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European Union grants for Uzbekistan – support to democracy or to dictatorship?

UZB-EU site
22 June 2011 a Conference took place in the European Parliament on the importance of the transfer of the EU experience on prevention and elimination of corruption to the young states in the region of Central Asia.
  
I also had an opportunity to participate in the Conference and make a presentation. Here is the text of my presentation.
 
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
Dear Colleagues,
  
Let me express my opinion in the course of this discussion.
 
In Uzbekistan the society is trapped in the web of corruption. This is evident everywhere. Any government office where people have to enter they have to pay extra unofficially in addition to official costs. Hardest hit are often entrepreneurs. According to one of the small business owners, he had 36 routine  diligence checks over just one year. Each time irrespective of whether the auditors or controllers had criticism or not he is compelled to bribe them. In order to cover his costs he raises the end price of goods when selling them to his consumers.
 
The state control turns all spheres of human life into illegal business, which is maintained on fear and obstruction of access to fundamental rights – the right to decent work, the right to education, the right to social security, the right to freedom from torture, etc…
 
There is not a single family, which could be confident enough to say that at least one family member or that of their friends, neighbours, or acquaintances did not suffer from the arbitrariness or abuse of state authority figures and had their rights violated, be it their freedom of conscience, freedom of enterprise, freedom of farming, freedom of movement to exit or enter their own country, the right to freedom of expression, the right to elect and be elected, etc.
 
Unfortunately, one of the most vivid proofs of the above is the story of the daughters of Islam Karimov, the current leader of Uzbekistan. If you look at the careers of these two young women, you can also examine the flaws of the regime. Islam Karimov is in the office for 22 years, he created conditions for absolute power. In highest echelons of power pressure mechanisms are created to put the ambitions of the members of this family and their entourage first.   Lack of freedom of expression enables them to suppress criticism and do whatever they like to do. Therefore, the daughters of the dictator became so influential that even international organizations compromise their democratic principles and charters for the sake of obtaining closer ties and access to connections at such level of power in Uzbekistan. Letters of the UNICEF, UNESCO, EU representatives, which were presented to the French court tell volumes about it.
 
In 2007 the European Union undertook a historic mission – to promote human rights and freedoms in Uzbekistan. This role was declared as the strategy of the dialogue with the government on human rights. Five years later we see that the role of the civil society in Uzbekistan has been at its lowest ever. Unfortunately, the European Union found itself involved in this destructive process.
 
As it became known, since 2008 the Institution Building and Partnership Programme (IBPP) of the European Union has been issuing funds to the NCSAC for the Project ‘Improving Inclusion for Disabled’.  In 2010 the European Commission allocated funding of €3.7 m, which the Centre appears to receive in the form of the so called technical assistance.
 
Pursuant to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers No. 419 of 07.09.2004 the Centre has a status comparable to a ministry or even several ministries. This accounts for the fact that technical assistance project allotted the Centre with a role to carry out a complex reform of inclusive education at a national scale. This does not correspond to the criteria of an NGO. Therefore, we issued a relevant Statement «The European Union has allocated a grant of €3.7 million to an organization controlled by the daughter of Uzbek dictator» on 1 June 2011. The centre is headed by Lola Karimova-Tillaeva – the daughter of the leader of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, repeatedly noted for position abuses of her father-dictator and of her own.
  
In conjunction with this, it would be highly desirable to launch a thorough investigation on the legitimacy of the allocation of such significant sums of money to a state body – Centre of social adaptation of disabled children of Uzbekistan. 
  
Such audit or investigation has been necessitated by a well-known fact of payment of €230,000 honoraria to a movie star for a 20-minute presence at the Reception in the Palace des Versailles in 2010.
 
You might have a question: What is a connection between these phenomena and corruption?
 
And the answer is this:
If people’s hands and feet are tied up in a thick web of corruption, higher echelons of power undertake the role of oligarchs.
 
Their wide pockets become treasure bags for export proceeds of cotton, gold, uranium, gas, and are spent not only to further strengthen the state repressive machine, but to maintain the glamorous life style as well.
 
In such hard times of economic recession we DO NOT want the European taxpayers’ money to be spent on deepening the controversies in the region, on widening the borders of poverty and radicalization of the resentful population of Central Asia.
  
According to our sources, numerous NGOs helping disabled children are void of attention and support from the Representation of the European Union in Uzbekistan. Moreover, the majority of such NGOs and self-help groups of parents of disabled children have been closed down by the order of the state organs or compelled to self-terminate under the threat of criminal investigation. This led to a monopoly of the Centre of Social Adaptation of disabled children in the sphere of aid and social services to disabled children. 
 
The remaining NGOs helping disabled children in Uzbekistan are hardly surviving and entirely depend on the pure enthusiasm of professionals and parents of disabled children.
 
Normally NGOs receive grants of just a few thousand US dollars from international organizations and maintain thorough financial accounting and reporting of expenses. In addition, there is a Government commission under the Central Bank, which provides clearance for each bank wire to the NGOs, often suspends funding at its own discretion. Thus, the state violates the rights of disabled children and their parents. The state does not protect these children and denies them the right to survival at the expense of foreign aid.
 
Thus, while the Centre for social adaptation of disabled children holds monopoly in receiving aid, NGOs providing real help to disabled children are subject to discrimination. Therefore, tens of thousands of disabled children lose their hope to receive help and support at the location of their residence. And, regretfully, the European Union policy is conducive to such state of affairs.
 
€3.7 m could save tens of thousands of disabled children, could help them obtain the much needed life skills and attain hope for the future. 
 
As a matter of fact, even major changes in legislation needed for inclusive education, which the Centre of social adaptation claimed to promote, would not cost such enormous sum of money. Unfortunately, this money is being used to create a false image of Uzbekistan as a welfare and prosperous state and to conceal the human rights violations and disabled children’s rights violations in particular.
  
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
 
Finally, I would like to emphasize that traditionally the main asset of a person in Uzbekistan is considered to be his or her good name and dignity, care for children and disabled children in particular. Therefore it is important that the European Union maintained its high legal criteria in taking decisions of such kind. Especially because according to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the fundamental principles of state building are freedom and equality and not dictator Karimov and his daughters of similar character.
 
Thank you for your attention. 
Nadejda Atayeva