More Decertification Coverage

by Nathan Hamm on 7/14/2004 · 2 comments

Like I said in the comments on the previous post, much of my opposition to decertification had to do with the reaction of the Uzbek government. That’s not to say that the US should bend over backwards to make a dictator happy, but there is some tightrope-walking involved in aid that works both with and against the interests of an authoritarian government. Considering the general trends in Uzbek foreign policy, it seemed too much of a gamble to risk “losing” Uzbekistan over $18 million.

This could be a great thing. Uzbekistan could decide it wants a strong partnership with the US more than it wants to maintain its domestic status quo. Time will tell.

More stories in the extended entry.

Richard Boucher’s statement to the press:

Section 568(a) of the FY 04 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires the Secretary to determine that Uzbekistan is making substantial and continuing progress in meeting its commitments under the 2002 Strategic Partnership Framework, including respect for human rights, establishing a genuine multi-party system, and ensuring free and fair elections, freedom of expression, and the independence of the media before any Fiscal Year 2004 assistance may be made available to the central government of Uzbekistan. Up to $18 million in FY 04 assistance may be affected.

Uzbekistan has made some encouraging progress over the past year with respect to human rights. We are, however, disappointed by lack of progress on democratic reform and restrictions put on U.S. assistance partners on the ground. On balance, therefore, the Secretary has decided that, based on Uzbekistan ‘s overall record of reform, he cannot make the determination required by Section 568(a).

Uzbekistan is an important partner of the United States in the war on terror and we have many shared strategic goals. This decision does not mean that either our interests in the region or our desire for continued cooperation with Uzbekistan has changed. We want to continue to work with Uzbekistan to pursue our common goals and to implement the standards and ideals in the Strategic Partnership Framework. Enhanced progress in democratization, respect for human rights and economic reforms are essential for Uzbekistan ‘s security and long-term prosperity, as well as to reinforce a solid and enduring relationship with the United States.

That emphasized section a pretty strong indication that kicking OSI out of the country was a pretty big deal. has a story off the Russian wires.

There’s an extremely promising section in the AP story.

In Tashkent, Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilkhom Zakirov said the State Department’s decision would not seriously affect bilateral relations, because the countries remain strategic partners in the war on terror.

He said it was “unfortunate” that U.S. aid would be cut, but that the amount of aid isn’t “that crucial” for Uzbekistan.

“It is a decision of the United States and one should understand that human rights standards in the United States, with its long history of democracy, may be too high for Uzbekistan, which has just started to move toward democracy,” Zakirov said. “Our continued cooperation is key to the progress of democratic reforms for which we are aiming.”

I hope the underlying sentiment, that US partnership is more important than the issue at hand, is felt across the whole of the Uzbek government.


The AP reports that the decision may cause Uzbekistan to turn to Russia.

Uzbek political analyst Alisher Taksanov predicted the United States’ latest move would push Uzbekistan closer to Russia and China.

“The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a club of human rights abusers, where Uzbekistan is very welcome,” he said.

Arkady Dubnov, a regional expert and columnist at the Moscow-based newspaper Vremya Novostei, said the recent warming in Uzbekistan’s relations with Russia could have been triggered by President Islam Karimov’s irritation over Western criticism of his government’s human rights record.

“Russia is trying to take advantage of its former satellites’ huge frustration over Western pressure” over lack of democracy and human rights, he said.

Interfax has more on the reaction from Uzbekistan

Tashkent regrets the U.S. decision to reduce financial aid to Uzbekistan, an Uzbek Foreign Ministry source told Interfax, commenting on a recent statement by U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Bowcher.

The source said “it is completely up to the donor to decide on the reduction or increase of U.S. aid to Uzbekistan.”

“As for the evaluation of social reforms’ progress, maybe from the U.S. point of view we are falling behind, but it has to be taken into account that the republic is currently in the first stages of state development,” the source said.

“The main thing for us is that our government intends to build a civil democratic society in Uzbekistan. We will not give up this objective,” the source said.

“The last part of Bowcher’s statement about Uzbekistan remaining an important strategic partner for the U.S., and that our relations will continue to develop, was very important for us,” the source said.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry’s press service told Interfax that a meeting was held between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones, who began a two-day visit to Tashkent on July 14, and Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev. They discussed bilateral relations, regional security and cooperation, and the progress of reforms in Uzbekistan.

Jones will also meet with Uzbek President Islam Karimov on Wednesday evening.

It’s encouraging to see that Jones is on her way to Tashkent. She and Lorne Craner have been on the case for a while.

UPDATE (4:37 Eastern):

EurasiaNet has nothing particularly new, but a good summary.

From the Human Rights Watch statement:

The U.S. decertification decision follows on the heels of a prior decertification decision by the Bush administration, taken in late 2003 under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which helps former Soviet republics destroy and avoid proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. That decision, however, came with a national interest waiver permitting funding to continue, but such a waiver does not exist for the assistance subject to yesterday’s decision.

The decision is also consistent with the U.S. stance on an unprecedented decision in April by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. After completing its one-year assessment of the Uzbek government’s steps toward meeting human rights benchmarks, the EBRD announced that it would limit its investment in Uzbekistan over the government’s lack of progress. The decision was taken unanimously by the bank’s board of directors, and had the full support of the U.S. government, which is a key shareholder.

Human Rights Watch emphasized that human rights conditionality on foreign assistance to Uzbekistan should include continued engagement with the Uzbek government on human rights, cautioning against the commonly made assumption that a decertification decision would signal a declaration of failure and the United States walking away from Uzbekistan.

“These decisions are part of an ongoing, long-term process of engagement between the United States and Uzbekistan,” said Denber. “The administration should continue to push for specific reform steps in Uzbekistan and hold out as a carrot the prospect of recertification.”

Human Rights Watch identified several reform steps the U.S. and other governments should continue to press for, including improving the climate for NGOs, allowing opportunities for peaceful dissent, and the implementation of recommendations on eliminating torture, made by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture following his visit to Uzbekistan in late 2002.

Human Rights Watch also stressed the need for the international community to pursue a consistent human rights message with the Uzbek government.

“Only when the international community sends a coherent message to the Uzbek leadership about the need for tangible progress on human rights do we see a real potential to trigger reforms,” said Denber.

In particular, Human Rights Watch challenged the European Union to become more vocal on human rights in Uzbekistan, noting that even though the European Union is a majority shareholder of the EBRD, there have to date been no known consequences of the EBRD’s April decision on EU-Uzbek relations. The European Union has also proven reluctant to push for concrete progress in human rights by leveraging its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Uzbekistan, the framework regulating its relationship with the country. Its voice overall in the face of Uzbek government abuses has been disappointingly weak.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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