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Adam Hug


Adam Hug became the Director of the Foreign Policy Centre in November 2017, overseeing the FPC's operations and strategic direction. He had previously been the Policy Director at the Foreign Policy Centre from 2008-2017. His research focuses on human rights and governance issues particularly in the former Soviet Union. He also writes on UK foreign policy and EU issues. His previous roles included work as a consultant on EU consumer protection issues and working with Israeli and Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups. He studied at Geography at the University of Edinburgh as an undergraduate and Development Studies with Special Reference to Central Asia as a post-grad.

Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5636 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2021-03-16 19:23:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-16 18:23:21 [post_content] => The publication of the long awaited Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, entitled ‘Global Britain in a competitive age’, should finally help give greater clarity  to the UK’s foreign policy and global strategy after the dislocation of the pandemic, organisational restructuring and budget cuts. This very initial response to a 112 page document released a few hours ago does not seek to capture the full complexity of a review that will shape the UK’s policy for years to come. However, it seeks to briefly address some of the key themes, particularly those that were addressed by the Foreign Policy Centre’s Finding Britain’s role in a changing world programme in 2020.[1] There is much to welcome in the text of the Integrated Review (IR). Whether you agree or not with the priorities the Government has chosen, it is very helpful to have them articulated through the IR’s formal statement of what it sees as ‘Our interests and our values’, the articulation of the Prime Minister’s ‘vision for the UK in 2030’ and the four priorities of the ‘Strategic Framework’, between them it gives a consolidated list of the objectives the UK is seeking to pursue, which can help anchor future policy.[2] The IR recognises that the UK’s departure from the EU necessitates a swifter moving, more agile approach to its international action. However, it rightly states that this depends on being able to retain ‘a consistent level of international influence, maintaining the soft and hard power capabilities required to support this’ and that this needs ‘new ways to cooperate through creative diplomacy and multilateralism’ as well as developing an increased competitive edge. The Prime Minister’s vision of the UK being ‘a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation with a global perspective’ is a both a welcome recommitment to this longstanding principle but also a declaration of a notable policy shift. What is clear is that the IR envisages a revised approach to multilateralism that is less focused on post-Cold War institutions (though NATO is mentioned multiple times) and the ‘rules based international system’, but that seeks to respond to a more fragmented and contested world order by being more proactive and adaptive. This approach carries both high risks and high rewards as it is imperative that the UK does still meet its commitment to ‘do more to reinforce parts of the international architecture that are under threat’ (i.e. not leaving existing structures to be dominated by revisionist powers such as China and Russia) while executing its pivot into increased global leadership in regulatory and norm setting institutions, particularly in the technology and data space (and on Space!). It will be essential that a long-term view is taken when assessing what the UK wants to achieve through multilateral systems to avoid perceptions of opportunism and to build trust amongst traditional allies in such forums who recognise the enduring importance of having rules based systems for middle powers, and who may still hold reservations over the UK’s intentions in the wake of Brexit. The UK Government may not be sentimental about multilateralism but many of its partners are more so, not least the Biden administration’s rhetorical commitment to rebuilding traditional alliances (though in practice both recognise the need for urgent institutional reform). The IR rightly addresses the central role of what it calls ‘Systemic Competition’, with a recognition of the challenges of rising authoritarianism creates for the cause of liberal democracy and the stability of existing institutions. The review hardens the UK’s formal posture towards both China and Russia, while recognising that without the ability to retain some space for dialogue, particularly with the former, there will be little prospect of meaningfully addressing global challenges such as climate change. In relation to Russia, the recommitment to the central importance of the Euro-Atlantic region to the UK is welcome to show European partners that despite Brexit the UK still has a lot to offer and that it is still ‘a European country’ albeit one ‘with global interests’. The second strand of the IR’s Strategic Framework, entitled ‘Shaping the open international order of the future’, should help shape the priorities and assist in the UK’s response to this moral and strategic challenge, most notably through the first goal under this strategic priority, which ‘is to support open societies and defend human rights’ as part of the UK’s stated commitment to be ‘a force for good’. The addition of the term ‘sovereignty’ to the IR’s statement of values and interests clearly has echoes of the Brexit debates and will be seen in that light by many. However, it is also being used to reframe the Government’s focus on building domestic legitimacy and accountability for its policies, creating a through line between the national and international in its language on the importance of democracy. The international perceptions of such as statement will need to be managed carefully to prevent the UK from being seen as aligning itself with illiberal powers that use sovereignty rhetoric to ignore international rules and human rights standards. This sovereignty framing helps shape the language contained in the ‘Strengthening security and defence at home and overseas’ section on the resilience of the UK’s democracy.  Much of the language around ‘protecting democracy in the UK, supporting a democratic system that is fair, secure and transparent’ is welcome. However, it contains within it a deeply troubling confirmation that the ‘work programme will include: introducing voter ID at polling stations’. Attempts to mirror US style voter suppression techniques would not only create a threat to the UK’s democratic legitimacy and detract from the other important steps outlined here on disinformation and other issues, it also risks undermining the UK’s ability to promote strengthening electoral systems and access to democratic rights around the world. The IR rightly recognises the UK’s fundamental strengths as a cultural leader, which it dubs as being a ‘Soft Power Super Power’. It also has helpfully shown a greater focus on trade (and its integration with foreign policy and national strategy) than might have been envisaged at the start of the consultation process, nonetheless there is a missed opportunity to make clear the role trade policy can play in encouraging the UK's support for open societies and incentivising human rights in addition to the Government’s focus in this area on open economies. Tackling illicit finance, as well as serious and organised crime, is also a welcome component of the IR’s approach, with the commitment to bring in new Magnitsky sanctions focused on corruption as well as a recognition of the need to tackle money laundering facilitated by the UK. So while there are a number of areas of concern in the document that fall beyond the remit of the FPC’s ‘Finding Britain’s role in a changing world’ project, such as the proposals to increase the UK’s nuclear stockpiles, the overall balance of the text is a positive one that can help shape government policy going forwards. However, it is a review of significant scope and one that will only achieve its goals, particularly the objective of being truly integrated, if it is able to be effectively implemented. Central to that implementation challenge is the level of resource available to deliver its objectives and manage the process of change. Much has already rightly been said about the Government’s decision to cut UK aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5% of a falling national income.[3] The impact of this is being seen in the public debate over the cuts to UK assistance in Yemen, the future of VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and other longstanding UK priorities. There is understandable concern, particularly within the development sector, about the shift away from having discrete aid and development priorities and commitments to the UK's aid spending being more instrumentalised to achieve integrated policy goals.  More debate will take place over the coming weeks and months as the reality of some of the shifts in geographical and policy priorities outlined in the IR begin to align with the scale of the budget reductions to significantly reduce the capacity of the UK and its partners in areas of previous strength. For example, on the day of launch, openDemocracy reported that the FCDO’s Open Societies and Human Rights Directorate  was facing a 80% budget cut and the National Crime Agency’s ODA funded work on anti-corruption was also to be significantly cut.[4] Such practical pressures clearly do not align with the strategic vision outlined in the IR. This capacity crunch is brought into even more stark relief by the Government’s new commitment to an ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’, seeking to rebuild its presence East of Suez across the full spectrum of government activity.[5] The IR is clearly a strategy document designed to drive culture change across Whitehall and, as recommended in the FPC’s research, the Government says that it is looking to beef up mechanisms to ensure its implementation. These include ‘a new Performance and Planning Framework and is establishing an Evaluation Taskforce’ as well as departmental ‘Outcome Delivery Plans, against which ministers will receive regular performance reports’. The Integrated Review itself is conspicuously light on detailed policy commitments. The Government has argued that this is by design, allowing the review to be more flexible and adaptive over time, ‘a living document’ in official parlance. However, this reduces the number of measurable objectives against which government performance can be measured, potentially undermining the Government’s stated objective of using the process to build public trust and legitimacy amongst a domestic audience. More thought should be given towards how information from the performance and planning framework and top line information from each department’s Outcome Delivery Plans can be made available to the public and relevant stakeholders to ensure they are able to hold the Government to account on its commitments. Image by FCO under (CC). [1] This comprised five publications and a number of events that sought to inform the public debate around the Integrated Review, The views expressed here represent the personal views of FPC Director Adam Hug based on the ‘Finding Britain’s role in changing world’ research in 2020.[2] There may still be some benefit in combining these three strands in the IR document into one integrated list. FPC, The principles for Global Britain, September 2020,[3] Addressed in the FPC’s project in 2020.[4] Peter Geoghegan, UK government plans 80% cuts to world-leading anti-corruption work, openDemocracy, March 2021,[5] The cost and benefits of such a tilt are addressed in the FPC previous work. [post_title] => Building on the Integrated Review [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => building-on-the-integrated-review [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-17 09:59:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-17 08:59:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5612 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2021-03-01 00:14:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-02-28 23:14:40 [post_content] => Kyrgyzstan has just experienced another period of rapid and chaotic change, the third time the country has overthrown an incumbent President in the last 15 years. This publication shows how the roots of the problem run deep. It explores how a culture of corruption and impunity have been at the heart of Kyrgyzstan’s institutional failings, problems that have sometimes been overlooked or downplayed because of the comparison to challenges elsewhere in Central Asia, but that were ruthlessly exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The publication tries to explain the recent emergence of the new President Sadyr Japarov in the unrest of October 2020 and what it might mean for the future of Kyrgyzstan. An instinctive anti-elite populist with a powerful personal narrative and a past reputation for economic nationalism Japarov is undertaking a rapid consolidation of power, including through controversial constitutional reform. Liberal minded civil society has been under increasing pressure throughout the last decade. They have faced successive governments increasingly seeking to regulate and pressure them and a rising tide of nationalism that has seen hatred against civil society activists expressed on the streets and online, particularly due to the weaponisation of work on women’s and LGBTQ rights. The publication proposes a root and branch rethink of donor initiatives in Kyrgyzstan to take stock of the situation and come again with new ways to help, including the need for greater flexibility to respond to local issues, opportunities for new ideas and organisations to be supported, and a renewed focus on governance, transparency and accountability. Magnitsky sanctions and global anti-corruption measures can be used to respond to the ways corrupt elites have stashed their earnings abroad and they can also be used to seek redress where justice is unlikely to be served in Kyrgyzstan, such as in the tragic case of Azimjan Askarov. There is scope to better condition potential trade, aid and investment incentives to human rights benchmarks. The publication suggests areas for further amendment in the drafting of Kyrgyzstan’s new constitution and calls for more action from social media companies to protect activists and journalists who are subject to harassment. The international community should be under no illusions about the scale of the challenges Kyrgyzstan faces. It should take swift action to prevent further backsliding on rights and freedoms, while finding new ways to help resolve Kyrgyzstan’s systemic problems. Recommendations for the Government of Kyrgyzstan, international institutions and Western donors:
  • Ensure a rigorous focus on issues of corruption, hatred and impunity;
  • Undertake a systemic review of international donor funded projects in Kyrgyzstan including budget support, the use of consultancies and working with NGOs. It should look at both objectives and implementation, based on evidence and widespread engagement;
  • Find ways to empower fresh thinking and new voices, while giving partners the space and resources to adapt to local priorities;
  • Encourage the Japarov Government to develop a new National Human Rights Action Plan;
  • Increase human rights and governance conditionality in order to unlock stalled EU and UK partnership agreements, debt relief, further government related aid and new investment;
  • Deploy Magnitsky Sanctions and anti-corruption mechanisms more widely on Kyrgyzstan;
  • Expand Kyrgyz language moderation on social media and strengthen redress mechanisms;
  • Push for further amendments to the draft constitution to protect NGOs, trade unions, free speech and minority rights, and avoid increasing the power of the Prosecutor General; and
  • Explore new mechanisms for civic consultation, learning from local practices in Kyrgyzstan, consultative bodies in other developing countries and the use of Citizens Assemblies.
 Image by Sludge G under (CC). [post_title] => Retreating Rights - Kyrgyzstan: Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => retreating-rights-kyrgyzstan-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-02-28 23:00:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-02-28 22:00:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5607 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2021-03-01 00:13:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-02-28 23:13:21 [post_content] => Introduction: Examining the pressure on human rights in Kyrgyzstan This publication, Retreating Rights, is an attempt to take stock of another period of rapid and chaotic change in Kyrgyzstan, looking at how the country arrived at its current situation and assessing what can be done next.[1] The roots of where the country now finds itself run deep, deeper than many of the institutions Kyrgyzstan has built up over the years, and a more detailed analysis of these structural questions is covered in the second half of this introduction and in many of the essay contributions. When this project was initially conceived in Autumn 2019 the storm clouds of nationalism and corruption over the country had been gathering for some time (and in many respects had always been there), before a weak response to COVID and pent-up frustration with a self-interested ruling class triggered the third overthrow of a government in little over 15 years. Kyrgyzstan’s relative openness, at least when compared to its Central Asian neighbours, has often masked some of the deep and deepening challenges on governance and human rights issues. The roiling intra-elite competition and concerns over corruption have driven two previous revolutions, a contentious election in 2017 and the violent siege and arrest of former President Almazbek Atambayev in August 2019. The country is also dealing with the legacy of inter-communal violence targeted mainly at the ethnic Uzbek minority in Southern Kyrgyzstan, with discrimination against that community and the suppression of their language and property rights not satisfactorily resolved. The tragic death of political prisoner Azimjan Askarov in 2020 is a legacy of this grim situation and a symbol of the continuing communal tensions. Over the last decade, and particularly in recent years, civil society activists have tried to raise the alarm about the increasing challenges they faced from the bureaucratic pressure, security service snooping and nationalist backlash, but too often these concerns have been minimised, informed in part by a desire to retain the idea of Kyrgyzstan as the Central Asian success story when it came to human rights and civic freedoms, even as poverty and other development metrics showed much more limited progress. As recently as June 2020 international partners such as the EU were arguing that ‘the overall human rights situation remained stable and is considered as the most advanced in the region. The government remained committed to its human rights agenda and adopted relevant documents for its implementation, e.g. the National Human Rights Action Plan 2019-2021.’[2] Incremental mounting concerns were too often overlooked until it became too late to stop more profound change. The ‘frog’ of Kyrgyzstan’s political wellbeing had been gently boiled over several years before the pan bubbled over in late 2020, leaving serious, overdue questions about the long-term health of that metaphorical amphibian that this publication seeks to answer. How we got here: a brief history of Kyrgyzstan The land that is now Kyrgyzstan has been home to a series of step civilisations including the Yenisei Kyrgyz Khaganate (likely to have been formed by ancestors of the modern Kyrgyz people) before its conquest by other step peoples including most notably the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century.[3] The folk history of this initial founding period (in the ninth century) is shaped by the events told in the Epic of Manas, one of the world’s longest poems, which has been used heavily by modern Kyrgyzstan as the basis for its national identity.[4] The Kyrgyz remained predominantly as nomadic tribes in what is now Kyrgyzstan and the surrounding regions, interacting with the Chinese and other settled empires such as the Timurids to the south. First contact between the Kyrgyz tribes and Katherine the Great’s Russia took place in 1775 and just over a 100 years later (in 1876) the land and its people were taken and absorbed into the Russian Empire. The Soviets established the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast within the Russia Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) in 1924 which would gradually evolve in 1936 into the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic, a full constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union the President of the Kirghiz Academy of Science Askar Akayev won the Presidency after stalemate between more established Communist Party figures. Akayev would lead the new Republic of Kyrgyzstan until 2005, moving further than his Central Asian peers down the road of economic and political liberalisation. Although less authoritarian than his fellow post-Soviet Central Asian leaders the level of corruption steadily grew through his time in office. How we got here: 2005- 2020Despite having previously promised to retire as mandated at the end of his third term in 2005, rumours swirled that Akayev planned a managed transfer of power to one of his children or to break the term limits that would have prevented him standing again. Protests against his government escalated across the country, particularly in response to strong concerns of ballot rigging in the February 2005 parliamentary election, that culminated in Akayev fleeing the country (and resuming his academic career in Moscow), a sequence of events known as the Tulip Revolution.[5] Leader of the protest movement, former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev became both interim Prime Minister and Acting President and would subsequently win the July 2005 elections that followed Akayev’s ouster. Like his predecessor Bakiyev would promise reform and then became mired in increasingly egregious corruption, as a number of authors in this collection note. Amid an energy crisis (with rolling blackouts and spiralling costs), opposition to Bakiyev’s corruption crystallised into protests and riots that escalated into the capture of key government buildings and the White House (home to the Parliament and Presidential Administration) with around 65 deaths before the resignation of Bakiyev in April 2010. However his supporters would continue to mobilise in the south of the country leading to unrest that culminated in the June 2010 riots in Osh that predominantly targeted the ethnic Uzbek population who had been seen to be supportive of those who had ousted Bakiyev, though the roots of the dispute lie much deeper as explained in this publication. Bakiyev, along with many of his family and entourage, sought and gained asylum in Belarus, including the bizarre case of former Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov who is believed to have changed is name and now serving as the director of the Belarus National Biotechnology Corp, while Bakiyev’s son Maxim gained asylum in the UK.[6] Roza Otunbayeva, who had previously been a key figure alongside Bakiyev in 2005, served as President on a short-term basis following the passage of the July 2010 Constitution in a referendum that saw the transfer of significant powers from the Presidency to the Parliament (the Jogorku Kenesh or Supreme Council). Otunbayeva was succeeded as President in December 2011 by the Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev. Again, as a number of authors in this collection show, he came in promising reform and left with a reputation for corruption and mismanagement. However, so far uniquely in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, he made it to the end of his term of office. Atambayev was able to hand over power in 2017 to his hand-picked successor and Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) colleague, the Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov, in an election that was broadly free but far from entirely fair, marred by misuse of vote buying and use of administrative resources.[7] Yet upon taking office the relationship between the two men swiftly fractured with a flurry of legal cases against Atambayev and his inner circle, culminating in an armed stand-off at Atambayev’s home compound and his subsequent arrest and conviction for 11 years on corruption charges and manslaughter charges still pending. The SDPK fractured between pro-Jeenbekov and pro-Atambayev factions, with many of the former ultimately coalescing around the Birimdik (Unity) party to act as the ‘party of power’ ahead of the 2020 elections. Kyrgyzstan’s reputation as an ‘Island of Democracy’ has been repeated often throughout the country’s post-Soviet history as a point of comparison to its neighbours, but throughout said history there have been significant concerns about its political health.[8] At the very least it is worth pointing out that every elected President has either been removed from office by protests or been subsequently imprisoned after their term had expired.[9] The country remains the second poorest in the post-Soviet space, with a GDP per capita of $1,309 (actual USD or $5,485 PPP) and massive levels of migration, in particular to Russia that sees remittances form 28.5 per cent of the Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.[10] The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) places the country at 124th in the world and despite the lingering perception of Kyrgyzstan’s democratic bona fides Freedom House’s Nations in Transit Report has repeatedly classified Kyrgyzstan as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime, with an overall score for political freedoms of 11 out of 100 and an albeit slightly better 27 out of 100 for Civil Liberties.[11] In 2016, Kyrgyzstan only narrowly avoided introducing a Russia-style foreign agents law after intense pressure from Kyrgyz civil society and Western donor governments and many NGOs have reported continuing pressure from the authorities and non-state actors linked to powerful interests.[12] As set out later in this section and in many of the essays, nationalism has been on the rise over the last ten years to become a major mobilising force in Kyrgyzstan’s public life.[13] This has manifested itself in many different ways, but particularly in the form of both anti-Western and anti-Chinese sentiments, a growing hostility to local Russian speakers (though rarely to Russia itself) and ongoing tensions over women’s rights issues and with ethnic and sexual minorities. From late 2018 onwards a series of protests began against Chinese migrants (both real and perceived), Chinese investments in the country and around the treatment of ethnic Kyrgyz in China.[14] In August 2019, protests erupted at the Solton-Sary mine, owned by the Zhong Ji Mining Company, over allegations of environmental damage and poor treatment of Kyrgyz employees.[15] As well as the ethnic and geo-strategic dimension in relation to such protests, the protests tapped into wider concerns about lack of economic progress and the sense that those benefiting from Kyrgyzstan’s resource wealth are not the local population but international investors (and domestic elites). Dissatisfaction and protests against foreign ownership of the Kumtor Gold mine, owned by Canadian mining firm Centerra and accounting for around nine per cent of Kyrgyz GDP, have been a recurring theme of Kyrgyz political debate and was the source both of now President Sadyr Japarov’s initial popularity and his criminal conviction for a kidnapping that occurred as part of pro-nationalisation protests he led in 2013.[16] 2020 began with further protests against perceived Chinese economic encroachment, ultimately leading to plans for a $275 million Sino-Kyrgyz logistics center in the Naryn Free Economic Zone near the Chinese border to be scrapped.[17] Women’s rights have become a particular flashpoint between women’s rights protesters (along with their supporters in liberal civil society) and nationalist counter-demonstrators. In late 2019, the Femminale of Contemporary Art, an exhibition of feminist art by Kyrgyz and international artists at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Bishkek became the centre of protest.[18] The backlash by protesting nationalists groups against the display (that included Kazakh artist Zoya Falkova’s Evermust, a punching bag made into the shape of a female torso to highlight domestic violence) lead to the Ministry of Culture censoring some of the exhibits and forcing the resignation of the Museum’s curator amid death threats against her.[19] International Women’s Day (March 8th) has also long been a flashpoint between the two faces modern Kyrgyzstan and in 2020 it again became a point of conflict. As Eric McGlinchey puts it in his essay, ‘on March 8, 2020—International Women’s Day—a group of masked men wearing Ak-kalpaks, traditional Kyrgyz hats, attacked a group of activists who had gathered on Victory Square to highlight the persistence and acceptance of widespread domestic violence, bride kidnapping, and rape.[20] Revealingly, while the violent attackers were not detained, 50 women’s rights activists were arrested.’[21] How we got here: March-October 2020Ten days after the International Women’s Day protests however normal political life would come shuddering to a halt as the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in Kyrgyzstan. By March 22nd a state of emergency was declared and public transport was shut down in Bishkek, which would evolve into a more substantial lockdown and curfew.[22] As with so many countries around the world, including this author’s own, the ensuing crisis fully exposed the strengths and many weaknesses of the Kyrgyz state. As Ryskeldi Satke’s essay in this collection shows the pandemic overwhelmed the capacity of Kyrgyzstan’s health system (both in terms of beds and staff) and laid bare the endemic problems with governance, lack of transparency and corruption that undermined the country’s ability to cope. Problems included a lack of oxygen and ventilators and the virus running rampant through healthcare workers who were struggling with the lack of PPE and other protections.[23] In the first few months of the pandemic the true picture was also somewhat obscured by cases regularly being misrecorded as cases of pneumonia. Much of the initial response was characterised by an intra-elite blame game. By April 1st President Jeenbekov fired the heads of his COVID taskforce, Health Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbayev and Deputy Prime Minister Altynai Omurbekova over perceived failings in the initial response.[24] Cholponbayev would subsequently be arrested in September 2020 amid claims of negligence and concerns over a consulting contract he had negotiated.[25] Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev would take a leave of absence on May 27th, mid-crisis, and would subsequently resign two weeks later over corruption allegations relating to the sale of national broadcasting frequencies.[26] At Abylgaziev’s leaving party ministers were caught on camera not wearing masks and breaking social distancing rules leading to 28 politicians and officials being fined.[27] Ordinary citizens found the situation chaotic. The implementation of internal movement controls created havoc for the many people whose jobs relied on commuting into major cities such as Bishkek or who had been living in those cities without the formal propiska registration documents.[28] The crisis also saw Kyrgyzstan take on significant amounts of emergency funding from international institutions, $627.3 million by July 2020, triggering further concerns about transparency and accountability of how the money was spent.[29] However, as so often in cases of state failure in Kyrgyzstan, volunteers stepped into the breach to provide support in hospitals and other health care facilities.[30] Come 2021 and the Japarov administration would announce that the previous Government significantly under counted the death rate, with more than 4,000 having died in the initial 2020 outbreak compared to the previously quoted figure of 1,393.[31] The crisis also not only necessitated the restriction of civil liberties on public health grounds seen around the world but it provided the Government with opportunities to further restrict media and political freedoms. As Elira Turdubaeva points out in her essay, independent media was not able to operate outside during the lockdown period, the Parliament tried to proceed with laws designed to increase bureaucratic measures on NGOs and the security services ramped up arrests of social media users who criticised the Government response to the pandemic (including medical workers protesting the lack of PPE).[32] Despite the social and economic turmoil ahead of the Parliamentary elections, it initially seemed that the contests would simply act as an intra-elite competition between oligarchs and local power brokers, as the party system reshaped itself following the implosion of the SPDK.[33] It soon became clear that much of the activity was centred around jostling between forces directly aligned with President Jeenbekov (including his brother Asylbek), which coalesced around the Birimdik party (Party of Democratic Socialism—Eurasian Choice ‘Unity’), and forces close to the powerful Matraimov family network (about more of which below), which acted through the also notionally pro-Jeenbekov Mekenim Kırgızstan (‘My Homeland Is Kyrgyzstan’) party. Rules prohibiting the use of volunteers entrenched the capacity gap between the well-resourced efforts of Birimdik, Mekenim Kirgizstan and Kanatbek Isaev’s Kyrgyzstan party (also seen as being pro-Jeenbekov), and their rivals.[34] However, perhaps more important than formal campaign spending was the continuation of large-scale vote buying, a common practice in past elections, which this time also included the abuse of pandemic related charitable initiatives, as well as the traditional abuse of administrative resources (the coercion of state institutions and employees) to back pro-Jeenbekov candidates (albeit often against one another in internecine contests that devolved into brawls on more than one occasion).[35] 16 of the 17 Parties in the October election signed up to the Central Election Commission (CEC) code of conduct on hate speech but this was often ignored online during in the campaign. Here: October 2020 onwardsOn election day itself, October 4th, social media was awash with images of electoral shenanigans including videos of vote buying, voting for multiple people and suspected ‘carousel’ voting (where people vote in multiple polling locations, potentially abusing the ability to temporarily change voting addresses).[36] The OSCE Final Election monitoring report subsequently noted that its observation mission had received ‘numerous credible reports from interlocutors throughout the country about instances of vote buying and abuse of administrative resources.’[37] In the preliminary results, Birimdik narrowly bested Mekenim Kirgizstan by 24.50 per cent to 23.79 per cent (which would have equated to 46 and 45 seats respectively in the 120 seat Supreme Council (Jogorku Kenesh), with Kyrgyzstan some way behind on 8.7 per cent and 16 provisional seats.[38] The fourth party to scrape over the seven per cent electoral threshold was the only party not to be openly and explicitly aligned with President Jeenbekov, the nationalist Bütün Kırgızstan (‘United Kyrgyzstan’), led by 2011 and 2017 Presidential election also-ran Adakhan Madumarov. This result was despite pre-election polling clearly showing that only a third of the electorate approved of the incumbent Government’s pandemic response.[39] Protests on Bishkek's Ala-Too Square and outside the CEC began as early as the announcement of the provisional results on the evening of October 4th, led by campaigners for the many parties that had failed to clear the electoral threshold and therefore would not hold seats in the new Supreme Council. By the following morning protesters were on the streets of Bishkek in significant numbers protesting the results and the open levels of fraud that had gone on the day before. By that afternoon and into the evening Ala-Too Square was full with thousands of protesters, waving flags and singing the national anthem.[40] By this stage sources in President Jeenbekov’s Birimdik were already saying that they were open to the election being re-run. However, later into the evening the situation deteriorated into violence as police attempted to disperse the protestors, both those outside the White House and the square with water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas, escalating the tension.[41] By 3am the protesters had broken into the White House, including into President Jeenbekov’s office, and the State Committee for National Security (GKNB).[42] Among those released from the GKNB building included former President Atambayev and a former Member of Parliament Sadyr Japarov.[43] While Atambayev would attempt to somewhat awkwardly join the protesting opposition groups in Ala-Too Square, something that weakened the liberal camp’s legitimacy and that Asel Doolotkeldieva argues fundamentally weakened its negotiating position with Jeenbekov, Japarov was joined by his own supporters, that included amongst their number mixture of nationalist groups and ‘Sportsmeni’, who would ultimately coalesce around the City’s Old Square.[44] Less than a day after his release from prison Japarov would be find himself proclaimed as the country’s interim Prime Minister, late on October 6th, by a group of Parliamentarians from the pre-October 4th Supreme Council who had hunkered down in the Dostuk Hotel, though this meeting would be broken up by opposition supporters decrying the legitimacy of this impromptu, inquorate gathering. With President Jeenbekov absent from the scene, beyond the occasional video calling for calm, competing factions on the street proclaimed the support for their own leaderships, with young entrepreneur Tilek Toktogaziev being proposed by the liberal opposition. Tensions would ultimately come to a head on October 9th with street brawls between Japarov and opposition supporters, including a shot being fired at former President Atambayev’s car, that help to firmly tilt the balance of power in favour of Japarov’s supporters at the expense of the disorganised opposition movement and more liberally minded protestors. As Bishkek was gripped by political upheaval another force made its presence felt on the streets in the absence of effective police control, the druzhinniki (volunteer civil defence units).[45] These volunteers fanned out across the city to protect shops and other businesses to prevent a repeat of the looting that followed the revolutions in 2005 and 2010.[46] Japarov would again be declared Prime Minister on October 10th and 14th in incrementally more formal votes of the Parliament and amid claims of intimidation of its members by Japarov’s supporters.[47] On October 15th, Jeenbekov finally resigned and Japarov would take his place (and that of Prime Minster) on an interim basis, completing his transition from prisoner to President in ten days.[48] In summary, the brief hopes that the opposition was uniting and able to come up with an alternative to the status quo came to naught as the enthusiastic but unprepared activists could not decide on how to seize their momentum, beset by tensions between younger activists and older, often discredited, opposition politicians who tried to ride the nascent revolution back to relevance.[49] Into the vacuum stepped a more organised alternative in Japarov, combining new mobilisation techniques, an outsider persona and a genuine personal following but with ties to old players, particularly those around former President Bakiyev and suspicions of ties to many of the shadowy forces that had previously participated in the rigged election.[50] The rise of JaparovSadyr Japarov first came to limited public notice in the wake of the 2005 Tulip Revolution as a Parliamentarian and then advisor to then President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, serving a stint at the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption at a time of widespread corruption allegations against those close to Bakiyev. Following the 2010 revolution Japarov initially followed Bakiyev to Osh and was present in the city during the inter-ethnic conflict between Kyrgyz nationalists and ethnic Uzbeks.[51] He resurfaced after the violence as an MP for former Minister of Emergency Situations Kamchybek Tashiev’s nationalist Ata-Zhurt party, which supported overturning the 2010 referendum that watered down the powers of the Presidency and argued for the return of Bakiyev. However it was through his campaign against the Canadian ownership of the Kumtor mine that brought him to prominence, popularity and notoriety.[52] In 2012 a protest Japarov organised, protesting the amount of tax the mine owner Centerra was paying and calling for the nationalisation of the mine, turned violent after an incendiary speech by Tashiev that was seen by some as implying that they should occupy the White House. Some of the protesters duly tried to break in and there were claims that Tashiev tried to lead protesters over the fence.[53] Both Japarov and Tashiev faced criminal charges and they were stripped of their seats in Parliament as part of the settlement of the case.[54] In 2013 Japarov’s campaign against Kumtor escalated into months of protests in the Issyk Kul region near the mine. In October 2013 Government representative Emil Kaptagaev, who had attempted to speak to protestors, was bundled into a car that was then doused with petrol and threatened to be set alight.[55] Japarov himself was not present at this point, having travelled abroad a few days earlier, but was charged with inciting the violence. He would stay in exile until 2017 when he returned to Kyrgyzstan and was subsequently jailed for an 11.5 year term for his role in the kidnapping of Kaptagaev, this was despite Kaptagaev himself criticising the trial and saying that “fairness in the justice system has died”.[56] During the time Japarov spent in pre-trial detention and in prison his son and parents would pass away and he survived a suicide attempt, adding to a public persona of a politician who was personally suffering for his campaigning against vested interests. Despite being in prison Japarov served as leader of the Mekenchil (‘Patriotic’) party alongside his longstanding political partner Tashiev who served as its chairman. In the disputed elections of October 4th Mekenchil would receive the highest share of the vote of those parties not due to enter the new Supreme Council with 6.85 per cent, just below the seven per cent threshold for receiving seats. However, given the scale of vote buying by other parties, this was not a particularly helpful indicator of Japarov’s support, or at least his potential support. Joldon Kutmanaliev and Gulzat Baialieva show, in their essay in this collection and in their previous research, how Facebook played a crucial role in building his political brand; how WhatsApp was crucial in marshalling supporters to fill the crucial political vacuum that followed the rigged elections, and how he and his team built a following on Instagram and the Russian social network Odnoklassniki to create an organic social media presence that dwarfed other political figures who were more reliant on traditional methods of political horse-trading and vote buying.[57] The political messages that would churn within these groups sought to burnish Japarov’s reputation as a popular hero who stood up against the corrupt elite over Kumtor and was unjustly imprisoned, an economic populism and nationalism that was a central part of his image. Such narratives would overlap with more socially conservative nationalist rhetoric and anti-Western sentiment, particularly around pages linked to the Mekenchil party, built on the ground swell of nationalist and neo-conservative sentiment that had fermented in recent years.[58] These narratives and numbers were able to mobilise Japarov’s supporters, particularly amongst the rural population and unemployed former migrant workers returned from Russia, to build their own independent presence on the streets of Bishkek that would ultimately overwhelm the forces of the State, the liberally minded (and often urban) young activists and the more traditional opposition groups. What Sadyr did nextThe day after his assentation to the Interim Presidency Japarov installed his long-time political partner Kamchybek Tashiev as head of the security services, solidifying his hold on the levers of power.[59] At Tashiev’s direction a number of well publicised, and some would argue stage managed, moves took place to signal that the new leadership was taking action on corruption.[60] This included the arrest and pre-trial detention of Raiymbek Matraimov and the announcement of an investigation into 40 people believed to be part of his network.[61] As part of a 30 day ‘economic amnesty’ whereby former officials and other past beneficiaries of corruption could repay their ill-gotten gains to the Government, it was claimed Matraimov agreed to transfer two billion soms ($23.6 million) back to the state in return for a pardon.[62] At the same time it was noted that the network of fake accounts run by organised troll farms linked to Matraimov and who had previously been actively promoting Mekenim Kırgızstan turned their attention to supporting the new interim President.[63] Around the country, local officials with ties to the Jeenbekov Government were removed from their posts. In the initial chaos figures from the Bakiyev-era, such as former Mayor of Bishkek Nariman Tuleev and Melis Myrzakhmetov, the controversial former Mayor of Osh heavily implicated in the 2010 inter-ethnic violence, tried to return in their former posts (and in Tuleev’s case briefly succeeded) before less contentious supporters of the new regime could be installed in acting control of key posts.[64] Amid the chaos and factional horse-trading, positions of power in the cabinet and institutions were rapidly filled with people with personal and political connections to Japarov and Tashiev. One of the few exceptions, an attempted olive branch to opposition protesters, was the entrepreneur, turned opposition activist, turned less successful self-proclaimed president Tilek Toktogaziev who would find himself Minister of Agriculture in the interim administration.[65] Attempts at formal legitimacy for all manoeuvres taken by the interim Government rested on the approval of members of a Supreme Council whose mandate had ended on October 15th. However instead of swiftly pursuing efforts to re-run the Parliamentary elections, the initial demand of the protestors who had filled the Bishkek streets, Japarov instead focused on his own political priorities.[66] These priorities included legitimising his hold on power through a new Presidential Election and delivering a long-held political goal of unravelling the post-2010 constitutional settlement in order to increase the power of the Presidency, a role which of course he now held. A one million dollar public affairs and PR contract was agreed, apparently funded by a supportive businessman, to help bolster the international image of the new political setup.[67] So, after less than a month in the job, on November 14th Japarov relinquished the role of interim President in order to campaign for snap Presidential elections that were now to take place on January 10th 2021. Talant Mamytov, a deputy from Tashiev’s former Ata-Zhurt party, became the new Acting President having been elected as the speaker of the zombie Parliament earlier in November in a choreographed move to enable Japarov to run.[68] Artem Novikov, a young civil servant who had been acting as Japarov’s First Deputy Prime Minister, became the acting Prime Minister. The second half of the double bill also announced for January 10th was Japarov’s promised constitutional referendum to approve a return to a strong Presidential system. The referendum that was initially due to approve the draft constitution was agreed on November 17th by the Supreme Council, with only four Parliamentarians voting against the plebiscite (Dastan Bekeshev, Aisuluu Mamashova, Natalya Nikitenko and Kanybek Imanaliev). However only 64 MPs (out of 120) were actually present for this huge decision, a reflection not only of the controversial nature of the proposal but that a constitutional process was being directed by a body sitting unconstitutionally beyond its original mandate.[69] In the wake of publication there was widespread confusion about what had happened with a number of the listed signatories denying they had seen or approved it and did not actually support some of the measures.[70] The initial draft of the new constitution was, unsurprisingly, in-line with Japarov’s thinking and the priorities for reform of some of the nationalist groups that had coalesced around him.[71] This included articles that would create the long-mooted ‘People’s Kurultai’, a deliberative forum based on the traditional consultative body of nomadic tradition. The Kurultai movement was seen by both some of its proponents and opponents as a way to usurp the role and function of the existing Supreme Council.[72] Regional examples that claim some link to this heritage include the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, comprising representatives of local assemblies, and the People’s Council in Turkmenistan (at times called the Council of Elders) both which act as rubber stamp bodies for those country’s political leadership given authoritarian control over the way members are elected. The proposed constitution incorporated Japarov’s priorities for strengthening the Presidency including allowing the office holder to stand for two five year terms and enshrining the President’s appointment of and control over the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, as well as agency heads and local officials. It also proposed reducing the size of the Supreme Council from 120 to 90 members. A source of significant international outcry was to be found in draft clause 23 that sought to prohibit the distribution of media or information that ‘contradict generally recognised moral values, traditions of the peoples of Kyrgyzstan’ or which ‘can be harmful morality and culture’.[73] The work of determining what this new proposed constitution actually would mean in practice was handed to a new Constitutional Council, who were to publicly deliberate and expand on the proposed changes.[74] However by December 10th, amid internal wrangling, protests from civil society and backlash from the international community, attempts to put a full constitutional draft on the ballot in January were scrapped with instead voters being asked if they would prefer a Presidential or Parliamentary Republic, with the details to be determined after later.[75] The liberal leaning elements of the opposition, demoralised after the October events focused on challenging the process as illegitimate and on successfully watering down the scope of the referendum to prevent it adopting the initial draft. As the overwhelming front-runner and despite facing no challengers who could plausibly find a path to victory Japarov took a cautious approach to the campaign, avoiding public debates between the candidates. The election and referendum day itself was far less eventful than in October.[76] Turnout was low, 39.75 per cent and 39.88 per cent respectively, but of those that did vote Japarov won comfortably with 79 per cent of the vote while the Presidential model was supported by 80 per cent of people in the referendum.[77] A number of factors can be seen to lie behind the drop in turnout, including the time of year, concerns over the pandemic and the perception that the result was not in any doubt. Many opposition figures were disputing the legitimacy of the process and, as a number of our authors note, Japarov’s campaign used a notably lower amount of direct vote buying than in October or other previous elections. This is in part due to it not being needed as much given the capture of administrative resources in the period since October, Japarov’s own personal following and a recognition that gratuitous displays of corruption could potentially undermine that support. Public support for radically empowering the Presidency, which carries clear risks of a slide into authoritarianism, can be seen not only as a response to recent chaos and the roiling sea of factions and faces over the last ten years but perhaps also a recognition that after having three Presidents removed from power the last 15 years some people believe it is easier to remove a President than it is to truly shift the wider web of political forces that underpin the parties and Parliament, at least according to some local observers. By early February a new, smaller Cabinet was formed of 16 members rather than 48, with many ministries and government agencies being consolidated.[78] The Cabinet is led by the former President of the Court of Auditors Ulukbek Maripov, with Artem Novikov reverting to the role of first Deputy Prime Minister.[79] Critics of Japarov who had been co-opted into the interim cabinet, such as Elvira Surabaldieva and Tilek Toktogaziev unsurprisingly did not retain their posts.[80] Upon the announcement that Maripov would take charge of the Government, small protests were held against the appointment focused on allegations against the new Prime Minister’s father, a former Parliamentarian.[81] As so often happens in the wake of a shift in power in Kyrgyzstan, legal action is ramping up against officials of the former regime implicated in wrong doing and/or who had punished those close to the new ruling elite when they were out of power. However the speed and scale (including two of Japarov’s previous Presidential rivals and many senior figures in the previous Government) of this process gives additional cause for concern. On February 9th Parliament published the revised draft constitution following the deliberation of the Constitutional Convention.[82] The Legal Clinic Adilet note that there had been a number of positive changes compared to the November draft due to public pressure and the work the Convention. They note that ‘Multiple references to the supremacy of moral values ​​have been excluded, standards are provided for the inadmissibility of slavery and exploitation of child labour, as well as the principle of ensuring the best interests of the child etc. There are new provisions that strengthen human rights guarantees, in particular regarding the provision of social, economic and cultural rights.’[83] The proposals for the People's Kurultai seem to have been watered down, with the body having fewer formal powers than initially suggested, playing a more consultative and advisory role to the existing branches of government, though it is now proposed to play a role in the selection of judges. The draft proposes creating a new ‘chairman of the cabinet of ministers’ who is also head of the Presidential Administration, in effect replacing the position of Prime Minister. However there remain two areas are likely to generate potential concern for NGOs and international observers. The draft Article 8.4 would create a requirement that ‘Political parties, trade unions and other public associations ensure the transparency of their financial and economic activities’, something that may seem innocuous but there are fears it may give constitutional weight to efforts to increase burdens on NGOs as discussed below. As Adilet have said the sections on ‘moral values’ have been watered down but the revised draft still contains Article 10.4 which states that ‘In order to protect the younger generation, events that contradict moral and ethical values, the public consciousness of the people of the Kyrgyz Republic may be limited by law.’ Those involved with the Constitutional Convention have suggested that this revised wording echoes Western constitutional provisions on protecting children from things like pornography.[84] However similarly framed commitments in places like Russia have been used to restrict discussion and activism on social and cultural issues including LGBTQ and women’s rights, as well as to censor art or content some find in conflict with ‘traditional’ values on the basis that children might view such content, even when they are not target audience. With President Japarov confirming his intention to put the new constitution to the vote on the same day as the local elections, on April 11th 2021, there is limited time for civil society to press for further changes.[85] For now President Japarov is unchallenged at the top of Kyrgyzstan’s political hierarchy and is busily reshaping the system in his image. However Kyrgyzstan still faces huge economic, social and public health challenges and the pressure is now on for him to deliver on his promises. He has faced widespread international scepticism around his assent to power, which hampered relations with Russia, China, the West and international institutions prior to his election. In part to reassure foreign investors and donors he has already rowed back on some elements of his economic nationalism, conscious of the need for international support to help the country move out of its current predicament. This has included distancing himself from calls to nationalise Kumtor, the issue that raised him to prominence (and prison), though a medium term review of the mine’s taxation arrangements to ensure the Canadian company pays more into the Kyrgyz treasury would seem very likely.[86] Japarov has repeatedly said that no new mining contracts will be given to international companies, but that existing contracts would not be impacted, raising questions about how local businesses will gain the relevant technical knowhow to fill this gap in a crucial export sector for Kyrgyzstan.[87] However on February 24th, Turkey and Kyrgyzstan announced a new framework agreement to draw a line for enhanced cooperation in the field of mining, Energy and Natural Resources, which raises questions over these previous assurances.[88] Given that anti-elite economic nationalism has been core to his personal political brand this new caution carries real political risks for him and leaves open the question of whether his populist focus will shift to new targets. As Aksana Ismailbekova points out ethnic nationalism has not been a central feature of his politics (despite the Bakiyev links), however given the broader cultural and conservativism of many of his online supporters, and the ethnic nationalism and religiosity of some of them, there is concern that minority groups may come under increasing pressure if things do not start to go well. The analogy between President Japarov and Trump has been often made. As Georgy Mamedov puts it they share an understanding of ‘politics as confrontation’ and indeed Japarov has used some similar rhetoric including “the country has become mired in a swamp because of the interests of a narrow group of people” (though he has tried to distance himself from being described as populist).[89] His passion for a strong Presidency, which long predates his holding of the role, is part of a desire to see state consolidation after years of fragmentation, bureaucratic inefficiency and chaos, has clear echoes of the way in which Putin sought to strengthen the state to provide legitimacy for his rule. How we got here: The systemic challengesIt is perhaps stating the obvious that Kyrgyzstan finds itself where it is today because what came before clearly was not working for far too many people. To some extent the international communities desire to praise and encourage Kyrgyzstan’s comparative openness, in contrast to the often horrendous regional picture, has perhaps led some to downplay or overlook the deep structural problems that have faced the country for some time. This is not only due to the perhaps understandable desire for a good news story but that the country’s comparative freedom has made it a regional hub for many organisations, something that may add to an unwillingness to rock the boat.  However, the is a need for some reflection that the often poor outcomes that ‘democracy’ was providing for ordinary citizens in ‘Central Asia’s only democracy’ has weakened some of democracy’s attractiveness and undermined faith in liberal institution building amongst Kyrgyzstanis (and some others in region who comment on the ‘chaos’) . As Asel Doolotkeldieva, Jasmine Cameron and others note in their contributions, the country’s elites have failed time and time again to learn the lessons of previous revolutions.[90] Shirin Aitmatova and others have also pointed out many of the formal institutions that have been established in Kyrgyzstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union have too often been a something of a façade, beneath the surface of which true power lies and rents are sought and distributed. This is despite, and in some cases the result of, billions of pounds in international assistance.[91] In 2017 it was estimated that Kyrgyzstan had received over nine billion USD in loans and grants (of which over $2.5 billion had been given as grants), compared to a pre-COVID overall annual GDP of around $8.5 billion.[92] Since the collapse of the Soviet Union successive leaders have followed the orthodox (neo-liberal) policy prescriptions proposed by the international financial institutions that replaced a sclerotic and controlling state, with a hollowed out one, captured by politically connected players that can benefit from it (including through the divestment and privatisation of state assets). The weakness of state institutions has been mirrored by the fluidity of its political party system where political groupings are little more than loose affiliations, led by individual personalities, with limited ideological coherence (though sometimes with shared approaches to broad themes such as nationalism, liberalism, pro-Russia or to specific policies such as a preference for a presidential or Parliamentary system). In too many cases the parties’ primary function can be best conceived as a sorting mechanism for oligarchic interests and societal networks.[93] A recurring theme is that to win a top position on the party list can cost between $500,000 and one million in bribes, with the roles opening up both new opportunities for illicit earnings and providing immunity from prosecution.[94] Whatever the many legitimate concerns about the consolidation of power under the return to the strong Presidential system it is clear that the previous Parliamentary system was failing to deliver its intendent results and was doing little to hold those in power to account. Corruption and organised crimeAs set out clearly above, in many of the essays in this collection and much of the informed coverage of Kyrgyzstan it is clear that corruption is at the root of so many of the challenges that the country faces. Kyrgyzstan lacks the scale of natural resource wealth that fuels much of the grand corruption elsewhere in the region but nevertheless the problem is endemic, entwined with structures of power from the local level to the elite. Kyrgyzstan’s location is an important part of problem. It acts as a key entry point for goods coming into the Eurasian Economic Union’s customs union comprising Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The transport of goods into the customs area, particularly from China (‘the Northern Route’ starting in Kashgar in north western China via the Torugart Pass into Kyrgyzstan and then on to Russia and Kazakhstan), creates significant opportunities for graft and informal monopolies by powerful players. Illicit earnings can be generated through the payment of bribes to pass through formal customs checkpoints, opportunities for smuggling and contraband where such formal procedures are ignored, and through the abuse of the power to allow goods into the country being used to dominate the transport and logistics sectors involved in bringing items across the border.[95] The second dimension to this is Kyrgyzstan’s position on what is also separately called the ‘Northern Route’ towards Russia and Europe, making it an important waystation for the smuggling of narcotics, most notably heroin from Afghanistan via Tajikistan.[96] As Shirin Aitmatova notes in her contribution the overall size of the shadow economy in Kyrgyzstan is enormous, with the most recent projection she quotes as being 42 per cent of GDP.[97] The powerful forces alleged by journalists and international officials to be dominating these two sources of illicit funds respectively are Raiymbek Matraimov (customs) and Kamchybek Kolbayev (drugs). Matraimov had worked his way through the ranks of the customs department in the southern region of Kyrgyzstan, becoming its deputy head and then the head of customs in Osh in 2007 before being made head of customs across the South in 2013. In 2015 he was made deputy head of the national customs service, by which point however he had already acquired the nickname ‘Raiym million’ in recognition of the allegations of illicit earnings.[98] Although he was fired by President Atambayev shortly before the end of his term of office in 2017, Matraimov’s brother had already secured a Parliamentary seat in the then dominant SDKP and the family would ultimately found the Mekenim Kırgızstan party as described above. Although the significant wealth and influence of a (mostly) mid-ranking customs official was widely understood in Kyrgyzstan it was investigative journalism by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and its Kyrgyz member center Kloop, which brought Matraimov to the centre of political debate in the country.[99] Their reporting initially centred on the Matraimov’s close connections to Khabibula Abdukadyr, an ethnic Uighur with a Kazakhstani passport based in Dubai but with major property holdings in London, Washington DC and Germany, who the investigative team argue is at the centre of a Central Asian cargo smuggling empire.[100] The investigation was made possible by the revelations of Aierken Saimaiti who claimed he acted as a middle man and money launderer, transferring $700 million over five years on behalf of these networks.[101] Saimaiti’s revelations included transfers of almost $2.4 to the Matraimov’s family foundation and information relating to alleged collaboration between the Matraimov’s and Abdukadyr over a Dubai property development. Saimaiti was murdered in a contract killing in Istanbul shortly before the publication of the expose. The reporting sparked anti-corruption protests in Bishkek and the UMUT 2020 movement led by Shirin Aitmatova who writes in this publication.[102] The controversy reared its head again, shortly before the October 2020 elections at which Matraimov’s Mekenim Kırgızstan was closely challenging for first place, with more RFE/RL, OCCRP, Bellingcat and Kloop reporting centred on Matraimov, entitled the Matraimov Kingdom.[103] The reporting documented the mechanisms through which they argue that Matraimov built his business. A significant proportion of the investigation was made possible by Matraimov’s wife Amanda Turgunova flaunting her jet setting lifestyle and lavish spending on social media.[104] The reporting caused further outrage and helped fuel the further anger at the vote buying, by the Matraimov’s Mekenim Kırgızstan and others, in the October 4th election that led to the overthrow of President Jeenbekov.[105] In the immediate aftermath of the elections and Japarov’s rise to power much show was made of investigations into Matraimov by the new authorities, with allegations that he was part of a wider scheme to attract ‘shadow revenues of up to £$700 million from the customs system’.[106] To that end Matraimov was arrested on October 20th and charged with having personally benefited by around two billion som ($23.6 million). However, as noted above, the approach taken by Japarov and his new chairman of the State Committee for National Security Kamchybek Tashiev was to encourage an economic amnesty whereby those who had benefited from past corruption were encouraged to return some of their ill-gotten gains in return for avoiding serious criminal penalties for their crimes. This provided a quick injection of cash into the public coffers and showed immediate ‘results’, whilst avoiding asking too many difficult questions or unsettling the delicate balance of power that was emerging. Of the two billion som ($23.6 million) that Matraimov agreed to return, 600 million som was provided in the form of a shopping mall and nine apartments in Bishkek. He ultimately pled guilty and accepted an additional $3,000 fine (in addition to the $23.6 million returned) and a three year ban from holding public office from February 2020.[107] Unsurprisingly this was seen by many in Kyrgyzstan as merely a slap on the wrist and the public outcry led to renewed protests.[108] In something of a surprise plot twist, at time of writing, Matraimov was rearrested by the GKND, less than a week after his previous trial on further allegations of money laundering and has been detained for two months on pre-trial detention.[109] Irrespective of his legal troubles in Kyrgyzstan, Matraimov and his wife has been subject to US Magnitsky Sanctions on the grounds of corruption since December 2020.[110] Kamchybek ‘Kamchy’ Kolbayev has had a less direct impact on Kyrgyz politics but remains designated as a ‘significant foreign narcotics trafficker’ under the US Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act since 2011 and under an asset freeze by the US Treasury Department since in February 2012.[111] Kolbayev was subsequently extradited in December 2012 from the United Arab Emirates back to Kyrgyzstan where he was initially jailed for five and a half years, subsequently reduced to three years before being released in May 2014 on the grounds of time served. Charges of leading an organised criminal group were also dropped at the time.[112] The investigation by RFE/RL, OCCRP, Kloop, and Bellingcat into the Matraimovs also showed the links between Kolbayev and the Matraimovs, with the latter family staying at a villa believed to be owned by the former in Lake Issyk-Kul.[113] Kolbayev was detained as part of the much publicised anti-corruption push by Japarov and Tashiev in October 2020, but it remains unclear if action will be taken against him.[114] These larger players sit atop an engrained culture of graft, as documented by Aksana Ismailbekova in her essay, which runs through both the criminal class and throughout the operation of the state. Business people have to adapt to a symbiotic relationship with the Government and criminal networks from the local to the national level through the paying of bribes in return for protection harassment (both official and informal) and for economic opportunities. Figures from Kolbayev and Matraimov all the way down to local politicians and officials run their own personal patronage and client networks. The big players effectively provide their own social welfare schemes that are able to step in where the state has failed. For example Matraimov’s family foundation has a considerable presence in the Kara-Suu running social programmes and funding students to go to University in Osh.[115] As Erica Marat noted, Kolbayev stepped into provided supplies and support in his native Issyk-Kul during the pandemic when support from the state collapsed.[116] At a local level, notably still in Osh and its surrounding areas, sports clubs and gyms act to supply local muscle (sportsmeni) that can act on behalf of the particular patron which funds them. These young men can be deployed to act as election observers on behalf of political parties and manage vote buying schemes on the ground on behalf of the party supported by their patron. As set out above President after President have used the power of their office to line their own pockets. A 2016 study by Sarah Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment, sets out the dominant position the President (at the time Atambayev) has over other kleptocratic networks in the country, through his control of law enforcement and the courts.[117] Faced with such an unpromising environment, it is little surprise that Western backed efforts at institutional reform to tackle corruption have struggled to gain deep purchase. Kyrgyzstan is currently part of the Open Government Partnership, the global organisation which works with governments to improve transparency and accountability, but despite some limited progress in improving access to information in some ministries and a useful but underused eProcurement system under Jeenbekov the Government prioritised the PR benefits of membership of the scheme, and of similar Governmental reform projects supported international donors, over meaningful reform.[118] According to Aksana Ismailbekova, President Japarov has promised he would eliminate the system of ‘dolya’ (shares of business profits ‘given’ to state authorities) and as mentioned above the economic amnesty returned some funds to the state in a light shakedown upon the new leadership’s arrival in October. However as Ismailbekova points out not everybody who supports Japarov because they believe he will take action on corruption does so because they actually believe he will rid the country of corruption. Particularly away from Bishkek the perception in some quarters may be that Japarov, as an economic populist, will manage the engrained processes of corruption with the public’s interests more clearly in mind than his predecessors with action taken against egregious excesses. It is in this context the limited return of funds and slap on the wrists administered under the amnesty need not be fatal blow to Japarov’s support if he is clearly seen to take meaningful action to the petty corruption by local officials and police and the actions of organised crime that blights the lives of ordinary citizens. Such a shift would make it easier to maintain the type of grand corruption practiced behind closed doors (if it can be kept away from social media by its practitioners) that entrenches the structure of power. On potential example of this approach might be the recent arrest of alleged organised crime boss Kadyrbek Dosonov whose large properties were filmed and publicised by the State Committee for National Security.[119] Nationalism, traditionalism, rights and religion  Alongside the rising corruption, nationalism and related populist socially conservative and traditionalist movements have been some of the key factors in the evolution of Kyrgyz politics. During and after the collapse of the Soviet Union the process of what it means to be a citizen of Kyrgyzstan has been evolving. While the Kyrgyz had been distinct ethnic group, Kyrgyzstan as such did not exist before its absorption into the Russian and Soviet empires and the territory of the country encompassed significant numbers of ethnic minority groups, most notably the Uzbek community in southern Kyrgyzstan and Russians who had moved there in Imperial and Soviet times.[120] Despite President Akayev’s ‘Kyrgyzstan is our common home’ approach he and subsequent politicians would seek to grow, shape and channel ethnic Kyrgyz nationalism to their political ends.[121] Tensions between the ethnic Kyrgyz (a dominant presence in the state structures of southern Kyrgyzstan) and ethnic Uzbeks (dominant in the private sector economy of the south until the events below) manifested in two major riots in and around Osh in 1990 (which would see over 300 killed in a dispute over control of a collective farm) and in 2010 (where the death toll remains unclear but is likely to be between 426, the figure given by the internationally criticised National Commission of local experts and upper estimates of several thousand).[122] The 2010 violence was sparked following the ouster of President Bakiyev, who had returned to his political stronghold amongst the ethnic Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan. The evolving debate at the time over the country’s political future saw ethnic Uzbeks make demands for greater political representation and the ethnic Kyrgyz reiterated calls for land reform and in some cases for the expulsion of Uzbeks to redistribute their land to poor Kyrgyz.[123] Tensions escalated between April and early June before exploding into riots that peaked on May 19th in Jalal-Abad and most notably on the 9th and 10th of June 2010 in Osh. In the wake of the riots, in addition to the locally led inquiry, an Independent International Commission of Inquiry into the Events in Southern Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission- KIC) was established after the President Otunbayeva invited Dr. Kimmo Kiljunen, Special Representative for Central Asia of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, to lead it.[124] The KIC found that in addition to the injuries and deaths, a figure it put at 470 (the majority of which were ethnic Uzbeks) though it suggested this could grow, it noted that around 111,000 Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks had been displaced to Uzbekistan and around 300,000 had been internally displaced within Kyrgyzstan. However, the Kyrgyz Parliament rejected the Commission’s findings on the grounds of, in their view, a pro-Uzbek bias and declared Kiljunen persona non-grata. As Eric McGlinchey ruefully notes in his essay ‘no Kyrgyz leader has sought to challenge (former Osh Mayor) Myrzakmatov’s—or any other Kyrgyz nationalist’s—one-sided narrative of the 2010 ethnic violence. To challenge this narrative would be political suicide. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that, to this day, no Kyrgyz executive has sought to reverse the Kyrgyz judiciary’s gross miscarriage of justice conducted against ethnic Uzbeks in the aftermath of the 2010 riots.’ In the years that followed the violence the ethnic Kyrgyz community has expanded its role in the local economy of the south as long desired. The Uzbek population have had to resort to defensive approaches, noted in Ismailbekova’s essay, to limit the risk of further violence or political pressure, this has included ensuring they support the likely winners of elections and there has also been significant migration of the community to Russia and Uzbekistan. Efforts to promote a civic (non-ethnic) Kyrgyzstani identity that could encompass both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have foundered in the intervening years amid the rising tide of nationalism. However, as noted at the start of the publication, the growing manifestations of Kyrgyz nationalism over the last ten or so years have often not been focused on the domestic Uzbek minority but on challenging Western values, worrying about growing Chinese influence (as mentioned earlier) and on promoting the Kyrgyz language. Language is a growing dimension of the debate over Kyrgyz identity with a marked divide between an urban population, particularly in Bishkek that was educated in and predominantly uses Russian, rather than Kyrgyz and a rural population that may have limited or non-existent Russian.[125] So the promotion of the Kyrgyz language and literature is part of not only a nation building project, but a class and regional divide with Kyrgyz still holding connotations of backwardness in some Russian speaking quarters. In the current constitution Kyrgyz is currently the ‘state’ language, with Russian also designated as an ‘official language’. There had been some suggestions that Russian’s official status should be removed as part of the new Constitution but so far these have been resisted in the February 2021 draft, not least with Moscow watching developments.[126] Growing hostility to ‘Western values’ has perhaps been the strongest driver of Kyrgyz nationalism in recent years. As in many countries this has focused on issues relating to women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, echoing narratives promoted in Russian propaganda, but with clear local roots in the evolving debate around ‘traditional’ Kyrgyz values and national identity.[127] Internationally backed efforts to tackle issues such as bride kidnapping (ala kachuu), abuse of daughters-in-law forced to work in the husband’s parents’ home (kelinism) and domestic violence are seen through a nationalist prism and a traditionalist conception of Kyrgyz manhood and a patriarchal construction of family life.[128] Reported cases of domestic violence have increased by 400 per cent since 2011.[129] The country lacks meaningful anti-discrimination laws or protections against hate speech, with a reliance on Article 16 in the current constitution as the basis for local practice.[130] Despite strong social pressures for ‘traditional’ gender roles women play a somewhat greater role in Kyrgyzstan’s political class than in many of its Central Asian neighbours, with a 30 per cent gender quota on party lists which led to 23 women MPs in the current (2015-2020) Supreme Council.[131] As noted above Otunbayeva was a leading political figure in the 00s and served as acting President, though only two of the 16 members of Japarov’s new cabinet are women, Minister of Justice Asel Chinbayeva and Minister of Transportation, Architecture, Construction and Communication Gulmira Abdralieva. Similarly the limited efforts that have been made to try to protect LGBTQ people in Kyrgyzstan, through the work of supportive NGOs like Labrys, or including limited LGBTQ references such as demands for ‘equality for all’ or carrying rainbow flags at the 2019 International Women’s day march engendered significant political push back from nationalist groups and Parliamentarians such as Jyldyz Musabekova.[132] She wrote on Facebook that “the men who do not want to have children and the girls who do not want to pour tea...must not only be cursed, they must be beaten…We have to beat the craziness out of them, are there any decent guys out there [willing to do that]?" and later warned that "if we sit silently...Kyrgyzstan will become a ‘Gayistan.’" Such attitudes are common place amongst wider society and violence is widespread against members of the small LGBTQ community who are no longer able to meet publically since the closure of the last open LGBTQ venue, called London, in 2017.[133] Police are known not to take action against perpetrators of violence against the community and indeed are often alleged to demand bribes to avoid informing the victims’ family that they are gay. The current and revised draft constitution both define marriage as being between a man and a woman, something that was brought in through a referendum in 2016 to act as a ban against the future possibility of same sex marriage.[134] According to the 2017-19 World Values survey, 73 per cent of citizens of Kyrgyzstan said that they would not want a homosexual neighbour and 83 per cent said that it was never justifiable to be homosexual (with only 1.3 per cent saying it was always justifiable).[135] Such engrained public attitudes make efforts to protect LGBTQ rights a hugely difficult challenge for NGOs and the international community and an easy target for nationalist groups, such as the vigilante organisation Kyrk Choro (Forty Knights), to whip up public anger.[136] While much of Kyrgyzstan’s social conservativism is rooted in traditionalism and nationalism, these attitudes are also being bolstered by its increasing religiosity, something that has happened in a more open way than elsewhere in Central Asia. Like the rest of the region during the Soviet period religion was heavily regulated by the SADUM (Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia) and that supervision has continued in the form of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (SAMK). Despite the continuation of top-down control over official religion the nature of Islam is evolving through increased contact with the wider Muslim Ummah and investment by Arab, Pakistani and Turkish foundations not only in Mosque building (the number of mosques has gone from 39 in 1990 to 2,600 in 2019), but in religiously inspired social projects such as the provision of schools and access to water.[137] As a result the transition is underway from a more cultural form of Islamic identity based around tradition and family, with prayers only before dinner to a more observant one. The hijab is more openly worn than elsewhere in Central Asia but a de facto ban remains on its use in schools though the ubiquitous use of school uniform policy.[138] Rules against ‘aggressive proselytisation’ are only really applied in practice against Protestant and minority Muslim groups, particularly those who are not officially registered with the State Committee on Religious Affairs (SCRA).[139] During the 2020/21 constitutional redrafting process there was a debate about whether to remove the requirements that the state be ‘secular’ (Article 1), with pressure for change from the religious community and a potential conflation between secularism and soviet-style atheism in the public mind.[140] However, as of the February 2021 draft, the designation of the state as secular has remained in Article 1. So the forces of nationalism and social conservatism have been growing in strength and putting liberal social movements under increasing pressure. Most Kyrgyz Presidents have courted the nationalist vote to some extent but Japarov’s political persona is that of a populist nationalist. So far however, despite the fairly standard expressions of social conservatism, his political pitch has been one of economic nationalism, based on his record in the Kumtor mine nationalisation campaign, and anti-elitist populism. However with the President already having to row back on nationalisation under pressure from international investors at a time of economic fragility, including the Chinese who are keeping a watchful eye on further bouts of sinophobia, this leaves a significant risk that the focus of his administration’s populist ire may fall on issues facing women and the LGBTQ community or the liberal, pro-Western NGOs that work on them. Civil societyDespite the significant challenges listed above and below for now Kyrgyzstan remains a regional hub for civil society activity, both organisations that are active in Kyrgyzstan and those that operate across the rest of Central Asia. However it is clear that civil society in Kyrgyzstan has been under sustained pressure for several years and perhaps the worse situation elsewhere in the region has acted as a barrier to some international observers engaging fully with the depth of the problem the country faces. Local NGOs were in a reasonably strong position in the 2000s and their alumni were seen to play an active part in the 2005 and 2010 protests and their aftermath, something that gave even the politicians who were beneficiaries of the change they campaigned for cause to pause. In 2011 NGO’s were significantly more trusted than the state, with 77 per cent of respondents in a poll believing they acted for the benefit of social development and 62 per cent of respondents not trusting the Government to do the same thing.[141] However, they have been subject to a sustained campaign of de-legitimation and pressure over the last ten years, with Ernest Zhanaev’s essay noting a particular increase since 2014. As has already been documented civil society has faced several attempts to add to the bureaucratic burdens they face, most notably the 2016 attempts to replicated the Russian Foreign Agents law and the attempts in 2019-2020 that would add significant new reporting requirements about details of their income and made it harder to recruit temporary staff.[142] Local NGO activists also report increasing pressure from the security services, including people being questioned by security officials and put under surveillance by both official methods and by unknown actors. Despite these pressures many civil society activists have been able to do vital work raising awareness of human rights abuses and exerting pressure that has been able to curb some of the worst excesses of the system, at least until now. These direct actions are set in the wider context of sustained efforts at de-legitimation from nationalist groups and hidden sources using popup media outlets or social media campaigns of unknown origin, with concerns from activists about the potential involvement of the security services (Kyrgyz and, some claim, Russian). Russia does certainly play a part in promoting region wide narratives against NGOs that feed off and amplify local concerns. As noted above efforts NGOs working on women’s rights and LGBTQ issues, areas where activists face huge challenges in engaging entrenched conservative public opinion, have been weaponised by their opponents who argue the sector’s interests are more aligned with Western interests rather than local people. This perception helps to amplify the second charge, that of ‘grant eating’, with NGO’s being portrayed as only being interested in what they can raise donor money for rather than being focused on local priorities, a narrative which fuels further pressure on public reporting requirements. Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Council has also recently revived a draft law ‘on Trade unions’ that seeks to increase the regulation of trade union activity by forcing all regional and sectoral trade unions to join the Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan, which would become the only national-level union body recognised by the Government.[143] This follows a politically charge fight for control of the Federation where the politically connected former General Secretary was removed from office and other union officials and activists were subjected to a campaign of harassment by the Government, including 50 criminal cases, according to the Central Asia Labour Rights Monitoring Mission and Human Rights Watch. The Federation was barred from holding its annual congress in late 2020 to elect his successor.[144] Amid the deluge of bad faith accusations pointed at Kyrgyzstan’s civil society, it is tempting for the international community to take a purely defensive posture, circling the wagons in an attempt to keep on going and using diplomatic pressure to fight back against negative narratives being promoted by political figures. While it is right and necessary to continue to push back against these political pressures, after the third revolution in 15 years, it is clearly also time for a rethink on strategy. Many essay contributors put forward ideas in this collection about how they believe donor priorities and operations might evolve in the current climate. Asel Doolotkeldieva has previously argued for the need for reconsider the depth of civil society impact in political areas given the relatively limited impact they have been able to have in the evolution of recent events, saying that a few ‘brave activists’ are not enough and calling for a greater focus on economic equality projects over democratisation in the short-term.[145] Doolotkeldieva’s contribution in this publication expands on her theme to suggest new ways of working. In her contribution, Shirin Aitmatova is blunt about her views on the need for change in Kyrgyzstan’s NGO sector, arguing for fresh voices, new thinking from donors and greater creativity in funding mechanisms. There will need to be further efforts to address long-standing questions of local accountability, with some donors perhaps needing to give partners the space to respond flexibly to local concerns as well as their strategic priorities.[146] They will also need to think about how they can most suitably engage with newly emerging groups of activists. From the volunteers who helped in the COVID response to the druzhinniki who protected businesses from potential rioting to the Bashtan Bashta (‘Start with your head’) protest movement, which in recent months has organised creative campaigns against elements of the proposed constitution, there are new social movements that are developing, often coordinated through social media rather than existing institutions, which show an enduring appetite for civic and social activism.[147] Media and online freedomsWith respect to media and online freedoms again Kyrgyzstan’s relative freedom compared to the regional average can sometimes mask some of the deep structural challenges it faces. State television continues to draw the biggest media audience, closely followed by Russian domestic channels, and television overall still provides the primary source of news and entertainment in rural areas, while in the cities where internet penetration is higher online outlets are rapidly growing to outpace traditional media. Some of the biggest challenges the sector faces are the local example of the problem facing journalism the world over around making independent media profitable in the context of growing dominance of online advertising (and its capture by social media and search providers) and the weak state of the local economy. Questions of media ownership and funding are the main source of censorship and journalistic self-censorship. The difficult media economy exacerbates the extent to which many outlets operate a ‘pay to play’ model where articles and editorial outlook are shaped by those able to fund them.[148] This not a situation unique to Kyrgyzstan but it manifests itself in everything, from direct influence of coverage by local business and political elites through to relying on produce placement and sponsorship which can limit independence. The latter includes partnerships with international agencies such as UNICEF to increase awareness of their activities, which is clearly preferable to other available funding sources that have been claimed to influence coverage. International support (from donors and social media companies) may be needed to help local outlets identify and generate new sources of income, including support to make their entertainment and lifestyle output more attractive to help draw audiences that stay to read the news. While more training for the sake of holding training should be avoided, there remain skills gaps, particularly in the Kyrgyz language sector and in local journalism. International partners perhaps can provide further assistance in helping local outlets package international news for a Kyrgyz audience. As with NGOs the growing pressure on independent media is not only financial but has come from politicians, the security services and shadowy forces linked to the wealthy and powerful. COVID provided an opportunity for politicians to try to introduce a new ‘Law on Manipulating Information’.[149] A previous version of the bill was blocked by President Jeenbekov in July 2020 and referred back to Parliament for revisions, however following the change of Government Parliamentarians have confirmed their intention to bring back this legislation.[150] Ostensibly drafted to address misinformation being circulated in the wake of the pandemic, its framing is seen as too broad and overly vague by international observers. The obvious concerns about abuse of such legislation has been amplified by the ways existing laws were abused by the security services during the pandemic against those criticising the government response as noted earlier.[151] Journalists were also targeted, physically and online, for their reporting on potential electoral irregularities in the October 2020 election.[152] As Eric McGlinchey notes in his essay, President Japarov has pledged that ‘freedom of speech and the media will continue to be an inviolable value’, however, his post-election victory speech added a chilling caveat to that commitment, saying “while I will defend the media, I ask you not to distort my words or the words of politicians and officials, not to take our statements out of context. Do this and there won’t be any prosecutions.”[153] Radio Azattyk, RFE/RL’s local station, and a major source of radio and online news in the country has been targeted publically by politicians in attempts at delimitation and its journalists have faced pressure from security services and potentially from the subjects of their investigations.[154] President Japarov has publically criticised Azattyk over coverage of allegations they published around possible links to those involved in organised crime.[155] It will be important for the Biden Administration, as part of its new relationship with the Japarov administration and as part of its wider reset of post-Trump RFE/RL strategy to actively defend the political space for RFE/RL and safety of its journalists. At the moment the BBC’s Kyrgyz service is not seen by local observers as a particularly significant player in the local media market and the BBC should consider ways in which this might change, including new content partnerships with local outlets. Online trolling has become an increasing source of pressure on journalists (and NGO activists). Such trolling has two notable sources. Firstly, there are organised troll factory operations, though not at the industrial scale of their Russian equivalents they provide a paid presence that is used to harass and challenge journalists. Investigative reporting, published by openDemocracy, has shown the existence of operations that work on behalf of whoever is will to pay, some with alleged links to the Matraimovs that have been used to target journalists from Kloop, Azattyk and other independent outlets.[156] These networks have also been used to assist political campaigns, operating in support of Mekenim Kırgızstan ahead of the October elections and then Japarov and his campaign for constitutional changes in the post-election period and in the January 2021 Presidential poll.[157] Secondly, the growing power of nationalist groups and Japarov’s genuine support in populist and nationalist online communities. As with populists in other country contexts this has led to the growth of organic, free range trolls, who can supplement and amplify the work of paid trolls in such a way, which may in time reduce the need for expensive and intensive troll farming. The essays in this collection by Gulzat Baialieva and Joldon Kutmanaliev, Begaim Usenova and ARTICLE 19, and by Dr. Elira Turdubaeva explore the emerging online movements and trolling campaigns, notably in the Kyrgyz language sections of media where much of this harassment is situated.[158] Facebook, which provides three of the most used social media and messaging services in Kyrgyzstan (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), looks after the Central Asia region including Kyrgyzstan as part of its Asia Pacific public policy team’s coverage. The public policy team also gets support from the company’s community operation team (which does the content moderation work), legal, and other teams for Facebook’s work in Central Asia. Facebook’s community operation also relies heavily on machine learning. Outside Facebook, the company is also understood to have expert ‘trusted partners’.[159] Given the nature of machine learning, which could result in mistakes or ignore certain issues due partly to lack of understanding in local culture and nuances by the AI, it will be important that Facebook looks at ways to expand its Kyrgyz language capabilities and add more Kyrgyz speaking human reviewers for content moderation, particularly around potential flashpoints such as elections and constitutional referendums, and to look at ways to provide quicker and easier access to human led review processes for journalists and activists facing organised harassment efforts. Rule of lawAs with so much in Kyrgyzstan’s public life the operation of the legal system is significantly undermined by endemic corruption and deference to those in power, a topic addressed in Jasmine Cameron’s essay in this collection which highlights the debilitating effect this has on the rule of law. It is clear that the Prosecutor General’s office, police and the judiciary operate under considerable political influence of whoever is in power at the time, from the Presidential Administration right on down to local power brokers. In cases where a clear political direction is not set from the top, further opportunities arise for lower level corruption. Local NGOs, such as the legal clinic Adilet, note that official oversight and disciplinary mechanisms for prosecutors and judges are ineffective, particularly in cases where officials are following orders, creating a culture of impunity.[160] Corruption and political favouritism is seen as impacting both who is selected for judicial training through the Higher school of Justice and who is selected by the Council for the Selection of Judges, two thirds of the whom are made up of political appointees (albeit notionally split between the Parliamentary majority and opposition). Reform of judicial selection is included in the February 2021 draft Constitution, which states that ‘the Council for Justice Affairs (will be) formed from the number of judges who make up at least two thirds of its composition, one third are representatives of the President, the Jogorku Kenesh, the People's Kurultai and the legal community’.[161] This change could potentially be helpful in the long-term to increase the formal distance between the judiciary and politicians, but will do little to change the existing pool of judges and their connections who may still perpetuate the current legal culture absent additional measures to tackle corruption and political direction. As potentially less helpful proposed constitutional change is the proposal to further increase the power of the Prosecutors office by giving them ‘the right to conduct inspections of citizens, commercial organisations, other economic entities, non-governmental, non-commercial organisations, institutions, enterprises, etc.’, which Adilet explain would ‘largely duplicate the activities of other state and law enforcement agencies, primarily the State Committee for National Security for Combating Corruption’ opening up the possibility for all such responsibilities to be centralised in one all-powerful prosecution service as in Soviet times.[162] While such a change may reduce opportunities for different agencies to be used in intra-regime spats it would hand prosecutors an even broader range of tools to apply pressure improper pressure if not handled with extreme caution and the kind of strong safeguards that have not often been applied in the past in Kyrgyzstan. Cameron notes that 61 per cent of people who have had contact with the police in the last year reported having to pay a bribe and exposes the lack of oversight and enforcement of anti-corruption. Several authors in this collection give examples of particular extortion by police of vulnerable communities, including Uzbek business people and the LGBTQ community. As Cameron points out, the combination of corruption and abuse of power creates a legal culture where citizens do not have trust in the legal process, so resort to other methods of trying to resolve their problems including violence in the court room against the opposing party, lawyers and court officials. More work needs to be done to improve the status of defence lawyers, including ensuring that they are present during the questioning of suspects, vis-à-vis the powerful Prosecutors operating under the aegis of the Prosecutor General’s Office.[163] Efforts are also underway to encourage the use of cameras in the court room to try to promote transparency and accountability, while international organisations such as the ABA and Clooney Foundation’s Trial Watch are attempting to provide official observers to monitor trial conditions in contentious cases.[164] However, as a number of different experts have noted, international investment in rule of law reform in Kyrgyzstan, including 38 million euros from the EU between 2014-2020, has so far generated limited results, particularly in controversial cases.[165] In a country where domestic violence is believed to be endemic Cameron notes that in 2019 there were only 9,000 cases of domestic violence recorded. ‘Of those, approximately 5,456 cases were registered with the authorities as administrative cases, and only around 784 were registered as criminal’, which seems indicative of lack of trust in the system as well as wider cultural barriers.[166] The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the expert body that reviews legal cases and other alleged abuses against individuals that relate to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has played an important external role in requesting the review of controversial human rights cases, 25 in all including the case of Azimjan Askarov noted below.[167] However, efforts are underway in Kyrgyzstan to end the requirement for the local review of cases criticised by international legal bodies, reacting to international pressure over Askarov and echoing narratives deployed against international judicial scrutiny by Russia, the UK and USA amongst others.[168] 

Azimjan Askarov

By Aydar Sydykov

Azimjan Askarov was a well-known human rights defender and journalist in the Kyrgyz Republic. He was recognised as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and received international awards, including the CPJ International Press Freedom Award.[1] In 1996, he became involved in the protection of human rights, and in 2002 he established an NGO called Vozdukh to investigate and document human rights violations by the local police and penitentiary/detention facilities. In 2010 Askarov was accused by local officials of participating and organising mass riots, inciting ethnic hatred and killing a police officer during the June clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Bazar-Korgon (in the Jalal-Abad region) and was sentenced to life imprisonment. In the view of many human rights organisations, Askarov was convicted for his human rights activism, especially during the 2010 clashes when he documented pogroms, arson and gathered information about the dead and wounded (including civilians who were not involved as participants in the conflict). The investigation was conducted with gross violations of Askarov’s human rights. In detention Askarov was repeatedly subjected to torture, cruel treatment, while the state authorities did not provide access to judicial protection and a fair trial. Despite the fact that Askarov's advocate repeatedly filed complaints about the torture, ill treatment and other violations, on September 15th 2010, Askarov was found guilty of the charges against him and sentenced to life imprisonment. The sentence was upheld by higher courts. All medical documents proving his injuries, facts of torture during detention, including the results of two medical examinations conducted by a foreign medical expert, were consistently ignored by all court instances, prosecutor’s office and other state authorities. After the final judgment of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic, Askarov submitted individual complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee, alleging torture, Kyrgyzstan’s failure to provide effective remedies, arbitrary and inhuman detention and the violation of his rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression. In 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee in its decision found violations of Askarov's rights in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[1] The Committee decided that Kyrgyzstan has to make full reparation to Askarov; to release him immediately; quash his conviction; and, if necessary, conduct a new trial with guarantees of fair trial. On June 12th 2016, considering the UN Human Rights Committee’s decision as newly discovered facts, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court reversed previous court’s decisions and ordered a new trial to be started in the first instance court. Unfortunately, despite all the evidence submitted by Askarov and the UN judgement the lower courts declined to effectively reconsider the allegations of torture with no action to investigate the allegations of torture and bring its perpetrators to justice. In May 2020 the Supreme Court upheld the decision not to reopen the case passed by the lower courts, leaving the guilty verdict in place with still Askarov incarcerated for life. Sadly on July 25th 2020 Azimjan Askarov died in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic despite his advocate’s statements and international outcry about Askarov’s poor health and the urgent need for medical examination and treatment.

 Human rightsThe Askarov case was, until his tragic death in 2020, one of the most high profile failings of the Kyrgyz judicial system, the country’s most significant case of the persecution of a human rights defender and an enduring symbol of the political paralysis engendered by the failure to equitably resolve the ethnic tensions in the south. Successive political leaders have found themselves beholden to powerful local interests in the south and afraid of sparking further anger amongst the region’s ethnic Kyrgyz population. With the chance to obtain justice, even posthumously, for Askarov within Kyrgyzstan seemingly remote, not least given the court decision to refuse his widow the right to continue the appeals process, focus must turn to what measures can still be taken by the international community.[169] One of the challenges in the case is the seemingly diffuse nature of systemic responsibility for his imprisonment, however, there is clearly a strong argument in favour of the deployment of Magnitsky sanctions by the US, UK, EU and others against officials involved in the case to send a clear message against impunity even if it is unlikely that many of those involved have a significant footprint in any of those jurisdictions. The Askarov case is far from the only example where allegations of torture have been documented For example, in the first half of 2019, there were 171 allegations of torture registered in Kyrgyzstan with the Prosecutor General’s office.[170] Human Rights defenders, whether they be lawyers or NGO representatives routinely experience harassment from the security services and online nationalist trolling.[171] A number of international human rights activists and independent journalists remain banned from entering Kyrgyzstan including Mihra Rittmann from Human Rights Watch, AFP’s Chris Rickleton and Vitaly Ponomarev, the Central Asia director for Russian Human Rights NGO Memorial.[172] Kyrgyzstan also controversially accepted an extradition request from Uzbekistan for journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev, despite concerns over the risk of torture (something Abdullaev had previously experienced at the hands of the Uzbek authorities).[173] International relations and their impact on KyrgyzstanAs a relatively small country with a fragile economy a significant factor in Kyrgyzstan’s stability and success is its relationship to the regional neighbours and international powers. As has been set out above, the country is a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, which has helped to further increase economic integration with Russia and Kazakhstan and to some extent improved the coordination of the large numbers of economic migrants it sends to them (predominantly, around 513,000 of which, to Russia).[174] Additionally, Chinese economic interests in the country have been expanding, with some controversy, in recent years and Kyrgyzstan is also part of the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that focuses on security sector cooperation. Sensitive border and water disputes with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the Fergana Valley add to the febrile atmosphere in intercommunal relations with the Uzbek and other minority communities within southern Kyrgyzstan.[175] With economic opportunities relatively scarce, for the most part Western strategic interests have been focused on issues around the drug trade and anti-terrorism concerns since the Manas airbase stopped being used for operations in Afghanistan in 2014. However, as discussed, Kyrgyzstan’s comparative openness by Central Asian standards has made the country the regional hub for Western international aid and activity. Japarov’s sudden rise to power took Kyrgyzstan’s international partners by surprise. In addition to statements of concern by Western states, Putin’s frostiness towards someone who overthrew his predecessor was palpable, including a public snub at a November 10th CIS meeting, though relations have begun to normalise in the wake of President Japarov’s January election.[176] Prior to the electoral upheaval Kyrgyzstan had asked China, which holds around 43 per cent of Kyrgyzstan’s external debt and therefore significant leverage, for COVID-related debt forbearance as Bishkek struggled to manage repayments.[177] Following Japarov’s rise to power, and initial concern amongst the Chinese leadership, Kyrgyzstan has gone out of its way to reassure international investors (particularly Chinese ones) that they have nothing to fear despite the new President’s previous resource nationalism and the anti-Chinese sentiments amongst some of his supporters (though Carnegie’s Temur Umarov argues that Japarov himself has strong family and business backer ties to China).[178] In terms of formal relations with Western partners, the EU-Kyrgyzstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement has yet to be ratified despite being initialled in July 2019, with translation delays blamed but also concerns around potential for issues, such as the human rights situation, impacting European Parliamentary ratification.[179] The UK is currently negotiating a partnership agreement, based on the existing 1999 EU-Kyrgyzstan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, though the deal is likely to come after the conclusion of other deals with larger economic benefits for the UK (most relevantly and gallingly for Kyrgyzstan the deal with Kazakhstan). The UK could potentially generate good will and some limited leverage by basing the offer in its proposed deal on the 2019 rather than 1999 EU package and offering to speed up its passage in return for taking certain actions to protect human rights and improve governance standards.[180] The EU and its member states have invested 907.69 million euros in aid to Kyrgyzstan between 2007 and 2020 (of which the Commission has been the largest donor at €391.3 million, followed by Germany at €349.69 million).[181] The most recent round of EU bilateral development cooperation was based around ‘the Multiannual Indicative Programme (MEP) for 2014-2020 with the total budget of €174 million’, which ‘focused on three main sectors: Education (€71.8 million), Rule of Law (€37.8 million) and Integrated Rural Development (€61.8 million)’, which was supplemented by a €36 million emergency COVID relief package in 2020.[182] Until recently, as noted here, Germany has been the largest bilateral donor amongst EU member states, but the Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) announced in May 2020 that it was pulling out of bilateral development spending in Kyrgyzstan as part of refocusing its efforts elsewhere in the world.[183] The US Aid spend in 2020 was $40.17 million, of which Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance was the largest area of spending ($13.3 million or 33 per cent), followed by Education ($9.07 million 23 per cent), then Economic Development and Health.[184] The UK’s direct aid spend is scheduled to be £7.47 million for the 2020/21 financial year though this figure is scheduled to fall to £5.15 million by 2022/23 in the wake of the overall cut in UK Aid spending from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of a COVID impacted GDP.[185] The current UK Government priorities are: improving the transparency of public finance management, to tackle corruption and improve outcomes; working with Parliamentarians to improve scrutiny; and improving the regulatory environment for private sector investment. As set out in a number of essay contributions and in the conclusion to this publication there is a strong case for looking again at the extent of progress achieved existing schemes and potentially reconsidering donor priorities in the context of the fragility and opacity of formal institutions and political parties in a system where, until now at least, much of the real decision making power has been found elsewhere. Irrespective of donor priorities around long-term capacity building, the rapidly changing situation on the ground should necessitate a renewed focus on preventing backsliding on Kyrgyzstan’s already tenuous freedoms. Image by Sludge G under (CC). [1] This publication is the first in a series that will comprise Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.[2] EEAS, EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2019 Country Updates,[3] The precise details of this history are sometimes contested[4] Francisco Olmos, State-building myths in Central Asia, FPC, October 2019, The historical existence of Manas is hotly debated but it seems likely that though carried for many years through oral tradition before its transcribing in the 18th Century, its origins are many centuries later than the time it recalls, making Manas a figure seen by scholars as more akin to King Arthur than a historical figure.[5] BBC News Channel, Profile: Askar Akayev, April 2005,[6] Catherine Putz, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus: Congratulations and Notes of Protest, August 2020,; Peter Leonard, Lukashenko appears alongside “dead” ex-Kyrgyz PM after protests, Eurasianet, August 2020,; Bermet Talant, Twitter Post, Twitter, August 2020,[7] OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, OSCE, October 2017,[8] International Crisis Group, Kyrgyzstan at Ten: Trouble in the ‘”Island of Democracy”, August 2001,[9] Otunbayeva was appointed to the post.[10] The World Bank, GDP per capita (current US$) – Kyrgyz Republic,; The World Bank, Personal remittances, received (% of GDP) – Kyrgyz Republic,[11] Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index – 2020,; Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2020, Kyrgyzstan,; Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2020, Kyrgyzstan,[12] Anna Lelik, Disputed ‘foreign agent’ law shot down by Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, The Guardian, May 2016, For more information see: FPC, Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, May 2016,[13] Nationalism and religiosity in the country were addressed in the FPC’s 2018 publication ‘The rise of illiberal civil society in the former Soviet Union?’,[14] Kamila Eshaliyeva, Is anti-Chinese mood growing in Kyrgyzstan?, openDemocracy, March 2019,; Nurlan Aliyev, Protest Against Chinese Migrants in Kyrgyzstan: Sinophobia or Demands for Social Justice?, The Central Asia-Caucasus, April 2019,; David Trilling, Poll shows Uzbeks, like neighbors, growing leery of Chinese investments, Eurasianet, October 2020,; Reuters Staff, Kyrgyz police disperse anti-Chinese rally, Reuters, January 2019,[15] Catherine Putz, Tensions Flare at Kyrgyz Gold Mine, The Diplomat, August 2019,[16] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Kyrgyz Protesters Again Block Highway In Gold-Mine Protest, RFE/RL, October 2013,; RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Kyrgyz Protests Again Demand Nationalization of Major Gold Mine, RFE/RL, June 2013,; RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Ex-Kyrgyz Lawmaker Japarov Jailed On Hostage-Taking Charge, RFE/RL, August 2017,; Sam Bhutia, Kyrgyzstan say its economy growing at a healthy clip. Really?, Eurasianet, November 2019,,remained%20stable%20in%20recent%20years.&text=Apart%20from%20depending%20on%20one,Kyrgyzstan's%20exports%20are%20not%20diversified[17] Catherine Putz, Kyrgyz-Chinese Joint Venture Scrapped After Protests, The Diplomat, February 2020,[18] Ophelia Lai, Bishkek feminist art exhibition censored, ArtAsiaPacific, December 2019,[19] Mohira Suyarkulova, Fateful Feminnale: an insider’s view of “controversial” feminist art exhibition in Kyrgyzstan, openDemocracy, January 2020,[20] For more on the symbolism of the Ak-kalpak, see: Ak-Kalpak Craftsmanship, Traditional Knowledge and Skills in Making and Wearing Kyrgyz Men’s Headwear, Intangible Cultural heritage, UNESCO,[21] Women’s Rights Rally Held in Kyrgyz Capital, BBC Monitoring Central Asia Unit Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, March 2020,[22] Reuters Staff, Central Asia tightens restrictions as coronavirus spreads, Reuters, March 2020,; AFP, Kyrgyz health minister, vice premier sacked over coronavirus response, Business Standard, April 2020,[23] Bermet Talant, Bishkek is running out of hospital beds as coronavirus pneumonia cases surge, Medium, July 2020, A number of these challenges were being faced across the world but exacerbated by the prior lack of capacity in Kyrgyzstan’s health sector.[24] AFP, Kyrgyz health minister, vice premier sacked over coronavirus response, Business Standard, April 2020,[25] Baktygul Osmonalieva, Ex-Minister of Health Kosmosbek Cholponbaev detained on suspicion of negligence,, September 2020,[26] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Resigns Over Corruption Probe, RFE/RL, June 2020,[27] Ruslan Kharizov, Members of Cabinet fined 140,000 soms for violation of mask requirement,, June 2020,[28] Maria Zozulya, Emergency in Kyrgyzstan: Government Without Masks and the Precious Passes, CABAR, April 2020,[29] Kamila Eshaliyeva, Is Kyrgyzstan losing the fight against coronavirus?, openDemocracy, July 2020,[30] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan: Volunteers play heroic role in battle against COVID-10, Eurasianet, July 2020,[31] Zamira Kozhobaeva, COVID-19 in the Kyrgyz Republic: Real mortality may be three time higher than official data, Radio Azattyk, January 2021,[32] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan: Draft bill threatens to drive NGOs against the wall, Eurasianet, May 2020,; IPHR, Central Asia: Tightening the screws on government critics during the Covid-19 pandemic, November 2020,[33] These two articles capture the dynamics of the change at different points in the contest: Bruce Pannier, No Coronavirus Postponement And No Front-Runners So Far In Kyrgyz Elections, RFE/RL, August 2020, and Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan vote: New-look parliament but old-style politics, Eurasianet, September 2020,[34] The OSCE’s election monitoring report notes that ‘According to bank reports, Birimdik incurred a total campaign spending of KGS 104.6 million, Kyrgyzstan – KGS 123.6 million and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan – KGS 142.5 million. All other parties reported expenditures below KGS 53 million each.’ ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission, Final Report, Kyrgyz Republic, Parliamentary Elections, 4 October 2020, OSCE, December 2020,[35] Catherine Putz, After Brawls and Protests, Kyrgyzstan’s Campaigns Near Election Day, The Diplomat, September 2020,[36] For an example see: Chris Rickleton, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2020,[37] ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission, Final Report, Kyrgyz Republic, Parliamentary Elections, 4 October 2020, OSCE, December 2020,[38] Electoral Information System, Election of Deputies of the Supreme Council of the Kyrgyz Republic 4/10/2020, Overview of ballot counting,[39] IRI, Kyrgyzstan Poll Suggests High Voter Intent Ahead of Parliamentary Elections, September 2020,[40] Colleen Wood, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2020,[41] Bermet Talant, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2020,; Joanna Lillis, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2020,[42] Bermet Talant, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2020,[43] Peter Leonard, As dawn breaks in Kyrgyzstan, protesters control government buildings, Eurasianet, October 2020,[44] Groups of young men often attached to sports clubs that act as social networks and in a number of cases of such groups there are perceived links to organised crime.[45] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan: In an uprising low on heroes, defense volunteers shine, Eurasianet, October 2020,[46] Erica Marat, The incredible resilience of Kyrgyzstan, openDemocracy, October 2020,[47] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Kyrgyzstan Lawmakers Approve Japarov As New Prime Minister Days After He Was Sprung From Jail, RFE/RL, October 2020,; DW, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament taps Sadyr Zhaparov, as new premier, October 2020,; IPHR, Post-election protests plunge Kyrgyzstan into crisis, October 2020,[48] Bruce Pannier, Jeenbekov Failed To Tackle Kyrgyzstan’s Problems. Now He’s Gone, RFE/RL, October 2020,[49] Peter Leonard, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2020,; Kaktus Media, Tolekan Ismailova: There is no hope for parliament, the president must come out the underground, October 2020,; Aksana Ismailbekova, Intergenerational Conflict at the Core of Kyrgyzstan’s Turmoil, The Diplomat, October 2020,[50] Bruce Pannier, A Hidden Force In Kyrgyzstan Hijacks The Opposition’s Push For Big Changes, RFE/RL, October 2020,[51] Temur Umarov, Who’s In Charge Following Revolution In Kyrgyzstan?, The Moscow Times, October 2020,[52] Sam Bhutia, Kyrgyzstan says its economy growing at a healthy clip. Really?, Eurasianet, November 2019,,remained%20stable%20in%20recent%20years.&text=Apart%20from%20depending%20on%20one,Kyrgyzstan's%20exports%20are%20not%20diversified[53] Zairbek Baktybaev, Is the assault on the White House a planned action? Radio Azattyk, October 2012,; David Trilling, Kyrgyzstan: Nationalist MPs and Rioters Attempt to Storm Parliament, Eurasianet, October 2012,[54] David Trilling, Kyrgyzstan: Nationalist MPs and Rioters Attempt to Storm Parliament, Eurasianet, October 2012,[55] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Kyrgyz Police Disperse Mine Protest, RFE/RL, October 2013,[56] Nurjamal Djanibekova, Kyrgyzstan: Two Opposition Trials Conclude With Lengthy Sentences, Eurasianet, August 2017,; Emilbek Kaptagaev, Facebook post, Facebook, August 2017,[57] Gulzat Baialieva and Joldon Kutmanaliev, How Kyrgyz social media backed an imprisoned politician’s meteoric rise to power, openDemocracy, October 2020,; Gulzat Baialieva and Joldon Kutmanaliev, In Kyrgyzstan, social media hate goes unchecked, openDemocracy, December 2020,; Elena Korotkova, “Made a revolution out of prison.” What Sadyr Zhaparov told about in an interview with Kommersant, kloop, January 2021,[58] Asel Doolotkeldieva, Twitter Post, Twitter, December 2020,; FPC, The rise of illiberal civil society in the former Soviet Union?, July 2018,[59] Yuri Kopytin, Kamchybek Tashiev appointed Chairman of SCNS,, October 2020,[60] Oksana Gut, “Corrupt officials should not be imprisoned, it is enough to return the stolen goods”,, October 2020,[61] Oksana Gut, Matraimova, according to the agreement, will be fined and banned from holding public office for 3 years,, October 2020,; Radio Azattyk, The State Committee for National Security identified about 40 people from the closest circle of Matraimov involved in his corruption scheme, October 2020,[62] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Kyrgyz Acting President Announces ‘Economic Amnesty’ After Powerful Oligarch’s House Arrest, RFE/RL, October 2020,; Zdravko Ljubas, New Kyrgyz Authorities Act Against Graft, Matraimov, OCCRP, October 2020,[63] Kamila Eshaliyeva, Real fakes: how Kyrgyzstan’s troll factories work, openDemocracy, November 2020,; Kaktus Media, Matraimov and Japarov. When there is one “troll factory” for two, February 2021,[64] RFE/RL, Ex-Bishkek Mayor Jailed For Corruption, July 2013,; AKIpress, Nariman Tuleev became acting mayor of Bishkek, October 2020,;  Kaktus Media, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2020, However on October 22nd he was pushed out himself: Maria Orlova, Nariman Tyuleev refused the post and. About. Mayor of Bishkek: a dirty struggle of groups,, October 2020,[65] Members of the government, Government of Kyrgyzstan,[66] The Central Elections Commission decision to order a re-run of the elections was blocked by the courts in line with the wishes of the interim President.[67] Bermet Talant, Twitter Post, Twitter, November 2020,[68] Eurasianet, Kyrgyzstan: Parliament reshuffle paves way for Japarov to cement power, November 2020,[69] The initial draft version of the constitution on the Supreme Council Website quoted here has now been replaced with the revised version produced in February 2021: Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, From November 17, 2020, the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the appointment of a referendum (nationwide vote) on the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic One the Constitution of Kyrgyz Republic”, November 2020,; Kaktus Media, Deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh adopted the bill on referendum in two readings at once, December 2020,[70] Catherine Putz, What’s in Kyrgyzstan’s Proposed ‘Khanstitution’?, The Diplomat, November 2020,[71] The principles were set out by Japarov in this interview: Kaktus Media, Sadyr Zhaparov, said that he has a draft constitutional reform ready (video), October 2020,[72]Ayday Tokoeva, “The president is crushing the legislative and judicial branches of government.” Ex-MP of Sher-Niyaz on amendments to the Constitution, kloop, November 2020,[73] Abhi Goyal, Twitter Post, Twitter, November 2020,[74] RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Acting Kyrgyz President Says Constitutional Council Will Be Established To Implement Reforms, RFE/RL, November 2020,; Radio Azattyk, Edil Baysalov proposed to rename the Jogorku Kenesh to Kurultai or National Assembly, November 2020,[75] Bektour Iskender, Twitter Post, Twitter, November 2020,; Human Rights Watch, Kyrgyzstan: Bad Faith Efforts to Overhaul Constitution, November 2020,; Tatyana Kudryavtseva, Referendum on form of government scheduled for January 10, 2021,, December 2020,[76] ODIHR, Early Presidential Election, 10 January 2021, OSCE,[77] Electoral Information System,[78] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Trimmed-Down Kyrgyz Cabinet Sworn In After Parliament’s Approval, RFE/RL, February 2021,[79] AFP, Kyrgyz Coalition Puts Forward New PM, Barron’s, February 2021,; Kaktus Media, Government without Surabaldieva. New line-up proposed by Ulukbek Maripov, February 2021,; Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan: Parliament approves new, streamlined government, Eurasianet, February 2021,[80] Kaktus Media, Government without Surabaldieva. New line-up proposed by Ulukbek Maripov, February 2021,[81] Gulmira Makanbai, Rally against appointment of Ulukbek Maripov as Prime Minister held in Bishkek,, February 2021,[82] Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, The draft Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic if posted on the official website of the Jogorku Kenesh, February 2021,;Version of the Legislation with an updated draft attached: Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, From November 17, 2020, the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the appointment of a referendum (nationwide vote) on the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic”, November 2020,[83] Adilet, Analysis of the draft Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, February 2021,[84] The example cited was German Basic Law Article 5.2 which creates this caveat on free speech rights ‘These rights shall find their limits in the provisions of general laws, in provisions for the protection of young persons and in the right to personal honour’,,[85] AKIpress, Constitutional referendum and local elections set for April 11: Japarov, February 2021,[86] Chris Rickleton, Kyrgyzstan: Mining sector braces for regulatory blow, Eurasianet, November 2020,[87]Kanat Shaku, Foreign investors banned from future mining projects in Kyrgyzstan, BNE News, February 2021,[88] Daily Sabah, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan to sign framework deal for cooperation in mining. February 2021,[89] Georgy Mamedov, “Japarov is our Trump”: why Kyrgyzstan is the future of global politics, openDemocracy, January 2021,; Erica Marat, Twitter Post, Twitter, January 2021,; Toktosun Shambetov, What form of government do the candidates for the presidency of Kyrgyzstan choose?, Radio Azattyk, December 2020,; The Economist, Sadyr Japarov is elected president of Kyrgyzstan in a landslide, January 2021,[90] Asel Doolotkeldieva, Twitter Post, Twitter, January 2021,[91] Asel Doolotkeldieva, Twitter Post, Twitter, January 2021,[92] Ryskeldi Satke, The Downside of Foreign Aid in Kyrgyzstan, The Diplomat, June 2017,; The World Bank, Kyrgyz Republic,[93] What a number of observers describe as clans: RFE/RL’s Service, OCCRP, Kloop, and Bellingcat, A Powerful Kyrgyz Clan’s Political Play, RFE/RL, October 2020,[94] Omurbek Ibraev, Cost of Politics in Kyrgyzstan, WFD, September 2019,; Erica Marat, Kyrgyzstan’s Protests Won’t Keep Corrupt Criminals Out of Politics, Foreign Policy, October 2020,[95] RFE/RL’s Service, OCCRP, Kloop, and Bellingcat, The Matraimov Kingdom, RFE/RL, October 2020,[96] UNODC. Afghan Opiate Trafficking Along the Northern Route, June 2018,[97] Results of research by the international SHADOW project presented in Bishkek, IBC Members’ News, December 2020,[98] Eleanor Beishenbek, The secret of the success of “Rayima Million”, Radio Azattyk, August 2015,[99] Ali Toktakunov, Following in the footsteps of millions of dollars withdrawn from Kyrgyzstan, Radio Azattyk, May 2019,; OCCRP, RFE/RL, and Kloop, The $700 million man, RFE/RL, November 2019,[100] OCCRP, RFE/RL, and Kloop, A Real Estate Empire Built on Dark Money, OCCRP, December 2019,[101] OCCRP, RFE/RL, Kloop, and Bellingcat, ‘His Murder Is Necessary’: Man Who Exposed Kyrgyz Smuggling Scheme Was Hunted By Contract Killers, RFE/RL, November 2010,[102] Nurjamal Djanibekova, Kyrgyzstan: Impromptu rally signals new way of opposing corruption, Eurasianet, November 2019,[103] RFE/RL’s Service, OCCRP, Kloop, and Bellingcat, The Matraimov Kingdom, RFE/RL, October 2020,[104] OCCRP, RFE/RL’s Radio Radio Azattyk, Kloop, and Bellingcat, The ‘Beautiful’ Life of a Kyrgyz Customs Official, OCCRP, December 2020,[105] The OCCRP Team, So Your Reporting Became a Factor in an Ongoing Revolution. What Do You Do Next?, Medium, October 2020,[106] Zdravko Ljubas, Kyrgyz Authorities Arrest Raiymbek Matraimov, OCCRP, October 2020,[107] Currenttime, Ex-Deputy Head of Kyrgyz Customs Transferred Almost $ 6 Million to the State in Corruption Case, November 2020,; OCCRP, Kyrgyz Ex-Customs Official Matraimov Pleads Guilty to Graft, Fined $3000, February 2021,; Oksana Gut, Matraimova, according to the agreement, will be fined and banned from holding public office for 3 years,, October 2020,; Radio Azattyk, Matraimov pleaded guilty to organizing corruption schemes at customs. He was sentenced to a fine of 260 thousand soms, February 2021,[108] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Kyrgyz Activists Rally Against Corruption, RFE?RL, February 2021,[109] Catherine Putz, In Kyrgyzstan, Controversial Former Customs Official Matraimov Rearrested, The Diplomat, February 2021,; Catherine Putz, In Kyrgyzstan, Matraimov Placed in Pretrial Detention as Money Laundering Investigation Moves Ahead, The Diplomat, February 2021,[110] U.S. Department of the Treasury, Treasury Sanctions Corrupt Actors in Africa and Asia, December 2020,[111] Lydia Osborne, Kamchybek Kolbayev, OCCRP, June 2018,[112] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Reputed Kyrgyz Crime Boss To Be Released From Prison, RFE/RL, May 2014,[113] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, OCCRP, Kloop, and Bellingcat, The Kolbaev Connection, RFE/RL, December 2020,[114] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Notorious Kyrgyz Crime Boss Detained In Bishkek, RFE/RL, October 2020,[115] Chris Rickelton and Bekpolot Ibraimov, Kyrgyzstan: Kingmaker lurks behind curtain as politics heat up, Eurasianet, July 2019,[116] Erica Marat, Kyrgyzstan’s Protests Won’t Keep Corrupt Criminals Out of Politics, Foreign Policy, October 2020,[117] Sarah Chayes, The Structure of Corruption: A Systemic Analysis Using Eurasian Cases, Carnegie Endowment, June 2016,[118] Open Government Partnership, Kyrgyz Republic, Member Since 2017, Action Plan 1,[119] Yuri Kopytin, Crime boss Kadyrbek Dosonov brought to Bishkek from Osh city,, February 2021,; Kloop, Twitter Post, Twitter, February 2021,[120] Albeit one whose name would often overlap with that used to describe ethnic Kazakhs.[121] Alisher Khamidov, Brewing ethnic tension causing worry in south Kyrgyzstan, Refworld, November 2002,[122] Erica Marat, National Investigation of the Osh Violence Yields Little Results, Refworld, January 2011,; Human Rights Watch, “Where is the Justice?” Interethnic Violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan and its Aftermath, August 2010,[123]  OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities “Statement on Kyrgyzstan,” Vienna, May 6, 2010,[124] Erica Marat, National Investigation of the Osh Violence Yields Little Results, refworld, January 2011,[125] Todar Pruss, The Fight for the Right to Speak Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan’s Capital, The Oxus Society, November 2020,[126] AKIpress, Russian language kept as official language in draft of Constitution of Kyrgyzstan, November 2020,[127] FPC, Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, May 2016,[128] Adam Hug, Introduction: The Rise of Illiberal Civil Society?, FPC, July 2018,; Asylai Akisheva, “Kelinism” in Kyrgyzstan: Women’s Rights Versus Traditional Values, The Oxus Society, January 2021,[129] NDI, Forum of women members of parliament in Kyrgyzstan takes on domestic violence, May 2020,[130] The Equal Rights Trust, Kyrgyzstan, March 2018,; ECOM News, ECOM, PO “Kyrgyz Indigo” and the LGBT organization “Labrys” informed the UN HRC about the lack of antidiscrimination legislation for LGBT people in Kyrgyzstan, August 2020,[131] Valeria Cardi, When Women Rule: Kyrgyzstan’s youngest female MP puts bride kidnapping, attacks on women in spotlight, Reuters, October 2017,[132] Labrys Programs,; Pete Baumgartner, Rainbow Rage: Kyrgyz Rail Against LGBT Community After Central Asia’s ‘First’ Gay-Pride March, RFE/RL, March 2019,[133] Kate Arnold, Curtain Falls On Bishkek’s Lone LGBT Club Amid Worsening Atmosphere, RFE/RL, June 2017,[134] RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Kyrgyz Voters Back Amendments On Same-Sex Marriage, Presidential Power, RFE/RL, December 2016,[135]  Haerpfer, C., Inglehart, R., Moreno, A., Welzel, C., Kizilova, K., Diez-Medrano J., M. Lagos, P. Norris, E. Ponarin & B. Puranen et al. (eds.). 2020. World Values Survey: Round Seven - Country-Pooled Datafile. Madrid, Spain & Vienna, Austria: JD Systems Institute & WVSA Secretariat.[136] Ryskeldi Satke, Illiberal forces put women’s rights under strain in Kyrgyzstan, Foreign Policy Centre, July 2018,[137] Asel Sooronbayeva, Kyrgyzstan: Hijab Not an Obstacle to Success, CABAR, February 2019,[138] Ibid.[139] European Baptist Federation (EBF) and Baptist World Alliance, Universal Periodic Review Session 35 Kyrgyz Republic, Freedom of religion or belief Stakeholder Report,[140] Constitute, Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution of 2010 with Amendments through 2016,[141] Civil Society Briefs, The Kyrgyz Society, November 2011,[142] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan: Draft bill threatens to drive NGOs against the wall, Eurasianet, May 2020,; Civic Solidarity, Civic Solidarity Platform statement on legislative proposals to impose excessive reporting and control requirements on civil society organizations in Kyrgyzstan, February 2020,[143] Labour Start Campaigns, Kyrgyzstan: Stop pressure on trade unions,[144] Human Rights Watch, Kyrgyzstan: Increased Interference in Trade Union Activities, December 2020,[145] Asel Doolotkeldieva, Twitter Post, Twitter, December 2020,[146] Anara Musabaeva, Responsibility, transparency and legitimacy of socially-oriented NGOs in Kyrgyzstan, INTRAC, January 2013,[147] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan: Hundreds rally against constitutional tinkering, Eurasianet, November 2020,; Ayday Tokoeva, “There is no Han Constitution.” Peaceful march to be held in Bishkek against amendments to the country’s basic law, kloop, November 2020,[148] Editorial policies in outlets around the world are influenced by the political persuasions of powerful media owners but this relates to the transactional, ad hoc nature of whom some outlets criticise, which can be shaped by funders outside the companies themselves.[149] ARTICLE 19, Kyrgyzstan: Law “On Manipulating Information” must be vetoed, July 2020,[150] Daria Podolskaya, MPs want to push thought controversial law on manipulating information,, December 2020,[151] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan: Thin-skinned authorities hauling in commentators for questioning, Eurasianet, August 2020,[152] CPJ, Journalists attacked, obstructed during and after parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan, October 2020,[153] Highlights from Central Asian Press, Websites 12 Jan 21, BBC Monitoring Central Asia Unit Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, January 2021,; Aidai Tokoyeva, Ya prizyvayu opponentov obedinit’sya, menshestvo dolzhno podchinit’sya bolshinstvu--Zhaparov, KLOOP.KG - Новости Кыргызстана (blog), January 2021,[154] U.S. Agency for Global Media, RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service investigative reporter receives death threat, April 2020,[155] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, New Kyrgyzstan leader vilifying free press, Eurasianet, November 2020,; Paul Bartlett, Bleak Outlook for Kyrgyzstan’s Free Press After Japarov’s Landslide Win in Presidential Poll, The Moscow Times, January 2021,[156] Kamila Eshaliyeva, Real fakes: how Kyrgyzstan’s troll factories work, openDemocracy, November 2020,[157] Elvira Kalmurzaeva, Twitter Post, Twitter, November 2020,[158] Bakyt Toregeldi, Threats and intimidation in social networks of the Kyrgyz segment, Radio Azattyk, November 2020,[159] An example of the Trusted Partner scheme in a different context: EFHR, EFHR welcomed into Trusted Partner Channel of Facebook, January 2018,[160] Adilet:[161] Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, From November 17, 2020, the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the appointment of a referendum (nationwide vote) on the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic”, November 2020, (As revised in February 2021)[162] Adilet, Report: “The Bar and Lawyers of the Kyrgyz Republic under attack: persecution and external threats”, March 2020,[163] Adilet, Analysis of the draft Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, February 2021,; Bar of the Kyrgyz Republic:; Official website of the State Enterprise of the Kyrgyz Republic:[164] ABA, Trial Observation Report: Kyrgyzstan vs. Gulzhan Pasanova, May 2020,[165] In conversations with the author and for example: Eurasianet, Kyrgyzstan: Will fury around Askarov death end up signifying nothing?, July 2020,[166] Human Rights Watch, Kyrgyzstan – Events of 2018,[167] JurisPrudence,[168] Human Rights Watch, Adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic, Review of Kyrgyzstan, September 2020, For example Russia has passed constitutional amendments that assert the supremacy of its judicial decisions over those of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Trump Administration launched international sanctions against Judges on the International Criminal Court who were investigating potential crimes by US service personnel and the UK has been debating watering down the application of the European Convention on Human Rights or leaving the ECtHR’s jurisdiction for much of the last ten years.[169] Front Line Defenders, Azimjan Askarov Brings Lawsuit Against Government,[170] ACCA, In Kyrgyzstan, every fifth detainee complains of torture, January 2020,[171] Front Line Defenders, #Kyrgyzstan,[172] Hugh Williamson, Twitter Post, Twitter, December 2020,[173] RFE/RL, U.S. ‘Concerned’ Over Fate of Uzbek Journalist Extradited By Kyrgyzstan, September 2020,[174] Lira Sagynbekova, International Labour Migration in the Context of the Eurasian Economic Union : Issues and Challenges of Kyrgyz Migrants in Russia, University of Central Asia, Working Paper no.39, 2017,[175] Ryskeldi Satke, Twitter Post, Twitter, February 2021,[176] Chris Rickleton, Twitter Post, Twitter, November 2020,; TASS, Putin congratulates Japarov on winning Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election, January 2021,[177] Dirk van der Kley, COVID and the new debt dynamics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Eurasianet, October 2020,; Chris Rickleton, Kyrgyzstan’s China debt: Between crowdfunding and austerity, Eurasianet, November 2020,[178] Niva Yau, China business briefing : Not happy with Kyrgyzstan, Eurasianet, November 2020,; Eurasianet, Kyrgyzstan pleads for more Chinese help in building key infrastructure, December 2020,; Temur Umarov, Dangerous Liaisons : How China is Taming Central Asia’s Elites, Carnegie Moscow Center, January 2021,[179] European Commission, EU and Kyrgyz Republic initial Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, July 2019,,Asia%20Ministerial%20Meeting%2C%20in%20Bishkek.&text=The%20seventh%20and%20final%20negotiating,on%206%2D8%20June%202019[180] A list of possible suggestions for, which can be found in this publication’s conclusion and recommendations.[181] European Commission, Recipients,[182] EEAS, Kyrgyz Republic and the EU, October 2020,[183] Tatyana Kudryavtseva, Germany announces reduction in cooperation with Kyrgyzstan,, May 2020,; Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ 2030 reform strategy: New thinking – new direction,[184] Foreign Assistance, Kyrgyzstan,; Looking at the data via – USAID, U.S. Foreign Aid by Country, - it can be seen that the main beneficiaries were US Development and Health NGO FHI 360, the Development Consulting firm Chemonics and health care and health systems consultants John Snow International. The top ten partners were all US firms, NGOs or Government Agencies.[185] Development Tracker, Kyrgyzstan, FCDO, [post_title] => Retreating Rights - Kyrgyzstan: Introduction [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => retreating-rights-kyrgyzstan-introduction [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-09 11:21:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-09 10:21:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5533 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2021-03-01 00:00:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-02-28 23:00:41 [post_content] => Resolving the situationThis Retreating Rights publication has tried to set out the scale of the challenges facing Kyrgyzstan today. The people of Kyrgyzstan have seen the same movie several times now: rapid, chaotic political change leading to new leaders with big promises but who fall prey to the same vices as those they replaced, leading in turn to further dramatic change. The central question now remains whether President Japarov will follow the same script as his predecessors. However while certain issues have been amplified since the October 2020 upheaval, most of Kyrgyzstan’s challenges have been years in the making and at their heart lie three mutually reinforcing problems: corruption, hatred and impunity. There are a lot of questions then for those who want to help Kyrgyzstan tackle these ‘three evils’.[1] Western Governments working with Kyrgyzstan have not ignored the country’s structural problems but they have perhaps been guilty of sometimes downplaying them. There has been a tendency to compare the country with the shocking human rights performance of its Central Asian neighbours rather than addressing Kyrgyzstan purely on its own merits, something that may have dulled some of the urgency of the response. Rather than panic though, it is time for a clear eyed assessment of the present situation, including examining the progress (or lack thereof) of previous approaches, in order to turn ‘deep concern’ into action. As ever it is easier to diagnose a problem than to suggest a suitable remedy. However many of the authors in this contribution have tried to chart a possible way forward for international engagement in Kyrgyzstan. This conclusion seeks to marshal some of those ideas and add some additional ones. The challenges are both conceptual and practical, around what goals Western donors are seeking to achieve and what mechanisms they are trying to use to attain them. Given the failings of the Kyrgyz state during the pandemic and the endemic levels of corruption that riddle the delivery of public services and all parts of public life that helped lead to the subsequent collapse and reformation of state authority in October, there is an urgent need to review projects that have been focused on capacity building in government ministries, state agencies and with the Supreme Council (Parliament). A significant proportion of international donor support, notably from the EU, has been channeled directly to the Government in the form of budget support.[2] There are important capacity building and local ownership arguments in favour of budget support in the context of a relationship of trust between donors and government. However there are reasons to reconsider existing approaches given the enduring levels of graft within these institutions (even if donor funded work is subject to heavy scrutiny such projects can displace other funding that can be used for less helpful purposes), their lack of accountability to citizens of Kyrgyzstan and the variable outcomes of different schemes.[3] As Ernest Zhanaev notes there is a tendency for an overly technocratic approach to assessing the outcomes of joint projects, an expert involved in some of these processes described it as ‘box ticking’.[4] An open and frank review would have been welcome even if the October 2020 events had not taken place. As President Japarov is looking at ways to consolidate the power of the central state and the international community should only find new ways to do this in return for real change in how things work. Beyond working directly with the Government of Kyrgyzstan there is a tendency for governmental and institutional donors to package up their support into large funding bids, with bureaucratic reporting mechanisms in English. This approach is not always as conducive as it could be for the capacity building of local civil society (both activists and organisations) or the ability to move swiftly and creatively to address emerging issues.[5] This leads to many contracts being won by big international players, both consultancies and NGOs, with local organisations sometimes only able to benefit as junior partners. When it comes to Kyrgyzstan’s civil society, as discussed in the introduction and many of the essays, it is increasingly clear that local NGOs are not only under legislative and political pressure but that the campaign of delimitation has sadly been successful in the eyes of a significant proportion of the public. Asel Doolotkeldieva concludes her essay by arguing that ‘it is important to understand that under the present conditions liberal NGOs and independent mass media are discredited in public eyes and enjoy a construed reputation of Western agents. Promoting these actors further will not help neither the liberal society nor the image of the international community. The focus on human rights, including the LGBT rights, has worsened considerably the Western image and consequently diminished the degree of influence of Western ideals and projects on local politics’.  So given that are legitimate concerns about the operation and outcomes of activities conducted at all levels there is a compelling case for an open, holistic and independent review of all donor spending by governments, multilateral institutions (including the development banks) and international foundations in Kyrgyzstan. This should be informed by a wide-ranging evidence gathering process involving a mix of independently run focus groups and public opinion polls to gauge broader public opinion (to help understand both what the public would like to see prioritised and what they understand about the current situation, including past donor efforts).[6] Not only should such a process ensure that it reaches beyond those who would normally engage in donor initiatives, but there is, as Sharshenova notes, a need to engage with those with different viewpoints (including institutional stakeholders and experts, those whose values may be different to existing liberal interlocutors, including moderate or constructive critics of donor actions).[7] While any review process must be led by evidence on the ground the experts who have contributed to this collection have some important ideas to suggest. Both Sharshenova and Doolotkeldieva argue, in line with development best practice, strongly in favour of finding new ways to root democratic and governance practice in the local rather than international. Sharshenova argues that ‘democracy needs to come from within, and the EU will need to accommodate local forms and understandings of democracy’, while Doolotkeldieva writes that in order ‘to redress these negative images (of NGOs and liberal values) against the background of anti-Westernism prevalent in Kyrgyzstan, Western partners should work to promote other human rights images than of themselves’. The focus needs to be on shared principles rather than specific structures, so while using examples of Western institutions and practices can sometimes help illustrate ideas and inform operational understanding, the systems that evolve in Kyrgyzstan would benefit from being able to draw legitimacy from local values and history, as well as examples of good practice from other developing country contexts. One of the major conceptual challenges is around what the international community should be prioritising. Given the level of cynicism amongst many in Kyrgyzstan towards liberally minded initiatives, some of the contributors here have argued in favour of a switch in priority towards projects focused on economic security and education rather than rights. There are a couple of dimensions to assess here. Firstly, many of the existing major donor projects in Kyrgyzstan have focused on building the economy and improving access to education, with limited to mixed results. However in this author’s opinion there could well be scope for a switch in focus to more directly tackling issues of economic inequality and providing grassroots support to family incomes of those most in need rather than an emphasis on entrepreneurship and business development at a higher level, if both poverty reduction and the need to tackle populist discontent are seen as a strategic priority for donors. Secondly, it is worth noting the global context of development aid budgets dropping around the world, with major global cuts to the UK’s Foreign Aid budget and the withdrawal of Germany as a bilateral donor from Kyrgyzstan, on the grounds of reprioritisation and claims that poverty reduction efforts had already been a success.[8] So funding for a major new drive on more inclusive economic development may face significant resource hurdles, particularly once emergency COVID support schemes have been wound down. Thirdly, it is important to examine a narrative that donors or ‘the West’ should have focused on economic development before civic freedoms and democracy (with a view that the latter would follow the former) in a global context. For example, since the 1990s enormous amounts of Western development aid has been spent in countries like Uganda and Rwanda with a successful focus on delivering local education initiatives, improving primary health care, access to water and micro-level economic development, yet both (and many others recipients) are still authoritarian regimes, with Uganda experiencing recent electoral repression as well as having a worse Transparency International Ranking for Corruption than Kyrgyzstan.[9] This is not to argue against the enormous value such development initiatives have in terms of improving people’s life chances but the evidence is certainly limited that this automatically provides a future spring board for political development and reform. So while in Kyrgyzstan the lack of progress on economic development, poverty reduction and equality have helped nationalist and reactionary groups cynically to compare and contrast funding for NGOs, that poverty is used as a distraction from the corruption and mismanagement that really lies behind that failure. This author would caution against taking an ‘either/or’ approach to ‘development’ or civil and political rights. This is not least because the two agendas can join effectively together to try to address issues of governance, transparency and accountability which lie at the heart of Kyrgyzstan’s problems. This is not intended to be a counsel of despair, to throw away everything people have worked hard for and to give up. There are many past programmes that have made a positive difference to people’s lives and any new strategy from donors will need to find ways to engage with the state to help tackle certain development challenges; there will continue to be a role for international expertise and the ability to work at scale; and working with existing and emerging civil society groups will be a crucial part of the picture going forwards. In particular those civil society activists and human rights defenders who have weathered enormous pressures, made huge personal sacrifices to prevent abuse or to painstakingly achieve incremental change should not simply be cut loose to fend for themselves against the powerful forces they have angered over the years. But it is nevertheless time for reflection and while this collection does not pretend to have all the answers, it does attempt to suggest some of them. So any major shifts in funding priorities should be informed by the findings of the type of review suggested above and be driven by local demand in order to build public credibility. Nevertheless, there are a number of important themes to be considered that flow from the analysis in this publication. Firstly, a rigorous focus on governance, transparency and accountability will be important to tackle the systemic problems of corruption, hate (often linked to nationalism, misogyny and homophobia) and impunity that this publication concentrated on. Secondly, a number of essay contributors here, and other experts interviewed as part of the research, strongly argue for a rethink of previous international engagement work with political parties and Parliament, given how recent events have further exposed the hollowness of such political vehicles. This is not to suggest a bar on engagement with the development of political ideas with civil society or to end inter-Parliamentary engagement as a form of diplomacy, but at least in the short-term capacity building efforts need to be rethought in recognition of the ephemeral nature of party allegiances and where the true sources of power lie in the current political system. Work on domestic violence, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights remain hugely important areas for donors, not least given that there are few options for domestic funding for protecting these communities and the growing risks they face provide a clear need for efforts to monitoring threats and preventing possible violence. However it is abundantly clear that such work has been weaponised and deployed against the wider range of liberal minded initiatives and ‘the West’ in general. There are no easy answers about what might shift the tide of public opinion on these issues but donors can perhaps think more about how they can develop and promote narratives around their wider interventions that emphasise areas of shared interest with the wider Kyrgyz population. Building positive, unifying and engaging public narratives, rooted in local preferences, about the work that liberal civil society (including journalists, human rights defenders, NGO workers and lawyers) are doing are likely to be the most effective ways of gradually shifting public opinion. Fact-checking and myth-busting can be helpful to inform elite policy actors in their work but the wider research on their use shows that this approach can be of limited use in reaching out to many sceptics, particularly where the message carrier is not trusted and the sources of disinformation (often people they know) are more trusted. So a combative approach to challenging falsehood can often harden rather than soften resistance, accentuating polarisation and often act to amplifying negative messages to a wider audience as Gulzat Baialieva and Joldon Kutmanaliev note. There may however be less confrontational approaches that can find some areas of commonality, while respecting difference, that open up new conversations. There is scope to learn from the burgeoning global literature on psychology and messaging and then look to implement best practice in Kyrgyzstan. Donors will be considering what role that could and should play in supporting new volunteer and social movements.[10] As Doolotkeldieva notes there is more that can be done to understand and map the dynamics and dimensions of these more fluid forms of civic mobilisation to identify where the real sources of authority and change are located. It will be important that conversations between these movements and the international community are shaped by the wishes of the activists, who may well have understandable wariness about engaging with the international donors (even when their assistance could be helpful) given the ways in which more traditional civil society has been demonised for its links to the ‘West’. When looking at traditional donor support to civil society, as set out above there needs to be a process of reflection, recalibration and reform but there would seem to be two recommendations that might help move things forward, though they are somewhat in contradiction with each other. Local civil society groups would benefit from greater flexibility and speed of response from donors to help them adapt to the fast changing local environment and to enable them to be more closely driven by priorities arising from local need, rather than plugging in to strategies devised in donor home capitals. Such a flexible approach (including core funding) would likely rely, in this time of ever greater desire for scrutiny and accountability to donor taxpayers, on working with trusted partners with whom donors have an established working relationship and a confidence in their operational capacity. However this does not necessarily fit very well with the second clear recommendation which is to find ways to support fresh voices and new thinking, given the critique posed by Shirin Aitmatova and others that certain donor approaches and partnerships have gone stale over several decades. There would seem to be a misalignment between the local Kyrgyz demand for creativity, innovation and risk-taking and the Western donor taxpayer demand for accountability. There is a need to make the case that innovation and outcomes can be more important in showing value for money than what can be caricatured as box ticking exercises. Some Western aid sceptics may be willing to consider more creative approaches if packaged in the right way, particularly given that some of their often misplaced concerns can echo local complaints about ‘the usual suspects’ and ‘grant eating’. Decisions on any strategic changes should be based on evidence and the eventual approach would be likely to comprise a mix of greater flexibility for some trusted partners and involving a new generation of organisations, but it is important that this not be business as usual masquerading as something new if the credibility gap of donor aid is to be addressed. As discussed above, any strategic rethink is coming at a hugely challenging time for the international donors, as demands rise in the wake of COVID and as budgets are often being cut. This context gives less room for maneuver than would be ideal and makes it more difficult to provide the stability and predictability of funding that can be so important. However, it is important that the international community takes a holistic view about the range of tools available to it. Given that the EU has negotiated but not yet ratified its 2019 Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Kyrgyzstan and the UK is currently negotiating its new partnership arrangements there is surely scope to link progress on completing these deals (and in the case of the UK-Kyrgyzstan deal uprating it to match the EU’s current plans) in return for some concrete and measurable actions to reassure partners that there will be no further backsliding on human rights. Partners could continue to explore new ways to use trade and investment incentives, with human rights conditionality and anti-corruption safeguards that can be leveraged and tailored to incentivise reform and improved development outcomes. Conditionality against clear benchmarks will be important but needs to be coupled with increased incentives to have resonance in an environment where the ‘West’ is clearly behind Russia and China in terms of Kyrgyzstan’s strategic priorities. This could potentially include ways to examine debt forbearance (such as interest relief) and debt reductions and relief on the portion of Kyrgyzstan’s debt held by multilateral banks (around 44 per cent of total external debt, which at $1.7bn is a relatively small figure by global standards) and other Western partners.[11] Such efforts could help to free up funding for services in the governance revenue budget and give the country the policy space to consider new capital investment projects (a comprehensive approach to existing debt relief could also be linked to find ways to improve transparency and accountability over new lending by China and other partners). There is also a clear role the international community can play outside of Kyrgyzstan to address some of the systemic failings within it. This means being willing to use the personal sanctions (including asset freezes, banking system and visa bans) provided by the US, UK and EU Magnitsky powers, and anti-corruption mechanisms such as the UK’s Unexplained Wealth Orders.[12] The US have already deployed their Magnitsky sanctions in relation to Raimbek Matraimov on grounds of corruption.[13] Although the UK and EU schemes currently do not include corruption as a reason for applying such sanctions but other anti-corruption tools perhaps may be more appropriate in jurisdictions where assets identified in Kyrgyzstan’s corruption scandals are to be found.[14] Officials involved in the torture and imprisonment of Azimjan Askarov, should however be eligible for all three mechanisms, sending a strong signal against impunity, though potentially with a less direct impact on the lives of the alleged perpetrators. It should go without saying that the ways in which the Kyrgyz elites have used international real estate markets, company formation and other tools, provide more evidence of the need for wider anti-corruption reforms across the West, as addressed in other FPC publications and the wider literature.[15] International social media companies can certainly play their part to help address the situation on the ground. They can look at ways to expand access to Kyrgyz language moderation and support to tackle online hate speech, particularly at times of political tension such as elections or constitutional referendums or around known flashpoints such as International Women’s Day. As Begaim Usenova and ARTICLE 19 argue the internal redress mechanisms of social media platforms still need further improvement and better sign posting, with a particular focus on tackling gender-based abuse. Further steps should be taken to expedite review mechanisms for those who are repeat victims, building on progress so far. Social media companies and donors can find ways to collaborate to help journalists and activists in Kyrgyzstan develop new methods of generating advertising revenue, crowdfunding and other monetisation techniques. Traditional donor funding can and should still assist with training on investigative reporting and on support for Kyrgyz language and local journalists, including how best to use social media and online dissemination channels. Given the rise in online abuse (to complement and amplify in-person threats) social media companies and donors (including donors linked to social media companies) need to do more to provide psychosocial support for victims of abuse and to facilitate the holistic documentation of such targeted abuse campaigns against journalists, human rights defenders, NGO workers and lawyers, with a particular focus on those in rural areas without established support networks. There is much to say about what Western partners can do in relation to the situation, more than can be contained above or in this publication. However it is important not to ignore the political agency of the new Government of Kyrgyzstan. President Japarov’s background and his rise to power have raised a number of legitimate concerns about what may come next and so there is perfectly understandable scepticism about future prospects, not least given the trajectory of his many predecessors upon taking office. However, it is important to find appropriate ways to constructively engage with Japarov’s stated objectives and find the right mix of incentives and pressure to try and hold him to his pledges. International partners will need to make clear that further attempts to shrink the already reduced civic space or to target vulnerable groups and journalists who annoy him will lead to concerted and wide-ranging push back. Despite the many reservations noted in this publication about the approach being taken by Japarov to tackling corruption, his desire to be seen to be doing something by his supporters is clear. This could provide new opportunities to mutually identify illegitimately acquired assets stashed around the world, provided that such efforts are not solely targeted at his political opponents. President Japarov has a long held beliefs about the importance of state consolidation and the centralisation of power in response to the chaos of previous years. It is clear that this political prospectus has some public appeal but it is at odds with a previous desire by donors and local civil society to see the distribution of power away from the ‘strong man as President’ (a key factor in the 2005 and 2010 revolutions) and towards to Supreme Council and local communities, with the intention of creating greater pluralism. In following these perfectly laudable objectives, the approach of the last ten years may have to some extent redistributed power, but it often did so in opaque and unaccountable ways, with a corrupted Parliament and players behind the scenes shaping decision-making (a key factor in the events of October 2020). This author would argue that there is no single correct international model to follow and that there is not always a clear link between the form and function of government, between structures and accountability. This can perhaps be illustrated by two well-known, but far from perfect, democratic models. Though the US President is often still described as the most powerful person in the world, the country’s Presidential System is designed with such substantial congressional and judicial ‘checks and balances’ that the President often has a real challenge in passing much of his agenda. Furthermore, given the substantial power held at state level there are large areas of policy and practice where the federal government is only tangentially involved. Whereas the UK’s Westminster Parliament, claimed to be ‘the mother of Parliaments’, in fact consolidates more power in the hands of the executive and central government than almost any other in the democratic world.[16] Despite the very low turnout, President Japarov’s victory and the approval of the change to a Presidential system by a wide margin will see him push ahead with his project of state consolidation and power centralisation, which he argues will enable Kyrgyzstan to deliver a more competent government and better outcomes for its public. This consolidation process clearly carries significant risks that it could quickly lead the country further down the road to full authoritarianism. However, given where things stand following the approval by referendum of the move to transfer powers from the Parliament to the President, there is a need to try and find new ways to help provide genuine transparency and accountability. Considering the referendum result and Japarov’s clearly stated objectives, it may be that arguments around retaining some ‘checks’, in the form of requirements to sometimes pause the breakneck speed with which he is making change and consult with the public (giving the opportunity for a populist like Japarov to learn what citizens think in real time and therefore potentially head off issues that may cause him problems) may have a greater chance of gaining some (if probably limited) traction than demands to retain ‘balances’ that give power (and opportunities for horse trading and corruption) to other political players that are or can be captured by powerful interests.[17] One of the emerging issues will be what to do about the Kurultai. Given the history of the proposal and its backers and the abuse of similar schemes in Central Asia as a tool for presidential power to undermine or bypass parliamentary scrutiny it is absolutely clear why many activists have focused on trying to stop its inclusion in the new constitution. However the proposal, albeit in a watered down version, has made it into the revised February 2021 draft and, given the importance of some its backers to President Japarov’s electoral coalition, it seems likely that something called a Kurultai will be created whenever the constitution is finally voted on and, in all likelihood, adopted. So while efforts to remove this provision may well continue, it is important for civil society and the international community to consider what lessons they would like to seek to be applied from local community practices in Kyrgyzstan and from models of consultative bodies in developing countries around the world that could be more helpful than the current ideas being floated. If Western models can be of assistance to the discussion, then examples might include the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the mostly slow paced and bureaucratic EU consultative body of ‘social partners’ that acts as a generally harmless and sometimes helpful adjunct to the Union’s democratic structures, through to the ‘Citizens Assembly’ models used particularly effectively in Ireland but also in places like Canada and Demark.[18] There are certainly a wide range of different ideas out there for inclusive collective discussion and decision-making rather than leaving the body to be a self-appointed talking shop for older men or a rubber stamp for the whims of those in power, which it risks becoming without proactive engagement by those with better ideas. Beyond the debate around the Kurultai, there will be a need to focus efforts on the other contentious issues that remain in the February draft constitution. Four particular areas stand out to this author. In the current draft, Article 8.4 would create a requirement that ‘political parties, trade unions and other public associations ensure the transparency of their financial and economic activities’ that may give constitutional weight to efforts to increase NGO regulation and bureaucratic pressure. The continued, though watered down, presence of a ‘moral and ethical’ values test in Article 10 4, which states that ‘in order to protect the younger generation, events that contradict moral and ethical values, the public consciousness of the people of the Kyrgyz Republic may be limited by law’ is a continuing concern. Efforts must be made to ensure that this is only applied to issues such as protecting young people from age inappropriate content, such as pornography, rather than providing a backdoor mechanism to supress discussion about women’s or LGBTQ rights issues that offend ‘traditional’ sensibilities. The experience of how the Russian Federal Law ‘for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values’, has been used to repress their LTBTQ community is certainly a worrying precedent in that regard.[19] As Sardorbek Abdukhalilov notes the proposed new constitution no longer has the requirement, set out in Article 38 of the existing constitution, that ‘everyone shall have the right to freely determine and state his/her ethnicity. No one may be forced to determine and state his/her ethnicity’.[20] While recently this requirement has been watered down to allow for the state to place an optional ethnicity section on passports and other forms of ID, there are fears that without such constitutional protection it may become mandatory to state their ethnicity on their ID, despite the provision of the newly proposed Article 1.5 that ‘The people of Kyrgyzstan are citizens of all ethnic groups of the Kyrgyz Republic’.[21] Abdukhalilov separately notes the importance of enforcing existing quotas for minority groups on electoral lists and recommends that similar measures should be brought in to improve diversity in government service and public bodies. The draft Constitution, in Article 105, would also seem to further consolidate the power of the Prosecutor General’s office. It states that ‘supervision over the accurate and uniform execution of laws and other regulatory legal acts is carried out by the prosecutor's office of the Kyrgyz Republic’.[22] Adilet have argued that this wording will ‘provide the prosecutors with the right to conduct inspections of citizens, commercial organisations, other economic entities, non-governmental, non-commercial organisations, institutions, enterprises, etc.’ and the power to control or replace other supervisory mechanisms.[23] This consolidation risks creating a tool that could be used even more efficiently to pressurise critics of the Government if effective safeguards are not put in place. Jasmine Cameron suggests that the new Government of Kyrgyzstan should set out a fresh ‘road map on how to better protect the rights of the vulnerable and marginalised’. Such a plan could include the ‘National Action Plan for the safety of journalists’ with clear procedures and enforcement capacity that Begaim Usenova and ARTICLE 19 recommend. Such a new plan, replacing the Jeenbekov-era 2019-21 National Human Rights Action plan, could enable President Japarov to take personal ownership of such an agenda, and use it as a basis for efforts to reassure his sceptics and critics that he will not abuse the Presidential ‘bully pulpit’ to target them or encourage his supporters to do so. For any human rights road map or action plan to be more than another meaningless piece of paper to distract the international community, it should be authored and owned by the new Government but clearly linked to rights based conditionality around the signing of new partnership agreements, debt relief, new aid to the Government and further investment in infrastructure or economic development. A number of authors in this collection try to help illuminate who President Japarov is and how he came to power. He has, or at least has been able to craft, a powerful personal story that resonates with a significant section of the public. As Aksana Ismailbekova puts it ‘to understand why people support Japarov, despite his violations of the rule of law, it is important to look at the security strategies of Uzbek businessmen. They have put their trust in someone who is a ‘controversial’ figure, but who also is perceived as having personally experienced the injustice of the law, and is able to show his strength against other strong ‘mafia’ networks. The boundaries of state, business, and criminal have been blurred in the context of Kyrgyzstan.’ So if the popular contention that most politicians in Kyrgyzstan are thieves is true (or at least partially true), it is understandably tempting for people to support the one who portrays himself as Robin Hood rather than someone who insists they are beyond reproach, despite evidence to the contrary. President Japarov has also tapped into the same well of public concern about instability and a desire for strength or political courage (dukh) that so many populist figures use around the world. This dynamic is particularly relevant in the context of the recent chaos, corruption and lack of capacity in the Kyrgyz state. So it is absolutely understandable for observers, both inside and outside Kyrgyzstan to be concerned but in the absence of a significant deterioration in freedoms (or for those inside the country until new alternatives begin to emerge), there needs to be an attempt to find areas of Japarov’s agenda where common ground can be found, such as holding him to his rhetoric on tackling corruption, while organising and mobilising against emerging issues of concern.[24] This publication shows that while on the surface the political landscape has changed dramatically since October 2020, in other important respects much has not changed and many of the same trends and forces are at work shaping the situation as they ever have been. The outlook may seem bleak but many of the dark clouds over Kyrgyzstan’s political system have been there for a long time. Kyrgyzstan’s people are resilient but its freedoms are fragile and action must be taken to prevent further backsliding. The Japarov Presidency should be a spur to review, revise and reinvigorate the international community’s engagement with Kyrgyzstan, focused on efforts to tackle corruption, hatred and impunity. So this publication makes a number of potential recommendations for the international community and the Government of Kyrgyzstan. Recommendations for the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, international institutions, Western partners and donors:
  • Ensure a rigorous focus on issues of corruption, hatred and impunity;
  • Undertake a systemic review of international donor funded projects in Kyrgyzstan including budget support, the use of consultancies and working with NGOs. It should look at both objectives and implementation, based on evidence and widespread engagement;
  • Find ways to empower fresh thinking and new voices, while giving partners the space and resources to adapt to local priorities;
  • Encourage the Japarov Government to develop a new and comprehensive National Human Rights Action Plan;
  • Increase human rights and governance conditionality in order to unlock stalled EU and UK partnership agreements, debt relief, further government related aid and new investment;
  • Deploy Magnitsky Sanctions and anti-corruption mechanisms more widely;
  • Expand Kyrgyz language moderation by social media companies and strengthen reporting and redress mechanisms;
  • Push for further amendments to the draft constitution to protect NGOs, trade unions, free speech and minority rights, and avoid increasing the Prosecutor General’s office’s power; and
  • Explore new mechanisms for civic consultation learning from local practices in Kyrgyzstan, consultative bodies in other developing countries and the use of Citizens Assemblies.
 Image by Dan Lundberg under (CC). [1] Channelling the spirit of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. rather than Communist Party of China.[2] Ana-Maria Anghelescu, Should Europe Worry About Kyrgyzstan?, The Diplomat, January 2021,; EEAS, Kyrgyz Republic and the EU, October 2020,; European Commission, Kyrgyzstan,,education%2C%20rural%20development%20and%20investments[3] Eurasianet use the Askarov case to highlight the lack of progress made by donor backed rule of law programmes: Eurasianet, Kyrgyzstan: Will fury around Askarov death end up signifying nothing?, July 2020,[4] In conversation with the author.[5] This essay notes the English language reporting requirements: Ana-Maria Anghelescu, Should Europe Worry About Kyrgyzstan?, The Diplomat, January 2021,; As noted in the introduction the top partners for USAID funding are all either US development consultancies, large NGOs or other US agencies: USAID, U.S. Foreign Aid by Country: Kyrgyzstan, 2018,[6] Factoring in such exercises across the world, much of what can be gleaned will likely show how loosely rooted some (even strongly held) perceptions are in the details of current or past donor activity.[7] As well as engaging with past and present users of donor funded services, there should be outreach to the wider public particularly in rural areas.[8] Tatyana Kudryavtseva, Germany announces reduction in cooperation with Kyrgyzstan,, May 2020,[9] Transparency International, Transparency International Uganda,[10] COVID response to the druzhinniki who protected businesses from potential rioting to the Bashtan Bashta (start with your head) protest movement, which in recent months has organised creative campaigns against elements of the proposed constitution, to youth engagement in voluntary movements, to religious charity activities, to female solidarity groups, to business structures, and to migrant safety nets[11] Dirk van der Kley, COVID and the new debt dynamics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Eurasianet, October 2020,[12] Though Kyrgyzstan may not have the level of wealth that fuels large scale oligarchic expansion overseas seen in the cases of Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan but it does have some and particularly given the potential links to organised crime these potential pressure points should be on the radar of the international community.[13] U.S. Department of the Treasury, Global Magnitsky Designations, September 2020,[14] Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Guidance: Global Human Rights Sanctions: Information Note for NGOs and Civil Society,, July 2020,; Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Policy Paper: Global Human Rights Sanctions: consideration of designations,, July 2020,; Council of the EU, EU adopts a global human rights sanctions regime, December 2020,[15] For example: FPC, Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: Project the UK’s values abroad, December 2020,; Susan Coughtrie, Unsafe for Scrutiny: Examining the pressures faced by journalists uncovering financial crime and corruption around the world, FPC, November 2020,; FPC, Unsafe for Scrutiny: How the misuse of the UK’s financial and legal systems to facilitate corruption undermines the freedom and safety of investigative journalists around the world, December 2020,[16] Provided they are able to command a Parliamentary majority and the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system has led to majority governments for almost all of the democratic era. Even in recent times where that has not been the case, such as the 2010-15 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition and the 2017-19 Parliament, the Prime Minister and Cabinet still have enormous power and latitude to run the Government as they see fit on an operational basis without reference to Parliament.[17] In the US system, where the term originates, the checks are provided by the balancing institutions.[18] The Citizen’s Assembly,[19] Human Rights Watch, No Support: Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” Law Imperils LGBT Youth, December 2018,[20] Constitute, Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution of 2010,,[21] Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, From November 17, 2020, the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the appointment of a referendum (nationwide vote) on the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic” On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic”, November 2020, (As revised in February 2021)[22] Ibid.[23] Adilet, Analysis of the draft Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, February 2021,[24] Rather than it being used for selective prosecutions and backroom deals as it has in the past [post_title] => Retreating Rights - Kyrgyzstan: Conclusions and recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => retreating-rights-kyrgyzstan-conclusions-and-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-02-28 20:53:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-02-28 19:53:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5397 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-12-16 00:12:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-15 23:12:15 [post_content] => After a prolonged period of introspection and tensions with longstanding partners, this publication shows the many different ways in which a Global Britain can reinvigorate its relationships with allies, alliances and institutions. The UK can show that it is willing to do the hard work to retain and build alliances with like-minded countries to make regional and global systems work in both the national and international interest. In order to build trust the UK should demonstrate that it still believes in the intrinsic value of international cooperation as more than simply an instrumental tool in its foreign policy kit because as an internationally focused middle power the UK benefits enormously from promoting wider global acceptance of international institutions and established norms. Irrespective of the UK’s Asia-Pacific aspirations, the UK’s security priorities are still overwhelmingly focused on Europe and so the UK needs to find a new way of working with the EU once the current sound and fury has subsided. This can start at an operational level where UK Embassies and EU Delegations can re-establish cooperation and information sharing on the ground in third countries and international institutions. In the future it may be possible to revisit issues such as formal foreign policy and security cooperation, as part of a future EU-UK Partnership and Cooperation Agreement or Strategic Partnership. Irrespective of the state of UK-EU relations Britain will need to redouble its efforts in the other European focused forums such as NATO, the OSCE and Council of Europe, with an emphasis on supporting the work these institutions do to promote democratic values. Globally the UK must build on its strong position at the UN and take full advantage of its leadership of both the COP and G7 in 2021 to set out an ambitious agenda for the UK’s future foreign policy. It should seek to build on ideas around a ‘Democracies-10’ (D10), by promoting expanded G7 membership to include South Korea and Australia. It should find new ways to promote engagement with the democracies of the global south and support UK NGOs and institutions such as the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to play a bigger role in democracy promotion. The UK will need to work flexibly and creatively with longstanding partners in new formats such as the Alliance for Multilateralism, the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) coalition, as well continuing current efforts to build greater collaboration between the ‘CANZUK’ countries, though recognising the geographic and economic limitations to the scale of such ambitions. Based on the findings put forward in this collection, there are a number of recommendations that the UK Government and other partners could consider including:
  • Finding a future framework for UK-EU cooperation in foreign and security policy and other non-trade areas, while rebuilding operational-level information sharing and cooperation;
  • Enhancing parliamentary cooperation between the UK and European Parliaments and strengthening UK delegations to the NATO, OSCE and CoE Parliamentary Assemblies;
  • Funding projects conducted by the OSCE and Council of Europe’s human rights mechanisms and supporting election observers as well as secondments and leadership candidacies;
  • Working with the Commonwealth on modern slavery and supply chains, while promoting the Commonwealth Charter and the use of aid and trade to improve compliance with its principles;
  • Using the UK Presidency of the G7 to refocus the organisation as the group of leading democracies by expanding its membership to include South Korea and Australia, while reinvigorating outreach to global south democracies;
  • Supporting the UK’s role in democracy promotion by supporting British NGOs and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy; and
  • Working creatively with forums like the Alliance for Multilateralism and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) coalition, while developing further CANZUK cooperation.
[post_title] => Partnerships for the future of UK Foreign Policy: Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => partnerships-for-the-future-of-uk-foreign-policy-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-12-15 23:17:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-12-15 22:17:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5395 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-12-16 00:11:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-15 23:11:37 [post_content] => Alliances and partnerships have been at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy throughout its history and they will be central its future. While at different points in history the UK has been more or less engaged, diplomatically and militarily, with its neighbours on the continent or others around the world, despite popular myth in some quarters to the contrary, Britain has rarely stood truly alone for long.[1] However, this publication comes at a time when the precise nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU remains unclear, though irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations the immediate scope of formal cooperation is significantly diminished, even from the May-era plans. As the UK seeks to move forward from this tumultuous period it will need not only to rethink how it works with the EU and its Member States but how it plans to work with other partners around the world not only bilaterally but particularly in existing multilateral institutions and new forums. The UK will need to show that it understands the interests of its partners as it tries to build on existing areas of cooperation and find new ones if it is to move forward effectively as a ‘Global Britain’. So this publication examines both the UK’s relationship with some of the most important existing multilateral and international institutions including the UN system, NATO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Commonwealth. It looks at the scope for future UK-EU collaboration around shared interests and values, in the absence of a deep and structured partnership in foreign and security policy, while also examining the future of the US-UK relationship in a challenging and potentially changing environment. It also explores the possibilities of new formal and informal coalitions of like-minded countries to defend human rights and liberal democracy against growing authoritarian threats. The importance of multilateralismThe delayed, but hopefully imminent, Integrated Review will provide an important opportunity to lay out what the Government sees as its vision for the UK’s future engagement with multilateralism and the international rules based order. There are clear signs in its statements and actions that the Government is moving away from seeing the international rules based system as an end in itself and towards a more instrumental approach, though it has talked in terms of still supporting the core tenets of multilateralism. This may stem not only from this Government’s particular concerns of being bound by agreements that limit its freedom of action, a desire expressed clearly in its Brexit end state policy preferences, but also from the a realpolitik assessment of the emerging shape of the international order and the Government’s response to it. It is undoubtedly true that the UK and its allies no longer dominate the creation and shaping of the rules to the same extent that it used to, with countries in the global south more strongly asserting their interests. While such a more instrumental approach may seem attractive to some from a tactical perspective, it poses the obvious question as to why others who have not had a dominant role in setting the rules should be expected to follow them (something successive UK Governments have encouraged them to do for decades). A world where China is a major international force and the global south is more coordinated and confident in a range of different forums is not something that has come a surprise to the UK and other Western powers. It is only right that global power becomes more equitably distributed in many areas, while recognising the risks posed to the international system by authoritarian states as set out in the ‘The principles for Global Britain’ publication.[2] However many, including this editor, still believe that the international rule-based world order does have an intrinsic value, both morally and in terms of global stability, which is worth defending. This is particularly true for an internationally focused economy and society such as the UK, which benefits from having an international order with consistent rules and relative reliability rather than one red in tooth and claw. As the outgoing President Trump has shown, it is hard to make a transactional approach work even for a country the size of the US and it is not a way of operating that will prove effective for the UK. This publication does not seek to beatify the UN or other international bodies, nor to ignore the dysfunction that many of them face. As is set out in this and previous publications in the series the UK will have to do a lot of hard work to retain and build alliances with like-minded countries in different areas to make the global system work in both the national and international interest but it is imperative that it does so. The UK will also need to be able to have a functioning relationship with China, Russia and other powers that it has principled disagreements with on issues that transcend political systems and ideology such as climate change and the maintenance of international peace and security in areas that do not threaten the interests of respective parties. Traditional partners and institutionsIt is something of an understatement to point out that the Conservative Government has substantially shifted its approach to the future relationship with the EU since September 2017 when it said that the UK: ‘will seek to agree new arrangements that enable us to sustain close UK-EU cooperation that will allow us to tackle our shared threats. The UK therefore envisages cooperation on external action to be central to our future partnership, complementing broader national security and law enforcement collaboration to tackle complex, multi-faceted threats.’[3] Under Boris Johnson’s leadership there have been no substantive discussions (at least not that have been shared with the public) between the UK and EU about a future foreign policy relationship forming part of any putative post-transition deal. Efforts to pin the blame for potential failure in the negotiations on the other party will sap mutual goodwill into the medium term, even if a last minute fix is found. Even after passions have cooled and the focus is able to rise from the minutia of trade negotiations it is unlikely the UK Government in its present form will want to pursue a particularly deep or structural future partnership on foreign and security policy with the EU. As Rosa Balfour says in her contribution to this collection the time for pragmatic proposals for future UK involvement and association with EU foreign and security policy have gone, for now. The UK has already taken steps to proactively partner with non-EU powers on initiatives and statements, most notably and fruitfully Canada, and the Foreign Secretary has actively encouraged diplomats to act in ways which show the UK has left the EU. However, it is important to ensure diplomats, and where political will exists politicians, are not discouraged from continuing to find ways, both traditional and creative, to keep working together with the EU institutionally where it is in the UK national interest, a new modus vivendi that recognises the enduring nature of many still shared values. The UK may wish that more could be achieved by purely bilateral initiatives with key EU partner countries but as the progress of the trade negotiations have shown member states are loathe to do things that could potentially  undermine or side-line EU institutions in areas where the EU has competence on their behalf. The UK is no longer a member state seeking to build alliances to shape EU decisions on which it has a say, but it is now a third country and which will necessitate working with the EU External Action Service and EU Commission where these institutions are delivering the agenda of member states. So In the medium to longer term it would still be extremely helpful for the UK have some form of structured agreement or at least a semi-structured engagement with the EU around foreign and security policy. This is in recognition of: the somewhat process-driven ways in which the EU conducts its foreign policy (managing the interests of 27 member states), shared values between the UK and EU and the EU’s institutional weight in areas of interest to the UK. As Professor Jamie Shea points out in his essay: ‘the UK had the opportunity even from outside the EU to associate itself with these developments when it concluded the Political Declaration on the Future Relationship at the same time as the Withdrawal Agreement.[4] The Declaration opened up many prospects for cooperation on terrorism, intelligence and data exchange, UK participation in CSDP missions, observer status at some EU foreign and defence ministers meetings and European Councils and third party access to certain EU capabilities programmes where it has something to contribute’ but that these are not opportunities the UK has decided to take up. He also points out that the absence of the UK in the EU is likely to further expedite the expansion of EU competences in the area of defence and security, which will hamper both the British desire to expand bilateral defence cooperation with EU member states and shift certain discussions away from NATO, the UK’s long-preferred venue for security cooperation. As Shea points out the Government currently sees ‘Brexit as giving it equality of status with the EU and therefore will not accept to be a non-voting participant or observer at EU meetings’. Even if a future government is not as wedded to this particular view it will be a continuing issue of political contention. Irrespective of whether a trade deal can be done, either now or in the future, it is to be hoped that the UK and EU can find a way to agree either a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement or a Strategic Partnership Agreement that can formalise future non-trade cooperation and facilitate peer to peer level structured engagement and dialogue, including periodic summits and official meetings. A way could potentially be found within such a framework to operationalise greater information sharing and dialogue over the development of both the EU’s Common Foreign and Security policy and the UK’s foreign policy.[5] Another feature of such an agreement could be to provide structure to future dialogue between Parliaments. For far too long the level of understanding about how EU institutions operate at Westminster has been sub-optimal, with the average UK Parliamentarian’s previous engagement with the European Parliament often mediated through interactions with their party’s MEPs, usually in either social or political campaigning situations that didn’t provide particular illumination about the European Parliament’s role or ways of working. At present, there is no EU Parliament Delegation to the UK, though the European Parliament retains a liaison office in London based at Europe House, home to the EU Delegation to the UK.[6] International engagement overall by the UK Parliament is something of a patchwork with formal delegations reserved only for participation in the Parliamentary Assemblies of the OSCE, NATO and Council of Europe.[7] At the other end of the spectrum of formality are the All-Party Parliamentary Country Groups, ad hoc groupings of MPs have no funding or administrative support other than that provided by the MPs themselves or external sponsors (including often the Embassies of the country in question).[8] In the middle sit the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the British-American Parliamentary Group (BAPG) whose UK chapters have offices within the Parliamentary Estate and coordinate collaborations between parliamentarians from countries within their memberships.[9] It is the BAPG, with alternating annual conferences, Governmental-backing and part financing from the UK Parliamentary Authorities, which could provide the model for the UK side of a future structured dialogue between the UK and European Parliaments that both sides would benefit from. As the UK completes its withdrawal from its structured relationship with the most significant pan-European institution it is important that the UK seeks to find ways to redouble its efforts to engage with the other major institutions that bring the UK in to contact with its European partners, notably the OSCE, Council of Europe and NATO. The particular challenges the UK needs to respond to in relation to these organisations are addressed in the essays by Anna Chernova, Prof Jamie Shea and by Dr Alice Donald and Prof Philip Leach respectively. All three institutions have faced significant structural challenges in recent years, the first two due to increasing tensions driven by growing authoritarian assertiveness from Turkey, Russia and a number of others in the post-Soviet space; the latter by the interaction between the Trump Presidency’s abusive approach and the long-standing failure of many members to meet their agreed defence spending obligations. The incoming Biden administration provides NATO with some breathing space but the structural problems remain around funding, capability, the US pivot to Asia, the role of Turkey and the EU’s growing competences in the defence and security arena.[10] The UK has long opposed this latter development but will find it harder to raise such objection from outside the EU and in the absence of a structured agreement with the EU, as mentioned above, the UK will have to find new ways to make NATO structures for collaboration more attractive if it wishes to stem the further flow of responsibility from NATO to the EU. The OSCE and Council of Europe have a lower profile in the British public debate, though the latter sometimes gets thrust into the limelight when a row over the findings of its European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) reaches tabloid attention. Their Parliamentary Assemblies, though deeply flawed, provide important opportunities for international dialogue between Parliamentarians. However perhaps more importantly both institutions provide the architecture for a number of human rights bodies and conflict resolution mechanisms that play an important role, particularly in the post-Soviet space, in underpinning the values Britain seeks to promote. These include not only the ECtHR, but the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, the Venice Commission (the European Commission for Democracy through Law), the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) and its High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). As part of the Integrated Review and new thinking about the use of UK aid, the Government could explore ways to directly fund projects by these mechanisms to promote open societies and human rights in countries that meet the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) criteria for aid eligibility. As Donald and Leach point out the UK’s occasionally fraught debate about the ECtHR already has helped give political space for Russia and other authoritarian countries to downgrade their level of compliance with Court rulings. The long-promised but recently announced review of the UK’s Human Rights Act, includes a focus on the relationship between domestic courts and the ECtHR, carries the risk of undermining the situation still further if not handled with care and an international perspective that ensures the UK’s adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights and ECtHR rulings are maintained.[11] Both the Chernova and Donald and Leach essays also raise an important point, made previously by this author as well, that the UK should find ways to improve the stature and relevance of UK delegations, something that could include enhancing their cooperation with Government, relevant Select Committee (particularly the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committees in the Commons and the Lords International Relations Committee(s)) and the Joint Committee on Human Rights, as well as loosening control of party whips and the Prime Minister by allowing direct election by MPs.[12] With democracy under threat throughout the region, the Government should find ways to protect and expand its active participation in the OSCE ODIHR’s gold standard independent election observation missions that often provide the only credible assessment of democratic performance on the ground within the OSCE region.[13] If opportunities arise the UK should be more proactive in putting forward qualified candidates to head in country offices on secondment and it should find ways to encourage and support UK officials who wish to take time out of their FCDO careers to work in the administrations of these organisations, as well as considering potential candidates for the top jobs in future. Once touted as the future of the UK’s post-Brexit foreign and trade policy the Commonwealth itself has not been place at the centre of the recent British debate, with focus narrowing to collaboration with its largest and most developed members as set out in the next section. This is perhaps in recognition of the divergent global priorities of many of the Commonwealth’s members, many of whom often operate through global south bodies such as the G77 at the UN. In their essay in this collection, Sanjoy Hazarika and Sneh Aurora highlight ways in which the UK could be proactive in working with and through the Commonwealth to promote human rights and good governance. They argue that the UK could lead the Commonwealth in addressing issues around Modern Slavery and abuse in supply chains that link both developed and developing members of the organisation. One further idea might be looking at ways in which the Commonwealth Charter, adopted by the 53 member states in 2012 and signed by the Queen in 2013, could be increasingly used by the UK as a framework to underpin its relationships with Commonwealth countries and promote the values contained within it.[14] Although the document is not a binding treaty it is an agreed statement of shared values and aspirations by the member countries made less than a decade ago. The UK could utilise charter as a tool alongside UN treaties to shape its emerging approach to greater human rights conditionality in the distribution of UK aid. At a global level the UK’s position as a member of UN Security Council’s permanent members, the role as the third largest financial contributor and significant diplomatic presence give it a continuing position of institutional influence as Richard Gowan and Enyseh Teimory point out in their essays.[15] The UK is currently seen to have played its hand effectively at the UN, on issues including the Iran nuclear issue, climate and Sudan. The UK’s re-election to the UN Human Rights Council until 2023, having recently served a term ending in 2019, will continue to give the UK a platform to advocate for its values.[16] The UK could, however, do more in this regard by supporting more UK nationals to serve on UN Treaty Bodies and as UN Special Rapporteurs (SRs) and for the Government to respond in a more considered fashion when SRs’ criticise the UK’s own policies, even though it may not agree with them, given that it regularly encourages other countries to work with SRs and adopt their findings.[17] This section started with the future of the UK’s relationships with the European pillar of its traditional alliance structure and ends with the relationship with Washington. Despite the ongoing tumult and further damaging of democratic norms as President Trump heads for the exit, the incoming Biden administration should provide an opportunity to bring greater stability and focus to transatlantic relationships including with the UK, particularly by cooling concerns over the future of NATO. Much has already been made of the Biden team’s scepticism towards Brexit and how the change of administration pauses any immediate opportunity for a UK-US trade deal, a process that was already replete with political challenges. Given the scale of Trump’s unpopularity with the vast majority of the British public, including the majority of Conservative voters, a Biden Presidency could take considerable political heat out of future US-UK cooperation.[18] In London, the Government has been energetically trying to use the UK’s leadership of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and its commitment to tackling climate change as a way of redefining perceptions in the Democratic Party about the British Conservatives under Johnson. Given the level of priority being given to climate by Biden, the COP in Glasgow provides an essential mechanism for facilitating collaboration between London and Washington but the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will still shift the nature of the relationship over the medium term. Despite the British political elite’s obsession with US politics, the row over the Northern Irish protocol suggests a lingering blind spot in terms of understanding Congressional priorities. There may be scope for encouraging the US Embassy in Washington to expand its bipartisan congressional outreach, to balance its traditional focus on engaging the Administration of the day. This could be complemented by enhancing Parliamentary engagement beyond periodic visits by Select Committees and support for the British-American Parliamentary Group.[19] New partnershipsIn addition to climate, another central pillar of the incoming Biden Administration’s foreign policy agenda is likely to be the promotion of democracy, including a pledge to convene a ‘Summit of Democracies’. Similar ideas have been floated by previous US leaders with President Obama suggesting the need for a ‘Concert of Democracies’ or former Senator John McCain’s calls for a ‘League of Democracies’ but the scale of democratic retrenchment gives greater urgency to such initiatives. There has been a flurry of different suggestions about how to formalise such initiatives in to new organisational structures, with the idea of a ‘D10’ that adds countries such as South Korea, Australia and potentially India to the G7 gaining traction. The still lingering shock to the international system of the Trump years, the continuing rise of China, the spoiler role played by Russia and the expansion of authoritarianism around the world provides a clear impetus to such efforts. Another separate but often interlinked driver is a desire to increase cooperation in the field of digital cooperation and regulation to prevent authoritarian powers from setting the rules of the game including in emerging areas of AI and cyber security. As the UK holds the Presidency of the G7 in 2021 it has the ability to play a pivotal role in shaping the evolution of such efforts. One central challenge it faces is in deciding which ‘D’ is most important for any such project. Since the decision to exclude Russia from the G8, the G7 has in effect reverted to being a forum for the larger economically advanced democracies but one, bar the notable exception of Japan, with a traditional transatlantic focus.[20] The idea for a D10 has its genesis in US State Department-led convening policy planners of allied states since 2008 that has evolved into a broader set of initiatives since 2013, involving participating Governments and organisations such as the Atlantic Council, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMFUS) and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI- home to Aaron Shull and Wesley Wark who write in this collection).[21] The D10-Strategy Forum, where the ‘D’ stands for Democracies, brings together the G7 member nations, the EU (which attends G7 meetings) plus South Korea and Australia, meets annually since 2014, and there have been a number of calls for G7 to formally expand to mirror this format.[22] Yet particularly during 2020, in the context of increasing tensions with China, discussions have turned to use such a forum as the backbone of a new digital security alliance, overlapping with discussions about using the current Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance as the basis for similar collaboration.[23] The question of whether the ‘D’ stands for Democracy or Digital would not only shape the institutional priorities of the new organisation but potentially its membership. A critical decision would be over the inclusion of India – a country whose security ties with the US, Japan and Australia are expanding through the role of ‘the Quad’ in the Indo-Pacific region and that continues a low-level conflict with China over border disputes in the Himalayas, but which also has for many years acted with different priorities to the current G7 at the UN and in other international forums.[24] However, under Prime Minister Modi there is every sign that democracy, certainly in the sense of a liberal democracy subject to rule of law and with protections for minorities, in the country is in significant retreat.[25] So if the promotion of ‘Democracy’ is the paramount goal for this new organisation, then now is not the time for India to be welcomed into such a forum, and the G7 expansion should be limited to bringing in South Korea and Australia to mirror the existing informal arrangements of the D10-Strategy Forum.[26] This is not to say there is not scope for further economic and security cooperation but any engagement needs to try to avoid legitimating Modi’s erosion of democratic norms and ensuring the new format can pro-actively respond to the global crisis of democracy. The UK should try to avoid its post-Brexit desire to boost trade with India from becoming interlinked with such decision-making. Also for issues relating digital infrastructure more thought be given on how to involve the EU and member states, notably Sweden and Finland given their tech companies (Ericsson and Nokia) are central to efforts to provide alternatives to Chinese made systems. So there is a strong case for new architecture for managing digital threats being complimentary, potentially overlapping with, but broader than the focus for any new ‘D’ format institution. While building and strengthening relationships with other consolidated democracies it is essential to find ways to improve relations with a broader range of likeminded partners, particularly in the global south, something that is both inherently of value but also essential to prevent isolation on the world stage. So irrespective of whether or not India under its current leadership is included in any revised group of large democracies, there is clearly a need to also reach out more to a large group of democracies in some capacity. In his essay Thomas E. Garrett makes the case that his organisation, the Community of Democracies (to which the UK is an active contributor), could be a platform to do this. There is certainly an important case to avoid unnecessarily reinventing the wheel, given the existing infrastructure and signatories to the Warsaw Declaration, however thought would need to be given to setting more exacting standards for democratic compliance (given some of the currently participating states) that in turn led to greater benefits for participants.[27] New ways should be found to promote the experiences of countries like Mauritius and Costa Rica to ensure that democracy promotion is not only about modelling behaviours found in the ‘West’.[28] Increased cooperation between democracies must try to avoid creating unnecessary divides with members of the G77 (the group of 134 developing nations that often make joint statements in concert with China), particularly those who are themselves democracies or genuinely seeking to reform.[29] If such democracy focused alliances end up being used primarily to drive the economic objectives of rich powers in opposition to the interests of developing economies rather than shared objectives it would be an enormous strategic error. It would exacerbate rather than reduce the structural inequalities in the international system and open the door for authoritarian powers to further position themselves as the friend of developing nations against Western arrogance. Similarly, as Teimory and others point out, the UK and others need to avoid falling into a rigid cold-war style binary as there are issues, particularly climate change, that require active collaboration with non-democracies and where interests and values may align irrespective of government type. Active and nimble diplomacy will be needed to avoid pro-democracy initiatives triggering additional authoritarian collaboration unnecessarily. Any UK diplomatic leadership on new global initiatives should be bolstered by efforts to enhance its support for democracy promotion, governance and human rights. This has been a common theme of the previous publications in this series, which looked at ways that the FCDO’s new priority on supporting Open Societies could be used to buttress initiatives by British NGOs and academics, as well as better aligning aid and trade with human rights objectives.[30] In addition to such initiatives, the UK has an opportunity to support the further expansion of both the capacity and scope of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the UK’s arms-length democracy promotion institution.[31] Despite its recent growth it remains far smaller the US’s National Endowment for Democracy (and its related institutions NDI, IRI and the Solidarity Centre) or a number of the Government supported German Stiftung (such as the Konrad Adenauer or Friedrich Ebert Foundations). As set out above, the UK needs to find new forums to engage with European partners and the Alliance for Multilateralism, a Franco-German led initiative, discussed in Thorsten Benner’s essay, could provide a flexible platform to do that, particularly in the context of flexibility being a core objective of the UK’s emerging approach and the strong track record of notably Anglo-German cooperation at the UN, as noted in Gowan’s contribution.[32] The UK has so far participated in this forum at official and junior Ministerial Level but involving the Secretary of State in future would boost British presence and profile in these forums. As touched on in earlier publications in this series, the UK is also looking to build on its close historic and cultural ties with Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Recent partnership working has been most pronounced with Canada, through initiatives such as the jointly chaired Media Freedom Coalition and joint statements on Nagorno-Karabakh and Hong-Kong (where they were joined by Australia).[33] As Shull and Wark point out the UK and Canada “have a number of comparable interests in the conduct of global affairs […] both benefit from a stable rules-based global order and from certainty within international institutions” and, perhaps something that still needs internalising for some British commentators, “both Canada and the UK are too small to throw their weight around, like China and the United States.” There may well be scope to further expand collaboration within an informal ‘CANZUK’ grouping given the range of shared interests and values but this will not fully overcome the realities of geography that shape differing regional economic and security priorities for each partner. The UK may see its links to Australia and New Zealand as a springboard into the Pacific but more thought needs to go into identifying what either country would get out of such an approach. Proposals to turn such CANZUK cooperation into a formal alliance (of any great depth) should be treated with some scepticism given these differing priorities, pre-existing regional ties and primary economic relationships. The UK needs to ensure it is proactively engaging with these countries on the basis of mutually agreed current priorities rather than assumptions about a shared past.[34]  [1] There is sometimes a tendency to conflate the desire to maintain the balance of power in Continental Europe during Britain’s rise to control a Global Empire with isolationism, Prof Jamie Shea notes the continued presence of the UK in continental affairs in the 18th and 19th Centuries as part of the evolving web of alliances. Following the Norman Conquest the English Crown was tied to the continent through feudal holdings, expansionist ambitions and participation in the Crusades, its level of engagement often shaped by its population size and state of the public finances before the politics of religion created fissures during the reformation. Perhaps the UK’s historical focus on the Elizabethan-era and Battle of Britain colours perspectives somewhat but even at these times the UK was still working with allies to achieve its goals.[2] The principles for Global Britain, FPC, September 2020,[3] Department for Exiting the European Union, Foreign policy, defence and development – a future partnership paper, Government, September 2017,[4] European Commission, The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, January 2020,[5] The UK would have to think creatively about what that might look like given that it would not be appropriate for EU representatives to sit in on existing ministerial level meetings. A recent paper by Ian Bond of CER provides a more substantial analysis of the range of different cooperation models open to the UK and EU. See: Ian Bond, Post-Brexit foreign, security and defence co-operation: we don’t want to talk about it, CER, November 2020,[6] List of delegations by type, Delegations European Parliament, For an overview of the formal status of the different types of EP delegations see here: Outside the EU, EPP Group within interparliamentary delegations, EPP Group,; European Parliament Liaison Office in the United Kingdom,[7] Delegations to Parliamentary Assemblies, UK Parliament,[8] Register of All-Party Parliamentary Groups [as at 4 November 2020],,[9] There is also the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, which is clerked by officials from the British Parliament and the Irish Oireachtas which has a formal standing under the Good Friday Agreement since 1998. See: Secretariat, British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly,[10] On a related note this paper provides a good blue print for new institutional objectives: George Robertson, Michael Fallon, Catherine Ashton, Peter Ricketts, Menzies Campbell and Benedict Wilkinson, The future strategic direction of NATO, The Policy Institute and King’s College London, July 2020,[11] Michael Cross, Buckland unveils Human Rights Act review, The Law Society Gazette, December 2020,[12] Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, FPC, February 2016,[13] As set out in previous FPC publications, including Institutionally Blind, authoritarian regimes are increasingly trying to use handpicked observers and Potemkin observation missions to try and provide external validation of their rigged elections, something that shamefully some Western Parliamentarians have participated in. This makes protecting independent and objective observation missions ever more vital at a time of limited institutional resources.[14] Charter of the Commonwealth, Signed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, Commonwealth Day 2013,[15] Member States’ Assessed Share of the UN Budget, Assessment of Member States’ Contribution to the UN Regular Budget, GPF,[16] Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, UK elected to UN Human Rights Council for the term 2021-23,, October 2020,; Membership of the Human Rights Council, 1 January – 31 December 2019 by regional groups, United Nations Human Rights Council, OHCHR,[17] The UK currently has one representative on treaty bodies, xx Malcolm Evans, and one Special Rapporteur Ms. Rhona SMITH for Cambodia, with Sorcha MACLEOD, a member of a working group. See:  Thematic Mandates, OHCHR,[18] Cristina Gallardo, Not a single UK constituency would vote for Donald Trump: Poll, Politico, November 2020,[19] British-American Parliamentary Group, Organisation,[20] The G20 has increasingly taken over the G7’s former role in providing leadership on Global issues.[21] D-10 Strategy Forum, Atlantic Council, The first D-10 Strategy Forum was hosted by the Canadian Foreign Ministry in partnership with CIGI and GMFUS in 2014. See: CIGI, Transatlantic Academy and GMF, D-10 Strategy Forum Meeting Report, CIGI, July 2014,[22] Such as: Ash Jain and Matthew Kroenig, Present at the re-creation: A global strategy for revitalizing, adapting, and defending a rules-based international system, Atlantic Council, October 2019,[23] Patrick Wintour, Five Eyes alliance could expand in scope to counteract China, The Guardian, July 2020,[24] Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, The Diplomant,[25] Narendra Modi threatens to turn India into a one-party state, The Economist, November 2020,[26] The EU is already included in the G7 format and needs to play an active part but any plans for full membership could not feasibly work if unanimity under the Common Foreign and Security Policy was required to agree to communiques and other agreements through the forum.[27] The Community’s breadth is both a strength (in terms of potential reach that can help those on genuinely democratic transitions) and a weakness given that Governing Council includes countries such as Morocco and Mali (in the wake of its coup) that are not democracies as well as countries such as Hungary and Poland that can no longer be classed as Liberal Democracies. See: Community of Democracies, Governing Council,[28] Economic and geopolitical insight guiding the world’s organisations, The Economist Intelligence Unit,[29] The Group of 77 at the United Nations, Latest Statements and Speeches,[30] Including the editor above and in previous ‘Finding Britain’s role in a changing world’ series: The principles for Global Britain, FPC, September 2020,; Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values, FPC, September 2020,; and Projecting the UK’s values abroad, FPC, December 2020,[31] The WFD is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Its funding for the most recent financial year, 2019-20, was £16.2m, over double its position in 2015-16. See: Funding and Accounts, WFD,[32] Alliance for Multilateralism,[33] Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, Nagorno-Karabakh: UK and Canada joint statement in response to continued military clashes,, October 2020,,and%20Azerbaijan%20in%20Nagorno%2DKarabakh.&text=Canada%20and%20the%20United%20Kingdom,the%20Nagorno%2DKarabakh%20conflict%20zone; Foreign & Commonwealth Office and The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP Joint Statement from the UK, Australia and Canada on Hong Kong,, May 2020,[34] Andrew Roberts, It’s Time to Revive the Anglosphere, WSJ, August 2020,; Comments to – Peter Geoghegan, Adventures in ‘Canzuk’: why Brexiters are pinning their hopes on imperial nostalgia, The Guardian, September 2020, [post_title] => Partnerships for the future of UK Foreign Policy: Introduction [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => partnerships-for-the-future-of-uk-foreign-policy-introduction [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-12-15 23:15:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-12-15 22:15:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5355 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-12-16 00:00:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-15 23:00:54 [post_content] => The contributions to this essay collection highlight the range of different opportunities that a truly engaged Global Britain can take advantage of on the world stage as it seeks to move on from post-referendum instability and introspection. The UK needs to provide some reassurance to its partners that it still wants to play well with others, by showing it is still willing to muck in as well as to lead. So the UK will have to do a lot of hard work to retain and build alliances with like-minded countries to make regional and global systems work in both the national and international interest. In order to build trust the UK should find ways to demonstrate that it still believes in the intrinsic value of international cooperation as more than simply an instrumental tool in its foreign policy kit. As an internationally focused middle power, the UK benefits enormously from promoting wider global acceptance of both international institutions and established norms. The UK will need to work effectively at a number of different levels and through a range of different vectors, so the FCDO will need to be properly resourced to prevent overstretch at a time of tightening budgets. Irrespective of the UK’s aspirations to pivot to the Indo-Pacific as Prof Jamie Shea reminds us the ‘UK’s security priorities today are still overwhelmingly focused on Europe’.[1] So the UK needs to find a new way of working with the EU once the current sound and fury has subsided. This can start at a local level where as Balfour suggests UK Embassies and EU Delegations re-establish cooperation and information sharing on the ground in third countries and international institutions. In the future it may be possible to revisit issues such as formal foreign policy and security cooperation, as part of a future EU-UK Partnership and Cooperation Agreement or Strategic Partnership. Irrespective of the state of UK-EU relations Britain will need to redouble its efforts in the other European focused forums such as NATO, the OSCE and Council of Europe, with an emphasis on looking creatively at how to support the work these institutions do to promote democratic values. At a global level, the UK must continue to build on its strong position at the UN and take full advantage of its leadership of both the COP and G7 in 2021 to set out an ambitious agenda for the UK’s future foreign policy. It should seek to build on ideas around a ‘Democracies-10’ (D10), by promoting expanded G7 membership to include South Korea and Australia. It should find new ways to promote engagement with the democracies of the global south and support UK NGOs and institutions, such as the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to play a bigger role. The UK will need to work flexibly and creatively with longstanding partners in new formats such as the Alliance for Multilateralism, the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) coalition, as well continuing current efforts to build greater collaboration between the ‘CANZUK’ countries, though recognising the geographic and economic limitations to the scale of such ambitions. Building on the findings put forward in this collection, there are a number of recommendations that the UK Government and other partners could consider including:
  • Finding a future framework for UK-EU cooperation in foreign and security policy and other non-trade areas, while rebuilding operational-level information sharing and cooperation;
  • Enhancing parliamentary cooperation between the UK and European Parliaments and strengthening UK delegations to NATO, OSCE and CoE Parliamentary Assemblies;
  • Funding projects conducted by the OSCE and Council of Europe’s human rights mechanisms and supporting election observers as well as secondments and leadership candidacies;
  • Working with the Commonwealth on modern slavery and supply chains, while promoting the Commonwealth Charter and the use of aid and trade to improve compliance with its principles;
  • Using the UK Presidency of the G7 to refocus the organisation as the group of leading democracies by expanding its membership to include South Korea and Australia, while reinvigorating outreach to global south democracies;
  • Supporting the UK’s role in democracy promotion by supporting UK NGOs and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy; and
  • Working creatively with forums like the Alliance for Multilateralism and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) coalition, while developing further CANZUK cooperation.
 [1] As addressed in previous publications in the Finding Britain’s Role in the World series. [post_title] => Partnerships for the future of UK Foreign Policy: Conclusions and Recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => partnerships-for-the-future-of-uk-foreign-policy-conclusions-and-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-12-15 22:03:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-12-15 21:03:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5258 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-12-03 00:10:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-02 23:10:38 [post_content] => 2021 is going to be an important year for the UK’s global ambitions. Exiting both the post-Brexit transition period and, vaccines permitting, the toughest COVID restrictions the UK will have an opportunity to set out its vision for the future through the publication of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy and to put that new strategy into practice through its dual leadership of the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP). This new publication sets out a wide range of ideas for how the UK can do things differently in the future to support and promote its values in its foreign policy. The UK should carve out a new niche that builds on its soft power strengths and history as a global hub to position itself as a, or even the, ‘library of democracy’ by providing the necessary tools to support those defending human rights and democracy around the world. This requires support for the UK’s world class universities, NGOs and media outlets and getting the Home Office to better provide sanctuary to activists in need and access for those wanting to visit the UK. The UK should build on the success so far of the new Magnitsky sanctions and use aid to better support open societies and human rights objectives. Given the tendency of kleptocratic autocrats and their hangers on to funnel their money to or through UK jurisdictions, the fights against corruption and to support democracy are mutually supportive. Delivering overdue legal reforms and enhancing the capacity of enforcement bodies will be crucial, as will be increasing the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders. The UK must also learn the lessons of its own COVID procurement issues to boost credibility on transparency and accountability. The UK’s new trade function needs to be made more accountable to Parliament and the public, with deals containing stronger human rights and environmental protections, as well as a focus on supporting developing country economies to flourish. It should seek to make trade one plank of broader and more comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreements that combine it with more detailed plans for security, scientific, academic, cultural, aid and environmental collaboration. To help the UK deliver an ambitious agenda this research suggests several recommendations including: 
  • Positioning the UK as a ‘library of democracy’, a global hub for supporting liberal democracy and human rights;
  • Increasing the use of Magnitsky sanctions, expanding their remit to cover corruption and giving Parliament a role in proposing relevant cases;
  • Passing the Registration of Overseas Entities Bill and planned reforms to limited partnership law, improving registry access and connectivity, and perhaps a new national asset registry;
  • Continuing to expand the investigative capacity of Companies House, the National Economic Crime Centre and its constituent agencies, and increase the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders;
  • Taking action on libel tourism and repression of international journalists by introducing UK anti-SLAPP legislation and improving conducts codes for lawyers and financial services;
  • Making trade negotiations more transparent and accountable to Parliament and the public, with deals containing a stronger development focus and more enforceable human rights and environmental clauses;
  • Integrating trade deals better alongside the UK’s other diplomatic objectives through more comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreements;
  • Returning to the legal and manifesto commitment of 0.7 per cent GNI invested in Overseas Development Aid as soon as possible, with a sunset clause if any legal changes;
  • Improving Parliamentary and Ministerial oversight and setting an ethical framework for the deployment of cyber capabilities, with a focus on defensive and combat support functions; and
  • Delivering more ambitious commitments for climate action through the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution, better use of the aid budget and the use of the financial sector.
 Image by Rian (Ree) Saunders under (CC). [post_title] => Projecting the UK’s values abroad: Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => projecting-the-uks-values-abroad-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-12-02 22:18:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-12-02 21:18:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5254 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-12-03 00:09:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-02 23:09:04 [post_content] => This essay collection asks, and tries to answer, the question ‘what can Britain do now?’ It is an examination of the emerging tools and strategies the UK can use to support and promote its values in its foreign policy. While in a number of areas there is continuity in British rhetoric and policy, outside the European Union (EU) the UK is required to rethink the way it operates in order to continue to exert influence on the world stage.[1] Not only must it build on its existing strengths, as set out earlier in this publication series, but find new ways of working. Building on the cross-governmental principle behind the Integrated Review, the UK’s emerging foreign policy must effectively use all available resources inside and outside government, hard and soft power, to support its foreign policy objectives and its chosen values.[2] As set out in the first collection in this series, The principles for Global Britain, and in Cat Tully and Sophie Middlemiss’ essay in this publication, a sensible approach has to start from a clear understanding of Britain’s place in the world and buy in from the public, particularly the younger generation and others often excluded from the policy making process - a ‘whole of nation strategy’ as Tully and Middlemiss put it.[3] In their essay Ruth Bergan and David Lawrence make the case that this principle applies equally to ensuring public participation in discussions over trade policy. A positive and transformative agenda for the future of UK foreign policy and how it can be a force for good may, at least have a chance to begin healing some of the divisions over the country’s future. As a middle power in a fast changing world, enduring polarisation and division over the UK’s national strategy is not a luxury we can afford. Prior to Brexit, although participation in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy did not prevent the UK from showing international leadership where there was the necessary political will, the need to participate in determining and supporting sometimes lowest common denominator positions generated by consensus dulled the edge of some of its decision making. The UK now has the opportunity, if it so chooses, to show greater speed of action, and greater creativity and skill in the delivery of its foreign policy to compensate for and potentially outweigh the loss of diplomatic clout given by EU membership.[4] In broad-terms, the UK’s foreign policy planners will need to recognise the implications of the UK being a less important market and partner for other world powers, most notably the US, seeking to access and influence the EU. It retains key strengths but will need to lean into the greater flexibility that the post-Brexit environment provides. There is a need for policy makers to accept the unavoidable fact of the UK’s ‘relative’ decline in geopolitical influence, but also understand that with the right level of political will it does not mean the UK has to do less in absolute terms and that it can still make a real impact with the right policies and strategies.[5] The politically expedient, but somewhat strategically confused, recent decisions of increasing defence spending while cutting international aid pull in opposite directions the effort to reposition the UK on the world stage.[6] However this shift, relative to other powers, makes it all the more important that it uses its time now wisely to help shape the international architecture that it will live with into the future and find innovative ways to burden-share in areas where the UK lacks capacity alone. Ignoring or denying the need to respond to these shifts in the geo-political landscape will hasten and exacerbate British decline, in both relative and absolute terms. Finding the right tone in the Integrated Review and the Government’s wider messaging will be key, focused on national pride about what Britain can do without resorting to jingoism, striving for the UK to be exceptional without claiming exceptionalism. Finding a new role: The ‘Library of democracy’ It’s far from original to reference the old Dean Acheson quote about Britain having ‘lost an empire and has not yet found a role’, but it feels once again relevant with Brexit and shifting US priorities untethering the UK from its more recent mooring as a balancing force between European and US interests in the wider Trans-Atlantic partnership.[7] Often that recent role was described as being a bridge, something that led more cynical critiques to claim, usually unfairly, that Britain was being walked over by either of those partners. So part of the current process of reassessing the UK’s position post Brexit is trying to identify and agree on its new role in the international order. To help Britain find that niche it could well be worth seeking to adapt another mid-20th Century aphorism to meet today’s challenges. In the early phase of the Second World War, prior to Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt described America’s role as being the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’, where the US would provide tools used by others in the fight for the future of democracy.[8] Despite recently promised increases in defence spending there is little public appetite to use such power widely to try to impose its values on others given the troubled legacy of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, as set out in the FPC’s previous Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values publication, in a number of overlapping areas including academia, NGOs, media outlets and cultural institutions the UK remains a leading global player.[9] If the UK wants to build on these strengths to be a force for good in the world, it could perhaps start to frame its emerging global role as becoming a, or even the, ‘Library of Democracy’. Like the role of the library in communities around the country, the UK could act as an important resource and meeting place for the community of democratic nations. Similarly, as with libraries, there have sometimes been questions about their role in the modern world but they have adapted to become hubs that provide access to technology, hosting support services and activities that enable citizens to make change in their own lives. This new positioning would build on the UK soft power strengths and longstanding role as an international hub. To play this role effectively care must be taken to protect the UK’s globally focused NGOs, academic centres of excellence and international media platforms (not least the BBC) during the current economic downturn. It must also look at ways, through a truly Integrated Review, to reform Home Office practice to ensure the UK is better able to provide asylum to human rights defenders, independent journalists and other dissidents seeking a place of refuge from persecution, while similarly making it easier for international experts to visit for conferences and other short-term research collaborations. There needs to be greater recognition amongst policy makers that, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the UK’s negotiating objectives with the EU, the Government’s willingness to actively embrace even a ‘specific and limited’ breach of international law in undermining a treaty it had only recently signed has hurt its standing in the wider international community, not only amongst EU member states with whom the UK seeks to work with diplomatically in future. UK Aid must also fully support the Government’s Open Societies strategic objective by supporting human rights defenders and NGOs abroad, while working to avoid conflicts between human rights and development priorities. Some of the noises coming out of the initial stages of the Government’s now delayed Integrated Review suggest that it is thinking creatively about other ways for the UK to make its mark. These include placing a more active role in some of the more ostensibly mundane but important international bodies that set international standards and regulations, particularly in the digital space. In the past some authoritarian states obtained outsized roles in bodies such as the Internet Governance Forum by committing resources to them, including hosting the annual conferences, when others lacked the focus. If the UK wants to play a more prominent role it can build on its strong academic, legal, NGO and service sector resources to help take a more active role in global rule setting, and to compensate in part for no longer being able to directly influence the development of rules in its largest export market, the global rule and standard setting EU. Another way the UK hopes to enhance its role on the global stage is to be a place for mediation in the world’s conflicts. To support this objective it can draw on a strong pool of talent in the UK’s peacebuilding and development sector to assist its experienced diplomats in this endeavour. However the UK will need to be strategic around understanding where its history and present policies support (or at least do not hinder) it to play a brokering role, given that in large parts of the world Britain brings certain baggage to the table that a Norway or a Switzerland do not. The determination to make a policy pivot to the Indo-Pacific remains clear in the ongoing discussion around the Integrated Review, albeit it is less certain to what extent resources and capability will follow the shifting of policy focus. The narrative of burden sharing seems sensible in this context but needs clearer articulation of why our regional partners would want the UK to play a more active role in their backyard, what we might be able to bring to the table to support them and where they may wish to see reciprocal assistance elsewhere. The UK will need to find areas where it can ‘add value’ in a region that is not our own rather than simply mimic capability and roles played by the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea and other allied Pacific powers. As Ben Judah and Georgina Wright note in their essay strengthening bilateral partnerships with Australia and Japan will be important, as too could be exploring what membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) for the UK could mean, though many thorny issues around agriculture and labour rights may make this strategically appealing opportunity unviable.[10] The desire to root new partnerships in the principles and promotion of democracy is a positive response to the strategic challenge of rising authoritarian powers; a topic set out in the earlier The principles for Global Britain publication in this series. The topic of new organisations and groupings tasked with that purpose will be addressed again in the upcoming Partnerships for the future of UK Foreign Policy publication, but it also a feature of a contribution by in this collection by Jonas Parello-Plesner from the Alliance of Democracies. Parello-Plesner’s essay points out that democracy promotion is likely to feature highly in President-Elect Biden’s upcoming administration.[11] However, it is also worth noting that another major, often intersecting, policy theme in Biden’s administration is tackling the impact of kleptocracy and transnational corruption, an area where the UK still has a lot of work to do.[12] Transparency and accountabilityGetting Britain’s house in order on issues around transparency and tackling corruption are essential if the UK wants to play a positive role in the world. It is also an important part of efforts to improve how the Britain is perceived around the world, as for too many countries the UK and its territories and dependencies are where their unscrupulous leaders and oligarchs park their money, acting as a global hub of opaque financial practices and corruption. So there is a need for the Government, through the Integrated Review and wider work, to look at the extent to which money flows into UK jurisdictions, through the British property industry, its legal, public affairs and service sectors from authoritarian elites, shady businesses or criminal groups. It should look at the ways in which these illicit money flows are used to influence the UK and how UK firms that are complicit in enabling criminal or ethically dubious behaviour abroad undermine the reputation of this country. In these times of COVID pressure on the public finances there has never been a better opportunity to link these issues around tax justice, anti-corruption and transparency to ensure those benefiting from the UK’s property market and financial sector pay their fair share (both to the UK and to their home countries). Despite the ongoing challenges it is important to recognise that there have been some positive recent steps that start to tackle these long-standing problem. Proposed changes to improve and verify the data of Companies Households are welcome but will need to be built on, legislated and implemented.[13] Similarly, the current requirements on beneficial ownership and the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders are important but the institutions responsible for administering them need to be resourced properly. The Government must make Parliamentary time to introduce the Registration of Overseas Entities Bill to move this agenda forward.[14] The recent 2020 Spending Review has set out plans for ‘an additional £63 million to tackle economic crime, including support for the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), along with £20 million for Companies House reform’.[15] Expanding the capacity of the NECC and the enforcement ability of its constituent partners such as the National Crime Agency, Serious Fraud Office and HMRC could facilitate more investigations into transnational corruption and to increase the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders but further funding is likely to be required.[16] Nevertheless, this cash injection should help to give Companies House greater capacity to conduct proper verification of the information provided to existing beneficial ownership registers. The Government should also look at ways to crack down on the use of paid proxies and examine possible restrictions on the ability of opaque corporate entities from jurisdictions without properly equivalent transparency rules from registering without proving information on their ultimate beneficial ownership. Further measures could also include ensuring that at least one accountable person for each UK registered entity should be based in the UK.[17] Beyond Companies House, improving and opening access to Land Registry data could assist investigative journalists and other researchers by potentially removing or reducing the access fees to help them cross check information with other registries. In the medium term the Government should look at how to better join up information about assets held by different institutions such as considering the development of a consolidated national asset registry, a case made strongly in the essay in this collection by Alex Cobham, Andres Knobel and Robert Palmer. Improved access to relevant data should support efforts to pressure the UK property industry to increase the number of Suspicious Activity Reports filed to HMRC when buildings are being bought by opaque international investment vehicles.[18] Despite progress being promised in 2018, the Government has yet to find Parliamentary time to address the transparency problems facing a number of forms of UK investment vehicle.[19] A notorious example are the Scottish Limited Partnerships that, unlike their English equivalent, have their own legal personality and combine both limited disclosure requirements but no taxes on the partnership itself. The term ‘Scottish Company’ has become synonymous with corruption across the Former Soviet Union and UK-based tax advisors promote them on the basis that: ‘there are no taxes in the UK, providing that the partnership does not trade in the UK and partners are not residents of the UK’; ‘no requirements to submit financial statements; ‘no requirements to submit tax declaration’; and crucially ‘high confidentiality’.[20] Irrespective of the Government’s anti-corruption commitments if the UK Government is keen to prevent further erosion of support for the Union then it should urgently consider removing something legislated in London that besmirches Scotland’s reputation. There remains a fundamental question: what benefits do corporate entities that register in the UK but do not provide goods or services in the country, do not pay tax here and do not have owners based here actually bring to Britain, other than damage to our national reputation? For example the UK’s reputation was recently brought into question when it was found by RFE/RL that a company believed to have been gifted a substantial slice of commercial development land in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, was in fact based in the Hertfordshire market town of Kington. Given that the companies’ directors are based in Belize and according to RFE/RL the owners are believed to be in Uzbekistan it is unclear how the UK gains from such an arrangement.[21] A related area where the UK needs to do better to improve its reputation is on libel reform. Worryingly, UK law firms are at the forefront of global efforts to intimidate journalists and other investigators into the proceeds of financial crimes through the use of strategic litigation against public participation (‘SLAPP’).[22] This form of vexatious legal action can have wide reaching consequences far beyond the UK’s borders. Despite the reforms made in the 2013 UK Defamation Act, there are still significant challenges for journalists and media organisations around the world when defending themselves against UK libel claims.[23] The cost of mounting a defence is extremely high, the burden of proof required places an enormous onus on the defendant, proceedings can be lengthy and a negative verdict can result in a potentially crippling damages pay-out. The UK libel system’s significant chilling effect makes journalists, researchers and activists uniquely mindful about the reach of potentially being dragged into the UK courts even if both they and the subject of their inquiries are based abroad. Journalists have reported that claimants often rely on the mere threat of the cost involved in UK libel proceedings being so intimidating that “journalists won’t even try to defend themselves” and remove the article in question.[24] Libel tourism, and the threat of such extra-territorial action, significantly undermines the UK’s values leadership internationally by chilling freedom of expression and undermining the UK’s global leadership on these issues. UK legal firms have been hired to send journalists all over the world cease and desist letters threatening legal action if they do not halt their investigations or remove investigations from their publications. For example at the time of her murder in October 2017, the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had at least 42 civil libel suits open against her, many of which were brought through UK-based law firms, acting for foreign banks and wealthy individuals and continued to be pursued against her family after her death.[25] In January 2020, a libel case filed against Paul Radu, co-founder of OCCRP and a Romanian citizen, was due to go to trial in the UK. The claimant, who was named in an award-winning OCCRP report investigating concerns around money laundering, successfully filed the case by stating he lived in London despite being a serving MP in Azerbaijan.[26] On the eve of the trial, the claimant offered to settle on favourable terms for Radu, but as OCCRP noted this settlement ended almost two years of being embroiled in a costly and time-consuming lawsuit.[27] A common theme of SLAPPS is how they are used as an attempt to distract from important public interest reporting, harass journalists and tie them up in legal action as a way to disable their ability to continue investigating. Often cases might never reach court, having achieved their aim prior to that stage.[28]A recent Foreign Policy Centre survey of global investigative journalists networks found that the UK was by far the most common source of legal pressure on their activities and that 61 per cent of their investigations had found a link to UK financial or legal jurisdictions.[29] Many countries have struggled with meeting best practice standards when responding to pandemic procurement given the urgency of the crisis, but some of the concerns raised about close proximity between suppliers and the British Government raise issues not only domestically (some of which is beyond the scope of this publication) but it will have a lingering impact on the UK’s reputation and its ability to support international best practice standards. There needs to be a transparent and independent review into recent procurement problems in order to learn lessons for the future.[30] The need to improve transparency and accountability in domestic processes, as well as providing better value for money for tax payers, would help improve the UK’s reputation and give it greater credibility when advocating for change internationally. As mentioned earlier in this publication series the UK’s introduction of ‘Magnitsky’ personal sanctions against international human rights abusers, through an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, has been an important step forward in giving the Government powers to put pressure on rights abuse around the world, particularly given the concentration of ill-gotten gains stashed in UK jurisdictions as mentioned above. The current Foreign Secretary has been a longstanding advocate of such measures and so far has been willing to use them against those of regimes traditionally friendly to the UK, such as Saudi Arabia over the murder of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as traditional rivals. There is a strong argument to ensure the relevant teams in the newly merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) are properly resourced to ramp up the number of sanctions issued. The remit of the sanctions needs to be formally widened to include concerns around corruption as part of the wider suite of tools available to tackle that issue. One difference between the US Global Magnitsky Act and the UK provisions is the lack of a formal role for the British Parliament in proposing potential cases where such sanctions should be applied. While the differences in capacity between Parliamentary and Congressional staffs should be noted, giving Parliament a formal role could help ensure the tool is use to cover a wider range of cases and encourage the FCDO to overcome institutional or perceived diplomatic barriers to its use. Trade and aidThis publication comes out just after an important decision about Britain’s role in the world, the decision to cut the proportion of national income spend on Official Development Assistance (ODA) aid from the legally mandated and manifesto committed 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent from 2021, and ahead of an even bigger one on the details regarding the UK’s future trading relations with the EU.[31] The aid cut is a decision taken ostensibly due to the impact of the pandemic on the public finances (something which had already triggered a separate £2.9 billion in year cut for 2020 as a function of the reduction in national income).[32] However given it occurred less than a week after a major uplift in defence spending, to tackle capacity shortfalls, it is clear that this represents the Government having ‘moved £4 billion from aid to defence’ in the words of Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chair Tom Tugendhat.[33] One small area of comfort for the cause of international development is that the Government restated its commitment to the OECD’s ODA rules in the face of backbench pressure to loosen requirements to enable UK funds to be spent in a wider number of ways to support the armed forces or trade promotion. This pressure on the ODA rules is likely to persist and must be guarded against for the UK’s credibility as a donor to be maintained. However, the Government does remain committed to attempting international reform of the shared criteria at some point. Part of that necessary reassurance to the development sector should be a swift and comprehensive completion of the review of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) in a way that protects and strengthens its independence and oversight.[34] Concern over the impact of aid reduction is not only, or indeed primarily, about damaging Britain’s reputation and influence, but at its core it is about the impact of an over £5bn cut (compared to 2019) on the lives of those most in need around the world.[35] Many Government decisions have significant real world impacts, for good or ill, on people but if former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is correct that the scale of the cut could lead to 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly in children, this should have given the Government greater cause for pause.[36] The cut has been announced as a temporary measure in response to COVID-19, yet despite this stated framing of the action the Government has made it known that it seeks to repeal the 2015 International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act. This is because it believes, as a planned rather than accidental cut, legal change is required but it is a move that could pave the way to make the cut de facto permanent.[37] The Foreign Secretary has said both that the Government “cannot see a path back to 0.7% in the foreseeable, immediate future”, and the somewhat more positive but vague “we will revert to 0.7% as soon as the fiscal position allows”, which could mean anything from the point at which the economy initially rebounds through to any number of politically contingent assessments of the deficit or national debt.[38] Although the Integrated Review has yet to be completed the Foreign Secretary has announced in a letter to the International Development Select Committee that all aid spending will be focused on addressing seven global challenges: Climate Change and biodiversity; COVID and global health security; Girls' education; Science, research, technology; Open societies and conflict resolution; Humanitarian preparedness and response; and Trade and economic development.[39] It also states that spending will focus only on countries where the UK's development, security and economic interests align, such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Indo-Pacific region. While it may be that poverty reduction is a cross-cutting theme of these priorities it is not explicitly stated in either the letter or the subsequent Parliamentary Statement, despite previous ministerial statements that reiterated its importance. Therefore, if the Government wishes to retain a focus on poverty reduction as part of its plans it should publically state this in order to provide reassurance on this hugely important issue. Plans also announced to consolidate the FCDO’s strategic overview of ODA spending across Government and move away from reliance on enormous contracts with consultancies are broadly to be welcomed. The UK’s new ability to set its own international trade agenda provides a powerful tool for the UK to back its international values if it is willing and able to use it effectively. This publication builds on arguments set out in the earlier Finding Britain’s Role in a Changing World: Building a values-based foreign policy published jointly with Oxfam UK and The principles for Global Britain publication.[40] As set out briefly in the latter publication, new UK trade deals should seek to support rather than undermine regional trade integration by developing countries, learning from the initial mistakes of the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and with an emphasis on it being a full and inclusive partnership.[41] The UK should seek to build on the EU’s ‘Everything but Arms’ approach, but give developing country partners greater flexibility, including a more generous interpretation of the ‘substantially all’ requirement on rules of origin so that they can protect infant industries and support regional supply chains, allow for longer phasing periods and a pro-development use of schedules, as well as giving partner countries the maximum policy space possible to allow them to implement rules in ways most suitable to their development.[42] The UK should seek to move away from the use of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDSs) and instead look to coordinate with its aid policy by supporting rule of law initiatives in partner countries where possible, something that should fit within the Government’s current ‘Trade and economic development’ priority.[43] The imminent withdrawal of the UK from the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union has led to a rush to try to conclude bilateral trade deals, many of which copy over existing arrangements that currently apply to the UK as part of EU membership. One area of ongoing dispute is around the extent of Parliamentary and public scrutiny around the development of trade deals, with both the Government and campaigners identifying examples that support their respective cases that the UK’s new arrangements are more or less transparent and accountable than their peers. What would seem undoubtedly true is that the UK’s Parliament and stakeholders have less structured input into the development and decision making around such deals than the European Parliament, and therefore UK representatives within it previously, has over the direction of EU trade deals. Getting these scrutiny arrangements right is important to help improve accountability and quality of the agreements entered into, not least given their potentially significant implications for domestic law and policy if a deal is substantive. In this collection Ruth Bergan and David Lawrence suggest a number of sensible suggestions for improving Parliamentary scrutiny, including publication of the Government’s initial negotiation objectives that is subject to a debate and vote, providing a regular release of negotiating texts (or at least headline information) after each round, leading to a final guaranteed debate and vote on the final deal. This enhanced Parliamentary scrutiny should be supported by ‘regular engagement with civil society, including environmental groups, businesses and trade unions, and the publication of an independent Sustainability Impact Assessment.’ In terms of the deals the UK is currently trying to negotiate there is clearly scope to strengthen human rights and environmental clauses to make them actionable in the case of a breach by either party. Given that the UK is not envisaging formal human rights dialogues or other consultative mechanisms attached to its deals, greater enforceability will be required in order for these UK deals to not be seen as a diminishing the importance of values compared to the previous, still very imperfect, EU deals the UK used to be part of. Both the EU’s various different models of agreement (from Partnership and Cooperation Agreements to Association Agreements) and the innovative mechanisms such as the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS) created by New Zealand and others, as explained in Bergan and Lawrence’s essay, can provide a blueprint for the UK to frame trade as an integrated  strand of building improved bilateral relationships.[44] So as the UK moves forward and the immediate post-Brexit rush subsides, the UK should look at how it can better make trade an integrated plank in the development of new Strategic Partnership Agreements that bring trade agreements alongside more detailed plans for security cooperation, and scientific, academic and cultural collaboration; as well as environmental partnerships (including potentially new international carbon trading arrangements if the UK is unable to formally link with the EU ETS in future); people-to-people contact; and, finally, where relevant aid support. Emerging challenges In this collection, Luke Murphy and Dr Joe Devanny respectively tackle two of the most pressing global challenges, climate and cyber security, and give ideas for how the UK should respond to them. Along with the G7, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow will be a huge opportunity for the UK to show global leadership to tackle a pressing challenge, if handled with care and the level of political focus required. It will also create an opportunity for engagement with China on an issue of shared interest, allowing for a parallel diplomatic track that maintains opportunities for dialogue, even as the UK takes action on the defence of democracy and human rights, digital security and other areas that recognise the risks of China poses to the values the UK espouses. Murphy outlines a number of practical measures in terms of domestic investment and regulatory change that can help boost Britain’s position but it is also in the diplomatic arena where the UK needs to show greater focus if they are to emulate the success of the French leadership of the COP that led to the Paris Agreement. While COVID-19 has understandably disrupted preparations, not least in delaying the Glasgow Conference by a year, between late January and early November the UK lacked a standalone lead for the process, between the removal of Claire O’ Neill as COP President and the arrival of former International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan in a somewhat more constrained role as International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 Presidency. Trevelyan’s appointment may help take pressure off the somewhat overburdened Business Secretary who is formally acting as President of the COP, and it is to be hoped that her work will be backed by high level support from the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister to show that the COP is a genuine diplomatic priority. Climate action provides a useful mechanism for engaging the incoming Biden administration, whose appointment of former Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate John Kerry as the US’s climate envoy is a signal of its importance to the new US leadership. Despite Trevelyan’s appointment and in light of Kerry’s there are still calls for the UK to appoint a more senior political figure, a ‘grand fromage’ in the words of Defence Select Committee Chair Tobias Ellwood MP, to act as full-time President of the COP.[45] The UK should also look at the history of successful interactions between Government and Civil Society, such as the Make Poverty History campaign in the 2000s around the UK’s 2005 G7 Presidency and the role that it played in the promotion of UK global values leadership and in their implementation. This may require wider work to build trust between Government and the third sector in light of recent disagreements over aid and other matters. The Government’s recent defence announcement makes clear that improving the UK’s cyber capabilities will be a central part of Britain’s security over the years to come.[46] As Devanny makes clear in his essay, along with the additional funding the UK needs a clearly defined ethical framework to underpin its new Cyber Strategy and there is also an important role for enhanced oversight. Devanny rightly urges a focus on cyber defence and limiting offensive capability to its role in tackling defence and security infrastructure rather than seeking ways to target civilian infrastructure. Brand Britain After several years of introspection around its relationship with Europe the UK now needs to get on the front foot facing the world; not only through its policies but also in how it is perceived. This approach needs to be based from a clear understanding on how other countries currently perceive the UK and the need to ensure the UK is still seen as being outward looking and engaged, exploring new ways to boost its soft-power attractiveness. To that end, work needs to be done to effectively map attitudes towards the UK, both in key power centres and in countries that the UK is looking to grow its influence and engagement. Presenting Britain’s message to the world should flow from the priorities and strategies set out in the Integrated Review. It is to be hoped that there is an emphasis on developing a positive vision for the country that can reach out beyond the domestic rancour of the last few years. A vision that rests on a narrowly partisan assessment of the UK’s interests and priorities would not achieve the buy-in of the wider public, including many that are critical to the UK’s soft-power success, and therefore lack the longevity only obtained through coalition building. The current Government should learn from the still relatively recent experience of the 2012 Olympics, which were used to present a clear positive vision of the UK (centred on the UK being a young, dynamic, diverse and tolerant country) and how the idea of sustainability and legacy were a core part of the message, showing the UK has a long-term plan. It will need to look at the scope for the Commonwealth Games and other cultural and sporting events over the coming years to help shape perceptions of the UK and enhance its soft power, helping these vital industries for Britain’s global standing recovery from the horrific toll of COVID-19. To that end, it is to be hoped that the Festival UK 2022 initiative can disentangle itself from the Brexit culture war, in part a product of its initially unhelpful genesis as Theresa May’s ‘Festival of Brexit Britain’, to be a genuinely inclusive showcase of the talent the UK has to offer and provide a focus on ideas and principles that can unite across political and ideological divides.[47] The Government needs to find a way of working collaboratively with the UK’s City Regions (Combined Authorities) and devolved nations to help promote the country on the world stage. Once the immediate impact of COVID has abated and the rancorous Mayoral elections have passed, the UK should look at the importance of retaining London’s position as a global city, while strengthening the ability of Metro Mayors, devolved nations and other regional and local leaderships to strengthen the country’s voice abroad as well as supporting trade and investment as part of the Government’s levelling up objectives.[48] The Government also needs to find a way to engage more effectively with the UK’s diaspora of British leaders in international institutions, businesses, NGOs and cultural institutions abroad to learn from them and provide new opportunities for dialogue.[49] Effectively projecting the UK’s values abroad will require a clear vision of what the Government intends to do, combined with sufficient resources, political commitment and a commitment to reform the status quo both at home and abroad. This publication hopes to give some suggestions about how it might deliver such an ambitious agenda. Image by Rian (Ree) Saunders under (CC). [1] Ben Judah, Surprise! Post-Brexit Britain’s foreign policy looks a lot like the old one, The Washington Post, July 2020,[2] What those values should be.[3] Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: The principles for Global Britain, FPC, September 2020,[4] Dominique Moisi, The isolation of the United Kingdom is no longer splendid, Institut Montaigne, July 2020,[5] Recent polling data suggests the British public is perhaps more attuned to the UK’s position than some it is political class by answering the question ‘Do the British overestimate or underestimate how important the UK is on the world stage?’ as  Overestimate: 44%, Underestimate: 19% and Get it about right: 17%. See: Twitter Post, YouGov, Twitter, November 2020,[6] In terms of managing the Government’s political coalition.[7] Like the many US leaders who would follow, with a brief interregnum during the Trump-era, Acheson was adamant that the UK’s future (and its future utility to the United States) lay through greater integration and cooperation with Europe. See: Guardian Century, Britain’s role in world, The Guardian, December 1962,,,105633,00.html[8] Radio Address Delivered by President Roosevelt From Washington, December 1940,[9] Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values, FPC, September 2020,[10] Greater collaboration with likeminded Pacific partners could help increase the UK’s role in region in line with stated Government objectives. However there are clear concerns being raised by important stakeholders. See: Comprehensive and Progressive Transpacific Partnership: Submission to the Department for International Trade, TUC,; and Government starts bid to join the CPTPP, NFU, The incoming Biden administration may seek to join the deal and in doing so may seek to renegotiate the deal in ways to mollify concerns of the US Trade Unions that form an important part of his political base which may have positive ramifications for the UK’s potential membership.[11] See: Dr Robin Niblett CMG, A New US-UK Democratic Agenda Could Be on the Horizon, Chatham House, November 2020,[12] Josh Rudolph, Covert Foreign Money: Financial Loopholes Exploited by Authoritarians to Fund Political Interference in Democracies, Alliance for securing democracy, August 2020,[13] Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Companies House, Lord Callanan and The Rt Jon James Brokenshire MP, Reforms to Companies House to clamp down on fraud and give businesses greater confidence in transactions,, September 2020,[14] Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill,, July 2018,[15] HM Treasury, Spending Review 2020,, November 2020, [16] NECC, Improving the UK’s response to economic crime, NCA,; Ed Smyth, The UK’s new National Economic Crime Centre, Kingsley Napley, November 2018,[17] The Dark Money Files Podcast - Episode Companies House: It's time to reform (maybe, if we can find the time and money),[18] HM Revenue & Customs, Estate agency business guidance for money laundering supervision,, October 2020,;  Estate Agents only made up 0.13% of SARs in 2019 according to the National Crime Agency. See: UK Financial Intelligence Unit: Suspicious Activity Reports Annual Report 2019, NCA,[19] Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Limited partnerships: reform of limited partnership law,, April 2018,[20] Scottish Limited Partnership (SLP) and Main Advantages, TBA,[21] “Gift” for $ 11.5 million – Mayor of Tashkent Artykkhodzhaev donated land to about a hundred entrepreneurs to a company associated with the president’s son-in-law, Radio Ozodlik, November 2020,[22] Unsafe for Scrutiny: Examining the pressures faced by journalists uncovering financial crime and corruption around the world, FPC, November 2020,[23] A gathering storm: The laws being used to silence the media, Index on Censorship, July 2020,[24] Paul Radu, How to Successfully Defend Yourself in Her Majesty’s Libel Courts, Global Investigative Journalism Network, February 2020,[25] Letter: press freedom campaigners call for action on ‘vexatious lawsuits’, The Guardian, July 2019,[26] Miranda Patrucic, Madina Mammadova and Ilgar Agha, AvroMed May Have Received Millions Through Laundromat, OCCRP, September 2017,[27] OCCRP, OCCRP-Related Lawsuit Settled, January 2020,[28] The editor is thankful for the input of his colleague Susan Coughtrie who leads the leads the FPC’s Unsafe for Scrutiny project.[29] Unsafe for Scrutiny: Examining the pressures faced by journalists uncovering financial crime and corruption around the world, FPC, November 2020,[30] To fix procurement, the UK has to open it up, Centre for the Study of Corruption, November 2020,[31] 2015 Act Michael Moore commits to 0.7% ODA. See: International Development (Official Development Assistance Target), Act 2015, UK Public General Acts,; The Conservative and Unionist Party, Get Brexit Done – Unleash Britain’s Potential, Manifesto 2019,[32] Department for International Development, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending for 2020: First Secretary of State’s letter,, July 2020,[33] Cristina Gallardo, UK curbs Global Britain ambitions as coronavirus bites, Politico.EU, November 2020,[34] Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Independent and Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) review: terms of reference,, October 2020,[35] William Worley, Breaking: UK cuts aid budget to 0.5% of GNI, devex, November 2020,[36] Eleanor Langford, A Foreign Office Minister Has Resigned From Government Over Plans To Cut International Aid, Politics Home, November 2020,[37] International Development (Official Development Assistance Target), Act 2015, UK Public General Acts,[38] Official Development Assistance: Volume 684: debated on Thursday 26 November 2020, Hansard,[39] Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, Letter to Sarah Champion MP, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, November 2020,[40] Programme: Britain’s role in the world, FPC,[41] The EU’s new Africa strategy now has a clear pivot: High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council: Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa, March 2020,[42] Preferential Market Access – European Union Everything But Arms Initiative, UN, LDC Portal,[43] For discussion on this issue see: Royal African Society and APPG on Africa, The Future of Africa-UK Trade and Development Cooperation Relations in the Transitional and Post-Brexit Period, February 2017,; and the upcoming contributions by Ruth Bergan- who has kindly advised on some of these policy suggestions.[44] The UK has kept the title ‘Partnership and Cooperation Agreement’ in some of the deals rolled over from the EU but there is a need to expand more on the non-trade elements of the deal, which shorn of access to previous EU support mechanisms feel somewhat light’.[45] Jessica Parker, Alok Sharma 'overloaded with day job' to juggle UN summit role, BBC News, December 2020,[46] Prime Minister’s Office and 10 Downing Street, PM to announce largest military investment in 30 years,, November 2020,[47] Also can provide much needed financial support to a Covid raddled arts sector. See: Gaby Hinsliff, Don’t snark – this ‘Brexit festival’ may turn out to be just the tonic we need, The Guardian, November 2020,[48] Aware of the challenges posed by the current position of the Scottish Government in that regard for a directly cohesive message though there remains opportunities both to sing from the same hymn sheet about the shared values irrespective of Scotland’s future in the UK and around the importance of[49] This was to be a larger section of this project but will now be a bigger piece of work in 2022. [post_title] => Projecting the UK’s values abroad: Introduction [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => projecting-the-uks-values-abroad-introduction [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-12-03 18:36:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-12-03 17:36:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5216 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-12-03 00:00:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-02 23:00:22 [post_content] => The Government’s roadmap for 2020 has not quite unfolded the way they might have initially hoped, with a global pandemic liable to disrupt even the best laid plans. The current delay to the Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy has been part of adapting to that new reality. Although some of the main outcomes of the Integrated Review, such as the merger of the FCO and DFID, the increase in defence spending and the ODA cuts, have already been announced, the document’s postponement to early 2021 could enable it to play an important role in setting out the Government’s vision for the future as part of a year of action centred around the UK’s leadership of the G7 and COP. As set out in the introduction the UK should build on its soft power strengths and history as a global hub to position itself as a, or even the, ‘library of democracy’ by providing the necessary tools to support those defending human rights and democracy around the world. To play this role effectively the UK will need not only to protect its world class universities, NGOs and media outlets but to get the Home Office on the same page to better provide sanctuary to activists in need and access for those wanting to study or visit the UK for conferences. UK aid needs to actively support the Government’s Open Societies objectives by supporting human rights defenders and NGOs, with human rights impacts be fully considered when providing development aid. The UK should build on the success so far of the new Magnitsky sanctions and use its new found flexibility outside the EU to act fast in response to emerging crises, taking opportunities for British leadership. The fight against corruption is an issue that dovetails well with the goal of supporting democracy, given the tendency of kleptocratic autocrats and their hangers on to funnel their money to or through UK jurisdictions. Delivering on overdue legal reforms and enhancing the capacity of institutions working in the sector are crucial, as will be the increasing willingness to use powers such as Unexplained Wealth Orders. Learning the lessons from the UK’s own issues with COVID procurement will be important to boost credibility on transparency and accountability. The UK’s new trade function needs to be made more accountable to Parliament and the public, with deals containing stronger human rights and environmental protections, as well as a focus on supporting developing country economies to flourish. It should seek to make trade one plank of broader and more comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreements that combine it with more detailed plans for security, scientific, academic, cultural, aid, and environmental collaboration. The UK has a lot to do in order to effectively use 2021 to relaunch itself on the world stage but there are a number of recommendations for action that can help it achieve its goals. These might include:
  • Positioning the UK as a ‘library of democracy’, a global hub for supporting liberal democracy and human rights;
  • Increasing the use of Magnitsky sanctions, expanding their remit to cover corruption and giving Parliament a role in proposing relevant cases;
  • Making Parliamentary time available to introduce the Registration of Overseas Entities Bill and planned reforms to limited partnership law;
  • Improving access to existing public registers and find further ways to connect their information, such as the development of a consolidated national asset registry;
  • Continuing to expand the investigative capacity of Companies House, the National Economic Crime Centre and its constituent agencies, and increase the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders;
  • Taking action on libel tourism and repression of international journalists by introducing UK anti-SLAPP legislation and improving conducts codes for lawyers and financial services;
  • Making trade negotiations more transparent and accountable to Parliament and the public, with deals containing a stronger development focus and more enforceable human rights and environmental clauses;
  • Integrating trade deals better alongside the UK’s other diplomatic objectives through more comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreements;
  • Returning to the legal and manifesto commitment of 0.7 per cent GNI invested in Overseas Development Aid as soon as possible, with a sunset clause in any legal changes;
  • Improving Parliamentary and Ministerial oversight and setting an ethical framework for the deployment of cyber capabilities, with a focus on defensive and combat support functions; and
  • Delivering more ambitious commitments for climate action through the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution, better use of the aid budget and the use of the financial sector, as well as ending government support for fossil fuel projects abroad.
[post_title] => Projecting the UK's values abroad: Conclusions and recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => projecting-the-uks-values-abroad-conclusions-and-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-12-02 21:24:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-12-02 20:24:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5036 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-09-29 09:08:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-09-29 08:08:42 [post_content] => The ‘Protecting the UK’s ability to protect its values’ publication brings together a range of different expert perspectives that recognise the need to build on the UK’s existing international capacities and activities, while reforming, refining and where appropriate refocusing them. This means bringing together the right blend of the best parts of both the FCO and DFID to create an institutional culture combining expertise, flexibility and transparency; ensuring there is policy and operational coherence both within the department and with its international obligations; effective policy coordination across Government; and ensuring it can lead cooperation with external partners both in the UK and overseas, what in her essay Harpinder Collacott called the four ‘Cs’. The FCDO should find new ways to bring in the stakeholders, the public and Parliament into the development of new country, regional and cross-departmental strategies, including a Government-wide human rights strategy. It needs to ensure that capacity is expanded rather than lost to enable diplomats to deal with the department’s growing workload. To help improve effective government and its global leadership efforts, it must protect existing transparency mechanisms such as ICAI and ensure its procurement policies are robust, accountable and in keeping with the UK’s values. If the Integrated Review is going to set out the UK’s new international strategy, the publication argues it must build from a clear assessment of its existing assets. While sometimes difficult to quantify, it is clear that soft-power remains one of the UK’s enduring strengths, something to nurture and build on to help Britain continue to get a hearing around the world. At this time of pandemic and pressure on the public purse it is imperative for the UK’s long-term strategic reach that institutions like Universities, the BBC and the British Council, its globally relevant civil society, cultural and sporting sectors are able to survive and thrive, avoiding short-term asset stripping. The UK’s role as a cultural, civil society, media and higher education hub is of huge importance to help it maintain its international relevance in the years to come. It should also seek to protect institutions such as Universities and Parliament from the influence of authoritarian powers. While it responds to new challenges and priorities, the UK must also not forget areas where it has shown past leadership. Whether it is on Women’s and LGBTQ rights, PSVI, abolition of the death penalty, support for the rule of law and the rules based international system, protecting and building on its existing strengths will help the UK to prepare for the future and ensure its foreign policy remains firmly rooted in its values. So protecting and reforming the UK’s institutions, soft power assets and its capacity to govern should be at the heart of the Integrated Review and the future of UK foreign policy. This publication makes a number of recommendations for Government. It should consider:
  • Ensuring the FCDO builds on the best traditions of its predecessor departments by:
    • Improving diplomatic capacity, including direct support for Ambassadors and through the use of Special Representatives;
    • Protecting and nurturing expertise;
    • Promoting the four ‘Cs’- a Culture of transparency, policy Coherence, Cooperation with stakeholders at home and abroad and Collaboration across Whitehall;
    • Developing new publically accessible country, regional and human rights strategies, through enhanced public, stakeholder and parliamentary engagement;
    • Sustaining longstanding UK leadership on PSVI, Death Penalty, Rule of law and the importance of multilateral institutions; and
    • Retaining full aid scrutiny through ICAI and a new parliamentary Select Committee.
  • Enhancing transparency, accountability and the importance of values in the operations of Government, particularly in areas such as procurement.
  • Protecting the soft power strength of the BBC, British Council, the UK universities, civil society, cultural industries and sporting sectors.
 Image by MOD under (CC). [post_title] => Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values: Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => protecting-the-uks-ability-to-defend-its-values-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-09-28 11:41:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-09-28 10:41:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5032 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-09-29 09:07:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-09-29 08:07:11 [post_content] => This second publication in the FPC’s new ‘Finding Britain’s role in a changing world’ series examines the UK’s current capabilities and strengths both inside and outside government to deliver an effective foreign policy and to protect the values it wishes to promote in the world. At a time of great political change, it is essential to look at what strengths need to be preserved and built on as the UK’s post-Brexit foreign policy evolves under the Johnson Government. Machinery of GovernmentOne of the key challenges for government is how to protect its operational capacity and capabilities as it grapples with the ongoing public health and economic challenges of COVID-19, whilst making structural changes through the new FCDO and significant modifications to the Cabinet Office. When the Prime Minister set out his objectives for the new FCDO, he said “we are going to use this powerful new Whitehall Department…to give the UK extra throw weight and megawattage. It is absolutely vital that, in the new Department, people are multi-skilled and, as I said just now to the House, that people in the Department for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (sic) understand how development can be a fantastic tool for the promotion not just of human rights and the tackling of poverty around the world but of the values and interests of this country at the same time.”[1] This publication explores how the culture and structures of the new FCDO should develop to help deliver a more integrated international approach for the Government. As Mark White points out the new department will be managing a fusion of cultures between the more politically focused and adaptive approach of the FCO, where diplomats would move between a range of different roles (albeit with somewhat greater scope to build regional specialisms than perhaps in years past), with staff from DFID, a department that prioritised development, thematic and subject expertise. White argues that this previously made DFID better at long-term planning, while the FCO’s approach enabled it to react quicker and more effectively to events. In this context there may be some tension between, in the PM’s words, the need for people in the new department to be ‘multi-skilled’ and the Chancellor of the Duty of Lancaster’s desire, outlined in his Ditchley Annual Lecture, to increase the amount of specialist knowledge in government so it is worth assessing where the FCDO now stands.[2] The goal surely is to get the best of both operational cultures, getting a balance within teams of those with an adaptive, crosscutting outlook and those who have been able to build subject matter expertise, whether geographic or thematic, helping give the new teams as a whole an integrated outlook on foreign policy and the Government’s objectives. In truth over the years both the FCO and DFID have become somewhat more normal government departments than they may once had been, with staff coming in more frequently from other government departments. Senior diplomats have also been able to take mid-career breaks and secondments to gain expertise in business and other relevant fields. One area the UK could do more on, particularly post-Brexit, is to encourage secondment to international organisations such as the OSCE to improve both skills and institutional knowledge in the FCDO and to improve British global influence.[3] In the former FCO the Research Analysts division, the core of specialists who acted as the department’s essential repository of country and regional knowledge, has been taking academics from Universities around the UK on secondment. This helped to broaden the range of perspectives heard within the FCO, whilst increasing understanding within academia about the operation of Government to help future policy development. Such an approach can help to address concerns around the lack of specialist country knowledge and understanding, for example highlighted in the Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s review of Libya and in concerns around the lack of knowledge within Government on key countries such as India and China.[4] Research analysists play a vital challenge function for colleagues to help ensure the development of evidence based policymaking, something that needs to be retained and strengthened in the new FCDO. It is to be hoped that the infusion of subject expertise from DFID can be integrated, nurtured and harnessed effectively. This includes, particularly in the context of a data focused Government, retaining its statistical expertise, both to inform policy and retain transparency as discussed below.[5] As Harpinder Collacott argues in her essay making the merger a success is likely to rely on the ‘four ‘C’s - Culture, Coherence, Coordination and Collaboration:
  • Culture of transparency - maintain the strong commitment within the department itself and with the partners FCDO works with
  • Coherence - strengthen the coherence of policy nationally, internationally, and with the SDG agenda
  • Coordination - facilitate cooperative working across Whitehall on critical agendas including trade and climate
  • Collaboration - work in close partnership with stakeholders and strengthen local ownership of development
 Such an approach could enable the new department to breakdown silos that may have still existed between the FCO and DFID, despite prior efforts to create interdepartmental teams (such as the Good Governance Fund) and the presence of ‘double-hatted’ ministers for both departments. Improving coordination within the new FCDO does not remove the need for continuing efforts to refine broader interdepartmental cooperation across Whitehall through the National Security Council and other crosscutting structures via a potentially expanded Cabinet Office. This will be needed to avoid falling back onto ad hoc deals between ministers that may lead to disjointed policymaking. However there may be scope for the ‘extra throw weight and megawattage’ of the FCDO to more clearly lead and shape the discussions on international issues particularly given the current Foreign Secretary’s role as First Secretary of State, helping to deliver on the whole of Government strategic blueprint laid out by the Integrated Review. While yet more departmental reorganisation is probably unwise in the short-medium term, further thought needs to be given to the relationship between the FCDO and the Department for International Trade (DIT), considering that at a country level DIT officials are reporting to UK Ambassadors and the importance of integrating trade relationships with other aspects of the UK’s foreign policy, both bilaterally and strategically. Given that the UK often relied on working collaboratively with EU partners in-country around intelligence sharing and other joint working there is a need, as and when scarce resources become available at this difficult time, to invest in new British diplomatic capacity.[6] Only so much can be achieved by rebadging and re-tasking former DFID officials in-country for the purposes of burden sharing, particularly to avoid development delivery suffering dramatically as a by-product. There would seem to be a need for additional support for UK Ambassadors who have now been made responsible for former DFID functions and as well as the work of DIT officials on trade. There may be scope to expand the use of UK Special Representatives, particularly former Ambassadors and subject experts, to support the work of the Ambassadors and the FCDO to address cross-cutting regional and thematic issues, with the South Caucasus and Western Balkans as areas of the world to consider. Building shared strategiesAs set out in the first publication in this series - The principles for Global Britain - having a clearly defined values statement and an overarching strategy for UK Foreign Policy is essential for the development of effective public policy.[7] That publication made clear there is an important role for public input in to the long-term development of foreign policy that combines both public education and the Government soliciting feedback and opinion. One area that could be the subject of ongoing public and stakeholder engagement is around the development of the UK’s country strategies. The Prime Minister has announced that the ‘Foreign Secretary will be empowered to decide which countries receive – or cease to receive – British aid, while delivering a single UK strategy for each country, overseen by the National Security Council, which I chair.’[8] There may be scope to reconsider and open up the processes by which the UK develops these strategies with increased opportunities for domestic civil society, academic, diaspora and, where there is interest, citizen input into a process of producing publically available country strategy papers that set out the core objectives for UK engagement across all areas of activity, from diplomatic objectives to aid to trade to human rights and other values objectives. As part of the process of leaving the EU, the UK has developed a series of new Partnership and Cooperation Agreements that somewhat mirror arrangements between the EU and those countries, hopefully in the future when there is time and political space to revisit and build on these new arrangements there will be scope for greater stakeholder and public engagements in their contents.[9] Similarly, the FCDO may well benefit from the development of new substantive and public cross-country Regional Strategies, created with stakeholder and citizen input, that can help give UK more strategic coherence to the UK’s international approach. There should be a role too for Parliamentary engagement and scrutiny with country and regional strategies, as well as in related trade agreements- a subject that was previously addressed in the Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: Building a values-based foreign policy publication.[10] Transparency and AccountabilityAs a number of authors in this collection point out there is huge importance in retaining and building on the current remit of the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI) and as well as strengthening Parliamentary scrutiny of aid spending through a standalone, crosscutting Official Development Assistance (ODA) Committee along the lines of the Environmental Audit Committee or the European Scrutiny Committee.[11] This is particularly relevant in helping ensure that best practice from DFID is not lost in the merger and providing reassurance to a sceptical development sector. In the spirit of accountability, the Government should continue to report annually on aid levels across government. It should also retain the existing commitment to consider gender inequality impact ahead of allocating aid and other resources - perhaps as part of the ‘Global Britain values test’ policy evaluation mechanisms suggested in the ‘The principles for Global Britain’ publication.[12] Given the ongoing importance of climate and the UK’s leadership of the COP in 2021, the UK will also need to continue to build on its record integrating the principles of sustainable development throughout its aid programme. While the direction of travel to amend UK aid priorities to look at more areas beyond traditional poverty reduction has been set out by the Prime Minister, the Integrated Review can provide reassurance by again restating the Government’s commitment to existing ODA legislation and OECD DAC rules.[13] As Joe Powell argues in his essay it is important that the UK actively supports open government and rule of law, including through coalition of governments to promote stronger institutions on these issues such as his own Open Government Partnership that the UK is a member of.[14] Similarly as Powell recommends, the UK should give ‘support for anti-corruption reforms that promote an international rules-based system in which UK businesses can engage, and which promote open markets and tackle money-laundering, terrorist financing and elite capture. Key anti-corruption themes include open contracting reforms for public procurement’. Ensuring transparency and accountability in procurement is particularly important given the fast pace at which decisions are being made in the UK and around the world to invest large amounts of public money to address the challenge of COVID-19.[15] As well as transparency the Government’s approach to procurement should incorporate the principles of social value and the values and ethical priorities underpinning the idea of Global Britain, as set out in the previous ‘The principles for Global Britain’ publication.[16] As part of supporting the Government’s transparency objectives, it will be important to maintain UK leadership in global initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. There is also an important role to play in supporting independent civil society and media organisations that are able to hold governments to account in these difficult times, building on the joint work with Canada around the UK-Canada Media Freedom Summit of 2019 to produce clear deliverable outputs from the project commensurate with the level of political attention given to it. A further area the UK could improve on is around financial transparency for lawmakers. As suggested by the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report, Members of the House of Lords should align their declarations of interests with the policies of the House of Commons so that all forms of employment generating more than £100 should be declared, rather than the current £500 level.[17] Many members of the House of Lords undertake considerable amounts of employment outside of their duties in the Upper House and their remuneration for their duties is attendance based, but just as local councillors who also have a similar mix of work and official duties have to declare such income, so should all those who make the country’s laws. Members of the House of Commons could also take steps to improve transparency about share ownership, requiring declarations of any potential conflicts of interest for assets held in trust if their contents are known. There is also scope to reduce other efforts by authoritarian states to influence Parliamentarians, including through All Party Parliamentary Groups, paid work, funded visits, and the actions of MPs and Peers in international forums.[18] Soft powerWhen assessing the UK’s international assets that underpin UK foreign policy, as the Integrated Review is doing, it is important reiterate the importance of building upon the UK’s existing soft-power capabilities. This includes the role played by longstanding and important institutions such as the BBC (particularly but far from exclusively its crucial World Service) and the British Council. Sir Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of the British Council, makes an important contribution in this collection addressing his vision for the future of British soft power in his own words. However it is also worth saying, in the view of the editor of this collection, that the unique nature of the British Council is something to be protected and cherished. It could be to the detriment of British soft power if it was to lose some of the power of hybridity, the scope for (pre- and post-COVID) cross subsidy and freedom of action it currently has to integrate its cultural and English language promotion work in a space set somewhat apart from both Government and pure commercial pressures. Organisations that bring people into closer contact with the UK or create a deeper understanding of it, have a crucial role in helping people around the world form bonds of affinity with the UK that can underpin future economic, diplomatic or cultural engagement. So, when assessing the UK’s soft power assets it is important to remember not only the British Council but also the more narrowly targeted work by groups such as the John Smith Trust or the people-to-people work undertaken by many British NGOs. Pre-pandemic serious questions were being asked about the future of the BBC, including if it was likely to continue in its current form as the result of the Government’s mid-term review of its charter.[19]Whatever decisions are taken domestically, it is important that they do not undermine the BBC’s ability to act as a beacon for Britain on the world stage. The BBC is one of the most globally recognised and trusted ‘brands’ in the world, helping shape global public understanding of the UK.[20] In 2020 the BBC’s output reached an average of 468.2m people outside the UK each week.[21] According to public opinion data, its news output is also the most trusted in the world.[22] The World Service, with a weekly audience of 292.1m, provides access to reliable news coverage in countries that are hard to reach due to either the lack of local capacity or the closure of local media environments by oppressive regimes. Its English language news outputs, BBC World Service English (radio and podcast) and BBC World News (the commercially funded television channel), reach 97m and 112m people per week respectively, including in developed economies and amongst the global business community where such soft power engagement can have a more commercial dimension. This outreach is buttressed by its BBC Studios creative output, whose influence reaches far beyond the BBC’s own channels, with international streaming services providing new viewers to shows that bring with them a UK perspective and often an insight into British culture from Dr Who to David Attenborough. Any further changes to the BBC as an institution need to be handled with extreme care, so as not to weaken the foundations on this soft power giant rests. More broadly at a time where COVID has shut theatres, hampered film and TV production and forced sporting events to take place without fans the UK needs to not only consider the economic and domestic entertainment benefits provided by the UK’s cultural and sporting sectors, but their contribution to international awareness of and affection for the UK with fans of its films and football clubs spread across the globe. Future publications in this series will look at how to use this soft power in new ways, learning from the experience of the 2012 London Olympics, but the country’s creative capacity must be supported to enable it to thrive once more in a post-pandemic world. Failure to do this risks dimming the UK’s power of cultural attraction, a soft-power asset perhaps unmatched by all but the United States. UK universities are also a central part of Britain’s soft power and again COVID-19 has put the sector at particular risk, threatening not only a major component of the economy but institutions that burnish the UK’s reputation and enhancing international understanding of our country through international students, research collaboration and leadership. However, as John Heathershaw, Saipira Furstenberg, and Tena Prelec write in the publication COVID is not the only worry around retaining that reputation for excellence. UK universities have faced a significant challenge to their reputations and academic freedom on campus as the result of authoritarian influences. Their essay identifies the need for an establishment of a code of conduct for Universities – on foreign donations and overseas campuses, on protecting expatriate students and faculty, and on training and support for fieldworkers – that should be backed both by academic leaders and by the Government to retain the credibility and vitality of this important resource. UK civil society plays a vital role for Britain in the world by helping the UK develop policy, delivering services on its behalf and, beyond their relationship with Government, acting to enhance the prestige and intellectual leadership of the UK writ large. So, it is an important dimension of the UK’s soft power even beyond the work many groups do on the ground. However many civil society organisations are facing real challenges to survive in a giving and fundraising environment hugely impacted by COVID-19, the loss of access to EU-wide funding mechanisms and through the £2.9bn GNI related cut in UK aid funding.[23] It is imperative that the FCO-DFID merger does not lead to more unplanned process delays, as there is a clear need to get money out of the door quickly to avoid losing significant civil society capacity unnecessarily or by accident, and to stabilise the sector ahead of any major planned shifts in donor funding as a result of the priorities of the Integrated Review. Protecting current UK strengths in promoting its valuesAs the UK assesses what it should focus on in the future it is important that it does not neglect areas where it has shown leadership in the past, a concern the closure of DFID has not helped to dispel. It is to be hoped that the UK can sustain and build on its areas of longstanding international values leadership such as on the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), women’s and  LGBTQ rights, media freedom and the abolition of the death penalty, working in partnership with UK civil society and local partners. There is a strong case for the development of a cross Government Human Rights Strategy, made particularly clearly in the essay in this collection by Benjamin Ward. Having such clear human rights strategy could ensure greater policy coherence on human rights, democratic institutions and rule of law, across UK foreign policy. It could also help facilitate a common approach across Whitehall, including the FCDO, the National Security Council, Home Office, BEIS and Department for International Trade, provided it had the necessary level of political buy-in from No.10. Having a clear strategy to measure progress against could also improve democratic scrutiny of the UK’s human rights approach by Parliament. It could also help tackle the problem Ward identified in his essay around inconsistency in bilateral relations, helping to ensure that diplomats and politicians do not overlook rights abuses that take place in countries that have strategic ties and alliances with the UK. A coherent overall strategy could help with the better integration of different parts of the Government’s values agenda. For example as part of a future rebalancing of the UK’s Aid priorities, as Joe Powell rightly recommends in his essay, the FCDO should explore ways to prioritise additional development support to countries in ‘moments of democratic transition’, or ‘where reform efforts are underway that could help lift countries out of low-income status onto the road to self-reliance’. The potential for UK leadership on climate change as part of chairing the COP in 2021 will be addressed in more detail in the upcoming publication, ‘Projecting the UK’s values abroad’. However in order to strengthen the UK’s hand in the negotiations next year the UK has to be in a strong a place as possible in terms of its domestic position in tackling the climate crisis. One area of concern remains the uncertainty around the UK’s future link to the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS), something as yet unresolved in the UK’s negotiations with the EU and seemingly far down the priority list. The Government has stated that the UK’s ETS credits will migrate to a new UK Emissions Trading System from 2021, but hopes that it will be able to be linked to the EU ETS in a way that allows for tradability.[24] In the event of no-deal an additional carbon tax of £16 per tonne of CO2 is due to be imposed but this is much lower than the current €30 per tonne EU ETS price.[25] Particularly given the current Government is likely to wish to actively promote market-led mechanisms for tackling climate change, the loss of international tradability would be a setback, given the lack of well-established national level cap and trade scheme elsewhere in the world that the UK could alternatively partner with.[26] So given the testing international environment the UK finds itself facing, it is important that it builds from its existing strengths, protecting them from short-term impacts of COVID, budget cuts or sudden policy change, while improving its transparency, efficiency and accountability.[27] Image by MOD under (CC).[1] DFID, FCO, Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons: 16 June 2020, Government, June 2020,; The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson), Global Britain, House of Commons Hansard, June 2020,[2] Cabinet Office and The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, “The privilege of public service” given as the Ditchley Annual Lecture”, Government, July 2020,; James Forsyth, Mission impossible: Boris’s attempt to rewire the British government, The Spectator, July 2020,[3] As professionals working in any international organisation they would follow the rules of that organisation but they would bring a British perspective to the shaping of proposals and policies that may help them evolve into positions the UK would prefer international organisations might take- a question of cultural influence rather than officials ‘batting for Britain’[4] Foreign Affairs Committee, Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options, House of Commons, September 2016,[5] Ian Plewis, DfID was one of the government’s most data savvy departments. Preserving these skills will be a test of Whitehall reform, Civil Service World, September 2020,[6] Some have understandably written about hypothecating money previously spent on international objectives being reallocated to support the development of the UK’s diplomatic reach, albeit that demand for any available spending in government is high.[7] Adam Hug (ed.), Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: The principles for Global Britain, Foreign Policy Centre, September 2020,[8] DFID, FCO, Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons: 16 June 2020, Government, June 2020,[9] For example see: FCO, UK/Georgia: Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [CS Georgia No.1/2019], Government, November 2019,; and, FCO, UK/Uzbekistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [CS Uzbekistan No.1/2019], Government, December 2019,[10] FPC and Oxfam, Finding Britain’s role in a changing world, March 2020,[11] ICAI website:; Government confirmed the continuation of ICAI’s existence but it is important that its role scrutinising ODA is retained as part of any reform process that comes out of the Government’s Review that is due to report in late 2020, Theo Clarke, Twitter Post, Twitter, August 2020,; The Prime Minister gave have his backing to Parliament being able to create a new ODA committee in his evidence to the Liaison Committee of Select Committee Chairs on September 16th 2020, BBC Parliament,[12] Amy Dodd, Anna Hope and Rob Tew, Merging DFID and the FCO: Implications for UK aid, Development Initiatives, June 2020,; FPC, Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: The principles for Global Britain, September 2020,[13] Official development assistance – definition and coverage, Definition of ODA,; The Government has so far committed to maintaining the ODA requirements for aid within the 0.7%.[14] United Kingdom, Member Since 2011, Action Plan 4, Current Action Plan – 2019-2021, Open Government Partnership, June 2019,[15] This essay by OGP Chief Executive Sanjay Pradhan gives a number of examples of effective pandemic procurement practices, Sanjay Pradhan, Making Trillion Dollar Stimulus and Safety Nets Work for All: The Essential Steps We Can Take Now, Open Government Partnership, July 2020,[16] Adam Hug (ed.), Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: The principles for Global Britain, Foreign Policy Centre, September 2020,[17] Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, Russia, House of Commons, July 2020,; Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords, Authority of the House of Lords, July 2020,[18] This was documented in  Adam Hug (ed.), Institutionally Blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, February 2016, Foreign Policy Centre,[19] Lizzy Buchan, Attacking BBC and licence fee will ‘weaken’ UK, Johnson warned, Independent, February 2020,[20] 2017 Global CSR RepTrak: Reputation and Corporate Social Responsibility, Reputation Institute, September 2017,,%20Reputation%20Institute.pdf[21] Tony Hall: UK must “unleash the full global potential of the BBC” – as new all time record global audience is announced, BBC, July 2020,'s%20global%20reach%20increased,53%25%20in%20BBC%20News%20users; Charlotte Tobitt, BBC reaches record global audience of 468.2m people every week, PressGazette, July 2020,[22] News media consumption, Global Web Index,; Reuters Institute study finds BBC News is America’s most trusted news brand, BBC, June 2020,,from%20MediaPost%20and%20Brand%20Keys.&text=Reuters%20Institute%202020%20Digital%20News%20Report%20surveyed%202%2C055%20respondents%20in,news%20in%20the%20past%20month; Nic Newman, Richard Fletcher, Anne Schulz, Singe Andi, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, June 2020, Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2020, Reuters Institute and University of Oxford,[23] The FPC does not receive UK aid funding.[24] The future of UK carbon pricing, UK Government and Devolved Administrations’ response, June 2020,[25] Josh Burke, Baran Doda, Luca Taschini and Linus Mattauch, The future of carbon pricing: Consultation response, LSE policy publication, August 2019,[26] Senned Research, Replacement for the EU Emissions Trading, Scheme (EU ETS) – Part 1Research Briefing[27] Set out in more detail: FPC, Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: The principles for Global Britain, September 2020, [post_title] => Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values: Introduction [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => protecting-the-uks-ability-to-defend-its-values-introduction [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-09-28 11:37:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-09-28 10:37:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5010 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-09-29 09:00:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-09-29 08:00:31 [post_content] => This publication has brought together a range of different perspectives that recognise the need to build on the UK’s existing international capacities and activities, while reforming, refining and where necessary refocusing them. This will mean bringing together the right blend of the best parts of both the FCO and DFID to create an institutional culture combining expertise, flexibility and transparency; ensuring there is policy and operational coherence both within the department and with its international obligations; effective policy coordination across Government; and ensuring it can lead cooperation with external partners both in the UK and overseas, Harpinder Collacott’s four ‘Cs’. The FCDO needs to find new ways to bring in the stakeholders, the public and Parliament into the development of new country, regional and cross-departmental strategies, including a Government-wide human rights strategy. It needs to ensure that capacity is expanded rather than lost to enable diplomats to deal with the department’s growing workload. To help improve effective government and its global leadership efforts, it must protect existing transparency mechanisms such as ICAI and ensure its procurement policies are robust, accountable and in keeping with the UK’s values. If the Integrated Review is going to set out the UK’s new international strategy, it must build from a clear assessment of its existing assets. While sometimes difficult to quantify, it is clear that soft-power remains one of the UK’s enduring strengths, something to nurture and build on to help Britain continue to get a hearing around the world. At this time of pandemic and pressure on the public purse it is imperative for the UK’s long-term strategic reach that institutions like Universities, the BBC and the British Council, its globally relevant civil society, cultural and sporting sectors are able to survive and thrive, avoiding short-term asset stripping. The UK’s role as a cultural, civil society, media and higher education hub is of huge importance to help it maintain its international relevance in the years to come. It should also seek to protect institutions such as Universities and Parliament from the influence of authoritarian powers. While it responds to new challenges and identifies new priorities, the UK must also not forget areas where it has shown past leadership. Whether it is on Women’s and LGBTQ rights, PSVI, abolition of the death penalty, support for the rule of law and the rules based international system, protecting and building on its existing strengths will help the UK to prepare for the future and ensure its foreign policy remains firmly rooted in its values. So protecting and reforming the UK’s institutions, soft power assets and its capacity to govern should be at the heart of the Integrated Review. This publication makes a number of recommendations for Government. It should consider:
  • Ensuring the FCDO builds on the best traditions of its predecessor departments by:
    • Improving diplomatic capacity, including direct support for Ambassadors and through the use of Special Representatives;
    • Protecting and nurturing expertise;
    • Promoting the four ‘Cs’- a Culture of transparency, policy Coherence, Cooperation with stakeholders at home and abroad and Collaboration across Whitehall;
    • Developing new publically accessible country, regional and human rights strategies, through enhanced public, stakeholder and parliamentary engagement;
    • Sustaining longstanding UK leadership on PSVI, Death Penalty, Rule of law and the importance of multilateral institutions; and
    • Retaining full aid scrutiny through ICAI and a new parliamentary Select Committee.
  • Enhancing transparency, accountability and the importance of values in the operations of Government, particularly in areas such as procurement.
  • Protecting the soft power strength of the BBC, British Council, the UK universities, civil society, cultural industries and sporting sectors.
 Image by Cmglee under (CC). [post_title] => Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values: Conclusions and recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => protecting-the-uks-ability-to-defend-its-values-conclusions-and-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-09-29 09:01:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-09-29 08:01:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4975 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-09-08 09:08:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-09-08 08:08:07 [post_content] => This publication recommends how the UK Government can decide the principles and values that should underpin its concept of Global Britain’ and provides some strong suggestions of what they should be, set in the context of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. The Integrated Review takes place not only in the wake of Brexit, COVID-19 and economic turmoil but in the global context of eroding in confidence in liberal democracy and the buckling of the rule-based world order, challenged by authoritarians such revisionist powers Russia and China. The publication argues that there is a strong moral and strategic case for putting the defence of liberal democracy and open societies at the heart of UK foreign policy. It argues that the UK should take advantage of its new comparative diplomatic freedoms to be more nimble and able to take a lead on these issues. It welcomes the Government’s commitment that ‘the UK will remain distinctively open and global, working with our allies as a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation’, and argues that as an internationally focused middle power it should renew its commitment to a rule-based international order, putting in the hard yards behind the scenes working with partners and institutions both old and new to show it is still committed to multilateralism. It recognises and examines the crucial importance of listening to the views of the British people and working with them to improve accountability and policy sustainability. However, there will be times when the Government will need to lead, using public diplomacy to better inform its own citizens. It argues that having a clearly defined set of core principles and priorities- a ‘Global Britain values statement’- would make it easier to assess policy compliance and coherence against them. It would help give UK foreign policy both an ethical foundation- upon which its approach is built- and ensure there is an ethical core running through each policy, providing a solid structure around which to build Global Britain. It would also help UK policy makers and diplomats more effectively use the full range of tools available to the new FCDO and across government (including its newly independent trade policy) to better support those clearly articulated values. It recommends that in the Government’s Integrated Review and future foreign policy it should: 
  • actively engage the British public in developing foreign policy, looking to ‘listen, reflect, explain, and respond’ to their concerns to enhance decision legitimacy and longevity, while conducting ‘public diplomacy’ to them to improve public understanding on strategic issues;
  • organise a coherent strategic response to the global erosion of liberal democracy and the buckling of the rule-based world order in the face of revisionist powers and systemic decline;
  • continue to ‘get its own house in order’ particularly on areas of transparency and anti-corruption to enhance its soft power and ability to promote its values;
  • cultivate democratic solidarity and with like-minded consolidated democracies within international institutions, and through ‘mission-coalitions’ and other ad hoc partnerships;
  • support international mechanisms that defend and promote democratic and human rights values, rooted in the principles of informed popular consent and universal capabilities;
  • draft a Global Britain values statement that clearly articulates the principles and values it wants to be the ethical foundation of its approach to the world;
  • use a Global Britain values test and ‘social value approach’ to decision making to ensure an ethical core to each foreign policy decision; and
  • develop a whole of government approach ensuring that the institutional structures and all available policy tools, including trade policy, can support this agenda.
 Image by OPCW under (CC). [post_title] => The principles for Global Britain: Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-principles-for-global-britain-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-10-15 14:02:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-10-15 13:02:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[14] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4972 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-09-08 09:07:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-09-08 08:07:05 [post_content] => This publication explores the ethical basis on which the UK’s emerging post-Brexit foreign policy is being built, examining the principles and values that should help define it and looks at how they relate to the Government’s definition of the national interest. It then seeks to show how these principles and values inform the hard choices the UK has to make about defining its international priorities for the next decade and beyond. This discussion is framed by the UK Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy that will report this autumn; setting out the blueprint for the Government’s response to the challenges the UK faces that will then be expanded and implemented over the coming years. We have come a long way since the post-Cold War optimism that provided the backdrop to the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and the optimism around the ‘ethical dimension’ of then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook underpinned by doctrines of both liberal internationalism  and its close cousin the liberal interventionism of Tony Blair’s Chicago speech; the latter trialled successfully on the smaller scales of Kosovo and Sierra Leone but undermined through overreach and misapplication to Iraq and other conflicts.[1] In the post-9/11 period the threats posed by terrorists and other non-state actors predominated, a legacy that to this day means for example MI5 focusing two thirds of its resources on Islamic terrorism and only 13 per cent for monitoring hostile state activity.[2] The strategic environment is also different to the world of the early 2010s, post-economic crash but still before some of its long-term effects came to full fruition, with policies and narratives framed by ideas of ‘enlightened national interest’ under Hague, Cameron and the coalition.[3] That approach, talking about interests and values to similar degrees and sometimes eliding the tensions between them, prevails to some extent under the current Government. However, it is set against an even more volatile international and domestic political backdrop, as well as the generational shift in the UK’s global position as a result of Brexit, a process shaped by domestic political processes and the role of public opinion. The Integrated Review comes at a time when a post-Brexit Britain is forging its own new trade policy and is more able to operate diplomatically beyond the partial constraints and cushions of the EU’s common foreign and security policy, but faces uncertainty over the future of the transatlantic relationship and wider international order. Global ChallengesFrom both an ethical and practical standpoint this publication argues that the UK’s evolving foreign policy needs to have at its centre a coherent and strategic response to the sustained global erosion of liberal democracy and the buckling of the post-war (both WWII and Cold) architecture of the rule-based world order.[4] Since the mid-2000s, despite occasional bright spots, democratic practice and human rights standards, such as civic space and freedom of speech, have been in retreat across the world, with countries in the UK’s wider neighbourhood such as Hungary and Turkey declining significantly.[5] The impact of COVID-19 has further emboldened authoritarians and those who seek to emulate them.[6] Understanding of the systemic threat posed by a Russia, actively seeking to disrupt and undermine Western-led systems, has been clear for some time but grows more so day-by-day. Even during 2020 there has been a sea-change in perceptions of the challenge posed by China in the wake of COVID-19, the Hong Kong national security law and the persecution of the Uighurs, putting China sceptics who have long warned of both growing repression and a more assertive Chinese approach to foreign policy under Xi Jinping in the ascendancy. Russia and China do not seek to zealously promote a particular overarching political philosophy (albeit Russia has to varying extents promoted an anti-liberal traditionalism and China has promoted expansive conceptions of state sovereignty and power to support their wider approach).[7] However they are united by a critique of Western meddling in the affairs of other countries, challenging past and current Western imperialism (both real and imagined).[8] This is not to say that global democratic decline is driven solely at the behest of these actors, as local authoritarians are perfectly capable of seizing their own opportunities, but this high-level disruption has combined with Western disunity and introspection to place the cause of democracy and open societies on the back foot in much of the world. The UK of course needs to be mindful of these anti-Western narratives, addressing where they are built from a kernel (or more) of truth and the failings on which such narratives feed, without being cowed by them. Recent positive signs, such as Armenia’s Velvet Revolution in 2018 and the massive protest movement in Belarus at time of writing show the enduring attractiveness of freedom from oppression and government accountability, particularly when such principles can be decoupled from great power rivalries. However, recent history is full of examples where the international community has failed to take opportunities to consolidate positive change leading to further international fatigue and cynicism.[9] So the presence of revisionist powers, and the growing confidence of individual authoritarian and semi-authoritarian states, pose many challenges to an international order also contending with an unprecedented international public health emergency that is triggering the second seismic global economic crisis in 12 years, instability in the future of the transatlantic relationship, and the ongoing structural shift in economic and political gravity towards Asia.[10] The panglossian assumptions of some a few decades ago of an inevitable march towards greater freedoms, openness and global cooperation, are long in the rear view mirror as history came back with a vengeance, if the UK plays an active and cooperative role on the world stage to help reverse this systemic decline there is hope that progress can again be made. In short it is a challenging environment for the UK’s post Brexit Foreign Policy to operate in but one, which if handled with care could provide new opportunities for the UK to be a force for good in the world whilst protecting what it sees as its core interests. The UK would need to be as proactive as it can be in reaffirming its commitments to international engagement as, irrespective of the goals of its advocates, the UK’s departure from the EU has added to the sense of instability in the international rule-based order, as Nicholas Wright and others point out in this collection, thereby placing an onus on the UK to show it remains a committed international player. To meet the Government’s proposed high-level outcomes for UK foreign policy, such as ‘a secure, stable and prosperous Euro-Atlantic neighbourhood’ and a ‘world order in which open societies and economies flourish’, taking an active role in defending the principles of liberal democracy and open societies are not only the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, but essential from a strategic perspective so that a UK ‘open from a position of strength’ can flourish.[11] As a middle power with an internationally focused economy and set of strategic assets, it is of critical importance to show support for shared and applied international rules and a system where the balance of power remains with fellow democracies.[12] As Michael Allen points out in his essay these objectives will need to be argued for from first principles upwards, as the legacy of recent reverses and the current challenges facing the international order mean that simply asserting the supremacy of liberal democracy and rules-based cooperation will likely be self-defeating. This will involve reinforcing the principles of liberal democracy as being rooted in informed popular consent, with protections in place for dissent amongst those currently in the minority (but may not always be so) rather than simply focusing on specific structures that have arisen in predominantly Western contexts to deliver on those principles. Interests and ValuesThe Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that the ‘guiding lights’ for the current Integrated Review ‘will be free trade, democracy, human rights and the international rule of law’.[13] The Integrated Review’s call for evidence similarly describes the Government’s vision as being ‘that in 2030 the UK will be stronger, wealthier, more equal, more sustainable, more united across nations and regions’, saying that ‘the UK will remain distinctively open and global, working with our allies as a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation’.[14] The Prime Minister has talked supportively of these values too, but both have been clear in consistently repeating that the Government seeks to act internationally in the ‘national interest’. All UK governments have sought to publicly support both objectives, but different administrations have had different emphases when seeking to balance them. As the essays in this collection show interests and values can be mutually reinforcing, particularly at a strategic level and in the context of the wider defence of liberal democratic values and a rule-based order outlined above. As Allen argues in his essay, responding to challenges by revisionist powers by defending a country’s values should be a core national interest for any foreign policy.[15] Politicians and campaigners regularly seek to minimise the tension between the two objectives in order to advance their goals and avoid challenging debates. However, as both Jamie Gaskarth and Jonathan Gilmore point out, a narrowly defined national interest and values are not always in alignment, particularly in the short-term. This author would strongly argue that while certain values-led actions may not fit within a short-term, tactical assessment of the national interest, they may still serve the UK’s strategic objectives and therefore an understanding of the long-term national interest. Yet sadly even when using a long-term perspective beyond even the most patient of politicians it is important to recognise that there will still be cases where the two priorities may not align (often where the long-term benefits of the values approach are hard to quantify) and the balance will need to be shaped by the priorities of the Government of the day. This is an area where greater openness and honesty about the reasons why certain decisions are being made would be helpful for accountability and trust as Gilmore suggests. In his essay Gaskarth calls for rooting ethical decision-making in a deeper understanding of public opinion, setting out a possible ‘listen, reflect, explain, respond’ approach for policy development, something that may well find support in this particular government given its extensive use of polling and focus group work to hone its messages and understand public attitudes. This is an area also focused on by Catarina Thomson, Thomas Scotto and Jason Reifler who draw from their 2018 public opinion data which shows that when asked to prioritise values and interests the great British public, unsurprisingly, finds itself almost directly in the middle, falling slightly either side depending on question wording. Their data also shows, again not unsurprisingly given its sometime use as a political football, that the concept of ‘human rights’ while still popular overall is significantly less supported than many of its constituent principles when they are polled on independently. Referencing different data in her essay, Kate Ferguson notes that the principle of supporting the ‘vulnerable abroad’ received 87.4 per cent public support, while tackling ‘the root causes of migration, violence and instability’ received 86.7 per cent support, and 66 per cent believe it is important that Britain helps protect people in other countries from atrocities such as genocide and ethnic cleansing.[16] Gaskarth sees the concept of the ‘national interest’ as one closely aligned with the concept of ‘public good’[17] – that is, the collective safety, prosperity and contentment of the political community of the UK, something similar to the Government’s strategic vision of a UK ‘stronger, wealthier, more sustainable, more united’.[18] His approach for assessing domestic interests is a helpful tool that can be set alongside the particular principles or ideology that the Government of the day wishes to promote internationally. However of course there needs to still be room for the application of good judgement, particularly where individual actions may have variable, delayed or diffuse impacts on a particular objective but the goal is of particular strategic importance (e.g. the protection of democratic and rule-based norms), there are potential diplomatic trade-offs or other hard to quantify second order effects. These are concerns that Gaskarth notes, regarding the need to consider long-term trends, arguing that ‘it is clearly in the national interest of a liberal democratic state to live in a stable international order, with more prosperity, less conflict and more freedom. But, our commitment to those public goods should always be linked back to the costs they impose on UK citizens and the benefits.’ It is also worth being wary of a purely case by case or ‘what works’ approach to individual decisions in the absence of a clear ethical and policy framework. This is due to the risk of the aggregate impact of side effects (negative externalities) mounting up to undermine the overall legitimacy of wider policies or systems. While the UK’s foreign policy has to have buy-in from its citizens to ensure its continuing credibility, such an approach must leave enough room for the Government to shape public understanding and sentiment (perhaps externally influencing the explain and respond sections of Gaskarth’s model process), the ‘need to lead’. Gilmore describes this approach as public diplomacy ‘directed at the British, rather than overseas publics’ to help the evolution of domestic attitudes, particularly given the understandably infrequent attention given to foreign policy issues by many citizens. With this in mind, there is a strong case to clearly explain and show the systemic risks outlined above that authoritarian states pose to the UK’s security and economic wellbeing to broaden the domestic political constituency beyond those that currently particularly value defending democracy and human rights in and of themselves. Such an approach does of course have echoes of the societal efforts used in response to the Cold War and getting the balance right between awareness and alarmism will require political skill and sensitivity to navigate. There is a case for increased public education around the reasons behind potential trade-offs that could for example see reduced access to Chinese originated goods and services (from Tik Tok to early access to 5G) if the situation continues to escalate. One area in particular that can effectively bridge the values and interests divide is around issues of governance, transparency and accountability. This agenda can marry opportunities to improve standards here in the UK with the need to evidence value for money for the UK taxpayer of its international spending and by making UK’s international partners more accountable to their own citizens. It is hoped that the Integrated Review can help provide an overarching vision and set of principles that can span the post-Brexit fault lines and provide opportunities for the cross party agreement necessary for the durable strategic approach needed to respond to the seriousness of the international situation. At time of writing at a policy level- recent cross-party agreement on the use of ’Magnitsky’ personal sanctions against human rights abusers, the response to the Belarus protests, the Navalny poisoning and China’s national security law in Hong Kong gives some hope that some elements of a shared agenda can be found, whilst understanding that deep philosophical, political and policy divides will remain in some areas. There is little point at this stage in rehashing the arguments over the costs and benefits of membership of the EU for the UK’s foreign policy, nor given the trajectory of the Brexit negotiations of what the kind of close Foreign and Security partnership proposed under the May administration (envisioned in part as leverage for economic access but also to support a somewhat more gradualist international approach to post-Brexit) would mean for UK Foreign Policy. Therefore, when considering what the principles and practice of Global Britain should be under this Government, it is essential to look at how the UK’s freedom of action outside of the EU’s foreign policy architecture can enable British policy to be more nimble and able to take a lead on important issues. With a nod to the ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ strategy of Muhammed Ali it should aim to show that ‘taking back control’ translates to a renewed international self-confidence rather than taking its ball home.[19] To deploy another well-used phrase, the UK needs to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time by being both able to take swifter action where former EU partners may be slowed by the aim to seek consensus, but also showing it is still willing to put in the hard yards behind the scenes in multilateral institutions to develop common positions where behind this would better achieve the desired outcome. Areas for cautionA principle or values-based approach to foreign policy needs to be rooted in what the UK does, both at home and internationally, rather than just what it says. As Gaskarth points out, rather than automatically assuming the universality of our ethics, the UK needs, where appropriate, to translate them into the language and practices of other communities and make the case for how they can serve the interests of their citizens (and their governments) to limit reflexive defensive reactions where possible and reduce the likelihood of ‘bandwagoning’ with other ostracised parties. This is not to retreat from advocating for values derived from the principles of universal human capabilities, particularly where states have signed up to relevant UN or other international treaties endorsing these values. It is a question of getting the tactics right to make an impact and to recognise the complex baggage (both good, ill and viewed differently in different parts of the world) that the UK can bring with it, whilst retaining confidence in the UK’s ability to be a force for good. Getting our own house in order is imperative on issues around tackling corruption, arms control and military support, climate policy and many other issues.[20] This will help add moral weight to the UK’s diplomacy and enhance its attractive, soft power, helping it better navigate an more fractured and fractious international environment and engage fellow democracies in Africa, Asia and Latin America that understandably have a perspective on the current international order and its history that is far from uniformly positive.[21] While it is tempting, to package advocacy of open societies and economies together it can be risky. This is not to say that a government that values both liberal societies and free market economies should not seek to promote the two goals, the UK has a long track record of encouraging both, but rather that it should avoid conflating the two. In these turbulent times it needs restating that liberal democracy is not contingent on (neo) liberal economics. Some populists, of both right and left, have been able to draw support from those who have suffered from the downsides of free and globalised markets to lead projects that seek to undermine liberal democratic institutions themselves to entrench their own power. Many, including this author, would strongly argue that for the liberal democratic project to remain successful much more needs to be done to address the inequalities that can arise from interconnected markets and tackle issues around transnational kleptocracy and tax avoidance that breeds understandable cynicism in the status quo.[22] However the decision on whether and how to (re)allocate the costs and benefits of globalisation or to reduce or reframe a countries exposure to it needs to be decided democratically. Free societies where leaders are chosen democratically and are ultimately accountable to their people must be the first priority. They then need to be allowed to choose the economic systems that work best for them, a lesson sometimes still forgotten by international financial institutions, while leaving space for international advice and advocacy of preferred economic models without undue pressure.[23] Indeed a lesson of the Brexit process is in recognising the value placed in the importance of democratic control over policy and decision-making, an input legitimacy separate from perceptions of the potential costs or benefits of any outcomes. Particularly if placed in de facto competition with the type of authoritarian state capitalist system being refined in China, liberal democracy’s ability to support a diverse range of economic models and policies needs to be promoted as a strength. The Prime Minister’s Commons Statement announcing the merger of the FCO and DFID potentially signalled a number of important changes. Firstly, it suggested that while poverty reduction would remain a central focus for British aid spending and the mission of the new department, it would be as one of a number of core priorities (including human rights, climate and crucially the ‘values and interests of this country’ at the same time) rather than being first among equals as it was in DFID. Finding an appropriate and equitable balance between similarly important goals of poverty reduction, human rights, good governance and conflict prevention can prove challenging particularly when, usually due to authoritarian or corrupt governments, these otherwise highly compatible goals may not align in the short term. However, it is worth reiterating that this is an area on which UK Aid has already made considerable progress in recent years. How this Government will define national interest in this context is a central question as discussed above and elsewhere in this collection. One area where greater clarity and reassurance would be welcomed is around how the ‘commercial priorities’ mentioned in the Parliamentary debate will work with this wider agenda, while noting the Prime Minister’s firm commitment on no return to tied aid and with mutually positive framings on trade possible as set out below. Secondly, the Prime Minister’s remarks underlined the importance of enhancing the UK’s engagement in the wider European Neighbourhood, highlighting the need to increase support to Ukraine and the Western Balkans (contrasting this with traditional DFID support for Zambia and Tanzania).[24] This approach would seem to build from an assessment of the UK’s security interests and the global concerns highlighted above. This has been reinforced by the IR’s high-level commitment to a ‘secure, stable and prosperous Euro-Atlantic neighbourhood’, which while far from a new priority for foreign policy, may have a significant impact for aid-spending and indeed for defence posture, potentially shifting away to some extent from ‘out of area’ activities. Irrespective of the strategic merits of this potential shift, it is worth being clear that any aid reprioritisation will be felt even more keenly at this time of budgets being squeezed, such as through the recent aid cuts due to the COVID-19 related drop in the UK’s GNI. If there is a shift in aid resources away from poverty reduction and Africa it comes with some potential risks not only to potential deeper Commonwealth cooperation, but in the context of well over a decade of expanding Chinese influence in Africa and across the developing world (including through the huge Belt and Road initiative in China’s neighbourhood). While the Chinese focus on supporting infrastructure development without direct conditionality has been popular, there has been growing concern about the new debt burden to China potentially acting as a source of political leverage.[25] It also comes at a time of when Russia is playing an increasingly expansive role in not only the post-Soviet space and Middle East, but also now expanding its military and mercenary involvement in Africa.[26] So while redeploying resources the UK must not vacate the field. If UK aid flows to Africa and other parts of the developing world do drop, it makes it imperative that the UK uses its new trade policy creatively in ways that support the UK’s values as well as its interests, with a clear focus on supporting poverty reduction in partner countries alongside clear and actionable commitments on human rights. Focusing new trade deals on supporting economic development in partner countries, would help meet the Government’s manifesto commitment to ‘do more to help countries currently receiving aid become self-sufficient’ whilst strengthening bilateral economic ties and strategic cooperation.[27] A pivot to the UK’s Euro-Atlantic Neighbourhood will need to consider the extent to which the UK has previously worked with or through EU mechanisms, such as in Ukraine, Moldova, the Western Balkans and the South Caucasus where Eastern Partnership, and for some countries putative future enlargement, are still an important part of the landscape. Effective UK policy in this region will require enhanced engagement with regional institutions notably the OSCE (and in some areas with the Council of Europe) as well as through boosting bilateral diplomacy. Though institutions with many challenges, the OSCE and Council of Europe’s mechanisms play a vital role in trying to defend values of democratic elections, media freedom and human rights against increasing pressure from their more authoritarian member states.[28] In this context, it is deeply worrying that the UK Government seems to be reviewing its continuing participation in international election observation. At time when the OSCE is under pressure and fake monitors are trying to undermine trust in elections it is essential for the UK’s values and its commitment to the Euro-Atlantic region, for British foreign policy to be protecting the gold standard of the OSCE ODHIR’s long-term missions rather than potentially undermining it. Image by FCO under (CC). [1] Whilst there is neither the time nor space to write down the full list of failings of the Iraq war, one area that is relevant to here is that the way in which UK participation was framed domestically as a liberal intervention against an out of control dictator (and to some extent tried pursue objectives that ran in line with this). In a way that did not entirely mesh with US objectives and arguments ranging from the related but distinct neo-conservatism (see here for some differences: David Bosco, What divides neocons and liberal interventionists, Foreign Policy, April 2012, to a blunt assertion of US regional interests and the American domestic political opportunity to act provided in the wake of 9/11. This analysis above seeks to make a differentiation between Liberal Internationalism and Liberal Interventionism, when the terms are sometimes used synonymously (as indeed Liberal Interventionism and Neo-conservatism sometimes are by their critics). As framed here it sees all three as overlapping positions in the realm of values focused foreign policy placed on a spectrum relating on the one hand relating to the importance role of military intervention and on the other to the importance of international law and institutions (running from a Liberal Internationalism more sceptical on proactive military intervention but in-favour of work through international and multilateral forums through to, put crudely, neo-Conservative preferences for more war and less law). Beyond these frameworks are also a range of socialist, radical and increasingly now traditionalist or nationalist internationalisms- for more on the latter see: The Rise of the Casey Michel,‘Traditionalist International’ March 2017, People for the American Way,[2] Russian interference highlights Britain’s political failings, The Economist, July 2020,[3] FCO and The Rt Hon William Hague, Britain’s Foreign Policy in a Networked World, Government, July 2010,; See also the 2010 National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review – UK Government, A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty, October 2010,[4] The democratic system of government in which individual rights and freedoms are officially recognised and protected, and the exercise of political power is limited by the rule of law and with pluralist political organisation and free and fair elections. This essay contribution does not in any way argue for uniformity in political structures or policy outcomes merely that citizens of each country should be freely able to decide what they should be, with space protected for a range of different views;[5] The Freedom House rankings have shown consistent decline in global freedoms since 2005: Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2019: Democracy in Retreat,[6] Shadi Hamid, Reopening the World: How the pandemic is reinforcing authoritarianism, Brookings, June 2020,[7] The rise of illiberal civil society in the former Soviet Union?, FPC, July 2018,; The information battle: How governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad, FPC, March 2017,; and, Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, FPC, May 2016, These reports show both the role played by Russia and China in encouraging the reduction in freedoms but focus on the agency of local regimes and political actors. Michael Allen’s essay in this collection also outlines these issues in detail.[8] While Russia and China share an antipathy towards many aspects of ‘the West’ and work together to promote authoritarian collaboration through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) it would be wrong to see them as a uniform block- not least because to strategic concerns Russia over the security of its far-Eastern territory and some nervousness (albeit mostly suppressed) over China’s rapid expansion into Central Asia and to a lesser extent the South Caucasus through Belt and Road.[9] For example the failure to properly support political transition in Ukraine both in 2005 and since 2014, the later albeit substantially impacted by Russian invasion.[10] Revisionist powers are driving the world’s crises, Financial Times, June 2014,; Cabinet Office, Integrated Review: call for evidence, August 2020,[11] Government, Integrated Review: call for evidence (PDF), The list of high level outcomes it sets out are:
  • a more resilient UK: open from a position of strength;
  • a secure, stable and prosperous Euro-Atlantic neighbourhood, which enables our security and prosperity at home;
  • a world order in which open societies and economies flourish;
  • a more resilient world, well on the path to net zero by 2050;
  • strong science, technology & data capabilities; and
  • a reformed and refocused approach to defence underpinning all of the above
[12] As addressed below in this essay, this is not to say all democracies will necessarily support the UK or wider Western perspectives, particularly given colonial legacies that shape international attitudes in a number of cases, something the UK and others need to continue to do more to understand and respond sensitively (such as by improving the UK’s ethical practices and using new tools such as its trade policy to promote pro-poor growth in developing state partners) to if it is to build wider and deeper diplomatic alliances.[13] Dominic Raab – 2020 Statement on Britain in the World, UK POL, January 2020,[14] Cabinet Office, Integrated Review: call for evidence, August 2020,[15] And it is to some extent exactly what those revisionist powers are doing themselves, albeit where national interest is made synonymous with protecting the interests of their autocratic rulers.[16]Attest and Protection Approaches, ‘British society - How do you feel? 2019’, social attitude survey, January 2019 from Kate Ferguson’s essay in this collection.[17] See Edmunds, T. Gaskarth, J. and Porter, R. British Foreign Policy and the National Interest. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014; Kratochwil, F.  ‘On the notion of “interest” in international relations’ International Organization, 36,1,1982: 1-30.[18] Also Cabinet Office, Integrated Review: call for evidence, August 2020,[19] To the extent such an approach can be taken by a country of the UK’s size and reputation. The UK of course would wish to avoid the terminal outcome experienced by the bee upon completion of the stinging process, something that in the relative absence of the institutional backup and political cover provided by EU joint positions will involve both strategy and precision to pull off effectively.[20] Addressed later in this publication series and previously in Finding Britain’s role in changing world, FPC and Oxfam, March 2020,[21] Hans Kundnani, What is the Liberal International Order?, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, May 2017 gives a good analysis of[22] For example Ikenberry highlights the problems caused to liberal international systems by growing inequality and the conflation of globalisation with the liberal international political order, G John Ikenberry, The Next Liberal Order, July 2020,[23] There is not the time or space here (nor frankly the need given the weight of literature on the topic) to chronical the impacts of debt and other lending being used to push particular economic policies on developing and other debtor countries, from the ‘structural adjustment’ of the 1990s to 2009 Greek debt crisis. Both the often-significant inequality and the overriding of domestic political preferences in favour of those of the lenders have played their part in sapping trust in the post-cold war international order. This does not preclude donor advocacy of their preferred economic strategies, nor completely rule out conditionality on transparency and human rights grounds as well as ensuring a reasonable prospect of repayment but without forcing sovereign governments to adopt a donor’s economic approach against their will. Indeed, in this author’s humble opinion, perhaps one of the decisions that has most led to the undermining of the liberal international order and liberal democracy was the use of Russia as a laboratory for ‘economic shock theory’ (as well as the lack of a ‘Marshal Plan for Russia comparable with the level of investment and support provided to former Eastern bloc states outside the former Soviet Union) that played such an important role in its failure to transition to being a stable democracy and becoming instead the global disruptor it is today (though it is worth noting that more than in some other country cases such policies found support in sections of the early 90s Russian elite).[24] DFID, FCO, Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street, and The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons: 16 June 2020, Government, June 2020,; The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson), Global Britain, House of Commons Hansard, June 2020,[25] A recent Chatham House paper, by Lee Jones and Shahar Hameiri highlights the importance of not overstating this case, particularly in relation to asset seizure. (See Lee Jones and Shahar Hameiri, Debunking the Myth of ‘Debt-trap Diplomacy’: How Recipient Countries Shape China’s Belt and Road Initiative, August 2020, However, from the FPC’s own work in Central Asia for example it is clear that Belt and Road creates leverage both from the good will generated in some cases and in the way debt can be used to ensure Chinese interests are prioritised, as for example in the case of gas flow prioritisation from Turkmenistan as set out in the 2019 Spotlight on Turkmenistan publication (Adam Hug ed., Spotlight on Turkmenistan, July 2019, Of course it is important to consider the ways in which debt was used by Western Countries and the International Financial institutions to enforce dubious and often harmful economic programmes on the debtor country, something that led to the somewhat successful efforts in the late 90s and 2000s to ‘drop the debt’. The hope is to try and learn from the mistakes of the past rather than repeat them.[26] Anadolu Agency, Russia to build military bases in 6 African countries: Report, Daily Sabah, August 2020,; Svoboda Radio, Twitter Post, Twitter, July 2020,[27] The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2019, Get Brexit done: Unleash Britain’s Potential,; Whilst more detail on what such arrangements might look like will be set out in future publications in this series new UK trade deals should seek to support rather than undermine regional trade integration by partner countries, learning from the mistakes of the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) in Africa and with an emphasis on it being a partnership. The UK should seek to give developing country partners greater flexibility on tariffs, including a more flexible interpretation of the ‘substantially all’ requirement so they can protect infant industries, longer phasing periods and a pro-development use of schedules; along with rules of origin requirements that work to support regional cooperation in supply chains rather than pull against it (except in cases relating to contents subject to conflict or human rights restrictions); and the maximum policy space possible to allow them to implement rules in ways most suitable to their development. The UK should be wary of reliance on ISDS and instead look to coordinate with its aid policy by supporting rule of law initiatives in partner countries. For discussion on this issue see: Royal African Society and APPG on Africa, The Future of Africa-UK Trade and Development Cooperation Relations in the Transitional and Post-Brexit Period, February 2017,; and the upcoming contributions in this series by Ruth Bergan who advised on the suggestions above.[28] As documented in the FPC’s Institutionally Blind series [post_title] => Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: Principles (and priorities) for Global Britain [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => finding-britains-role-in-a-changing-world-principles-and-priorities-for-global-britain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-09-07 20:08:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-09-07 19:08:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[15] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4934 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-09-08 09:00:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-09-08 08:00:01 [post_content] => The core purpose of this short publication has been to try and tease out how the UK Government can decide on the values that should underpin the UK’s evolving ‘Global Britain’ approach and to provide some suggestions of what those values should be. At the conclusion of the current Integrated Review it is to be hoped that the Government will be able to articulate a clear vison of the principles and values it seeks to support and how they fit into its wider strategic approach, something that can be fleshed out through more detailed policies and actions over the subsequent months. As suggested in the March 2020 joint publication by the Foreign Policy Centre and Oxfam, the Government should seek to develop a succinct ‘Global Britain values statement’.[1] For example, as Kate Ferguson points out in the area of atrocity prevention having a clearly defined strategy can help encourage more fluid and responsive policy-making. Having a clear set of core principles and priorities would make it easier to assess policy compliance and coherence against them, a ‘Global Britain values test’ or benchmarking process. There may be further lessons to be learned from the way in which best performing UK local authorities and government departments have developed processes to implement the 2012 Social Value Act, assessing the wider impact of a decision at the start of the process and considering cohesively how particular actions can help meet wider principled objectives.[2] Learning from best practice in social value would include ensuring that international policy decisions, aid spending, contracting and procurement incorporated:[3] 
  • clear criteria in determining the (social) value goals the Government wishes to achieve;
  • an understanding and explanation of the cost and practicality of targets, including where diplomatically possible transparency about the potential trade-offs;
  • a clear definition of the outcomes being sought and that they are, where possible, measurable and reviewable and if necessary overtime renegotiated to meet emerging challenges;
  • those implementing a policy or providing a good or service having a clear understanding the goals they are being asked to achieve and the rationale for them – where appropriate co-creating these with the Government;
  • consideration of proportionality between the scale and focus of a particular action and its impact on the wider values agenda- with the weighting of values in any decision matrix varying on a case by case basis and with the political priorities of the government of the day;[4]
  • a regard for and sensitivity to local perspectives, in the community being worked in and with, whilst making decisions in line with UK and international standards;
  • transparent procurement and contracting, with full compliance with anti-corruption and bribery standards both at home and abroad; and transparency of performance including publically available information about how Government money is spent; and
  • those involved in decision making including all politicians, officials, contractors and other third parties, abiding by high standards of governance including the Nolan principles for standards in public life (Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership), except where there is a clear national security rationale for limiting the ‘openness’ dimension.[5]
 Strengthening such an approach would help give UK foreign policy, not an ethical dimension that sits as one of potentially competing criteria, but both an ethical foundation upon which its approach is based and an ethical core running through each policy providing a solid structure around which to build a Global Britain. As to what those principles and values at the heart of the UK’s future international approach should be that can be enumerated in a Global Britain values statement, the comments by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and the Integrated Review high-level outcomes give a clear and understandable indicator of the Government’s overall direction of travel around ‘free trade, democracy, human rights and the international rule of law’.[6] It should build on the Gaskarth’s idea of the national interest as closely aligned with the concept of ‘public good’ – the collective safety, prosperity and contentment of the political community of the UK, though with space to consider how this relates to responsibilities to people outside its border and to the planet itself depending on the priorities of the government of the day. This publication makes the case, both ethical and strategic, for focusing on the need to defend liberal democracy and international systems based on rules rather than zero-sum power politics. The UK can build on its strengths and expertise in civil society, academia and the legal sector to ensure human rights, rule of law, conflict and atrocity prevention are at the heart of the UK’s approach. Similarly important should be building on recent progress with its transparency rules to end the UK’s position and reputation as a home for dirty money, while supporting good governance and anti-corruption efforts internationally. These are not only important principles to abide be at home and abroad but they also make clear the importance of accountability and value for money to the British taxpayer. International perceptions post-Brexit mean that, as Nicholas Wright points out, the UK needs to actively show its vision for and commitment to international institutions and some conception of a rule based international order, albeit recognising its current somewhat fragmented state.[7] The UK can use the policy platform that emerges from the Integrated Review to reaffirm its commitment to multilateralism, both through existing organisations and new collaborations as discussed in future publications in this FPC project. From what can be seen so far, the Government’s approach to the international systems displays a preference for looser, more fluid arrangements with a focus on trade and security (particularly in the digital sphere), adopting broadly a liberal realist[8] or liberal conservative approach to the (liberal) international order.[9] In theory not a million miles from the approach taken when the Conservatives first returned to Government in 2010, but with dramatic changes in practice following the departure from the EU and the closure of DFID. Having a clearly articulated set of principles to govern by would enable UK policy makers, diplomats and aid workers to effectively use the full range of tools available to the new FCDO and across government (including its newly independent trade policy) to better support the UK’s values. The publication recognises however, the need both to listen to the views of the British people and to work with them on the future direction of policy not only to improve accountability but to enhance the democratic legitimacy needed for policies to be sustained into the long-term, irrespective of who is in power. This should not only include opinion polling and focus groups, but by maintaining and strengthening dialogue with a broad range of civil society and diaspora groups (a clear source of strength for the UK) to retain an iterative dimension to policy making. Once the Government has finalised the core principles it sees as being behind Global Britain, hopefully with such public opinion information informing its thinking, it needs to work to encourage domestic political buy-in not only by consistency in messaging and policy but also through a programme of public diplomacy directed toward the British, rather than overseas publics. This could and should be centred on the strategic importance of defending liberal democracy and open societies as set out above. There is a strong moral and strategic case for a UK foreign policy more firmly rooted in values and prioritising the positive role the UK can play in the world. However, in order to build public trust over the long-term, even over issues where people disagree, when the Government decides to take a decision that it believes is in the national interest but that comes into conflict with its stated values it should be more open and honest about why it is making such a decision in that instance rather than pretending there is no contradiction between the two objectives in every case. This is of course an argument for greater transparency and accountability in decision-making rather than to automatically accept the prioritisation of short-term interests, the opposite of the approach being encouraged. There are a number of areas which will be focused on more in future publications in the Finding Britain’s role in the World series on which it is important to state the importance of the values dimension here. The UK’s 2021 chairing of the G7 provides an opportunity to refocus the organisation as the group of leading democracies, clearly demarcating its role from that of the G20. This will be addressed in the upcoming ‘Partnerships for the future of UK Foreign Policy’ publication, though in his contribution here Michael Allen rightly calls for cultivating democratic solidarity to confront the authoritarian resurgence with improved collaboration in international forums and through the creation of new arrangements, alliances and ad hoc collaboration. As Allen argues this ‘smaller, deeper order of industrial democracies would (be able to) reaffirm liberal principles while limiting the scope of membership of the liberal order to shore up its integrity legitimacy and resilience’ strengthening organisations like the Community of Democracies as well as new groups.[10] This work needs to be buttressed by ongoing support for international mechanisms that support these values such as the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and its Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteurs and human rights mechanisms, and the International Criminal Court. Similarly, the diplomatic power of the UK’s new trade policy, and its ability to support or undermine the values dimension to foreign policy will be addressed in the ‘Projecting the UK’s values abroad’ publication, but mutually beneficial trade deals could become a central part of the UK’s approach to international poverty reduction and support for human rights with the right objectives and safeguarding clauses. The UK’s approach to aid will also be addressed in future publications but there is scope to more clearly align priorities for poverty reduction with human rights and governance objectives, including the targeted use of conditionality on human rights and good governance grounds where appropriate to ensure aid relationships do not distort the protection of our other values. In light of the strategic challenge facing democracy, human rights and the rule based international system there is a strong case for increasing the proportion of aid and other spending by the new FCDO and other departments used to support these objectives. Overall, the promotion of values in UK foreign policy will be fundamentally important in helping to define Britain’s place in the world after Brexit positively and proactively, both strengthening and using its soft power. It should take a whole of government approach using all available tools to supporting its values agenda and vision for Global Britain. The practical machinery of government questions will also be addressed in more detail in the upcoming publications however, there are a couple of potential changes that might assist in ensuring principles are at the heart of the Government’s future strategy. It should strongly consider Alexander Thier’s suggestion of a ‘department for democracy’ (or more broadly democracy and human rights) at the FCDO giving priority and focus to these central issues of principle that lay within the FCO’s Multilateral Policy Directorate. Similarly, in this publication Kate Ferguson argues for the creation of a cross-cutting analysis unit and internal coordination mechanism that would act as the focal point for the Government’s work on atrocity prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. It is worth noting that the FCDO’s new management board seems to be leaning more towards organisation by region rather than thematic areas, though it must be hoped that there will be scope at the level below this to root the values agenda in its evolving structures. Whatever policies and processes are put in place it is imperative that the UK’s emerging foreign policy has a strong ethical foundation and core to help achieve a coherent and ambitious conception of Global Britain. Recommendations  In the Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy and the future evolution of its foreign policy the UK should: 
  • actively engage the British public in developing foreign policy, looking to ‘listen, reflect, explain, and respond’ to their concerns to enhance the legitimacy and longevity of decisions, while undertaking targeted ‘public diplomacy’ to them to improve understanding on issues of strategic importance;
  • organise a coherent strategic response to the global erosion of liberal democracy and the buckling of the rule-based world order in the face of revisionist powers and systemic decline;
  • continue to ‘get its own house in order’ particular on areas of transparency and anti-corruption to enhance its soft power and ability to promote its values;
  • cultivate democratic solidarity and partnerships with like-minded consolidated democracies within international institutions, as well as ‘mission-coalitions’ and other forms of ad hoc collaboration;
  • support international mechanisms that defend and promote democratic and human rights values, rooted in the principles of informed popular consent and universal capabilities;
  • draft a Global Britain values statement that clearly articulates the principles and values it wants to be the ethical foundation of its approach to the world;
  • use a Global Britain values test and social value approach to decision making to ensure an ethical core to each foreign policy decision; and
  • develop a whole of government approach ensuring that the institutional structures and all available policy tools, including trade policy, can support this agenda.
 Image by OPCW under (CC).[1] Finding Britain’s role in a changing world, FPC and Oxfam, March 2020, Image by OPCW under (CC).[2] Cabinet Office, Social Value Act: information and resources, May 2016,; Social Value in Commissioning and Procurement, NCVO Know How, July 2019,[3] Many thanks to the input here of social value and procurement expert John Tizard.[4] By a case by case approach it means that in practice it a greater proportion of the decision matrix would be devoted to the Government’s values objectives when choosing where to deploy human rights grants funding versus the FCDO catering contract, but in the latter it could and should still seek to incorporate for example climate objectives and labour rights objectives (such as the London Living Wage) as part of the decision as values should be a core part of all decision making.[5] For more information see: Committee on Standards in Public Life, The Seven Principles of Public Life, Government, May 1995,[6] Dominic Raab – 2020 Statement on Britain in the World, UK Pol, January 2020,[7] Dr Malcolm Chalmers from RUSI has previously argued that ‘The UK should cease to promote the narrative that there is one single Rules-Based International System. There is not. Efforts to tackle pressing international problems through collective action are more likely to succeed if they involve coalitions between major powers than if they are only based on rules-based systems that lack clear and binding obligations.’ Malcolm Chalmers, Taking Control: Rediscovering the Centrality of National Interest in UK Foreign and Security Policy, RUSI, February 2020, While perhaps not going as far as Chalmers it is clear that any UK efforts to reinvigorate international cooperation will have to contend with a deeply dysfunctional UN system and WTO, an international approach to climate change currently without its second largest CO2 emitter the US and serious problems facing regional bodies such as NATO, the OSCE and Council of Europe.[8] For a summary of Liberal Conservatism see: Honeyman, VC (2017) From Liberal Interventionism to Liberal Conservatism: the short road in foreign policy from Blair to Cameron. British Politics, 12 (1). pp. 42-62. ISSN 1746-918X. In the book: Realpolitik: A History by John Bew, (408 pp, Oxford University Press, 2016) the author (currently leading work on the Integrated Review on behalf of the Johnson Government), traces the history of the concept of ‘realpolitik’ to Ludwig von Rochau and to the idea of using pragmatic, non-sentimental means to achieve broadly liberal ends - an approach that seems to chime with the Government’s initial framing of its vision for Global Britain. The possible potential alternative term for some of these tendencies- ‘classical liberal’- being somewhat tarnished by its adoption by some of the more controversial sections of the internet.[9] Ibid.[10] Allan was adapting a quote from Miller, Paul D. 2016. American Power and Liberal Order: A Conservative Internationalist Grand Strategy. Washington, DC; Georgetown University Press. [post_title] => The principles for Global Britain: Conclusions and Recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-principles-for-global-britain-conclusions-and-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-09-07 18:38:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-09-07 17:38:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[16] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4769 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-07-14 00:15:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-07-13 23:15:17 [post_content] => Spotlight on Uzbekistan finds that the much talked about reform process in Uzbekistan is real, but that so are the significant holes in it, with a lot of work still needing to be done to create an open economy, pluralist politics and free society. It remains unclear if President Mirziyoyev’s plans are simply for the authoritarian modernisation seen so far or whether something more ambitious is planned. Since 2016, there has been appreciable economic progress, a reduction in state interference in everyday life, and notable increase in some freedoms, particularly for activists and experts who choose in some way to engage with the Government’s reform project. This genuine progress has garnered Uzbekistan much international good will as it has returned to the world stage. However, Mirziyoyev’s pro-business approach and connections to leading business people have created new concerns about cronyism, corruption and citizens forced out of their homes with inadequate compensation as part of building the new Uzbekistan. So far the reforms have created a type of ‘managed freedom’, where there is space for ‘constructive criticism’ but some sensitive topics remain off limits. The response to recent crises have highlighted the successes and failings of the new system: showing swift action to get on top of the initial challenges; rapid, numerous but not wholly joined up initiatives to tackle the economic and social impact; a reticence to address historic and structural problems; and new opportunities for local abuses of power. As Uzbekistan becomes more self-confident about the progress of the reforms and its place in the world, it needs to show a more self-confident approach towards its own past, convening a national conversation involving those who suffered under Karimov, the Government and with local and international experts. The publication makes key recommendations for the Government of Uzbekistan. It should:
  • Continue reforming the civil service to improve structures and capacity while being more measured and consultative when creating new legislation and decrees.
  • Develop a more competitive political environment in Uzbekistan by removing restrictions on registering new parties and allowing independent candidates to stand for election.
  • Reform local government by requiring the direct elections of Governors and Mayors, with greater public consultation on planning decisions, action on forced evictions, lack of compensation, the provision of social infrastructure and protecting historic buildings.
  • Require transparency for all holders of public office including politicians and judges with declarations of external sources of income and assets, while making public the ownership details of firms involved in the new cotton ‘clusters’.
  • Move beyond ‘constructive criticism’ to true freedom of expression and association including by delivering new anti-defamation laws without the threat of prison or massive fine and allowing independent NGOs to register, while helping them do so.
  • Help facilitate the end of the boycott of Uzbek cotton by urgently registering the cotton monitoring NGOs and independent trade unions, working with them to end forced labour.
  • Continue the reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office, security services and judiciary to prevent the harassment of activists and political opponents.
  • Deliver transitional justice and greater openness about the Karimov legacy that includes helping the rehabilitation of victims of past abuse and an open public dialogue.
  • Continue to expand both religious and social freedoms that prioritise individual choice over community pressure, with more women in senior government positions, action on domestic violence, freedoms for religious groups and ending laws against the LGBTQ community.
 International institutions and governments should:
  • Critically but actively, engage with Uzbekistan to further the reforms and insist on an international human rights health check ahead of decisions whether to elect Uzbekistan to the UN Human Rights Council or be chosen to host the 2027 Asian Games.
[post_title] => Spotlight on Uzbekistan: Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => spotlight-on-uzbekistan-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-07-14 00:23:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-07-13 23:23:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[17] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4761 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-07-14 00:14:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-07-13 23:14:49 [post_content] => Spotlight on UzbekistanIn September 2016, longstanding Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev assumed the Presidency of Uzbekistan following the death of President Islam Karimov, the despotic ruler who had dominated the country since independence. After decades of heavy repression and isolation by a regime Mirziyoyev was intimately involved with, many international and local observers have been surprised and cautiously heartened by Uzbekistan’s efforts to open up to the outside world and address some of the regime’s more egregious abuses, but questions have remained over the long-term intentions of the new leadership. The recent coronavirus crisis has provided an acid test for assessing the government’s progress, and its response - effective in suppressing the virus - has highlighted progress made in many areas while further illuminating some continuing areas of concern. This introductory essay, and the Spotlight on Uzbekistan essay collection as a whole, seeks to assess the progress Uzbekistan has made since 2016, identify the challenges that remain and develop ideas for further action. A brief history of modern UzbekistanUzbekistan can trace its roots back to the first settlements of the Scythian people before their absorption into the Persian Empire and its successor states until the Arab conquest in the 7th century. The Mongol conquests in the 13th century consolidated the migration of Turkic peoples to the region that had been gradually taking place in previous centuries. Timur (known in the West as Tamerlane) founded his empire in Samarkand, and later rulers (notably Islam Karimov) have sought to frame him as a founder of Uzbekistan.[1] The remnants of the Timurid Empire were conquered in turn by the Shaybanids, who also took the name Ozbeg (Uzbek) in honour of a senior leader of the Mongol Golden Horde from which they descended, establishing smaller kingdoms in the region. Russia attempted to push south into the region as part of its imperial expansion with the failed Khivan expedition in 1717 under the rule of Peter the Great. This was followed a century and a half later by the Russian capture of Tashkent in 1865, the annexation of Samarkand from the Emirate of Bukhara in 1868, and the annexation of the Khanate of Kokand in 1876, with the full and final absorption of the remnants of the Emirate of Bukhara and Khanate of Khiva in 1920. Until 1924 the Soviet regions somewhat mirrored their predecessor states with the Khorezm People's Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) replacing the Khanate of Khiva, the Bukharan People's SSR covering the former Emirate of Bukhara, and the Turkestan Autonomous SSR (ASSR) covering everything else. This was dissolved in 1924 with the creation of the Uzbek SSR, which, after the departure of the Tajik ASSR to form its own republic in 1929, comprises the territory that makes up Uzbekistan today, with Tashkent replacing Samarkand as its capital in 1930. Islam Karimov ascended to the position of First Secretary of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan in 1989, becoming the first and only President of the Uzbek SSR a year later and at its independence in September 1991 became the first President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, a post subsequently ratified in a controversial December 1991 election. He would rule with an increasingly iron fist, with notable crackdowns following a mysterious series of car bombs in 1999 and the massacre of hundreds of people following unrest in Andijan in 2005, until his death, announced on September 2nd 2016. For the last 13 years of Karimov’s rule Shavkat Mirziyoyev served as his Prime Minister (PM). Karimov now lies in a purpose built mausoleum complex overlooking the old city of Samarkand, where citizens go to pray and pay their respects. Islam Karimov Avenue runs from his resting place to a large statue near the historic Registan, with shops on the route selling his photo. While his successor may be seeking to move beyond his legacy he is not taking active measures to quell the Karimov cult of personality, instead letting it slowly tick downwards, as shown by fewer examples of pictures of the first President being displayed in public buildings and publically contrasting the actions of the new President with past. Mirziyoyev era reformsMirziyoyev became interim President on September 8th 2016, after elbowing aside the constitutionally designated interim President Chairman of the Senate Nigmatilla Yuldashev to get the role on a temporary basis and outmanoeuvring key rivals, Deputy PM Rustam Azimov and particularly the head of the National Security Service Rustam Inoyatov, to secure the post permanently through election. Azimov would be fired from government in June 2017 and Inoyatov would be removed from his post in January 2018. Mirziyoyev’s inaugural address as President gave some hints at a reformist direction of travel: “In further deepening the democratic reforms and implementing the concept of developing a civil society, we believe that, as it was before, the citizens’ self-governance bodies – mahallas, as well as the non-state, non-profit organizations, free and impartial mass media will take an active place. In implementing the important principle, namely, “From a strong state to a strong civil society”, above all, we will lean upon the strength and capabilities of such social institutions.” However such commitments are often made by leaders who have no intention of delivering on them. Assessing the state of the much-touted reform process is the central question this essay collection seeks to address. After initial scepticism, it has become quickly clear that under Mirziyoyev the regime has sought clearly to differentiate itself from the image of the Karimov era and the comparisons with other regional poor performers such as Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Early efforts on currency liberalisation (which has dramatically shrunk the black market), tackling forced labour, visa liberalisation, and reducing censorship led the international community to take notice of a process of rapid change.[2] Irrespective of the continuing debate over the new regime’s motivation, it correctly identified that failure to address its huge economic and structural problems would substantially increase the risk of political instability and the pressure for revolutionary change. The challenge is to identify where change is substantive, where it is cosmetic and where the long-term direction of travel is either unclear or controversial. The process has been driven from the top with a blizzard of presidential decrees and new legislation, with 25 per cent of all legislation adopted since independence being issued between 2016 and 2019.[3] Supporters of the process have argued this intensively top-down approach is necessary to tackle the institutional inertia of the bureaucratic system developed under Karimov, hitting it on multiple fronts to spur it to action. While that perspective is understandable, there have been notable challenges including: incorporating the views of key stakeholders; errors due to the speed of transposition and implementation; and the ongoing cultural challenge of a risk-averse and poorly educated middle management level, steeped in Soviet and Karimov era paper pushing, being placed under even more pressure, which sometimes leads to increased buck-passing rather than fundamental change. The mantra of the reformist wing of the Uzbek officialdom is repeated relentlessly: that missteps and delays in the reform process are driven by a lack of capacity rather than a lack of political will. Their diagnosis is that the continual infusion of better trained, reform-minded people (often from the diaspora) into the system will help break down the roadblocks to reform (or replace them), a subject addressed in more detail in this collection’s essay by Navbahor Imamova. While this will undoubtedly be important, the leadership will have to find a way to allow greater space for experimentation and measured risk-taking in implementing the reforms in the face of presidential pressure to ensure that the buck-passing culture is brought to an end rather than grinding down a new generation of officials. Recognition that such a top-down approach is unstainable can be seen in efforts to increase the responsibilities of Parliament and to devolve certain functions to local government; however both institutions are in need of significant reform (as addressed below) and the fear that loss of control would lead to a loss of stability persists. One of the signature initiatives has been the creation of ‘virtual receptions’ (currently 208 of them), under the auspices of the Presidential Administration, where complaints from citizens about poor performing public services and other problems were fed directly to administration officials, initially bypassing the ministries and local administrations. The Centres proved very popular, with over 3,726,949 appeals from the public at time of writing, of which 3,673,670 had been reviewed by officials according to the government.[4] They provided a channel through which the new leadership could assess the key pressure points in the system to inform their policy response, as well as helping to boost the public image of a new President who was seen to be listening to people’s problems.[5] However, there have been reports that after initial success, the public believes they are becoming less effective as a tool in that they now more regularly act to pass on information to the ministries or local officials rather than bypassing them.[6] This shift in approach would make sense in the context of the evolution of government but risks the responses being lost in only partially-reformed bureaucracies. The picture across the ministries is mixed. Uzbek PM Abdulla Aripov and Deputy PM Achilbay Ramatov are known to be part of the old guard but loyal to the President. The Ministers of Justice, Education, Investment and Agriculture are seen as reformers, and have become the main points of contact for Western interlocutors. Unsurprisingly given the top-down approach to driving forward the reform process, the Presidential administration is powerful but lacks transparency and direct accountability. The Uzbek Government has been proactively trying to obtain international assistance with the reform programme, with the United Nations (UN) Office in Uzbekistan and International Labour Organisation (ILO) becoming prominent voices both within the country and in highlighting progress to the wider international community. There has been significant growth in the number of international consultants and donor agencies advising on the reform process.[7] The UN has identified education reform, social security transformation and wider public sector reform, climate change and water management, and the protection of historic buildings as the key areas for international focus.[8] However the extent of the response by Western governments and international institutions has been somewhat hampered by Uzbekistan’s middle-income status, which limits the amount of official resources under Official Development Assistance (ODA) rules that can be devoted to it. The wrangling between Mirziyoyev and Karimov’s security Chief Rustam Inoyatov was just one dimension of the perceived rivalry between the President and the Karimov era security apparatus. Inoyatov’s successor, long-time ‘securocrat’ Ikhtiyor Abdullayev, was himself subsequently arrested and imprisoned for 18 years on charges of bribery, extortion and forming a criminal enterprise alongside 24 other officials from the security services and prosecutor’s office.[9] The rivalry reflects both inter-elite competition and competing visions on the governance of Uzbekistan. The President has taken steps to strengthen the National Guard and Presidential security service as a counterweight to the National Security Service (SNB), giving them greater resources and the power of arrest.[10] There remains a perception that the security services are still not full behind the reform programme, with allegations that they have used proxies to target independent voices, and are more prone to take measures to crackdown on dissent.[11] This perception both perhaps reflects reality and gives a degree of political distancing between the new regime and efforts to crackdown on more troublesome critics. As well as the old guard in the security services and ministry middle management, the most regularly identified roadblock to reform is the role of local and regional government. The heads of local district (Tuman), city and regional (Viloyat) administrations are ‘Khokims’ currently appointed by the central government, many of whom have been in their posts, or otherwise building up local power bases, since the Karimov era. Regional leaders are routinely blamed for being slow to implement reforms at the speed or to the extent desired by reformers in Tashkent, and as set out in numerous places in this essay collection are often at the heart of local concerns around corruption and administrative incompetence. Both Tashkent Khokim Jakhongir Artykkhodjaev and Ferghana Governor Shuhrat Ganiyev have been recorded as threatening bloggers and other media critics, with the latter involved in a string of controversial incidents (including claims that he threatened residents of the Sokh enclave after unrest that he would ‘erase [their] villages from the map’). That he was not fired by a forgiving President has led critics to dub him as ‘immortal’.[12] In a further sign that personal loyalty to the President is the primary requirement for the job, disgraced former Agriculture Minister and Deputy PM Zoyir Mirzaev, fired in 2018 for being abusive towards farmers, has been reappointed as Khokim of Kashkadarya Province.[13] Only one Khokim of a district, city or region in Uzbekistan - Dilfuza Uralova who heads the local Bayaut district (tuman) in Syrdarya province - is a woman.[14] The President and other senior leaders have talked about ways to make local government structures more accountable to local people, but progress on delivery has been slow. The initial discussions have centred on separating the executive role of Khokims, appointed by the government, from the elected regional assemblies or local councils (Kengash) so that these representative bodies can improve their scrutiny of the operations of the Khokimiat.[15] At present, while in some cases the Kengash may provide scrutiny of the actions of local officials, it is unknown for them to block a decision of the Khokim. In the absence of genuinely competitive political environment, the administrative separation of executive and scrutiny functions in unlikely to pose an effective check on the activities of the Khokims. Despite raising the issue in 2016 Mirziyoyev has yet to take action on the direct election of Khokims themselves, something that is increasingly becoming a source of local discontent, with a June 2020 petition due to be debated in parliament following local unrest in Fergana.[16] The heads of local neighbourhood associations, the Mahalla Committees, are now elected and the Mahalla remains an important organising institution in Uzbek life. While direct election of the Khokim may be a more effective tool for fostering local accountability than elections to the relatively toothless Kengashs, in the absence of more competitive political environment local leaders will still ultimately owe their positions to their relationships to, and usefulness for, the President. At present local government funding is reliant on funding from central government, and while regional inequality will necessitate significant financial flows from the centre in any scenario, developing opportunities for local administrations to raise funds locally to boost financial independence may help encourage greater political independence and a stronger focus on local needs rather than constantly looking up to the regional or national government for guidance.[17] The President’s State of the Nation speech on January 24th 2020 made an ambitious list of promises for further reform this year, including pledges on reform to Propiska (controls on moving residency), strengthening social protections including on health insurance, the creation of a new anti-corruption agency, addressing judicial independence, speeding up the publication of a national human rights strategy (approved in June 2020), a promise of citizenship for 50,000 stateless people who had been resident since before 1995, and a raft of other well received proposals.[18] The reforms so far, and perceptions of the direction of travel, have led to widespread international praise, such as Uzbekistan’s widely trumpeted rating by the Economist as ‘most improved country’ in 2019.[19] Many long-standing international observers, and a number of emerging local voices, are cautiously optimistic. This is due at least in part to a much greater willingness amongst the elite to speak openly about the challenges the country faces, setting expectations and benchmarks against which their performance can be judged. For Uzbek leaders, many of whom held senior posts under Karimov, this is a delicate dance that involves admitting that problems exist, widely declaring that there is willingness to undertake significant change under Mirziyoyev, but avoiding direct criticism of Karimov.[20] Despite this many longer-standing Uzbek opposition voices, who under Karimov made the same criticisms of the system that the politicians are making now, are still left out in the cold.[21] Political SpaceIn his January 2020 address to the nation the President said that ‘democratic reforms are the only right way for us.’[22] The speech took place only a month after the December 2019 parliamentary elections that provided an excellent showcase of Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan, for both good and ill. The government sought to use the elections themselves as a showcase for the reform process - something it partially achieved -but in what was something of a rare international PR misstep, it also drew attention to the limits on what has been achieved so far. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ (OSCE ODIHR) long-term observation findings, the gold standard in international election observation, highlighted some critical areas of continuing concern. According to the OSCE the December 22nd parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan ‘took place under improved legislation and with greater tolerance of independent voices, but did not yet demonstrate genuine competition and full respect of election day procedures’. They also noted that ‘regrettably, the new legislation and modernized administration of elections did not improve the polling process, with international observers reporting numerous serious irregularities, such as voting on behalf of others and disregard for key procedures during counting’. [23] As the OSCE point out, in order to stand for election a party must have been registered with the Ministry of Justice ‘at least four months prior to the announcement of the election and to have collected the supporting signatures of at least 40,000 eligible voters across Uzbekistan’s 14 administrative territorial units provided that no more than eight per cent of the signatures collected are from one unit. Given that a party is not required to nominate candidates in all constituencies, the signature collection requirements may be burdensome, in particular, the ceiling of eight per cent per region could create an eligibility barrier for a party that enjoys broad support nationally but lacks such support in one or a few regions’.[24] Independent candidates are barred from standing. By way of comparison only two people are required to form a basic political party in the United Kingdom (UK) and any Parliamentary candidate, whether a member of a party or standing as an independent, requires signatures of ten registered voters in the seat they are contesting.[25] It is therefore unsurprising that with the exception of the Ecological Party of Uzbekistan, which had previously sat in parliament as the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan with unelected seats reserved for it, no new party has been registered since 2003. The OSCE ODIHR has described these restrictions as ‘burdensome and open to arbitrary application’, and explained that in 2019 ‘these factors limited the opportunity for elections to serve as a contest between distinct political viewpoints and narrowed the choice available to voters’, given that ‘all parties are supportive of presidential policies, and while parties worked to distinguish themselves during the campaign, none identify themselves as an opposition party’.[26] What was being put forward by the regime to voters in December 2019 was an attempt at ‘competitive authoritarianism’: encouraging some intra-party competition within limited bounds that was restricted to the notional representation and prioritisation of issues rather than challenging the system. Each party staked out a broad but different political message, albeit not backed by detailed policies, to give voters the semblance of choice. Mirziyoyev’s Liberal Democratic Party (UzLiDeP) promoted a pro-business message, and the Democratic Party (Milliy Tiklanish) staked out a family values- and cultural heritage-focused conservative platform. Two parties positioned themselves on the centre-left, with the People’s Democratic Party focused on the welfare state and the Social Democratic Party (Adolat) looking at on reforming justice.[27] The Ecological Party notionally addressed environmental issues - albeit whilst actively promoting nuclear power. In the end the UzLiDeP received 43 seats, Milliy Tiklanish 35, Adolat 21, the People’s Democratic Party 18 and the Ecological Party went down to 11 seats.[28] The role of the new Majils (Parliament) has been conceived by the regime as helping to inform and manage the reform process, with stated plans to use it to increase scrutiny of legislation, budgets and the implementation, rather than being a strong external check and balance to it. The elections were used to facilitate a changing of the guard within the Majilis, to bring in new, younger faces and increase the proportion of women parliamentarians (rising from 16 per cent to 32 per cent in the new parliament).[29] Whatever the merits of this system it is certainly not something that could be reasonably described as democratic, nor is it automatically a step towards becoming a democracy. What comes next will be critical. At a press conference given for the UK media and policy community, Sodiq Safoyev, first deputy chairperson of the Senate, described the regime’s approach as ‘setting the legal framework to allow domestic opposition to develop from the grassroots’. The idea being presented is that the combination of fresh blood in Parliament and the gradual opening of political space (including allowing public criticism of ministers, regional leaders and elements of the government’s delivery) would allow the system to develop into a more competitive political environment organically over time. However given the barriers to the registration and development of independent political parties, the current setup has the risk of echoing Russian ‘managed democracy’, where Potemkin parties have presented alternative platforms within a curated system without ever truly challenging the structures of power or sought to honestly compete for the presidency. There certainly seems to be no political appetite amongst the current elite for reassessing the relationship with diaspora-based opposition parties, such as the banned Unity (Birlik) Party and the Erk Democratic Party (led by Muhammad Salih who stood in the 1991 presidential election), which were forced into exile under Karimov. Government officials claim that these groups have no credibility and that bringing them into the process would be ‘artificial’. However if the regime is correct( as it may well be) that such groups have little to no political support within the country, then continuing to ban them seems pointless and potentially counterproductive, given that banning them makes it look like they have something to fear. Economic change and the opportunities it brings, for good and illEconomic stagnation and authoritarian control defined the Karimov era state. The urgent need to strengthen Uzbekistan’s previously sclerotic economy has been the driving force behind the reform process, given that the failure to address economic hardships could provide the spark for even more radical change. The challenge of delivering transformative economic change has now been further exacerbated by the pressures of COVID-19. In this collection, essays by Yuliy Yusupov, Kate Malinson and Professor Kristian Lasslett address the reform process, the environment for investors and the challenge of corruption respectively in great detail, but it is worth drawing attention here to some of the key challenges that faced the Mirziyoyev government as it took office. Under Karimov, the combination of a restrictive currency system (which limited currency convertibility and tied the som to a United States (US) dollar peg), high tariffs, and attempts to focus the economy on import substitution generated the conditions for a substantial black market (including in the country’s large bazaars and street markets), with a substantial gap between black market prices and official purchasing prices for many goods. In 2017 the currency was allowed to float freely, leading to the rapid official conversion of almost $300 million US dollars into Uzbek Som. Over time the Som has continued to depreciate against the dollar,  helping the transition from the black economy and informal employment, (together thought to equate to up to a third of the overall economy) to the real economy by helping equalise the currency rates in the two systems.[30] In addition to the impact of currency liberalisation, the withdrawal of price controls from autumn 2018 on staples such as bread, flour, electricity, natural gas and gasoline have also driven the cost of living up and have proved controversial, with compensatory welfare payment for vulnerable groups not seen to fully cover the increases.[31] Inflation spiked in 2018 at 17.5 per cent and, prior to the crisis, had been relatively slow to decline. During the Karimov era high tariffs tended to create substantial import monopolies, where political connections were seen to help obtain exemptions from customs duty. While initial efforts were made to reduce tariffs, as Yuliy Yuspov points out in his essay, in late 2018 local interests created a list of domestically produced products that were exempt from tariff abolition, leading to concerns that the process was being driven by local power brokers rather than a desire to help independent industries adjust to the global markets.[32] Until now the high tariffs have also helped keep prices in Uzbekistan artificially high; for example cars sold in Uzbekistan from the state owned UzAuto monopoly are between 20 and 50 per cent more expensive than the same UzAuto-built cars that are sold in other Central Asian markets, helping drive local smuggling operations.[33] Criticism from the public and the government’s own Anti-Monopoly Committee may have helped drive the President’s decision to remove excise tax from car imports as of August 1st 2020.[34] The continuation of smuggling has helped drive Uzbekistan to reinstate border posts near the border with Kyrgyzstan, which had been removed in an earlier phase of the presidency.[35] Trying to cut taxes while boosting enforcement to bring more of the economy out of the informal sector is an understandable approach under the circumstances, but it has had some practical challenges. For example. VAT has been reduced from 20 per cent to 15 per cent, presented as support for small business, but in reality many of them are paying it for the first time and are finding the official implementation sometimes punitive.[36] The transition from cash to credit card payments also increases VAT collection and as such had been resisted in some quarters prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. For firms transitioning from the black economy to the real economy there are real risks that they may be tempted to return to the shadows. The desire to squeeze the black economy and increase the tax base may be necessary to balance the budget and regularise the economy, but it has a risk of choking off the growth of small business and of greater social tension if this is taking place amid the continuation or expansion of high-level corruption and the perception that the richest in society are avoiding their fair share of the burden. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak extensive efforts had been underway to take advantage of Uzbekistan’s heritage assets in the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva amongst others to promote international tourism. Short-term visa-free travel has been provided for 73 countries and pressure is underway to expand international quality hotel capacity and generate favourable coverage about the country’s potential for tourism.[37] However, the pandemic has hit the fledgling sector very hard. Efforts to increase agricultural exports to China are of critical importance to the development of the sector, with cherries (the subject of fierce bidding wars), melons, peanuts, and honey the limited group of agricultural products able to access Chinese markets at present.[38] Attempts at reforming the sector, as set out in the October 2019 Presidential Decree ‘On approval of the Strategy for the Development of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020- 2030’ and its attached roadmap, have positive elements but lacked details about reform mechanisms (though some of this has been addressed by the announcements in 2020 on ending the state order system, more about which below).[39] Efforts are also underway to improve antiquated irrigation systems to save water and electricity whilst boosting output.[40] In their essays Yuily Yuspov and Professor Kristian Lasslett highlight some of the changes to the agricultural sector that are currently underway, both in terms of long-promised land reform and the impact of the new ‘clusters’ (vertically integrated businesses that are seeking to develop local crops - first cotton and now fruit and vegetables - into higher value outputs). Given that 27 per cent of formally employed Uzbeks currently work in agriculture (as well as more involved informally and with their domestic small holdings) making it the largest sector of the economy, it is essential that the changes underway are handled with care to protect small farmers, who currently lease their land from the government on 49-year terms.[41] There are concerns that higher-quality agricultural land may end up being consolidated under the control of powerful business interests through the cluster system, either by requiring land swaps or coercing farmers into working for the cluster, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) have reported amid government complaints about the current underutilisation of arable land - an important debate but an area with clear potential for abuse.[42] Lasslett examines the opaque ownership structures of the clusters in more detail in his essay, but it is clear that there is a real risk of Uzbekistan replacing state monopolies with an oligarchic system (a series of local private monopolies operating on a regional and sectoral basis) rather than boosting competition in the agricultural sector. There have been some steps taken to end the state electricity monopoly, with Uzbekenergo due to be broken up into Thermal Power Stations (TPP), National Electric Grids of Uzbekistan (NESU), and Regional Electric Grids (REG).[43] Ownership of Uzbekistan’s airports have been separated from Uzbekistan Airways, but the national flag carrier still dominates access to slots.[44] Liberalisation in the banking sector has been limited, with the state retaining control of most banks. Direct foreign ownership has been limited to less than 50 per cent of total shares even under the December 2019 banking reforms - measures designed in part to limit the ability for shares to be held by opaque offshore accounts from Uzbek business people as well as limiting international competition.[45] State control of banks helps continue the practice whereby state-owned enterprises receive cut-rate loans from banks that specialise in that sector.[46] Attempts at liberalisation and privatisation carry concerns about the risk of the transfer of power from the state to politically connected private interests and around the desire to promote genuine competition rather than transferring monopoly power to the private sector. It is essential that Uzbekistan learns the right lessons from previous privatisation efforts in the wider region, as transferring companies (or their opportunities for corruption and patronage) from the state to oligarchic control is unlikely to generate the benefits for economy and society that genuine reformers are looking for. Irrespective of political or economic preferences over the relative merits of the state and private sector, the case for reform of Uzbekistan’s public sector and publically owned enterprises, so that activity can be refocused on more socially productive outputs, is overwhelming. For example, there is substantial political pressure, both internally and from international partners such as the UN and World Bank, to expand the social safety net as well as to reform its operation. At present, only a third of Uzbekistan’s poorest people receive some form of social assistance overall and only 37 per cent of poor families receive family allowances.[47] Significant overstaffing is apparent in a number of areas of the public sector, from traffic police on every street corner, to multiple security guards or other staff checking tickets in the same line at train stations or museums - what Kate Mallinson refers to as ‘stamp culture’. To deliver the necessary efficiency gains, and to free up state funds to increase recruitment of suitable staff in more productive areas of public service, there needs to be both expanded opportunities for skills training and for sustained private sector growth to provide jobs for those not able to be redeployed within the public sector, but also for the many citizens, particularly from rural areas, who may prefer to seek employment in Uzbekistan rather than lead the precarious life of a migrant working in Russia. Before the pandemic, a combination of limited local job opportunities and restrictions on internal migration through the Propiska system, saw Russia (and to a lesser extent Kazakhstan, Turkey and Dubai) become home to significant numbers of migrant workers. While precise numbers are difficult to quantify in 2017 1.8 million Uzbek citizens who arrived in Russia declared their purpose for visiting as being for labour.[48] Surveys have suggested that average annual remittances are approximately $418 per worker and the World Bank estimates that remittances accounted for 15 per cent of GDP in 2018.[49] As economic opportunities in Uzbekistan have begun to grow post-2016, the rate of migration has begun to slow, with some also returning from Russia into both skilled jobs in the public sector and into expanding sectors including taxi driving. However, the pandemic has led to large numbers of migrant workers returning, with around 500,000 labour migrants returning to Uzbekistan by the end of May 2020.[50] With Russia dealing with an oil price slump as well as the pandemic, it is likely that the Uzbek economy may have to absorb many more of these workers into its own economy sooner than it would have planned, further adding to the challenge of economic recovery. While the reforms undertaken so far are far from perfect, the mood music and positive press coverage they generated prior to COVID-19 meant that business optimism was on the rise.[51] Uzbekistan is currently applying for World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership and attempts are being made to attract international investment.[52] While Chinese, Russian, Korean and Turkish investors may be exploring a wider range of business opportunities, Western interests are focused primarily on education, retail, services, machinery and specialist/technical services (such as architects, law firms and accountants). While independent international investors have been relatively slow to make substantial investments in Uzbekistan, the sense of new economic opportunity has encouraged ethnic Uzbek billionaires, significantly Alisher Uzmanov, a Russian national based in the UK, and Patokh Chodiev, a Belgian national resident in Kazakhstan, to expand their involvement in the Uzbek economy and public life. For example, Uzmanov’s company SFI Management Group LLC has taken over running of the AlMailk Metallurgical Combine, acting as trustee for the government’s share in the complex to deliver a modernisation programme.[53] Uzmanov has also recently given $20 million to the Uzbek government to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak to help build an emergency hospital, and $15 million to victims of the Sardoba dam tragedy.[54] According to the Financial Times he has also declared that he has put ‘several hundred million dollars’ into not-for-profit ventures to ‘help the new President and his team’, with Mirziyoyev a relative of his by marriage.[55] The International Chodiev Foundation has played an active role in supporting the development of Buyuk Kelajak (Great Future), an organisation designed to promote Mirzyoyev’s reform process by coordinating activities of experts in the Uzbek diaspora and working with some of them to return into roles inside the Uzbek government.[56] The evolution of the Uzbek economy from rigid state control to a more market-based system carries a significant risk, the opportunity for expansion, diffusion and diversification of higher level (‘grand’) corruption. Under Karimov petty corruption amongst lower-middle tier officials was endemic, with bribes used for everything, from getting better exam grades to getting out of forced labour. The police and particularly the traffic police were notoriously active in bribe taking. After a series of interventions this situation has markedly improved for ordinary Uzbeks, with bribe taking by junior officials framed by the new regime as an impediment to Uzbekistan’s economic development and with policing having undergone a significant overhaul.[57] However while petty corruption was endemic, and elite politics described as ‘an all-embracing system of rent seeking and patronage’ where ‘State institutions were little more than a façade, behind which the real powerbrokers engaged in informal decision-making’ the rigidity in the system and the suppressed state of the economy cramped some of the potential financial scale of elite corruption.[58] As the tale of the former President’s daughter Gulnara Karimova, set out in detail in Professor Kristian Lasslett’s essay, shows such extravagant displays of corruption were possible but restricted both in areas of opportunity and in their proximity to the first family.[59] Corruption investigations have been a common feature in removing institutional opposition to Mirziyoyev, notably amongst the security services had been at the heart of institutionalised corruption in the Karimov era.[60] New economic opportunities are seen as facilitating new opportunities for corruption, cronyism and nepotism both at a local and national level. The construction boom has seen examples where local politicians have become intertwined with local developers ranging from less than transparent relationships, such as in the case of the current Khokim of Tahskent Jahongir Artikhodjaev outlined in Lasslett’s essay, through to convicted cases of corruption such as in the case of the former Khokim of Samarkand jailed for 13 years for accepting bribes and abuse of power.[61] The perception is widespread that the construction industry and access to construction permits are being dominated by local oligarchs, while concerns about exploitation of the cluster system are set out above, below and in the essays by Lasslett and Lynn Schweisfurth. Overall Uzbekistan’s ranking in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, 153rd in the World, is the same position in the 2019 survey as it was in the last full year of Karimov’s rule, though its points tally has improved slightly.[62] In the summer of 2019, the Government announced a new State Anti-Corruption Programme, including an interagency Special Commission.[63] The OECD is providing technical support to the programme and to the prosecutor’s office in relation to anti-corruption work.[64] As set out below Mirziyoyev is aware that corruption poses a significant challenge to both international perceptions of Uzbekistan and to local satisfaction with his rule, as highlighted by his public responses to perceptions of official shenanigans in the housing sector also discussed below. However, it is still unclear about what his strategic objective is. Since coming to power he has aligned himself against some traditional power centres, such as the security services that were mired in corruption, but in doing so he has relied on the support of politically connected networks of business people both to shape Uzbekistan’s new business friendly international image and consolidate his power, and they have seen to particularly benefit from the new opportunities for profit available in today’s Uzbekistan. So questions remain about the long-term direction of travel. It is notable that there has been no steps directly taken by the Government of Uzbekistan to explore participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), despite initial contact meetings being made through donor agencies.[65] As part of efforts to tackle corruption and reform the civil service the Government has produced a draft law that would, amongst other things require civil servants to ‘annually submit a declaration of his income, property and large expenses, as well as a declaration of income, property and large expenses of their family members’. However, this law and transparency requirement will not apply to the President, deputies of the Legislative Chamber (Majils) and members of the Senate, the Central Election Commission, judges, the Ombudsman, deputies of the Zhokarga Kenes of Karakalpakstan and local representative bodies.[66] At present, there is no law that requires these elected officials to declare their sources of income, adding to the controversy around the new law, leaving continuing conflicts of interest unaddressed and opportunities for grand corruption left wide open. Home Demolitions and the Housing Crisis,One of the most controversial topics in Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan has been the impact of the recent building boom on ordinary citizens. As Dilmira Matyakubova’s essay on the high profile Tashkent City project points out, physical renewal has been used as a symbol of prospective economic renewal, with Soviet era buildings being replaced by shiny modern edifices. However, as with many regeneration projects around the world, those who previously lived in these areas have not always benefited from the changes. There have been a number of initiatives taken by the Government to promote regeneration, housing and commercial development to boost housing supply and economic growth. For example many of the major projects in Tashkent, such as Tashkent City, fall under the Presidential Decree from July 2017 July entitled ‘on measures to improve the architectural appearance and improvement of the central part of Tashkent, as well as creation of appropriate conditions for the population and visitors to the capital.[67] The Government of Uzbekistan also has two state directed regeneration programmes the Obod Mahalla (Prosperous Neighbourhood) and Obod Qishloq (Prosperous Villages) aimed at improving infrastructure in local communities, the latter project now being backed by $100 million in grants from the World Bank.[68] According to the President in 2019, “large-scale construction and improvement works were carried out in 479 villages and auls, as well as 116 urban mahallas. 6.1 trillion Soms were directed for these purposes.”[69] In addition to specific initiatives, there has been clear pressure from the top to deliver new developments in communities across Uzbekistan. According to the President, the schemes delivered 34,700 new residential units in 2019, evenly split across urban and rural areas.[70] The experience of long-standing communities being displaced and cast aside by both urban renewal initiatives and market driven gentrification is far from a being a problem unique to Uzbekistan but the particular challenges faced by local residents highlight some of the issues the country faces around rule of law and corruption. In the autumn of 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers produced a new resolution, entitled ‘On ensuring the guarantee of property rights of citizens and business entities, as well as the procedure for seizure of land plots and compensation for damage to property owners’, which set out to try and bring order to a construction boom that was beginning to resemble some of the worst aspects of both the Soviet era and the Wild West.[71] The new rules set out the revised legal grounds for compulsory purchase which now included expanded provisions for ‘projects of investment and socio-economic importance, aimed at the integrated development of territories, including the development and improvement of the architectural appearance of a certain territory (hereinafter referred to as investment projects)’, giving a clearer legal basis for practices that had already been taking place for several years in the absence of a specific framework.[72] It made clear that such provisions should apply to ‘large-scale investment and other projects, including the improvement of housing and living conditions of citizens in a certain area, the development of infrastructure and the construction of high-demand socio-economic facilities.’ Such developments are supposed to require detailed plans, in accordance with published masterplans for the area. They should also be ‘carried out only with consent of the owner (or land user, tenant) on the basis of a decision of the Kengash of People's Deputies (local council) or in accordance with a resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan.’ [73] Furthermore the ‘decision on demolition of residential and non-residential premises, owned by individuals and legal entities in connection with the withdrawal of land for state and public needs, shall be made after full compensation for the market value of the property and damages caused to the owner.’  This new legal framework has the potential to make a difference to the lives of ordinary Uzbeks if it is properly implemented, albeit it formalises the existing much more expansive use of state backed compulsory purchase mechanisms to facilitate private business development than is common in more developed legal systems. However, it comes after several years of growing tensions, where in the absence of a clear legal framework high handed officials have pushed through controversial projects and faced accusations of corruption or cronyism in their delivery, with newly established firms with opaque structures or those with ties to political appointees winning contracts for major projects; such as Akfa Dream World, a firm involved in the Tashkent City project and linked to the Tashkent Khokim Jahongir Artykhodzhaev, whom prior to becoming Khokim had been director of the state enterprise responsible for the construction and operation of Tashkent City.[74] Another example is the former Khokim of Samarkand, whom was jailed for 13 years in August 2019 for taking bribes from construction firms involved in a series of controversial developments in and around Samarkand’s UNESCO protected old city; demolitions that further drew attention to the current lack of formal protections, such as a ‘listing’ system or conservation area status, for properties of historical or architectural interest.[75] Decision making around granting planning permission for developments and the creation of area masterplans is not properly open to public consultation and scrutiny. In Tashkent for example the planning decisions are made by the Khokim (with no formal requirements or mechanisms for prior public consultation) but are ratified by meetings of the local Kengash, which are open to the public but are poorly attended and advertised and so far they have never overturned a decision of the Khokim. Planning decisions made by regional Khokims are formally signed off by the national Cabinet of Ministers. The paperwork residents receive informing them about what is happening with a development and how to get compensation often does not follow official procedures. The requirements for obtaining consent, notionally at least 75 per cent of the current residents should agree to the new development, are in practice elusory due to pressure from developers and the authorities. Crucially many residents were not being fully compensated or in some cases they had not received any relief at all, with compensation payments not paid or replacement homes (where offered) being of lower quality and in less desirable areas. While payments are supposed to be made by developers the local Khokimiyat has responsibility for ensuring compensation is paid, a duty far from always delivered on. In July 2019, one month before the new decree, over a thousand of angry residents from Urgench in the Khorezm region blocked the main Urgench-Khazarasp highway in protest at their treatment by the regional government.[76] Families from around 400 demolished homes, who were living in a temporary tent city without running water, had only received partial payment of the promised compensation since their eviction and they were further angered by local businesses hiking the price of construction materials by up to 50 per cent making it even harder to rebuild their lives (displaced people in rural areas are often expected to build their own replacement accommodation). The day after the protests PM Abdulla Aripov was dispatched to the area promising the displaced families full payment of compensation and a freeze on demolition where compensation had not been paid.[77] This major protest followed controversial demolitions in Rishtan, Ferghana and in Yakkabog, Qashqadaryo Province where the Deputy Khokim was set alight by protestors and subsequently fired for his poor handling of the demolitions, and in the Yangiyul suburb of Tashkent where residents received demolition notices without any prior consultation or warning that a development scheme was being planned.[78] There has been a clear recognition of the potential for this issue to become a major political problem for the Government. The swift response by Aripov was followed in August 2019, not only by the Presidential Decree, but a public berating by Mirziyoyev of the regional Khokims, singling out the leaders of the Ferghana, Khorezm and Kashkadarya regions in angry terms. The President’s comments highlight his awareness of the potential reputational damage for his own leadership, telling the Governors: “One of your subordinates quarrelled with one of the local residents and made me a disgrace in the eyes of the international community. If your brain doesn’t work, why are you demolishing a normal building? If your house is demolished, what will you do? You have no shame, when did I instruct you to demolish the buildings? I told you to get permission from the residents and pay all the compensation.” He also said that “I read users’ comments on the internet about the demolition of homes in the Rishtan district… People cry in the comments. It isn’t your photograph that is featured there. It’s mine! Have you no shame? Giving your idiotic orders to demolish homes. Before you tear up any homes, you’d better take your own head off first! … You’ve brought shame to all of Uzbekistan! … I gave you the money… so that you would improve the district but also first that you would get the people’s permission.” [79] Many of the building projects from the last few years have failed to clearly show that land being appropriated for investment purposes provides a clear public, rather than private, benefit and the requirement for residents consent has often not been met. Time will tell if changes in practice rather than on paper can be delivered and sustained, but controversies have continued, for example the cases of Khushnud Gojibnazarov in January 2020 and Muqaddas Mustafoev in February 2020 who set themselves alight in protest at demolition plans.[80] One ongoing point of tension, relevant to the Mustafoev case, is the decision of the Government to pursue demolition of properties deemed to be built illegally on agricultural land, otherwise without permission or where state records are incomplete.[81] The Government conducted an Amnesty in 2018, which formalised the status of 500,000 homes, despite this 28,000 homes believed to be illegal remain and had been marked to be demolished in 2020 prior to the COVID 19 crisis.[82] Farida Charif, a Tashkent based housing activist has been on the front line of protests against some of the Uzbekistan more controversial developments. Her Facebook group, Tashkent Demolition which provides mutual aid and legal advice to those facing demolition, has attracted more than 21,000 members protesting the demolition of the city’s historic Mahallas and other properties. While she has not been directly targeted for her activism her son was kidnapped and beaten by people pretending to be from the SNB who tried to make him provide apology video for his activism, as yet there has been no progress from prosecutors in resolving the case.[83] The construction boom has also been blamed for the widespread removal of trees from public spaces across the city to be used as building materials or to make way for new developments, to widespread public anger. Such removals have included both outright tree theft and applications to local officials for their removal, processes not always subject to significant public oversight or consultation. The Government has begun to respond with fines for identified perpetrators and a Presidential Moratorium on the removal of certain trees.[84] The housing situation intersects with Uzbekistan’s long-standing lack of political freedoms in the case of the Soviet era policy of Propiska (residential permit), internal restrictions on freedom of movement that legally specify where a citizen is allowed to live and access government services (such as health and education).[85] The system prevents people legally moving their permanent residence without official permission, leading to a situation where only five per cent of people in Uzbekistan were living in regions other than where they were born.[86] In practice the scheme acts to limit the legal flow of people from Uzbekistan’s regions into Tashkent, encouraging both high and low skilled migrants from the regions to seek opportunities abroad rather than migrating to their national capital. Currently the ability to permanently move to Tashkent is restricted to those working in specific Government Agencies, those who can be sponsored by existing residents (such as through marriage) and those who have purchased a new house built in the last three years to encourage investment in the construction industry.[87] After repeated public pronouncements in previous years only lead only to superficial changes in his January 2020 State of the Nation speech Mirziyoyev announced a further effort to reform the system, describing the system as ‘shackling’ Uzbekistan’s citizens, giving the Cabinet and Parliament the deadline of April 1st 2020 to find a solution. However, by March it became clear that the Government’s approach was to replace one form of registration (the Propiska) with a new form of residential registration, though the draft produced in mid-March was returned for further revision after the initial public backlash.[88] The version introduced in April amended the previous system by extending the possible length of temporary registration from one to five years, allowing people who bought any property (not just new property) in Tashkent to obtain a new residency registration, and expanding the ability of Tashkent residents to sponsor the registration a wider range of out of town family members, also enabling them to be housed in other homes owned by the existing resident rather than just with them in their primary residence. This means that ability to move permanently to Tashkent is still restricted people able to afford to buy property or who have relatives living there, leaving those on lower incomes reliant on the more precarious temporary registrations, which were only formally opened to non-residents who had been offered a job in 2019. Such comparatively modest changes to such a controversial system are unlikely to mollify public pressure for change. The World Bank had joined the chorus of disproval at the previous system with a recent policy paper highlighting how the Propiska system locked in unemployment and underemployment in Uzbekistan’s regions while supressing the potential for economic growth in the capital.[89] Supporters of the current restrictions argue it helps the government manage pressure on housing and public services, which in turn raises questions as to why the new wave of construction has not led to the significant delivery of new social infrastructure (such as schools, clinics or public amenities) or more affordable housing. The system for determining such contributions seems in practice to be ad hoc arrangements between local authorities and developers, with Tashkent City conspicuous by its lack of provision of facilities to support families, as pointed out in Matyakubova’s essay in this collection. There could be considerable benefits in making transparent requirements of developers to provide support for social infrastructure and affordable housing as part of the planning approval process, processes that require much greater public involvement prior to official consent for developments are given. Uzbekistan could look at the UK’s different systems for providing social infrastructure such as the Community Infrastructure Levy (a cash payment made directly to local authorities for them to provide infrastructure, provided in the Uzbek context transparency could be achieved to ensure the money was subsequently spent correctly) and Section 106 (where developers directly build social infrastructure and other modifications for the benefit of the local community to their developments).[90] Alternatively Uzbekistan could explore models of land value capture, used to social infrastructure and low-cost housing in Hong Kong, and that are becoming increasingly popular in Australia. The World Bank report also highlights how the high cost of housing, particularly in Tashkent, creates further social and economic bottlenecks. As it stands around 95 per cent of Uzbeks own their own home, and this includes designated low income housing provided with low purchase costs supported by low interest mortgages.[91] However as the World Bank shows it is extremely difficult for citizens to get on the property ladder in Tashkent given the unaffordability of new property, where the city ranks as less affordable in relative terms than hotspots such as London and San Francisco.[92] Overcoming cultural and practical impediments to renting (such as pressure to stay with family if people are unable to afford to buy), both for market and social rents, could create greater flexibility in the Tashkent housing market to respond to the loosening of the residential registration requirements. Facilitating the expansion of a broader private rented sector could also help bring unoccupied new build properties that are being purchased for investment purposes into the active housing supply, something that may require the growth of professional letting agents and property management companies where the owners are not able to market and manage the properties for rent themselves.[93] Forced LabourFor years one of the most egregious human rights abuses in Uzbekistan has been its systematic and widespread use of forced labour to pick its cotton, the country’s primary cash crop nicknamed Oq Oltin (white gold). After independence Uzbekistan continued with Soviet era practices through which a ‘state order’ system would give each regional government a quota to fulfil for the production of cotton and wheat. Regional government would work with lower tiers of local government and state owned enterprises to make public sector workers participated in picking the cotton crop. The situation was exacerbated in the immediate post-Soviet period as due to the dissolution of Soviet Machine Tractor Parks and wider economic challenges, the proportion of cotton collected through mechanisation (primarily specialised combine harvesters) fell from 40 per cent in 1992 to four per cent in 1997.[94] For ordinary Uzbeks the experience of forced labour could involve being deployed to work in the fields for several weeks, in some cases several months, in the late summer and early autumn (particularly September and October) to pick cotton by hand, though wealthier people were often able to pay others to handle their personal quota (a trend that has increased as a proportion of overall forced labour recent years). Child labour was a significant problem, both as a result of children being required to work (often organised through schools) and due to parents being required take children with them due to lack of childcare.[95] In the last full year of Karimov’s rule (2015) the ILO’s surveys estimate that 3.4 million Uzbeks participated in the cotton harvest in some capacity, of which 448,000 were identified as being forced, though campaigners put the figure considerably higher.[96] In response to the systemic use of forced and child labour a group of Uzbek and international human rights activists and trade unionists formed the Cotton Campaign, to help pressure the global garment industry to pledge that it would boycott the use of Uzbek cotton. The campaign, one of whose key members the Uzbek Forum for Human Rights has contributed an essay on cotton for this collection, was highly successful in removing Uzbek cotton from the supply chains of major Western oriented brands. Child labour was formally banned in 2012 in a decree by then PM Mirziyoyev, who was heavily involved in the supervision of the cotton harvests under Karimov. Systematic use of child labour dramatically decreased from the 2013 harvest onwards to a point today when all but a few isolated cases remain.[97] In 2013, following pressure on World Bank and the widening boycott, the ILO was permitted to undertake its first monitoring mission, with a widespread ILO led third party monitoring scheme coming into place in 2015.[98] The ILO identified dramatic falls in forced labour from 448,000 in both 2015 and 2016 to 364,000 in 2017, 170,000 in 2018 and 102,000 in 2019.[99] Wages per kilogram (kg) of cotton picked have significantly increased in parallel, from 280 soms per kg in 2016 to between 700-1300 soms per kg in 2018 and 800-1400 soms per kg in 2019. The 2019 Harvest saw a tenfold increase in government officials (259 in total) being fined for forced labour violations. The continuing problem of forced labour, its messages about its criminalisation and the Government’s policy goal of eliminating it, are now being discussed openly and regularly by government officials and in the Uzbek media, including in state outlets.[100] While a significant improvement 102,000 people being forced to pick cotton is still poses an enormous challenge.[101] In the 2019 harvest both the ILO and Cotton Campaign monitors agreed that the prohibition on the use of nurses, doctors, teaches and student had been observed but that some initiatives at a local government level in the regions still led to some in middle income jobs or businesses being required to pay for pickers. The use of 2100 firefighters, following a decree by the Ministry of Emergencies, and military cadets and conscripts (at the direction of the Ministry of Defense) have been confirmed, although according to the ILO as these workers were paid this was not technically forced labour though still in breach of its standards.[102] Concerns have also been raised around (state) bank lending to farmers for machinery, seed and other supplies being tied to commitments to producing set amounts of cotton, which led to forced labour being provided both through local government and in some cases by the banks themselves providing staff as pickers or paying for others to bring in the cotton.[103] There are enduring concerns that the privatisation of the cotton harvest, through the ‘clusters’ which vertically integrate farming, harvesting, processing and in many cases the manufacture of textiles, will not necessarily bring forced labour to an end. The opaque ownership structures of clusters can mask the influence of local power brokers, who are or who are working closely with local officials to continue to pressure people into working in the fields. Transferring forced labour from official state policy to the province of localised corruption and private gain must be avoided at all costs. As mentioned above farmers too have complained about late payments, land confiscation and coercive practices by the new clusters.[104] On March 6th 2020 a Presidential Decree was ending the state order system in 2020 so that farmers who rent land from the state would be free to determine their own output levels and choice of cotton crop ahead of the 2020 harvest, as well as expediting further planned changes to liberalise prices and bank lending.[105] This went faster than a number of experts had previously predicted and that was set out in the 2019 agricultural development strategy, which looked at a phased approach by 2023.[106] The combination of a strong relationship between the ILO and Government and sustained external pressure has helped drive the changes forward on the ground. However, there is a clear difference of opinion over the relative merits of supporting and pressuring the Government of Uzbekistan into ending forced labour once and for all, rooted in different theories of change. The ILO sees its role as supporting those in Government who have been driving the reforms, something that includes praising progress so far to help  give reformers the political ‘wins’ needed internally to keep progress going and to build the case for further international support to complete the reforms. To that end, the ILO has supported Government efforts to end the international boycott of the Uzbek Cotton sector, arguing that this will allow further increases in wages and spur investment in mechanisation to root out remaining pockets of forced labour. Other supporters of now ending the boycott have made wider arguments including about how normalisation would end smuggling that currently sees Uzbek cotton on international markets posing as products of other nations and encourage Western investment into the sector (with perceptions of higher labour and environmental standards) rather than relying on Russian and Chinese investment.[107] The debate has been added given added impetus by the COVID-19 outbreak that came shortly after constructive but inconclusive discussions between the Cotton Campaign representatives and the Government of Uzbekistan. The Government of Uzbekistan has made a public call for the ending of the boycott to help the economy weather the impact of the COVID-19 crisis including challenge of rising unemployment and the return of labour migrants.[108] However the Cotton Campaign, as Lynn Schweisfurth makes clear in this collection, stand by their call for the Government to enable the registration of independent human rights and cotton monitoring non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide oversight of the efforts to completely end forced labour as a precondition for lifting the boycott.[109] The transition to the cluster model provides both new economic opportunities but new areas where monitoring will be required to prevent the use of forced or coerced labour, not only in the cotton fields but in the emerging textile factories that are developing in dispersed communities potentially away from necessary scrutiny. At present, neither the local human rights activists who work with the ILO nor those who work with the Cotton Campaign have been able to register the local NGOs despite repeated attempts (part of wider restrictions on independent NGOs discussed below). Harassment against unregistered monitors and investigative journalists has significantly reduced but still continues and those who have sacrificed so much to help bring the practice of forced labour to an end must have an opportunity to play a part in the future. To achieve international credibility and trust in Uzbek cotton there needs to be an ongoing role for the Cotton Campaign, both its local partners and international networks, in providing monitoring and assurance about the forced labour situation in Uzbekistan including examining conditions in the emerging processing and textile operations within the clusters. If Uzbekistan wants to build international support for ending the boycott, allowing the NGO registration of both the Cotton Campaign’s local partners and of those working with the ILO would seem to be a crucial step, along with registrations of independent trade unions for seasonal agricultural workers.[110] Given the economic challenges facing Uzbekistan post-COVID 19 the urgency of finding a pathway to end the boycott is stronger than ever but it is essential that Uzbekistan remains on the path to rapidly end outstanding cases of forced labour. In the longer-term, the development of independent trade unions will be crucial in labour organising and protecting workers from exploitation, so changes in this area must form part of Uzbekistan’s reform process. As Bennet Freeman of the Cotton Campaign puts it ‘the issue is less whether to end the pledge - but when and how - and above all, how ending it can become a catalyst for responsible sourcing and investment’.[111] The process of opening up the cotton sector to international markets needs to be expedited to meet Uzbekistan’s economic needs and bolster the improvements in rural wages and the registration of cotton focused NGOs and independent unions (as a key step in delivering the wider process of NGO reform) would seem a small price for the Government to pay to strengthen international confidence that the final steps of eradicating forced labour are to be achieved and sustained.[112] It is worth noting that the Uzbek Forum for Human Rights and others have also documented reports of forced labour being used to carryout local infrastructure and renovation work as part of the Obod Qishloq (prosperous villages) program, by abusing the Soviet era concept of hashar, whereby residents come together to carry out voluntary work for the benefit of their communities. According to the Forum  ‘by labelling public works as hashar, local officials are able to forcibly recruit employees of both state-owned and private enterprises to work without pay and often under difficult and dangerous conditions rather than creating new — paid — employment opportunities’.[113] There have also been reports from RFE/RL that despite the COVID-19 lockdown in late March 2020 hundreds of residents were pressed into work assisting city officials beautify Andijan before a Presidential visit.[114] Media and online FreedomUzbekistan has made gradual progress in the international press freedom rankings from 166th out of 180 in 2015, the last full year under Karimov, to 156 out of 180 in 2020 with the description ‘thaw under way’ and a decrease in its Global Score of over eight points, placing just ahead of Kazakhstan and Singapore and just behind Turkey and Rwanda.[115] The Mirziyoyev era has seen a significant growth in independent-minded local journalism online with news sites such as Gazzetta.Uz, Kun.Uz, Hook Report and independent bloggers using Telegram Channels and Facebook pages to reach wide audiences and tackle controversial topics in a way that would have been unthinkable under Karimov. As of May 2019, most internationally based websites are now able to be accessed in Uzbekistan, a few notable exceptions such as RFE/RL’s Uzbek language service Ozodlik.[116] All journalists imprisoned during the Karimov era, such as former RFE/RL contributors Solijon Abdurahmonov and Yusuf Ruzimuradov have been released after long prison sentences, and no journalists remain in long-term detention in Uzbekistan at time of writing, following the release of Bobomurod Abdullaev and Hayot Nasriddinov in 2018.[117] In certain cases local officials have been penalised for impeding the work of journalists, for example a senior official in the Fergana region was fired after having Sharifa Madrahimova, a journalist from the Marifat (Enlightenment) newspaper, arrested for her investigations into price rises at a local market.[118] The new freedom is a fragile one with reporters unable to fully predict the reaction to stories from the authorities or powerful members of the elite and while criticism of officials and politicians is now broadly tolerated, direct criticism of the President and first family is still off limits on anything more than minor quibbles on procedural issues. ‘Constructive criticism’ seems to be being encouraged but the situation is still some way from full freedom of speech and the media. There is a sense that the more reform-minded parts of the elite see value the development of independent minded domestic media both as a safety valve and a source of information to help inform further reforms to the system. The Government also seems keen to allow the expansion of new domestic providers to help reduce reliance on external media sources (such as BBC World Service, VOA, RFE/RL, and Fergana). While, as with many things reforms of the media environment are a work in progress, a more cynical view would be that the precarious basis on which media freedom is currently built both encourages a degree of self-censorship and openness to pressure on more controversial topics. The fragility of the situation has been underlined by two recent, at time of writing, cases. In May 2020 well-known journalist Anora Sodiqova was fired from the Uzbek National News Agency in what she believed to be retaliation in particular for her comments on Facebook about Presidential Advisor Khayriddin Sultonov (who until 2018 had overseen the media sector) and about the Sardoba dam tragedy which she said led to increased pressure from her superiors at the agency.[119] The Nemolchi (Don’t Keep Silent) website, which catalogues anonymous stories from domestic abuse sufferers run by women’s rights campaigner Irina Matviyenko was subject of a ludicrous intervention by the Agency for Information and Mass Communications (about which more below). The site was told it was ‘disseminating immoral content’ under laws focused on regulating pornography and ordered to take down references to rape and masturbation in a heartbreaking but important story explaining a survivors’ experiences of being abused as a child.[120] After local and international outcry, the takedown request was withdrawn by the Agency following support for Nemolchi by the Public Fund for Support and Development of National Mass Media.[121] One of the main challenges still facing journalists are the laws on different types of defamation. In January 2020 a draft law was published seeking to implement the principles of a December 2020 Presidential decree that would remove the threat of prison for ‘slander and insult’ making amendments to the procedures in the administrative and criminal codes. While removing the threat of prison the changes would substantially increase the upper limit of fines imposed from 200 Basic Calculation units ($4250) to 500 BCU ($10,630) which retaining the option of up to 360 hours community service. The crime of insulting someone in connection with their official or civil duty still exists but has been downgraded to an administrative offence.[122] With legal costs high and court system still struggling with corruption the courts are a heavily used route for aggrieved business people and officials to suppress critical voices. As of time of writing the draft law on slander has not been implemented, with rumours circling about the development of an entirely new law of mass media that might incorporate such changes. The current law on mass media, despite amendments in 2018, remains the source of concern, with international media freedom organisation Article 19 calling for the removal of content and contributor restrictions and the need to clearly differentiate between print/online output and broadcast services with regulation only appropriate for the latter.[123] However, some local journalists have questioned whether further changes to legislation should be the focus of attention, given that many of the outstanding problems in the media sector stem from poor implementation of existing laws and in the structures of power in the country. This is not to say that the risk of direct harassment and arrest of journalists have entirely gone away, particularly for those in the regions at the hands of local law enforcement. Indeed, there clearly is a sign that more activist journalists who have been challenging the state since the Karimov era, or who take a more negative view of the Government’s reform agenda are more likely to receive negative treatment, reinforcing the cycle of distrust. So those, who fall into the space between political activism and small time blogging (and so sometimes are not seen as being part of the local media landscape) still face significant pressures.[124] This is particularly true for those focused on religious issues or with links to Uzbekistan’s exiled political groups. Poet and blogger Mahmud Rajabov was given a 27 month suspended sentence on smuggling charges for importing banned books produced by former Presidential candidate Muhammad Salih and served time in administrative detention for a march protesting his treatment.[125] A blogger and activist who covered Rajabov’s case, Nafosat Olloshukurova, was arrested and forcibly detained in a psychiatric facility before being able to flee into exile with the support of the US Embassy and local human rights campaigners.[126] Journalist Davlatnazar Ruzmetov was the subject of significant harassment from police and local security services in Khorezm for his coverage of Rajabov and Olloshukurova’s cases and his activities in exposing forced labour in the cotton sector, up until the point he was killed by being run over crossing the road in November 2019.[127] In 2018, eight conservative leaning religious bloggers and activists were arrested and detained on 15 day administrative charges at a time of heightened tension with religious communities following new school uniform regulations that strengthened the de facto ban on the hijab.[128] The situation on traditional broadcast media (TV and Radio) is more mixed. The advent of digital broadcasting has enabled the growth of new TV channels, such as UzReport, to enter the market and grow their audiences, providing more diverse and critical coverage than their traditional competitors but within similar parameters faced by new online media. State run TV and Radio however have yet to meaningfully reform, with requirements to dutifully follow and repeat the government line (albeit that the line itself is now more open than it was in the Karimov era), with censorship of songs (and lyrics) and other cultural content to avoid controversial topics even on social matters. While there has been an improvement in production values, there have not been significant steps to reform output into more challenging areas or to engage with the international community on different models of public broadcasting or structural reforms.[129] A newly organised Agency for Information and Mass Communications, overseeing the media sector and consolidating a wide range of government information services, was set up in February 2019 under the leadership of the President’s former Press Secretary Komil Allamjonov, with the President’s daughter Saida Mirziyoyeva as his deputy.[130] After establishing the agency Allamjonov and Mirziyoyeva moved in February 2020 to set up the Public Fund for Support and Development of National Mass Media, a new public foundation for freedom of the media with the stated aims to give bloggers and independent journalists legal, organisational, technical and other assistance. At the fund’s launch Mirziyoyeva announced that “we believe in freedom of speech and we believe in its power. We believe that high-quality journalism is necessary for the life of a democratic society in which all people are equal and have the right to choose regardless of their faith, race, gender, nationality or social status”. She also argued that freedom of speech and the role of bloggers and independent journalists were an essential part of the reform process, saying that “Our president understands that it is more effective to monitor the implementation of reforms when millions of eyes observe the work of authorized bodies. Of course, these authorized persons are not always so comfortable, but only in this way a strong civil society is built.”[131] In the most countries, particularly in authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes, placing the President’s daughter and former Press Secretary first as the leadership the of the press regulator and then the country’s main foundation for media freedom would raise a number of red flags about the seriousness of commitments to freedom of the media and the ability for the journalists to hold the government to account. However the situation here is perhaps somewhat more complicated by the internal power dynamics of the government, in that a number of journalists have argued that this duo (hailing from the reformist camp and with impeccable access to the President) have been active allies in defending journalistic independence against pressure from the system’s old guard, given the stated importance of media development for the Mirziyoyev project. Irrespective of how substantive the support given to journalists by the reformists has been there remains a substantive gap between nurturing constructive criticism to help spur government backed reforms and a fully open media environment, particularly when it comes to direct criticism of the President and first family. A recent interview by Allamjonov on Uzreport highlighted some of these tensions where he talked of wanting to create ‘a responsible, ethical media space gaining control over their field through credibility’ rather than having journalists and bloggers continuing without rules of engagement ‘where government will keep drawing lines for them’. While supporting efforts to improve accuracy of reporting and sourcing is all well and good he still sees it as the role of the state to apply pressure to achieve these goals, inserting its own conceptions of accuracy and its interests into the process.[132] At present, due to the restrictions on NGO registration outlined below and deep government scepticism there are not currently not-for-profit donor funded or part-funded outfits such as Kloop in Krygyzstan, loads of outlets in Georgia and Ukraine (such as OC Media or Hromadske), nor OCCRP and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (and similar Western investigative groups). While some commercial entities are doing more investigative journalism, the lack of well-funded investigative journalism organisations that are not reliant on advertising does limit the opportunities for in depth scrutiny. Space for Civil SocietyAfter a brief opening in the early 1990s, in the years that followed under Karimov independent civil society was gradually suffocated. Registration requirements and state interference in activities progressively expanded, with the Ezgulik Human Rights Centre one of the last independent NGOs to receive registration in 2003 (only made possible with the assistance of the OSCE and US Government). In 2004 new requirements on international NGOs to reregister with the Ministry of Justice, to place all international donations in two particular state banks and to obtain official permission to access their funds (creating a de facto freeze on NGO bank accounts) led to the closure of local presence of Internews, the Open Society Foundations and the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.[133] Crackdown on human rights activists and independent voices in the wake of the 2005 Andijan Massacre led to a further wave of pressure against both local and international NGOs forcing the withdrawal of most of the remaining international organisations such as  the Eurasia Foundation, CounterPart International, Freedom House, the American Bar Association and IREX.[134] The climate of repression against independent organisations would persist throughout the Karimov era. As is so often the case in much of the post-Soviet space the lack of independent NGOs is not the same as a lack of NGOs. Many of the most prominent organisations that get described as ‘NGOs’ in Uzbekistan, such as Buyuk Kelajak or the Public Fund for Support and Development of National Mass Media mentioned above, were founded by Government Decrees, receive significant funding from state budgets, and are reporting to and operating under the strategic direction of the Government. Some of these organisations have shown a significant degree of dynamism in recent years with Yuksalish, a think tank founded in conjunction with the Parliament, for example proactively trying to raises its profile and engage with international organisations, while developing useful initiatives to support the sector such as the website that seeks to link NGOs with volunteers.[135] These quasi non-governmental organisations (QUANGOS) can be an important part of the delivery of government policy in many countries, they can bring together useful expertise and can often involve effective public participation but they are not non-governmental in any meaningful sense.[136] As Dilmurad Yuspov points out in his essay in this collection when all the separately registered local branches of these systemic NGOs, political parties and trade unions are counted up they amount for around 65 per cent of the 9338 NGOs that are currently registered with the Ministry of Justice in Uzbekistan. The government or parliament are quite open about their role in founding such organisations, leaving little space for the more insidious form of Government Organised Non-Governmental Organisation (GONGO) seen in some of the countries that have been notionally independently founded but remain wholly controlled by regime figures. Many of the other NGOs that have been able to operate are those which address non-controversial topics and humanitarian activities, allowing more collaborative relations with government. Unlike the liberalisation in the media environment there has not been a similar opening up for new independent NGOs. As Dilmurad Yuspov explains the registration for independent NGOs remains a bureaucratic nightmare (despite some limited reforms and an new online portal) and activities by unregistered groups are banned, though some have reported that in recent years enforcement of penalties for unregistered organisations has for the most part become less strict. The fear of independent, and especially internationally funded NGOs, runs deep across the more authoritarian parts of the post-Soviet Space, buying into narratives that they were the driving force behind the Maidan (Ukraine) and the ‘colour’ revolutions of the 2000s.[137] While a direct causal link between NGOs and revolution remains farfetched, and the subject of substantial propaganda by Russia and other authoritarians, the growth in truly independent organisations would of course provide new opportunities for examining the performance of the Government and provide participants with the skills to do so more effectively.[138] At the moment while criticism of Government policy and delivery is being encouraged by the President and his administration it is predominantly through means, if not always directly controlled then at least mediated by, the Government itself. In the absence of simple registration paths for formal NGOs, informal but very active Facebook and Telegram groups about issues of local importance have partially filled the void, creating new opportunities for mobilisation on civic and political issues. In March 2020, the Government approved the registration of Huquqiy Tayanch (Legal Base), a prisoner rights organisation that had been turned down eight times previously and is the first human rights organisation registered since 2002,  and the US NGO Mercy Corps, which had been previously deregistered in 2006 in the wake of Andijan.[139] However, this positive first step has not led to a flood of successful approvals with human rights NGOs, such as the Karakalpakstan based human rights organisation Chiroq being rejected multiple times in 2020, most recently in April.[140] A new NGO code is being drafted, and clearly needs to be expedited, but there needs to be a must political steer from the highest level to end the bureaucratic roadblocks to registration, something that can be done even on the basis of the current legal arrangements. The April 2020 announcement of the new public chamber comprising a mix of NGO representatives as a formal consultative body between the Government and Civil Society.  If its members are drawn solely from the ranks of QUANGOs and other GONGOs it will lack credibility, both in Uzbekistan and to the international community. This initiative should be used a springboard to open up NGO registration and to enable independent voices to be heard at the highest level.[141] Human RightsUnder Karimov Uzbekistan was rightly seen as a global pariah on human rights. The regime was marked by the mass jailing political prisoners, widespread use of torture and deaths in custody (including infamous cases where prisoners were believed to have been boiled to death), poor prison conditions as well as wider problems around corruption, rule of law, freedoms and minority rights addressed in other sections of this collection.[142] Mirziyoyev has made substantive changes in this area, recognising not only the impact that loosening the pressure on dissent has only on the internal environment but in changing Uzbekistan’s international reputation. Over 50 political prisoners have been released since 2016, including almost all of those imprisoned in the Karimov era.[143] Those released now included a number of figures arrested in the early phase of the Mirziyoyev era, with the release of Andrei Kubatin in September 2019, a scholar and supporter of pan-Turkism, arrested and tortured in December 2017. In his case and many others the finger of blame has been pointed at the security services, including by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Diego Garcia-Sayán.[144] As time has gone on the political rivalries between Mirziyoyev and the Karimov era security establishment have also helped opened up opportunities for replacing key personnel and evolving practices at a grassroots level, including reducing the use of blacklists of human rights activist and journalists with 20,000 people removed according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW have also been told that the Uzbekistan has stopped applying Section 221 of the Criminal Code on ‘violation of prison rules’ that was often used to extend the sentences of political prisoners.[145] In December 2017, a Presidential Decree declared that evidence obtained through torture would be inadmissible in court.[146] While in 2019 the notorious Jaslyk Prison, renowned as ‘the house of torture’ and home to a number of political prisoners was closed.[147] On March 14th 2019, President Mirziyoyev signed into law new provisions mandating the Ombudsman (about which more below) to establish a National Preventive Mechanism in relation to Uzbekistan’s international commitments under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.[148] However, it has yet to sign the ‘Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ which sets the international benchmarks for how national monitoring mechanisms should operate. The relative relaxation in the political environment has facilitated an almost tenfold increase in the number of formal complaints to the prosecutor’s office about incidents of torture and mistreatment but the rise in official investigations into malpractice has not been commensurate with the increase in complaints according to HRW.[149] Overall most observers believe there has been a significant reduction, though not elimination, of the use of torture, though sometimes because more devious methods, including pressure on families. The recent deaths of Farrukh Hidirov, where activist have shown pictures believed to show evidence of burning and scaring (while the authorities argue that these were symptoms of Tuberculosis) and Alijon Abdukarimov (discussed below) suggest that more still needs to be done to stamp out this previously endemic scourge.[150] There are two official bodies with particular roles in addressing human rights in Uzbekistan; the Office of the Authorised Person of the Oliy Majlis for Human Rights (Ombudsman) which handles complaints from members of the public on human rights issues, and the National Human Rights Centre (NHRC), an NGO founded in by Presidential Decree in December 2018 with a focus on improving standards, informing legislation and international engagement (PR role).[151] The Ombudsman’s office has been gradually increasing its independence and ability to address more challenging issues as the climate of repression lifted. This has included engaging with independent campaigners on issues including torture and prison inspection (reporting 138 allegations of torture in 2019, mostly in prisons).[152] However, the annual budget of the Ombudsman is currently 3,600,300,000 soms ($350,000) and it has been seeking international funding to help expand its capacity. The NHRC has received significantly more funding in recent years with its government funding for 2020 is 7,254,000,000 soms ($715,000) and it plays an active role in promoting the progress of the Mirziyoyev reforms to the international community.[153] Uzbekistan took the opportunity provided by the international goodwill generated by the initial burst of reforms to convene host an ‘Asian Forum on Human Rights’ in November 2018 at a convention centre in Samarkand, which as HRW noted the event was heavy on international observers and Uzbek dignitaries (facilitating dialogue between the two groups) but few independent local activists were able to attend.[154] It had planned to create a follow-up event in May 2020, the Samarkand Human Rights Forum, before being postponed due to COVID-19.[155] The forums form part of Uzbekistan’s campaign a seat on the UN Human Rights Council for 2021-23.[156] Uzbek Government is in negotiations with the UN about the number of UN special rapporteurs able to visit each year, building on recent visits but the ability to deliver these visits rely perhaps more on availability and global on the UN side than on the Uzbek side. As discussed below Uzbekistan is in the process of mounting a bid to join the UN Human Rights Council for 2021-23. Despite the identifiable progress there is still much to do before international human rights standards are fully met. The case and treatment of former diplomat Kadyr Yusupov was convicted by a closed court of treason in January 2020 has rung alarm bells due to allegations of torture, threats to his family members and prior mental health issues that included a suicide attempt immediately prior to his arrest.[157] This and other cases show that all though progress has been made in checking the power of the security services, including reducing their political threat to the regime, there are still credible concerns that some of their arrests are for the purposes of perpetuating their own existence at current resourcing levels (by keeping Uzbekistan safe from spies whether real and imagined) than meeting the wider needs of Uzbek national security.[158]Campaigners have argued for reforms to Article 157 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the criteria for High Treason though in practice it will take further reform of the security services and of the courts to reduce the risk of national security cases being made on dubious grounds. Further evidence for the need for more security service reform has been set out by Amnesty International who have identified a sophisticated phishing and spyware campaign to try to monitor a number of Uzbekistani human rights activists.[159] In principle provisions for freedom assembly are enshrined in the constitution and law. However, in practice under Karimov protests were virtually prohibited in practice and continue to be difficult to organise to this day. While, prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, the Government had become less heavy handed in its response to spontaneous public protests, such as over natural gas prices and the housing protests mentioned above, attempts to address formal restrictions on freedom of assembly have stalled.[160] In the summer of 2019, the Government consulted on the ‘Draft Law on Rallies, Meetings and Demonstrations of the Republic of Uzbekistan’. Following criticism by international experts convened by the OSCE/ODIHR that the proposed law was ‘generally not compliant with international human rights standards, and there are a several areas that may be considered particularly deficient in this regard’, the legislation has been stuck.[161] The OSCE had called for Uzbekistan to move from a system where authorities had to authorise demonstrations to one where protesters were only required to inform the Government and to loosen rules around demonstration venues, times and durations. Longstanding human rights activists describe their situation as having gone from being repressed to being (mostly) ignored. There are some new opportunities for interacting with more reform-minded ministers but perception that many of the changes are cosmetic, with many older hands more cynical about the overall director of travel than the newer group of activists and commentators who have emerged in the Mirziyoyev era. As set out previously the legacy of the Karimov era hangs heavily over Uzbekistan today. The intimate involvement of many of today’s elite with the Karimov regime leaves questions of transitional justice unanswered, past failings are acknowledged but without accountability or redress in a relentless focus on moving forward. The unwillingness to talk about the past even includes the Andjian Massacre, the 2015 event that so defined Uzbekistan’s retreat from the world, with officials unwilling to address its legacy and the Interior Minister at the time of the massacre, Zokir Almatov, currently holds a post of special advisor in the interior ministry.[162] This approach fuels scepticism about the sincerity of the current efforts at change. The new National Strategy of Uzbekistan on Human Rights confirmed by Presidential Decree in June sets out, on paper at least an ambitious set of action plans with internal monitoring mechanisms to report on progress.[163] However, the real test will be in the implementation and whether local and international activists and journalists are able to openly monitor the situation in practice. Rule of LawImproving the situation in relation to the rule of law in Uzbekistan is a central challenge both for addressing the country’s human rights and economic challenges. It is an area where progress has been somewhat uneven compared to some other reforms and major challenges remain ahead around corruption in the judiciary, the continued dominance of the prosecutor’s office and the lack of defence lawyers. As with so many areas of policy the pace of regulatory change in the legal sphere has been rapid, with around 15,000 new Ministry of Justice documents and regulations in the last three years (compared to 20,000 in the previous 25 years). One area where there has been a clear step forward is in the area of policing. As discussed above, prior to recent reforms low-level bribery was endemic amongst beat and traffic police.[164] After recent changes Uzbek’s everyday interactions with police have markedly improved, though independent activists report that some low level harassment and monitoring of their activities persist. Following the tragic case of Alijon Abdukarimov, who was beaten to death by police officers in May, the Government has committed to installing CCTV in the interrogation rooms of 497 police stations across Uzbekistan, while the police involved have been arrested and charged with torture and illegal detention.[165] At the heart of Uzbekistan’s rule of law problems have been the overwhelming power of the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) in controlling the legal process from arrest (officers used to have unrestricted power of arrest but though now courts determine who can be arrested it is almost unknown for them to refuse prosecutors requests) through to sentencing (judges almost always accept the sentence proposed by the prosecutors). The charging decision, in the hands of the PGO, is critical in determining the outcome of a trial in a system where acquittals are still extremely rare. Mirziyoyev has spoken openly about the need to increase the number of acquittals in legal proceedings. Following the speech, the annual number of acquittals has risen from six in 2016 to 867 in 2018.[166] However, some observers have noted concerns that these numbers may be being padded out with cases that have yet to complete where sentencing is postponed or where the applicants have died.[167] Reforming the PGO itself has also been an important part of the reform agenda. In August 2017 Mirziyoyev claimed that the PGO officials had been ‘major thieves and facilitators of theft’, saying that he had replaced 80 per cent of them and in March 2019 made further changes to redistribute responsibilities to other state agencies and reduce the PGO workforce by 23 per cent.[168] Despite these reforms, the inequality of arms in the court room in criminal and administrative court cases is palpable. On the other side of the court from the still powerful PGO across the courtroom in criminal trial are a small band of advocates. As of January 2019 there were 3944 lawyers licensed as attorneys at law in total in a country of 33 million people.[169] Given Uzbekistan’s expanding array of new business opportunities many of these lawyers (and many others with legal training but not registered with the Chamber of Advocates) work in the commercial sector leaving a small number to take up the thankless task of defending those accused in a system with the acquittals rate and sentencing policy noted above. There are issues around the need to improve the status of lawyers in the country, but particularly to make it more attractive to act as a defence lawyer. At the moment lawyers taking human rights or politically challenging cases tend to be from the small group of older lawyers, with younger lawyers still afraid that taking such cases could destroy their careers. There are some small steps underway to change the situation facing lawyers in Uzbekistan. Firstly, efforts are underway to reform the Chamber of Advocates that represents the profession, attempting to loosen the level of control the Ministry of Justice has over its activities. Following a Presidential Decree from December 2019, the Chamber of Advocates has been tasked with developing a new concept for the administration of the legal profession with a working group, involving a broader range of advocates than previously might have been the case. Key issues under investigation include the nature of the relationship with the Ministry of Justice (previously chair of Chamber of Advocates was chosen by Ministry of Justice) and the development new policy on legal aid, with a view to providing criminal, administrative and civil case support from advice through to trial for those who meet low income criteria and this will be managed by a series of regional centres independent of the judiciary who administered the legacy system (often the cause of corruption and favouritism amongst lawyer). The Chamber of Advocates now has a consultative role in approving any new legislation relating to the profession. On positive initiate in improving access to justice is the Madad network of legal advisory bureaus across Uzbekistan, an ‘NGO’ funded by government decree in 2019, that aim to shortly have an office in every district as well as the national website all providing free legal advice.[170] Reform of the judiciary remains very much a work in progress; something the President has been open about in is 2020 State of the Nation Speech.[171] At present, the Supreme Judicial Council, created in 2018, makes appointment of judges on the recommendation of the Supreme Court. However, the President appoints the council and formally approves judicial appointments, giving concerns over the ability of the Presidential administration to influence the decisions.[172] Judicial salaries have been increased though still not to a level commensurate with the lifestyles they and their families have come to expect from their position.[173] Reports of bribe taking remain rife, particularly in the criminal and administrative courts. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers 85 per cent of judges remain on a five-year tenure which leaves them potentially more open to pressure in order to secure their future reappointment than more established judges on longer terms.[174] The rapporteur also noted that civil society representatives that he met during his visit with were subject to interrogation by the security services. The majority of the judges working today have made their way through the Prosecutor’s office. The working group of the Chamber of Advocates has suggested that all new judges in the criminal courts have spent time as a defence lawyer, something that may help change perspectives as well as improving the status of lawyers in general. The more egregious excesses of the judiciary have been removed while the need for deeper institutional change remains. The international community has been engaging with judicial reform process both on training and on building technical capabilities, such as the well-publicised project by the UN to make documents from the administrative court system open to the public. Efforts to create an automated system of case distribution are yet to be completed with case allocation decisions when assigned judges are unavailable are still being made by the powerful chairs of each court as part of the widespread powers they have over the selection, promotion, evaluation and discipline of judges. As the UN Special Rapporteur noted the measures taken so far ‘should be regarded as initial steps towards the establishment of a truly independent and impartial justice system. Much more needs to be done to ensure that the judiciary is truly independent from other branches of the State, and that judges, prosecutors and lawyers are free to carry out their professional activities without any undue interference or pressure.’ Women’s rightsOne of the major challenges recognised by both Government and international donors is the need to address systemic discrimination against women in Uzbekistan’s economy, society and amongst its political elite. Even in the Soviet era of nominal gender equality and state run welfare support networks Uzbekistan was a patriarchal society with few women in leadership roles but as Uzbek academic Nozima Davletova points out the transition to the market economy in the 90s, the gradual re-emergence of religion (about which more below) and the patriarchal way in which the national patriarch Islam Karimov sought to define post-independence Uzbek identity has led to has growing led to a ‘growing re-traditionalisation’, where both economic and cultural pressure ends up promoting ‘traditional’ gender roles.[175] At present, no full members of the Cabinet of Ministers or regional governors are women. There is only one district level Governor who is a woman and Uzbekistan has only just appointed its first woman Ambassador in June 2020, Feruza Mahmudova the new Ambassador to Israel.[176] However, the recent Majils elections the number of women elected doubled to 48, just under a third of the total members of Parliament, and the new chairperson of the Senate is former Deputy PM Tanzila Narbaeva.[177] Davletova believes that there is some political will from the current elite to address women’s rights issues but a lack of capacity to address informal and discriminatory practices at the middle management level and a local level outside of Tashkent.[178] Even positive steps have led to outcomes that have disadvantaged women. For example, efforts to raise standards of education in pre-school education (kindergarten/nursery) led not only to improvements in the curriculum but a change of the age of admission from two to six years to three to seven years, thereby removing it as a childcare option for families of two year olds and making it harder for the primary caregiver (almost always women) from returning to work.[179] This links to a system of maternity leave which provides 126 days (somewhat oddly spaced split to give more time-70- days prior to birth than after 56 days) of leave paid by the employer, followed by the option of unpaid leave until the child reaches the age of three. Similarly the progressive elimination of forced labour leading to a rise in higher paid male cotton pickers displacing women who had previously been employed (including those doing work on behalf of others who paid to get out of forced labour). It is important to note however that the specific focus on preventing the use of teaching and health care workers as forced labour gives particular protections for women. Women in rural communities often find themselves responsible for managing the family’s Tomorqa (backyard/subsistence smallholding) and lack of access to water can lead to a disproportionate impact on women in collecting it. Rural Communities disproportionately deal with the challenge for women around labour migration. The average age of marriage is 21-22 years and, while forced marriage does exist, there are wider problems around pressure to marry early. A combination of culture pressure and the housing crisis often leads to many new wives being forced to move in with her husband’s parents. This creates a particular challenge in cases, as is often the case in rural communities where the husband may be required to become a migrant worker. These arrangements that can last for many years and often become permanent. In the context of low spousal loyalty due to early or pressured marriage, it is often the parents who are the direct recipients of remittance payments and there have been many cases where the wives are forced out of their in-laws homes and made homeless when their migrant husbands have decided to start new families in Russia or elsewhere. Domestic violence remains a significant problem (with claims that 90 per cent of women have faced some form of domestic violence) that has until recently not been talked about (and even then with narrow focus on physical violence and deprivation of liberty rather than the full range of domestic abuse). The work done by Irina Matvienko, the creator of the independent information project (Don’t Be Silent) mentioned above has been extremely effective in drawing the attention of the Government and international community to these issues.[180] On September 2nd 2019, President Mirziyoyev signed the 'Protection of Women from Harassment and Violence Act and the Guarantees of Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men Act, as part of a wider range of initiatives towards gender equality in.[181] Although the law, which sought to provide additional support for women bringing forward cases of domestic violence, came into effect immediately there had been delays in the regulatory changes required to bring key elements into force.[182] While there is pressure amongst some in elite circles to improve gender equality there is also countervailing pressure from both gradually growing nationalist movements that are using social media (Telegram and Facebook) to promoting ideas of ‘Uzbek national values’ which include traditional or misogynistic conceptions of women’s role in society. Cultural conservatism includes criticism of women’s clothing including wearing jeans or shorts being used as a signifier of growing disrespect of traditional gender roles and family structures.[183] Following a recent case in Fergana where a young women was attacked and had her jaw broken in a row over her wearing short shorts, women’s rights activists have been staging a virtual flashmob across Uzbekistan, posting pictures of themselves protesting alone with protest signs challenging attempts to control what women wear. Gradual religious liberalisation and growing religiosity, discussed in more detail below, has also been identified by women’s rights activist as reinforcing conservative cultural attitudes towards women including pressures to enforce hijab, the use of which remains effectively illegal in Uzbekistan. In 2018 the Government introduced a law brought in that required the presentation of a legal civil marriage certificate before religious marriage could be performed by cleric as attempt to crack down on temporary Islamic marriages, polygamy, etc. which, according to Women’s rights campaigners, have been on the rise. The official Muftiate does do anti-polygamy work but lacks credibility and campaigners argue that a wider range of public interventions will be needed. Freedom of Religion and beliefThe role of religion in modern Uzbekistan, and Uzbek identity is a complex one. As Uzbekistan’s many tourist sites can attest, the country has played an important role in the spiritual life of Central Asia over many centuries. Under the Soviets Uzbekistan was home to the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan (SADUM), which coordinated training, materials and supervision of religious activity in across the five Central Asian republics. Under Karimov, while Islamic identity was a constituent part around which he sought to build the remerging Uzbek identity, his approach to the religion itself remained one of tight state control of religion under the supervision of Uzbekistan's branch of SADUM renamed the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan.[184] In the late 1990s and early 2000s growing concerns about radicalisation and impact of conflicts in Afghanistan and Tajikistan helped to facilitate a further crackdown on religious activity across Uzbekistan and in particular in the more devout Fergana valley. The crackdown, and the opening of the notorious Jaslyk Prison, was spurred on by six car bombs in Tashkent on February 16th 1999 that targeted government facilities, including one outside the Cabinet of Ministers just before Karimov was due to give a speech there. The official narrative pinned responsibility on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), though many at the time questioned this, including whether the regime itself was responsible.[185] The result was huge pressure on devout Muslims, particularly those operating independently of the state backed Muslim Board, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of thousands often on allegations (both suspected and fabricated) of membership not only of the IMU but of the banned non-violent extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose adherents were often given long sentences and some of whom died in jail after torture.[186] A similar witch hunt of devout Muslims took place in the wake of Andijan Massacre, with hundreds jailed on the grounds of alleged membership of Akromiya, supposedly an splinter group of Hizb ut-Tahrir headed by Andijan native Akrom Yo‘ldoshev, though there have been allegations that the organisation’s role was exaggerated or even its existence fabricated by the Government as a pretext for rounding up independent Muslims.[187] Under Mirziyoyev, many of the systems put in place under the Karimov era but for the most part the pressure on religious activity has eased substantially. One of the early acts of the new regime was to remove 16,000 members of an alleged 17,000 strong watch list of suspected religious extremists being kept under surveillance, while HRW have reported that the Prison Authorities claim hundreds of independent Muslims had been released it is impossible to confirm the number of prisoners currently incarcerated for religious offenses.[188] Many of those given Presidential pardons in May 2020 to celebrate Eid al-Fitr had previously been jailed for religious offenses.[189] Uzbekistan has been removed from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) list of countries of particular concern, instead recommending that it remain on its ‘Special Watch List’.[190] The overall number of raids, fines and other punishments have been reduced. However, there are concerns that more recently the numbers on the ‘blacklist’ have increased and that during the COVID-19 pandemic there have been security sweep focused on Hizb ut-Tahrir in the Fergana Valley.[191] Uzbekistan is yet to deliver on its 2018 pledge, made following the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or belief to revise the 1998 Law on Religion, and earlier drafts seen by campaigners were deemed not to contain many major improvements.[192] The current law states that ‘Citizens' of the Republic of Uzbekistan (except a registered religious organisation's ministers) cannot appear in public places in religious attire, with the implementing regulations providing the options of fines of between five to ten times the monthly minimum wage or up to 15 days administrative detention though there is no definition of ‘religious attire’.[193] In practice the ‘religious attire’ provisions have allowed police, institutions and local authorities to attempt to prevent the wearing of the hijab or for younger and middle aged men to have long or bushy beards. Although there is some uncertainty about the national direction of travel in 2019, there have been public efforts at Tashkent to prevent children from wearing the hijab on school property while students at the Islamic University (and other institutions) have been expelled for insisting on wearing them, while beards of men at markets in Namangan and Tashkent were forcibly shaved.[194] While these prohibitions exist there does seem to be an attempt to enforce them in a less heavy-handed manner, however Muslim activist Tulkun Astanov was sentenced to five years suspended sentence for his efforts at lobbying the Muslim board over the hijab ban which included materials the authorities deemed extremist.[195] The Governor of Fergana Shuhrat Ghaniev was reprimanded for linking the hijab and beards to Islamic Extremism as part of a rant that talked of his work trying to stop their use in his region.[196] As with independent NGOs, registering religious organisations is proving challenging with Shia Mosques and some protestant groups struggling to register without bribes. Jehovah’s Witnesses face similar registration challenges, amid rumours of efforts to ban adherents, and have had appeals to the ombudsman rejected.[197] International religious freedom organisation Forum 18 have documented how state control over participation in the Haj is used as both a mechanism of control over Muslims outside of state structures and an opportunity for corruption.[198] Even during the COVID lockdown raids on unsanctioned religious materials have continued.[199] Minority rightsUzbekistan remains, along with Turkmenistan, one of the two countries in the post-Soviet space where sex between men is against the law, with penalties ranging from fines to three years imprisonment under article 120 of the criminal code.[200] A notable feature of the current Government has been a willingness to discussing difficult topics, even where action is not being taken, which makes its unwillingness even to discuss issues of sexuality stand out as an area of concern. Like many other international observers, this author had been advised on multiple occasions by otherwise helpful officials that writing on this topic would damage the wider research project, making the issue all the more important for it to be addressed. Efforts to raise discrimination against Uzbekistan’s LGBTQ community has received short shrift in international forums.[201] The atmosphere of repression means that it is very difficult for a community to develop, even in Tashkent which is comparatively tolerant when compared to the regions and some venues are more tolerant of LGBTQ people (even if not openly so).[202] Recent arrests of gay men include couples arrested in their own homes; with police using arrests such opportunities for extortion. Over the last year, a number of murders have been linked to attacks on the LGBTQ community, notably the death of Shokir Shavkatov shortly after coming out on social media.[203] Unsurprisingly given both the overall lack of independent NGOs and the legal situation there are no groups openly working directly on LGBTQ issues on the ground in Uzbekistan. HIV testing, even when undertaken anonymously, is challenging given the levels of homophobia in the medical profession, with doctors known to contact relatives of patients and with issues around data security given tests are logged with a code identifying the risk category (homosexual sex) why the sample was taken. Given the relative ease of travel gay men and transwomen often seek some form of refuge in Russia, where homosexuality is legal but heavily discriminated against but, particularly in cases of trafficking, many end up being forced into sex work. The rise of Telegram and Facebook groups, as well as the use of WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram and vkontakte has provided a multitude of platforms for homophobic abuse to be shared, as part of a wider meme culture and examples of toxic masculinity. Examples include the @tashGangs page on telegram with 576,000 followers at time of writing.[204] Such groups have been known to share personal information of LGBTQ people and spread videos of physical punishment, lynchings, humiliation and abuse of gay men. Mirziyoyev has not spoken publically about LGBTQ issues, even when called out in a public letter by Shohrukh Salimov (a gay Uzbek man who after police harassment had to relocate to Istanbul) in the summer of 2019.[205] However given his willingness to talk publically about most other issues, and the government’s blanket denial of the need to address issues facing the LGBTQ community this does not bode well for the chances of reform, amid conservative fear that openly discussing issues of equality in Uzbekistan might lead to weakening of the existing cultural taboos.[206] Although limited in their leverage, Western-partners will need to continue to push for decriminalisation and make clear the lasting damage that its current position does to the country’s international reputation. Uzbekistan is slowly working to improve how it treats its disabled citizens, though with significant challenges including deinstitutionalisation, changing bureaucratic responses to disabled people and adapting the legacy of the Soviet and Karimov era built environment to try to improve accessibility. It is an area of growing interest to campaigners, such as Dilmurad Yusupov who writes in this collection on NGO registration work that followed on challenges around the registration of the Association of Disabled People of Uzbekistan.[207] Uzbekistan’s place in the world and relations with the UKOne of the most dramatic areas of change under Mirziyoyev has been speed with which Uzbekistan has emerged from geo-political isolation under Karimov to become a regional leader and active international player, in a manner appropriate for Central Asia’s most populous country. Initially under Karimov, a policy of balancing external forces prevailed, with an at times hostile posture towards Russia leading it to become a founder member of the GUUAM Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development (along with the more Russia sceptic nations in the post-Soviet Region) but by the early 2000s it had begun to disengage with such relationships, formally withdrawing into semi-isolation after the diplomatic fallout of the Andijan massacre. The fallout from Andijan also significantly curtailed the post-Afghanistan marriage of convenience between Uzbekistan and the West over security cooperation. As Dr Luca Anceschi and Dr Vladimir Paramonov highlight in their essay contribution Mirziyoyev has been energetic in reviving relationships with other Central Asian leaders, while simultaneously strengthening relations with Russia, China and potential Western investment partners. Part of this has been about deploying the increasingly effective public relations machine to burnish the new leadership’s international credentials to boost the attractiveness of Uzbekistan as an investment opportunity but it is built on a real and significant change in behaviour. At a Central Asian level the diplomacy has been frenetic, both in terms of opening up physical borders to facilitate travel and trade, and frequent visits and publicised phone calls.[208] Taken together these initiatives project a desire for Uzbekistan to proactively push regional cooperation rather than pull away from it as it often did under Karimov. This increase in Uzbek assertiveness has coincided with the political transition period in Kazakhstan, the country that had somewhat assumed regional leadership during Uzbekistan’s isolation. While the domestic response to the cross border tension with Kyrgyzstan over the Sokh enclave has been broadly criticised and is discussed in the crisis response section here, at an intergovernmental level Uzbekistan swiftly dispatched PM Abdulla Aripov to meet the Kyrgyz Deputy PM at the border to seek to prevent a diplomatic fallout.[209] Uzbekistan’s improving relationships with Russia and China comprises both enhanced business and diplomatic engagement but also increasing cooperation with their respective economic-strategic projects: the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Belt and Road. As Anceschi and Paramonov point out the debate about Uzbek membership of the EAEU has been rumbling on since Mirziyoyev took office, and noises, particularly from the Russian side, prior to the COVID-crisis suggested that Uzbekistan was likely to join in 2020.[210] Reducing both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade (particularly in the agricultural sector) with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (as well as Russia), lowering prices on certain imported goods as well as to helping regularise the status of up to two million Uzbek Labour migrants in Russia are understandably big potential prizes that could be won from EAEU.[211] However, there remain significant problems around the extent of regulatory alignment that would be required as part of membership and the implications swifter market opening would have for the, often politically connected, import substitution based industries in Uzbekistan. Furthermore, Uzbekistan is considering joining the EAEU at a time when the union’s other Central Asian members are expressing dissatisfaction with a system that has been seen to provide a greater economic boost to Moscow, where the organisation’s institutions are based (and critics would say policies shaped) and have served to encourage trade flows to and from Russia rather encouraging the cross-border trade in Central Asia that had been hoped for. As it is bilateral efforts already undertaken have delivered significant improvements in Uzbekistan’s trade with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.[212] Furthermore historic concerns about Russian attitudes towards Uzbeks and Uzbekistan’s independence of action from the Russian orbit persist, with the debate over the continuing use of the Russian language a source of tension.[213] As with many multilateral projects the EAEU initially slow to demonstrate its usefulness as a solidarity mechanism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia was seen to priorities sending aid to Western European nations such as Italy rather than directing support to Central Asia in the way that might have been expected. Uzbekistan has become an official observer nation to the EEAU but further announcements that some observers had expected for early summer 2020 have been slowed by the pressures of the COVID response. This debate over Uzbekistan’s membership of the EAEU comes at the time not only when Uzbekistan is seeking to increase bilateral trade with China, something that has now surpassed trade with Russia, but also its participation in Belt and Road infrastructure projects.[214] Unlike Russia, China has also been proactive in responding to the COVID-19 crisis in supplying PPE (‘mask diplomacy’) and other health related aid to Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia, reviving the concept of a ‘health silk road’ as an adjunct to Belt and Road.[215] Already a crucial economic player in the region, the crisis has seen it expand its role into more political areas previously seen as Moscow’s area of interest.[216] The Uzbek elite have studiously avoided being drawn into dispute with China over its treatment of the Uighur community, including backing China at the UN over its treatment of the Uighurs and preventing the entry into Uzbekistan of the academic Gene Bunin who has been documenting the plight of those in China’s camps.[217] Over recent decades Western strategic interest in Uzbekistan and the wider Central Asian region has gradually dwindled, particularly after the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. Economic interests still remain, particularly amongst European states but the sense of political drift has been palpable.[218] In 2019 both the US and European Union (EU) have released new Central Asia strategies, reflecting on paper at least, a desire to increase their presence on the ground and give an alternative diplomatic and economic outlet to the Russia-China duopoly.[219] While Uzbekistan clearly desires new sources of investment and market access, a combination of past neglect and the lack of proximity, means that both the US and EU are unlikely to be more than bit-part players, helping to balance out the interests of the regional hegemons in the regime’s strategic thinking. One of the few remaining strategic priorities for the US and EU remains the fraught situation in Afghanistan both in terms of stability and the impact of drug trafficking and organised crime across the Uzbek-Afghan border. Under Mirziyoyev Uzbekistan has been attempting to play a diplomatic role with both the Government in Kabul and the Taliban.[220] Beyond the major players and blocks a number of other countries such as South Korea (Uzbekistan hosts a significant Korean minority population) and Turkey have been showing an active business and political presence to take advantage of economic opportunities.[221] When looking at these mid-tier players it is useful, given the Foreign Policy Centre’s London base, to briefly explore the emerging relationship between the UK and Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan. Unlike many other post-Soviet elites London had not become an epicentre for an Uzbek diaspora, though efforts to boost ties are growing. Uzbekistan was one of the first countries to agree a post-Brexit UK-Uzbekistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). This arrangement mostly transferred over the contents of the EU-Uzbekistan PAC but without reference to EU treaties and bodies. The UK-Uzbekistan agreement did not seek to replicate the formal political dialogue processes (such as the human rights dialogues) contained in the EU agreement, however it does contain a joint-declaration confirming that violations on issues of ‘democracy, principles of international law and human rights’ particularly breaches of UN and OSCE commitments, could lead to a suspension of the agreement.[222] The UK is home to a significant concentration of financial institutions and globally connected service sector organisations that the Government wishes to engage with to boost its attractiveness for trade and investment. These include a range of different public relations and communications operations to help promote the Government’s message around the reform agenda. For example Corporate Communications International Ltd who own the Eurasian Investor website focused on business stories in the post-Soviet space and operates as an event brand through which the now annual Uzinvest Forum takes place in London, featuring networking with many senior figures in the Uzbek Government for a standard entrance fee of £999 per ticket.[223] The UK also provides the legal inspiration for the Navoi Free Enterprise Zone (FEZ), now covering the whole Navoi region, which has now adopted the use of English Law for commercial proceedings.[224] As set out in the essay by Professor Kristian Lasslett the UK, and its Caribbean dependencies, are also hope to a ranged of different financial vehicles, including Scottish Limited Partnerships that are used to hide the ownership of countries across the world, including in Uzbekistan. Education is an important pillar of the UK-Uzbekistan relationship and has been identified as a key growth area by the British Government. In 2002 Westminster International University in Tashkent, a partnership between the UK’s Westminster University (which accredits the degrees) and the Uzbek Government (which oversees local administration and management), became the first international university in the Country. WIUT provides a range of courses such as business, computing and law that respond to the demands of the emerging economy and the Government’s educational priorities but does not yet cover potentially more challenging topics in the areas of social and political science. Given the nature of the Uzbek government’s approach to higher education academic freedom is not what would be expected on campus in the UK, with some academics reporting they had been warned against publishing research or articles seen to be overtly criticising the Government.[225] Bangor University and the University of Sunderland also have a partnership with MDIS (Management Development Institute of Singapore) Tashkent, validating a number of their business courses. They have recently been joined by the University of Law, the UK based but Netherlands owner for-profit legal training institution, to provide consultancy around the development of a new International University of Law in Tashkent.[226] In the broader education world the British Council has a presence in Tashkent though its semi-diplomatic status in the country limits some of the more commercially focused activities, such as English language teaching, that it provides in some other countries leaving it focused on cultural exchanges. However, UK Education services firm Cambridge Assessments is playing a major role in supporting education reform in the country through a partnership that has led to the creation of 14 presidential Schools across each regions. The schools are free to access boarding schools with a curriculum designed by Cambridge and a focus on encouraging critical thinking rather than rote learning. They are academically selective on entrance with 28,500 applicants for 560 places at the first four to open.[227] Although the schools report directly to the cabinet of ministers rather than the Ministry of Education, the goal is to use these schools to help spread new teaching practices and raise standards across the public education system. Cambridge are also working to develop a new evaluation framework for school standards inspection, including multiple inspectors and anonymous write components that the Uzbek Government would deliver with Cambridge providing monitoring and support. There is seen to be scope to help reform the administration of state exams, which are seen by many Uzbeks as being open to corruption, while UK companies are expanding involvement in the nursery (kindergarten) sector. Uzbekistan is currently campaigning for membership of the UN Human Rights Council for 2021-23, due to be decided at the 2020 General Assembly in October. While given that voting takes place regionally some of the world’s worst human Rights abusers make it onto the council, if Uzbekistan was able to be elected in the Eastern European states section (mirroring the former Eastern bloc so comprising both the EU’s Eastern Members, the Western Balkans and the post-Soviet space) it would be seen as a big endorsement of the Mirziyoyev reforms (and its improved diplomacy). Therefore it is important that the international community fully assess the country’s recent performance on human rights related issues, which as set out above is significant but more patchy and problematic than the scale of reforms in some other areas. Responding to crisisAt the start of this research project it seemed that one of the most important ways to judge the true progress of the Mirziyoyev reform programme was how it would respond to first significant setback and what its response would tell the world about the depth and breadth of progress. Over the last few months Uzbekistan has not only faced a number of major domestic challenges including the collapse of the Sardoba Dam and the resurgence of violence at the border with Kyrgyzstan but faced the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The response has highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of the current system. After registering its first case of COVID-19 on March 15th, Uzbekistan immediately announced the test result.[228] The following day (on March 16th) the Government of Uzbekistan closed itself off from international travel by plane and car (with international rail travel ceasing on March 19th), closed all schools and universities by bringing forward their holiday period and banned mass gatherings and sporting events.[229] Measures escalated rapidly after this with restrictions on long-distance travel through the return of region-level police posts on March 23rd, wearing a facemask in public became mandatory (with penalties including up to 15 day imprisonment) on March 25th and by March 27th a comprehensive lockdown was instituted with citizens only able to leave their house to shop for groceries and medicine.[230] Certain sectors of the economy, such as major agricultural and industrial operations and construction sites were reopened on April 14th with hygiene measures put in place.[231] Schools and universities have transitioned to online and distance learning, with online classes taking place during the lockdown and exams simplified to enable them to be done remotely. The government has announced that schools and universities will remain shut and remote learning will continue until at least September 2020.[232] As the number of cases had begun to decline Uzbekistan introduced a ‘traffic light’ system of local infection with ‘red’ zones maintaining most of the previous quarantine restrictions, while ‘yellow’ and ‘green’ zones have respectively fewer restrictions, with the latter group seeing sports facilities and children’s summer camps reopen.[233] Restaurants, cafes have reopened for food outside and public transport has restarted (notionally with social distancing) as of June 8th, while long distance train journeys within the country and limited international flights returned on June 15th.[234] Particularly in the early phases of the crisis the Uzbek state was able to move quickly to clearly and widely communicate public health messages, swiftly mobilising state resources (including creating an emergency medical helpline and building temporary hospital facilities) and showing an openness to discuss cases that would have been unthinkable in the Karimov era.[235] The proof of success has been the extent to which the country has control the spread of the virus. As of early July, Uzbekistan with a population of approximately 33 million, had confirmed 9,326 virus infections and 28 deaths (compared to 53,858 deaths in the UK, a country with only twice the population size).[236] However, the effective deployment of Uzbekistan’s improved public communications capacity, was accompanied by a darker side such as coordinated campaigns to encourage school children and teachers to post pro-Mirziyoyev comments on the Telegram channel and other social media feeds of independent media outlets such as RFE/RL’s Ozodlik service.[237] Uzbekistan has introduced new measures in the criminal code to prohibit the spreading of false information about the spread of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases that could include large fines or up to three years in prison.[238] The Government has used administrative provisions against ‘spreading false’ information to stop the work of bloggers such as Osmonjon Qodirov jailed for 15 days.[239] Overall police reported large numbers of quarantine violations, 86,400 by mid-April, most of whom received small fines.[240] However the quarantine regulations have reportedly been used as a political to force human rights activists monitoring suspected child labour in the cotton harvest to quarantine themselves for 14 days (in one case with police supervision) despite the activity taking place in a ‘green’ COVID-free Pop district in Namangan.[241] Despite public pressure, Mirziyoyev has so far rejected calls to increase direct cash payments to at risk citizens- ‘helicopter money’. As set out in the essay by Eldor Tulyakov, the March and April economic support packages total 32.3 trillion soms ($3.177 billion or £2.4 billion) in support for businesses and citizens, equating to only 6.2 per cent of Uzbekistan’s GDP.[242] Instead the Government has encouraged/put pressure on the local business community, as part of a national strategy dubbed Sakhovat va Komak (‘Kindness and Solidarity’/‘Generosity and Assistance’) to provide support for the unemployed and economically disadvantaged, by offering tax breaks and low interest loans to support such activities so as ‘hang its task on the neck of entrepreneurs’ in the words of Finance Minister and Deputy PM Jamshid Kuchkarov.[243] The President has talked of the need for entrepreneurs to hire ‘needy’ people, while a new Sakhovat va Komak Fund has been established under the auspices of the Mahalla Charitable Foundation for direction by local officials.[244] Its initial efforts focused on the provision of food aid, through coordinated distribution centres, but its wider activities are somewhat opaque. There has been evidence that state employees such as teachers and police officers are being pressured into donating up to 30 per cent of their salaries to support the initiative by their superiors while local businesses face heavy pressure from officials to ‘donate’.[245] Placing the burden of support onto the emerging entrepreneurial class is in line with Mirziyoyev’s approach that has sought to expand opportunities for the new elite (and pressuring state employees comes from a longstanding playbook), but there are future risks if the support expands elite patronage networks. There are also practical questions around how reliance on business to drive support systems if the downturn in the global economy sends the Uzbek economy into recession - so far World Bank growth projections have been cut from 5.7 per cent to 1.6 per cent but this remains open to change depending on both national and international factors.[246] The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided $375 million in credit to Uzbekistan to assist with the pandemic, while the country has ramped up gold exports at a time of rising international prices with $1.55 billion in sales from January-April 2020.[247] Understandably, the previously burgeoning tourist industry has been thrown into disarray during the crisis and demand is unlikely to rebound substantially until the global public health crisis recedes. Businesses have been offered an interest holiday on loans and some tax relief but the sector will struggle to recover. Despite wider efforts to move away from the Karimov autarkic model the impact of the pandemic has encouraged the President to launch a nationwide push to promote agricultural self-sufficiency, given that the country had to import almost three million tonnes of grain in 2019-20 and was reliant on imports of rice, soybeans and sunflower seed from the EAEU, which had been subject to an export ban during the crisis while Kazakhstan also caped its grain exports.[248] While economic barriers have been raised Mirziyoyev has taken the opportunity presented by the crisis, and the conspicuous Russian absence, to be seen to be leading regional coordination efforts in Central Asia in response to the public health crisis.[249] The message of the pandemic has been clear the swift and comparatively transparent public health response has led to performance in suppressing the virus that far exceeds many more developed countries, though authoritarian tendencies (particularly at a local level) have reared their heads on occasion to suppress dissent but not as much as might have been feared. The economic response however has been more patchy, albeit set in the context of limited resources. A number of observers had wondered if pent-up frustration catalysed by the crisis, perhaps focused on inequalities exacerbated by the crisis or a revival of previous flashpoints around construction, would manifest as some form of social explosion on the streets but for the most part has yet to happen. One example where local tensions have exploded however is in the Sokh district, an Uzbek enclave surrounded by the territory of Kyrgyzstan in the Fergana valley that has been the source of cross border tensions since independence.[250] In late May tensions flared over a long-running dispute over ownership of a spring (and frustration at corruption or harassment at border crossings), which led to riots that left 150 Uzbeks and 25 Kyrgyz injured.[251] On the Uzbek side, the incident flared into shows of public dissatisfaction with Fergana’s controversial Khohkim Shuhrat Ganiev who was the subject of protest, including reports he was pelted with stone, and calls for his dismissal. As ever Ganiev avoided dismissal, with Sokh district Khokim being replaced instead.[252] The President has responded by sending a business ombudsman to report on local economic problems and has prepared a $50 million expansion of the Sokh budget for 2020-22 with business loans, investment in local hospitals, targeted tax cuts and loans.[253] The other major flashpoint in recent months has been the dramatic collapse on May 1st of the Sardoba Dam, part of a reservoir complex in the Sirdaryo region that was primarily used for irrigation but where only the previous month work had begun to build a new hydroelectric plant.[254] The dam was built in 2017 at a cost of $400 million. The subsequent flooding led to five deaths and the evacuation of 70,000 despite the pressures of the pandemic. The evacuation itself was seen to be handled effectively by the Government with praise too for effective cross-border collaboration with Kazakhstan, which was heavily impacted by the flood water. However, concerns have been raised about the cause of the collapse and whether corruption or mismanagement had taken place during the building of the dam, with RFE/RL documenting multiple claims that construction was not up to the specified standard and that the tender process was influenced by political interests. The investigation process will be a test of the Government’s transparency and accountability, not least because President was seen to be associated with the project. The inclusion of one of those involved in constructing the dam on the board of investigation and the lack of a clear timeline or remit do not bode well in this regard. Concerns have also been raised about money allocated for support being misallocated due to local corruption and cronyism and RFE/RL report that pressure has been put on farmers in Andijan to make contributions to the Sardoba relief effort under the threat of having their land confiscated.[255] What our authors sayThis essay collection brings together a broad range of different perspectives, some of them differing, to try and help broaden the understanding of what is happening in Uzbekistan. Yuliy Yusupov examines how, from 1996 onwards, the Government of Uzbekistan set a course for strengthening state interference in the economy and implementing import substitution policy. The results have been very poor. However, since 2017 the country has started significant reforms. Much has been done over this time, but more changes are still to come. The essay covers the achievements, problems of implementation and perspectives of reforms. Currently, the emphasis is placed on foreign economic activity, the banking sector, the tax system, the legal regulation of business, the agricultural sector, and administrative reform. Kate Mallinson explores President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s reformist ambition and its impacts on the investment climate in Uzbekistan. She writes that Uzbekistan’s government has set on a clear path of liberalising the economy and improving the business environment, including removing currency controls, liberalising exchange rates and relaxing visa regulations. However, the next phase of the programme including breaking up the monopolies, privatisation and capital markets reform, is more challenging and now coincides with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse in energy prices, which will result in reduced investment capital, increased debt and a more complicated foreign business environment. Professor Kristian Lasslett writes on the complex legacy of corruption left by Uzbekistan’s first post-soviet President, Islam Karimov, who passed away in 2016. Uzbekistan did not suffer serious political upheaval on his death. However, an increasingly secretive and coercive authoritarian state groomed a political economy that favoured select networks of security chiefs, politicians, mandarins, businessmen, and organised crime figures, who built personal alliances, and leveraged unchecked state power, to administer rackets and protect economic territory. Karimov’s successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev has attempted to distinguish his Presidency through a programme of governance reforms and market liberalisation measures that tackle some, but not all, of these legacies. This essay examines how heavily the legacies of grand corruption and kleptocracy weigh on the present, looking at investigative data sets from the Mirziyoyev era. It also considers how these dynamics will mediate the reform trajectories currently under way. Navbahor Imamova writes that Uzbekistan simply cannot develop without the contributions of Uzbek professionals around the world. The good news is that they are increasingly interested and willing to return, and then work in the public and private sectors, as well as in non-governmental institutions. Others are committed to supporting reforms from their current homes overseas. They, too, want to support Uzbekistan by leveraging their social and professional networks and lending their expertise but Tashkent has not systematised its approach to talent recruitment, retention, and placement. Instead, the government is relying on its embassies to find the right talent and connect them with the relevant entities but this is all being done in an ad hoc, informal, and often haphazard way. Not surprisingly, the approach has not been effective. What Uzbekistan needs now is a transparent, fair, and professional recruitment system, specifically tasked to hire from abroad. Dilmira Matyakubova’s paper examines the rebranding policies of the government of Uzbekistan by remodelling the architecture of the cities. It argues that the urban redevelopment process is creating social and increasingly political problems as it involves forced evictions without adequate compensation or resettlement. It is becoming a major source for resistance, resentment and discontent among the population, who commit desperate actions in protesting the home demolitions and evictions. The urban transformation actions are also yielding irreversible changes in the environment surrounding historically important sites turning them into Disney-like amusement parks. The paper argues that building glittering, soaring, pretentious cities will not improve the country’s reputation. The nation branding agenda cannot be achieved without enhancing and ensuring human rights protection, independence of the judiciary, transparency, good governance and an open dialogue with people. Nikita Makarenko discusses the moves being taken to promote freedom of speech and media in Uzbekistan. Despite a few challenges such as self-censorship, lack of qualified human resources and pressure in the courts, the situation is improving. Online media is growing and bloggers are on the rise. The media is successfully united to combat the pandemic; however, the future is uncertain with a possible economic crisis on the horizon. Dilmurad Yusupov examines the challenges that grassroots activists and self-initiative NGOs are still facing in Uzbekistan despite the strong political will of President Mirziyoyev to strengthen the role of civil society in the process of democratic development of the country. While giving credit where credit is due, he argues that unlike government-organised NGOs, bottom-up groups are struggling to get registered and the whole process of administrative procedures is designed to frustrate and discourage. Besides red tape, registered NGOs are suffocating due to burdensome reporting and the demand for advance approval requirements for the day-to-day activities. On top of limited local financial resources and weak organisational capacities, Uzbek NGOs are limited in foreign funding. Practical recommendations are provided on how to allow the third sector a breath freely by erasing stereotypes, prejudice and negative attitudes towards NGOs in Uzbekistan. Lynn Schweisfurth writes on how Uzbekistan’s cotton sector has long been associated with child and forced labour, making it unattractive to global buyers bound by ethical commitments in their codes of conduct. Since coming to power in 2016, President Mirziyoyev has embarked on a reform process that has invested enormous efforts in eradicating forced labour in order to win back the trust of brands and retailers. Through the privatisation of the sector and the creation of ‘clusters’ intended to unite production, processing and manufacturing, the government hopes to entice brands to start sourcing Uzbek cotton again. But the question still remains on whether it will be enough. Steve Swerdlow writes that four years since the death of Islam Karimov, whose ruthless 27-year reign (1989-2016) in Uzbekistan became synonymous with the worst forms of repression, torture, and political imprisonment his successor President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has taken several decisive steps to address some of Karimov’s worst human rights abuses. However, the past, left unexamined, can take revenge on well-intentioned reforms. Swerdlow argues the government should fully rehabilitate political prisoners as well as victims of other serious human rights abuses. It should commit to a meaningful process of reckoning with the past and of transitional justice: judicial and non-judicial measures focused on truth and reconciliation as well as on justice and accountability to acknowledge the legacy of widespread human rights abuses under Karimov. The essay sets out a number of ways in which this might be achieved, providing a roadmap for transitional justice in Uzbekistan.Nadejda Atayeva gives a critical analysis of both of the horrific cases of human rights abuse under Karimov and also of the recent developments under Mirziyoyev. She makes the case that independent activists still face political pressure, that political prisoners and their families who have been released in recent years still face discrimination and that those in the exiled human rights community still face abuse by the authorities.Uzbek human rights activists, writing anonymously, share their concerns about the series of factors in the wake of the COVID-19 and Sardoba dam crises that may lead to future social unrest in Uzbekistan including increasing economic anxiety, issues in the disaster response and limits on freedom of speech. Eldor Tulyakov provides a comprehensive account of the legislative and administrative actions taken by the Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes detailed information by all the different sectors of economy and society. He argues that overall the Government’s response to the crisis has been effective in stabilising the economy and society while controlling the virus. Dr Luca Anceschi and Dr Vladimir Paramonov write that the evolution of Uzbekistan’s relations with China and Russia since the accession to power of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Its argument highlights the continuity sitting at the core of these relationships, showing how Uzbekistan is pursuing equidistance when it comes to the great powers, a policy that, ultimately, was perfected during the long Karimov era. [1] Francisco Olmos, State-building myths in Central Asia, Foreign Policy Centre, October 2019,[2] Catherine Putz, Uzbekistan Abolishes Exit Visa System, The Diplomat, January 2019,[3], A new moratorium proposed to amend new laws, December 2019,[4] President Mirziyoyev’s website:[5] Lee Kyung-sik, “Uzbekistan enters a new decade; great opportunities open up to spearhead transformation even deeper”, The Korea Post, February 2020,[6] Lira Zaynilova, Public Image Problems of State Instiutions in Uzbekistan: How to Establish Dialogue with the People?, May 2019, CABAR,[7] GIZ, Uzbekistan, December 2019,[8] This article suggests that Uzbekistan spends in the range of six to nine per cent on social security annually, spent across a fragmented range of different bodies,, Government of Uzbekistan, UN launch joint programme to strengthen social protective system in the country, November 2019,; The World Bank recorded the figure as 5.9% of GDP in 2018, The World Bank, International Development Association – Project appraisal document on a proposed credit in the amount of US$50 million to the Republic of Uzbekistan for a strengthening of the social protection system project, May 2019,[9] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Former security services chief sentenced to 18 years in prison, September 2019,[10] Bruce Pannier, Uzbekistan’s New Security Powerhouse: The National Guard, RFE/RL, August 2019,[11] For example Steve Swerdlow (who writes in this collection) was harassed in July 2019 in an incident seen to be orchestrated by those with links to the Security Services; Reuters, Uzbekistan says it will investigate harassment of Western rights activist, June 2019,[12], Shukhrat Ganiyev: It is high time to collaborate with the mass media, December 2019,; Nikita Makarenko, Twitter post, Twitter, June 2020,; Gazeta’uz, “All hokims have ill-wishers”, June 2020,[13] Bruce Pannier, Uzbekistan’s Unsinkable Zoyir Mirzaev, RFE/RL, November 2019,[14], Khokim of Bayautsky district approved Dilfuza Uralova, February 2020,;[15] Daryo, Tanzila Norbaeva: Governors are currently the head of the representative and executive body. In time, these two will be separated, January 2020,[16], Petition on electing Khokims gained more than 10 thousand votes, June 2020,[17] For background on local government reform: Rustam Urinboyev, Local Government in Uzbekistan, Lund University, 2018,[18] Full speech text: Lee Kyung-sik, “Uzbekistan enters a new decade; great opportunities open up to spearhead transformation even deeper”, The Korea Post, February 2020,; Eurasianet, Uzbek president’s state-of-the-nation greeted with hope and gratitude, January 2020,[19] The Economist, Which nation improved the most in 2019?, December 2019,[20] The author has experienced this but see also: Navbahor Imamova, Where Freedoms Are Expanding – Slowly, The Atlantic, October 2019,[21] There has been opportunities provided for those willing to speak positively about the changes under Mirziyoyev but for those who have yet to trust the new regime opportunities are limited.[22] Uzbekistan News, Twitter Post, Twitter, January 2020,[23] OSCE, Uzbekistan, Parliamentary Elections, 22 December 2019: Final Report, May 2020,[24] Ibid.[25] The Electoral Commission, Introduction to registering a political party,;  The Electoral Commission, UK Parliamentary general elections: Guidance for candidates and agents, November 2018,; UK Parliamentary Candidates are required to submit a deposit of £500 (6.5 million soms) which is returned if the candidate receives five per cent of the vote and all candidates receive free postage for one piece of election literature (printed at the candidates expense) to go either addressed to every elector or unaddressed to every household in the Parliamentary Constituency.[26] OSCE, Uzbekistan, Parliamentary Elections, 22 December 2019: Interim Report,; OSCE, Uzbekistan, Parliamentary Elections, 22 December 2019: Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions, December 2019,[27] Peter Leonard, Uzbekistan: Elections look livelier but choice still threadbare, Eurasianet, December 2019,[28] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan election delivers humdrum result but major expectations, December 2019,[29] OSCE, Republic of Uzbekistan: Parliamentary Elections 22 December 2019, ODIHR Election Observation Mission, Final Report, May 2020,[30] As Sam Butia points out part of the driver has been increased imports of capital products that should post Uzbekistan’s productivity in the medium to long-term: Sam Bhutia, What the recent weakening of the sum says about Uzbekistan’s economy, Eurasianet, September 2019,;; Sam Bhutia, Measuring Central Asia’s shadow economies, Eurasianet, February 2020,[31], Uzbekistan ends wheat flour and bread subsidies, September 2018,; EuroWeek Editor 1, Powering up Uzbekistan’s electricity supply, GlobalCapital, October 2019,; Further changes to electricity prices in 2019 have further increased costs to households: Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Utilities prices to go up as lure to investors, August 2019[32] Kate Mallinson, Can Uzbekistan’s President Meet Raised Expectations?, Chatham House, December 2019,[33] Sam Mceachern, GM Uzbekistan Now Wholly Owned By Uzbek Government, GM Authority, July 2019,;, “UzAuto Motors has constantly violated consumer rights” – Antimonopoly Committee, March 2020,[34], How much will it be cheaper to import a car to Uzbekistan from August 1?, June 2020,[35] RFE/RL, Uzbekistan restores patrol posts abolished by Mirziyayev, December 2019,[36] Richard Asquith, Uzbekistan VAT cut to 15% Oct 2019, Avalara VATlive, September 2019,[37] Todd Prince, Uzbekistan Turns To Foreign Social-Media Stars To Boost Tourism, RFE/RL, September 2019,; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Visa of the Republic of Uzbekistan,[38] Cherry Hysteria - middle men competing with farmers for supplies (big Chinese export markets) and effective local auctions going on; UZ Daily, Uzbekistan and China sign a protocol, opening up the Chinese market for Uzbek melon and honey, September 2019,;, Uzbekistan first started exporting peanuts to China, June 2020,; Talks are underway for other fresh produce including pomegranates, lemons and grape.[39] For more details see: Alisher Ilhamov, What is the reason for the continued practice of “voluntary=forced”cotton picking in Uzbekistan?, November 2019, CABAR,[40], About 40% of water is lost in irrigation networks – Minister of Water Resources, June 2020,[41] State Statistics Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan:[42] Ron Synovitz and Sadriddin Ashur, Uzbek Farmers Get ‘Cluster’ Bombed by Reforms, RFE/RL, December 2019,; Tellingly Agriculture Minister Jamshid Hodjaev has been quoted as saying ‘Uzbekistan has four million hectare arable land but most of it is not used. So, the principal question is not whether the land should be a private property but how to best use what's available. You can do a lot with any land leased for 50 years.’; Navbahor Imamova, Twitter Post, Twitter, January 2020,[43] UZ Daily, The liquidation process of Uzbekenergo starts, April 2020,[44] Russian Aviation Insider, Uzbekistan completes a key stage in the restructuring of its civil aviation, November 2019,[45] Dentons, Changes in the Uzbek banking system, February 2020,; Ben Aris, Uzbekistan banking on international investors, BNE Intellinews, September 2019,[46] Eurasian Investor, Uzbekistan attempting difficult move away from state-led growth, November 2019,[48] Sherzod Eraliev, Can Return Migration Be a ‘Brain Gain’ for Uzbekistan?, The Diplomat, May 2019,[49] Kun UZ, Average amount of remittances sent by labor migrants from Russia to Uzbekistan announced, December 2019,; Bruce Pannier, Do Oil Price Cuts Signal Bad Economic Times Will Return To Central Asia?, RFE/RL, March 2020,; The World Bank, World Bank Personal remittances, received (% of GDP), Uzbekistan,[50]Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Heartbreak and despair for expat laborers trapped by COVID, June 2020,[51]Peter Leonard, Uzbekistan: A private sector affair, Eurasianet, August 2019,; The World Bank, Uzbekistan: Toward a New, More Open Economy, August 2019,[52]Todd Prince, Where Wall Street Meets Tashkent: Amid Reforms At Home, Uzbek Officials Make Their Pitch To Investors In New York, July 2019,[53] JSC <Almalyk MMC> website:; Azernews, Uzbekistan leaves full profit to Almalyk Mining and Metallurgical Combine, October 2018,[54] The Tashkent Times, Alisher Usmanov donates US$20 million for emergency hospital to treat coronavirus, April 2020,; Ben Aris, Uzbek-born philanthropist Alisher Usmanov donates $ 15mn to help victims of the Sardoba dam distaster, BNE Intellinews, May 2020,[55] Henry Foy, Alisher Usmanov: ‘I was never what you could call an oligarch’, Financial Times January 2020[56] Buyuk Kelajak website:; Press Release PR Newswire, The International Chodiev Foundation Welcomes Nafissa Chodieva and Asal Chodieva to its Management Team, Markets Insider, November 2018,;, Ministry of Energy, Buyuk Kelajak sign a memorandum of understanding, March 2019,[57]  BBC News, Uzbek transport police banned from hiding behind trees, March 2018,[58] David Lewis, TACKLING CORRUPTION IN UZBEKISTAN: A WHITE PAPER, Open Society Foundations, June 2016,; Rustam Urinboyev, Corruption in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan, Lund University, 2018,[59] Miranda Patrucic, Following Gulnara’s Money, OCCRP, March 2015,[60] ACCA, In Uzbekistan, former Prosecutor General and Special Services’ head with his deputy were convicted, February 2020,[61], Court verdict against the ex-khokim of Samarkand region Turobjon Jurayev announced, August 2019,[62] Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2019,; Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2015,[63], Uzbekistan approves the State Anti-Corruption Program on combating corruption, June 2019,[64] Anti-Corruption Network for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Uzbekistan anti-corruption project, OECD,[65] Situation explained by the EITI International Secretariat to the author.[66], The frat law on public service is put up for discussion, May 2020,[67] DECREE CABINET OF MINISTERS OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN, On measures to improve the architectural appearance and landscaping of the central part of the city of Tashkent, as well as create appropriate conditions for the population and guests of the capital, July 2017;, Appointed hokim of Tashkent, December 2018,[68] The World Bank, Prosperous Villages,; The details of the proposal can be seen here though this was when the funding request was for $75 million: The World Bank, Uzbekistan Prosperous Villages, October 2018,[69] Lee Kyung-sik, “Uzbekistan enters a new decade; great opportunities open up to spearhead transformation even deeper”, The Korea Post, February 2020,[70] Ibid.[71], Discussion of draft regulatory documents of the Republic of Uzbekistan:[72] The previous law was frames as follows: ‘the Regulation on the procedure for compensation of losses to citizens and legal entities in connection with the seizure of land for state and public needs (Appendix to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated May 29, 2006 N 97) gave five fairly broad grounds for land seizure:
  • the provision of land for the needs of defence and state security, protected natural areas, the creation and functioning of free economic zones;
  • fulfilment of obligations arising from international treaties;
  • discovery and development of mineral deposits;
  • construction (reconstruction) of roads and railways, airports, airfields, aeronautical facilities and aeronautical centres, railway facilities, bridges, subways, tunnels, power systems and power lines, communication lines, space activities, trunk pipelines, engineering and communications networks; and
  • execution of master plans for settlements in the construction of facilities at the expense of the State budget of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as in other cases directly provided for by laws and decisions of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.’
See:, All legislation of Uzbekistan,[73] Consent, according to the legislation means that the initiator of the development has to gain 75 per cent of the residents’ consent of the building targeted for redevelopment/demolition. If the remaining 25 per cent of the residents’ were to withhold consent then the initiator would be able to go to court to obtain final approval.[74] Kristian Lasslett, You should know where the money’s coming from: a response to the mayor of Tashkent, openDemocracy, February 2019,[75], Court verdict against the ex-khokim of Samarkand region Turobjon Jurayev announced, August 2019,;  CABAR, Renovation in Uzbekistan: to Evict and Demolish, April 2019,[76] Sadriddin Ashur and Ozodlik, In Khorezm, thousands of people blocked the highway in protest against non-payment of compensation for demolition of houses (video), Ozodlik, July 2019,[77] BBC News, Uzbeks protest against at house demolitions, July 2019,[78], How Rishtan is undergoing reconstruction, July 2019,; Bruce Pannier, In Uzbekistan, The Fraught Politics of Building Demolitions, RFE/RL, July 2019,;, In Yangiyul hastily demolished houses, July 2019,[79] Victoria Panfilova, Uzbek President rants at local authorities about illegal house demolitions, Vestnik Kavkaza, August 2019,; HRW, Charting Progress in Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan, October 2019,[80] Vladimir Rozanskij, Another woman sets herself on fire to save her home,, February 2020,[81] Fergane.News, A resident of Kashkadarya set herself on fire in protest against the demolition of her house, February 2020,[82] Fergana.News, Uzbek Justice Ministry hints at new wave of illegal buildings demolitions, February 2020,[83]ACCA, Uzbekistan: no elements of crime were found in kidnapping and torture of blogger, February 2020,; JfJ, Attacks on journalists, bloggers and media workers in the Central Asia and Azerbaijan, 2017-2019,[84] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Tree-lovers score win in battle against developers, February 2020,[85] The Propsiska system was in fact strengthened in the post-Soviet period over its predecessor so that as of 1999 it became almost impossible for outsiders to gain residency in Tashkent.[86] William Seitz, Free Movement and Affordable Housing: Public Preferences for Reform in Uzbekistan, The World Bank, January 2020,[87] Umida Hashimova, The Unattainable Uzbek Propiska, The Diplomat, December 2018,;, Permanent registration: income or income? What about human rights? December 2018,[88] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Planned Propiska changes slammed by public, March 2020,; Fergana.News, Uzbek draft law proposes abolition of “Propiska”system, April 2020,; Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of The Republic of Uzbekistan, On further simplification of the procedure for permanent registration and registration of citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the city of Tashkent and Tashkent region, ID-15922,, March 2020,[89] William Seitz, Free Movement and Affordable Housing Public Preferences for Reform in Uzbekistan,  The World Bank, January 2020,; Catherine Putz, William Seitz on Uzbekistan’s Propiska Problem, The Diplomat, February 2020,[90] GOV.UK, Guidance: Community Infrastructure Levy, June 2014 (updated September 2019),; LGA, S106 obligations overview,[91] As Seitz notes 5 million, predominantly urban, homes previously owned by the State Housing Fund were privatised in the 1991-93 period in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.[92] Both Seitz figure 4 and using more recent figures for comparator cities from: Wendell Cox, Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey Executive Summary, January 2019, New Geography,[93] Services that could be delivered by either the private sector or using cooperative or local authority led models.[94] Deniz Kandiyoti, Invisible To the World? The Dynamics of Forced Child Labour in the Cotton Sector of Uzbekistan, SOAS,[95] Ibid.[96] ILO, Third-party monitoring of child labour and forced labour during the 2019 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, 2020,[97] Ibrat Safo and William Kremer, Doctors and nurses forced to pick cotton, BBC News, October 2012,; Cotton Campaign, Pick All the Cotton: Update on Uzbekistan’s Use of Forced Child Labour in 2009 Harvest, December 2009,[98] ILO, Third Party Monitoring on Child and Forced Labour in Uzbekistan,[99] ILO, Third-party monitoring of child labour and forced labour during the 2019 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, 2020,[100] Jonas Astrup, Twitter Post, Twitter, September 2019,[101] It is worth noting that in the essay by Lynn Schweisfurth of the Uzbek Forum she notes some scepticism that the ILO’s data is fully capturing the scale of the continuing problems. However given the lack of other hard data, the detailed work that has gone into the ILO’s process and the fact that its figures are comparable year on year they provide the best place to start when examining the overall trends in the reduction of forced labour.[102] Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, Cotton Harvest in Uzbekistan – 2019, March 2020,[103] Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, The accountability gap: Are Uzbek bank officials really organizing nationwide forced labor?, February 2020,[104] Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, Cotton clusters and the despair of Uzbek farmers: land confiscations , blank contracts and failed payments, April 2020,[105] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan scraps cotton state-order system, March 2020,; RFE/RL, Presidential Decree: The cotton-growing schedule and its purchase price will be abolished, March 2020,[106] From conversations with international officials and cotton campaigners see also:, Jamshid Khobzhaev called the abolition of state orders for cotton and grain a turning point in the life of 60% of the population, February 2020,[107] Centre 1, Shukhrat Ganiev: five reasons to cancel the boycott of Uzbek cotton, May 2019,[108] Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Open letter to Cotton Campaign Coalition of removing the Uzbek Cotton Pledge, April 2020,[109] Julian K. Hughes and Nate Herman, It’s Not Time to End the Uzbek Cotton Boycott Yet, Foreign Policy May 2020,[110] No relation of the controversial Fergana Governor.[111] hNavbahor Imamova, Twitter Post, Twitter, April 2020,[112] This framing is that of the editor. For the suggested criteria for lifting the boycott being put forward by the Cotton Campaign see the article in the collection by Lynn Schweisfurth.[113] Ishita Petkar and Lynn Schweisfurth, Can communities lead their own development in places where civil society is severly restricted? Development banks think so, Medium, April 2020,[114] Mehribon Bekieva and Ozodlik, Hundreds of residents of Andijan closed for quarantine brought on a clean-up day to Mirziyayev’s arrival, Ozodlik, April 2020,[115] RSF, Ranking 2020,; RSF, Ranking 2015,; The higher the Global Score in the ranking the worse the situation.[116] IIWPR Central Asia, Uzbekistan: A Small Dose of Media Freedom, IWPR, June 2019,[117] RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Independent Uzbek Journalist Released After Nine Years in Prison, RFE/RL, October 2017,; ACCA, In Uzbekistan, journalist spent almost 20 years in prison, April 2020,; CPJ, Uzbekistan releases remaning jailed journalists, May 2018,; Though the use of administrative detention continues and in the Olloshukurova case forced psychiatric detention was used instead.[118] Fergana.News, An official detaining a Ferghana journalist lost his job, April 2020,[119] The UNNA claimed that Sodiqova had resigned voluntarily, a claim she denied: BBC News, Uzbekistan: Why did journalist Anora Sodiqova resign? Uzbekistan, May 2020,; Navbahor Imamova, Twitter Post, Twitter, May 2020,[120] Malik Mansur, Uzbekistan Orders Article on Abuse to Be Deleted, VOA, April 2020,; Irina Matvienko, Twitter Post, Twitter, March 2020,; Reader Stories, …mother said that I was spoiled, and that boy was not to blame (when I was 3 years old, he was 12 years old)…., NeMolchi, February 2020,[121]Public Fund for Support and Development of National Mass Media,[122] Currently the legislation reads Administrative Code, article 40: Slander i.e. that is, the dissemination of deliberately false fabrications, disgracing another person — entails the imposition of a fine of twenty to sixty basic calculated values; Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Administrative Responsibility, Section One, General, Lex.UZ, September 1994,;  Criminal code, article 139: SlanderSlander, i.e. the distribution of deliberately false fabrications, dishonoring another person, committed after the application of administrative penalties for the same actions, shall be punishable by a fine of up to two hundred basic calculation units or by compulsory community service up to three hundred hours or by correctional labour up to two years. The information in the January draft legislation was here: ACCA, In Uzbekistan, prison sentence for slander and insult will be replaced by a fine, January 2020,; Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, A Common Part, Lex.UZ, September 1994,[123] Article 19, Uzbekistan: Law on Mass Media,; Article 19, Uzbekistan: Law on the Protection of Professional Activity of Journalists, May 2019,[124] For some recent examples see: Amnesty International, Blogging in Uzbekistan: welcoming tourism, silencing criticism, June 2020,[125] Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, Home of poet and journalist Mahmud Rajanbov raided by police, May 2019,; Cotton Campaign, Uzbekistan: Amidst reform effort, journalists and activists face criminal charges, arbitrary detention, forced psychiatric treatment, International Labor Rights Forum, October 2019,; RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Uzbek Poet Gets Suspended Prison Term For Importing ‘Banned’ Books, RFE/RL, October 2019,[126] RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Blogger Flees Uzbekistan After Spending Weeks in Involuntary Psychiatric Care, RFE/RL, January 2020,[127]Ozodlik, Khorezm-based journalist Davlatnazar Ruzmetov was detained at a police station for five hours, Ozodlik, October 2019,; All three had been previously involved in monitoring and exposing the issue of forced labour in Uzbekistan: Mehribon Bekieva and Ozodlik, In Khorezm, a car knocked to death a journalist Davlatnazar Ruzmetov, who was under pressure from the authorities, Ozodlik, November 2019,,[128] Catherine Putz, Conservative Religious Bloggers Detained in Uzbekistan, The Diplomat, September 2018,[129] Navbahor Imamova, Twitter Post, Twitter, March 2020,[130] Agency of Information and Mass Communications under the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Provisions,[131], “We believe in freedom of speech and its power” – Saida Mirziyoyeva, February 2020,[132] Navbahor Imamova, Twitter Post, Twitter, June 2020,[133] Eurasianet, Uzbek Authorities Crack Down on Another Foreign NGO in Tashkent, September 2004,; RSF, Uzbek authorities shut down international organization Internews, January 2016,; The New Humanitarian, New registration procedure for international NGOs, January 2004,; Office for Communications, Uzbek Government Forces Closures of Local Soros Foundation, Open Society Foundations, April 2004,[134] Relief Web, Uzbekistan: Government closes another American NGO, May 2006,[135] Unions website:; YukSalish, NGOs and volunteers on one web site, March 2020,[136] Oonagh Gay, Quangos, UK Parliament, 2010,[137], Maidan paranoia, January 2020,[138] See the Exporting Repression Project.[139] Steve Swerdlow, Twitter Post, Twitter, February 2020,; RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Uzbek Justice Ministry Registers Prisoners’ Rights Group, U.S. – Based NGO, RFE/RL, March 2020,[140] Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, Failure to Register – Please Submit Again: Uzbek Human Rights NGO Rejected Once More, April 2020,; Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, Tricks, Threats and Deception: Registering an NGO in Uzbekistan, March 2020,[141] Ozodlik, Under the President of Uzbekistan, a Public Chamber is being created, April 2020,[142] HRW, Uzbekistan: Two Brutal Deaths in Custody, August 2002,[143] HRW, Charting Progress in Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan, October 2019,[144] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Scholar imprisoned for espionage absolved and released, September 2019,[145] HRW, Charting Progress in Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan, October 2019,[146] RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Uzbek President’s Decree Says Evidence Obtained Though Torture Inadmissible, RFE/RL, December 2017,[147] Mansur Mirovalev, Uzbekistan closes infamous prison, but experts question motive, Al Jazeera, August 2019,; Farangus Najibullah, Uzbekistan’s ‘House of Torture’, RFE/RL, August 2012,[148] The editor is grateful for input from Penal Reform International in relation to these issues.[149] HRW, Uzbekistan: Torture Widespread, Routine, December 2019,[150]Will Nicol, A Torture Scandal Is Prompting Scrutiny For Uzbekistan’s Bid To Host The 2027 Asian Cup, Forbes July 2020,[151] NHRC website:; Ombudsman website:[152] Navbahor Imamova, Twitter Post, Twitter, May 2020,[153] Funding figures provided to the FPC in PDF format.[154] HRW, Beyond Samarkand: Can Uzbekistan Turn Its Nascent Reform Efforts into a Clear Break with Its Brutal Past?, March 2019,[155] Asian Forum website:[156] NHRC, Voluntary Obligations of Uzbekistan,[157] Nataliya Vasilyeva, Secret Uzbek court convicts former envoy to UK for treason amid human rights objections, The Telegraph, January 2020, and Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Ex-deputy ambassador to UK imprisoned after secret trial, January 2020,[158] Bruce Pannier and Muhammad Tahir, Majlis Podcast: Spy Games In Uzbekistan, June 2020, RFE/RL,[159] Amnesty International, Uzbekistan: New Campaign of Phishing and Spyware Attacks Targeting Human Rights Defenders, March 2020,[160] Umida Hashimova, What Recent Protests in Uzbekistan Really Tell Us, The Diplomat, December 2019,[161] OSCE ODIHR, Comments on the draft law on rallies, meetings and demonstrations of the Republic of Uzbekistan, September 2019,[162] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Andijan blindness slows transition to era of openness, experts say, May 2020,[163] KunUz, The National Strategy of Uzbekistan on Human Rights has been approved, June 2020,[164] Local observers reported extraordinary, but unverified, claims that Tashkent traffic police previously were to required to meet a $100 per day quota for fines and bribes to return to their bosses (before officers took their own cut).[165] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Police to fit interrogation rooms with recording equipment, June 2020,[166] UN OHCHR, Uzbekistan faces crucial challenges for judicial independence, says UN human rights expert, September 2019,[167] From discussions with a well-known legal observer.[168], Shavkat Mirziyoyev sharply criticized prosecutors, August 2017,; Umida Hashimova, Uzbekistan Makes Serious Cuts to the Prosecutors General’s Office, The Diplomat, March 2019,[169], Forms of activity reports and statistics, January 2020,[170] The Tashkent Times, Central office of Madad NGO opens in Tashkent, December 2019,[171] Lee Kyung-sik, “Uzbekistan enters a new decade; great opportunities even deeper”, The Korea Post, February 2020,[172] Supreme Council of Judges of the Republic of Uzbekistan website: UN, Human Rights Council: Visit to Uzbekistan, April 2020,[173] Believed to be a range of between seven to ten million soms (700-1000 dollars) per month, significantly more than the average wage of 2.21 million soms per month. For information on the latter see The Tashkent Times, Average salary in Uzbekistan at US$ 235, October 2019,,634%2C880%20soums%2C%20US%24%2067.[174] United Nations Human Rights, A/HRC/44/47/Add.1, April 2020,[175] Central Asia Program, Women of Uzbekistan: Empowered on Paper, Inferior on the Ground, July 2019,[176], For the first time in recent years, the Senate has appointed a woman ambassador, June 2020,[177] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Little change in parliament, but more women represented, January 2020,[178] In discussions with the editor.[179] Norma, Admission to Kindergartens – From 3 Years, August 2017,[180] NeMolchi website:; NeMolchi Facebook page:; UNDP Europe and Central Asia, #HearMeToo: Activists in Central Asia break ground in fight against violence, November 2018,[181] See point eight her: OHCHR, Sixth periodic report submitted by Uzbekistan under article 18 of the Convention, due in the 2019, November 2019,; CIS-Legislation, Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan, September 2019,; UZ Daily, President signs law on the protection of women from harassment, September 2019,[182] ACCA, Law concerning the protection of women in Uzbekistan is inactive for four months, July 2020,[183] Nikita Makarenko, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2019,[184] NHRC website:[185] A terrorist group founded by ethnic Uzbeks Tohir Yuldashev and Juma Namangani (Jumaboi Khodjiyev) who participated in the Civil War in Tajikistan and became enmeshed in the conflict in Afghanistan.[186] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Hizb ut-Tahrir trial a testbed for religious boundaries, May 2018,; Galima Bukharbaeva, Uzbek Prison Brutallity, IWPR,[187]Sarah Kendzior, Inventing Akromiya: The Role of Uzbek Propagandists in the Andijon Massacre, Academia,; Jeffrey Donovan, Former Uzbek Spy Accuses Government Of Massacres, Seek Asylum, RFE/RL, September 2008,[188] HRW, Charting Progress in Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan, October 2019,; Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Hizb ut-Tahrir trial a testbed for religious boundaries, May 2018,; USCIRF 2020 Annual Report,[189], Shavkat Mirziyoyev pardoned 258 convicts, May 2020,[190] USCIRF 2020 Annual Report,; Catherine Putz, US Religious Freedom Report Signals Improvements in Uzbekistan, The Diplomat, April 2020,[191] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan keeps up heat on marginal Islamic groups, May 2020,[192] OHCHR, UN expert welcomes Uzbekistan roadmap to ensure freedom of religion or belief, June 2018,; Mushfig Bayram and Felix Corley, Uzbekistan: When will draft Religion Law be made public?, Forum 18, June 2020,[193] The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan On Freedom of Worship and Religious Organizations (New Versin),; HRW, Laws and Rules Regulating Religious Attire, 1999,[194] RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Uzbek Teachers Get Tough Assignment: ‘Remove Their Hijabs, But Don’t Hurt Their Feelings’, RFE/RL, October 2019,; Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: Supporters of Islamic clothing take battle to court, March 2019,; RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Fresh Anti-Beard Campaign Reported In Uzbekistan, RFE/RL, September 2019,; RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Uzbek Men Reportedly Detained, Forced To Shave Beards, RFE/RL, August 2019,[195] The Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, T. About Astanov’s Case, January 2020,; Mushfig Bayram, Uzbekistan: Muslim activist’s sentence imminent?, Forum 18, October 19,; Sentenced under 244 d) of the Criminal Code for the Production or storage for the purpose of disseminating materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism, calls for pogroms or forced evictions of citizens or aimed at creating panic among the population, as well as production, storage for the purpose of distribution or demonstration of attributes or symbols of religious extremist, terrorist organizations… d) using the media or telecommunications networks, as well as the worldwide information network Internet; Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, A Common Part, September 1994, Lex.UZ, For the full criminal code see[196] RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Uzbek Governor In Hot Water After ‘Ugly Beard,’ Hijab Remarks, RFE/RL, September 2019,[197] Mushfig Bayram, Uzbekistan: Obstacle, pressure, bribe demands obstruct legal status applications, Forum 18, December 2019,[198] Mushfig Bayram, Uzbekistan: Haj pilgrims face state control, bribery, exit ban lists, Forum 18, November 2019,[199] Mushfig Bayram, Uzbekistan: Despite coronavirus lockdown officials continue literature raids, Forum 18, April 2020,[200] Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan,[201] Reuters, Anything you want – except gay rights, Uzbekistan tells U.N., May 2018,[202] Darina Solod, In Uzbekistan, homosexuality is illegal. Here’s what LGBT life is like there, open Democracy, February 2020,; Global Voices, In Uzbekistan, where homosexuality is illegal, LGBTQ+ people must hide to survive, November 2019,; ADC Memorial, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan: Criminal Prosecution for Consensual Same-Sex Relationships Between Men,[203] RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Murder In Tashkent: Killing of Gay Man Spotlights Plight Of Uzbek LGBT Community, RFE/RL, September 2019,; Umberto Bacchi, Gay man’s murder raises questions over Uzbek human rights reforms, Thomson Reuters Foundation News, September 2019,; Steve Swerdlow, Twitter Post, Twitter, September 2019,[204] tashGangs Telegram channel,; Egor Petrov and Ekaterina Kazachenko, No one will hide behind a rainbow (18+), September 2019,[205] RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Murder In Tashkent: Killing Of Gay Man Spotlights Plight of Uzbek LGBT Community, RFE/RL, September 2019,[206] For example, this bizarre article argues for the need to maintain social taboos on discussing LGBTQ issues for fear of moving the Overton Window, arguing that if ‘a person succumbs to this hobby (homosexuality), he will lose such spiritual qualities as a sense of patriotism, the instinct of self-preservation and self-defense’. Re:post, Analyst from UzA announces introduction of homosexuality ideas in Uzbekistan through Overton’s Window, October 2019,[207] For more on Dilmurad’s work on disability rights please see his website here:[208] Ozodlik, On the border between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is expected to open another border post, December 2019,[209] Muso Bobohozhiev, As a result of the conflict, about 175 people were injured on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border on both sides, Asia-Plus, June 2020,[210] Bek Khoshimov, Twitter Post, Twitter, December 2019,; Eurasianet, Uzbekistan befuddled by Eurasian Economic Union tug of war, November 2019,[211] Luca Anceschi, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2019,[212] Muhammad Tahir and Bruce Pannier, Majlis Podcast: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Show Dissatisfaction With Eurasian Economic Union, RFE/RL, May 2020,[213] Shukhrat Babadzhanov and Ozodlik, An employee of the Russian oil company Lukoil called the Uzbek workers “a crowd of rams” (video), Ozodlik, November 2019,; Eurasianet, Uzbekistan bristles at Russia wading into language law debate, May 2020,[214] Elliot Watson, Russia losing ground in Central Asia as key rival pumps in cash, GlobalMarkets, May 2019,[215] Asia Bound, Mapping China’s Health Silk Road, Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020,; EIAS, “The Health Silk Road”: Implications for the EU under Covid-19, April 2020,[216] Reid Standish, China’s Central Asian Plans Are Unnerving Moscow, Foreign Policy, December 2019,[217], Chinese, Uzbek FMs hold talks on ties, August 2019,; Mansur Mirovalev, Why are Central Asian countries so quiet on Uighur persecution?, Al Jazeera, February 2020,; The Tashkent Times, Uzbekistan joins countries backing China’s Xinjiang policy, July 2019,; Joanna Lillis, Twitter Post, Twitter, November 2019,[218] Several EU member states but also Switzerland remains a major outlet for Uzbek Gold; FDFA, Bilateral relations Switzerland – Uzbekistan,; OEC, Uzbekistan,; For information about the growing relations between Italy and Uzbekistan see: UZ Daily, Prospects for cooperation with the Confederation of Industry of Italy discussed, May 2020,; Davide Cancarini, Italy and Central Asia, a ‘proxy friendship’ or a serious foreign policy commitment?, FPC, March 2020,[219] EEAS, New EU Strategy on Central Asia, May 2019,; U.S. Department of State, United States Strategy for Central Asia 2019-2025: Advancing Sovereignty and Economic Prosperity (Overview), February 2020,[220] Eurasianet, U.S. experiments with three-way dialogue with Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, May 2020,[221] Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey, Uzbekistan aim to boost bilateral trade to %5 bln, February 2020,[222] UK/Uzbekistan: Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [CS Uzbekistan No.1/2019],[223] Eurasian Inventor, About,; Ownership of the copyright for Eurasian Investor belongs to CCI Ltd (Corporate Communications International Ltd) whose director Constantine Bridgeman was listed as CEO of Trinity Events and Eurasian Investor is listed a media brand of Trinity Events Group (home to a number of event brands including Adam Smith Conferences); Trinity Events Group website:;  UZ Invest Forum, A Major Two-Day Conference, Uzbekistan: One of world’s most promising economies,[224] Matthew Fisher and Robert Garden, Perspectives: Uzbekistan internationalizes legal landscape to entice foreign investors, November 2019,[225] MDIS Tashkent, Accounting and Finance,[226] Shokhruz Samadov, Twitter Post, Twitter, October 2019,[227] Figures according to Cambridge Assessments.[228] Nikita Makarenko, Twitter Post, Twitter, March 2020,[229] Grata International, Uzbekistan has announced the quarantine regime, March 2020,[230] Umida Hashimova, Uzbekistan Adopts Strict Regulations To Fight COVID-19, The Diplomat, April 2020,[231], Construction at large facilities will resume, April 2020,; AsiaTerra, In Uzbekistan, during the period of “self-isolation” allowed to build large facilities, April 2020,[232] Javlon Vakhabov, Twitter Post, Twitter, April 2020,[233] Xinhua, Uzbekistan eases COVID-19 restrictions, Asia & Pacific, May 2020,; Reuters, Uzbekistan extends duration of coronavirus curbs, but eases some, May 2020,; Almaz Kumenov and Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks cautiously, anxiously, eye return to familiar patterns, Eurasianet, May 2020,[234] Mena FN, Uzbekistan to resume international flights, domestic train services soon, June 2020,[235] Development Strategy Center and CERR, Information on measures to combat the effects of coronavirus in Uzbekistan, May 2020,[236] Information via Telegram Channel @koronavirusinfouz; Reuters, Uzbekistan extends duration of coronavirus curbs, but eases some, May 2020,; BBC News, Coronavirus UK map: How many confirmed cases are there in your area?, (continuously updated),[237] Radio Ozodlik, Tashkent teachers used as “trolls” praising Mirziyayev’s quarantine policy, Ozodlik, April 2020,[238], Uzbekistan criminalizes fakes about COVID-19, March 2020,; HRW, Central Asia: Respect Rights in Covid-19 Response, April 2020,[239] Navbahor Imamova, Twitter Post, Twitter, May 2020,; Navbahor Imamova, Twitter Post, Twitter, May 2020,[240], It is estimated that Uzbekistan could receive about $ 38 million in fines during quarantine. Ahead, at least three more weeks of self-isolation, April 2020,[241] Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, Human Rights Activists Isolated for 14 Days After Monitoring Cotton Fields, June 2020,[242] See the essay in this collection by Eldor Tulyakov[243] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan: President nixes helicopter money idea, appeals to business community, April 2020,; Irina Matvienko, Facebook Post, Facebook, April 2020,[244] Kindness/Freedom, The campaign to forcibly transfer money to the fund initiated by the President will intensify, Ozodlik, April 2020,[245] Ibid.; Bruce Pannier, Crony Charities Spring Up in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan Amid COVID-19 Crisis, RFE/RL, May 2020,[246] Office of the Chief Economist, Fighting COVID-19, Europe and Central Asia Economic Update, World Bank Group, Spring 2020,[247] Alisher Ruziohunov, Twitter Post, Twitter, May 2020,; bne IntelliNews, Long Read: The Growers – a handful of countries in New Europe are coping with the coronacrisis and are still expanding, May 2020,[248] Eurasianet, Uzbekistan shores up food defences as coronavirus rages, April 2020,[249] Bruce Pannier, Mirziyoyev Steps Up As COVID-19 Crisis Increases Contact Among Central Asian Leaders, RFE/RL, April 2020,[250] RFE/RL, Sokh Exclave: Two Decades of Simmering Tension, January 2013,[251] Muso Bobohodzhiev, As a result of the confict, about 175 people were injured on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border on both sides,Asian-Plus, June 2020,;  BBC Uzbek, Sukh: Isn't Uzbekistan ready to talk to Kyrgyzstan?, June 2020,[252] BBC News, Uzbekistan: Why are the Sukhis dissatisfied with the governor? Uzbekistan (Video), June 2020,[253] Fergana.News, Shavkat Mirziyoyev reminds Uzbeks of a thousand-year neighbourhood with Kyrsgyzstan, June 2020,;, Mirziyoyev sent business ombudsman for 2 months to Ferghana region to study problems of entrepreneurs, June 2020,; Eurasianet, Uzbekistan pledges huge investments in troubled exclace, June 2020;[254] Hydropower & Dams, Investigations underway following Sardoba dam breach in Uzbekistan, The International Journal on Hydropower & Dams, May 2020,[255] BBC Uzbek, Sardoba tragedy: Has the allocated aid money become "familiar"?, June 2020, and Mehribon Bekieva, Andijan farmers who did not transfer money to liquidate the consequences of emergencies in the Syrdarya region are threatened with land acquisition, Ozodlik, June 2020, [post_title] => Introducing Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => introducing-mirziyoyevs-uzbekistan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-07-20 17:24:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-07-20 16:24:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[18] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4692 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-07-14 00:01:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-07-13 23:01:25 [post_content] => Spotlight on Uzbekistan has sought to examine the state of the reform process in the country across a wide range of areas, the perhaps unsurprising headline conclusion is that a lot has been done, and there is a lot still to do. The reform process is real, but so are the significant holes in it. To meet the aspirations set out in several of President Mirziyoyev’s proclamations a lot of work still needs to be done to create an open economy, pluralist politics and a free society, rather than the easier but less worthwhile transformation from Karmiov’s closed, autarkic authoritarian state to a sleek, shiny but oligarchic one. Mirziyoyev’s real end goal is still somewhat unclear- whether he intends only a limited authoritarian modernisation (as seen in neighbouring Kazakhstan where the limits of such a transition are now becoming ever more starkly exposed) or whether something more ambitious is planned, and whether that greater ambition extends to eventually becoming a fully functioning democracy and market economy. Since 2016 there has been appreciable economic progress for several sectors of society, a reduction in state interference in everyday life, and a notable increase in some freedoms, particularly for an emerging group of, predominantly Tashkent based, activists and experts who willing choose in some way to engage with the Government’s reform project. This has been genuine progress, which has garnered Uzbekistan much good will from the international community. However the lingering suspicion remains that, as Kristian Lasslett argues, while ‘modest accommodations have also been made to civil society by the Mirziyoyev government this appears to be driven more by reputational concerns that impact on investor/business confidence, rather than a conversion to liberal politics.’ Mirziyoyev’s desire to project a pro-business image, his connections to leading business people and nascent privatisation efforts have created new opportunities for politically connected individuals. He has also used this business elite influence to help solidify his power base against pressures from the old security elite. So how Uzbekistan addresses this emerging challenge will be critical to the overall success of the reform process. If the next few years merely see a reshuffling of political and economic power to new elites, under the cover of rhetoric about the reforms, it will create new structural problems and ultimately undermine how the ‘new’ Uzbekistan is seen around the world. Corruption, criminalising gay people and forced labour (despite real progress on the latter) are still major drags on Uzbekistan’s international image. The new freedoms, particularly in terms of freedom of speech have created a space for ‘constructive criticism’, where government delivery and the performance of officials and legislation can broadly be criticised. However, the ability of powerful figures to apply informal pressure or action in the civil courts remains and certain topics including harsh criticism of the President is still off limits. Under this approach of ‘managed freedom’ the Government may be more responsive but it is not accountable, other than to the limits imposed by public opinion in a country still slowly emerging from the heavy hand of Karimov. The response to recent crises, both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Sardoba Dam collapse, have highlighted the successes and failings of the new system. Decisive initial activity which helped control the virus spread and evacuate those displaced by the flood; a flurry of slightly disjointed regulatory and financial measures (though Uzbekistan is far from alone in this) were put in place that helped provide some economic stabilisation; extraordinary new powers (particularly on freedom of movement and assembly) have been used more responsibly than they would have been under Karimov but with still some abuse at the local level; a reticence to be open to past failings (in the case of Sardoba); and innovations such as the Sakhovat va Komak (‘Generosity and Assistance’) fund that have delivered important benefits to the worst affected by the crisis but have facilitated old habits around enforced or pressured participation in this national effort. In the difficult times ahead the Government will need to take further steps to make itself more accountable to the public and more effective in its operation to minimise the risk of social unrest as the country tries to put the economy back on track whilst absorbing large numbers of workers returning from Russia. Refining the ReformsWhen it comes to taking the reform process to the next stage the Presidential administration needs to try to stop acting like a shark who needs to keep pushing forwards in order to survive. The frenetic top down activity is not sustainable and its effectiveness is declining. Spending a bit more time getting legislation right the first time through early consultation with stakeholders will help reduce the need for clarifying decrees and further updates. More time for Parliament to scrutinise legislation and advise on Presidential decrees could be helpful for both institutions. There could also be a role for an independent committee, perhaps involving the new Civic Chamber, to review decrees, to help ensure they are aligned with international standards and do not contradict each other. Much has been written, both in this publication and elsewhere, about the need to improve the capacity in the Uzbek civil service and this will involve both culture and personnel changes. With some reforms lost in the long chain between Presidential Decree and implementation there is a need to change the internal incentive structures to allow greater space for risk taking, innovation and if necessary failure, to stop facilitating a culture of buck passing to avoid the wrath of the President that could grind down a new generation of officials. Instead there is a need to encourage them to find ways to implement change. As Yuliy Yusupov argues ‘Uzbekistan needs a fundamental administrative reform’ that will involve ‘the reconsideration and redistribution of the structure, tasks, functions and responsibilities of central authorities, as well as of administrative bodies at the sectoral level.’ There will need to be further steps taken, including the transparency initiatives set out below, to prevent officials being captured by sectoral special interests. Overstaffing and the ‘stamp culture’ need to be tackled to free up resources to be used more efficiently elsewhere in the public and private sector, including increasing resources for the social safety net that may become ever more critical when dealing with the COVID-19 aftermath. The need to improve recruitment has been identified by the Government as a strategic priority to expand administrative capacity. This should involve further steps to encourage recruitment based on merit rather than connections, improving salaries to encourage talent to join and to encourage the return of higher skilled professionals from the diaspora. Navbahor Imamova argues that in order to address the capacity gap ‘Uzbekistan needs a transparent, fair and professional recruitment system dedicated to hiring from abroad by establishing a central recruiting body, which should announce vacancies, act as a centralised clearing-house for applications, and provide a single point-of-contact for those seeking opportunities’. However, it is important that capacity constraints are not used as a universal excuse to cover times when political will is lacking or when the Government wishes to shield the President from criticism by blaming his officials. Kate Mallinson and Yuliy Yusupov have made a number of suggestions in their essays for furthering the reform of the wider economy that include strengthening ownership rights of land users to allow resale, sublease or borrowing against it and reviewing and implementing arbitration decisions in accordance with the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. There remains the need to move away from protecting import monopolies owned by politically connected figures to developing a system of industrial support focused on more universally accessible tax incentives and other systems open to businesses irrespective of how well connected the owners are. Democracy and accountabilityIf Uzbekistan is serious about making gradual moves towards democracy, or even achieving in its more limited short term goal of improving Parliamentary scrutiny, it will not be enough simply to loosen the regime’s control over the current parties and politicians. Uzbekistan will have to remove its prohibitive controls on new party formation (currently requiring signatures of 40,000 eligible voters with no more than eight per cent from one region) and allow independent candidates to stand. Creating a more open and competitive political environment is also necessary to make Mirziyoyev’s long promised but yet to be fully delivered reforms to local government effective. Direct elections of khokims could be transformative in improving local accountability and the performance of regional and local government but not if the process is merely rubberstamping the result of a rigged political decision made at the very top. If such local changes are not imminent, the President needs to be more assertive in removing rather than just berating government appointed local officials who are not meeting the needs of their residents. Local Kengeshs need to be supported both operationally (such as through internationally recognised scrutiny training) and more importantly politically (preventing reprisals if and when local representatives speak out) to be able to exercise meaningful scrutiny over the role of their khokims. Reforms of the planning system could include a requirement for Khokimiat to publically consult on masterplans and other decisions about proposed developments ahead of their adoption, and transferring the real power of decision making (rather than just ratifying the Khokim’s decision) on planning decisions to the Kengeshs where their final decisions could be made in public meetings so residents can both watch and have their say. Local khokims and Kengeshs must be more proactive in ensuring all legal procedures are followed when it comes to new developments in their local area, with a particular focus on preventing intimidation in the processes (notionally) in place to ensure resident consent for new buildings and in ensuring developers pay the compensation on time and in full. Matyakubova’s essay argues for revising the current decree to give stronger safeguards against forced evictions in line with international norms. Any revised legislation could include measures to safeguard payments to residents such as revised requirements for Khokimiat’s to publically certify that all residents had received the full legal compensation before construction is allowed to begin. National and local government should work together to develop a national heritage listing system for historic buildings to give greater protection against rapacious local developers. Particularly in the context of both the state’s ownership of land and the construction boom, more must be done to make developers contribute to the development of new social infrastructure in the new projects in partnership with the Khokimiat. If, as some fear, many of these new developments will contain a number of properties bought for investment purposes rather than permanent accommodation (or if post-pandemic they remain unsold) then further steps should be taken to simplify and professionalise the rental market. The recent reforms to the Propsika system have helped move things in the right direction but still leave too many people reliant on temporary registration. At all levels of government Uzbekistan could benefit from two things: more women and greater transparency. There is a clear need to appoint women to Cabinet posts and as regional khokims, while developing a clear pathway for women to move through the administrative structures, building on the recent comparative success in increasing women’s representation in Parliament. There is an urgent need for clear codes of conduct for politicians to declare any personal or financial links to schemes they are involved in approving or scrutinising, and transparency on if state funds are supporting businesses linked to elected officials. There is no explicable reason why the new disclosure requirements being proposed for Uzbek civil servants should not be applied to or adapted for use by holders of public office (particularly politicians and judges), so that they can be transparent about their external sources of income and relevant assets to restrict the scope for conflict of interest, and so that the public can know how their representatives are funded. Corruption and cottonGreater transparency for public officials needs to be combined with greater transparency in public procurement, with information about prospective and successful tenders made more openly in order to help make further inroads into tackling corruption. Systems have to change because at present it often seems that addressing individual instances of corruption or poor performance by Uzbek officials is correlated with the degree to which such problems create a public outcry, rather than directly based on the merits of the case. The recent increase in media freedom to address some forms of corruption and lower-level bureaucratic performance helps act as a pressure release valve, a mechanism through which issues that are causing widespread resentment at a local level can be raised to the leadership in Tashkent, and action can be taken to prevent such tensions building into pressure that could unsettle the wider political balance. Corruption is one of the biggest systemic risks the regime faces, particularly in these challenging times As Kristian Lasslett says ‘if a global recession is sparked, leading to serious downturn in Central Asia, the more predatory forms of racketeering observed in the Karimova case study may grow in appeal. If this coincides with diminished standards of living for the general population, these structural antagonisms could indeed provide the kindling for more radical forms of political challenge to the status quo’. Uzbekistan could also build international confidence in its wider commitment to tackling corruption by joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). It can and should also take further steps to make public the ownership information relating to all businesses (including their beneficial owners) in the Government’s new clusters, to assuage concerns that these structures are simply providing new opportunities for politically connected individuals to game the system for financial gain, and to help ensure that the power of the state is not being used at local level to assist them with their operations through forced labour. If not handled as a strategic priority corruption risks derailing the Uzbek reform process, which would vindicate critics who see the post-2016 period as merely being about providing new ways for the elite to enrich itself. Greater transparency over the management of clusters is essential in the context of completing and defending the gains made in tackling forced labour in the cotton sector. Pressure to lift the international boycott of Uzbek cotton had been growing in the wake of progress made in reducing forced labour but it has intensified further since the start of the pandemic. Arguments in favour of ending the boycott focus on the economic gains from opening international markets to being able to raise cotton picker wages and modernise the sector, thereby helping end the remaining forced labour more swiftly. While cotton campaigners worry, particularly in the context of unknown risks of the cluster model, that ending the boycott whilst more than 100,000 forced workers remain would remove the pressure to complete the job. The only realistic way out of this conundrum lies in a compromise that provides reassurance that future incidences of forced labour will be properly brought to light and addressed by the Government. This will require allowing local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), working in concert with international partners, to work freely to monitor the harvest and expose wrongdoing. The boycott needs to be brought to an end to secure the long-term survival of the sector and assist the Uzbek economy at this time of need, but to ensure international confidence this will at minimum require the registration of cotton monitoring NGOs and local independent trade unions, notably those of activists currently involved in monitoring for both the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Cotton Campaign. Doing this would help build confidence in lowering the warning level on forced labour from red to amber, in the knowledge that if there is retrenchment, pressure on cotton exports could be renewed.[1] Putting the requisite political pressure on the Ministry of Justice to expedite these registrations should be a small price for the Government to pay to end this black mark on Uzbekistan’s reputation and protect the economy. Rights and freedomsAny measures to register cotton-monitoring NGOs must form part of a wider process of independent NGO registration in order to meaningfully develop civil society in Uzbekistan. The Ministry of Justice clearly has the ability to register independent NGOs, even with the laws that exist now, yet instead it pursues a policy of bureaucratic obstructionism to use minor form filling errors, both real and imaginary, to reject documents and stall processing indefinitely leading to a de facto bar on independent NGO registration. As set out above this could be resolved with the necessary political will and the Government needs to urgently make it happen. However, a revision process for the now delayed new NGO code could help move things further forward by removing spurious and burdensome reporting requirements, and the need for advanced approval for day-to-day activities; by lifting limits on international funding and other restrictions on contact with international organisations; by making government funding opportunities more transparent; and by producing guidance notes and example forms to help NGOs avoid wrangling over form filling. While NGOs are currently heavily restricted, journalists have experienced much greater freedoms, albeit within the boundaries of ‘constructive criticism’ discussed throughout the publication. Achieving true media freedom will require working to remove these boundaries, such as the regime needing to become more tolerant of direct criticism of the President and those close to him. That liberal regime figures talk about the evolution of the sector to achieve greater independence through greater professionalism still shows that they see their role as defining the terms of engagement in a way that seems incompatible with full media freedom. The bounds of fair comment by the media should instead be framed within the bounds of both robust public debate and fairer but functioning anti-defamation laws.[2] At present the proposed changes to the laws on ‘slander and insult’ that would remove the risk of prison have stalled, but the current draft would also see a substantial increase in the level of fines which, in an unreformed court system, could further add to the existing problem of aggrieved parties seeking to use the threat of financial ruin to silence criticism. One route to tackling the financial pressures on journalists investigating powerful forces would be, in the context of NGO liberalisation, allowing the development of donor funded investigative journalism such as Kloop in neighbouring Krygyzstan or the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project internationally, adding to rather than replacing emerging journalistic initiatives in Uzbekistan. Reforming the courts is a key part of delivering progress on rule of law and it will be critical to underpinning real change across so many areas, from human rights to corruption, media freedom and Uzbekistan’s economic performance. Important steps to take include extending the new asset transparency requirements for civil servants to the judiciary while taking further steps to increase their official salaries and extend their term of office as part of measures to try to tackle both graft and institutional pressures on judges. Measures being taken to increase the number of independent lawyers (particularly registered advocates who can appear in court), including the expansion of legal education in Uzbek universities and improving the prestige of the profession, are very welcome and must sit alongside further steps to reduce the power of the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) in determining the outcome of the legal process and raising the chance of acquittal in court through fair trials. Further reform of the PGO needs to sit alongside continuing reform of the security services to end the continuing risk of arbitrary arrest and torture. As recent events show there is still work to do to fulfil the President’s promises on the eradication of torture and mistreatment of suspects, something which should see further pressure on the Government to allow independent monitoring of Uzbekistan’s prisons and other places of detention and to ratify the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. The Government should also amend the vague and overbroad criminal code provisions relating to espionage and extremism that give too much leeway to the security services and are commonly used to criminalise dissent – particularly Articles 157, 159, 216, 244-1, and 244-2. As well as transforming the investigation of major crimes steps need to be taken to limit the routine abuse of administrative code punishments that lead to 15 day imprisonment for minor or invented infractions by activists. This should form part of a wider culture change (slowly underway but far from complete) to end the harassment of activists (including political activists, local bloggers or would be independent NGO activists) who fall outside the boundaries of ‘constructive criticism’. The Ombudsman’s office needs to continue its steps towards independence and receive the necessary funding required to investigate abuses, while avoiding it sometimes being overlooked in favour of the National Human Rights Centre’s more outward facing role. Removing the all-encompassing pressure of the Karimov presidency has helped people to start to address important questions around identity, belief and personal behaviour. It has provided opportunities for women to talk more openly about their desire for greater opportunities in the economy and public life, about the endemic culture of domestic abuse and to critique family structures that often subjugate younger women. At the same time there has been a slight loosening of restrictions on religious activity and many religious prisoners have been freed, though the authorities should make available a list of all persons currently serving sentences for extremism-related charges to help make clear the extent of recent changes. Expanding both freedoms in parallel creates certain challenges when rights may be seen to come into conflict and the process needs to be handled with care. For example, it is important that the Uzbek Government takes steps to end the restrictions on religious dress (which de facto creates a ban on the hijab and long beards) and to allow registration of independent religious organisations, while simultaneously taking steps to reassure women’s groups that action will be taken against rising social pressures against women choosing to wear jeans, shorts or skirts, which is as much - if not more - the product of traditionalist/nationalist sentiments being expressed openly on social media with issues of toxic masculinity as it is of growing religiosity. Uzbek leaders can also help by promoting a positive and open conception of Uzbek national identity and patriotism, potentially further revising ideas around the national concept of Manaviyat. Alongside creating a society where individuals are free to choose what they wear and think, all Uzbeks need the right to be able to openly and legally love who they love by ending the ban on male homosexuality that forces people into the shadows or exile and promotes the extortion of those at risk of arrest. Transitional justiceAs the Government of Uzbekistan becomes more self-confident about the progress of the reforms and the country’s place in the world, it needs to show a more self-confident approach towards discussing its own past. As Steve Swerdlow argues ‘President Mirziyoyev and the Uzbek government should acknowledge past abuses officially, provide concrete avenues for redress, and send a clear message that peaceful criticism of government policies and scrutiny of the past will be genuinely valued in Uzbekistan’. This has to be part of a national conversation involving those who suffered, human rights defenders, international experts and all relevant organs of the state. As Swerdlow suggests this should involve the creation of an inclusive national commission and a new law on Rehabilitation that builds on but goes further than Article 83 of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Procedure Code. Part of this historical reckoning should include the coming to a new accommodation with its critics in exile. There needs to be a pathway back for and reconciliation with human rights and political activists who left under Karimov. Allowing their safe return and softening the Government’s reactions to jabs from these activists, such as Nadejda Atayeva who in this collection gives a more critical assessment of the current situation than the other authors, would be a clear sign that the Government is in the reform process for the long haul. This in turn might help mollify some of the understandable cynicism about the state of the reform process by exile groups who have been persecuted for years by the Government of Uzbekistan. In turn, those who have so far been rejected by the new system may come to view some of the changes more positively, knowing that not everything is a fraud. The internal logic of a reform process that accepts Uzbekistan needs urgent and radical change implies that those who raised concerns about how it was before had a point and they should not be beyond the political pale today. The government’s current focus on supporting new independent journalists, state backed civil society initiatives and possibly in time more independent political figures and NGOs to grow organically in the ‘new’ Uzbekistan may have a forward looking dimension, but it creates the clear risk (both real and perceived) that they lack the freedom to fully hold the Government to account on all issues. Uzbekistan and the worldHow Uzbekistan relates to the outside world has been one of the biggest changes under Mirziyoyev, with the country becoming an active player in Central Asia while working to improve relationships with the main regional players (Russia and China) as well as engaging with the West. As a strategic approach it makes sense, replacing an approach under Karimov which alternated between a prickly multi-vector approach to ward off Russia and a no-vector approach of isolationism, with a more proactive, outward-looking but balanced policy. The debate about the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) clearly has a geo-political dimension (for Russia it remains primarily a political project), but the decision over Uzbek membership needs to be driven by whether it delivers real economic benefits for Uzbekistan in terms of its trade within Central Asia and its economic relationships with Russia (a calculus that may have changed if the reduction of migrant work remains supressed into the long-term post-pandemic). The parallel push for World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership should not meaningfully interfere with decision making on the EAEU (given that all but Belarus are also WTO members) and will help diversify Uzbekistan’s options. Western partners such the European Union, United States and United Kingdom (UK) can have an important part to play in engaging with Uzbekistan, providing partnerships than can help potentially balance (though not replace) Uzbekistan’s need to work with Russia and China. Years of diminishing regional engagement have reduced the West’s leverage but some remains and it needs to be focused on supporting Uzbekistan to keep moving forward on its reforms rather than retrenching. This does involve the scaling up of both technical and financial assistance, while ensuring that international partners and institutions on the ground retain the capacity to criticise when and where things are going wrong as well as championing what is being done right. Western jurisdictions need to take further action to prevent their financial systems being used to shelter illicit Uzbek wealth. In the UK for example this needs to involve prosecuting mysterious companies which submit false or improper filings, reforming the rules around ‘Scottish Limited Partnerships’ and applying further pressure for the transparency in the Crown dependencies. Regarding the important emerging partnerships in the education sector, if Western institutions and organisations are putting their names to campuses, courses and curriculums they need to play an active role in ensuring that student and academics working in those systems have greater academic freedom than would be possible in the wider Uzbek system. This is particularly relevant in higher education, and if the situation on Uzbek campuses does not move closer to achieving standards comparable with their own institutions they should rethink the partnerships. The international community faces a tricky balancing act, rewarding reformers for their efforts and ensuring these partners have the political capital within the Government to keep moving forwards, while not ignoring or excusing the considerable problems the country still faces. A clear test of this balancing act is the how to respond to Uzbekistan’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council and its bid for the Asian Games. A few years ago, the recommendation from independent observers would have been simple, it would not have been appropriate for Uzbekistan to get these honours. Now, in the context of ‘a lot done, a lot still to do’ finding an answer is more challenging. A potential solution would be making support for Uzbekistan’s membership of the Human Rights Council and hosting the games conditional on a human rights health check by international partners (both NGOs, institutions and international partner governments), and further action by the Uzbek Government on issues raised in this publication including NGO registration and torture in order for the international community to be able to give the green light. Recommendations Based on the findings of the research in this publication and the details set out in the conclusion above, in order to help Uzbekistan continue to fulfil the promise of recent reforms and address the outstanding problems there are a number of recommendations for action by the Government of Uzbekistan and the international community. The Government of Uzbekistan should seek to:
  • Continue reforming the civil service to improve structures and capacity while being more measured and consultative when creating new legislation and decrees.
  • Develop a more competitive political environment in Uzbekistan by removing restrictions on registering new parties and allowing independent candidates to stand for election.
  • Reform local government by requiring the direct elections of Khokims, with greater public consultation about developments and giving Kengeshs real power to decide on planning decisions. Empower it to take action on compensation and forced evictions, to ensure developers contribute to social infrastructure and help protect historic buildings.
  • Require transparency for all holders of public office including politicians and judges with declarations of external sources of income and assets, while making public the ownership details of firms involved in the new ‘clusters’.
  • Move beyond ‘constructive criticism’ to true freedom of expression and association by delivering new anti-defamation laws without the threat of prison or massive fines, allowing independent NGOs to register and helping them do so.
  • Help facilitate the end of the boycott of Uzbek cotton by urgently registering cotton monitoring NGOs and independent trade unions.
  • Continue the reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office and security services to prevent the harassment of activists and political opponents.
  • Deliver transitional justice and greater openness about the Karimov legacy helping the rehabilitation of victims of past abuse.
  • Continue to expand both religious and social freedoms that prioritise individual choice over community pressure, with more women in senior government positions, action on domestic violence, ending laws against the LGBTQ community and stopping the pressure on independent religious groups.
 International institutions and Governments should seek to:
  • Continue their engagement with the Government of Uzbekistan whilst ensuring they remain open to criticism and pressure where necessary as well as praising successes.
  • Support an international human rights health check ahead of decisions to elect Uzbekistan to the UN Human Rights Council or award it the right to host the 2027 Asian Games.
 [1] If the garment industry were to end the Pledge on Uzbek cotton, reinstating it in the event of renewed forced labour would be challenging as supply lines would have been re-established. However, some of this will need to be mitigated by explicit commitments from major garment companies of their continuing opposition to the practice being sought and triggered in the event of relapse.[2] And for broadcast television within the bounds of internationally recognised regulations that give greater scope for public debate. [post_title] => Conclusion and recommendations: A road map for future reforms in Uzbekistan [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => conclusion-and-recommendations-a-road-map-for-future-reforms-in-uzbekistan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-07-14 00:21:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-07-13 23:21:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[19] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4555 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-03-03 00:09:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-03-03 00:09:10 [post_content] => The United Kingdom is preparing for its post-Brexit place in the world at a time when the principles of liberal democracy and the rules-based world order are facing their greatest challenges in a generation. In a fast-changing world with new powers rising, old institutions struggling and future challenges emerging – from AI to climate change – having a clear approach to values in British foreign policy is not just about doing what we think is right or supporting institutions, norms and rules that the UK often played a key role in creating, but also about actively helping to shape the systems the UK will have to work within for decades to come. The UK’s standing going forward will depend more on its future contributions to global solutions, rather than relying on past glories. This requires facing up to the ways in which the current international order has entrenched unequal power relations and the UK’s own privileged position.Securing the national interest in an uncertain world will mean helping to set a framework for the international system that can produce mutually beneficial solutions to global challenges in ways that address longstanding disparities in the voice and protection afforded to people around the world. It cannot be achieved through a transactional approach that prioritises short-term, narrowly defined security and economic gains. The UK has an opportunity to articulate a powerful vision for ‘Global Britain’ that is defined by commitments to human rights, inclusive representation at home and abroad, and making a substantial impact on poverty and inequality. Failure to actively stand up for its values will be seen as a sign of weakness and decline at a time when there is uncertainty about Britain’s standing and future role in the world.This requires a joined-up approach to foreign policy where decisions about diplomacy, trade, security and international development are all equally rooted in the internationalist values of democracy, human rights, free and fair trade and the international rule of law that the UK has long championed. All major policy and spending decisions with an international dimension should be measured against these values. The UK’s future role in the world will be determined by the decisions it takes now about trade deals, how and how much it spends on international development, in its responses to violations of human rights and international norms and rules, and by the role the UK plays in multilateral institutions.As a medium-sized power, albeit one with considerable assets, the UK will need to show it is still willing to work collaboratively with partners, and to creatively and meaningfully use available tools of influence to shape the future direction of the international system and to respond effectively to specific crises and abuses of its values. The scale and scope of the challenges facing the world will require stronger partnerships with existing allies as well as investment in new and different partnerships with countries that share the UK’s values.Key recommendations to the UK Government:
  • Agree a ‘Global Britain’ values statement of the principles underpinning its role in the world.
  • Develop a ‘Global Britain Test’ that assesses the impact of policies against its principles.
  • Engage with and reform the multilateral and global institutions the UK remains a part of.
  • Defend the independence of DFID, the 0.7% GNI pledge on aid and the focus on reducing poverty.
  • Show the UK still has the confidence and stature to stand up for its values by supporting those who defend them, and speaking out and taking action when they are abused.
  • Show climate leadership with effective diplomacy for COP26 in Glasgow and more domestic reform.
  • Deliver on new financial transparency commitments and further actions on tax havens.
  • Improve parliamentary and public scrutiny of new trade negotiations, and ensure Parliament has a final vote on any new trade deals.
 Editors:Adam Hug became Director of the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) in November 2017. He had previously been the Policy Director at the FPC from 2008–2017. His research focuses on human rights and governance issues, particularly in the former Soviet Union. He also writes on UK and EU foreign policy.Dr Abigael Baldoumas is a humanitarian policy advisor for Oxfam GB. She holds a DPhil in Political Science from Oxford University on the role of social movements in shaping public policy in the UK. She has worked in international development since 2012. Her work focuses on forced displacement, gender justice and rights-based humanitarian response.Katy Chakrabortty is the head of advocacy at Oxfam GB. She has been at Oxfam since 2009, and as well as political relations work she has played a major role in Oxfam's Even it Up campaign against extreme economic inequality. Her background is in political campaigning and parliamentary advocacy, having previously worked for the Electoral Reform Society, Amnesty International and DeHavilland.Dr Danny Sriskandarajah joined Oxfam GB as chief executive in January 2019 from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance of which he was Secretary General for six years. Prior to that he was Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Interim Director of the Commonwealth Foundation and held various posts at the Institute for Public Policy Research.Photo credit: Lighthouse and sunset, Isle of Skye. Image by Frank Winkler from Pixabay [post_title] => Finding Britain's role in a changing world: Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => finding-britains-role-in-a-changing-world-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-09 15:40:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-09 15:40:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[20] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4539 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-03-03 00:08:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-03-03 00:08:36 [post_content] => The world we are inBritain steps out into the post-Brexit world at a time of international turmoil. For over a decade liberal democracy has been in decline, as competing authoritarian and populist models have gained further traction in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that shook confidence in the post-Cold War international order.[1] Climate change, persistent inequality and rapidly changing technology pose difficult questions to which the United Kingdom will need to find answers. Leaving the European Union does not see the UK ‘picking up where it left off’ in 1973; rather it finds itself in an environment where global power is more dispersed, and the direction of travel is uncertain. The UK’s future standing will depend more on its contributions to global solutions, rather than relying on past glories.[2] This requires facing up to the ways in which the current international order has entrenched and replicated unequal power relations between countries, as well as the UK’s own privileged position.The UK remains one of the largest economies in the world, the third biggest international aid donor, the sixth highest country in terms of international military spending and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, as well as a member of the Commonwealth, NATO, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe (CoE) and a host of other international bodies.[3] The City of London remains a global financial centre, facilitating trillions of pounds in investment. The combination of a significant concentration of international media organisations, world-class universities, major international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and cultural impact through film, television, music, literature and sporting competitions with a global audience gives the UK a soft-power presence that currently far exceeds its population size or economic clout. The UK has grown used to leveraging its networks to amplify its power, seeking to act as a bridge between the United States, the EU and other partners, but now these ties are loosening. The UK has chosen to leave the EU, removing itself from both the occasional strictures of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Single Market; ultimately this will take it out of the rooms where important decisions are made, both in Brussels and in the collaborative processes between EU member state embassies in countries around the world.At the same time, the UK’s other central alliance looks to be at its most fragile at any time in the post-war era. Irrespective of the turbulence of the Trump presidency, the US has been gradually but inexorably shifting its focus to the Pacific and growing more reticent to carry its current share of the burden for European security. The recent escalation between the US and Iran, over the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, highlighted an area where the UK had been trying to forge a different path to Washington before having to hedge its position in the face of US pressure. The extreme polarisation of US political debate has made action on climate at a federal level a partisan issue, limiting the scope for international collaboration.The number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide has fallen from 1.9 billion in 1981 to 800 million in 2015.[4] Increased aid and debt relief were a part of this achievement, with the UK standing out as one of the few countries to scale up Official Development Assistance (ODA) over this period.[5] But in many ways, this has been the easy part, with a huge boost to poverty reduction delivered by the economic growth of China and other Asian countries. Now, ‘finishing the job’ to eradicate extreme poverty and delivering the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will require action to tackle the more structural challenges of climate change, protracted conflicts, and particularly gender and economic inequality – alongside the shrinking of civic and humanitarian space.[6] These are areas where the answers, if they do get to the root causes of poverty, are not always immediately win-win.The traditional mechanisms of the post-Second World War settlement, from the Bretton Woods Institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) to NATO and the UN system, are all creaking under the weight of institutional inertia, political pressure and lack of public trust. The very idea that a single rules-based international system still exists is in question,[7] while the Brexit debate itself drew attention to the potential trade-offs between the benefits of global rules and ongoing democratic accountability at the level of the nation state. Systems based on consensus, such as the OSCE, or with the potential for the use of veto power, such as the UN Security Council, have found their decision-making hamstrung by the growing divisions between key stakeholders protecting their own interests.Accompanying this are the difficulties the UK faces in extricating itself from the EU and starting to negotiate a new relationship with Europe, highlighting the central role that rules and regulations play in international relations. The ability to trade freely is dependent on the compatibility of regulations and mutual recognition of their implementation. Rules are, however, increasingly being set by regional power blocs, with firms wanting to do business in major markets required to conform to the standards set by these blocs irrespective of their domestic rules and preferences. Russia’s efforts to create its own regulatory sphere through the Eurasian Economic Union, and China’s attempts to promote integration with its own standards regarding other Asian economies that fall within its gravitational pull, have a clear strategic purpose – extending their political influence and restricting economic opportunities for potential competitors such as the US and EU – in addition to any direct economic benefits. This continued growth of regional regulatory blocs has taken place at a time when attempts to set the rules at a global level have stalled or gone into reverse, as exemplified by the challenges faced by the WTO in the wake of the failed Doha round of liberalisation and the paralysis in its trade courts under pressure from the US and other actors.[8]A brief recent history of values in UK foreign policyIn 1997, the Labour government arrived in office after a Conservative government that had been seen to be slow in responding to the humanitarian crises in the Balkans and Rwanda, and with a development policy that had been tarnished by perceptions of ‘tied aid’. Its first Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, set out an approach that has been seen to define the ‘values-based’ approach to foreign policy. In Cook’s landmark speech launching the new Mission Statement for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1997, the term ‘ethical’ is only used twice and first appears in the line: ‘Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension and must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist for ourselves.’[9] This commitment to having an ethical dimension in the FCO Mission Statement was part of a much broader set of objectives promoting multilateralism and internationalism. Yet detractors (and campaigners who wished to create pressure for it to be true) would amplify the ‘ethical’ claim to argue that the government was aiming for the much harder-to-achieve goal of an ‘ethical foreign policy’. As a result, any failure to meet such a standard due to competing priorities, realpolitik or missteps led to cynicism about the UK’s intentions. While many of the promises detailed in Cook’s speech, such as an annual human rights report, became part of the warp and weft of the FCO’s practice, the legacy of Iraq and the response to the War on Terror under Cook’s successors saw UK foreign policy fall short of meeting the (mis)perceived goal of an ethical foreign policy.In 2010, William Hague sought to define the foreign policy agenda of the incoming coalition government, attempting both to move on from the previous Labour government and reassure the public (and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners) that the incoming administration was different to the perception of previous Conservative governments. Hague used the phrase ‘enlightened self-interest’, and while commercial priorities would grow in importance through the ‘Prosperity Agenda’, sometimes at the expense of day-to-day human rights priorities, there were signature campaigns such as the leadership in delivering a UN Arms Trade Treaty and the Preventing of Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.[10]Today the FCO runs the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, which provides a number of larger grants to support human rights around the world, while smaller and locally focused grant funding is managed by UK embassies and High Commissions in-country. It continues to produce an annual Human Rights and Democracy Report that outlines the government’s view of the state of human rights across the world.[11] Protecting the freedom and safety of journalists was a major theme of the FCO under Jeremy Hunt, featuring a joint initiative with Canada. Other key themes that have dedicated delivery teams are the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and its work on Freedom of Religion and Belief (with a particular emphasis on persecuted Christians). Under Dominic Raab there has been enthusiasm expressed for utilising ‘Magnitsky’-style personal sanctions to tackle individual human rights abusers.The very establishment of a stand-alone Department for International Development (DFID) in 1997 – coming a few years after aid scandals such as the Pergau Dam affair ­­­– was an expression of values in foreign policy made manifest in the machinery of government.[12] Followed up in 2002 by the International Development Act, it was established that UK aid must ‘contribute to poverty reduction’. What should have been a tautologous statement has actually been an important backstop against the ever-present temptation from all governments to use the ring-fenced aid budget (0.7 per cent of UK Gross National Income (GNI)) to plug budget holes in other departments. From 2013 to 2019, the amount of UK aid spent by departments other than DFID has risen from 10 per cent to 28 per cent, with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the FCO and Home Office overseeing pots of international aid, alongside the National Security Council, which is responsible for cross-government funds like the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and the Prosperity Fund.[13] This trend looks set to continue as the current Government seeks to ensure that UK development assistance is deployed in the national interest.[14]The broad consensus in UK foreign policy-making that has persisted since at least the 1990s has supported the idea of a rules-based international order, democracy, free trade, multilateral collaboration and collective security. These are all areas where at times there has been a gap between rhetorical goals and concrete actions, but now more than ever these goals are being challenged both ideologically and in practice.Britain in the world todayDuring the Theresa May government, under the guidance of National Security Adviser and Head of the Civil Service Mark Sedwill, there was an attempt to align the whole of government behind its foreign and security policies known as the Fusion Doctrine.[15] There were significant cultural roadblocks to achieving this whole-government approach, as a fusion approach can only succeed if significant work is done consistently at both ministerial and administrative levels to ensure the machinery of government is pointing in the same direction to meet the same goals. This can be even more challenging for a values-led foreign policy, when the short-term priorities (such as securing trade deals or day-to-day security) can seem paramount in the ever-churning political cycle. For example, the Home Office and FCO have struggled to remain on the same page around issues including providing visa access for at-risk human rights activists or allowing experts to attend conferences in the UK. The Home Office has made it hard for family members of those at risk around the world to reach the UK, including those who have worked with the British government as interpreters in war zones or for institutions such as the BBC World Service.[16]The phrase ‘Global Britain’ did not appear in the Conservatives’ 2019 Election Manifesto (though the word ‘global’ was used 11 times), but it resurfaced in the Foreign Secretary’s January 2020 remarks on the Queen’s Speech. The Prime Minister has gone further to insist that the UK must be transformed, like ‘Clark Kent turning into Superman’, upon leaving the EU into a ‘supercharged champion’ of global free trade.[17] So, for certain audiences at least, the government’s rhetoric is of Britain becoming an enhanced rather than a diminished global player. However, at its heart, the pro-Brexit coalition that helped deliver the Conservative government’s large parliamentary majority is founded on two competing visions of Britain’s role in the world and openness to it. It brings together both those seeking a retrenchment from globalisation in order to buttress more traditional ideas of community against the pace of change, and the supporters of ‘Britannia unchained’, a Britain unencumbered by the rules-based constraints of membership of the EU to become even more globalised and open. Balancing the competing interests of this support base going forward will pose a significant political and strategic challenge now that the shared aim of leaving the EU has been realised.Following the 2019 General Election, the government announced an Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review.[18] In principle, the proposed review and its stated intention to deliver a more effective, efficient and joined-up foreign policy is a positive step. The authors in the following volume are also arguing for greater policy coherence, but rather than narrowly-defined self-interest setting the policy agenda, they are making the case for a values-based foreign policy. The ongoing debate over DFID’s status as an independent department exemplifies the tensions at the heart of ‘Global Britain’, not least whose interests it will serve.[19] While DFID retained Cabinet representation in the latest reshuffle, at junior ministerial level the merger with the FCO is now complete.[20] Multiple reviews have found DFID to be one of the most effective and transparent aid agencies globally, suggesting national security and trade interests rather than value for money or effectiveness are the driving forces behind plans to subsume DFID back into the FCO.[21] Evidence to date from Australia, Canada and Norway shows that subsuming aid departments into a single foreign policy department decreases rather than increases global influence.[22] Britain’s own experience demonstrates the very real pitfalls of misusing development assistance.[23] DFID’s statutory mandate to fight poverty, its international reputation, and its proven track record in the efficiency and effective delivery of international assistance are essential components of Britain’s soft power.There have been a number of instances where a narrow, security-focused approach to the UK national interest has overridden the stated global values of the UK, such as the increasing use of development aid for promoting UK economic interests, the damaging ‘instrumentalisation’ of humanitarian aid as a tool to address security concerns – which can muddy humanitarian principles to the detriment of those in need – or the hypocrisy of spending vast amounts of aid money in Yemen whilst selling arms to Saudi Arabia that exacerbate the conflict. Instrumentalising development assistance to deliver narrow, short-term interests will only serve to further undermine what remains of the international rules-based order.The UK has recommitted to its NATO target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence, but it is as yet unclear what strategic goals it is seeking to achieve. The attitude of Trump and Macron to NATO, combined with the UK’s departure from the EU, will strengthen those within the EU that would seek to position it, rather than the North Atlantic alliance, as the primary coordinating body for European defence and security cooperation, further isolating the UK.[24] Similarly, overtures by Macron that would seek to bring Russia further into the fold on European security are unlikely to be seen positively in London in the absence of movement from Moscow on Ukraine and other areas of outstanding concern.[25] The UK needs to develop a clear idea of what it believes NATO’s role to be, both within Europe and out, and what it wants to do within the alliance. Fatigue with overseas deployment in the wake of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya persists, and increased Russian belligerence would seem to make a reorientation to European defence a natural move, but existing spending commitments such as the aircraft carrier programme, new cyber-threats and continuing pressures on the public finances may limit the scope for a major reorientation.The competing pressures on the Government following an election where foreign policy (other than Brexit) barely featured raise questions over whether it has the political bandwidth and institutional capacity to respond to all the challenges it faces. Hosting the UN climate talks (COP26) in November is an opportunity to demonstrate that the UK is still able to lead in multilateral spaces as well as show the character of the UK’s leadership post-Brexit. The appointment of Alok Sharma, the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to lead the UK’s presidency is welcome, and the UK has a positive story to tell about climate leadership on domestic emissions targets and climate finance to the world’s poorest people – but that is not enough.A successful COP requires strong international diplomacy, effective working relationships with allies, a commitment to putting the voices of those most impacted front and centre, and a roadmap to deliver tangible outcomes. Technological optimism is not enough, and the UK will need to demonstrate a willingness to take hard decisions that deliver global goods at the expense of narrow self-interest. The government will need to show it has the capacity to deliver a successful COP alongside the host of trade negotiations and other agreements necessitated by Britain’s departure from the EU.The UK will no longer be able to easily pool resources with other EU states or automatically expect to have the same level of information-sharing available to its embassies. Worryingly, it has been suggested that UK diplomats have been told to sit apart from their former EU colleagues as a show of independence, potentially straining the interpersonal relationships and restricting the ability to act flexibly that diplomats are likely to need to compensate for lost institutional networks.[26] The FCO and other outward-facing government departments are likely to need extra resourcing to build the capacity they will need to act independently, and it is far from clear that this will be a priority for the government. Furthermore, the speed with which the government is pushing for new trade deals with countries outside the EU will make it hard for some of the more value-orientated goals set out in this essay collection to be delivered. Indeed, even when seeking to roll over the terms of existing EU deals there may be pressure to water down the strength of the human rights clauses, with a lack of effective parliamentary scrutiny, as Ruth Bergan and Dr Emily Jones point out in their essay. There are clear questions around whether the UK has the necessary political clout to fight its corner when negotiating environmental protection rules with the US or human rights clauses with countries who do not share our values or where we have short-term financial or security interests, particularly given the political and economic pressure to get the deals signed as the UK loosens its relationship with the EU.Putting values at the heart of a new UK foreign policySecuring the national interest in an uncertain world has to be about helping set the long-term framework of the international systems in which the UK operates rather than simply a transactional approach that helps get the country through the short-term security and economic challenges to which political incentives are often aligned. Given the increasingly authoritarian and populist turn in countries across the world, the UK (and other like-minded nations) has two main choices: either to acquiesce to this trend as inevitable, or redouble its efforts, in concert with others, to stem the erosion and ensure a future for a reformed liberal democracy at the nation-state level and a more inclusive international system. As a medium-sized power, in spite of all the assets it has, Britain would struggle to turn the tide on its own, even if its short-term political incentives encouraged it to do so. The UK will need to strengthen its engagement with existing partners and institutions as well as look at new ways to work with those who share its values.Particularly post-Brexit, showing the UK’s commitment to multilateralism is an essential part of reassuring the international community that it is still a reliable partner. This would include taking the Council of Europe and OSCE more seriously as forums for engagement in the European and post-Soviet spaces, in addition to NATO, while working to reform all three. This willingness to work within as well as reform multilateral spaces will be even more crucial as the UK seeks to redefine its relationships with the Commonwealth and the Global South. To be taken seriously as a future partner, the UK must tread carefully and intentionally remedy the historic power imbalances institutionalised in the UN and Bretton Woods institutions. In the absence of deliberate action, ‘Global Britain’ could too easily be (mis)interpreted as ‘Empire 2.0’.If the UK (and its allies) is serious about reforming the international order while defending the need for one, it must clearly address the gap between governments and the governed that has been so exploited by populist forces. This means outing and standing against the systemic injustices and inequalities that are the root cause of poverty, and disenfranchisement globally and domestically. It requires a bold re-articulation of the current challenges centred on common causes rather than fuelling the zero-sum narrative of winners and losers (against groups such as immigrants). There has to be greater representation of young people, women, ethnic minorities and the economically marginalised, as set out by a number of authors in this collection, including Marissa Conway. This means opening up foreign policy to wider public scrutiny and acknowledging that win-win solutions are possible, but not easy and not immediate. The economic, social and technological dislocations that are happening are not unique to any one segment of the UK, nor to the UK itself, and there is a need for them to be managed with sensitivity and greater support given to communities undergoing change. Failure to do so will only further fuel an anti-liberal, anti-rights backlash. However, these dislocations should be addressed while, and in part by, tackling the inequalities inherent in the current international rules-based order and in some of the UK’s existing policies.The UK needs to be consistent in the application of its stated values to its enemies and allies alike, as well as to itself. Dominic Raab’s announcement of the greater use of targeted sanctions against individuals involved in human rights abuses, using the ‘Magnitsky’ clause in the 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, is to be warmly welcomed.[27] However it is notable that the countries being briefed as likely to be covered in the first roll-out include Russia, North Korea and Libya. The test of the government’s commitment will be whether human rights abusers from countries with stronger ties to the UK, such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, face such sanctions.[28] The UK should also ensure that the Arms Trade Treaty is applied equally to arms sales to friends and allies as well as enemies. The same applies to global economic rules. In addition to partaking fully in the OECD-BEPS discussions, including about a minimum effective corporate tax rate, the UK must continue to improve the standards of tax transparency in its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.[29] The UK cannot claim to uphold the international order while allowing exceptions when it is convenient.In international development a values-led approach is best manifested by maintaining the primacy of poverty reduction as the guiding principle behind aid decisions. The instrumentalisation of aid in service of security or trade objectives would undermine the effectiveness of British aid, which is a key element of Britain’s soft power. Strengthening local ownership, investing in civil society and country capacity to tackle inequalities, and implementing a rights-based approach to development is the best way to deliver development objectives and to contribute to other global goods. The Sustainable Development Goals represent a new model of multilateral decision-making, rooted in the agency of affected populations rather than charity. They also offer Britain a source of untapped solutions to domestic policy challenges.Returning to an imagined golden era of UK foreign policy is not an option. The flaws, inconsistencies and injustices contained within the existing world order have made challenges to it inevitable. The essays in this collection therefore both seek to re-establish the importance of longstanding global norms, rules and multilateral decision-making, whilst also exploring ways to do things differently: with new alliances based on common values; with approaches that explicitly seek to reflect the experiences of the most marginalised people; and with new approaches to emerging strategic problems. They give some ideas on how the UK can find a role in this changing world.What our authors sayBaroness Anelay writes that we are living through a time of worldwide disruption and change. Against that backdrop, the United Kingdom left the European Union on 31st January 2020 and now has the opportunity to give substance to the mantra of ‘Global Britain’. As the UK navigates our way forward, our strength will lie in maintaining our values grounded in human rights. The times may indeed be changing, but our values should remain constant.Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP believes that the UK is emerging from a decisive election victory, with a cautious optimism returning to the nation. He writes that now the Government is turning its attention to developing and promoting ‘Global Britain’, we must ask ourselves what role we are going to play in response to the complex security threats this new decade brings. He believes we face a pivotal moment where, if we choose, the UK can provide the thought leadership, soft power and occasional hard power that can inspire other nations to work with us on reviving the Western project against rising authoritarianism. To do so now will require investment in different strategic areas, but the long-term security and economic benefits of this investment mean he believes that this is a price the nation would deem worth paying.Rt Hon Lord McConnell argues that the multilateral rules-based system has never been more important, but it is undermined from all sides. He writes that the UK must work with others to support it, but that we can also help lead a longer-term debate and mobilisation for reform. He believes it is time for new diplomatic alliances to build 21st century multilateral institutions, promote basic values and create a safer, fairer and cleaner world.Ruth Bergan and Dr Emily Jones write that post-Brexit, the UK has an extremely ambitious trade agenda: it will begin negotiating its own trade deals for the first time in more than 45 years and take up independent membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this essay, the authors argue that the UK has a unique opportunity to do things differently. It can choose to align trade policy with wider societal goals by making inclusion, equity and sustainability the hallmarks of UK trade policy. It can showcase transparent and inclusive decision-making by introducing gold-standard processes for public and parliamentary engagement in trade policymaking. As it also embarks on hosting COP26, it has a huge opportunity to pioneer new ways of aligning trade and environmental policies, helping to drive work at the WTO and assessing its own trade policy against climate and environmental goals. Finally, it can make sure bilateral and multilateral agreements are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and supportive of developing country regional integration plans.Dr Teresa Dumasy, Jonathan Cohen and Richard Reeve write that investments by states in improving global security are failing; in 2020 the world feels a fragile and insecure place. In the UK alone, there are huge differences in the way people experience insecurity. These realities raise important questions for the UK Government about the nature and understanding of security and of the UK’s contribution to it. Ambiguity in the perception of ‘national interest,’ and tension between the UK’s presumed national and transnational interests and those of individual humans and humanity at large call for a reframing of security. The essay puts forward ‘shared security’ as an underpinning value for our future security, defence and foreign policy, and people-focused peacebuilding as a central pillar of shared security practice.Caroline Lucas MP argues that, looking ahead to the crucial climate summit which the UK will co-host in Glasgow in November, the opportunity is there for the UK to show true climate leadership, but it will have to significantly step up its diplomatic effort to achieve what is needed at COP26. She argues that this will have to be accompanied by honesty and integrity in domestic climate policy, ‘getting our own house in order’, recognising the obligation to move further and faster than other countries, supporting them financially to adapt and cover losses, and transferring the technology needed to give everyone a just future in the face of this climate emergency.Theo Clarke MP explores the mutually reinforcing contributions UK aid has made to global development and security, highlighting the central role the Department for International Development (DFID) has played in making Britain a global leader and authority on development. UK aid helps to create a safer, healthier, more prosperous world, and this benefits Britain. Development aid, alongside diplomacy, defence and trade, must continue to play a key role in Britain’s post-Brexit foreign policy.Stephen Twigg argues that the UK has an opportunity to show leadership to tackle Global Goal 10 on inequality. He suggests a number of measures that DFID could take to strengthen its work in this area, including legislative change and a focus on inequality in the next Spending Review and Voluntary National Review. As well as addressing income inequality, he also sets out the case for a renewed commitment to tackling inequality based on gender and disability.Marissa Conway argues that fresh on the heels of Brexit, the landscape of British foreign policy is infused with uncertainty. She poses the question of how we will craft our legacy now that we are outside the structures of the EU. The UK has the opportunity to be a leader in building peace through its foreign policy, not by means of claiming power over others, but by adopting a strong ethical framework to guide its decision-making in order to set a new international standard for placing human rights at the centre of policy. And she writes that there is no better way to do so than by adopting a Feminist Foreign Policy.Sophie Howe explores how Wales, through the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, is putting values and the needs of future generations at the top of the agenda in an uncertain world. She urges the rest of Britain to follow in their footsteps. The current system is failing and needs to change. Acknowledging the continued power of vested interests, the risks of political inertia and the hard work required, she argues for brave political leadership that creates the conditions and political infrastructure for progressive change, so future leaders and their societies can tackle the challenges they face based on values of cooperation, responsibility sharing and inclusion.Editors:Adam Hug became Director of the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) in November 2017. He had previously been the Policy Director at the FPC from 2008–2017. His research focuses on human rights and governance issues, particularly in the former Soviet Union. He also writes on UK and EU foreign policy.Dr Abigael Baldoumas is a humanitarian policy advisor for Oxfam GB. She holds a DPhil in Political Science from Oxford University on the role of social movements in shaping public policy in the UK. She has worked in international development since 2012. Her work focuses on forced displacement, gender justice and rights-based humanitarian response.Katy Chakrabortty is the head of advocacy at Oxfam GB. She has been at Oxfam since 2009, and as well as political relations work she has played a major role in Oxfam's Even it Up campaign against extreme economic inequality. Her background is in political campaigning and parliamentary advocacy, having previously worked for the Electoral Reform Society, Amnesty International and DeHavilland.Dr Danny Sriskandarajah joined Oxfam GB as chief executive in January 2019 from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance of which he was Secretary General for six years. Prior to that he was Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Interim Director of the Commonwealth Foundation and held various posts at the Institute for Public Policy Research.[1] Freedom House, Democracy in Retreat: Freedom In The World 2019,[2] Perceptions of the UK’s historic role in the world, both positive and negative, will of course influence how our future actions are perceived by international partners.[3] In nominal GDP terms the UK is the 6th largest economy in the world behind the US, China, Japan, Germany and India (see Centre for Economics and Business Research, World Economic League Table 2020, December 2019,; This refers to spending compliant with the OECD’s rules of ODA (see Donor Tracker: United Kingdom donor profile, It is worth noting, for example, in relation to aid that China’s massive spending on the Belt and Road initiative and other international assistance falls outside of the ODA rules. UK Ministry of Defence, Finance and economics annual statistical bulletin: international defence 2019, September 2019,[4] World Bank estimates are available at, based on a $1.90 poverty line. The most recent estimates for global poverty refer to 2013.[5] Deborah Hardoon and Jon Slater, Inequality and the end of extreme poverty, Oxfam GB, September 2015,[6] Sustainable Development Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere,[7] Dr Malcolm Chalmers from RUSI argues that ‘The UK should cease to promote the narrative that there is one single Rules-Based International System. There is not. Efforts to tackle pressing international problems through collective action are more likely to succeed if they involve coalitions between major powers than if they are only based on rules-based systems that lack clear and binding obligations.’ Malcolm Chalmers, Taking Control: Rediscovering the Centrality of National Interest in UK Foreign and Security Policy, RUSI, February 2020,[8] Jamey Keaten and Paul Wiseman, World trade without rules? US shuts down WTO appeals court, AP News, December 2019,[9] Robin Cook, Mission Statement for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London 1997, British Political Speech,[10] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative,[11] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights and Democracy Reports,[12] World Peace Foundation and The Fletcher School, Tufts University, The Pergau Dam ‘Arms for Aid’ Scandal,[13] Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Independent Commission for Aid Impact, The current state of UK aid: A synthesis of ICAI findings from 2015 to 2019, June 2019,[14] Stephen Bush, In appointing Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Boris Johnson has completed Theresa May’s revolution, New Statesman America, February 2020,[15] William McKeran, Fusion Doctrine: One Year On, RUSI, March 2019,; Owen Barder, What I Would Like to Hear from the UK Development Secretary: Making the “Fusion Doctrine” Work for the Poor, Center for Global Development, April 2018,; UK Government, Reviewing the UK’s national security strategy: The National security Capability Review and the Modernising Defence Programme, July 2019,; Reuters, The fusion doctrine: in an age of terror and hybrid warfare, UK must deploy all capabilities to defeat enemies, says PM May, South China Morning Post, March 2018,; Geoffrey Lyons, Roundtable: Addressing national security challenges through the Fusion Doctrine, Civil Service World, April 2019,[16] Eleanor Gruffydd-Jones, Afghan interpreters’ UK immigration rules ‘anguish’, BBC News, January 2019, Information relating to difficulties faced by the families of World Service journalists was raised at a meeting of the London Leadership Council of the Committee to Project Journalists in April 2019.[17] Christo Mitkov, UK election 2019: the parties’ competing visions for Britain’s place in the world, The Conversation, November 2019,; Foreign and Commonwealth Office and The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, Foreign Secretary’s introduction to the Queen’s Speech debate, January 2020,; Boris Johnson, Boris Johnson: Britain must become the Superman of global free trade, The Spectator, February 2020,[18] Forces Network, Boris Johnson Pledges Security, Defence And Foreign Policy Review, December 2019,[19] James Landale, Cabinet reshuffle: International development and Foreign Office merger? BBC News, February 2020,[20] Ibid. 17.[21] ICAI,; Molly Anders, UK aid brand at risk from cross-government funds, says IDC report, Devex, June 2018,; Publish What You Fund, The 2018 Aid Transparency Index,[22] Abby Young-Powell, What happens when an aid department is folded? Devex, December 2019,[23] From Poverty to Power, How to stop the Foreign Office gobbling up DFID?, Oxfam Blogs, January 2020,[24] Julian Borger, Trump re-election could sound death knell for NATO, allies fear, The Guardian, December 2019,; The Economist, Emmanuel Macron warns Europe: NATO is becoming brain-dead, November 2019,[25] Ian Bond, NATO: Brain dead, or just resting? Centre for European Reform, December 2019,[26] David Wilcok, ‘It’s like something from school’: Irish leader Leo Varadkar clashes with Dominic Raab over ‘petty’ order for UK diplomats not to SIT with former EU friends at the international events as they spar over post-Brexit trade, Mail Online, February 2020,[27] UK Government – Legislation, Sanctions and Anti-Money laundering Act 2018,[28] George Parker, UK to begin crackdown on human rights abusers, Financial Times, January 2020,[29] Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.Photo credit: Lighthouse and sunset, Isle of Skye. Image by Frank Winkler from Pixabay [post_title] => Finding Britain's role in a changing world: Introduction [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => finding-britains-role-in-a-chaning-world-introduction [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-09 15:39:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-09 15:39:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[21] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4503 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-03-03 00:01:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-03-03 00:01:50 [post_content] => The extent to which the United Kingdom is to be taken seriously on the world stage post-Brexit will depend significantly on whether it has the confidence to stand up for what it says it believes in, or risk its focus on trade being seen as a sign of weakness and inexorable decline. There is a widely shared fear, particularly in the short to medium term as the UK completes its conscious uncoupling from the European Union, that commercial considerations will overwhelm other priorities. If the UK is seen to ignore its stated values and wider strategic interests in pursuit of new trade deals, the Brexit process will have diminished the UK’s standing in the world rather than marking the start of a new and more vibrant chapter. The UK must aspire to be more than simply a cold, wet Dubai.A whole-government approach to the UK’s foreign policy is to be welcomed. However, it is important to ensure that the UK’s values do not get lost amid inter-departmental wrangling; they must instead be mainstreamed to all those involved in policy-making and delivery. A joined-up government should not come at the expense of the world’s poorest people or those facing human rights abuses and conflict.The UK has an opportunity to articulate a powerful vision for ‘Global Britain’ that is defined by commitments to human rights, inclusive representation at home and abroad, and by the ways it uses resources to have the greatest impact on poverty and inequality. The current Foreign Secretary has said that the ‘guiding lights’ for the current integrated policy review ‘will be free trade, democracy, human rights and the international rule of law’.[1] Different stakeholders and political actors will have different views about what should be contained in such a statement of values, but whatever the government decides, a clear, concise declaration that enumerates the key principles would be very helpful. Authors in this collection have set out potential principles for such a declaration including ensuring policy alignment with the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs); ensuring wider representation of women, young people and marginalised communities (both from the UK and our partners in the Global South) in the policy development process; and ensuring that policies uphold longstanding goals around support for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Baroness Anelay has written about the need to incorporate the ‘Ruggie Principles’ on business and human rights into the UK trade agenda.[2] Stephen Twigg has spoken in detail about the need for a clear set of indicators on economic inequality and the centrality of gender to development to assess policy impact. Marissa Conway makes the case that a feminist foreign policy would provide a strong ethical framework to guide decisions and set a new international standard. The Government’s Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review should help define and refine these principles into a clear and codified statement of the values of ‘Global Britain’ that would give an unambiguous signal to the international community and to stakeholders across the Government.Building on such a statement of values, the Government should consider enhancing existing consultation practices by setting a ‘Global Britain’ values test for all major policy and spending decisions with an international dimension, including trade deals. This would set out the Government’s impact assessment of how each decision will affect the goals enumerated in the ‘Global Britain’ values statement and examine its implications for the needs of future generations and the most vulnerable people in the world. The results of this assessment should then be published ahead of decisions being taken to encourage feedback, input and scrutiny from Parliament, key stakeholders and the wider public.Keeping in mind the ideals of good governance, transparency and accountability that the UK looks to promote abroad, the Government should think carefully about how it develops new decision-making processes. It should rethink its current approach that limits parliamentary accountability and public scrutiny over trade deals. Given past critiques of decision-making in the EU when the UK was a member, new processes in Westminster should not be less publicly accountable than the processes for scrutiny by the European Parliament, Member States and public that it has just left. As proposed by Ruth Bergan and Dr Emily Jones, the government should publish its draft negotiating mandates (with headline information about priorities); the International Trade Select Committee or a new Trade Scrutiny Committee needs to be involved in regular dialogue with ministers and officials with scope for proper scrutiny on the progress of ongoing negotiations; and the agreed trade deals should be subject to a proper debate and approval vote in Parliament.[3] Similarly, new UK trade deals should have at least as strong human rights clauses as the deals being done by the EU and where possible it should seek to strengthen them.While developing its own foreign policy independent of the EU, the UK still needs to show it is willing to work with like-minded partners. This will not only involve seeking to build a strong foreign policy and security partnership with the EU as part of the post-Brexit process, but it should also seek to enhance or create a range of bilateral mechanisms with Member States that augment, but do not seek to replace, relationships with the EU, such as UK-France defence cooperation under the Lancaster House Treaties and continued involvement in the E3 group on Iran.[4] As Lord McConnell argues, the UK must also seek to deepen relations with countries who share similar values and not-dissimilar strategic positions, such as Canada, Japan and New Zealand, with the UK-Canadian joint Campaign on Media Freedom being an important example of the potential for joint working.[5] The UK will also need to retain an active presence at international forums to project its continuing global role – as Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood points out, the absence of senior ministers from the February 2020 Munich Security Conference was not seen as a good sign by Britain’s international partners.Alongside new state-level alliances, the government should reaffirm its commitment to working in partnership with civil society. Civil society networks reinforce and deepen state-level cooperation. Many of the authors in this collection highlight the role of civil society in tackling so many of the challenges facing the world today: Baroness Anelay on delivering international development goals; Jonathan Cohen, Dr Theresa Dumasy and Richard Reeve on peacebuilding and security; Marissa Conway on shaping values-based foreign policy; Ruth Bergen and Dr Emily Jones on trade; and Sophie Howe on sustainable societies. Globally, restrictions on civil society space are increasing,[6] but the government should ensure that its own actions, including counter-terrorism agendas, do not inadvertently restrict civil society space further.A clear focus on continued engagement in the UK’s neighbourhood aligns with its capabilities, the threats it faces and its opportunities. Given the pressure on Europe’s eastern flank from Russia, the UK should continue to show its support for the Baltic States and other NATO Member States, as well as with Ukraine. There will also be scope to show renewed and enhanced engagement with NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe (CoE), working within them to reform their processes and ensure that they meet both their founding objectives and the values and priorities which the UK is seeking to promote.[7] It will be important to ensure that the contentious domestic debate about the way in which the European Convention on Human Rights is incorporated into British law through the Human Rights Act takes place in a way that does not undermine the UK’s commitment to the Convention itself nor the UK’s membership of the CoE, or further encourage other CoE members to ignore their responsibilities under the Convention.[8]One way to show that the UK is not being overly cowed by commercial constraints will be ensuring that UK ambassadors feel supported and encouraged to speak out on human rights and other abuses taking place in the countries where they are posted. Such actions should often be coordinated with other like-minded partners to benefit from strength in numbers, whilst not being afraid to show leadership where necessary. Ministerial statements should follow a similar approach. While the UK is not in a position to dictate terms to countries abusing human rights and other international values, such statements are often of significant value to local activists working to defend their rights.With the spectre of a no-deal Brexit removed, immediate concerns about existing EU funding for UK non-governmental organisations (NGOs) through 2020 have been alleviated.[9] However, it remains unclear how and in what form the £1.5 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA) that is currently dispensed through EU mechanisms will be repatriated. As has been argued by a number of authors, not least Baroness Anelay and Theo Clarke MP, our development expertise and aid budget remain major global assets in building a values-based foreign policy. The government’s integrated review should be an opportunity for development expertise to have influence across our foreign policy, creating policy coherence for development, and therefore maintain a values-based and long-term strategic vision for our foreign policy that helps create a more peaceful, prosperous, and equitable world for all. Proposals to subsume the Department for International Development (DFID) under the auspices of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) should be shelved, and the government should ensure that aid spending across all departments retains a strong poverty focus – in line with the International Development Act. At an operational level, DFID could explicitly consider the impact of development programming on economic inequality. This could, for instance, result in greater focus on supporting the public provision of health, high quality education and social protection.The UK is an international centre of excellence for peacebuilding, with experienced NGOs and academic experts who have until recently received a significant proportion of their project funding through pooled EU grants. It will be important to ensure that as funding streams are repatriated to direct UK control this expertise is maintained and developed. This may mean reviewing and revising existing UK mechanisms for funding peacebuilding to ensure that they are agile and appropriate for civil society peacebuilding work. Similarly, existing support for the FCO’s human rights and governance initiatives, both through embassies and through centrally coordinated schemes should be built upon and enhanced, rather than risk marginalisation behind economic and trade priorities. Wherever possible such mechanisms should be flexible enough to support smaller and specialist NGOs and experts, rather than being more accessible to large consultancies as can be the case.As the Foreign Secretary has already announced, one way to show leadership on human rights issues would be to increase the use of ‘Magnitsky’ sanctions against human rights abusers who have some financial connections to the UK. The use of these and other financial instruments, such as Unexplained Wealth Orders, are to be warmly welcomed but it is important to ensure they are being used consistently based on the level of wrongdoing rather than the strategic alignment of their country of origin.[10] To assist with this process, it will be vital to ensure the full implementation of the Registration of Overseas Entities Bill, as set out in the Queen’s Speech, which will finally create the long-awaited beneficial ownership register for UK properties owned by offshore-entities, as well as the wider 2019–2022 Economic Crime Plan.[11]As is made clear by the essays on trade from Ruth Bergen and Dr Emily Jones, as well as by Baroness Anelay, it is impossible to separate global political foreign policy from international economic issues. The promotion of an international rules-based order also requires the UK to lead in setting and enforcing fair global economic rules that work for everyone and that deliver positive outcomes in line with the SDGs as well as international commitments on climate change and human rights. Baroness Anelay’s suggestion to include economic issues in the remit of the National Security Council is one part of a solution, but it also requires articulating solutions to global economic challenges that put the rights and needs of people at the centre. It will mean putting our own house in order as well as working to make the global economic rules as fair as possible. The ongoing OECD-BEPS discussions, including a minimum effective corporate tax rate, are one opportunity for the UK to engage positively to strengthen international governance. Meanwhile, the UK should ensure its own Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies continue to reform to achieve higher standards of tax transparency.[12]The United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow (COP26) represents a chance for real climate leadership from the UK Government and is the first big test of a values-based vision for ‘Global Britain’. As Caroline Lucas MP argues, this will be dependent on investment in the hard work of diplomacy to raise the ambition of other nations’ plans to reduce emissions, getting our own house in order at home, and a relentless focus on a just way forward for the countries and communities worst affected. Beyond the COP, policy coherence is key. As Caroline Lucas sets out clearly, the government cannot continue to finance fossil fuel projects overseas while claiming climate leadership. The UK’s trade regime could be a powerful expression of its commitment to environmental and sustainability policy, as Ruth Bergen and Dr Emily Jones make clear. The government should review all trade provisions in its trade agreements to ‘stress test’ them against climate goals as well as human rights commitments, potentially using the suggested ‘Global Britain’ values process outlined above.In a fast-changing world with new powers rising, old institutions struggling and future challenges emerging, having a clear approach to values in British foreign policy is not just about doing what we think is right but about ensuring we are actively helping to shape the international systems, norms and rules that the UK will have to work within for decades to come. The threats to the idea of liberal democracy from increasingly confident authoritarian states and internal strains and inequalities in established democracies are real, and need to be addressed to halt and reverse its decline. As a medium-sized power, albeit one with considerable assets, the UK will need to show it is still willing to work collaboratively with partners, and to use the tools of influence available to it to creatively and meaningfully shape the future direction of the international system and to respond effectively to specific crises and abuses of its values.RecommendationsBased on the findings of this publication that values should be an important part of the foundations of future UK foreign policy, we would like to make a number of recommendations.The UK Government should:
  • Agree a clear ‘Global Britain’ values statement of the principles underpinning the UK’s role in the world.
  • Use the values statement to develop a ‘Global Britain Benchmark’ that assesses the impact of new policies against these principles.
  • Demonstrate a renewed commitment to engage with and reform the regional and multilateral institutions the UK remains a part of, while building new partnerships for the future.
  • Defend and maintain the spirit as well as the fact of its commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent Gross National Income (GNI) to international development assistance by:
  • Keeping a separate Department for International Development with a Secretary of State for International Development;
  • Ensuring aid spending across all departments retains a strong poverty focus – in line with the International Development Act; and by the
  • Coordination and sharing of best practice on aid spending, which would see other government departments meeting higher standards on aid transparency.
  • Show that the UK still has the confidence and stature to stand up for its values by supporting those who defend them, and speaking out and taking action when they are abused, by:
  • Encouraging ambassadors and ministers to condemn human rights abuses wherever they occur;
  • Actively using and equitably applying new ‘Magnitsky’-style personal sanctions;
  • Fully implementing new measures to improve financial transparency, and take further action on tax havens; and
  • Increasing and improving UK funding for peacebuilding and human rights.
  • Remain actively committed to the promotion of human rights, defence and security in the European neighbourhood, of which the UK is still a part.
  • Take decisive and immediate action to demonstrate climate leadership, including:
    • Announcing a high-ambition Nationally Defined Contribution (NDC) for COP26 and working with countries around the world to aim for increased ambition in their NDCs, in time to know how much is left to do to close the gap between current plans and the aim of limiting warming to 1.5°C;
    • Scaling up resources to impacted communities, including a new goal for climate finance for adaptation, and leading efforts to find new and additional sources of finance for loss and damage;
    • Immediately stopping all new support for fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) and phasing out existing investments;
    • Implementing policies at home that demonstrably put us on track for net zero as soon as possible, without using international offsets, and recognising that – without the inclusion of consumption emissions – this is only part of the job.
  • Ensure efforts to address international economic issues are joined up with global political foreign policy by:
    • Including economic issues within the remit of the National Security Council; and
    • Partaking fully in the OECD-BEPS discussions, including on a minimum effective corporate tax rate, as well as ensuring that the UK’s own Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies continue to reform to meet higher standards of tax transparency.
 Adam Hug became Director of the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) in November 2017. He had previously been the Policy Director at the FPC from 2008–2017. His research focuses on human rights and governance issues, particularly in the former Soviet Union. He also writes on UK and EU foreign policy.Dr Abigael Baldoumas is a humanitarian policy advisor for Oxfam GB. She holds a DPhil in Political Science from Oxford University on the role of social movements in shaping public policy in the UK. She has worked in international development since 2012. Her work focuses on forced displacement, gender justice and rights-based humanitarian response.Katy Chakrabortty is the head of advocacy at Oxfam GB. She has been at Oxfam since 2009, and as well as political relations work she has played a major role in Oxfam’s Even it Up campaign against extreme economic inequality. Her background is in political campaigning and parliamentary advocacy, having previously worked for the Electoral Reform Society, Amnesty International and DeHavilland.Dr Danny Sriskandarajah joined Oxfam GB as chief executive in January 2019 from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance of which he was Secretary General for six years. Prior to that he was Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Interim Director of the Commonwealth Foundation and held various posts at the Institute for Public Policy Research.[1] FCO and The Rt Hon Dominic Rabb MP, Foreign Secretary’s introduction to the Queen’s Speech debate, January 2020,[2]Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, UN "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework and Guiding Principles,[3] For more background see: Trade Justice Movement, Securing democracy in UK Trade policy, November 2017,[4] Ministry of Defence, UK and France defence cooperation, September 2018,; Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, E3 statement on the JCPoA: 12 January 2020,[5] There are of course a number of caveats raised about the lack of clear actions being taken from the work so far as highlighted by campaign groups such as: Article 19, UK: Government must take more action on media freedom, September 2019,; Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Liberty is under attack as journalists are silenced, say MPs, UK Parliament, September 2019,[6] Danny Sriskandarajah, Under threat: five countries in which civic space is rapidly closing, Open Democracy, January 2018,[7] See for example the ideas set out in: Adam Hug, Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, The Foreign Policy Centre, February 2016,; and Adam Hug, Institutionally Blind: The next steps in reforming the Council of Europe and the OSCE, The Foreign Policy Centre, November 2017,[8] David Maddox, Attorney General vows to change Human Rights Act and limit power of Supreme Court judges, Daily Express, February 2020,[9] DFID, EU-funded programmes under the withdrawal agreement, January 2020,[10] Home Office, Circular 003/2018: unexplained wealth orders, February 2018,[11] Transparency International UK, Measures to tackle dirty money in UK property market a major step in fight against corruption, December 2019,; HM Treasury and Home Office, Economic crime plan 2019 to 2022, July 2019,[12] The OECD and G20 are working on a new Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) framework to address corporate tax avoidance. See credit: Lighthouse and sunset, Isle of Skye. Image by Frank Winkler from Pixabay [post_title] => Finding Britain's role in a changing world: Conclusions and Recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => finding-britains-role-in-a-changing-world-conclusions-and-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-17 08:16:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-17 08:16:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[22] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4106 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2019-09-26 09:25:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-26 09:25:58 [post_content] =>

This Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Foreign Policy Centre publication seeks to draw attention to the human rights situation in some of Europe’s most contested but least well known places: Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Crimea. When unrecognised states or disputed territories are on the agenda it is usually about the unresolved nature of their conflicts with the countries they have tried to leave, and the role of external patronage and tight security grip exercised by Russia and (in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh) by Armenia, or indeed assessing the risks of ceasefire violations. These issues, and the thorny questions of status, provide the backdrop to this publication but this essay collection’s primary focus is what can be done to improve the human rights situation despite these challenges. It brings together a range of different perspectives, both from the ground and from international experts.

The publication has three central observations. Firstly, that it is essential that more is done to support the work of local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), journalists and lawyers to help them build their capacity and to improve collaboration between them in challenging circumstances. It addresses how the international community needs to find ways to encourage the de facto authorities not to close civic space or place restrictions on NGO activity.

Secondly, there is a need to improve access to international law and international monitoring processes. The publication highlights the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights, whose rights and responsibilities apply in the unrecognised states as a result of all the recognised state parties to the conflicts being signatories, both the states with de jure sovereignty and particularly for the powers that act as ‘patrons’ or occupiers. More can be done to support lawyers both on the ground and internationally in taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and courts operating under universal jurisdiction in third countries. Effective documentation of human rights abuses may also open up opportunities for the use of ‘Magnitsky’ legislation or other personal sanctions on human rights abusers from or operating in disputed territories. More must be done to enable United Nations (UN), Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Council of Europe and other international human rights monitoring missions to overcome wrangling over ‘status’ issues to conduct their work in these territories.   

Thirdly, that issues of conflict resolution and human rights come together in the vital issues of protecting both the rights of internally displaced person (IDP) communities (particularly the very large Azerbaijani and Georgian IDP populations) and the human rights of ethnic Georgians, Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and Moldovans who are still trying to live in the disputed territories which have mainly been home to them since before the conflicts began. The international community must ensure these issues are an important part of their dialogue with the de facto authorities, as well as improving assistance to countries managing the needs of their IDP communities.

Key Recommendations

To the de facto authorities and recognised state governments

  • Abide by all international human rights standards and allow access for monitoring missions;
  • End pressures on NGOs, including those working with international partners or donors;
  • Protect the rights and welfare of IDPs and minority groups;

To the International Community and Global Civil Society

  • Prioritise human rights issues in dialogue with the de facto authorities and the state parties;
  • Support capacity-building for civil society, journalists and lawyers in unrecognised states;
  • Improve access to international legal mechanisms (e.g. ECtHR) and universal courts;
  • Use sanctions, including ‘Magnitsky’ type provisions, against rights abusers in de facto states;
  • Improve support for IDP communities.
[post_title] => Disputed Territories, Disputed Rights: Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => disputed-territories-disputed-rights-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-26 09:26:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-26 09:26:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[23] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4034 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2019-09-26 09:11:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-26 09:11:10 [post_content] =>

If the defence of human rights is to be truly universal it is important to examine whether and how these rights can still be protected even in spaces that fall at the margins of the international system. The authors in this Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Foreign Policy Centre publication aim to shine a spotlight on the human rights situations in some of Europe’s most contested but least well understood spaces: Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Crimea. The international community’s focus on managing these conflicts can sometimes overlook the need for the inhabitants of these areas to enjoy the same rights and freedoms from persecution as those in established states.

A very brief history

This publication seeks, as much as possible, to avoid trying to tackle the huge and vexed issues around conflict resolution, the ongoing humanitarian tragedy of internally displaced persons (IDPs) or the status of de facto entities and their wider place in the world, which are much more fully addressed elsewhere.[1] Nevertheless they are issues that frame and shape the discussion so it is important to briefly set out the backgrounds to the conflicts. Each of these conflicts has their own unique challenges and dynamics but nevertheless there are some shared roots that underpin them.

The existence of these conflicts and (broadly) unrecognised entities can trace their roots back to the way the patchwork of ethnicity and territory during Soviet times swiftly unravelled upon the Union’s collapse. Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh have all separated themselves from the larger entities to which they were attached during Soviet times. The flowering of national identity, and with it often radical nationalism, amongst the peoples of the collapsing Soviet Union manifested itself at many different and competing levels. The reassertion of national identity at the level of the former republics, now independent countries, came into conflict with the parallel flowering of identities amongst the national minorities and autonomous regions that sat within their borders, whose relationships with their regional centres and majority populations had been traditionally mediated and managed by Moscow. The newly emerging states saw the presence and divergent priorities of autonomous units within their territory as a challenge to their ability to consolidate their control of the state and national legitimacy. Efforts by these new states to define and build their national identities through cultural markers (such as national religious institutions) and to promote national languages in place of Russian or minority languages further widened the disconnect between local majorities and minorities.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was an ethnic Armenian-majority political entity situated entirely within the borders of the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR). The movement to, unsuccessfully, persuade the Soviet Union to transfer Nagorno-Karabakh from the control of the Azerbaijani SSR to the Armenian SSR known as the Karabakh Committee was an important mobilising block within the rising Armenian national consciousness during the 1980s. The Armenian leadership of the Oblast called on the USSR in 1988 to transfer control of the territory from Azerbaijani to Armenian control and organised a local referendum that was boycotted by the Azerbaijani community. Tensions grew between Armenian and Azerbaijani communities across the region with significant inter-communal violence (in 1988 in Sumgait and 1990 in Baku against long-established Armenian minority communities) and significant transfers of population between the two republics. Following on running disputes and shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in November 1991 the Parliament of the Azerbaijani SSR dissolved the legal status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast[2], triggering the Oblast’s leadership to declare independence. War was shortly joined by both the de facto authorities and the new states of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with significant loss of both combatant and civilian life, including the massacre of Azerbaijani civilians at Khojaly. By the time of the ceasefire declaration on May 5th 1994 the Armenian forces had been victorious, taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh, creating a new de facto administration called the Republic of Artsakh based out of Stepanakert and occupying the surrounding seven districts of Azerbaijan, forcing the Azerbaijani populations of those regions to flee as IDPs and who have since been unable to return, 644,000 in total.[3] In addition to the IDPs the flow of refugees between Armenia and Azerbaijan comprised 360,000 ethnic Armenians who arrived in Armenia from Azerbaijan[4]  and around 250,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis who arrived from Armenia from 1988 to 1994.[5]  

Tensions along the line of contact remain fierce with sniper fire and border skirmishes claiming 20 to 30 lives each year, both military and civilian, with a notable flare-up in 2016 leading to even greater casualties (up to 300) and a small territorial advance by Azerbaijani forces.[6] The continuing risk of such incidents flaring into a wider conflagration remains ever present. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group under the auspices of the three co-chairs from France, Russia and the United States, brings together the Governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia for talks. Ceasefire monitoring is conducted under the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and his small staff of field advisers, but with the parties remaining far apart the overall international effort remains predominantly a conflict management rather than a resolution process. The de facto authorities of the self-styled ‘Republic of Artsakh’ are not represented at the talks.

Abkhazia had the status of an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic with a greater freedom of local governance at the time of the USSR’s collapse than the other entities under examination here. Ethnic Abkhaz had a strong and separate identity but at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union they only accounted for 17 per cent of the population withGeorgians forming a narrow majority of those living in the area.[7] Tensions around the status of the region were exacerbated by the centralising tendencies of the new nationalist President of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, leading it to take steps towards independence. However it was during the chaos and conflict in the wake of Gamsakhurdia’s ouster that saw a military expedition against a pro-Gamsakhurdia militia by Georgian army commander Tengiz Kitovani, who decided to lead an assault on Abkhazia’s capital Sukhumi that triggered the outbreak of war. The war would see around five percent of the Abkhaz population either killed or injured. The majority of the Georgian population in Abkhazia fled or were expelled (over 200,000 IDPs)[8] in a victory for Abkhaz forces backed by elements of the Russian military and fighters from the north Caucasus.[9] The de facto authorities gained control over most of the territory of the region save for the Kodori Gorge which remained under Georgian jurisdiction and would prove a source of insecurity and tension between all stakeholders until 2008. The territory has also seen periodic waves of expulsion/flight and then return of portions of the pre-war Georgian population in Abkhazia, most notably to the Gali region adjacent to areas of full Georgian control, where between 45,000 and 55,000 Georgians are now believed to be living in the present day (fluctuations tend to happen around harvest time).[10]

In the 1990s the conflict in the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast between separatist forces and the Georgian government was somewhat overshadowed by the conflict in Abkhazia but was subject to similar trends and forces, with local autonomy clashing with the centralising tendencies of the new Georgian state and a resurgent Georgian national identity and nationalism. Again the war was won by separatist forces, with the local South Ossetian forces backed by local Russian military units, but Georgia was able to exercise considerable control both directly and informally over significant portions of the South Ossetian countryside until 2008. Between 1996 and 2004 the Ergneti market on the Georgian side of the (then) loose boundary line with South Ossetia served as a bustling meeting place between the two communities, bonding over the sale of contraband goods. The closure of Ergneti as part of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s anti-smuggling drive was seen as a significant blow to local community relations.

The situation in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia changed dramatically as a result of the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008. Escalating geo-strategic tensions between Georgia and Russia, that manifested themselves in 2008 through Russia’s lifting of sanctions against the de facto Governments, increased Russian military activity in both entities and a series of attacks between Georgian forces and their Abkhaz and South Ossetian counterparts took place. After shelling and a number of skirmishes in early August, Georgian President Saakashvili ordered full-scale military action which initially took control of significant sections of South Ossetia from the de facto authorities. Russian forces declared war on Georgia, an action which it argued was in response to the death of its peacekeepers in the region, leading to a conflict from August 7th to 12th 2008. This conflict saw up to 850 dead,[11] the withdrawal of Georgian forces from the entirety of South Ossetia (including all areas it had held prior to 2008), the expulsion of Georgian forces and authorities from Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia, a significant new flow of Georgian IDPs from both regions[12] and for a brief period the Russian occupation of Georgian towns including Gori and Zugdidi. Shortly after the ceasefire on August 26th 2008 Russia formally recognised the independence of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, setting the stage for the status quo in both regions today. [13]

Transnistria’s break from Moldova was mainly political but also spurred by linguistic and cultural divides. In 1990 the leadership of Tiraspol, the Russian speaking second largest city in the Moldavian SSR attempted to claim independence from its Moldovan counterparts, joining with other areas on the east (left) bank of the Dniester River to proclaim membership of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. After the fall of the Soviet Union this area claimed independence amid the backdrop of movements in Moldova to increase ties with Romania, to transition linguistically from Russian to Romanian and from Cyrillic to the Latin script. A short military conflict took place between March and July 1992, with separatist forces achieving victory with support from Russia’s 14th Army and a mix of Cossacks and other irregular forces. Since the conflict a tri-lateral peacekeeping force and command structure between Moldova, Russia and the de facto authorities has managed the de-militarised zone at the international border with Ukraine. Compared to the current state of other conflict areas examined in this publication there has been a considerable degree of normalisation and engagement between the de facto authorities and their Moldovan counterparts, with trade, both legal and black-market, continuing and the political leadership of the breakaway region traveling freely to and from Chisinau airport as noted by Alina Radu in this publication.[14]

Crimea at different times held both ASSR and Oblast status and sat within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic before its transfer to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. Crimea’s Tatar population was expelled from the region in the 1940s under Stalin and were only able to return in the twilight days of the Soviet Union. Crimea’s status had been the subject of some debate both before and after the collapse of the USSR, with the Crimean Supreme Council attempting to declare independence in 1992 and trying to vote for greater autonomy in 1994. However after this initial burst of activism tensions subsided and began to be folded into the broad linguistic, political and cultural tensions within Ukraine. In the wake of the 2013-14 Euromaidan protests and the ‘Revolution of Dignity’ that saw President Yanukovych removed from office, the tensions over the post-independence territorial settlement resurfaced dramatically. Previous divisions provided an organising hook around which to frame the Russian annexation of Crimea and invasion of Donbass. Russia sent troops operating clandestinely without insignia (known as ‘little green men’) into Crimea on February 27th 2014 to capture major installations and surround Ukrainian military forces. The Russian backed ‘de facto authorities’ under the leadership of Sergey Aksyonov, who had previously led the small Russian Unity party in the Crimean Supreme Council[15], pushed through a referendum on Crimea’s status on March 16th 2014, boycotted by its opponents and rejected by the international community, which saw a declaration of support for joining Russia as a Federal Subject (Republic), although with thin turnout in substantially lower numbers than claimed by the Kremlin. The Russian authorities completed the annexation on March 18th 2014 declaring the creation of the Republic of Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. The conflict saw the displacement of some ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars from Crimea as IDPs. 

Where we are today

These conflicts have remained unresolved until the present day, with de facto authorities becoming more entrenched year by year. International attempts at mediation, primarily through the OSCE, have floundered between the Scylla and Charybdis of competing, and often opposing, rights to self-determination and territorial integrity, the involvement of parties to the conflict (primarily Russia) in the mediation mechanisms and the IDP issue.

So as Dr Dennis Sammut points out in his piece perhaps the greatest humanitarian and human rights challenge falls outside the scope of this specific publication[16], the IDPs left in the wake of these conflicts. The numbers of IDPs and refugees[17] are greatly contested as noted above but remain in the hundreds of thousands[18], providing an enormous logistical strain on the governments taking care of them and a so far irreconcilable issue in the attempts at conflict resolution. This essay collection is not the best place to elucidate or litigate the IDP or conflict issue as there are already a number of major publications exploring this vital topic.[19]

The publication’s aim is to focus on the situation on the ground in and around these disputed territories and what the status quo means for residents living under the control of the de facto authorities. In a number of cases there are new dynamics and potential uncertainties. Focusing on the human rights standards within the disputed territories the annual Freedom House rankings provide their usual brief pen picture of the situation with Abkhazia[20] and Nagorno Karabakh[21] listed as partially free, while Transnistria[22], South Ossetia[23] and Crimea[24] are listed as not-free.

Abkhazia has seen internal tensions that, as well as personal rivalries, partially contain divisions between those wishing to build up its independent institutions and those wishing to promote (or who see no alternative to) closer integration with Russia, with Moscow more clearly supporting the latter project since the 2008 war. In 2014 when President Alexander Ankvab was forced to resign after public protests against corruption and mismanagement, then opposition leader Raul Khajimba defeated Aslan Bzhania in an election between candidates both seen as closer to Russia than Ankvab but where the victor’s supporters were alleged to have been influential in removing ethnic Georgians from the voter rolls.[25] Particularly in the area of security it is an open secret that the de facto authorities are expected to defer to Russian demands and with a significant presence of Russian security personnel on the ground.

In April 2019 Aslan Bzhania, who was seen as a front runner in the 2019 de facto Presidential election, along with his bodyguards were hospitalised in Moscow with a mystery illness that was subsequently identified by a German laboratory as  mercury (and other toxic metal) poisoning.[26] Bzhania’s position towards the Russians has shifted overtime and in 2016 he was arrested by the Russian security services while he was seeking to build pressure on Khajimba to resign, so overall he was seen to be more wary over Moscow’s integration efforts towards Abkhazia than the current leadership.[27] With Bzhania’s health still recovering, including continued difficulty breathing, his ally Alkhas Kvitsinia stood as the main opposition candidate. Also worth noting is that a few weeks prior to the first round Khajimba had a well-publicised meeting with President Putin, seen as an indication of Russian backing.

In the closely fought first round the incumbent President Khajimba received around 26 per cent of the vote to Kvitsinia’s just over 25 per cent, while the ally of former President Ankvab, former deputy minister Oleg Arshba, was narrowly beaten into third with just below 25 per cent.[28] In the horse trading that followed the first round former President Ankvab had endorsed the candidacy of Kvitsinia in return for an agreement for Ankvab to become Prime Minister in the event of victory. However despite this alliance Khajimba was able to defeat his rival by a mere 999 votes on September 8th 2019.[29]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other formal international human rights mechanisms have had access to Abkhazia (and South Ossetia) rejected by the de facto authorities.[30] However unlike their Ossetian counterparts the Abkhaz authorities have allowed some forms of international access. Former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, in partnership with the International Crisis Group’s Magdalena Grono, were tasked by the European Union (EU) to undertake a review of the human rights situation in the disputed territory and were granted access. Their report became stuck in wrangling over the language used to discuss status issues between Georgia and the EU,[31] leading the authors in exasperation to release their findings independently via the Olaf Palme Centre.[32] Their report covered a broad range of issues noting the need for reform of detention facilities, corruption in law enforcement (particularly the traffic police-a common problem in the wider region) and that NGOs were seeing the narrowing of civic space and had received less funding and greater pressure since the 2008 conflict. Their report also drew attention to the problem surrounding property rights, particularly in relation to ethnic Georgians and IDPs, findings that were also echoed by the UN who have also identified that the practice of demolishing the ruins of houses owned by IDPs had restarted in 2017.[33]While still freer than the other unrecognised states assessed in this publication the general view (in-line with the Hammarberg and Grono report) is that the overall civic space in Abkhazia has gradually been shrinking in recent years, with increasing pressure put on those working with international partners, though a formal foreign agents law has been avoided.[34] A recent paper by Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group shows how the ethnic Georgian community in the Gali region have been struggling to deal with the increasingly closed crossings and the implementation of new Abkhaz residence permits which limits their ability to visit Georgian controlled territory.[35]

Despite its position as one of the more closed societies being explored in this collection South Ossetia’s electoral politics is surprisingly competitive with active parliamentary elections and incumbent presidents losing to rivals in both 2001 and 2017.[36] Freedom of expression is limited with local media under the control of the de facto authorities and pressure on independent journalists and activists taking place. As with a number of neighbouring states in the region the use of criminal defamation has been used to intimidate critics in South Ossetia, such as social media activist Tamar Mearakishvili.[37] In 2017 Jehovah’s Witnesses were classified as an extremist organisation, creating a de facto ban on their activities and highlighting freedom of religion concerns. Schools teaching in the Georgian language are being phased out, discriminating against the Georgian minority community remaining within South Ossetia and echoing similar changes in Abkhazia.[38] According to the UN the introduction of a ‘foreign agents’ law in 2014, mirroring the similar Russian legislation, has significantly closed the space for civil society in South Ossetia leading to the closure of NGOs and reduced engagement in ‘track two’ dialogue with international NGOs around confidence and peacebuilding.[39] The Russian presence in South Ossetia is more pronounced than in Abkhazia, not least as the result of the linkages with North Ossetia, where many South Ossetians have moved to find work[40].

Until recently the politics of Nagorno-Karabakh has perhaps been more stable and less competitive than in Abkhazia,[41] an environment shaped by the military pressure from Azerbaijan and the close political relationship with its patron Armenia, from which it receives over 60 per cent of its budget.[42] Local human rights challenges remain similar to those elsewhere in the region, such as corruption, executive influence over the judiciary and a limited space for independent civil society. Also in Nagorno-Karabakh a 2017 constitutional referendum sanctioned increased presidential powers, abolished the post of prime minister, and postponed elections until 2020 for incumbent leader Bako Sahakyan, a move described by opponents as a ‘constitutional coup’.[43]

While not changing the fundamental position in respect to the conflict, the impact of the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in Armenia has created political uncertainty in the relationship between Yerevan and the de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh. Prime Minister Pashinyan is the first leader of Armenia whose political identity is not extricable linked with Karabakh.[44] The political tensions inside Armenia, such as between Pashinyan and former President Kocharyan[45], are pitting the new Armenian government against a Karabakhi political elite who had previously dominated public life in both Yerevan and Stepanakert.[46] Pashinyan even accused the current de facto authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh of conspiring to hand over territory to Azerbaijan in an effort to discredit him.[47] Amid the tensions between Yerevan and Stepanakert and in the wake of June 2018 demonstrations by citizens opposing abuses by the Nagorno Karabakh security services de facto President Sahakayan announced he would not be standing for re-election.[48]

The upcoming de facto 2020 Presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh could be potentially more competitive than previous ballots,[49] which were personality contests within the ruling regime rather than featuring significant genuine opposition. With relations with the new Armenian government providing a potential dividing line, and presenting both opportunities for reform and for destabilisation, given the old guard are likely to try and protect their position against radical change.[50]Overall the human rights situation is improving with people more able to speak out and make critical Facebook posts, with the previous threat of retribution including arrest significantly reduced.

The situation of Crimea remains somewhat different to its counterparts in that it has been annexed by a metropolitan state, a member of the UN Security Council at that. While the vast majority of states have not recognised this annexation as legitimate, the fact that Russia formally deems Crimea to be part of its territory requires it to place the same human rights safeguards and legal protections over it (for what they are worth) that apply in the rest of the Russian Federation, including recourse to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Previous Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) publications have touched on some of the major human rights challenges facing the local population, particularly for those unhappy with the annexation. The 2017 ‘Closing the Door’ publication showed how Crimean Tatar political leaders[51], in particular, have been targeted. One tool for increasing pressure on the Tatar community has been the prosecution of members of religious groups, such as the proselytising Tablighi Jamaat movement and the non-violent extremist groups Hizb ut-Tahrir, which are legal in Ukraine but outlawed in Russia.[52]

Relations between the de facto Transnistrian Authorities and the Moldovan Government are less tense than the other relationships addressed here. Back in 2013 Thomas Hammarberg, then in the capacity of being a UN Senior Expert, was able to provide a comparatively comprehensive overview of some of the human rights challenges faced by the region.[53] The international community was allowed access to help deliver a ‘Human Rights Joint Action Programme 2016-2018’ in the Transnistrian region as a partnership between OHCHR, UNDP, UNAIDS and UNODC, focusing on important but less politically challenging issues identified by Hammarberg such as: disability rights, tackling HIV/AIDs, rights of prisoners and domestic violence.[54] Corruption, language rights and space for independent civil society and media remain significant challenges.

All the longstanding disputed states that maintain their independence have created human rights ombudsman or similar offices akin to their counterparts in the metropolitan states. The Ombudsperson in Abkhazia since March 2018 is the widely respected former co-director of The Center for Humanitarian Programmes, Asida Shakryl[55], but like its counterpart, the Presidential Commission of Human Rights in South Ossetia, it has been described as ‘hollow in terms of their real powers and importance’ by the European Parliament research division, though Shakryl’s status and expertise helps offset this to a certain degree.[56] The Ombudsman in Nagorno-Karabakh has an active engagement on issues relating to the conflict and has made efforts to strengthen its institutional legitimacy, such as through membership of the European Ombudsman Institute, but until now has played a limited role. The Transnistrian Commissioner for Human Rights, Vyacheslav Kosinsky, reported to a plenary session of the deputies of the Transnistrian Supreme Council that his office received 871 appeals for assistance in 2018.[57] However  looking at the cases he raised highlights how the remit of these offices are often extremely broad as they are acting as ombudsman in fields as broad as consumer protection, employment rights and monitoring government performance in its administration of social security payments.[58] While it is somewhat understandable given the size of populations to consolidate this activity into one office, it means the ability to focus time on more challenging human rights issues, including abuse of power, is more restricted. 

A number of the de facto authorities have used references to international human rights conventions as at least a notional ambition for local practice and certainly as a signal to the international community. For example Transnistria has unilaterally pledged to respect the two UN Covenants on human rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Similarly Abkhazia’s de facto constitution recognises and guarantees ‘the rights and freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Economic, Social, Cultural, Civil and Political rights, and other universally recognised international legal instruments’.[59] Despite such unilateral efforts and attempts at local capacity building, as Illya Nusov points out in his essay given the level of control they wield the ultimate legal responsibility lies with the ‘patrons’ of these de facto states, Armenia for Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia for the remainder, and to a lesser, more narrowly defined way, with the countries from which these de facto authorities are attempting to secede from.

What our authors say

The essay by Gunnar M. Ekelove-Slydal, Ana Pashalishvili and Inna Sangadzhiyeva discusses methods of strengthening respect for human rights in Abkhazia, Transnistria, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh. Based on case law of the European Court of Human Rights, it concludes that both the patron and the parent states as well as de facto authorities are obliged to uphold human rights to the extent that they have effective control over the territory. The authors argue that supporting development of civil society groups and training of journalists and lawyers to work together on human rights issues may be the most effective strategy to improve human rights. Many issues can be solved in status-neutral ways such as improving prison conditions, health care, education, social services, and housing; eliminating discrimination; and increasing respect for fundamental freedoms. International actors should increase support for such co-operation.

Ilya Nuzov writes a contribution that addresses the international law aspects of responsibility for violations of international human rights law committed in Eastern Europe’s ‘grey zones’. It provides an overview of the human rights obligations of non-State actors and States vis-à-vis the individuals in the ‘grey zones’. It argues the contested nature of these ‘grey zones’ under public international law, arising among others from disputed sovereignty and territorial control, results in the obfuscation and fragmentation of human rights obligations between state and non-state actors, causing ambiguities and gaps with respect to the attribution of international responsibility for violations. The essay examines these gaps in light of the available mechanisms of redress on the international level against both individuals and entities that commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and other abuses, and suggests gap-filling alternatives.

Dr Dennis Sammut explains some of the history and background to the current unresolved conflicts. He explores the particular role played by Russia as both a conflict party and a putative peacemaker. The essay seeks to explore the similarities and differences between these unrecognised states and other micro-states. He sets out the case both for non-recognition and for engagement, while arguing in favour of greater European involvement in efforts to move the situation forward.

Caucasian Knot’s essay acquaints readers with the current situation of non-profit and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in the ‘unrecognised’ states of Southern Caucasus, and examines the history and peculiarities of the electoral process in these territories. It provides a brief overview of the most well-known NGOs and the main areas of their activities. It looks at the interactions between NGOs and de facto state structures including what civil initiatives are supported by officials, and in which areas people need to overcome the bureaucracy's pressure. It provides a special focus on the electoral practices in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh, in the context of the international ‘non-recognition’, examining the level of civil control during voting, the status of international observers, and cases of abuse by the authorities.

Rustam Anshba’s contribution focuses on the Georgian-Abkhazian unresolved conflict over the status of Abkhazia. He gives a very brief overview of the present day status of the conflict, before focusing on the issues that are related to the limitations and constrains the young population of Abkhazia are facing on a daily basis. The lack of development and long-term isolation have lasting negative effects on the younger post-war generation, which in the future will be faced with the question on how to resolve the ongoing conflict. His essay concludes with open-ended questions and ideas on how to engage with the population of Abkhazia and build skills and capacity to address the conflict related issues in the future. 

The essay by Caucasian Knot and Alan Parastaev argues that the non-recognition of independence of South Ossetia by the international community is the main reason for the underdevelopment of the human rights sphere in this region. It looks at the positive steps taken by the Ombudsman's office and the President's institutions in resolving humanitarian issues at various stages of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. The research also looks at the main problems and difficulties faced in the formation of full-fledged institutions for the protection of human rights and independent NGOs; absence of monitoring, isolation from international organisations, the general level and peculiarities of legal awareness, and pressure from law enforcement agencies.

Mariam Uberi’s research shows that the continued violations of the ceasefire agreement between Russia and Georgia has resulted in Russia’s creeping ‘borderisation’ into Georgia. The human dimension of the conflict has had a devastating effect on both communities living alongside the administrative boundary line (ABL) of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, restricting their freedom of movement, access to their livelihood and sometimes resulting in unlawful death. The essay examines the political and legal responses from the Georgian authorities and its efforts to safeguard human rights of its citizens exposed to economic, social and human vulnerabilities post-conflict.

The essay on Nagorno-Karabakh by The Norwegian Helsinki Committee seeks to shed light on perceptions of the people living there about their future, especially prospects of strengthening rule of law, democratisation and human rights after the so-called 2018 ‘velvet-revolutions’ in Armenia. It points to both Soviet heritage and militarisation due to the conflict with Azerbaijan playing a negative role in obstructing democratic and economic developments, although civil society groups, journalists and many ordinary people seem to have been inspired to press for reforms by recent events in Armenia. The essay argues for a people-centred approach to improve the situation for residents and internally displaced people both in Nagorno-Karabakh and in Azerbaijan.

Anton Nemlyuk’s essay touches upon the effective way human rights activists, journalists and lawyers work together when protecting human rights in Crimea. It notes that the opportunities to get access to the international human rights mechanisms are limited in the occupied territories. It makes the case that in Crimea the court system has a political function, prosecuting those who are not loyal to Russia.

Alina Radu’s essay draws attention to the ways in which access to the Moldovan legal system is an important part of taking cases of human rights abuse in Transnistria to the European Court of Human Rights. It also draws attention to the lack of media freedom in the areas controlled by the de facto authorities. 

Photo by ECFR, Life in the Grey Zones, Reports from Europe’s breakaway regions, Photo has been modified from original for this publication.

[1]  For example see Thomas de Waal, Abkhazia: Stable Isolation, Uncertain Ground: Engaging with Europe’s De Facto States and Breakaway Territories, Carnegie Europe, December 2018,

[2] Law of the Azerbaijan Republic of November 26, 1991 No. 279-XII, About abolition of the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region of the Azerbaijan Republic,

[3] See information  from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre at, the International Crisis Group, Azerbaijan’s IDP Burden, February 2012,; and FCO, Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) in South Caucasus: The Numbers Game,

[4] Jennifer Clark, Some 65,000 refugees from Azerbaijan gain Armenian citizenship, UNHCR,

[5] EU Commission and UNHCR, Azerbaijan: Analysis of Gaps in the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, October 2009,

[6] Laurence Broers, The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Defaulting to War, Chatham House, July 2016,

[7] Jared Ferrie, Can they ever go home? The forgotten victims of Georgia’s civil war, The New Humanitarian, May 2019,

[8] By 2007 Georgian official figures listed 247,000 IDPs from the Abkhazia conflict in the 1990s  (a figure including subsequently born dependents) see Laurence Broers, Out of the margins: Securing a voice for internally displaced people: Lessons from Georgia, Conciliation Resources, December 2009, . Also see the Georgia IDP Project, Homepage,

[9] Ibid.  

[10] Thomas Hammarberg and Magdalena Grono, Human Rights in Abkhazia Today, July 2017, See also for more information about life in Gali.

[11] ECHR, Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia – Report, Volume I, September 2009, Section 2.7 of this Human Rights Watch report documents the controversy over assessment of casualty numbers putting the civilian casualty figures probably in the 300-400 range,

[12] According to data from Georgia immediately after the 2008 conflict up to 279,000 Georgians claimed to have been displaced from Abkhazia, however most of these (247,000) were those who were originally displaced in the 90s. For South Ossetia the longer-term displaced population was believed to be just over 19,000 as of 2009, though again there remains fluidity on the ground. For further information see Laurence Broers, Out of the margins: Securing a voice for internally displaced people: Lessons from Georgia, Conciliation Resources, December 2009, .

[13] RFE/RL,  Russia Recognizes Abkhazia, South Ossetia, August 2008,

[14] After the initial displacement of IDPs during and immediately post-conflict, ethnic Moldovan IDPs have mostly reintegrated into Transnistrian or Moldovan society with only 200 families/households still identified as being IDPs as of 2013- see  Zuzanna Brunarska and Agnieszka Weinar Asylum seekers, Refugees and IDPs in the EaP countries: Recognition, Social Protection and integration - An Overview, European University Institute,

[15] The most recent Crimean Supreme Council elections in 2010 had been dominated by President Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions and the Ukrainian Communist Party with Aksyonov’s Russian Unity Party holding only 3 of the 100 seats. See Interfax Ukraine, Regions Party gets 80 of 100 seats on Crimean parliament, November 2011,

[16] One about which.

[17] Refugees were mainly ethnic Armenians and Azeris who fled between the two metropolitan states in the 90s.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Some examples of relevant research include: Laurence Broers, Out of the margins: Securing a voice for internally displaced people: Lessons from Georgia, Conciliation Resources, December 2009,; Conciliation Resources,  Displacement in Georgia:  IDP attitudes to conflict, return and justice, April 2011,;  OHCHR, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on his follow-up mission to Georgia (10–14 June 2013), June 2013,;
International Crisis Group, Tackling Azerbaijan’s IDP Burden, February 2012,; OSCE, Conflict-related Displacement in Ukraine, July 2016,

[20] Freedom in the World 2019, Abkhazia, Freedom House,

[21] Freedom in the World 2019, Nagorno-Karabakh, Freedom House,

[22] Freedom in the World 2019, Transnistria, Freedom House,

[23] Freedom in the World 2019, South Ossetia, Freedom House,

[24] Freedom in the World 2019, Crimea, Freedom House,

[25] Polina Devitt and Jason Bush, Abkhazia elects opposition leader as president, Reuters, August 2014,;  and Donnachia O Beachain, Dubious Election Produces a Divisive New President in Abkhazia, Global Observatory, September 2014,

[26] Abkhaz parliament confirms opposition leader was poisoned, presidential elections may be rescheduled. Jam News, Abkhaz parliament confirms opposition leader was poisoned, presidential elections may be rescheduled, May 2019,

[27] Liz Fuller, Russia Reportedly Detains Abkhaz Oppositionist Following New Demand for Khajimba’s Resignation, RFE/RL, December 2016,

[28] Giorgi Lomsadze, Abkhazia presidential election heads to runoff, Euasianet, August 2019,

[29] Inal Khashig, Incumbent Abkhaz President Khajimba wins second term in surprise victory, JAM-News, September 2019,

[30] Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on cooperation with Georgia, September 2018,

[31] Jonathan Steele, The Abkhazia human rights report the EU doesn't want you to read, August 2017,

[32] Thomas Hammarberg and Magdalena Grono, Human Rights in Abkhazia Today, July 2017,

[33] Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on cooperation with Georgia, September 2018,

[34] Examples of some of the issues are document in articles including Inal Khashig, NGOs and journalists accused of treason in Abkhazia, June 2017, JAM-News, Abkhaz officials banned from participating in international meetings organized by NGOs, June 2018, OC-Media, Challenges faced by NGOs in Abkhazia, May 2017,

[35] Olesya Vartanyan,

[36] Donnacha Ó Beacháin, Electoral Politics in the De Facto States of the South Caucasus, CAUCASUS ANALYTICAL DIGEST No. 94, April 2017,

[36] Ibid.

[37] Amnesty International Public Statement, Georgia: De facto authorities in a disputed region stifle freedom of expression, August 2017,

[38] Maxim Edwards, No More Georgian in South Ossetia’s Schools?, Eurasianet, September 2017,

[39] Ibid. 

[40] Thomas De Waal, Abkhazia and the Danger of ‘Ossetianization’, Moscow Times, July 2019,

[41] Donnacha Ó Beacháin , Elections without recognition: presidential and parliamentary contests in Abkhazia and Nagorny Karabakh, Caucasus Survey, Volume 3 – Issue 3, September 2015,

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ter-Petrossian as chair of the Karabakh Committee, Kocharyan who served as Prime Minister and President of Nagorno-Karabakh before transitioning to the same roles in Armenia, and Sargsyan who served as military leader and minister of defence for Karabakh before becoming Minister of Interior and Security, Minister of Defence and then Prime Minister-twice- and President of Armenia.

[45] Covering historical crimes and relations with the judiciary

[46] In the tumult in Yerevan surrounding the attempts to prevent the release of Kocharyan on bail, Armenian police stopped a car containing Vitaly Balasanyan, the secretary of the National Security Council of the NKR and ally of Kocharyan, under suspicion of having illegal weapons in his car leading to a tense standoff. Panorama, Pashinyan comments on Artsakh leaders’ petition for Kocharyan’s release, May 2019,

[47] Joshua Kucera and Ani Mejlumyan, Armenia: After ex-president released, premier opens conflict with judges and Karabakh leaders, Eurasianet, May 2019,

[48] Weekly Staff, Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan Not to Seek Reelection in 2020, The Armenian Weekly, June 2018,

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ani Mejlumyan, Race for Karabakh leadership gets off to early start, Eurasianet, February 2019,

[51] Eugenia Andreyuk and Philipp Gliesche, Crimea: Deportations and forced transfer of the civil population, Foreign Policy Centre, December 2017,

[52] Ibid. and Halya Coynash, 5-year sentence demanded in Russia’s “safari hunt of Muslims” in occupied Crimea, KHPG, January 2019, http://khpg