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Networking For Uzbekistan Civic Activists

           In 2006, the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE) carried out a one-year program to support independent organizations, civic leadership, and civic networking in Uzbekistan that included workshops, direct grants, civic education, and internships both within Uzbekistan and in other countries in Central Asia and the broader post-communist region. IDEE drew upon its experienced Centers for Pluralism network, including Central Asian civic activists, in order to help their counterparts in Uzbekistan increase existing networks in key regions, expand the realm of independent society, and provide greater experience, knowledge, and contacts for both new and existing activists within Uzbekistan.

          The setting was a difficult one. Uzbekistan has grown increasingly repressive and in the previous two years the government had set out on a campaign to gain control over the small NGO community that had kept basic civic values alive. Because of ongoing de-registration of NGOs, the program was built around a combination of both civic leaders and surviving non-governmental organizations that functioned both formally and informally in Bukhara, Fergana, Khokand, Khorezm, Samarkand, and Tashkent. By the end, the program had expanded to a total of twelve regions. 

          IDEE and its project partners, including the Civil Society Against Corruption Human Rights Center in Kyrgyzstan, organized the following activities:

  • 2 Regional Networking Meetings involving all told more than 50 civic and community leaders, human rights activists, journalists, and educators from throughout Uzbekistan, one with Kyrgyz and Azeri civic experts and one with a dozen representatives from leading NGOs throughout Central Asia and Eastern Europe;
  • 2 Networking Meetings of Uzbek civil society activists that fostered ongoing cooperation and contacts and developed new forms of activity;
  • 8 Small Grant Awards for participating NGOs to survey civil society, implement advocacy plans, expand film and book clubs as a a way of promoting open discusions, support youth initiatives, and help professional groups organize independent activities; 
  • 5 Film and Book Clubs that brought issues of democracy, civic and economic justice, and human and women's rights to a broad local community setting, creating an unusual form of civic participation and free discussion;
  • 12 Internships with Central Asian and Eastern European NGOs and 5 Internships among Uzbek civic organizations that fostered greater contacts and increased experience and knowledge among civic groups.
        By the conclusion of the program, IDEE brought togther more than 50 civic activists and NGOs from throughout the country in a common network aimed at fostering the values of liberal democracy, basic democratic institutions, government accountability, reforms, and democratic changes. Overall, the program reached more than a thousand participants through the Small Grants Programs, all of which fostered the ideas of pluralism, democracy, and human and women's rights. More importantly, at a time of relentless repression and stifling of independent thought, IDEE's program provided a significant lifeline for the courageous Uzbek civic activists who continue their struggle for peaceful, democratic change. 

          For further information regarding this program, please contact Eric Chenoweth or Irena Lasota at [email protected].

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