Interview with Dr Pal Dunay, former Director of the OSCE Academy

A lawyer by training, Dr Pal Dunay holds a PhD in International Relations from the Budapest University of Economics. Besides serving as the OSCE Academy Director (May 2015 — September 2016), Dr Dunay has taught Political Institutions and Processes, Peace and Security, Challenges in Central Asia and other courses at the Academy.

Being a bright international academician what do you think is the most important thing for young researcher/scientist in Central Asia?

Central Asia’s young academicians dealing with social sciences, including international relations, face a number of difficult choices. Namely, the region is not developing fast enough and many of the social science graduates consider two options: 1. Live with the regimes and gradually, often unnoticeably become part of it. 2. Leave their motherland and fast track a more prosperous career. However, the dilemma stems from the fact that there is no other activity that can weaken a country more than a brain drain.

Hence, if due to individual interest all the young talents leave their country, the prospects of that state will not be particularly promising. This is certainly a diplomatic understatement. The question, thus, is whether it is possible to use the acquired knowledge effectively in your own country. i.e. is there a middle ground between the two options above? There is no general answer to this question. In some cases it is possible to get involved and contribute, whereas in others it is not. Where the minimum level of intellectual autonomy is absent it may be difficult to foster positive processes. Where the discipline one studied was banned, intellectual advice is hardly sought. Other cases may represent more of a middle ground and might provide with opportunities.

Many young researchers/scientists from Central Asia have ambitious plans on an international level. Can you highlight some of the mistakes that most of them make, so that those reading your interview can try not to repeat them?

Ambition must be backed by hard work. It is my experience with many of the best students that I met over the years in Bishkek that there is a certain amount of impatience. This is natural in a situation when one option offers potentially so much more than the other. However, in those areas where we all work knowledge accumulates slowly and the return on investment comes with significant delay.

The mistakes that some of you may avoid and that many of us could not escape is to plan your future strategically. We live only once and except for the most talented we can’t afford to make long detours in our career. To have a personal development plan helps, so get advices from parents, friends, those who notice your talent first and can support you. It is the responsibility of my generation to guarantee that you will achieve more than my generation. I very well remember when one of the very best students of the Academy came to my office and after a long conversation left by saying that it was the first time she came to a professor’s office. The doors should remain open and you should not hesitate to cross the entrance.

Having a huge network around the globe, can you share the formula of successful networking? What personal and professional skills should be developed in order to keep and use these connections?

As far as networking, you will notice that there is a supportive environment out there. Many of my colleagues are willing to find new talented colleagues, interact with them and support the advancement in their career. This is particularly true when you come from a region that often cannot help you with your own advancement or at a price you do not intend to “pay”. However, l’art pour l’art networking (the art for the art of networking) without professional content is not the way. You also have to find the balance between being visible and being a pain. I will always remember a former student who applied for a position at an international organization and even before the interview asked whether the Chairman of the Board could be his Facebook friend. I had written a letter of recommendation and got a phone call from the gentleman whether the candidate was not a maverick.

How can you define CAYN? How do you think it can it contribute to “Central Asian” identity building process?

The Central Asian region is going through a phase of development where first national identities are being built. This also means to define “who you are not”. I hope that there will be a moment when commonalities, shared histories and experiences will prevail. Certainly, our hope is in the younger generation and in particular young intellectuals that can play an essential role in region-building. However, region does not mean assimilation or amalgamation. It means to cooperate and eventually integrate to maximise the benefits.

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