Uzbekistan

Last updated: 25 July 2021

Update

On March 3, 2021, the President of Uzbekistan issued an Order on Additional Measures for State Support of Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organizations (NNOs) Ensuring the Freedom of Their Activities, Protection of Rights and Legitimate Interests, which introduces a number of changes that could improve the legal environment for NNOs. These include:

  • Increasing the total amount of foreign funding NNOs may receive on an annual basis;
  • Ordering the Ministry of Justice to work with the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General’s Office to develop a draft law that envisions administrative liability for interference of state bodies and other officials into the legitimate work of NNOs;
  • Strengthening the basis for the Law on Social Partnership by requiring the development of state social contracting plans for 2021-2023 that focus on supporting NNOs carrying out socially significant projects;
  • Eliminating state fees for public associations of people with disabilities, veterans, elderly citizens, women, and children during state registration or re-registration of organizational seals; and
  • Expanding the Public Fund for Support of NNOs with the parliamentary commission.

In addition, on March 4, 2021, the President of Uzbekistan issued a decree approving the Concept on Development of Civil Society in 2021-2025 (the Concept) and the Road Map on Implementation of the Concept (the Roadmap) (jointly referred to as the “package”). The Concept and the Road Map envision improvements to the legal framework for civil society, partnerships between CSOs and government, and state support for CSOs’ activities, among other issues. The President’s Decree, the Concept, and the Road Map represent the most comprehensive package of civil society support since the start of Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s presidency.

Introduction

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 The exact number of registered NNOs is unknown. In January 2020, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) reported that more than 10,000 NNOs were registered in Uzbekistan. There is an interactive register of NNOs on the MoJ’s website. However, there is also an online register of NNOs and their branches on the MoJ’s website “Portal of NNOs” (e-NNO.uz). The register contains 8,819 organizations, but there is no information on the website about when this information was last updated.
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.
Despite some improvements in the NNO legislation, some requirements restricting the activities of NNOs remain unchanged, including notification to the justice authorities about NNOs’ planned events; submission to the justice authorities of an annual report on activities; requirement for NNOs to obtain a confirmation of concurrence to receive foreign aid exceeding $470 per year from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ); and requirement for accreditation of NNO employees who are foreign citizens, as well as their dependent family members.
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 30,565,411 (2020 est.)
Capital Tashkent
Type of Government Republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 71.7 years
Female: 78 years (2020 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 100%
Female: 100% (2020 est.)
Religious Groups Muslim: 88% (mostly Sunnis); Eastern Orthodox: 9%; other: 3%
Ethnic Groups Uzbek 83.8%, Tajik 4.8%, Kazakh 2.5%, Russian 2.3%, Karakalpak 2.2%, Tatar 1.5%, other 4.4% (2020 est.)
GDP per capita $6,999 (2019 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 106 (2020) 1 – 189
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 92 (2020) 1 – 128
Transparency International 146 (2020) 1 – 180
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 146 (2020) 178 – 1
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free (10)
Political Rights: 2 Civil Liberties: 8
(2020)
1 – 40
1 – 60

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
Regional Treaties
CIS Agreement on joint activity in relation to foreign humanitarian aid Yes 1993

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

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 laws 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.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

On April 20, 2021, the President signed a new Law on Normative Legal Acts (NLAs). The Law provides citizens with the right to adopt NLAs through referenda held according to the Law on Referendum. The Law on NLAs envisions that all draft laws and regulations will pass through a public discussion process, which is initiated by posting a draft NLA on the portal for discussion of draft NLAs prior to submission to the body authorized for adopting NLAs. Public discussions are required to last no less than 15 days from the date of publication on the portal. Proposals and comments made during the discussion must have a relation to recommendations and are subject to consideration by the drafter. The drafter is obliged to justify the reason for rejecting any comments or proposals. The results of public discussion of the draft NLA, including the results of consideration of the received comments and proposals on the draft NLA, are submitted to the Ministry of Justice for legal examination and the state body having the right to adopt the NLA for consideration simultaneously with the introduction of the draft NLA. Overall, the initiative has the potential to enhance public discussion of legislative initiatives, strengthen citizen participation in lawmaking, and ensure government accountability for making laws and regulations accessible to the public.

Draft Law on Rallies
On August 18, 2020, the Government of Uzbekistan (GoUz) posted the draft Law on Rallies, Meetings, And Demonstrations (draft Law on Rallies) on the government portal Regulation.gov.uz for public discussion. The draft law remains pending consideration in the parliament.

Draft Code on NNOs
Following a presidential decree, the Government of Uzbekistan created a working group to develop a draft Code on non-governmental non-commercial organizations (NNOs). The working group is tasked to codify and systematize NNO legislation through study of international best practices and established national law enforcement practice. Uzbek CSOs later formed initiative groups to develop an alternative NNO Code, which focuses on addressing the most pressing deficiencies in Uzbek legislation relating to CSOs. In summer 2020, the two CSO groups submitted their proposed draft alternative NNO Codes for consideration of the Uzbek parliament. Presently three versions of the draft NNO Code, including a separate version prepared by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), are pending consideration in the parliament.

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 ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

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 NNOs 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 58 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, NNOs 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 NNOs carry out commercial activities (Article 318 of the Tax Code);
  • corporate property tax (Article 411 of the Tax Code);
  • land tax (Article 426 of the Tax Code); and
  • tax on use of water resources (Article 442 of the Tax Code).

The foregoing fiscal privileges do not generally apply to income generated through the commercial activity of NNOs. Certain categories of NNOs are exempt from several compulsory payments and taxes, even where the NNO carries out economic activity through a corporate subsidiary. For example, enterprises owned by public associations of disabled persons are exempt from VAT and corporate income (profit) tax (Article 243 and 337 of the Tax Code) if “goods and services of their own production, sold by legal entities, the only participants of which are public associations of persons with disabilities, in the total number of which persons with disabilities account for at least 50 percent, and the salary fund for persons with disabilities is at least 50 percent of the total wages fund.”

Public Participation

The Uzbek Constitution addresses public participation. Specifically, Article 32 provides that “Such participation is realized through self-government, referendums and the democratic formation of state bodies, as well as the development and improvement of public control over the activities of state bodies. The procedure for exercising public control over the activities of state bodies is defined by law.”

The 1991 Referendum Law, as amended in 2001, defines a referendum as a nationwide vote of civilians on issues of public importance. But this law sets onerous criteria by requiring the signatures of at least 5% of all citizens entitled to participate in the referendum, subject to their equal and proportional distribution in each administrative-territorial entity; and restricts collecting signatures online.

The 2014 Law on Social Partnership addresses the mechanisms for government – civil society interaction. Under the Law, CSOs have the right to (1) participate in development initiatives; (2) participate in public discussion and examination of development proposals; (3) submit proposals to state bodies for conducting joint events; and (4) monitor the implementation of development programs.

The 2018 Law on Public Control authorizes monitoring of the activities of state bodies and institutions by citizens, NGOs, public councils, and the media. Monitoring methods include applications and inquiries to state bodies; participation in open collegial meetings of state bodies; public hearings and public monitoring; public expert evaluations; and public opinion research. Information, recommendations, and proposals are then to be considered by state bodies.

The 2021 Law on Regulations provides that all draft laws and regulations will pass through public or professional discussion and sets forth the procedure for holding a public discussion. The law also enshrines the right of citizens, self-governing bodies, NGOs, and the media to monitor the implementation of laws and legal measures, in accordance with the Law on Public Control and other laws.

On March 4, 2021, the President of Uzbekistan issued a decree approving the Concept on Development of Civil Society in 2021-2025 (the Concept) and the Road Map on Implementation of the Concept. The Concept sets conditions for CSOs’ active participation in public governance and envisions increased CSO participation in the implementation of state social projects. It sets a range of targets, such as increasing the percentage of NGO representative membership in public councils (consultative bodies under the auspices of state bodies at national and local levels) to 5% in 2021 and to 25% in 2025.

On April 13, 2021, the Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Additional Measures to Ensure Citizens’ Participation in the Budget Process was adopted. In accordance with this decree, 5% of approved total budget expenditures must be allocated to finance activities based on public opinion starting from May 2021.

In addition, the government has introduced, by presidential decree, the office of a permanent NGO representative in the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament). Moreover, interactive citizen services are being developed, such as the ‘virtual parlor’ of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (gov.uz) and the portal for discussions of draft normative legal acts (regulation.gov.uz).

In practice, however, despite the foregoing laws and initiatives, meaningful public participation is still a distant prospect. Government bodies are often unwilling to facilitate public participation. Due to the low level of legal literacy, Uzbek citizens are generally unaware of participation mechanisms and lack confidence in the government and its reforms.

Barriers to Entry

There are multiple legal barriers affecting the formation and registration of NNOs in Uzbekistan.

First, registration is mandatory and unregistered group activities are prohibited. An NNO is established only when officially registered (Article 15 of the Law “On NNOs”). Available sanctions for carrying out activities through an unregistered organization include a fine of 15-30 basic calculated values (BCVs), or $345-$690, according to Article 239 of the Code on Administrative Offenses. Active participation in unregistered (i.e., illegal) organizations exposes offenders to a fine of 50 BCVs or restriction of freedom from two to five years 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.

From January 1, 2020, the state fee for state registration has been reduced:

  • republican, interregional non-governmental non-profit organizations – from 4 to 3 BCVs;
  • regional NNOs – from 2 to 1 BCVs;
  • NNOs, whose activities cover the territory of a district (city), settlement, kishlak and aul – from 2 BCVs to 50% of BCVs.

The size of the state fee for state registration of international NNOs in Uzbekistan, representative offices and branches of international and foreign NNOs has not changed – 12.5 BCVs.

No fee is required for registration of branches of local NNOs. Organizations of people with disabilities, veterans, women’s organizations, and youth organizations pay half of the registration fee.

From March 1, 2021, the state fee and registration deadlines were revised as follows:

  • NNOs operating on the territory of the region, district, city, village, village and aul became ‘territorial’ NNOs, and the state registration fee for such NNOs is 50 percent of BCVs (namely, the rate of state registration fee for regional NNO was 1 BCVs, and from March 2021 it has become 50% of the BCVs; for other types of NNOs the rate of state registration fee has not changed).
  • the period for re-registration of NNOs, as well as state registration of its symbols is reduced from one month to 15 days
  • for state registration (re-registration) of symbols of public associations of persons with disabilities, veterans, senior citizens, women, children, the state fee is not charged
  • a separate subdivision of an NNO (branches) has become a legal entity.

Third, the registration application, at the discretion of registration bodies, can be sent for “expertise” to relevant organizations. The list of such organizations is not provided, and the exact dates of approval, and the minutes of their meetings / negotiations, if they took place, are never provided to the registering initiative groups.

Fourth, 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 NNO encroaches on “morality, national or religious feelings of citizens”.

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

NNOs are subject to burdensome reporting requirements. According to Article 33 of the Law on NNOs, NNOs 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 NNOs are subject to the same detailed reporting standard; there is no simplified reporting form available for small and medium-sized NNOs. 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.

In January 2010 NNOs in Tashkent were notified by the MoJ of a new reporting form, which contains 58 questions and should be submitted on a quarterly basis. Now NNOs submit such report annually and the report became more simple than previous ones.

According to Article 8 of the Law on NNOs, NNOs are obliged to provide access to information on the use of organizational property and financial assets. In addition, NNOs must ensure that the MoJ has access to all their activities.

The law requires that NNOs inform the Ministry of Justice for particular activities in advance. This problem is exacerbated by the harsh sanctions available in case of violation of the rule, including specifically events conducted by NNOs (except for political parties) and their representative offices and branches without the consent of the registering body. Event held by NNOs entails fines from 30 to 50 BCVs when access is not granted by the representative body.

Severe sanctions are also available for the failure to submit reports, for the late submission of reports, for the submission of reports in the wrong form, for the submission of knowingly inaccurate information about their activities, as well as for non-submission by NNOs of information, including supporting documents on their use of property and funds. Article 239 of the Administrative Code, applicable to NNOs, provides for a fine on officials from 15 to 30 BCVs.

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 NNO legal environment because it introduced additional restrictions on activities, such as the requirement to notify the Ministry of Justice about upcoming trips of NNO representatives to foreign countries, and to obtain approval for the receipt of all funds and assets from foreign states, organizations, and citizens. From March 1, 2021, the total amount of funds and property received in one calendar year by non-governmental non-profit organizations from foreign sources, with the notification (for information) of the registering authority, will increase from twenty to one hundred basic calculated values.

Government-organized NNOs (GONNOs) may pose a potential threat to independent civil society in Uzbekistan, but it is not clear if GONNOs have actually had a negative impact on the NNO sector. There have been positive examples of cooperation between GONNOs and NNOs. In 2005, the National Association of NNOs of RUz (NANNOUz in Russian) was established. While clearly controlled by the Government, NANNOUz has done some good things for the NNO sector, by creating informational centers throughout the country for NNOs, and by providing small grants to NNOs. Admittedly, these small grants were awarded to the members of NANNOUz, but nonetheless this marked the first instance of government providing financial support to NNOs from the state budget. The small grants program and budgetary assistance for NNOs is now being extended on an annual basis.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

According to Uzbek law as written, there are generally 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.

In addition, on March 30, 2021, the President signed new amendments to the Law on Informatization, Criminal Code, and Code on Administrative Offenses (“the Law”). The amendments are related to the introduction of a new offense related to any public call to not fulfil or violate of Uzbek law, posing a threat to public order and public safety, including those carried out using the media, telecommunication networks, the internet, as well as print media. In general, the Law could significantly restrict freedom of expression for civil society, journalists, and others by prohibiting broad categories of speech, while also adding new obligations for website owners, including bloggers. The obligations for website owners and bloggers are: (a) to constantly monitor their websites and pages for prohibited content; and (b) to take immediate measures to restrict access to prohibited content. If website owners do not comply with these obligations, the Law makes clear that website owners are in violation of the Law and are liable for any damages. The Law also creates a right of redress for by individuals who believe their “rights” or “legitimate interests” have been affected to sue website owners for damages. These obligations, along with exposing website owners to liability while allowing anyone harmed to seek damages in court, are likely to result in censorship of speech in violation of international law. Website owners are ill equipped to undertake proper legal assessment, and therefore are likely to err on the side of caution and simply remove any content that could be deemed prohibited.

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

Starting from June 1, 2018, it is no longer required to obtain the prior approval of the justice authorities to hold an event. However, NNOs must notify the relevant justice body in writing or electronically about an event within the following timeframes:

  • when planning an event on the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan without the participation of a foreign citizen – at least 10 days before the day of the event; and
  • when planning an event on the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan with the participation of a foreign citizen or on the territory of a foreign state – at least 20 days before the day of the event. In some cases, as prescribed in the regulations, it is enough to notify three days before an event.

Prior notification for organizing conferences and inviting international participants. The notification procedure is not much different from the former prior approval requirement, since the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) retains the right to request additional information no later than three days before a scheduled event and may decide to prohibit an NNO from holding an event based on the results of analyzing the submitted notification.

Despite the change to a notification procedure, the justice body analyzes information received about event, as well as the compliance of the event with legislation and the goals and objectives determined by the NNO’s charter or regulation. The MoJ has the right to request additional information, and, based on the results of the study, may decide to prohibit an NNO from conducting the event by notifying the NNO at least two days prior to the event.

In addition, all citizens seeking to work abroad must receive permission from the Ministry of Labor.

Access to certain websites is banned for all citizens. Indeed, on August 5, 2011, the Cabinet of Ministries passed a Resolution no.228 “On additional measures on development system of monitoring in sphere of mass communications”. According to this Resolution, an “expert commission” will be created to identify information that is exerting a negative social impact on the citizens of Uzbekistan and the source of that information. The “expert commission” can recommend closing any mass media outlet or prohibit the dissemination of any informational resource in Uzbekistan.

On September 5, 2018, the Cabinet of Ministers issued a resolution aimed at improving information security on the internet. The resolution also approved intergovernmental procedures for restricting access to certain websites and (or) pages of websites.

Barriers to Resources

The process of receiving foreign funding has been simplified in 2019. For example, in a generally positive development the Regulation on Procedure of Harmonization of Receipt by Non-governmental Non-commercial Organizations with the Registration Body of Monetary Assets and Assets from Foreign States, International and Foreign Organizations, Citizens of Foreign States or, by Their Authorization, from Other Persons, Approved by the Decree of the Cabinet on Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, was passed on October 9, 2019. It was significant for NNOs and donor organizations because it changes the procedure for obtaining approval of receipt of funding from foreign sources. According to this Resolution, NNOs are exempt from obtaining any pre-approval from, or providing notification to, government agencies for funds not exceeding approximately $470 per year (20 BCVs). From March 1, 2021, NNOs can already receive funds and property from foreign sources without any notification to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) if the amount received for one calendar year does not exceed 100 BCVs (24.5 million uzbek sums, or about 2,331 US dollars at the exchange rate of April 30, 2021). NNOs shall obtain a confirmation of harmonization for funds exceeding 2,331 US dollars per year from the MoJ. The MoJ was the agency in charge of prior approval for all foreign aid received by NNOs over 2,331 US dollars. Therefore, the harmonization procedure still effectively means pre-approval procedure.

However, it is now slightly less challenging than the former procedure. Moreover, there is also a list of instances in which an NNO is not required to obtain pre-approval at all, including, for example, when foreign aid is identified as such in bilateral cooperation agreements between two countries or when aid comes from a foreign source through a joint agreement between an Uzbek government agency and an NNO. In such instances, an NNO may simply notify the MoJ about receipt of such aid and the MoJ has 15 days to consider documents submitted for prior approval (harmonization) of foreign aid, which is a shorter term than it had before. However, the MoJ still has authority to demand additional information, which might extend this period. There is also a broad list of reasons to deny pre-approval, including provision of non-reliable information in the NNO’s application, non-provision of additional documentation, and receipt of funds for purposes in contradiction with the statutory purposes of an NNO-recipient, among others. There is clearly room to further improve the new procedure for obtaining access to foreign funding by NNOs. However, despite the ambiguity of certain requirements, this represents a simplification of the pre-existing procedure for obtaining prior approval to receive foreign funding. Time will tell whether these improvements are reflected in practice.

In addition, the Resolution on Measures of Improving Mechanisms of Attracting Means of External Gratuitous Contributions and on Work with Donors Resolution dated October 14, 2019 primarily enables government agencies to work with international donors and establishes rules for how government agencies may engage with international donors. The Resolution identifies the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade as the government body in charge of attracting and managing use of foreign grants and managing relationships with foreign donors. The Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade will play the determining role in defining programs on attracting assets of external gratuitous support and cooperation with donors. Through the Resolution, government bodies receive the authority to attract grants of $100,000 or more for a single project by including them into the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade’s programs on attracting assets of external gratuitous support and cooperation with donors. It is not very clear yet what this exactly means and the implementation will therefore be revealing, but one possibility is that if a foreign donor gets buy-in from a government agency (for activities within one of the pre-approved programs on attracting assets of external gratuitous support and cooperation with donors), the particular project, if it includes grants to NNOs, might be pre-approved without the need to obtain additional approvals for each individual grant from the MoJ.

The Resolution also makes some structural changes within the Government of Uzbekistan. Relevant changes include abolishment of the Bureau on Coordination to the Commission of the European Union in Uzbekistan under the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan and the establishment of the Department on Coordination of External Gratuitous Support within the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade. The impact of this restructuring is not yet clear, however. Lastly, the Resolution also determines a list of priority projects for external gratuitous support for the period 2019-2020.

Barriers to Assembly

Article 33 of the Constitution of Republic of Uzbekistan establishes that “All citizens shall have the right to take part in civic activities by way of participating in rallies, meetings and demonstrations in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Government agencies shall only have the right to suspend or ban such events on the grounds of substantiated security considerations.”

On July 29, 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers passed Decree #205 “On measures of Further Improvement of the Procedures for Organizing and Holding Public Events,” which established the rules for holding “mass events” (Addendum #1 to the Cabinet’s Decree #205 of July 29, 2014). A “mass event” is defined as “the presence of citizens, organized at the venue of a public happening for the purpose of holding social and political programs (i.e. symposia, conferences, congresses, etc.); cultural and entertainment programs and performances (music, literature and other festivals, concerts, theatrical, sports and promotional events, folk festivals, circus and folkloric shows, games, displays and competitions, etc.); and also national religious and professional celebrations, with the attendance of 100 people or more.”

Excessive Penalties
Penalties contained in the “The Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Administrative Responsibility” may deter organizers from planning and conducting public assemblies. For example, fines in the amount of 60-80 BCVs and an administrative detention period of up to 15 days may result from violating the established procedure of organizing or carrying out public gatherings, rallies, marches and demonstrations (Article 201). In addition, any provision of premises or other property (means of communications, copiers or other technologies, equipment or vehicles) or facilitating conditions for carrying out [public gatherings, rallies, marches and demonstrations] may result in the imposition of fines in the amount of 50-100 BCVs on regular citizens, and 70-150 minimum times the monthly wages on government officials (Article 202).

Threat of Use of Force
Since 2005, when hundreds of protesters were killed in confrontations with the Uzbek security forces in Andijon, there have been few public protests.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Uzbekistan (April 24, 2013)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Uzbekistan
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Not available
Human Rights Watch World Report 2018: Uzbekistan
U.S. State Department 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Fragile States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports Uzbekistan and the IMF
International Commission of Jurists Not available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Uzbekistan

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 or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

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On 12 April 2021, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan registered a branch of the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) in the Republic of Uzbekistan, the head office of which is located in the United States. A main goals of the branch is to contribute to building a prosperous and equal society in Uzbekistan, empower the youth of Uzbekistan and educate future leaders, assist in expanding access to quality education and information;

Environmental activism begins to make its mark in Central Asia (March 2021)
Since the death of long-time dictator Islam Karimov in 2017, the Shavkat Mirziyoyev government in Uzbekistan has been keen on opening the country up, and following in the footsteps of Kazakhstan in establishing an image of a state that is autocratic, but at the same time outward-looking and cosmopolitan. Environmental reforms can be a particularly powerful tool for autocratic regimes looking to improve their international standing. Civil society is also finding its voice, raising awareness about the region’s many environmental issues.

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Uzbekistan Adopts Strict Regulations to Fight COVID-19 (April 2020)
Uzbekistan is among a number of countries to adopt early strict measures to prevent the sharp spread of the virus. On March 27, the movement of people and personal vehicles was restricted to grocery shopping and pharmacy visits. In the first nine days since the rules were introduced, as of April 3, about 2,200 violations of the rules were registered, mostly individuals being outside without face masks. To respond to social media criticisms, and to those who do not welcome the increased police measures, the Ministry of Interior said that patrolling officers have the right to ask the purpose of one’s being in the streets.

Uzbek Lawmakers Legitimize Activities of Volunteers (November 2019)
Deputies of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) of Uzbekistan on November 6, 2019 adopted the Draft Law on Volunteering in three readings. According to the press service of the Lower House of Parliament, the document was submitted to the Senate.

Tashkent hosts the National Forum of Civil Initiatives (July 2019)
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Burkhanov appointed chairman of “Yuksalish” National Movement (January 2019)
The former director of the “Development Strategy” center Akmal Burkhanov was appointed chairman of “Yuksalish” National Movement. The new movement will be engaged in a voluntary association of citizens, compatriots living abroad, non-governmental non-profit organizations to assist in the implementation of the planned reforms.

Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan and USAID signed a Memorandum of Understanding (June 2018)
On June 8 this year, a ceremony of signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the US Agency for International Development USAID in the field of supporting the strengthening of the rule of law in Uzbekistan.

Law on public control enters into force in Uzbekistan (March 2018)
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed the Law “On public control” on April 12, 2018. The law was passed by the Legislative Chamber on November 15 and approved by the Senate on March 29, 2018. The act aims at regulating relations in the field of organization and implementation of public control over the activities of state bodies and institutions.

Concept of tax reform for 2018-2020 published for public discussion (March 2018)
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Shavkat Mirziyoyev orders drafting of new tax code (February 2018)
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on February 13 signed an Organizational Measures to Radically Improve Tax Legislation Decree. The document notes that “the state of affairs in terms of finding additional reserves for increasing the incomes of the central and local budgets, introduction of modern ICTs in the process of tax administration, implementation of the best proven methods of tax legislation and administration” remains unsatisfactory in Uzbekistan.

News Archive

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in historic Uzbekistan visit (May 2017)

Uzbekistan adopts law on social services for population (December 2016)

Uzbekistan elects Shavkat Mirziyoyev as president (December 2016)

Ministry of Justice receives right to check CSOs’ bank accounts (April 2016) (Russian)

Government significantly decreases sizes of administrative penalties for CSOs (April 2016) (Russian)

Law of Uzbekistan on Appeals of Individuals and Legal Entities discussed (February 2015)

Uzbekistan Gears Up to Vote for “Rubberstamp” Parliament (December 2014)

HRW Documents Plight Of Political Prisoners (October 2014)

Situation Dire for NGOs in Uzbekistan (August 2013)

Free political prisoners on Constitution Day (December 2012)

EU representative visits Uzbekistan (December 2012)

CIVICUS intervention in the UPR for Uzbekistan (October 2012)

Uzbekistan “not free” according to internet freedom report (October 2012)

Uzbek rights activist Muhitdinov dies (August 2012)

Watchdog urges EU action over human rights (June 2012)

Uzbekistan: allow independent experts access to prevent persecution, say CIVICUS and Expert Working Group (June 2012)

Activist free but crackdown widening (April 2012)

Uzbekistan touts own civil society model in round table meeting in Tashkent (March 2012)

HRW report highlights concerns that the plight of civil society activists in Uzbekistan is worsening(January 2012)

Release of Mr. Norboy Kholjigitov, ongoing arbitrary detention of eight other HRSU members (October 2011)

AIDS activist released, but other human rights defenders harassed (September 2011)

Internet censorship in Uzbekistan (August 2011)

Employee of British Embassy in Tashkent loses appeal against fine (August 2011)

British Embassy staffer fined by court for contact with activists (July 2011)

Tashkent journalist lost her job because of the trip abroad (July 2011)

Uzbekistan Supreme Court approves closure of Human Rights Watch office (June 2011)

Activists harassed after TV broadcast (April 2011)

Uzbekistan can’t muzzle the messenger (April 2011)

Links between journalists and foreign embassies placed under control (March 2011)

Government shuts down Human Rights Watch office (March 2011)

Uzbek human rights group facing criminal libel suit (March 2011)

No journalist is immune from slander, defamation charges (February 2011)

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner in Uzbekistan, Mr. Gayrat Usmanov.