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Uzbekistan comes in from the cold: A new era of reforms

17-12-2018

Until recently, Uzbekistan was one of the most repressive countries in the world. Under its long-time leader Islam Karimov, human rights abuses included torture, child and forced adult labour, as well as severe restrictions on religious freedom, the media and civil society. Following Karimov's death in 2016, his successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev has launched an ambitious reform programme. Some of the worst human rights abuses (such as torture and forced labour) have been phased out, or at least diminished ...

Until recently, Uzbekistan was one of the most repressive countries in the world. Under its long-time leader Islam Karimov, human rights abuses included torture, child and forced adult labour, as well as severe restrictions on religious freedom, the media and civil society. Following Karimov's death in 2016, his successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev has launched an ambitious reform programme. Some of the worst human rights abuses (such as torture and forced labour) have been phased out, or at least diminished. Judges have become more independent, and the parliament has gained new powers. Steps have been taken to make the country's civil service more accountable to citizens. Media and civil society now have slightly more freedom to operate. Political reforms have been flanked by economic liberalisation. Barriers to trade and investment are being lifted, including by floating the som, the Uzbek currency, and by cutting red tape for businesses. On foreign policy, Uzbekistan has repaired ties with all its main international partners, from the US and EU to Russia and China. The most dramatic change has been the shift from Karimov-era confrontation with neighbours, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, to regional cooperation. These are highly positive changes, but Uzbekistan still has a long way to go. The economy remains largely state-controlled and uncompetitive, and liberalising reforms need to continue. On the political front, the system remains fundamentally authoritarian, and transition to genuine multiparty democracy seems unlikely.

Post-Karimov Uzbekistan: Business as usual

16-11-2016

The death of Uzbekistan's long-standing president, Islam Karimov, on 2 September 2016 threatened to trigger national instability. Despite initial fears of a conflict between the country's rival clans over his successor, the issue was speedily resolved with the appointment of Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev as interim president. Presidential elections are scheduled for 4 December 2016.

The death of Uzbekistan's long-standing president, Islam Karimov, on 2 September 2016 threatened to trigger national instability. Despite initial fears of a conflict between the country's rival clans over his successor, the issue was speedily resolved with the appointment of Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev as interim president. Presidential elections are scheduled for 4 December 2016.

Kyrgyzstan: Social situation

02-02-2016

Kyrgyzstan is the second most impoverished country in Central Asia, after Tajikistan. The country has made progress in many social areas, especially the health sector, with outstanding results in reducing child mortality and under-nourishment. However, the poorly performing education sector requires further attention and resources. Inter-ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks threaten the already fragile political, economic and social stability of the country.

Kyrgyzstan is the second most impoverished country in Central Asia, after Tajikistan. The country has made progress in many social areas, especially the health sector, with outstanding results in reducing child mortality and under-nourishment. However, the poorly performing education sector requires further attention and resources. Inter-ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks threaten the already fragile political, economic and social stability of the country.

Political parties in Uzbekistan

07-07-2015

Uzbekistan has a presidential system of government. The president, Islam Karimov, has played a principal role in all areas of the political landscape since independence in 1991. Although some recent steps empower the legislature against the executive, all political parties represented in parliament are pro-regime and far from providing political alternatives.

Uzbekistan has a presidential system of government. The president, Islam Karimov, has played a principal role in all areas of the political landscape since independence in 1991. Although some recent steps empower the legislature against the executive, all political parties represented in parliament are pro-regime and far from providing political alternatives.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

26-06-2015

With China, Russia, and four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – as its founding members, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is one of the world's biggest regional organisations in terms of population represented. To date, the SCO has largely concentrated on regional non-traditional security governance and specifically its fight against regional terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism. But the SCO Charter sets out a broad range of other ...

With China, Russia, and four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – as its founding members, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is one of the world's biggest regional organisations in terms of population represented. To date, the SCO has largely concentrated on regional non-traditional security governance and specifically its fight against regional terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism. But the SCO Charter sets out a broad range of other objectives and areas of cooperation, which go far beyond security concerns and thus bear great potential for further regional integration. The SCO's main achievement thus far is to have offered its members a cooperative forum to balance their conflicting interests and to ease bilateral tensions. It has built up joint capabilities and has agreed on common approaches in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism. However, major shortcomings, such as institutional weaknesses, a lack of common financial funds for the implementation of joint projects and conflicting national interests have prevented the SCO from achieving a higher level of regional cooperation in other areas. A first expansion in SCO membership – expected for July 2015 – driven by new security threats, geostrategic considerations, energy security and the economic interests of current SCO members, is likely both to raise the SCO's regional and international profile and present new challenges.

Uzbekistan: human rights situation

18-02-2015

Uzbekistan's human rights record is widely decried. A UN report has described the use of torture as 'systematic'. An EP resolution calls on the EU High Representative, the EEAS and EU Member States to push Uzbekistan to make tangible human rights improvements.

Uzbekistan's human rights record is widely decried. A UN report has described the use of torture as 'systematic'. An EP resolution calls on the EU High Representative, the EEAS and EU Member States to push Uzbekistan to make tangible human rights improvements.

The World Bank Considers Feasible the Building of the Tajik Rogun Dam

22-07-2014

Water issues in Central Asia, which have proven contentious since the breakup of the Soviet Union, have attracted international attention with the World Bank's recent impact assessment condoning Tajikistan's plan to build an enormous dam. The Rogun Dam, under construction for decades, is strongly contested by downstream Uzbekistan. Tensions between energy-deprived Tajikistan and water-starved Uzbekistan – exacerbated by the region's endemically unsustainable resource management and growing competition ...

Water issues in Central Asia, which have proven contentious since the breakup of the Soviet Union, have attracted international attention with the World Bank's recent impact assessment condoning Tajikistan's plan to build an enormous dam. The Rogun Dam, under construction for decades, is strongly contested by downstream Uzbekistan. Tensions between energy-deprived Tajikistan and water-starved Uzbekistan – exacerbated by the region's endemically unsustainable resource management and growing competition – have prevented the countries from pooling their complementary resources. Downstream Uzbekistan has applied political and economic pressure to its poorer upstream neighbour to ensure the huge Uzbek cotton fields continue to be watered. For its part, Tajikistan hopes to export electricity to Afghanistan with the hydropower project, which has suffered from a lack of funding as well as political wrangling. The dam, located in an earthquake-prone region, would be the tallest in the world – and the most cost-effective way to boost Tajikistan's economy and energy efficiency. According to the World Bank, whose reports included technological and environmental considerations, the construction and operation of the dam are feasible, and the proper application of international standards would reduce the risk of failure. The Bank also recommends that downstream countries have an equity participation in the project.

Uzbekistan: Selected Trade and Economic Issues

12-09-2013

Uzbekistan is the Central Asia Republic that suffered the less from the collapse of Soviet Union. GDP was restored to pre-independence levels as early as 2002, and the country has since enjoyed a protracted phase of sustained economic growth. Uzbekistan is currently a medium-low income country, and living conditions in the country have significantly improved, though mainly in urban areas. Regional and social disparities are high. Rather than liberalise its economy and adopt the economic reforms ...

Uzbekistan is the Central Asia Republic that suffered the less from the collapse of Soviet Union. GDP was restored to pre-independence levels as early as 2002, and the country has since enjoyed a protracted phase of sustained economic growth. Uzbekistan is currently a medium-low income country, and living conditions in the country have significantly improved, though mainly in urban areas. Regional and social disparities are high. Rather than liberalise its economy and adopt the economic reforms suggested by international financial institutions, Uzbekistan has preferred to set-up a system based on import substitution under strict state control. This has had the merit of protecting the country from external shocks but has also led to a relatively inefficient system where state interference in the economy is the rule rather than the exception. The external trade sector is largely dominated by gas, gold and cotton exports, and exchanges with the European Union are very limited. The EU signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Uzbekistan in 1999. The European Parliament opposed to the ratification of a protocol extending PCA provisions to the textile sector, initialled in 2010, because of persistent and serious exploitation of child labour in the Uzbek cotton sector.

Transboundary water management: The Rogun Dam in Tajikistan

21-08-2013

In more than 260 trans­boundary watercourses around the world, the closely linked issues of energy, water and agriculture cause difficulties. Tensions between energy-starved Tajikistan and cotton-producing Uzbekistan over the planned Rogun hydro-electric dam illustrate the continuing 'water versus energy' debate. At the same time, the scarcity of water resources in Central Asia is often caused by mismanagement.

In more than 260 trans­boundary watercourses around the world, the closely linked issues of energy, water and agriculture cause difficulties. Tensions between energy-starved Tajikistan and cotton-producing Uzbekistan over the planned Rogun hydro-electric dam illustrate the continuing 'water versus energy' debate. At the same time, the scarcity of water resources in Central Asia is often caused by mismanagement.

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