Uzbekistan: call to release rights defender Uktam Pardaev

UZBEK PARDAEVUzbek authorities should immediately release and drop their criminal case against Uktam Pardaev, a prominent human rights activist arrested on November 16, 2015, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today:

Police arrested Pardaev, head of the Independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, in his home in Jizzakh on charges of extortion and bribery, confiscating a camera, computer, several documents and flash drives. They also searched his brothers’ home. Pardaev, who faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty, was held incommunicado for four days in the Do’stlik district pre-trial detention facility without access to his lawyer and was unable to contact family members until his lawyer visited him on November 20.

Pardaev, 37, is known for his work uncovering local corruption and monitoring the forced labor of adults and children in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields. Authorities have persecuted him for his peaceful work for years, denying him an exit visa from Uzbekistan on political grounds. In recent months, however, Pardaev had told diplomats and international organizations about local authorities’ increasing pressure on him in the form of constant surveillance and harassment.

“Pardaev has long campaigned against corruption and abuse of power in a region of Uzbekistan where many are afraid to speak out,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “His prosecution fits a typical pattern of fabricated criminal charges brought to silence human rights defenders and should be dropped immediately.”


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Shared responsibility: a new model for improving Asia’s labor conditions

bangladesh1-superJumboTwo years after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh that killed almost 1,200 workers and injured 2,500 others, scores of factories remain unsafe and existing responses aren’t solving a range of problems. Fresh thinking seems in short supply, notes Michael Posner, co-director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at NYU’s Stern School of Business.

The World Economic Forum has taken up the challenge, proposing a bold new ‘shared responsibility’ model in which local and global businesses, governments, international financial organizations like the World Bank, unions and foundations join forces to address the most pressing human-rights challenges, he writes for The Wall Street Journal. The model stems from two premises:

  • First, the current system for policing global supply-chain operations isn’t working. At the moment, each global brand is responsible for monitoring the factories, farms or fishing fleets from which it sources its products. This may help global brands mitigate their own risks. But it fails to shine a light into the places where much of the work is done: the vast networks of subcontractors and sub-subcontractors for whom no one takes responsibility.
  • Even if we identify the most serious risks to the majority of workers in these informal work arrangements, and accurately estimate the real costs of fixing them, it is unreasonable to assume that either local governments or private companies would be willing or able to pay these costs.

The shared responsibility model offers an ambitious but practical way forward, allocating costs among various public and private actors, argues Posner, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor:

In Bangladesh, it should start locally with the government and local manufacturers convening all the main stakeholders to develop a common plan of action.

They could invite global brands and retailers, but also the governments of developed countries, international development banks, private foundations, and unions to map the entire supply chain and assess the real costs of factory safety. Once they do so, these parties themselves could decide collectively to allocate costs among local and global industry, home and host governments, the international financial institutions, and private donors to raise the funds to meet the need.


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As Putin tests West’s resolve, Ukraine looks for US leadership

ukraine euromaidanIf the MH-17 tragedy in 2014, where Russian separatists shot down a commercial airliner, didn’t demonstrate the fact that Russia’s challenge is international, Moscow’s actions in Syria have, notes Evelyn N. Farkas, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia from 2012 until the end of October, and the author of Fractured States and U.S. Foreign Policy.

We must continue to work with the international community — non-transatlantic allies and partners, including Japan, Israel, Australia and Malaysia, among others — to hold Russia accountable for the MH-17 crash, the violation of the Budapest memorandum, which offered political assurances to Ukraine in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons, and for failing to implement the Minsk agreements in Ukraine, she writes for POLITICO.

paula dobrianskyCongress and the administration should hold the government of Ukraine accountable to its own broad political and economic reform pledges, but concurrently work together to craft a comprehensive aid package to bolster Ukraine’s economic resilience, argues Paula Dobriansky, a senior fellow at Harvard University and a former board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The U.S. must intervene far more forcefully than it has to date to ensure Ukraine can remain solvent. Immediate macroeconomic support – in the range of $3-3.5 billion – will be needed to foster investor confidence and stabilize the banking sector, she writes for The Hill:

Beyond the economic war, Ukraine needs to secure its border with Russia. Ukraine will not be able to do this without military assistance and training from the U.S.  Defensive lethal assistance, as required by the Ukraine Freedom Support Act introduced last year in Congress, is overdue. In addition, Ukraine is the frontline of Russia’s massive propaganda campaign.  Russia invests billions of dollars in its state media machine seeking to hide the truth about its involvement in the war in Ukraine. Increasing resources to assist Ukraine’s efforts to counter Moscow’s disinformation campaign should also be part of the package. 

“Russian aggression against Ukraine is a strategic threat to the United States and Europe, particularly the countries of Central and Eastern Europe,” says Dobriansky, a former under-secretary of State for Global Affairs. “Ukraine’s democratic and economic potential is limitless, but Ukrainians cannot do it alone. With U.S. support, an independent and free Ukraine will thrive as a liberal democracy in the heart of Europe.” RTWT

The success of Ukraine’s reform agenda depends on the ability of its educational system to develop forward-thinking and globally-minded citizens. With one of the best education systems in the world and an interest in Ukraine’s success, the United States is in a unique position to support this process. In his talk at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk will discuss the role that the United States could play in making education an essential part of the overall plan to help Ukraine emerge as a prosperous and independent nation.

Monday November 30, 230 pm.

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New technology tools for political parties


Political parties can now take a more strategic approach to using new information and communications technology (ICT) tools with the help of a new guide from the National Democratic Institute. The guide, available online, walks through the various steps parties should take when considering adopting new tech tools. They include:

  • Core concepts three important approaches for parties to consider when utilizing new technology, including: how parties can use databases, including those in lower tech environments; identifying specific communication strategies for different audiences; and important security considerations when using new tech tools.
  • Preliminary analysisbefore selecting a tool, parties should identify specific goals, and examine whether ICTs can help meet those goals, if the tool(s) are appropriate for the environment and audience, and fully understand the financial commitment that is required.
  • Planning and rollout – after the preliminary analysis, parties must create an implementation plan, or a roadmap, for what needs to happen for its goal to be met.

The guide also includes worksheets to help parties think through specific challenges such as short- and long-term costs for different tech projects; which would be more appropriate, custom-built or off-the-shelf software; how to write a project timeline and a specifications document; and more. As well as a toolbox that outlines basic tools that can help parties achieve their goals, such as: a website, constituent relations management software, email, social media, mobile and smart phones, online advertising, short message services, among others.

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Aiding Somalia’s transition

Somalia_map_states_regions_districtsThe United States Government (USG), represented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is seeking applications from qualified U.S. citizens to provide personal services as an Office of Transition Initiatives Country Representative – Somalia.

Countries experiencing a significant political transition in the midst of a disaster or emerging from civil conflict have unique needs that cannot be fully addressed by traditional disaster relief. Timely and effective assistance to promote and consolidate peaceful, democratic advances can make the difference between a successful or a failed transition. OTI assists in securing peace by aiding indigenous, mostly non-governmental, civil society and media organizations. OTI uses such mechanisms as support for re-integration of ex-combatants into civilian society; development of initiatives to promote national reconciliation; identification of quick-impact community self-help projects to meet urgent economic needs; and aid to independent media outlets and community-based organizations to help promote informed debate and broaden public participation.

The USAID/OTI Somalia program will support the larger objectives of the U.S. Government to promote stability and political transition, and counter violent extremism, in Somalia. The new program will focus on providing assistance to communities newly liberated from the al-Shabaab militant group, providing support to newly-formed regional administrations, and assisting other emergent political priorities related to the Vision 2016 agenda laid out by the international community and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS).

Full details here.

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