Dushanbe Considering Bill to Restrict NGO Funding

The government of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, seen here addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2010, is considering legislation that could affect NGOs accepting funding from foreign sources. Credit: UN/Rick Bajornas

The government of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, seen here addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2010, is considering legislation that could affect NGOs accepting funding from foreign sources. Credit: UN/Rick Bajornas

By Konstantin Parshin
DUSHANBE, Dec 3 2014 (EurasiaNet)

It looks like Tajikistan is following a regional trend by drafting legislation that may sharply restrict the activities of foreign-funded non-governmental organisations. Activists say the bill threatens to hinder the operations of hundreds of organisations working on everything from human rights to public health.

The leaders of several prominent NGOs told EurasiaNet.org they were caught off guard when the bill was introduced earlier in November. They added that they were not involved in the drafting of the legislation, as had been customary for NGO-related bills, and have not been able to obtain details about the specific wording of the draft.“In reality, it implies that the government will be dictating to NGOs which projects they should implement.” — Nargis Zokirova

The government has said nothing publicly yet about the bill, which comes as state agencies have increased unscheduled inspections and other bureaucratic measures concerning non-profits, the NGO leaders say.

Under current regulations, all NGOs operating in Tajikistan must regularly present detailed reports on their activities to the Justice Ministry, where they are obliged to register; they also must present financial statements to tax inspectors.

The draft law is believed to require local non-profit organisations to obtain the government’s approval before accepting funds from a foreign donor. For now, it is unclear from whom the local organisations would seek permission or who would appoint and manage that body.

“There are reasons to fear that it [the bill], in practice, would amount to a system of pre-authorization for the use of foreign funds that would involve direct government interference into the activities of NGOs, and could result in arbitrary delays and denials to register grants,” according to a forthcoming letter to the Tajik government that has already been signed by at least 70 organisations.

“If adopted, the draft legislation would further worsen the climate for NGOs, and is also likely to contribute to public mistrust and suspicion of foreign-funded NGOs by singling them out for a specific registration regime,” the letter added.

The public first heard about the draft legislation during a November 18 conference on freedom of speech in Tajikistan, during which NGO leaders noted a generally deteriorating climate for basic freedoms.

“In reality, it implies that the government will be dictating to NGOs which projects they should implement,” Nargis Zokirova, director of the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law, told EurasiaNet.org. “Authorities demand maximum transparency from us. However, the draft law, which directly concerns our activities, was developed without the [input of] civil society organisations. None of us was aware of it.”

It is unclear why a government that frequently touts its commitment to battling corruption would create an additional layer of the kind of bureaucracy that can breed sleaze. Tajikistan already ranks 154 out of 177 countries on Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index.

Several activists said they feel Tajikistan’s authoritarian-minded government is simply following the regional trend of tightening regulations in order to silence critics. Many are pessimistic and expect the government will have the country’s rubberstamp parliament approve the bill before the end of the year.

“It is quite obvious that many domestic organisations will have to terminate their activities,” said Nuriddin Karshiboev, director of the National Association of Independent Media (NANSMIT).

Conditions for civil society organisations have deteriorated in all Central Asian countries over the last few years. Russian President Vladimir Putin established a precedent in 2012 by signing a law that requires local organisations receiving foreign funding to self-identify as “foreign agents” – Soviet-era slang for spies.

Legislators in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan are currently pushing an almost word-for-word copy of that 2012 law. If enacted in Kyrgyzstan, NGOs there would have to cope with burdensome reporting regulations.

“In countries where similar laws have been adopted – Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Uzbekistan – the state authorities keep civil society under tough control and punish human rights activists,” said Karshiboev of NANSMIT.

Long-serving President Emomali Rahmon appears to have a strong grip on power in Dushanbe. Even so, authorities have moved steadily in recent years to limit the space for any form of dissent.

A court shut down the human rights watchdog organisation Amparo in the northern city of Khujand in 2012 for alleged technical violations shortly after an Amparo representative accused the government of failing to address widespread reports of detainees being tortured.

In October, Tajik security forces mustered a massive display of strength at the mere rumor of a demonstration, which never came to pass. This month, the lower house of parliament quickly approved a draft law restricting demonstrations, again without public consultation.

The Asia-Plus news agency quoted political scientist Abdugani Mamadazimov as saying that the law shows that authorities have “opted for stability to the determent of democratic traditions.”

Editor’s note:  Konstantin Parshin is a freelance writer based in Tajikistan.

This story originally appeared on EurasiaNet.org.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Africa Laments as Kyoto Protocol Hangs in Limbo

By Wambi Michael
LIMA, Dec 3 2014 (IPS)

African countries fought hard for the Kyoto Protocol not to die on African soil at the 2011 Climate Change Conference in South Africa, but they say it is now languishing in limbo because developed countries are taking what they called “baby steps” towards ratification of the Doha Amendment that gave it a new lease of life.

The African Group and other least developed country negotiators at the ongoing (Dec. 1-12) U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, say they are concerned about the slow progress towards giving a legal force to the international emission reduction treaty.

Nagmeldin El Hassa, Chair of the Africa Group in Lima – “In our view, the developed countries are reneging, abandoning and weakening the Kyoto Protocol”. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Nagmeldin El Hassa, Chair of the Africa Group in Lima – “In our view, the developed countries are reneging, abandoning and weakening the Kyoto Protocol”. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

“We would like to point out that slow ratification of Commitment Period Two of Kyoto by developed countries does not build confidence. In our view, the developed countries are reneging, abandoning and weakening the Kyoto Protocol,” Nagmeldin El Hassan, Chair of the African Group said at the opening of the conference.

He said failure by developed countries to ratify the Doha Amendment was forcing the least developed countries to assume legal commitments while relaxing the legal commitments of the historical greenhouse emitters. “If this is the game that some think we are ready to entertain, we must make it clear that we will not be party to this game,” El Hassan added.

In December 2012, the Doha Amendment to the Protocol was agreed, extending it into a new commitment period running from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020. The European Union (EU), its 28 Member States and other developed countries have ratified the protocol.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which the Kyoto Protocol is linked, requires ratification by 144 countries before it can enter into force.“The responses of rich developed countries show no sense of urgency – they have presented less climate finance than last year, have not raised their pollution targets and have not even legally ratified the Kyoto Protocol as they promised two years ago” – Mithika Mwenda, Secretary-General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)

By the end of November 2014, only 20 countries had ratified the Doha Amendment establishing the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Guyana was the latest to ratify as it prepared to join the negotiations in Lima.

El Hassan told IPS that the ratification process needs to be accelerated and clear accounting rules adopted in Lima so that the amendment enters into force by the next Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.

African environment groups and NGOs are also calling on governments to hasten progress on ratification of the much fought for second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.

Mithika Mwenda, Secretary-General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) to which more than 30 Africa-based NGOs belong, told IPS that it was demoralised by the “baby step” speed of the developed countries towards ratification.

“Africans have sent their governments to Lima with urgent and creative demands to face the climate crisis,” said Mwenda. “Yet the responses of rich developed countries show no sense of urgency – they have presented less climate finance than last year, have not raised their pollution targets and have not even legally ratified the Kyoto Protocol as they promised two years ago.”

According to Mwenda, the developed countries are determined to delay their participation in the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.  “They are letting their national interests trump over the global common good and are opting out of multilateral rules.”

Earlier in the week, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that both developed and developing country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol needed to save the protocol from languishing in limbo by ratifying it.

“I have said this before and let me say it again. For this international legal framework to enter into force, governments need to complete their ratification process as soon as possible. We need a positive political signal of the ambition of nations to step up crucial climate action,” said Figueres.

The African Group is pushing for ratification of the Doha Amendment because it extends a legal commitment to Annex 1 countries – members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) plus a group of countries whose economies are in transition – to contribute towards a global effort to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Ram Prasad Lamsal from Nepal, who chairs the LDC Group, told IPS that “ratification is essential for the Kyoto Protocol to continue to serving as a cornerstone of the multilaterally agreed rules-based system under the [Climate Change] Convention and a full reflection of its principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.”

However, while the African countries are pushing their developed country counterparts to ratify the Doha Amendment, just four of them had ratified it by the end of November – South Africa, Sudan, Morocco and Kenya.

A delegate from European Union speaking on condition of anonymity wondered why the African countries – as well as the LDC Group, the G77 and China – were not ratifying the second commitment period as they mount pressure on developed countries.

Paul Isabirye, Uganda’s UNFCCC Focal Point, told IPS that African countries would easily ratify once the developed countries had taken the lead.

“But even if all the African countries ratified, it still cannot enter into force before our colleagues do it. They have the bulk of the emissions to cut. The issue is not that Africa has lagged behind, the big emitters don’t seem to be coming forward,” said Isabirye.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

 

Assets of Formula 1 Team Marussia Go to Auction

BANBURY, UNITED KINGDOM—(Marketwired – Dec 3, 2014) – The assets of the Formula 1 Racing Team Marussia will go to auction sale on Tuesday 16th, Wednesday 17th and Thursday 18th December 2014. The sale will be conducted under the joint management of GA European Valuations and CA Global Partners by Order of G. Rowley & G. Carton–Kelly of FRP Advisory LLP, Joint Administrators of Manor Grand Prix Racing Limited T/A Marussia F1 Team.

The live and webcast auction will include Marussia Formula 1 Race Cars (No Engines), Memorabilia, Complete Test Lab, Race Day Trailer Fleet, Machine Shop, Corporate Offices, Parts, including Race–Day Replacement Parts and Tools, along with High Tech Server Equipment, Fixtures, Fittings & Equipment, and more. A full description of items and terms of the auction are available at either www.gaev.com and/or www.cagp.com.

The live and webcast auction will be conducted on–site at Manor Grand Prix Racing Limited Headquarters, Overthorpe Road, Banbury, Oxfordshire, OX16 4PN; or buyers may participate in this sale on site or via live webcast at www.cagp.com. The auction items will be available for inspection and public viewing at Marussia Headquarters on Friday 12th and Monday 15th December from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (GMT).

The live and webcast auction will be held on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th December beginning at 10 a.m. (GMT) each day with an additional separate online only auction including office furniture and computer equipment ending Thursday 18th December from 12 noon.

The Marussia F1 Team started racing in 2010 under the name Virgin Racing, then as Marussia Virgin Racing until it was renamed Marussia F1 Team in 2012.

An additional On–Line Auction Sale is planned for Wednesday, 21st January 2015, which will include the 2014 Formula 1 gear, trackside and pit equipment, along with three GP3 cars and a Super Aguri race car.

GA European Valuations Limited
GA European Valuations is one of the UK's leading firms of Appraisers, Surveyors and Auctioneers, providing a fresh insight and vision to all business assets, machinery and property.

CA Global Partners
CA Global Partners is a global company providing equipment management and capital recovery solutions with a focus on International Projects, Sports–Related, Historic Facilities, Technology Assets, Manufacturing, Construction, and Printing.

Image Available: http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/frame_mw?attachid=2730733