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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Fact Sheets > 2002
Fact Sheet
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Washington, DC
November 27, 2002

Promoting Long-term Stability in Central Asia: U.S. Government Assistance One Year After 9/11

U.S. strategic interests in Central Asia include security, energy, and internal reform. In the wake of September 11, 2001, our focus on security issues such as counterterrorism has increased significantly. Long-term stability, however, requires progress in all three areas. Sustained democratic and market economic reform are essential to achieving our security interests, while eliminating terrorist threats is crucial to advancing internal reforms. These interrelationships are particularly evident in Uzbekistan, where an improved security situation has been accompanied by movement toward political and economic reform.

Nevertheless, the success of Operation Enduring Freedom is no guarantee of stability in Central Asia. Much work remains to be done on designing and implementing internal reforms not only in Uzbekistan, but also in Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian states as well. Indeed, we recognize that internal conditions within the Central Asian states are not conducive to stability over the long term. Regional stability is seriously threatened by:

  • Economic desperation: a lack of economic growth (or in cases where it exists, growth distorted by excessive reliance on oil and gas exports), resulting in high rates of poverty and unemployment.
  • Political frustration: a lack of opportunities for citizens to express dissatisfaction in peaceful ways through the political process or the media. Arbitrary use of executive power and the lack of rule of law breeds cynicism and a sense of hopelessness.
  • Social degradation: health care systems, educational systems and other elements of the region’s infrastructure have deteriorated badly since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The horrific environmental legacy of the Soviet era affects the quality of life as well. Illegal drug trafficking is an emerging threat, which not only leads to the criminalization of the economy but brings with it serious health challenges, including a growing drug abuse problem and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
  • Isolation: Central Asia’s geographical remoteness is reinforced by a lack of technical and financial resources to overcome it. As a result, its citizens have few opportunities to connect with the international economy and with global information flows.
  • Intraregional Tension: the five Central Asian states have by and large been unable to establish effective relationships with one another, and consequently cannot address such critical issues as transboundary water management and law enforcement cooperation. Ongoing border disputes seriously impede regional trade.

Given our enhanced security interests and intensified engagement with the governments and citizens of Central Asia, the U.S. is in a unique position to address these challenges through our assistance programs. Given our enhanced interests, U.S. government aid to Central Asia has increased substantially, going from $230 million in Fiscal Year 2001 to $594 million in Fiscal Year 2002, and is carefully targeted. Aware of our limitations -- the chief one being that little can be achieved without a real willingness by regional governments to undertake reforms -- we have, over the past year, moved forward as follows:

Creating Economic Hope

In those cases where governments have demonstrated renewed commitment to moving from interventionist to market-based economies -- most evident in Uzbekistan -- our support for macro-level reforms has increased. At the micro-level, support for small business growth and community level infrastructure projects create jobs and a sense of hope -- among the best buffers against extremism and terrorism. U.S. Government programs include:

  • expert technical advice to governments on reforming budget and tax policy, the banking sector, land ownership, customs, commercial law, and accounting practices;
  • microloans to men and women who run small business, often traders in markets, bakers, or seamstresses. In the Kyrgyz Republic, the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) serves more than 13,000 clients with nearly 100 percent repayment rates;
  • in-country training in business skills -- management, accounting, marketing, etc. -- to thousands of entrepreneurs. Internships with U.S. companies for managers and scientists seeking to learn American business methods;
  • training for private farmers and agricultural specialists in fields ranging from seed production, to agricultural cooperative development, and biotechnology;
  • expert consulting and marketing assistance to develop the agricultural processing sector in the Osh region of the Kyrgyz Republic (Ferghana Valley); and
  • a newly launched Community Action Investment Program (CAIP), which provides $22 million for small grants to fund local infrastructure improvements (such as digging wells, fixing schools, building clinics, and rehabilitating irrigation systems). The program encourages community participation to address common concerns, improves social services, and creates new employment opportunities. It targets the most conflict-prone regions of Central Asia, including the Ferghana Valley.

Opening Political Space

When citizens have no outlet for expressing their dissatisfaction in constructive ways, they may turn to extremist movements offering easy (and violent) solutions. Therefore, we are working to strengthen democratic institutions and grassroots organizations throughout Central Asia. U.S. Government programs provide:

  • hundreds of small grants annually to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in protecting civil and political rights; advocating the interests of specific social groups, such as pensioners or the disabled; and promoting social causes, such as environmental protection;
  • training, equipment, and production grants to electronic and print media -- offering a vital lifeline for independent media outlets under severe government pressure;
  • training and other assistance in support of NGO-led advocacy campaigns, which have succeeded in reversing government efforts to restrict independent media in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan;
  • support to parliaments and political parties in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan aimed at enhancing the role of the legislative branch in those countries;
  • skills and information to local governments in the Kyrgyz Republic on budgeting and municipal asset management, thereby supporting a trend toward devolving authority to the local level;
  • legal defense to journalists and human rights activists under threat of persecution;
  • support to a network of human rights monitors in Uzbekistan;
  • essential resources to embattled community-based NGOs in Turkmenistan; and
  • training to judges and publication of legal codes in an effort to enhance the independence of the judicial branch in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.

Repairing the Social Infrastructure

The resources needed to rebuild Central Asia’s deteriorating infrastructure far exceed the means of the U.S. or any other single donor. Addressing this set of problems will require a concerted effort by bilateral donors, the multilateral development banks, and, most importantly, the governments of the region themselves. However, the U.S. is trying to improve the situation, while it works with other donors to plan for the larger tasks ahead.

The U.S. improves health care for Central Asians by:

  • delivering humanitarian assistance in the form of privately donated medicines, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and excess Department of Defense (DOD) hospital equipment and medical supplies. Over the past year, humanitarian assistance commodities valued at $127 million have been delivered to hospitals, medical clinics, and needy individuals and vulnerable groups throughout Central Asia. The two most recent shipments arriving in August and October delivered $56 million worth of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to the politically volatile Ferghana Valley and other parts of Uzbekistan;
  • an HIV/AIDS prevention program carried out jointly with the Open Society Institute and Soros-Kazakhstan Foundation that targets high-risk populations;
  • reforming health care systems to emphasize primary care, prevention, and patient choice in selecting health care service;
  • improving indigenous capabilities to fight infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis and hepatitis B; and
  • pre- and post-natal health education and nutritional supplement programs to ensure healthier children in the poorest Central Asian country, Tajikistan.

The U.S. is attempting to help mitigate environmental problems inherited from the Soviet period by:

  • cleaning up leftover radioactive materials from uranium mining and processing that threaten environmental and economic damage to the area around the Kyrgyz Republic's largest lake;
  • improving irrigation systems to better control water use and reduce wastage; and
  • upgrading meteorological stations to better predict water flows and reduce wastage.

Overcoming Isolation

Central Asia was the most isolated part of the former Soviet Union, and its poverty still tends to reinforce its insularity from global trends. U.S. Government programs are aimed at breaking down this isolation, thereby promoting long-term changes in attitudes and outlook. Over the past year, we have:

  • brought 316 Central Asian high school and college students to the U.S. for a year or more of study in a U.S. educational institution -- these young people return to their home countries transformed and energized;
  • brought 55 Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek graduate students to American universities in fields ranging from public administration, public health, business administration, law, economics, and journalism, to environmental management;
  • brought 275 Central Asian professionals and entrepreneurs to the U.S. for exposure to our democratic and free market system; and
  • established 10 public Internet access sites, adding to an existing 42 sites. These facilities are greatly expanding the number and quality of Central Asia’s person-to-person and institutional connections to the outside world, accelerating the flow of information into and out of the region.

The number of students and other exchange participants coming to the U.S. will increase significantly beginning this academic year as a result of increased allocations and supplemental funding.

Easing Tensions

Central Asia's ethnic composition is complex. Geographic borders cut across ethnic settlement patterns and separate families and clans. Joblessness, scarcity of natural resources and endemic poverty contribute to ethnic tensions. The U.S. seeks to ameliorate this difficult situation by:

  • pairing 40 Ferghana Valley communities in the three countries that straddle this territory for the purpose of identifying and addressing potential sources of conflict;
  • facilitating agreements among the Central Asian states on water usage;
  • providing grants to independent television states in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic for a series of reports on issues vital to Ferghana Valley residents; and
  • establishing a regional trade information network to make it easier for producers throughout the region to find customers in other Central Asian countries, as well as Russia and other neighboring countries.

New Initiatives for the Coming Year

Looking ahead to 2003, the expanded efforts outlined above will continue and, thanks in part to additional resources recently provided by Congress, the following new initiatives will begin:

  • Programs to improve primary and secondary education in Central Asia, through textbook and curriculum reform (including introduction of civic education), teacher training, and connecting more schools to the Internet.
  • A major new effort to stem the flow of illegal drug trafficking (which finances terrorist groups and corrupts societies) by improving the interdiction and enforcement capacity of law enforcement bodies. Equipment and training will be provided to newly empowered drug control agencies and specially vetted anti-narcotics units. Regional law enforcement cooperation aimed at the drug trade will be enhanced. Part of this initiative will also involve drug abuse education and treatment programs.


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