Closure of NGOs in Uzbekistan
During the last few weeks, a number of international NGOs have been closed or been threatened of closure in Uzbekistan. Since the end of April this year, the speed of closures seems to have increased. The reasons for this are not entirely clear. The anniversary of the Andijan events and the upcoming presidential elections early next year might be two motivations for the Uzbek authorities to become more active.
Parallel to this, the National NGO of NGOs of Uzbekistan (NaNaOuz) is becoming more active at national level. Beside an increased funding for projects of its members, the head of NaNaOuz (a former SB person) made it quite clear in an April meeting what he thinks about international NGOs in Uzbekistan. He also commented directly on EU NGOs during this meeting: “We don’t know yet how you get the money into the country but we will stop it.” (A participant of this meeting told me about this).
Also, Uzbek members of NaNaOuz are speaking at times in quite a negative way about EU NGOs. So, the rumor of EU NGOs laundering money is making it’s way around.
On June 1st this year, NGOs in Uzbekistan had to start re-registering again, which leads one to the assumption that the process of closure of NGOs will further continue. Only NGOs which are members of NaNaOuz have some kind of protection. I assume that right now there are only less than 15 international NGO left in Uzbekistan that are able to do some effective work. Embassies and other relevant international agencies such as the UN or the OSCE who still have some kind of influence in Uzbekistan do not have that much more time left to clearly give their support of international NGOs and Civil Society.
Finally, and to illustrate the recent situation, I summarize the closures during the recent months:
05/06/06: Possible closure of Partnership in Development (UK)
05/06/06: Closure of offices of Central Asian Free Exchange (USA). During the last weeks several of their offices were closed and I would say that CAFE will have to leave the country entirely.
01/06/06: Closure of Global Involvement Through Education (USA)
01/06/06: Closure of American Council for Collaboration in Education and Language Study (ACCELS) (USA) and warning for COFUTIS (France) and Magyar Okumenikus Szeretetszolgalat (Hungarian Christian Organisation)
17/05/06: Closure of protestant churches . I want to add that these churches offer some kind of protected space for civil society in Uzbekistan.
04/05/06 Closure of Counterpart International (USA)
24/04/06: Closure of American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiatives’ (ABA/CEELI)
The case of Counterpart Internaional is again discussed at the board of Tashkent city. Uzreport’s article is a little bit cryptic but gives some insight at least.