|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Speech at University of World Economy and Diplomacy
Tashkent, Uzbekistan, April 17, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
[As Prepared for Delivery]
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Foreign Minister Kamilov, both for that kind introduction and for your gracious invitation to address the University of World Economy and Diplomacy.
I understand that Ambassador Presel and official visitors have made a tradition of speaking at this University, and I am honored to take part. As a former professor myself, I feel very much at home. And as a diplomat, I'm happy to meet so many future
I know from experience how busy Foreign Ministers are, so I am impressed that Foreign Minister Kamilov is also the rector here. It shows the priority that he and his government place on education. Uzbekistan should be proud of its high literacy rate and
But this is nothing new. I know that Bukhara once had the finest library in the world, and was the gathering place for some of history's greatest mathematicians, astronomers, poets and doctors. I've read that Ibn Sina's "Canons of Medicine" was a vital textbook in
the hospitals of Europe for five hundred years. So there is much in your present and past to inspire hope for the future.
I am looking forward to seeing the great centers of culture and learning when I visit Samarkand and Bukhara. But my trip to this region is more than a fascinating cultural experience; it expresses important interests for United States foreign policy.
As Secretary of State, I try to focus my efforts on regions where success in one country or region will have an influence on surrounding areas. For instance, on Friday I was in Ukraine, whose political and economic development will affect all of Eastern Europe
and the former Soviet Union.
I am here in Central Asia for similar reasons. Your neighbors in the broader region include Russia, China, Turkey and Iran. You can have an impact on Afghanistan and thus Pakistan and India as well. And the future of the Caucasus is also linked to yours.
So while you are geographically distant from the United States, you are very closely connected to some of our most vital interests.
Today, America is prosperous and at peace. But we know that we cannot afford to rest -- or fail to engage this part of the world.
In this era, we all work in a global marketplace in which economies rise and recede together. And Americans know that our prosperity depends increasingly on new markets such as this one for trade, investment and energy.
We also face security threats that no nation -- including the United States -- can defeat alone: dangers as pervasive as international crime and drug trafficking; as deadly as terrorism or nuclear proliferation; as hard to root out as the violence spawned by extremism.
We know that these threats have become more acute in Central Asia, especially in the past year.
Afghanistan has become a huge problem for regional stability, both because of the ongoing war and the Taliban's poor record on terrorism, narcotics and human rights. And we were deeply distressed by the bombings that took place in Tashkent and the armed
incursions into Kyrgyzstan.
We not only understand that you face these problems in Central Asia; we are ready to help you address them. On this current trip I am informing the leaders I meet of our readiness to provide increased assistance to bolster border security, including in the Ferghana Valley. This will include training and equipment for counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics. At the outset, we will make almost $10 million available for these purposes.
I am also inviting all the Central Asian governments to participate in a regional counter-terrorism conference, which the State Department will host in Washington in June.
Since narcotics traffickers and terrorists know no borders, it is important that we work together to counter the threat they pose; and we hope that these new initiatives will further that cooperation.
But at the same time the United States will not support any and all measures taken in the name of fighting drugs and terrorism or restoring stability. One of the most dangerous temptations for a government facing violent threats is to respond in heavy-handed ways that violate the rights of innocent citizens.
Terrorism is a criminal act and should be treated accordingly -- and that means applying the rule of law fairly and consistently. We have found, through experience around the world, that the best way to defeat terrorist threats is to increase law enforcement capacities while at the same time promoting democracy and human rights.
By contrast, indiscriminate government censorship and repression can cause moderate and peaceful opponents of a regime to resort to violence. It can turn civilians who have never before been interested in politics into extremists. These kinds of measures are not only abusive of human rights -- they are also likely to fail.
It is essential to distinguish between people who advocate or commit criminal acts and those who are simply expressing their religious faith. There is no more fundamental right in any democracy than the right of a person to be judged by his or her actions rather than by assumptions about his or her beliefs or heritage or ethnicity.
For instance, it would be a terrible mistake for any government to treat peacefully practicing Muslims as enemies of the state. Many Islamic leaders are playing a very constructive role in helping this region adjust to the demands of the new era.
It is particularly ironic that the temptation to use a heavy hand should come at just the moment when -- on the economic front -- the right strategy is to limit government intervention.
The Soviet system was called "totalitarian" because of the pervasive role of the Communist Party which controlled the state and dominated society. For seven decades, a small group of men in Moscow tried to tell each of you where to work, what to think, whether to worship, and which books and newspapers to read.
Many explanations have been offered for the collapse of the Soviet Union. But one of the most convincing dates all the way back to the time of its establishment, when economists suggested that a government that tries to do everything will eventually fail at everything.
To make the right decisions, you have to understand local populations, local circumstances and local needs. You can't do that from thousands of miles away. When you try, you just prove the old saying,"the more you tighten your grip, the more things escape from your grasp."
When the Soviet regime was finally consigned to the history books, each of its former republics was given the opportunity to develop a new, less heavy-handed role for government.
This has been difficult, since there is no single roadmap or model for how to do it. Even in the United States, the issue of exactly what role government should play is still debated fiercely. And many variations are on display in democracies from Canada to Korea.
But, by any modern standard, it is clear that, throughout Central Asia, governments remain too involved in the economy and the daily lives of individuals. As a result, the great human potential of the region has gone mostly unrealized.
President Karimov has recognized this in his public statements. For example, in January he said: "we have to understand that the strength of the government is not in the extreme concentration of powerful functions and authorities. The strength of the state is its capacity to provide the conditions for free functioning of democratic institutions and for the realization of the political and social potential of citizens and society. . ."
I completely agree. I couldn't have put it better. "Realizing the political and social potential of citizens and society" means, first and foremost, taking more specific steps to develop democratic institutions and to foster political and economic freedom.
The United States and other international donors are prepared to provide additional technical and financial assistance to help implement those reforms.
I recognize that the redefinition of the government's role in the economy will lead to hardships for some people who were dependent on the old system. This in turn could lead to calls to slow down the pace of economic liberalizaton.
But after ten years of post-Communist transitions across this region and Central and Eastern Europe, the lesson is quite clear: the countries that have reformed fastest, have reformed best, despite dislocations and hardships. Too often, slow reform has been a code word for no reform. The best way to take a bitter pill is simply to swallow it whole.
You have what it takes to build a thriving economy and build a foundation for stability in the region. You have natural resources; natural markets for your products; and -- most important -- a well-educated and entrepreneurial population. The challenge is to unleash that potential as quickly as possible.
It is important to understand that, in economic reform, half-way measures often fail to produce the desired results.
It is of little use to give farmers "ownership" of land if the government continues to tell them what crops to plant and ties their production to a fixed system of orders. Only when farmers themselves decide what they should be producing, will the agricultural sector become an engine of growth, as it has the potential to be in Uzbekistan and elsewhere.
Security of ownership is another issue where half-measures are simply not good enough. If the owner of a factory is secure that the factory will remain his, then he will invest in improving it and in making it more productive. But if he fears that it might be taken from him again, he will dismantle the factory and sell the pieces for cash in order to have something the government will not be able to repossess.
There are of course many different models of market economies. But whether you go to New York or Berlin or Tokyo or Bangkok, you will find most of the fundamentals are the same. All these places have private property rights, protected by an independent judiciary, and with ownership clearly defined by law. In each, one can borrow capital, buy insurance, and freely exchange both information and currency. In each, efficiency, hard work and imagination are rewarded.
These are the economic principles that any country wanting to participate in the modern global economy should heed. It is a maxim of this burgeoning global economy that investors choose countries, and not the other way around. Creating a predictable and transparent business environment is the surest path to attracting investment and spurring growth. Global markets are not without risk, but the lesson of our era is that the benefits far outweigh the risks.
A millennium ago, this region found its prosperity on the Silk Route; today the equivalent path may well be the Internet, which gives you access to potential trading partners in nations all around the world. For a region that has too long been isolated from the international economic mainstream, this is a huge opportunity.
And governments that restrict internet access are limiting your country's growth just as surely if they closed a road, an airport or a border.
Another essential aspect of modern government and society is accountability. Government officials -- whatever nation they represent -- are just as human as anyone else; they perform best when they know that they will be held publicly responsible for their actions.
One of my country's greatest judges said that "sunlight is the best disinfectant" -- meaning that public exposure is often the best way to expose corruption or poor performance by government officials and other community leaders.
One essential vehicle for that kind of public accountability is a free press. Another are human rights monitors and other individuals and organizations who provide an independent perspective on what those in power are doing.
So I hope that the governments of the region will soon end any role they may have in registering -- and thus censoring -- the media. And they should protect individual human rights defenders from harassment and the threat of physical retaliation.
Each person in Central Asia should have the right to express his or her opinion freely and peacefully -- including through the media or citizen groups -- without having to seek permission or fear reprisal. And of course, the ultimate guarantee of free expression, government accountability and respect for human rights is democracy.
One hundred years ago, the number of countries in the world with a government elected competitively and on the basis of universal suffrage was zero. Today it is about 120. These include countries on every continent, and people of virtually every culture and faith.
Some democracies have presidential systems, some are parliamentary, and some are mixed. Some are unitary, some federal, and the balance of power between the national and regional governments varies widely.
But any genuinely democratic system gives voters a real choice of candidates representing different points of view; and it includes all individuals and groups who are willing to participate responsibly.
Every government in Central Asia has pledged to comply with the OSCE standards for free and fair elections. The United States is ready to provide technical assistance and official observers to help those governments fulfill their pledges.
Here in Uzbekistan, meeting OSCE standards would mean loosening requirements for party registration and ballot access, so that all political views can be represented.
In Kyrgyzstan, it means making good on the commitment to follow the OSCE's recommendations on ways to ensure a fair and open presidential election in December.
In Kazakhstan, it means implementing the OSCE recommendations to reform the electoral process for future cycles.
Support for elections and freedom of the press, as well as human rights, are issues that we discuss with nations around the world, including friends and allies.
But there is a growing sense -- not just in the United States but among our democratic allies in Asia and Europe as well -- that when it comes to these issues Uzbekistan and its neighbors in Central Asia are falling behind.
We have been quite frank in our discussions with your leaders about this, because the stakes are so high. A democratic and open society will provide the best defense against extremism and terrorism, and the most hospitable environment for the transition to a prosperous modern market economy.
The legacy of the Soviet era will be difficult to overcome; these transitions take time; but that should not distract anyone from this region's great potential. We all need to see beyond present problems to imagine the possibilities for the future.
And at the same time, we need to remember some eternal verities.
The world and technology change. But -- as Ibn Sina understood -- the nature of wisdom does not. It is found in knowledge, which leads to understanding, which produces tolerance, which makes a free and democratic society possible. And there is nothing a truly free and democratic society cannot do.
You have started down the road to building such a society. The road is long, but the directions are clear. And the United States is prepared to walk with you along the way.
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