On April 1, 2020, a Special Republican Commission decision established a strict self-isolation regime for Tashkent, Nukus, and regional centers. Persons older than 65 were prohibited from leaving their homes except to visit pharmacies or grocery stores. The decision also temporarily suspended the organization of private charitable events. In addition, on March 26, 2020, amendments to Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, and Code on Administrative Offences substantially increased liability for violations of medical and quarantine procedures, including criminal liability for distributing “false” information related to quarantine or infectious diseases, with more severe penalties for sharing such information in the media or internet — up to a $10,000 fine and three years imprisonment. For additional details, see ICNL’s COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker entry for Uzbekistan.
After Uzbekistan became an independent republic in 1991, civil society slowly began to develop. As with other countries of the former Soviet Union the legal framework is based on the civil law tradition, and legislation governing NGOs generally includes statements of support and protection for NGOs. Nonetheless, more than 25 years since independence, civil society does not yet play a vibrant role in the country. The government has tended to view the civic sector with suspicion. Indeed, most foreign and international NGOs which had operated in the country during the 1990s and early 2000s have since been closed and expelled from the country. In 2005, the government mandated a process of re-registration for NGOs, which led to a significant reduction in the number of NGOs in the country. In 2013 a number of organizations were also reportedly subject to “a new wave of inspections” by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the country’s tax authorities. Legislative trends under former President Islam Karimov were generally restrictive.
The country’s first president after the Karimov era, Shavkat Mirziyoev, assumed power in September 2016 and has thus far supported a number of initiatives that the potential to be enabling for the CSO legal environment:
1. On December 26, 2016, Mirziyoev signed the Law on Social Services for the Elderly, Disabled and Other Socially Vulnerable Categories of the Population (the Law on Social Services). The law was developed within the framework of the implementation of the State Program “Year of attention and care for the older generation”. The main purpose of the law is to improve the legal framework for the provision of social services to the needy and to increase the role and responsibility of government, NGOs and business entities in this area.
2. On February 7, 2017, President Mirziyoev issued a decree to approve the Action Strategy on Five Priority Areas of the Country’s Development for 2017-2021 (the “Action Strategy”) (Russian) (Uzbek). In general, the Action Strategy emphasizes improvement to state management and services, comprehensive judicial and legal system reforms, economic liberalization and financial reforms, optimizing and improving social service provision, among other issues. NGOs are specifically mentioned in the Action Strategy, where it notes the “necessity of further development of civil society institutions and improvement of their social and political activism” (Paragraph 1.3 of the Action Strategy). The Action Strategy also refers to NGO engagement with government bodies to assist in “countering crime and the prevention of offenses” (Paragraph 2.4 of the Action Strategy.)
3. On April 12, 2018, President Mirziyoyev signed the new Law on Public Control (effective as of April 13, 2018). The purpose of the law is to establish a legal framework for public oversight over the activities of government bodies and government officials. In accordance with the law, citizens, citizens’ self-government bodies, non-commercial organizations (NNOs), and mass media have the right to exercise oversight over activities of government bodies and officials.
4. In the wake of the Implementing Decree on Measures to Fundamentally Enhance the Role of Civil Society Institutions in the Process of Democratic Renewal of the Country of May 4, 2018, the Ministry of Justice an order on June 1, 2018, that establishes the Regulation on the Procedure for Informing about Planned Activities of Non-governmental Non-commercial Organizations. It replaces the Regulation on Procedure of Coordination of NNOs’ Activities of June 4, 2015. According to a summary posted on Norma.uz, from June 1, 2018:
- NGOs are no longer required to obtain approval from the MoJ in order to conduct events, but still need to notify the MoJ of plans to conduct such events;
- The minimum period for informing the justice body of planned activities is reduced to:
- 10 days before the start of event without the participation of foreign citizens;
- 20 days before the start of event with the participation of foreign citizens; and
- Justice bodies will only provide NGOs with written notice in case of a refusal to conduct the event.
5. On June 27, 2018, the Ministry of Justice issued an order that establishes a new form of annual reporting on the activities of NNOs for submission to the justice bodies. The new form will serve as uniform reporting form for NNOs, their structural divisions, as well as for branches and representative offices of foreign non-profit organizations. By contrast, there were previously three separate forms of reporting for each of the types of organizations listed.
Other recently adopted initiatives establish new procedures for the regulation of CSOs, but do not significantly change or improve their regulation:
- On August 8, 2018, the Ministry of Justice adopted the new Regulation on Monitoring and Studying Activities of Non-governmental Noncommercial Organizations by Justice Bodies. In accordance with President Mirziyoyev’s Decree of May 4, 2018, the Regulation establishes a separate procedure on monitoring and studying NGOs’ activities.
- – On October 23, 2018, through Government resolution #854 the Cabinet of Ministers of adopted new Regulations on the Procedure for the Interaction of Justice Bodies with Other Government Bodies, Local Governmental Bodies, and Law Enforcement Agencies to Identify Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organizations that Violate the Law. The Regulation is aimed at establishing a system of communications between various governmental bodies and justice bodies to monitor all violations by foreign and local CSOs and their representatives. Violations listed in the regulation range from minor violations, such as changing the address without notifying the justice bodies, to the receipt of funds from the illegal sources.
In addition, on February 13, 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution on Measures of Organization of Activity of the Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organization – Nationwide Movement “Yuksalish” and its Territorial Subdivisions. The mission of “Yuksalish” is to provide assistance in implementation of planned reforms, including those specified in the State Program on Implementation of the Action Strategy on Five Priority Directions for the Country Development from 2017-2021. And, lastly, several resolutions in 2019 have indicated the Government is making efforts to to simplify NNOs’ access to foreign funding.
Further, the new Law on Voluntary Activity came into effect on December 3, 2019. The law’s purpose was defining legal bases for voluntary activity. Previously Uzbek legislation did not include such terms as “volunteer” and “voluntary activity”. The law also further distinguished between forced labor and voluntary activity benefiting public causes, made clear that compensation of certain expenses associated with voluntary work is permitted, and provided volunteers with the right to obtain insurance from an organizer of a voluntary activity. At the same time, the law established new requirements for all participants of voluntary activities. For example, participants of voluntary activities are required to notify the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) about their activities, while the MoJ was given new and extensive powers in the area of voluntary activity.
|Organizational Forms||Non-Governmental Non-commercial Organizations (NGOs), which include public associations, public funds, institutions and associations of NGOs|
|Registration Body||Ministry of Justice|
|Approximate Number||Number of registered NGOs is unknown. According to the Uzbek government reports, there were over 6,000 NGOs in Uzbekistan as of November 2013. This number includes multiple branches of such groups as Kamolot Public Youth Movement, Uzbekistan’s Women Committee, Independent Institute of Monitoring of Establishment of Civil Society (NIMFAGO), Makhalla Fund, and National Association of Non-governmental Non-commercial Organizations (NANNOUz), among others, which are subsidized and controlled by the government.|
|Barriers to Entry||(1) Mandatory registration; unregistered group activities prohibited;|
(2) Detailed documentation requirements, and potentially burdensome registration fee;
(3) Vague grounds for denial of registration;
(4) Implementing regulations allow the registration body “to leave the registration application without consideration,” contrary to the law. Such action does not allow the group to either appeal the denial to court, or to re-submit the registration application, leaving it in legal limbo;
(5) The registration application, at the discretion of registration bodies, can be sent for “expertise” to other government bodies, which prolongs the registration process beyond the 1 month allowed for by law for consideration of the registration application; and
(6) Excessive time delays in government review of registration applications.
|Barriers to Activities||(1) Burdensome and vague reporting requirements;|
(2) NGO obligation to ensure governmental access to all activities;
(3) Advance governmental approval required for particular NGO activities;
(4) Harsh sanctions for violation of law.
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||In practice, the Government may act against NGOs that engage in certain kinds of advocacy activity.|
|Barriers to International Contact||(1) Advance governmental approval required for conferences, international participants, etc.;|
(2) Limited access to certain websites.
|Barriers to Resources||Limits on foreign funding|
|Barriers to Assembly||Regulations vague or nonexistent; severe punishments and the threat of use of force deter protests.|
|Population||32,650,466 (2019 est.)|
|Type of Government||Republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||Male: 68.6 years|
Female: 74.2 years (2019 est.)
|Literacy Rate||Male: 99.7%|
Female: 97.5% (July 2016 est.)
|Religious Groups||Muslim: 88% (mostly Sunnis); Eastern Orthodox: 9%; other: 3%|
|Ethnic Groups||Uzbek 80%, Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, Tatar 1.5%, other 2.5% (2019 est.)|
|GDP per capita||$6,865 (2017 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2009.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale|
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||105 (2017)||1 – 182|
|World Bank Rule of Law Index||3 (2019)||100 – 0|
|World Bank Voice & Accountability Index||11 (2019)||100 – 0|
|Transparency International||158 (2019)||1 – 168|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: “Worst of the Worst”|
Political Rights: 7 Civil Liberties: 7
|1 – 7|
1 – 7
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index||67 (2018)||177 – 1|
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||1995|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||Yes||1995|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||1995|
|Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)||No||—|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||Yes||1995|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||Yes||1995|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||No||—|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1994|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||No||—|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||No||—|
|International Labor Organization’s The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention||Yes||2016|
|CIS Agreement on joint activity in relation to foreign humanitarian aid||Yes||1993|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan  was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Uzbekistan on December 8, 1992.
Relevant constitutional provisions include:
- Article 30. All state bodies, public associations and officials in the Republic of Uzbekistan shall allow any citizen access to documents, resolutions and other materials, relating to their rights and interests.
- Article 32. All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall have the right to participate in the management and administration of public and state affairs, both directly and through representation. They may exercise this right by way of self-government, referendums and democratic formation of state bodies as well as through development and improvement of public control over the activities of state authorities. The procedure for exercising public control over the activity of state bodies is determined by law.
- Article 33. All citizens shall have the right to engage in public life by holding rallies, meetings and demonstrations in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The bodies of authority shall have the right to suspend or ban such undertakings exclusively on the grounds of security.
- Article 34. All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall have the right to form trade unions, political parties and any other public associations, and to participate in mass movements. No one may infringe on the rights, freedoms and dignity of the individuals, constituting the minority opposition in political parties, public associations and mass movements, as well as in representative bodies of authority.
- Article 56. Trade unions, political parties, and scientific societies, as well as women’s, veterans’ and youth leagues, professional associations, mass movements and other organizations registered in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law, shall have the status of public associations in the Republic of Uzbekistan.
- Article 57. The formation and functioning of political parties and public associations aiming to do the following shall be prohibited: changing the existing constitutional system by force: coming out against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of the Republic, as well as the constitutional rights and freedoms of its citizens; advocating war and social, national, racial and religious hostility, and encroaching on the health and morality of the people, as well as of any armed associations and political parties based on the national or religious principles. All secret societies and associations shall be banned.
- Article 58. The state shall safeguard the rights and lawful interests of public associations and provide them with equal legal possibilities for participating in public life. Interference by state bodies and officials in the activity of public associations, as well as interference by public associations in the activity of state bodies and officials is impermissible.
- Article 59. Trade unions shall express and protect the socio-economic rights and interests of the working people. Membership in trade unions is optional.
- Article 60. Political parties shall express the political will of various sections and groups of the population, and through their democratically elected representatives shall participate in the formation of state authority. Political parties shall submit public reports on their financial sources to the Oliy Majlis or their plenipotentiary body in a prescribed manner.
- Article 61. Religious organizations and associations shall be separated from the state and equal before law. The state shall not interfere with the activity of religious associations.
- Article 62. Public associations may be dissolved or banned, or subject to restricted activity solely by the sentence of a court.
 English text of Constitution.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:
- Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan 02.05.2007 No. ZRU-96 “On charity”;
- Law “On guarantees of activity of nongovernmental nonprofit organizations” of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. ZRU-76 03.01.2007;
- Law of the RUz No. 763-I 14.04.1999 “On nongovernmental nonprofit organizations”;
- Law of the RUz N 223-XII “On public associations in the Republic of Uzbekistan” 15.02.1991; 
- Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On social funds” No. 527-II 29.08.2003;
- Law of the RUz № ЗРУ-96 On Charity dated May 2, 2007;
- “On measures aimed at enhancing support for non-government non-commercial organizations and other civil society institutions”, Joint Decree of the Kengash of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan and Kengash of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan. 03.07.2008 г. N 842-I/513-I;
- Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan 19.01.1998 N 31 “On government support to the development of international scientific technical connections, scientific programs and projects based on the grants from international organizations and funds”. (ICNL online library);
- Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to increase reporting effectiveness of financial resources of technical assistance, grants and humanitarian aid received from international, foreign governmental and nongovernmental organizations”. 04.02.2004 N. 56;
- The Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan 12.03.1993 No.132 “On regulation of registration of charters of public associations in Republic of Uzbekistan”. (English text unavailable);
- Application 1 to the Decree mentioned above the “Rules of processing the applications for charter registration of public associations acting on territory of Republic of Uzbekistan”. (English text unavailable);
- The Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan 22.03.1994 No.153 “On regulation of registration of legal entities associations in Republic of Uzbekistan”. (English text unavailable);
- The Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan 12.03.1993 No.133 “On regulation of registration of public associations’ symbols in Republic of Uzbekistan”. (English text unavailable);
- The Civil Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Articles 73-78), dated 29.08.1996 N 257-I;
- The Tax Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, 25.12.2007 N ZRU-136;
- The Code on administrative responsibility of the Republic of Uzbekistan, 01.04.1995;
- Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, 08.12.1992;
- Resolution by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Measures to Support the Independent Institute for Monitoring the Formation of Civil Society N ПП-1576, 12.07.2011;
- Decree #PP-2085 of December 12, 2013 on Additional Measures to Promote the Development of Civil Society Institutions;
- Decree #205 of July 24, 2014 on Measures of Further Improvement of the Procedures for Organizing and Holding Public Events;
- The Regulation on Procedure on State Registration of Non-Governmental and Non-Commercial Organizations (March 10, 2014);
- The Law on Introduction of Amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan (April 16, 2014);
- The Law on Openness of Activities of Governmental Bodies (May 5, 2014);
- The Law on Social Partnership (September 25, 2014); and
- The Law on Appeals of Individuals and Legal Entities (December 3, 2014).
- Regulation on Procedure for Termination of Activities of Non-commercial Organizations (January 15, 2015)
- Regulation on the procedure of Work with Appeals of Physical and Legal Persons to State Bodies and to State Institutions (by Order of the MoJ # 2679 dd. March 31, 2015)
- New forms of reports for NCOs (by Order of the MoJ # 2680 dd. June 4, 2015)
- Amendments to the Accreditation Procedure for Foreign Employees of NCOs (by the Order of the MoJ , # 2681 dd. June 4, 2015)
- Regulation on Procedure of Coordination of NNOs’ Activities (adopted on June 4, 2015)
- Amendments to the Law on on NNOs, the Law on Public Foundations, the Law on Bank Secrecy, the Law on Charity, and the Code of Administrative Liability (April 25, 2016)
- Law on Parliamentary Control (adopted on April 11, 2016)
- The Law on State Youth Policy (September 14, 2016)
- The Presidential Decree “On additional measures to ensure rapid development of entrepreneurial activity, protection of a private property and high-quality improvement of a business climate” (October 5, 2016)
- The Presidential Decree “On measures to further reform judicial and legal system, and enhance guarantees for sound protection of rights and freedoms of citizens” (October 21, 2016)
- The Law on Social Services for the Elderly, Disabled and Other Socially Vulnerable Categories of the Population (December 26, 2016)
- The Law on Introduction of Amendments to Some Legislative Acts of Uzbekistan in Connection with the Adoption of Main Directions of Tax and Budget Policy for 2017 (December 27, 2016)
- Decree on Approval of the Concept of Administrative Reform in the Republic of Uzbekistan” (the Concept) (September 8, 2017)
- Law on Distribution and Ensuring Access to Legal Information (September 8, 2017)
- Law on the Introduction of Amendments to the Law on Citizens’ Appeals (September 11, 2017)
- Amendments to the Law on Guarantees of the Activities of NNOs and the Law on Social Partnerships (September 14, 2017)
- Law on Public Control (April 12, 2018)
- Regulation on the Procedure for Informing about Planned Activities of Non-governmental Non-commercial Organizations (by Order of the MoJ #3020 dd. June 1, 2018)
- New form of reporting on NNO activities (by Order of the MoJ # 3027 dd. June 27, 2018)
- Regulations on the Procedure for the Interaction of Justice Bodies with Other Government Bodies, Local Governmental Bodies, and Law Enforcement Agencies to Identify Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organizations that Violate the Law (by the Government resolution #854 dd. October 23, 2018)
- Resolution on Measures of Organization of Activity of the Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organization – Nationwide Movement ‘Yuksalish’ and its Territorial Subdivisions (by Government Resolution #124 dd. February 13, 2019)
Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives
New draft Law on NNOs
Draft Law on NNOs
In June 2019, the National Movement ‘Yuksallish’ initiated the development of a new draft Law on Non-governmental Non-commercial Organizations (Law on NNOs) and created an unofficial working group. The draft’s purpose was to create a unified law to codify all key provisions regarding the regulation of NNO activities and create necessary conditions for the formation of a favorable legal environment for NNOs. The initial draft included several positive changes regarding the registration of NNOs, such as reducing the required minimum number of citizen-initiators for registering a public association from 10 to five citizens, lowering the amount of the fee for state registration of local NNOs, canceling the fee for re-registering NNOs, and reducing the registration period from one month to 10 days. At the same time, the draft law still included several provisions that do not comply with international standards and best practices, such as the requirement to notify state authorities on upcoming events and assemblies, mandatory coordination state authorities on the receipt of foreign funds, and maintaining a ban on informal public associations, among others. The draft law is expected to be further developed in 2020, and there is no specific timeline for adoption.
Draft Law on Rallies, Meetings and Demonstrations
On June 6, 2019, the Government posted for public comment the draft Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Rallies, Meetings and Demonstrations. Currently, there is no law in Uzbekistan that specifically regulates rallies, meetings, and demonstrations. The posted draft law requires significant revisions in order to comply with international law and Uzbekistan’s obligations regarding protection and guarantees of the right to freedom of assembly as a fundamental human right. In particular, the draft law includes a requirement to obtain a permit to conduct an assembly and a broad and vague list of reasons for denial of a permit to hold an assembly. It also provides for arbitrary discretion to suspend and terminate assemblies, among other issues.
While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Civil Code defines a legal entity to include both commercial and non-commercial organizations and contains a list of permissible legal forms, including, among others, the public association, public fund, institution, legal entities’ associations (societies and unions), and citizens’ self-governance body. Mirroring the language of the Civil Code, the Law on NGOs states that non-governmental, non-profit organizations may be established in the following forms: public association, public fund, institution, and other lawful forms provided by legal acts. The Law on Public Associations is the primary law under which NGOs are established and operate. In addition, NGOs may form associations or unions, with the purpose of coordination of their activities, and in order to represent and advocate common interests. NGOs can be established for protecting the rights and lawful interests of natural persons and legal entities; for achieving social, cultural and educational aims; to satisfy spiritual and other non-material needs; and for realizing other public benefit purposes. Founders of an NGO must detail the organizational purposes in the charter of the NGO.
A public association is a voluntary association of citizens (natural persons only) who have joined together for the realization of their common interests in the areas of politics, economics, social development, science, culture, ecology, and other aspects of life (Article 1, the Law “On public associations” and Article 11, the Law “On NGOs”).
A public fund is recognized as a non-membership organization, founded by natural and/or legal persons on the basis of voluntary property contributions, pursuing charitable, social, cultural, educational, or other public benefit purposes (Article 12, the Law “On NGOs” and Article 3, the Law “On Public funds”).
An institution is recognized as an organization established by natural and/or legal persons in order to realize social, cultural and other functions of non-profit nature (Article 13, the Law “On NGOs”). Notably, the legal form of “institution” is a legacy of the Soviet legal system. There are no existing procedural rules in place to establish and register an institution; in practice, therefore, this form is essentially non-existent.
The association (union) of NGOs is a legal entity whose founding members are legal persons (NGOs). It is not possible to establish an association made up of both natural and legal entities simultaneously. Members of associations (unions) have secondary (vicarious) liability on obligations of the overarching association (union); the degree of liability is based on the charter of the association (union).
A citizens’ self-governance body (more commonly known as “mahalla”) is a traditional form of neighborhood organization. The activities of the “mahalla” are governed by the Law “On self-governance bodies”.
Uzbek law also categorizes NGOs according to the territorial scope of their activity: international NGOs, which can operate not only in Uzbekistan, but in other countries; republican or inter-regional NGOs, which can operate in several regions of Uzbekistan or throughout the country; and local NGOs, which can operate only in one region or in Tashkent city.
Public Benefit Status
Uzbek law provides for a “charitable organization” status, but it is not linked to fiscal benefits. Instead, all registered NGOs are exempt under tax law from certain taxes and financial obligations. Details follow.
(1) A charitable organization is a non-governmental, non-commercial organization established for the purpose of implementing philanthropic activities in the interest of the public at large as well as in the interest of specific categories of legal entities and physical persons (Article 3 of the Law “On charity”). Charitable organizations may be created in the form of a public association, foundation or in any other form stipulated by legislative acts (Article 6 of the Law “On charity”). Significantly, however, there are no tax or fiscal benefits linked to charitable organization status. Article 14 of the Law “On Charity” declares that government can provide support (e.g., discount on rent, if the accommodation or other property is owned by government; transfer government property to charitable organizations, and so on) to charitable organizations. But there is no legal obligation to provide concrete benefits to charitable organizations.
(2) According to Article 17 of the Tax Code, the term non-commercial organization includes all legal entities that do not seek to gain profit as the main purpose of their activities and do not distribute income (profits) among their members. Through registration, NGOs accrue rights as a legal entity and the status of a non-commercial organization. All non-commercial organizations, irrespective of their organizational legal form, are exempt from the following taxes:
- corporate income (profit) tax, except where NGOs carry out commercial activities (Article 126 of the Tax Code);
- value-added tax, with some exceptions (Article 197 of the Tax Code);
- corporate property tax (Article 265 of the Tax Code);
- land tax (Article 279 of the Tax Code);
- tax on use of water resources (Article 257 of the Tax Code); and
- tax on improvement and development of social infrastructure (Article 295 of the Tax Code).
In addition, non-commercial organizations are exempt from the following compulsory payments:
- compulsory payments to non-budget pension fund (Article 312 of the Tax Code);
- compulsory payments to Republican Road fund (Article 316 of the Tax Code); and
- compulsory payments for school education development (Item 5 of Regulation “On order of calculating and payment of compulsory payments for school education development”).
The foregoing fiscal privileges do not generally apply to income generated through the commercial activity of NGOs. Certain categories of NGOs are exempt from several compulsory payments and taxes, even where the NGO carries out economic activity through a corporate subsidiary. For example, enterprises owned by public associations of disabled persons, the Fund “Nuroniy (Нуроний)” and associations of “Chernobolci of Uzbekistan (Чернобольцы Узбекистана)” – if disabled persons make up at least 50% of the total amount of enterprise staff – are exempt from VAT and corporate income (profit) tax (Article 158 of the Tax Code).
Barriers to Entry
There are multiple legal barriers affecting the formation and registration of NGOs in Uzbekistan.
First, registration is mandatory and unregistered group activities are prohibited. An NGO is established only when officially registered (Article 15 of the Law “On NGOs”). Available sanctions for carrying out activities through an unregistered include a fine 50-100 times the minimum wage (Article 239 of the Administrative Code). Active participation in unregistered (i.e., illegal) organizations exposes offenders to a fine 50-100 times the minimum wage or detention of up to six months or imprisonment of up to five years (Article 216 of the Criminal Code).
Second, the registration requirements, which vary according to the organizational form, are more demanding than the registration requirements for commercial organizations. Required documentation is quite detailed. As of January 1, 2014, the registration fee for NGOs is reduced 5 times. This means that the current fees are four minimal monthly incomes for national associations and two minimal monthly incomes for local associations. In contrast, prior to January 1, 2014, in order to register a national level public association it was necessary to pay 20 minimal monthly incomes (1,900,000 som, approximately $863), and in order to register a local public association 10 minimal monthly incomes (950,000 sum, approximately $430) were required. The registration fee for registration of symbols of NGOs has also been reduced 2.5 times the prior amount. No fee is required for registration of branches of NGOs. Organizations of disabled persons, veterans, women’s and youth organizations will only pay half of the registration fee.
Third, the implementing regulations (Rules on Consideration of Applications on Registration of By-laws of Public Associations) allow the registration body “to leave the registration application without consideration,” contrary to the law. Such action does not allow initiative groups to either appeal the denial to court or to re-submit the registration application, leaving them in legal limbo.
Fourth, the registration application, at the discretion of registration bodies, can be sent for “expertise” to other government bodies, which prolongs the registration procedure beyond 2 months allowed for by law for consideration of the registration application (1 month starting from January 1, 2014),
Fifth, the grounds for denial of registration may invite the exercise of excessive government discretion. Specifically, the law allows for denial where the name or symbols of an NGO encroaches on “morality, national or religious feelings of citizens”.
Arguably the most serious barrier to registration is the excessive time delays for government review of applications. The law does define a fixed time period within which the Ministry of Justice must consider and decide on registration applications: one month from the receipt of the application for a public association; not more than one month for a social fund; and ten days for an association of NGOs. According to the “Rules of processing the applications for charter registration of public associations acting on territory of Republic of Uzbekistan,” the period of registration review can be extended by an additional month; this extended period is often missed by the registration body.
The problem of unprocessed applications is aggravated by the inability to appeal. Notably, the refusal of registration can be appealed in a court by law. But where the application is simply unprocessed, the NGO applicant has no ability to appeal and no alternative recourse.
In September 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee held in the case of Kungurov v. Uzbekistan that the procedure in Uzbekistan for registering the non-governmental organization “Democracy and Rights” violated both the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of association, under Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively.
For more information, please see the statement from Article 19.
Barriers to Operational Activity
NGOs are subject to burdensome reporting requirements. According to Article 33 of the Law on NGOs, NGOs must maintain records of the results of their activities, and must submit reports to the registration authorities (Ministry of Justice and its departments), to the statistical authorities, and to the tax authorities. All NGOs are subject to the same detailed reporting standard; there is no simplified reporting form available for small and medium-sized NGOs. The frequency of reporting varies with the category of report; some are required on a monthly basis, some on a quarterly basis, and others on an annual basis.
While clear standards have been set for reporting to the statistical authorities, there is no regulation or legal guideline that defines the reporting procedure to the Ministry of Justice and its departments. In practice, NGOs provide reports to registry bodies every quarter. The required content of the reports may change; In January 2010, for example, NGOs in Tashkent were notified by the Ministry of a new reporting form, which contains 58 questions. Moreover, the tax authorities, as of January 2010, are requiring NGOs that previously used a simplified tax and reporting system to re-calculate their tax obligation and prepare new reports, based on the requirements of the generally established tax system. To complicate matters, NGOs are being given only 10-15 days to accomplish the task.
According to Article 8 of the Law on NGOs, NGOs are obliged to provide access to information on the use of organizational property and financial assets. In addition, NGOs must ensure that the Ministry of Justice has access to all their activities. This provision is problematic in large measure because of its ambiguity; should NGOs notify the registry bodies about all their activities, including internal meetings, or only about public events? The answer is unclear. In practice, NGOs provide information about public events.
The law requires that NGOs seek and secure approval from the Ministry of Justice for particular activities. But the law does not define what particular activities require Ministry approval. This ambiguity in the law obviously creates confusion among NGOs, and gives the Government excessive discretionary power.
This problem is exacerbated by the harsh sanctions available in case of violation of the rule. Specifically, conducting events without the approval of the Ministry of Justice could subject NGOs – that is, the staff members of the NGO – to a fine amounting to 100-150 times the minimum wage.
Severe sanctions are also available for the failure to submit reports, for the late submission of reports, and for the submission of reports in the wrong form. Article 239 of the Administrative Code, applicable to NGOs, provides for a fine amounting to 50-100 times the minimum wage. For-profit companies, by contrast, face a far lighter penalty for the same violation; Article 215, applicable to for-profits, envisions a fine amounting only to 7-10 times the minimum wage.
On April 25, 2016, the government adopted a Law on Introduction of Amendments to Some Legislative Acts, which introduced amendments to the Law on Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organizations (Law on NNOs), the Law on Public Foundations, the Law on Bank Secrecy, the Law on Charity, and the Code of Administrative Liability. This new legislation represented a significant deterioration in the NGO legal environment because it introduced additional restrictions on activities, such as the requirement to notify the Ministry of Justiceabout upcoming trips of NGO representatives to foreign countries, and to obtain approval for the receipt of all funds and assets from foreign states, organizations, and citizens.
Government-organized NGOs (GONGOs) may pose a potential threat to independent civil society in Uzbekistan, but it is not clear if GONGOs have actually had a negative impact on the NGO sector. There have been positive examples of cooperation between GONGOs and NGOs. In 2005, the National Association of NGOs of RUz (NANNOUz in Russian) was established. While clearly controlled by the Government, NANNOUz has done some good things for the NGO sector, by creating informational centers throughout the country for NGOs, and by providing small grants to NGOs. Admittedly, these small grants were awarded to the members of NANNOUz, but nonetheless this marked the first instance of government providing financial support to NGOs from the state budget. The small grants program and budgetary assistance for NGOs is now being extended on an annual basis.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
According to Uzbek law as written, there are no barriers restricting speech or advocacy activity in Uzbekistan; NGOs and individuals are both free, in theory, to criticize the Government, for example. In practice, however, there are constraints on speech and advocacy. NGOs engaging in human rights activity or government monitoring, for example, may be subject to harassment or even termination. Because these measure are extra-legal (i.e., outside the law), they are unpredictable.
NGOs are affirmatively granted the right to participate in legislative activities, and “to exercise lawmaking initiative.” For example, some NGOs make seek engagement with Parliament and/or governmental bodies by preparing analyses of legislation or through conducting a conference to facilitate cross-sectoral dialogue on draft legislation. In practice, however, few NGOs take advantage of this right.
Barriers to International Contact
NGOs seeking to conduct a conference, to invite international participants to these conferences, etc. must secure advance approval from the Ministry of Justice. In practice, NGOs s