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NEW UZBEKISTAN: MULTI-FACETED REFORMS AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Uzbekistan and the European Union

Continue Active Cooperation

 

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the bilateral relations between Uzbekistan and the European Union continue to actively develop and became comprehensive and productive.

In 2019-2020, more than 20 political consultations were held with the ministries of foreign affairs of European countries such as Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Finland, France, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

In recent years, the Highest-Level Political Dialogue with the European Union has become increasingly active.

The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid a visit to France in October 2018 and to Germany in January 2019.

In 2017-2018, in force at the time of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini visited Uzbekistan twice.

«Twice visited Uzbekistan in the last year, I am personally convinced of the large-scale reforms in the country, as well as the constructive role played by Uzbekistan in the regional dynamics», said Federica Mogherini at a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov in November 2018 in Brussels. «Today, we strongly demonstrate a joint commitment to an expanded and more inclusive relationship between the European Union and Uzbekistan».

In 2019, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk paid a working visit to Uzbekistan for the first time.

Along with this, a regular High-Level Dialogue is also maintained.

The intensive negotiations that began in 2019 on the adoption of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) between Uzbekistan and the EU demonstrate the parties’ firm determination to raise bilateral interaction to a whole new and higher level.

Heretofore, the discussions on the EPCA have held six rounds of talks on political and institutional issues and seven rounds on trade and economic issues.

The development of a multifaceted dialogue with the European Union have contributed significantly to the results of the reforms carried out in Uzbekistan, as well as the implementation of the relevant directions of the Uzbekistan’s Development Strategy for 2017-2021.

Currently, there are six EU-Uzbekistan joint bodies: the EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation Council, the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation Committee, the Subcommittee on Economy, Trade and Investment, the Subcommittee on Justice, Home Affairs, Human Rights and Related Issues, the Subcommittee on Cooperation Development.  

Within the regional and bilateral cooperation, Uzbekistan and the EU are implementing joint projects in the areas of social and economic development, education, rule of law, border management, the fight against drugs and organized crime, transport, environmental protection, agriculture and others.

 

 

European partners are assisting Uzbekistan to join the World Trade Organization, and they are also considering an application for granting the country the beneficiary status of the General System of Preferences « GSP+».

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the trade volume between Uzbekistan and European countries for 8 months of 2020 amounted to $2.3 billion, which is 10% less than the same indicator for 2019. Uzbek products’ exports to Europe decreased by 8.5%, amounting to $277 million, the imports decreased by 10.5%, amounting to $1.97 billion.

It is worth noting that today, when the COVID-19 coronavirus has swept around the world and has a negative impact on the global economy, the European partners have supported Uzbekistan by allocating more than €30 million to eliminate the negative consequences of the pandemic. These funds were directed to the relevant areas.

 

 

MEP Pays Tribute to 'Great Progress' by Uzbekistan

 

Latvian Socialist MEP Andris Ameriks has paid glowing tribute to Uzbekistan’s “great progress in different areas”. His comments come amid the ongoing talks over the Enhanced Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (EPCA), which will replace the partnership and co-operation agreement that has been in force since 1999, writes Martin Banks, EU Reporter.

Uzbekistan and the European Union are currently negotiating the EPCA and hope to sign a deal by the end of the year. The talks started in November 2018 and, if successful, will pave the way for a new era in relations between the two sides. When asked about current EU-Uzbekistan relations, Ameriks, a member of the parliament's delegation to Uzbekistan, said: "Asia has a centuries - old tradition of bringing Europe and Asia together.

"The EU-Central Asia relations have developed significantly over recent years and the EU’s engagement with Central Asia has significantly expanded since the early 1990s. In 2007 the EU adopted its first Strategy on Central Asia. This established a regular political dialogue and enhanced cooperation.”

Speaking exclusively to this website, he added: “Uzbekistan, with its great population and territory, and borders with all other Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, is no doubt one of the EU’s main partners in the region.”

Since 1991, when Uzbekistan gained its independence, the EU has stable development in relationships with Uzbekistan, which is based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), signed in 1996, he notes. “This agreement moved both parties to a closer cooperation in political, trade and economic co-operation.”

Besides PCA, there are, he says, various other agreements with Uzbekistan, like Memorandum of understanding and co-operation in the field of energy, “that help to make our cooperation more effective and fruitful.”

He went on: “In 2018 the Council adopted a mandate for negotiations with Uzbekistan on a new agreement, which will bring the cooperation to a next level - Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA). “We can note a great progress in negotiations between the EU and Uzbekistan, which is a strong signal from both sides on a common view of our further and closer co-operation.”

He says the EPCA was planned to be signed by now.  While he current situation due to the COVID-19 might change the planned timetable it will not change “the common interest in this agreement”. He said: “The EPCA will cover more areas of cooperation, particularly political dialogue and reforms, rule of law, justice, freedom and security, human rights, migration, trade, economic and sustainable development.

“Cooperation between the European Union and Uzbekistan is important for both sides. For Uzbekistan, it is a possibility to have political and financial support in reforms and development of the country, for the EU it is a possibility to share and spread its values outside the EU. Ameriks is an economist who has been serving as an MEP since the
2019 elections. He is a former deputy mayor of Riga.

“During the recent years, under a new leadership, Uzbekistan has made a great progress in different areas, as reforms, to improve human rights, to develop regional cooperation with its Central Asian neighbours and international partners, and to promote security and stability in the region. Of course, we always can do more, but I would like to highlight Uzbekistan’s significant will and actions in making their country better and more attractive in all senses.”

When asked whether Uzbekistan sees its future with Russia or with the West, the MEP declares, “we cannot forget history of Uzbekistan and its geographical location. I believe that wise leadership and people of Uzbekistan will find a balance in co-operation between Russia and West in a manner that will not harm nor one, nor another side.”

Also speaking exclusively to this website, another senior MEP, French MEP Thierry Mariani, also a member of the parliament’s Uzbekistan delegation,  said he is optimistic the agreement will be signed by the end of this year, despite the health crisis. The ID deputy said: “It is looking good which is also good news for both sides, particularly Uzbekistan which stands to benefit from having access to more markets if the agreement is signed.”

Mariani, a former veteran French MP and also a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, added: “The fact that progress has been made on the agreement shows the relative confidence the EU has in the country and the current regime. It is a few years no since the new president took office and the progress in that time has been excellent. “I know the country very well and have visited it at least ten times, including my time as a government minister in France.”

The MEP, a minister of transport in France for two years until 2012, said, “Everything has changed in the country since the current president took office. It is does not mean that everything is perfect – where is it? – but I think the country has really turned a page from its previous Soviet past. The economy is more open now than it was in the past and there has also been good progress in political life which is no longer dominated by just the one party.

“We should remember this and the continuing modernization programme in the country. The EPCA is very important for both sides but especially for Uzbekistan. I would say that, due to the progress that has been achieved in the last few years, Uzbekistan is now the most important country in central Asia,” added Mariani, who was a French MP from 1993 to 2017. EU relations with Uzbekistan are already embedded in the regularly reviewed EU and Central Asia Strategy for a New Partnership, which outlines the overall cooperation objectives, policy responses and priority fields for the EU's engagement in Central Asia. Relations between the two sides have been developing steadily since its independence in 1991.

President Mirziyoyev came to power in September 2016 and he has triggered numerous ambitious reforms. An expert assessment also comes from Niccolo Rinaldi, head of unit for Asia,  Australia and New Zealand in the European parliament who told this website that the EPCA will “upgrade” relations between the two sides, adding that this stands to benefit both sides. Rinaldi, based in the DG for external policies, said this will be important for the EU because Uzbekistan “has come under pressure” from the likes of Russia, China and Turkey.

He said: ”The EU wants to have a presence in central Asia – this is important – and, step by step, the Union has been doing this.” He paid tribute to the Uzbek president for helping to “stabilize” and promote relations between central Asian nations, adding that the EU also hopes to replicate an EPCA with Uzbekistan’s near neighbours."

Rinaldi believes Uzbekistan is “less under the influence of Russia” than some of its neighbours partly because it has only a small Russian community. He also notes that it exports cotton to the West and not to Russia. When asked what more needs to be done by Uzbekistan in terms of reforms, Greens MEP Niklas Nienass said: "Uzbekistan is reforming its economy with great vigour, and it should strengthen democracy and human rights with the same energy."

The German member added: "Restrictive media laws have to be changed to create the backbone of a society in which freedom of speech is not only a slogan. And as for the economic reforms, it must be ensured that the improvements really benefit the people and not just the wealthy few. This certainly is a difficult task for the country, but it is inevitable to improve the lives of the Uzbek people."

In another exclusive interview with this website, Peter Stano, EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, was asked to spell out the importance of the EPCA to Uzbekistan (and the EU). Stano said: “Concluding and implementing the EPCA is a priority for the EU. We believe it will significantly upgrade bilateral relations, extending cooperation into new areas. Both sides have been working hard to conclude negotiations, including over the past few months despite the disruption resulting from the pandemic.”

He added: “This shows the importance that both sides attach to the EPCA. The EPCA will increase the attractiveness of Uzbekistan to foreign investment, which is an important element of the country’s development strategy and its post-COVID recovery.”

Uzbek-European relations began on April 15, 1992 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Uzbekistan and the Commission. Diplomatic relations were established on November 16, 1994. Last November, Uzbekistan celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations. In January 1995, the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan was opened in Brussels, which also performs the functions of the Mission to the European Union. The EU delegation has been operating in Tashkent since June 2011. The EU, today, is one of Uzbekistan’s main international partners.

An embassy spokesman said: “Uzbekistan is interested in the consistent development of mutually beneficial and constructive co-operation with it. We highly value the EU's role in promoting the universal values of democracy, rule of law, protection of human rights, maintenance of peace, stability and sustainable development.”

He added: “The EU is one of the most important trade partners of Uzbekistan. It should be noted that the Uzbek side has introduced the most favored nation regime for the EU countries. The reforms carried out in our country to liberalize the economy open up opportunities for a wider presence of European business and investments in Uzbekistan.”

In 2019, the trade turnover between Uzbekistan and the EU countries amounted to $4 billion, including exports - $574.5 million, imports - $3.42bn. During the first quarter of 2020, the volume of mutual trade amounted to $782.2m, including exports - $ 116.8m, imports - $665.4m. There are 1,052 enterprises operating in Uzbekistan with the participation of investments from the EU countries, including 304 companies with 100% European capital.

Turning to the future, Peter Stano also told EU Reporter what more needs to be done by Uzbekistan in terms of reforms. He said: “Uzbekistan’s reform programme is ambitious but a work in progress. We discuss this regularly with Uzbekistan, for example at this month’s annual Human Rights Dialogue and Sub-Committee on Justice, Freedom, and Security. The EU places particular emphasis on the implementation of reforms, and offers support to Uzbekistan in this respect.”

Stano concluded: “We recognize significant progress in addressing forced labour and individual human rights cases, and in liberalizing sectors of the economy, but there is a lot more still to be done, for example in ensuring freedom of expression, in the fight against corruption, and in the area of criminal justice reform which would improve the business climate and thereby enhance economic and social development.”

 

 

 

Uzbekistan Committed to Advancing Call to Action Initiative for Human Rights

 

On February 22, 2021, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev took part in the high-level segment of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC).

This was a historic event both for the country and for the Organization, since for the first time Uzbekistan took part in the event as a member of the UN HRC.

The head of Uzbekistan made the following speech on the first day of the session:

 

Distinguished President Madame NAZHAT SHAMEEM KHAN!

Distinguished High Commissioner Madame MICHELLE BACHELET!

Ladies and gentlemen!

Today, Uzbekistan is participating at this meeting for the first time as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

It should be noted, that in recent years we have been consciously pursuing this goal. Our democratic reforms have become irreversible and are aimed at establishing a new Uzbekistan.

We are committed to continuing close cooperation with the member states of the Council, all our partners in advancing the initiative of the United Nations «A Call to Action for Human Rights».

Distinguished participants of the session!

I would like to outline the priorities for further enhancing the democratic transformations in Uzbekistan and our work in the framework of the Council.

First. Ensuring fundamental human rights and freedoms shall remain central in reforming Uzbekistan.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development shall be implemented in our country in accordance with the UN principle of «Leaving no one behind» to ensure the rights and legal interests of every person.

This is the implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy, in the preparation of which the experts from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have actively participated.

Second. In the issues of gender policy we intend to radically increase the role of women in the public, political and business life of the country.

This year we are planning to hold a Women Leaders’ Dialogue of Central Asian states and a Regional Women’s Business Forum in Uzbekistan.

Third. Special priority shall be given to ensure the rights of people with special needs.

A new Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recently come into force in our country, in the near future the Parliament of Uzbekistan shall ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We also propose to establish a Regional Council regarding the self-realization of persons with disabilities.

Fourth. The protection of rights of the youth, who make up more than half of the population of Uzbekistan, is constantly in the focus of our attention.

This year in our country it has been declared the Year of Supporting Youth and Strengthening Public Health.

We are preparing:

- to hold the World Conference on Youth Rights under the UN auspices;

- to present the draft Convention on Youth Rights at the tenth forum of the UN Economic and Social Council;

- and also to submit for consideration the issue of establishment the institution of a Special Rapporteur on Youth Rights.

Fifth. Jointly with the International Labor Organization and the World Bank we have accomplished a profound work in terms of the eradication of forced and child labor. This is one of the main achievements of our reforms.

This International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, we shall adopt the Law on the Children’s Ombudsman.

Sixth. We propose to hold together with the UN High Commissioner Office a Global Forum dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training.

In order to develop the human rights education system we intend to make our contribution to the UN Voluntary Fund for Human Rights.

Seventh. We support the proposal by the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres for taking decisive steps to reduce the number of stateless persons.

Last year alone 50 thousand of our compatriots have acquired citizenship of Uzbekistan, this year more than 20 thousand people shall obtain it, as well.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen!

We intend to further develop the civil society institutions, continue improvements in this field and provide comprehensive support to the freedom of speech in Uzbekistan.

The preparation of codes on non-governmental non-profit organizations and mass media shall continue.

We take into consideration the UN Special Rapporteurs’ recommendations on such issues as freedom of religion or belief, as well as on the independence of judges and lawyers.

We suggest the Council to consider the issue of developing the universal principles of the judicial councils.

As a part of introducing the national mechanism for the prevention of torture we shall continue to strictly suppress all forms of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. Such crimes shall not have a statute of limitations.

We intend to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

For joint work on these issues we intend to invite the Special Rapporteur on torture to Uzbekistan.

Distinguished participants of the meeting!

Uzbekistan is firmly committed to its international human rights obligations.

Along with this, we understand that we are only at the beginning of this path, and we count on the support of our international partners.

In this regard, we are expecting the visit of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Madame Michelle Bachelet to our country, intend to take a decision to extend a standing invitation to all mandate holders to visit Uzbekistan.

We also intend to contribute to the creation of a mechanism for ensuring human rights in the Asian region on the basis of a permanent platform – the Samarkand Forum.

Dear friends!

The 75 years of the UN history has convincingly proved the universal value of human rights. Without it, peace, security and sustainable development would be impossible.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize once again that Uzbekistan as a member of the Human Rights Council shall protect and actively promote the universal principles and norms of the International human rights law.

Thank you for your attention.

 

 

World Community Welcomes Uzbekistan's Human Rights Initiatives

 

The participation of Uzbekistan in the High-Level Segment of the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and the speech of the President of Uzbekistan were received with satisfaction by the international community.

Experts and politicians highly appreciated the recent positive reforms of Uzbekistan in all spheres of public-political and socio-economic life, in the center of which were issues of ensuring fundamental human rights and freedoms. There are achievements of Tashkent in ensuring gender equality, reducing the number of stateless persons, eliminating child and forced labor, developing civil society institutions and freedom of speech was noted.

The consonance of the priorities voiced by the President of Uzbekistan to the principle of the UN Sustainable Development Goals “Leave no one behind” to ensure the rights and legitimate interests of every person was especially appreciated.

 

Mr. Eduard Firmin Matoko, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Priority Africa and External Relations:

 «UNESCO listened with great attention to the statement of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan,                 H.E. Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, delivered on 22 February 2021, in the framework of the High-level Segment of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In his address as a newly-elected member of the Council, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev explained the Government's priorities for further deepening democratic transformations in Uzbekistan, which have been strongly supported by UNESCO. Many of these transformations are in line with UNESCO's mandate, set forth in its Constitution, as well as with the main lines of the Organization's action.

We greatly appreciated that the President reconfirmed his engagement to ensure that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be implemented in Uzbekistan in line with the UN principle of «Leaving no one behind». In this regard, UNESCO has taken special note of the President's intention to enhance the role of women across ail spheres of Uzbek society to ensure gender equality, and his commitment to ensure the protection of the rights of youth which, as the President underlined, make up more than half of the population of Uzbekistan.

UNESCO, as a UN specialized agency with a sharp mandate focused on youth, noted with great interest the President’s proposal to hold a World Conference on Youth Rights under the auspices of the United Nations.

UNESCO highly appreciates the strong commitment expressed by the President to provide comprehensive support to freedom of speech and the protection of journalists in Uzbekistan at legal, administrative and technical levels. The Organization reiterates its readiness, through Headquarters and the UNESCO Tashkent Office, to cooperate closely with the authorities of Uzbekistan not only in this field but in all other fields of its mandate, as provided for in the Memorandum of Understanding between UNESCO and Uzbekistan signed during President Mirziyoyev's visit to UNESCO Headquarters in October 2018. This bilateral engagement was strongly confirmed during the official visit of the Director-General of UNESCO to Uzbekistan in August 2019».

 

Mr. Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of Interparliamentary Union:

I have been pleased to participate in this briefing on Uzbekistan that has taken place at the Diplomatic Club here in Geneva. We have been discussing His Excellency the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s speech yesterday at the Human Rights Council.

Let me congratulate him first of all for this momentous occasion and for the entry of Uzbekistan into the Human Rights Council.

I have paid keen attention to the President’s speech and I see he has made some relevant references that I would like to commend him on. Especially the need to promote youth, respect for youth and youth empowerment. Also the issue of gender equality which is at the heart of human rights deliberations, he has laid strong emphasis on that.

And one thing that I would like to congratulate Mr. President on is the importance he accords to the plight of stateless persons, which is something that goes to the very heart of the human rights community. It is not normal today that we have people who don’t have any legal existence because they don’t have a country they are not registered. They are not entitled to the basic services to which every human being can aspire.

So Mr. President thank you very much for that very enlightening speech you made there. I think it set a tone for this session of the Human Rights Council.

 

 

President’s Message: Key Messages and Conclusions

 

On 29 December 2020, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev delivered a message to the Oliy Majlis. The head of state summed up the results of the work done, determined the priorities of domestic and foreign policy.

A distinctive feature of the current Address, first of all, is that it ended a really difficult year both for Uzbekistan and the whole world. Pandemic, natural and man-made disasters and, as a result, serious economic challenges tested the strength of the strategic course of development chosen by the President. Today, looking back, we can say with confidence that Uzbekistan not only passed the tests that fell to its lot last year, but also achieved a number of important victories.

Despite all the objective difficulties, the leader of our country remained true to his main principle: "the interests of the people are above all." Despite the closed borders, the state ensured the return home of more than 600 thousand compatriots. Almost 100 thousand citizens who were abroad were provided with the necessary assistance. In addition, support was provided both through our embassies and by volunteers who shared everything they could with their compatriots.

Our entrepreneurs, as well as ordinary citizens who experienced difficulties due to the pandemic, did not go unnoticed. They received tax breaks, deferred loan repayment and financial assistance totaling 66 trillion soums.

Within the framework of the national movement "Kindness and Support", in which a huge number of fellow citizens were involved, over 800 thousand low-income families received material assistance for more than 1 trillion soums.

The outbreak of coronavirus infection has been brought under control. Having overcome some confusion at the beginning, our healthcare system, under the personal supervision of the President, was able to mobilize. In a short time, about 30 thousand beds were organized. Over 200 thousand medical workers and 150 foreign specialists were involved. Today, the daily increase in patients does not exceed 70 people. This is one of the lowest rates in the world.

The President said that last year alone we exported US$1 billion worth of fruits and vegetables. In the best years in the past, we did not receive so much for the export of cotton fiber. Moreover, the yield of the same cotton increased by 10 percent.

The level of coverage of our youth with higher education has been brought to 25 percent. Four years ago this figure did not exceed 9. According to this indicator, the country was at the very end of the rating in the world, being practically on an equal footing with Afghanistan engulfed in civil war. For comparison: in Kazakhstan - about 50 percent, Kyrgyzstan - 43, Tajikistan - 30.

With the opening of new educational institutions and branches of leading foreign universities, the most important task of forming a demanded reserve of broad-spectrum specialists is being solved, for which an acute shortage has objectively arisen long ago.

In 2020 alone, 719 citizens were acquitted. Four years ago there were none. This is not to say that our courts have become completely impartial. But the statistics tell a lot. If earlier decisions in favor of entrepreneurs and citizens in proceedings against government agencies were sporadic, today statistics show the opposite. So, since 2017, administrative courts have satisfied about 70 percent of cases in favor of entrepreneurs and citizens.

The results of internal reforms affected the recognition of Uzbekistan in the international arena. For the first time in history, he was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The recent removal of our country from the list of countries of "special observation" in the field of religious freedom of the US State Department was a high assessment of our ongoing large-scale democratic reforms.

At the same time, in his Address, the President not only summed up the results of the work done. A large-scale program of further reforms was announced, a distinctive feature of which is its focus on the most specific, extremely accurate results.

In total, the head of state put forward more than 150 initiatives, tasks and proposals, dwelling on each area in detail, not disregarding a single detail.

The scale of financing the tasks stated in the Address is also significant. According to economists, it is planned to allocate about 25.6 trillion soums and 1.4 billion dollars to the initiatives, projects and tasks announced in the framework of the Address.

The key message of the President’s speech - social development - remains the priority of the policy of the head of state. The issues of the well-being of the people, the all-round improvement of the quality of life of the people were a refrain throughout the speech.

 

Thus, this trend continued, the President remained true to the declared course. The largest and most significant block of the appeal is devoted specifically to social problems and economic development - about 60 percent. In total, the President announced over 70 initiatives aimed at increasing the effectiveness of social protection of the population, the well-being of citizens, and improving their quality of life.

Poverty reduction has become one of the central themes of the Message. The President told in detail how these issues will be resolved. Primarily due to employment. Here, one cannot fail to note the projects to create more than 1,000 vocational training centers in makhallas next year. All those who graduate from training courses and who want to start their own business will be able to receive subsidies of up to 7 million soums for the purchase of the necessary equipment.

In addition, 500 billion soums will be directed to the State Fund for the Promotion of Employment and the Public Works Fund under the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations of the Republic of Uzbekistan to ensure employment of the needy segments of the population.

In his speech, the President also gave a detailed answer to the most pressing questions that citizens have been asking in one way or another lately. And here one can feel the influence of direct meetings between the President and the common people, which have become an invariable practice during the visits of the head of state to the regions or participation in events. Communicating directly with Uzbek people, he gets an idea of all the "pain points" and existing shortcomings from the first hand.

 

Therefore, the Address outlines a wide range of targeted action measures: support for orphans and teachers, construction of schools and kindergartens, construction and reconstruction of theaters, museums, cultural and sports institutions, repair and construction of roads in cities and villages.

Such a timely response to the needs and requirements of ordinary people shows that the President hears the people of Uzbekistan, responds to their hopes and expectations.

In particular, the country’s leader dwelled on issues of uninterrupted gas supply to the population. It was announced that 35 percent of the additional gas demand will be covered by reorientation of export resources to the domestic market, the rest - by imports.

On the problem of corruption, the Ministry of Finance was instructed to establish the practice of publishing information on the revenues and expenditures of extra-budgetary funds of state bodies, purchases of organizations with state participation, as well as data on state subsidies and grants. Thus, the President reaffirmed his firm adherence to the policy of ensuring maximum transparency in the activities of state institutions, which will allow them to be placed under close public control.

It is also impossible not to note the emphasis in the Address on youth and education.

World experience shows that no breakthrough is possible without human participation. It is people who are the main advantage and capital of the country. The announcement of 2021 as the Year of Supporting Youth and Health Promotion fully reflects this logic.

Meeting, talking directly with young people, the head of state timely considered and felt her readiness to get involved in public affairs, to show "initiative from below", and not to wait for the implementation of reforms on a "top-down" principle.

That is, everything that many officials do not have.

Creative, free, educated youth can and should become a key driver of the reform process, a competitive advantage of Uzbekistan. All opportunities are provided for this, favorable conditions are created for education, creativity and participation of young people in the life of the country. So, up to 25 percent will be increased grant places in universities, including for girls from socially vulnerable families twice. This will further expand the coverage of higher education among young people.

It is also planned to increase the number of doctoral students in universities and research institutions
to 4.5 thousand. An additional 240 billion soums will be allocated from the budget for this.

The number of young people sent to study in foreign universities through the "El-yurt Umidi" fund will also increase this year, and five times at once.

Undoubtedly, the efforts and funds invested in this area are the best investments in the future. As Benjamin Franklin rightly pointed out, "investment in knowledge pays the best dividends."

The initiatives voiced by the President for the implementation of the Year of Support for Youth and Strengthening the Health of the Population will help support young people in mobilizing their own abilities, realizing their existing potential, and increase self-confidence.

In general, the Address demonstrated that a person, his interests and well-being remains at the head of the entire system of priorities of the President of Uzbekistan. This is the key goal and basis of all reforms of the head of state. It is in this that the uniqueness of the strategy of the leader of the republic for the modernization of the country and its broad support among the population are manifested.

 

 

Trust, Support and Recognition

of the World Community

 

On October 13, 2020, for the first time in the history of national statehood, Uzbekistan was elected to the membership of the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2021-2023. 169 countries out of 193 UN Member States voted for Uzbekistan.

The election of Uzbekistan as a member of the UN Human Rights Council is, above all, a recognition of the results of the democratic reforms of the New Uzbekistan based on the adopted Development Strategy for 2017-2021.

It is also a recognition of the commitment of the Republic of Uzbekistan to strengthening the human rights policy, developing respect for human rights and freedoms, ensuring the rule of law and further strengthening the authority of Uzbekistan in the world arena.

In his speech at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has stressed that «the democratic transformations in the country became irreversible».

In recent years, the political awareness of the population and parties, the role of the civil society institution and the media influence have been growing in Uzbekistan.

The gender equality policy became one of the priority issues. The human rights situation has completely changed. The child and forced labor has been eradicated. The National Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Human Rights was adopted.

In response to a UN call to reduce the number of stateless persons, 50,000 people were granted Uzbek citizenship in 2020. The situation related to religious freedom has improved dramatically. The country has an atmosphere of interethnic harmony and religious tolerance.

The large-scale reforms are being consistently implemented to ensure the genuine independence of the courts, the rule of law. The uncompromising fight against corruption has risen to a new level.

The goals of Uzbekistan set for itself and consistently moving towards them, achieving significant results, are consonant with the main tasks of the UN Human Rights Council.

So, following the National Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Human Rights, the adoption of 53 normative legal acts, the development and implementation of a set
of 37 events, as well as the ratification of 8 international treaties are envisaged.

In recent years, the Parliament has adopted more than
30 social laws. Among them are the following laws: the Law on the Protection of Reproductive Health of Citizens, the Law on Science and Scientific Activity, the Law on Trade Unions, the Law on Preschool Education and Upbringing, and more than 10 international treaties have been ratified, including four Conventions of the International Labor Organization.

At the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán presented report on his visit to Uzbekistan, who noted the positive results achieved in the judicial and legal system of the country in recent years. Assessing the current reform of the justice system, initiated by the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the Special Rapporteur hailed the progress made by Uzbekistan to date in strengthening the judicial independence and the implementation of legal profession.

Uzbekistan’s mission to the UN Human Rights Council is noble and impartial. Uzbekistan is a supporter of the rule of law and law not only in our country, but throughout the world, an adherent of comprehensive protection, promotion and advancement of human rights, freedoms and legitimate interests.

 

 

National Strategy on Human Rights: Essence,
Meaning, Goals and Objectives

 

On June 22, 2020 the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a Decree on Approval of the National Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Human Rights.

Improvement of the human rights and freedoms mechanism led to large-scale reforms and the need for high-quality and timely implementation of the National Action Strategy on Five Priority Development Areas of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021.

The National Action Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan was developed on the basis of a comprehensive study of topical issues of ensuring and protecting human rights, analysis of current legislation, regulatory enforcement and best foreign experience, as well as the results of a broad public debate, international and national consultations, taking into account the recommendations of international organizations, including the UN statutory bodies and treaty committees.  

Today Uzbekistan, as an independent subject of international law, rose to a new stage of development in human rights cooperation. This is also evidenced by the fact that the country, being an active participant in international lawmaking, is confidently entering the world arena as an initiator of new international treaties.

The initiatives of a renewed Uzbekistan are supported at the UN level. The Republic of Uzbekistan has acceded to more than 80 international human rights instruments, including 6 basic treaties and 4 optional protocols of the United Nations, and on an ongoing basis submits national reports on implementation to the Human Rights Council and UN treaty bodies.  

Uzbekistan’s position on the protection of human rights is based on the UN Charter, the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international agreements arising from them.

The approval of the National Strategy on Human Rights, based on the Vienna Declaration, by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Action Program is an important stage in the ongoing legal reforms in the country and the implementation of institutional mechanisms for human rights.

Undoubtedly, the National Action Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Human Rights will become an effective instrument of a single policy in the human rights and freedoms provided for by the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan and international treaties ratified by our country.  

As part of the implementation of the National Strategy, national legislation will be improved taking into account the priority areas of the country’s social and economic development, universally recognized international standards and obligations of Uzbekistan on human rights, recommendations of the UN statutory bodies and treaty committees.

Undoubtedly, the key objectives of the Strategy will be to ensure the judicial independence to stop human rights violations, improve the work of the Prosecutor’s Office and strengthen the powers of the system of fair judging, create enabling conditions for national human rights institutions, further develop the system for monitoring and evaluating the state policy in the field of human rights, increasing legal literacy and legal culture of the population, fostering a human rights culture in society.

Human rights policy will also be aimed at increasing the efficiency of openness and interaction of public authorities and administration, civil society institutions, the media and the private sector in protecting personal, political, economic, social and cultural human rights, as well as improving the practice of consultation with civil society institutions in the process of lawmaking.

The National Strategy also includes the measures to ensure the crime prevention, especially human trafficking, corruption, torture, organized and transnational crime, and the fight against these threats, ensuring fair trial and respect for human rights in places of detention, arrest and imprisonments.

Consistent steps will be taken to ensure protection of the rights of disabled people, disadvantaged population based on the principle of the UN Sustainable Development Goals «Leaving No One Behind», social support for people in need of special protection of the state and society, including non-citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan, improving the quality of services provided to them.

The efforts to ensure freedom of conscience, speech, thought, the right to information, gender equality, equal access to quality education and medical services, non-discrimination, social integration of older people, further improvement of law enforcement practice in protecting the rights of children, youth, women, individuals with disabilities and migrants will also continue.

Other National Strategy directions are also ensuring economic human rights, developing private ownership and public-private partnerships, improving the education quality and coverage at all stages, developing the recurrent education system, ensuring the inclusiveness and accessibility of the education system for all, improving the quality and targeting of human rights information and education, harmonization of interstate relations, cooperation with international organizations.

An ambitious goal has been set to ensure Uzbekistan’s entry into the top 50 countries of the world in international ratings and indices in the field of human rights and freedoms in terms of the lawmaking quality, the government effectiveness, freedom of speech and information, combating crime and corruption, doing business, global competition, innovative development and others.

In addition to the National Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Human Rights, two more important documents such as the «Road Map» for its implementation and the Regulation on the interaction of state bodies of the Republic of Uzbekistan to consider communications and decisions of the UN statutory bodies and treaty committees on human rights were approved by Decree.

         The primary responsibility for the National Strategy implementation and the «Road Map» is vested in the National Human Rights Center of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Under the procedure established by the Decree, the Center will conduct regular monitoring, submit proposals and recommendations to the relevant ministries and departments on the high-quality and timely implementation of the planned measures.

The adoption of a long-term strategy in the field of human rights is intended to serve the effective implementation of state policy, fostering respect for human rights and freedoms, and further strengthening of the country’s authority in the international arena.

 

 

 

The Use of Child and Forced Labor in Uzbekistan Ends

 

According to the ILO’s 2019 report, the systematic and systemic use of child and forced labor in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan has ended.

A report compiled for the World Bank shows that the country has made significant progress in upholding fundamental labor rights in the cotton fields.

For the first time, the ILO monitored the situation of child labor in Uzbekistan at the cotton harvest in 2013. In 2015, under an Agreement with the World Bank, the monitoring coverage was expanded to include child and forced labor.

In 2019, the independent monitoring of the ILO (Third-Party Monitoring – TPM) was conducted for the first time by independent civic activists of Uzbekistan, who were trained and used the relevant ILO methodology. The activists noted that they carried out monitoring without any interference.

More than 94 percent of employees participated in the 2019 harvest without coercion. The systematic recruitment of students, teachers, doctors and nurses has completely stopped.

Cotton pickers’ wages have risen in line with ILO and World Bank recommendations. Along with this, the ILO recommends to ensure its further increase and improve working conditions to attract more workers. It is important to note that according to Article 179 of the Tax Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the income of individuals involved in agricultural harvesting of raw cotton, for the performance of these works, is not subject to tax. Most cotton pickers admitted that working conditions as transport, food, hygiene and water supply have improved over previous years.

«Forced labor is completely unacceptable and has no place in modern Uzbekistan. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are encouraged by the positive results of the reforms. 2020 was also a very important year, as we continued to modernize agricultural systems and strengthen labor market governance. We have criminalized the use of forced labor and are confident that this will be an effective deterrent. We look forward to continuing cooperation in this area with the ILO, the World Bank and civil society to ensure the sustainability of the results achieved», said Tanzila Narbaeva, the chairperson of the Senate of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The country is also more active in law enforcement issues. In January 2020, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a new legislation criminalizing the forced labor.

The delegation of the Cotton Campaign International Coalition, which visited Uzbekistan in February 2020, held an open dialogue with representatives of the State Labor Inspectorate on Labor Rights, with a particular focus on the cotton harvest. The coalition members also met with
150 heads of local government bodies and discussed the prospects for modernizing the cotton sector, creating the necessary conditions for free monitoring, as well as strengthening the role of local government in implementing the ongoing reforms.

In June 2020, then the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, presenting the annual report on human trafficking, highlighted the efforts of Uzbekistan, calling them an example to the entire region in terms of combating the problem of forced labor.

«The international community must support these reforms», said Heinz Koller, the Assistant ILO Director-General and Regional Director of the ILO Office for Europe and Central Asia, «Responsible international investment can help move away from the old centrally planned economy and uphold international labor standards. I also express my gratitude to the government and social partners for the implementation of the Decent Work Country Program. The ILO will continue to provide technical support in 2020 and beyond».

The 2020 Cotton Campaign was also under the ILO’s spotlight. The representatives of the organization were connected to a database of feedback channels created for complaints and signals about forced cotton picking.

Six mobile teams created by order of the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations of the Republic of Uzbekistan as well as the community activists carried out direct monitoring by visiting enterprises and farms.

During her visit to Geneva in November 2020, Chairperson of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan Tanzila Narbaeva held talks with the Head of the ILO Guy Ryder. During these talks the progress made by Uzbekistan in forced and child labor issues in the cotton campaign and other fields was again noted.

Uzbekistan Carries out Reforms in Labor Relations with the Support of the International Labor Organization

 

Uzbekistan actively uses the experience and principles of the International Labor Organization (ILO), as well as international requirements in the field of labor relations when amending the national labor legislation.

The implementation of the ILO conventions in the country has made it possible to align the regulations with international labor standards. The Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and social partnership organizations, in particular, the Federation of Trade Unions and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan, implements cooperation with the ILO to ensure decent work.

At present, Uzbekistan is a party to 1 protocol and
17 conventions of this organization, including the conventions as  Forced Labor Convention, Forty-Hour Week Convention, Holidays with Pay Convention, Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, Equal Remuneration Convention, Maternity Protection Convention, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, Employment Policy Convention, Minimum Age Convention and others.

In February 2008, Uzbekistan joined the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention.

Uzbekistan has made significant strides and achieved considerable progress in promoting decent work and social protection, as well as eliminating gender stereotypes in laws, politics, institutions and practices.

Today, in Uzbekistan a General Agreement has been signed between the Government, the Federation of Trade Unions and employers, as well as 107 sectoral, 14 regional and more than 111 thousand collective agreements.

As part of measures to organize decent work in Uzbekistan, together with the ILO, a draft of a new Labor Code has been developed, which has incorporated the basic principles of legal regulation of labor relations based on the ILO conventions ratified by the country. The document is intended to protect the interests of employees providing them with full and timely payment of wages, favorable working conditions and regime, effective protection of rights in the event of infringement.

In particular, the articles of the ILO C87 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention are reflected in articles 39, 43-50 of the draft document regulating the rights of workers and employers to associate, representation of workers and employers at primary, territorial, sectoral and republican levels, the rights of workers’ representatives, labor guarantees for persons elected to the representative bodies of workers, the duties of employers and issues of prohibition of obstruction of the activities of workers’ and employers’ representatives.

At the Ninth plenary session of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan held on November 20, 2020. The members of the upper house of parliament approved the Law on the Establishment of the Day of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan.

This also demonstrates the growing role of Trade Unions in the Republic of Uzbekistan in monitoring the protection of workers’ rights.

The main principles of the ILO C98 Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention are taken as a basis in the part of the new Labor Code concerning the right of workers to associate, collective bargaining and labor guarantees to persons elected to the representative bodies of workers.

The priority of gender policy and the increasing role of women in society also led to a significant improvement in national legislation in this direction. In particularly, in September 2019, the Law on Guarantees of Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men was adopted. Further, the principle of the ILO №100 Equal Remuneration Convention was implemented in a number of legal and regulatory acts, including the Law on Employment of Population in the new edition of October 2020 and the draft Labor Code in the new edition.

The principles of the ILO C111 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention  are also taken into account in the draft of the new Labor Code, which provides for equality of labor rights of workers and prohibition of discrimination in the sphere of labor and occupation, establishment of legitimate distinctions in the legal regulation of labor of certain categories of workers, non-discrimination when establishing the features of legal regulation of labor.

The regulation of relations in this area is also based on legal and regulatory acts adopted in recent years and reflecting modern trends in the field of social and economic development.

 

These are only some of the steps taken by Uzbekistan in the implementation of its international obligations in the field of decent work. The leadership of the country is keenly aware that decent work serves not only to implement the principles of social justice, but it is also a factor in sustainable growth and development of the economy, the balance of interests in the society. Therefore, the reform policies are aimed, inter alia, at generating productive employment and decent work, which are the key elements to achieve fair globalization, poverty reduction and sustainable development.

 

 

Uzbekistan Takes Practical Steps

to Ensure Gender Equality

 

One of the important factors in the effective economic and social development of a state is gender equality. In this regard, further ensuring of conducive environment in Uzbekistan for a full self-realization of women has been raised to the level of government policy.

The measures to ensure gender equality and increase the role of women in the social and political life of Uzbekistan are taken in several directions. This is the improvement of legislative acts on women’s rights and the institutional framework for the protection of women, raising the level of public awareness of gender equality and women’s rights, as well as training responsible persons according to relevant legal provisions to ensure their implementation in the practice of application of law.

Over the past three years, consistent steps have been taken in Uzbekistan to achieve gender equality. In particular, about 20 legal and regulatory acts were adopted aimed at protecting the rights and interests of women, including two laws, one Resolution of the President, four Presidential Decrees, 13 Resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan.

Following the Law on Guarantees of Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men, recommendations have been developed for the establishment of advisory boards on gender equality issues at all ministries and departments, and advisory boards have been created under trade unions. In addition, by the Resolution of the President of Uzbekistan on Measures to Further Strengthen Guarantees of Labor Rights and Support for Women’s Entrepreneurship dated March 7, 2019, a Commission on Gender Equality of the Republic of Uzbekistan was established in the country.

It should be noted that on July 30, 2019, the Committee on Women and Gender Equality was established at the Senate of the Oliy Majlis. It is aimed at implementing international norms on the elimination of all forms of discrimination of the women’s rights into national legislation. The scope of this Committee also includes the development of recommendations on state policy on gender equality and the active participation of women in government and public service.

A significant step for Uzbekistan was also the development of a Strategy for Achieving Gender Equality in the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2020-2030. It is based on the norms of the Constitution, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Guarantees of Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men, long-term objectives and development priorities of the country identified in the State Development Strategy for 2017-2021.

It should be noted that the Gender Policy Strategy developed by the Commission together with partners is aimed at ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men in all spheres, in public life in the process of social and economic reforms carried out in Uzbekistan.

A cadres reserve of over 6 thousand active women has been formed to increase women’s participation in governance in Uzbekistan. At present, systematic trainings are organized to prepare them for various administrative posts.

At present, 16 women at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 6 in khokimiyats and 1 woman in the embassy occupy leadership positions. In addition, about 1500 women hold leadership positions at various levels. For the first time in the history of the country, a woman became the Chairperson of the Senate.

The activeness of women in social and political processes was once again demonstrated in the elections to the country’s Parliament and local Kengashes (Council) held in December last year. According to the results of the elections to Parliament and local councils in December 2019, women deputies accounted for 32% of the total number of deputies of the Legislative Chamber, women senators - 25% of members of the Senate, women in local councils - 25.6%. According to this indicator, the Parliament of Uzbekistan ranks 44th among 190 parliaments in the world.

In the judicial system the analytical studies were carried out in such directions as the development and implementation of gender indicators to assess the effectiveness of courts in ensuring and protecting women’s rights, as well as conducting gender and legal analysis in the legislation of Uzbekistan.

The action program on the introduction of mechanisms for ensuring gender equality among judges was signed together with the Commission on Gender Equality of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Committee on Women and Gender Equality of the Senate, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Council.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Support to Mahalla and Family Affairs, the action plan was developed to promote the socio-political participation of women in the public life of the country.

Another indicator in this area is the number of women awarded state awards of various levels, which in recent years has reached 2,224.

Furthermore, the active work is being conducted in Uzbekistan in terms of social and economic support for women in need of social protection. Thousands of women with difficult housing conditions were allocated 25 billion soums to acquire housing. The practice of allocating subsidies to vocational education institutions through the State Employment Promotion Fund has been introduced to finance the costs of retraining women living in low-income families. The program for the employment of women with hard living conditions, especially young women, was approved.

In addition, conditions are being created for women to engage in entrepreneurship, women’s entrepreneurship centers have been established in the regions, and practical assistance is being provided to women in the areas of entrepreneurship, handicrafts, vocational training, retraining and employment.

More than 172 thousand women have already launched their own businesses and received a total of 4.9 trillion soums in loans from commercial banks and the Public Fund for Support of Women and Families.

You can read about the support of women in Uzbekistan, the life experience of successful women who have found their place in society on the website www.genkom.uz.

In a word, in the implementation of its gender policy, Uzbekistan relies on international norms and standards of lawmaking and the best practices of law enforcement.

Steps Taken by Uzbekistan in the Implementation

of the Provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption and Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

 

Corruption is a phenomenon that hinders the free and prosperous life of people and harms the interests of every member of society. The world’s economy is annually damaged by corruption in the amount of about 2.6 trillion dollars. This represents about 5% of the world’s gross product. Globally, bribes are worth 1 trillion dollars, which is 10 times the amount of humanitarian aid provided to poor countries.

Over the years of independence, Uzbekistan has done a lot of anti-corruption work. The first important step in this direction was the accession in 2008 to the UN Convention against Corruption and other international documents.

In 2019, a Presidential Decree on Measures to Further Improve the Anti-corruption System was adopted in Uzbekistan, on the basis of which a second national strategy to combat this phenomenon was developed in 2019-2020.

In recent years, the large-scale reforms have been carried out in this area and relevant international standards have been implemented to national legislation.

First, the system of civil service, its goals and objectives were completely improved, the concept of administrative reform was approved, measures were taken to provide effective social protection of civil servants, to increase their provision and encouragement. Thus, over the past three years, the salaries of civil servants have increased several times.

Second, specific targeted measures were taken to develop entrepreneurial activity, comprehensive protection of private property, to eliminate bureaucratic impediments and barriers, and also to prevent the corruption-related barriers to business development.

The supervisory powers of state bodies have been streamlined and the verification system for the activities of business entities has been improved. To prevent unlawful interference in their activities, the institution of a representative for the protection of entrepreneurs’ rights has been created.

A strategy for improving tax administration was developed and the tax code was adopted in revised form to further develop the taxation system and to reduce illegal turnover in the economy.

Third, the administrative procedure and principles for the provision of public services were systematized. In particular, with a view to eliminating bureaucratic obstacles, simplifying the procedure for providing public services, including registration, obtaining a license, reducing the time for obtaining them, 201 public service centers were created in all regions of the republic.

Fourth, additional measures were identified to eradicate corruption in the judicial and legal system. The tasks of law-enforcement agencies in combating corruption are clearly defined. The laws on the Internal Affairs Bodies and on the State Security Service were adopted.

Fifth, significant results in the anti-corruption activities are demonstrated by the creation of a system for establishing a direct dialogue between officials and ordinary people, solving their problems based on the following principle: «it is not the people who should serve the state bodies, but the state bodies should serve the people». Thus, in all regions of the country, «People’s receptions» have been created to consider applications of legal entities and individuals and there are «hotlines» functioning on the President’s virtual reception and state bodies.

Sixth, consolidation of status and authority of the parliament, self-government bodies and non-governmental non-profit organizations, providing them with broad powers to ensure parliamentary and public supervision over the activities of public authorities played an important role.

On June 29, 2020, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree on the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency, which became a state authorized body for the development and implementation of state policy in the field of preventing and combating corruption. The Agency is subordinated to the President and is accountable to the Chamber of Oliy Majlis.

The Agency became eligible to request, receive and study materials related to the expenditure of budget, the sale of state-owned assets, government procurement, the implementation of investment projects and state programs, to consider applications from individuals and legal entities on corruption issues and to take measures for remedy and protect their legal interests, conduct administrative inquiry into corruption offenses and make submissions on decisions of executive and economic authorities and their officials to suspend or cancel their implementation if any signs of corruption detected.

 

The national and foreign experts, as well as representatives of the international community recognize the achievements of Uzbekistan in this area. In particular, in the rating of the international non-governmental organization Transparency International Uzbekistan rose by 5 positions in Corruption Perceptions Index in 2019.

Uzbekistan was recognized as Country of the Year by one of the most distinguished world publications, «The Economist» magazine for progress made in the implementation of reforms.

The General Prosecutor’s Office, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program, engaging foreign experts, is gradually implementing a system of internal anti-corruption control based on international standards in two organizations that have a state share in the statutory fund, as well as in three ministries and four local government bodies.

By acceding to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on August 20, 1999, Uzbekistan has reaffirmed its commitment to preventing this severe crime against people.

Attempt to commit genocide, participation in genocide, facilitating to criminal acts of genocide implies responsibility in accordance with the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Notably, the article №25 of the Criminal Code of the Uzbekistan establishes liability for the preparation and commission of genocide, and the article №28 - for facilitating and participation in these crimes.

Regardless of gender, race, nationality, language, religion and belief, social origin and status, the people who committed this crime are equal before the law.

In accordance with the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the rule that the term or measure of punishment for preparing and committing a crime should not exceed three-quarters of the maximum punishment in the corresponding article of the special part of the Criminal Code does not apply to crimes of genocide.

Moreover, perpetrators of genocide are not exempt from liability for the expiry of the period for which they are tried or for the expiry of their sentence. They are also not eligible for parole.

 

 

Uzbekistan Takes Bold Steps to Ensure Guarantees

for the Human Rights’ Protection

 

A party to 80 international documents on human rights, including 6 core treaties and 4 optional protocols of the UN - over the past three years, Uzbekistan has taken unprecedented steps in the field of ensuring reliable guarantees for the protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, primarily from criminal violations, as well as prevention of infringement of honor and dignity, limitation of legitimate interests.

The year of the pandemic was unprecedented in the history of Uzbekistan in terms of progress in the field of human rights.

First, in June 2020, by the Decree of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the National Strategy of Uzbekistan on Human Rights and the «Road Map» for its implementation were adopted. The documents provide for the unconditional implementation of national action plans («road maps») aimed at fulfilling the international obligations of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as the recommendations of the UN statutory and treaty bodies in the human rights.

Second, in October this year, Uzbekistan was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. The right of the country to shape the global human rights agenda was supported by the overwhelming majority or about 90 percent of the UN member states, thereby confirming the country’s valuable contribution to ensuring human rights, the implementation of the highest standards of their promotion and protection.

It should be noted that the processes of strengthening human rights guarantees in Uzbekistan intensified several years ago. Their launch was prompted by the decisiveness of the President, who has raised the issue of solving many «uncomfortable» problems, which for many years were not common to speak about openly.

As part of the implementation of the international obligations of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as the recommendations of the UN statutory and treaty bodies, priority attention was paid to the implementation of measures to combat torture.

In particular, with the participation of European experts, the consultations are being held on further improving the definition of «torture» in criminal legislation, creating a national preventive mechanism for the torture prevention. The law enforcement agencies and civil society institutions are preparing a package of draft laws aimed at protecting human rights in the field of justice.

To date, in the framework of fulfillment of international obligations, Uzbekistan has submitted five reports to the UN Committee against Torture. In November 2019, the country’s delegation took part in the 68th session of this committee. It considered the fifth national report of Uzbekistan on the implementation of the provisions of the UN Convention against Torture and the committee gave its conclusion and recommendations.

Several UN human rights mechanisms at once recommended Uzbekistan to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). This recommendation was made in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review in 2018, the UN Committee against Torture in 2019 and, earlier this year, the UN Human Rights Committee.

While the country is considering ratifying the OPCAT, since March 2019, the Authorized Person of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights (Ombudsman) has been performing the functions of the «national preventive mechanism».

This mechanism monitors penitentiary institutions, places of detention and special reception centers for studying the provision of human rights and freedoms there, guaranteed by law. The Ombudsman has established interaction with other subjects of parliamentary control, civil society institutions and the media.

The legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan has formed the necessary legal basis for the direct participation of the Ombudsman in the work on torture prevention. He is entrusted with the responsibility to consider the appeals of persons detained or taken into custody. When considering complaints, as well as when checking on his own initiative the cases of violation of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens, the Ombudsman has the right to freely visit penal institutions, places of detention and special reception centers. Their administration is obliged to provide the Ombudsman with the necessary conditions for an unhindered and confidential meeting and conversation with persons in custody.

The improvement of national legislation in this area deserves special attention. From 2017 up to now, the Decrees of the President of Uzbekistan on Additional Measures to Strengthening Guarantees of Citizens’ Rights and Freedoms during Judicial and Investigating Activities (2017) and on Measures to Further Strengthening Guarantees of Protection of the Rights and Personal Freedoms in Judicial and Investigative Activities, the Laws on Amendments and Addenda to Some Legislative Acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan in connection with the adoption of measures to strengthening the guarantees of the rights and freedoms of citizens in judicial and investigative activities (2017) and on Amendments and Addenda to Some Legislative Acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan in connection with the adoption of measures to strengthening the guarantees of the rights and freedoms of citizens in judicial and investigative activities (2020) were adopted.

In addition, the amendments have been introduced to the national legislation aimed at adapting to the principle of humanism of the criminal, criminal procedural administrative, criminal executive codes of the Republic of Uzbekistan. A new pardon system and exemption from punishment on bail of public associations has been introduced.

The effective parliamentary, deputy and public control is exercised over implementation of legislation in ensuring human rights and freedoms, as well as prevention of torture.

The organizational and legal measures are being taken in a systematic manner to strengthen the system for ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens.

An important humane event was the closure of the special penal colony in the village of Jaslyk in the Republic of Karakalpakstan.

 

For timely and objective investigation of torture allegations, a compulsory examination by the prosecutorial bodies or the court of appeals for the use of unlawful methods in the collection and consolidation of evidence is introduced. During the checking, a forensic examination is required.

An important innovation focused on ensuring legality and objectivity in the collection and consolidation of evidence is the mandatory video recording of the main procedural actions. These actions include an inspection of the scene of a particularly serious crime, a search, verification of evidence at the scene and an investigative experiment.

Any form of violence committed by the internal affairs officials is investigated by the prosecutorial bodies.

A draft normative legal act has been prepared, providing for the creation of the Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for the Prevention of Torture to strengthen the national mechanism for the prevention of torture.

This project, developed in accordance with the Concept for Improvement of the Criminal Executive Legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2019-2021, provides that the Committee, as a separate law enforcement body, that is, a Republican body of State Administration for Ensuring the Constitutional Human Right to Protection from Torture, will exercise its powers independently of state bodies and officials and will be accountable to the President and the chambers of the Oliy Majlis.

The project outlines the main tasks of the Committee, namely, consideration of appeals from individuals and legal entities regarding torture; conducting pre-investigation checks on cases of torture; maintaining a unified electronic register of persons detained in the course of criminal proceedings; ensuring the compensation for material and moral damage caused to victims of torture, providing them with social, legal and psychological help; ensuring a legal assessment of the actions of officials who created conditions conducive to the commission of torture, and resolving the issue of their responsibility.

 

 

Uzbekistan Fulfills Its Obligations under the International Drug Control Conventions

 

With the ratification by the Republic of Uzbekistan in 1995 of the UN conventions as the Single UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, Uzbekistan began fulfilling obligations under these international drug control instruments.

The country has established specialized bodies in the legal drug trafficking, as well as central bodies for international cooperation in the precursor control.

         The Drug Control Committee of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan has been designed as a special regulatory body related to legal drug trafficking.

         The Committee develops a list of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and precursors subject to control in Uzbekistan, prepares proposals for submission to the UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of the information on the annual need for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for quotas, and considers applications for permits for the import/export of drugs and precursors.

The Central Directory on Quality Control of Medicines and Medical Equipment of the Ministry of Health and the National Information and Analyses Center for Drug Control of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan are the competent national authorities for international cooperation in the field of precursor control (article 12 of the 1988 Convention) and are included in the relevant UN directory.

The National Drug Control Centre was established on November 7, 1996 and is a permanent body of the State Drug Control Commission.

The Office of the Prosecutor-General of Uzbekistan has been appointed the competent national authority responsible for providing legal assistance in drug trafficking offences (Article 7 of the 1988 Convention). This body is authorized to provide mutual legal assistance under a number of relevant bilateral and multilateral international agreements in all criminal matters, as well, including the drug-related cases. The Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court are also authorized by law within remits to provide legal assistance in all criminal cases, including the drug-related cases.

All narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances under international control in Uzbekistan are classified in three tables depending on the degree of danger to human health and use in medicine.

The Parliament approved that activities related to trafficking in drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors in Uzbekistan are licensed activities (Article 1, Paragraph 29, and Article 1, Paragraph 30 of the Convention of 1961, as well as Article 1, Paragraph 7, and Article 1, Paragraph 8 of the Convention of 1997).

The licensing procedure is determined by the Cabinet of Ministers and is carried out by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The exception is the use of acetone, potassium permanganate, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, toluene and ethyl ether in cases where the annual demand for each of them does not exceed 12 kg (l).

Article 19 of the Drug Act provides that the production and manufacture of precursors included in Schedule IV shall be carried out within the limits of Uzbekistan’s needs by state enterprises and institutions that hold licenses for the production and manufacture of specific precursors.

The legal entities that manufacture narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors are subject to State Registration.

Six of the 26 precursors to be controlled, including the acetic anhydride and potassium permanganate, are on the list of dangerous goods over which a special transit regime is established.

The transit of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors through the territory of Uzbekistan without the permission of a specially authorized body is prohibited.

The technical requirements for the storage of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors, as well as the conditions for their storage and registration are regulated by the Ministry of the Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The implementation of Article 14 of the 1988 Convention is enshrined in the Article 208 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CPC) of the Republic of Uzbekistan, according to which the seized drugs and precursors as material evidence are kept until the entry of the judgment into legal force, then transferred to the State Security Service for subsequent destruction.

For legitimate purposes, individuals may acquire and use narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances on the basis of a prescription issued by the attending physician in accordance with the established procedure. The procedure is regulated by the Medicine Sale Rules and medical products in pharmacy institutions of the Republic of Uzbekistan, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as the Ministry of Health Regulations on Conditions of Storage, Leave, Sale, Distribution, Accounting for Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Precursors.

For reduction of supply, preventing attempts to use the territory of Uzbekistan as a transit corridor, improving the legal framework, providing drug treatment services to the population and preventing drug use, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a Resolution on Measures to Improve the System of Drug Dependence Treatment for the Population of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

As part of the implementation of the document, the construction, reconstruction and overhaul of buildings and premises, equipping with medical equipment, tools and equipment of drug treatment institutions, as well as introduction of modern methods and technologies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and implementation of scientific research in this area were carried out.

In addition, the Republican Specialized Scientific and Practical Medical Center of Narcology was established on the basis of the Republican Narcological Center of the Ministry of Health.

The measures are being taken to prevent illicit trafficking in drugs with psychoactive effects and the so-called «pharmacy drug addiction».

As a result of the efforts made to prevent the Republic of Uzbekistan from becoming a transit zone for the illegal export of narcotic drugs (including opiates) and synthetic drugs, in the first half of 2020, the law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Uzbekistan seized 635.6 (388.8) kg of narcotic drugs from illegal traffic, an increase in drug bust amounted to 63.5%. Among the seized drugs, 3.2 (8.1) kg-heroin, 55.1 (137.7) kg-opium, 278.6 (42.8) kg-kuknar, 140.4 (37.7) kg – hasheesh, 148.9 (147.8) kg – marihuana, 1205.2 (157.7) g – NPS and synthetic drugs, 8.3 (14.5) kg – tramadol and other drugs.

It is important that in the period from 2018 to 2019, not a single fact of the diversion of precursors from manufacturing enterprises into illegal traffic, as well as the use of the country’s territory for the transit of precursors to Afghanistan was not registered in Uzbekistan.

In addition, a comprehensive operation «Black Poppy» is carried out annually in Uzbekistan to identify illegal drug-containing crops. Analysis of the available information of law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan in combating drug trafficking over the past three years shows that cases of illegal cultivation of cannabis have decreased by 29% and amount to just over 1 thousand square meters.

Prevention remains a priority in the drug demand reduction strategy focusing on preventing the involvement of young people in the use of psychoactive substances, raising public awareness of the medical and legal aspects of drug addiction, and forming public commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Twice a year – in February and June – special months are held to prevent the spread of drug addiction among the youth. Thematic meetings of representatives of the competent authorities with students and teachers, sports events under the motto «We are against drugs!» are organized, visual aids are produced, social advertising videos and anti-drug informational programs are aired on television and radio channels.

Thus, Uzbekistan affirms its commitment to the implementation of the obligations undertaken under the UN Drug Control Conventions.

 

 

Uzbekistan Implements Ambitious Reforms

in the Privatization of State Assets

 

In recent years, Uzbekistan has undertaken systemic reforms to create a favorable investment environment and protect the rights and legitimate interests of private property owners.

Along with this, trailing the transition to market mechanisms of some industries and large enterprises, in which the share of state remains impedes the establishment of new types of competitive products, introduction of advanced technologies, increased productivity, and the creation of new jobs with the active attraction of private capital.

The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan signed a Decree on Measures for Accelerated Reform of State-Owned Enterprises and Privatization of State Assets  of October 27, 2020 to accelerate the introduction of modern management methods in enterprises with participation of the state, consumer-oriented, open, transparent and market-oriented principles, to increase income by reducing costs and create greater opportunities for participation in the private capital reform process.

According to this document, 627 state assets will be transformed, put up for public auction, sold to the private sector, and the practice of selling state facilities at «zero» redemption cost has been canceled.

The task force led by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan studied the activities of about three thousand state-owned enterprises, developed proposals to radically reduce the share of enterprises with the participation of the state in the economy and increase the efficiency of their activities.

The document approved the following list of enterprises with the participation of the state:

- 32 large state enterprises and economic associations to be transformed;

- 39 state-owned enterprises, in which the corporate governance and financial audit are introduced, operational efficiency is increased;

- 62 state-owned assets offered for public auction through targeted enterprise training and investment attractiveness programs;

- 479 enterprises whose state package shares is fully sold to the private sector through public auction;

- 15 immovable state property sold to private sector.

In the structure of the central office of the Ministry of Finance, a Department for the Transformation of Large Enterprises will be formed with the participation of state with a total maximum number of management personnel of 24 staff units.

The Department shall be mandated to:

- by April 1, 2021 - prepare financial reports of enterprises for 2019-2020 based on the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and submit for approval to the Cabinet of Ministers and schedules for obtaining international credit ratings;

- by April 1, 2021 - develop strategies for each enterprise for financial recovery, improving operational efficiency, as well as medium- and long-term development with the involvement of reputable international consulting organizations on a competitive basis;

- by July 1, 2021 – introduce a system of modern corporate governance, which provides for the audit of procurement and management systems, as well as the formation of a service of the «compliance system» and anti-corruption;

- by July 1, 2021 - staff with qualified international specialists at least 30% of the composition of the supervisory boards and at least three senior positions in the management board of the enterprise by actively attracting foreign specialists in this field (including from among compatriots) to the supervisory boards and management boards of enterprises on the basis of an international competition.

The document also approved the updated composition of the State Tender Commission for the Sale of State Property, headed by the Prime Minister.

If the value of state package of shares, proportional to their size of participation in the net assets of enterprises, does not exceed 100 million soums, they will be regularly put up for public auction on an exceptional basis at a value equal to the proportional share of net assets (or at par value, if the net assets are less than the authorized capital).

It will also transform the ownership forms of state unitary enterprises into economic companies, develop proposals for the introduction of external management in special economic zones and privatization of state assets located abroad.

 

 

New Business Opportunities in Uzbekistan

 

It is an open secret that the small business sector plays a significant role in the economy of Uzbekistan, standing as one of the pillars of strengthening the middle class.

To date, a new phase has begun in reforming the support system for small businesses and private entrepreneurship.

The Government of Uzbekistan highly appreciates the role of small businesses in creating new jobs and considers it one of the main priorities in the reform program.

Therefore, Uzbekistan pays a special attention to simplifying and increasing the transparency of issuing licenses and permits, providing public services for small businesses, as well as strengthening legal protection measures for business entities and their financial support.

To date, there is no need to obtain permits or licenses for 42 business activities. For small business owners there are tax and credit benefits that are aimed at strengthening their activities.

According to the State Statistics Committee of Uzbekistan, the share of small businesses in GDP decreased from 55.2% to 50.2%, due to an increase in the share of large enterprises in the structure of GDP.

Nevertheless, this share is much larger than in most neighboring countries, such as Kazakhstan (25.6%) and Russia (20%).

 

 

The current epidemiological situation in the world associated with the spread of coronavirus infection has adjusted the economic development of all countries, especially in the small business sector. According to experts, small businesses suffered a huge blow due to quarantine restrictions.

In this context, the Government of Uzbekistan has taken all necessary measures to minimize the economic consequences of the restrictions imposed.

Thus, the President of Uzbekistan adopted a package of comprehensive measures to support legal and physical persons, as well as the Anti-Crisis Fund.

As supportive measures, the social tax rate for entrepreneurs and farms was reduced, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs were exempted from land tax for a certain period, as well as entrepreneurs were allowed to pay customs duties with a delay of 120 days.

All ministries and departments are involved in supporting entrepreneurs and maintaining the level of social well-being of the population.

 

 

 

Uzbekistan Simplifies the Procedure for Registration
of NGOs and for Peaceful Assembly

 

In recent years, a special attention has been paid in Uzbekistan to the reform of national legislation to simplify the registration of non-governmental organizations, as well as the procedure for peaceful assemblies in accordance with international human rights standards.

At present, more than 10 thousand non-governmental non-profit organizations and more than 2,200 religious organizations operate in the country in various directions.

In the sphere of non-governmental non-profit organizations, more than 200 regulatory documents have been adopted, and the website is involved in the test mode E-ngo.uz, which provides NGOs with the opportunity to perform all services related to the justice authorities in an electronic form.

In May 2018, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a Decree on Measures to Strengthen the Role of Civil Society Institutions in the Democratic Renewal of the Country.

The document is aimed at eliminating a number of systemic problems and shortcomings that impede the effective activities of non-governmental organizations in Uzbekistan. One of the problems noted in the document is excessive bureaucratic requirements and obstacles to the registration of NGOs due to outdated legal norms that do not meet modern requirements.

From January 1, 2020, the fee rates for state registration of NGOs have been significantly reduced. Moreover, an NGO portal was launched at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan, where from the end of November 2019, it is now possible to submit constituent documents in electronic format in a test mode.

At present, a draft Code on Non-Government Non-Profit Organizations and a new version of the draft Law on Rallies, Meetings and Demonstrations were developed.

According to the latter, holding rallies, meetings and demonstrations should be based on the principles of priority of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens, legality, voluntary participation in them, publicity, openness and holding them on a peaceful basis, as well as the mutual responsibility of the parties.

It is proposed to hold events during working hours, within two hours and at a distance of no closer than 300 meters from office buildings. The deadline for submitting an application has been reduced to 15 working days.

The local executive bodies are obliged to consider applications for holding rallies, meetings, demonstrations and the attached regulations, to make a decision on allowing, prohibiting or changing the conditions for holding in accordance with law in agreement with public bodies, to appoint an authorized representative to assist the organizer, depending on forms of public activity and the number of participants, as well as to allocate places for rallies, meetings and demonstrations that meet the requirements.

The law enforcement agencies must ensure the protection of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of the participants in these events, inspect the venues to identify explosive materials and other prohibited items, as well as neutralize and eliminate them.

The organizer of a rally, meeting or demonstration can be one or more citizens of Uzbekistan who have attained the age of 18 and who assume full responsibility for ensuring compliance with the rules for holding rallies, meetings and demonstrations, as well as non-governmental non-profit organizations.

The organizer has the right to organize and conduct rallies, meetings and demonstrations, where only citizens aged over 16 can participate, with the permission of local executive bodies, to conduct preliminary campaigning, to use loudspeakers, audiovisual devices, posters, banners and other campaign materials.

The draft Law notes that if an international treaty, which Uzbekistan is a party to, establishes other rules than those provided for by the country’s legislation on rallies, meetings and demonstrations, then the rules of the international treaty are applied.

Certainly, such progress in the realization of human rights is a great success for Uzbekistan, which in recent years has demonstrated a strong commitment to providing reliable guarantees for the protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, including the right to freedom of expression. The development of new legislative acts in this area testifies to the systematic approach of public bodies and agencies to identifying existing problems and their solution.

The adoption of the above-mentioned documents will facilitate the process of regulating interaction between the state and NGOs, increase the effectiveness of measures taken, and ensure the full participation of civil society in socio-political processes at the local, regional and republican levels.

 

 

Uzbekistan Improves the National Legislation on the Flora Protection and on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

 

Uzbekistan is not only a country-successor of the great ancient civilizations that once existed on its modern territory and gave the world a huge number of monuments of both tangible and intangible culture, but also a vast region with unique nature, biodiversity and a rather fragile ecosystem that requires careful attitude and keen attention.

Located from the Ustyurt Plateau to the Ferghana Valley, Uzbekistan, with predominantly flat territories, includes, in addition to parts of the Turan Depression and two large deserts Kyzylkum and Karakum, western spurs of the Tien-Shan and part of the Gissar ridge. Several rivers flow here and the largest of which are the Syrdarya and Amudarya. There are numerous lakes and reservoirs. It is obvious that each of these unique natural sites has its own ecosystem with flora and fauna. In this regard, Uzbekistan faces very serious environmental challenges, including those related to the preservation of rare species of flora and fauna.

In 1995, Uzbekistan joined the Convention on Biological Diversity. Since then, a number of national and local programs and plans for environmental protection have been implemented in the country. In particular, about 40 international projects in biological diversity protection have been implemented.

The first National Strategy and Action Plan for the Conservation of Biological Diversity was approved in Uzbekistan by a government decree in 1998, and made it possible even then to establish cooperation with and enlist the support of relevant international structures, including for the implementation of projects in terms of conservation of local flora and fauna.

In particular, the country interacts with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Program, UNESCO, the World Wildlife Fund, the Michael Zukkov Conservation Fund and other international organizations.

The implementation of the 1998 Action Plan resulted in the inclusion of biodiversity conservation issues in a number of national and local environmental protection programs and the implementation of about 40 international projects in this area.

These efforts resulted in a slowdown in land degradation, reduction in desertification processes and other negative impacts of unsustainable use of natural resources.

Uzbekistan is also a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which the country joined following the Resolution of the Oliy Majlis in 1997.

The representative bodies of the Convention in Uzbekistan include its administrative body named the State Committee for Ecology (formerly the State Committee for Nature Protection) and the scientific one, which is the Institute of the Plant and Animal Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan.

CITES protects about 5,600 animal and 30,000 plant species, each of which is included in one of the three annexes to the Convention. Uzbekistan’s participation in this Convention provides access to international trade in rare wildlife species, as well as enables control of their movement across the country’s borders.

Currently, as part of the implementation of obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, several projects are being implemented, in particular the UNDP-GEF and the State Committee for Ecology project «Sustainable management of natural and forest resources in key mountain areas important for globally significant biodiversity», for which the GEF is planning to allocate $5 million, and a project by UNDP-GEF and the State Geodezcadastre to reduce the grazing pressure by $2,6 million.

In 2017, Uzbekistan was recognized as a country whose legislation does not meet the minimum CITES requirements. As a result, with the assistance of the Convention Secretariat, the relevant regulation has been updated since the beginning of 2018 to ensure full integration of CITES requirements into our legislation.

Now, a draft Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers on Measures to Further Regulate the Use of Plant and Animal Resources and the Use of Environmental Permits is currently being finalized in consultation with the concerned ministries and departments. This document, after passing all the procedures and approval, will be submitted to the Convention Secretariat.

Uzbekistan is a country with a wide variety of wild flora. The passage through our country of migration routes for Red Book animals and the presence of water bodies as places of rest and wintering for migratory birds predetermined the importance of Uzbekistan in the preservation of world biological diversity.

The work in this direction, both on a national scale and with relevant international structures, continues.