The Uzbekistan authorities have been proud of the opening, of major reforms underway, since 2016. But for many of Uzbekistan’s independent NGOs, barriers to registration remains tall and hardly solvable, like Dr. Dilmurad Yusupov. Researcher at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex, explained in the following interview with Catherine Putz of The Diplomat. Tashkent bragged about 10,000 nongovernmental organizations in the country, but Yusupov says the official statistics are overblown by government-organized non-governmental organizations (GONGOs), backed by support. Institutional significant and basic lack of connection by genuine NGOs.
Yusupov, an advocate for disability inclusion and civil society development in Uzbekistan, emphasized that truly independent NGOs are crucial to Uzbekistan’s democratic development.
What are some of the current barriers for NGOs registered in Uzbekistan? Are there any risks associated with operating as an unregistered NGO?
One of the biggest hurdles to registration of independent NGOs in Uzbekistan are excessive red tape and bureaucratic requirements, which were also covered in President Shavkat’s May 2018 decree. Mirziyoyev “On measures to radically enhance the role of civil society organizations in the process of democratic renewal of the country. “Although there have been some aesthetic changes such as reducing state fees for NGO registration, reducing application review time from two to one month, etc., the internal procedures are not. Nothing has changed significantly and is still regulated by a Karimov period decree. approved in March 2014.
One of the main obstacles is that the registry can submit NGO registration documents to a third party for “expert opinion”. But the initiative groups were not informed of the names and decisions of the anonymous organizations. My own hypothesis is that these unnamed organizations may take a negative view of nongovernmental registration, thus derailing. However, refusal to register a non-governmental organization due to its invalidation is prohibited by law and therefore the Department of Justice (the Ministry of Justice), which is responsible for the registration of non-governmental organizations, always makes every effort. find reasons to reject groups. That way, the authorities can use a variety of tactics such as not pointing out all the flaws in the NGO Charter and other registration documents at the same time, finding linguistic errors. France and other shortcomings seem to disqualify the applicant.
I know many groups give up after the third or fourth denial in the NGO registration process because every application takes time and money because you need to prepare all the documents from scratch. MoJ usually does not return the previous document package. Therefore, I think it would be better to calculate the cost and time spent by initiative groups on nongovernmental registration. Unlike non-governmental organizations (GONGOs), self-initiative grassroots groups struggle for years and spend a lot of resources and energy to get registered. Another problem is the lack of legal support to accurately prepare the NGO Charter and other registration documents. MoJ says it to “counter it “The emergence of conflicts of interest and corruption risks in the judiciary” it cannot provide such legal assistance.
According to government statistics, Uzbekistan has more than 10,000 registered NGOs. But that includes government-organized non-governmental organizations (GONGOs) along with independent non-governmental organizations. Can you explain the difference between GONGO and independent NGOs? In what ways are they treated differently by the state?
Year 2018 report The Independent Institute for Civil Society Formation Monitoring (NIMFOGO) (transformed into the Center for Civil Society Development) distinguishes between so-called “system” (or system forming) NGOs) and “autonomous”. The first are non-governmental organizations that are usually established under government decrees, their employees’ salaries are paid by the state budget, they have a large network of regional and county branches. , district and city and operate at the republican level. According to NIMFOGO, there are more than 6,000 systemic NGOs or GONGOs, nearly half of which are generated by separate government decisions.
In my opinion, autonomous non-governmental organizations are true non-governmental organizations, formed by civil society activists at the grassroots level. They often operate locally without an extensive network of territorial divisions. According to available data, there are currently only about 3,000 autonomous NGOs across Uzbekistan, a very low number in a country with a population of more than 34 million. For comparison, I compute that in 2018, there were 28 more NGOs in Kyrgyzstan, more than 28 in Kazakhstan, more than 12 in Kazakhstan, three more in Tajikistan and less than three in Uzbekistan. Government (if we use the government figure of 10,000 NGOs in Uzbekistan). If we take 3,000 NGOs, that’s a very small number for the largest country in Central Asia.
The Ministry of Justice prides itself that the number of NGOs in Uzbekistan has increased rapidly in recent years to reach 10,000. But as they say there are lies, damn lies and state statistics! The government counts the regional, district and city branches of the same non-government organization as a separate non-government organization. The secret of 10,000 is that each NGO branch must be registered with the local judiciary and counted as a separate legal entity. As a result, we have the so-called “exponential effect”. For example, feminist and feminist activist Irina Matvienko analyzed State registers of non-governmental organizations are announced by the Ministry of Justice in the Khorezm region and concluded that [the figure of] 10,000 NGOs can be overstated by 10 times. But in practice, and by international standards, an NGO branch is not considered a separate NGO because it is the same organization.
In one last year’s article Regarding the difficulties faced by NGOs in Uzbekistan, you highlight the case of Oltin Qanot (Golden Wing), a group of young volunteers, noting that some of the group’s difficulties may be due to there was a GONGO in the youth sector, the Uzbekistan Youth Union. Can you recount Oltin Qanot’s difficulties to our readers? It has been possible to subscribe since then?
Well, that is my theory because one cannot really explain why the group of young social work students at the National University of Uzbekistan received 21 rejections (!) To apply for the volunteer organization. of them as of November 2018. I have dating refusal letter and reasons provided by the Department of Justice of Tashkent city. They received their most recent denial letter on March 18, 2021 because their application was not correct and they did not provide documentation to prove the non-government organization’s postal address. Judicial officials may have pointed to these deficiencies in the first or at least second denial letter, but it seems they kept them as “desserts”. It is a disgrace and a clear violation of the right to form public associations, which is inscribed in the Constitution of Uzbekistan.
Youth issues are politically sensitive in Uzbekistan, so I believe the sector is tightly regulated by the government through its proxy – the Uzbekistan Youth League. The problem with GONGOs is that they appear to have a state monopoly over certain areas of activity and it is difficult for autonomous groups like Oltin Qanot to enter the youth and volunteer sector.
Personally I am very surprised when the Department of Justice Registered Uzbekistan’s Volunteers Association after submitting the first NGO application last year. Why was the association registered in one go and the Oltin Qanot initiative team suffered for many years ?! It turned out that the Association had some strong founding members including the GONGO Youth League of Uzbekistan, the National Association of NGOs and the National movement “Yuksalish”, which confirmed my suspicions. that Uzbekistan’s Volunteers Association is another GONGO.
Furthermore, how can we have a Volunteer Association if we don’t already have a volunteer organization? According to the Law “Regarding volunteering” was approved in December 2019, “a volunteer organization is a non-profit non-government organization established and conducting voluntary activities in accordance with the law.” However, my search in the state’s nongovernmental register based on the keywords “volunteer” and “volunteer organization” did not show any results, meaning that there weren’t any groups yet. Volunteers are registered. It seems that the government is trying to monopolize the field of volunteer work through the establishment of the Uzbekistan Volunteer Association of GONGO. So there is an invisible ban on Oltin Qanot and the judicial authorities trying to find new reasons for not registering the organization and other independent youth volunteer organizations. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other explanation.
Why are independent NGOs so important to Uzbekistan’s development? What roles can they play in society?
Self-reliant non-governmental organizations represent genuine civil society organizations that are truly independent of government. A thriving and vibrant civil society is necessary if we want to build a democratic society because this so-called “third sector” can become another form of power to support implementation. and law enforcement and accountability for judicial and executive rights. For example, strong and independent civil society organizations can exercise public control over those responsible and empower those with the right to apply laws and normative acts in practice. . In addition, if the NGOs have developed their organizational capacities and are sustainable, they can also provide social services to their citizens and replace or complement government agencies if they are need.
In contrast, non-governmental organizations or GONGOs are systematically dependent on the government for finance and other resources to maintain their heavy and inflexible bureaucracy. They do not really represent genuine civil society organizations but are fake and vulnerable to corruption. Their activities are often ineffective because their employees are not motivated by an internal drive to do good for society but are recruited on a top-down basis under the strict control of the government. Compared to autonomous NGOs, they lack the enthusiasm, knowledge and skills to interact with their beneficiaries at the grassroots level through a bottom-up approach. It is therefore important to allow such initiatives to emerge and nurture them by removing all bureaucratic barriers to formalizing and regulating their operations.