New USAID Strategy for Central Asia Reveals Disappointment in Democratic Reform
The U.S. Agency for International Development's recently unveiled strategy for assistance to Central Asia (2001-2005) is a sober and cautious plan, apparently born of disappointment in regional governments' records on democratic and economic reform.
The democracy and governance component of the strategy narrows or reduces involvement in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Support for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, is maintained largely at existing levels. Congress will determine actual allocations this fall.
The disappointment implicit in the report is well-founded. Civil and political freedoms are protected unreliably (Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan), are virtually absent (Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), or are entirely absent (Turkmenistan). Despite eight years of international development assistance, civil society is in a profound crisis in Central Asia.
In the face of this crisis, USAID's strategy has been modified to marginalize or eliminate some longer-term strategies for instituting a rule of law, such as in the areas of human rights, election reform, and legal reform. The message seems to be that until authoritarian leaders including President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan -- leave office, the United States holds out little hope that assistance can do much to promote civil society over the near term. This message can only be distressing to residents of the region, and possibly to other donors, who may be more inclined to start down that same slippery slope.
Following is a summary of the USAID strategy for each regional country:
In Kazakhstan, USAID will continue its "deep support for a broad range of partners and efforts." Support for democratization will focus on "advocacy and sustainability of a broad range of citizens' organizations, on expanding civic education and information dissemination, and
Erika Dailey works for the Central Eurasia Project, covering human rights-related issues in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia. Between 1992 and 1998, Ms. Dailey worked as a researcher and human rights advocate for Human Rights Watch, based in New York and Moscow, covering principally the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation. Since 1998, Dailey has worked as a human rights advocate for Human Rights Watch, the International League for Human Rights, and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. She has a BA in Slavic Studies from Princeton (1986) and an MA in Central Asian Studies from Columbia (1991). She has lived in and traveled to the Caucasus and Central Asia regularly since 1987.