On July 25, 2018, the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) and the Embassy of Uzbekistan co-hosted a groundbreaking panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on the Uzbek government’s new commitment to religious freedom. Uzbekistan has been designated a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) for religious freedom by the State Department since 2006. However, during the past two years, Uzbekistan’s leaders have ushered in unprecedented political, social, and economic reforms which have attracted worldwide attention.
IGE executive director James Chen announced that IGE and the Uzbek government would be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to partner on research, conferences, workshops, and delegation visits to build religious freedom in the country.
Taking place at the same time as the State Department’s first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, the event featured Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Minister of Justice Ruslanbek Davletov, Ambassador Sodyq Safoev who is the chairman of the Uzbekistan Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Akmal Saidov, the head of the National Center for Human Rights in Uzbekistan. A keynote speech was delivered by Justin Colbert, Director of Central Asia at the White House National Security Council. The discussion was moderated by IGE’s president emeritus Chris Seiple.
During the panel, the Uzbek delegation shared plans for streamlining and simplifying the registration process for religious groups, as well as creating a multi-faith council to advise the government on current laws affecting religious communities. Ambassador Safoyev emphasized religious freedom must be expanded to ensure Uzbekistan’s progress and transformation.
“Our country stands ready for a broad international cooperation in this sphere of religious freedom,” said Foreign Minister Kamilov. “Together we stand at a new era of strategic partnership.”
Uzbekistan was the only country on the CPC list that was invited to attend and participate in the State Department Ministerial in recognition of its recent progress on religious freedom. IGE is committed to walking alongside partners in Uzbekistan to deepen and broaden this progress.