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Uzbekistan: Project Aims To Build Democracy And Civil Society

Prague, 16 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Today in Tashkent, Uzbekistan's Government and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at promoting democracy in the Central Asian country.

According to the OSCE representative to Uzbekistan, Gancho Ganchev, the memorandum is a product of joint work by Uzbekistan and OSCE officials, and is designed to develop further a civic society in Uzbekistan.

Ganchev says the document consists of ten major projects. Among them are: programs on skills improvement of Constitutional Court Judges, an educational program on human rights, a program on assisting with immigration-related issues, a project on organizing and conducting free elections, as well as a project on improving relations between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), dealing with human rights issues, and relevant state institutions.

Coincidentally, Ganchev told our correspondent that Uzbekistan's OSCE office has designated tomorrow (Oct. 17) "A Human Rights Day in Uzbekistan," and is holding a one-day conference with participation of non-governmental organizations and representatives of state institutions. Ganchev says this conference is designed to help improve relations, as well as to coordinate activities in the human rights sphere.

The OSCE has sought an active role in Central Asia. The Organization has sponsored a number of events aimed at promoting democracy and sustainable development in the region.

Last year, the OSCE sponsored an International Human Rights Conference in Tashkent. It was attended almost exclusively by Uzbek officials. But, observers say the precedent of the conference itself demonstrated Uzbekistan's awareness that it must improve it human rights records. The OSCE last month followed-up, holding an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly seminar in Tashkent.

Last week, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly session, Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov stated that the OSCE, along with the U.N., are making strong efforts to enhance stability and security in Central Asia.

In his comments today to RFE/RL, the OSCE's Ganchev also said his organization is closely monitoring the situations in Afghanistan and especially in Tajikistan. Ganchev says, together with the U.N. office in Dushanbe, his organization is making every effort to help Tajikistan attain really sustainable peace.

OSCE official says the organization's activities to promote security and stability include initiatives to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and confidence among Central Asian states.

According to Ganchev, the OSCE's efforts to promote sustainable development of the region also include initiatives to fight drug smuggling. In this regard, the OSCE tries to attract the international community's attention to the problem, and to involve experts and specialized institutions, which have the money and talent to combat the smuggling problem.