUr’s report aims to do two things concurrently: firstly, tell the story of how the KIC process unfolded and, at the same time, situate its work within the larger international experience of similar commissions. This will hopefully serve those that are engaged in similar practice elsewhere, presenting the often intricate and organic work done by individuals as part of an unfolding process, i.e. cover the ‘how’. The second will be of interest to those who work on the more technical ‘what’, namely the policy aspect of setting up and running commissions of inquiry. The final section presents lessons learned from both angles. We are grateful to the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for trusting us with this project.

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