The Caspian Studies Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University published in May 2002 a policy brief "Recommendations for Democratization Assistance in the Caspian Region" by Dr. Vladimir Shkolnikov. Dr. Shkolnikov, an adviser at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR), discusses Western democratization assistance programs to Caspian states over the last ten years and the lessons policymakers should learn from these programs.
He makes the following points:
- The euphoria of the early 1990s over the end of the Cold War caused Western organizations to have unrealistic expectations for democratic development in the former Soviet Union.
- Western democracy assistance programs have often failed to take the perspective of "the ordinary person on the street" in recipient countries into consideration. Instead, these programs usually reflect external, Western-imposed priorities.
- Western democracy-promoting organizations have often failed to appreciate the extent to which traditional institutions in Caspian societies (such as kinship networks) managed to survive the Soviet period and still influence the societies of the region.
- Western democracy-promoting organizations have failed to take into consideration the security challenges that Caspian states have had to confront during their first decade of independence.
- The war against global terrorism gives the West an opportunity to reevaluate its policies towards the Caspian region.
- Rather than relying solely on experiences of North American and Western European democracies, Western democracy-promoting organizations need to draw upon the recent experiences of new democracies of Central Europe in creating new models for the Caspian region.
"Western countries and institutions now have an opportunity to develop more sober and even-handed policies towards the Caspian region," says Dr. Shkolnikov. "This would ideally mean that calls for political reforms would also be accompanied by institution-building assistance.
"After the military operation in Afghanistan, the Caspian region cannot be treated any longer as a distant corner of the world. In addition, the region's strategic value should not be viewed exclusively in terms of its energy reserves, but also in terms of its secularism, its generally pro-Western aspirations, and (potentially) its ability to prevent the rise of extremist movements."
"This new set of circumstances provides for a unique opportunity for the "recalibration" of democracy assistance programs in the Caspian region based on greater mutual understanding," concludes the brief.
For the full text and other publications of the Caspian Studies Program, please visit their website