Civil society and human rights groups are alarmed by the recent initiative of Tajikistan’s government to regulate and restrict access of NGOs to financial assistance from foreign and international sources.
Draft legislation to this end, which is currently under consideration by the government, runs counter to international standards protecting the right to freedom of association and risks endangering the work of NGOs in the country, the coalition reports. They call on Tajikistan’s government to drop the draft legislation and to respect the right of NGOs to have unhindered access to funding for their work, including from sources abroad.
The World Movement for Democracy joined civil society organizations from Tajikistan and around the world to protest proposed amendments to Tajikistan’s Law on Public Associations:
In a joint letter addressed to the government of Tajikistan, the signatories strongly urge the country’s authorities to respect the right of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to have unhindered access to funding for their work, including from sources abroad. The recent initiative to regulate and restrict access of NGOs to financial assistance is currently under consideration by the government, and runs counter to international standards protecting the right to freedom of association and risks endangering the work of NGOs in the country.
Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, has stressed that restrictions on funding for NGOs are not permissible unless they are strictly necessary and proportionate to pursuing a legitimate aim, as required by article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As a party to the ICCPR, Tajikistan has an obligation to allow NGO access to funding, irrespective of whether it originates from domestic, foreign or international sources.
The draft legislation in Tajikistan follows a worrying trend among many countries of the former Soviet Union, in which governments are increasing efforts to control and restrict access to foreign funding of NGOs. The ability of civil society organizations to access funding and resources for their work is an integral and vital part of the right to freedom of association and assembly. Furthermore, NGOs in Tajikistan should be regarded as key partners in efforts to enhance citizen participation in decision making, as well as in promoting human rights and good governance.