U.S. Response to Ambassador’s Report on Tajikistan
May 11, 2012
United States Mission to the OSCE
Statement in Response to Head of the
OSCE Office in Tajikistan,
Ambassador Ivar Vikki
As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
May 10, 2012
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States warmly welcomes Ambassador Vikki back to the Permanent Council. We also express our thanks for your thorough and detailed report. It clearly underscores the increasingly strong relationship between the OSCE Office in Tajikistan and the government on a wide range of issues. We applaud the increase of programmatic activity across all three dimensions with focused efforts on increasing women’s participation. We continue to see the annual OSCE-Tajikistan Task Force as a best practice that deserves consideration by all OSCE field missions and host governments. We share your assessment that the Memorandum of Understanding signed last June and approved last month by the Tajik Parliament is a significant positive step and congratulate both you and the government on this important milestone.
In the First Dimension, the United States agrees with your view that addressing transnational threats and providing assistance to Afghanistan in accord with the Ministerial Decisions of 2007 and 2011 are of continuing crucial importance – to both the people and the governments of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The OSCE’s Border Management Staff College (BMSC) has proven to be an invaluable resource. We are pleased to be among the 14 participating States that have provided funding to the BMSC. Your suggestion to bring the bulk of the BMSC’s operating budget within the Unified Budget makes excellent sense and we hope all participating States will support it as we do. We also believe it will be important for the activities of the BMSC to continue beyond the existing November 2013 expiration of its mandate, particularly given the 2014 transition in Afghanistan.
For its part, the United States is proud to have provided, along with Russia, one of the two trainers for the Patrol Programming and Leadership Project for mobile border guards. It is important to note that this program contributes directly to the security of the entire OSCE space and that the financial burden of such an important project should be shared more widely than by only 14 States. We are also proud to be funding efforts to train Afghan policewomen through the BMSC in Tajikistan, as engaging women in peace-building efforts is essential to achieving long-term peace and stability in the region.
Success in the Office’s efforts to assist Tajikistan in the area of police reform, including the establishment of the Police Reform Steering Group, comes as welcome news. We applaud the Croatian Ministry of Internal Affairs for working with the Office and the government in an exchange of best practices in police reform. We also greatly appreciate the Office’s strong support of the U.S. Embassy’s Community Policing program.
With respect to programs to address Violent Extremism and Radicalization that leads to Terrorism, we eagerly await the release of the research survey assessing these dangerous and concerning trends and their impact on women and men.
In the Second Dimension, the United States continues to support the work of the OSCE Office to promote Free Trade Zones, especially with Afghanistan. We also support the cross-border trade resource centers inside the three markets along the Tajik – Afghan border. Ensuring that women benefit from these efforts is particularly critical to driving economic growth in the region. All of these efforts fit well with our New Silk Road strategy which is, in many ways, another means of approaching the OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security.
Water management and energy security challenges continue to be areas where the OSCE can be of enormous use to Central Asia. We support the work of the Office to promote regional water dialogue, confidence building measures, and water management policy development which is inclusive of both men and women. Tajikistan deserves praise for its role in getting the UN’s 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation off the ground.
The United States also wishes to acknowledge and express our thanks to the OSCE Office, and particularly the Good Governance Unit, for its robust efforts to assist the Government in combating corruption. Until serious inroads are made in this crucial battle, other reforms will remain difficult. The 2011 survey on perceptions of corruption in Tajikistan will go a long way to arm advocates for reform.
In the Human Dimension, we continue to see both the promise and the challenge of efforts to advance reform in Tajikistan. The United States has recommended that Tajikistan give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons. Last year, we joined with the OSCE and other national and international voices in calling on the government not to implement the flawed law on parental responsibility. This law, which bans persons under the age of 18 from taking part in public religious services, is a serious violation of religious freedom. Since 2003, the Government has been considering a law that would give added protection to domestic violence victims, but it has not taken action. While Tajikistan's Constitution protects freedom of speech, the media situation remains dire; journalists are often prosecuted for defamation and harassed by the government, and some web sites remain blocked by the government. Meanwhile, full respect for religious diversity appears to be diminishing rather than strengthening in Tajikistan. We urge the OSCE Office in Tajikistan to continue addressing all these issues of concern with the government.
Ambassador Vikki, you have indicated that significant political will exists to address issues such as torture and other abuse by police and government officials, police reform, as well as reform of the legal, judicial and criminal justice systems. Your report highlights the unprecedented request from the Central Elections Commission for an international expert to work alongside its staff. It details the success of the civic education classes in remote areas, the request by community leaders to include as many villages as possible in the program, as well as the ongoing success of the Women’s Resource Centers. These are places where we see the OSCE Office making a big difference.
Thank you again, Ambassador. We continue to support you and the work of your staff in Tajikistan.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.