Washington, DC – Elizabeth Dugan, Vice President for Programs at IRI testified today before the House Committee on International Relations’ Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, chaired by Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18). Dugan’s testimony focused on the need for continued U.S. commitment to democracy assistance in Central Asia.
In her testimony, Dugan highlighted IRI’s work to support democratic activists in the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and encouraged the U.S. government to strengthen democracy promotion efforts in the region. “In each Central Asian country there is a genuine desire for democracy assistance,” she stated. “To help desire become reality, the United States should encourage the region’s leaders to adhere to the letter and spirit of bilateral agreements. The United States must also…do a better public relations job of explaining America’s support for popular political and economic reform and participatory democracy.”
We must provide the financial assistance necessary to help Kyrgyzstanis continue their democratic transition. In Uzbekistan, the United States must insist on adherence to democratic principles and the rule of law. In Kazakhstan, we must remain engaged in the development of democracy.
Dugan discussed the development of each of the three countries, noting the positive impact of international support in the Kyrgyz Republic, which has helped to encourage a free media, vocal civil society and open public discussion of national issues. In Uzbekistan, where the international community is not as involved, the picture is bleak. Since the massacre of civilians in Andijon last year, independent activists have been jailed, hundreds of domestic and international organizations have been closed, and reform-minded Uzbekistanis have been silenced, isolated or forced into exile. With oil and natural gas revenues, Kazakhstan has been less dependent on international assistance and has thus resisted political change. Unlike Uzbekistan however, Kazakhstan has begun to talk about reform. In 2005, a “national program of political reforms” was announced, and in 2006, a new State Commission on Democratization was established. What is unknown is whether these steps are genuine steps toward democratic reform or part of a strategy for Kazakhstan to ascend to the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
To ensure democratic progress is made, Dugan stated, “We must provide the financial assistance necessary to help Kyrgyzstanis continue their democratic transition. In Uzbekistan, the United States must insist on adherence to democratic principles and the rule of law. In Kazakhstan, we must remain engaged in the development of democracy.”Top