Mahalia (Citizens’ Self-Governming Body) As A Basis For The Formation Of Civil Society
By H.E. Mr. Vladimir Norov, Ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the Kingdom of Belgium and to the Kingdom of Netherlands
Recently Uzbekistan celebrated the 23rd Anniversary of its Independence. Thanks to the implementation of thoroughly thought government reforms for the years of independence the national economy has grown to about 5 times and the income per capita, which indicates the level of living standards of our population, has grown 8,7 fold. Despite the global financial and economic crisis, during the last 10 years the annual growth rate of Uzbekistan’s economy has exceeded 8 percent.
Most importantly – today Uzbekistan is self-sufficient state capable to further strengthen its independence, firmly standing on its feet and possessing the capacity to protect and promote the interests of the Uzbek people.
It should be noted that the key factor for further advancement on the path of development and progress, is prevailing in our country peace and stability, interethnic and civil harmony, atmosphere of mutual respect and kindness. Another great achievements are the change in the consciousness and outlook of the Uzbek people, the growth of their legal and political culture.
Concept of further deepening democratic reforms and establishment of civil society in the country initiated by the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov in 2010 plays crucial role in the mobilizing all social and political forces in our society to further deepening democratic reforms and development of civil society.
In other words, dynamics of our life increasingly puts on the agenda the issue of the revitalization of the work to implement the principle of “From a Strong State to a Strong Civil Society” serving our main benchmark for the evolutionary development of the country.
The Head of our State had noted in the early years of independence, «Do not destroy the old house if you have not constructed a new one». As far as formation of a strong civil society is concerned, the effective implementation of this principle in the early years of independence has revived the institute of self-governing body – Mahalla which is inviolable value of our people, and plays an important role in the modernization of the country.
Mahalla has existed in Uzbekistan since ancient times. For centuries, people were developing unique methods of learning opinions and unifying communities in order to preserve and enrich national identity, morale, and ethical values of the nation.
Since independence Mahalla has revived as a democratic self-governing body. It received official status of an important aspect of a democratic, political system. The state considers the community as a cell of society, the welfare of which affects the stability of the country. With the help of Mahalla it is possible to solve many current issues: reviving spirituality and traditional moral norms, educating young people and ensuring public order.
Nowadays Mahalla obtained a solid legislative base. In the modern understanding the concept of self-governance means the ability of Mahalla to manage and lead most social works – within the legislative framework-being committed and in the people’s interests. This is stipulated in the part 2 of Article 2 of the European Charter of self- governance dated 15 October 1985.
With the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the 8th of December 1992 Mahalla gained the status of a constitutional institution for the first time in the history of national statehood. Article 32 of the main law reflects the norm, according to which the citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan have a right to participate in the governance of society and state both directly and through their representatives.
The joint implementation of the recent State programs the “Year of a Family” (2012) and the “Year of Prosperity and Wellbeing” (2013) can be seen as a sound example of close cooperation between the state, Mahalla and other civil institutions in the provision of state funded social support to the population. Within this co-operative framework certain actions have been taken to enhance the social activities of young people and women; improve targeted support to people in need; develop entrepreneurship and family businesses; establish a strong spiritual and moral atmosphere; vocational education and attract girls and boys to sports.
In the State Program of “Year of the Healthy Child” which was adopted and carried out this year on the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan, a special attention is given to communities to educate the young generation in the spirit of national and universal values, patriotism and humanism, awareness of their duty and responsibility to society.
The President of the country has stated that self-governing bodies are our future. If we want to build a civil society, then these bodies must become its foundation. Now we have started to lay down this foundation.
According to Article 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, citizens’ self-governing bodies (Makhallas) are created in the kishlaks, auls (villages) and in cities. Citizens’ self-governing bodies are elected bodies which are vested with power to resolve matters of local importance, and which are not incorporated in to the system of state power. At the present time, there are more than 10 000 citizens’ self-governing bodies in Uzbekistan: this includes 8385 in cities; 1325 in kishlaks, 111 in the countryside, and 154 in auls.
It is headed by the Chairman (aksakal) and his counselors elected directly by the residents of Mahalla in their gatherings (meetings of citizen’s representatives) from the most respected people with organizational work experience. They are elected (also they may be re-elected) for 2.5 years in accordance with the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan «On Self-Governing Bodies of Citizens».
The financial base of the Mahalla is significantly expanded; it contributes to a development of services, and business and entrepreneurial activities. Local municipalities (hokimyats) also provide Mahallas with some funds.
Besides its afore mentioned functions Mahalla is also imbued with new functions such as protecting the interests of family and women, caring for the elderly, providing social support to Mahalla members, maintaining public safety, preventing felonies among the youth, controlling the health and environmental condition of the territory etc. They have over 30 functions, which earlier were related to the authorities of the state bodies.
There are specialists in Mahalla Committees on Religious and Moral education, who are working with the youth, problematic individuals and families. They are trying to provide individual psychological support to every member of such families; moreover, they are helping with the employment of women, the organization of different community outreach events on national traditions and customs promulgation.
It should be mentioned that self-governance creates conditions for societal democratization. Societal democratization’s foundation resides in the existence of a healthy civil society. The supreme meaning of genuine democracy is the harmonization of intra-personal, intra-national, state, and public- political relations where an individual, society, and the state authority coexist in peace and concord. There are three fundamental units of civil society: the community, the individual and the authority. To achieve these goals, in Uzbekistan there has already been established a structure which facilitates the development of civil society and which acts as a rational model of operation for traditional civil institutions in modem society.
Nowadays, Mahalla has serious privileges and influence in Uzbekistan. The State is currently aware of the necessity to transfer some functions of state power into the hands of citizens, who will be able to implement public control over different activities within communities.
Mahalla is a regulator of social life in its territory. Traditionally one of the main responsibilities of Mahalla was organizing community works, ensuring the prosperity of areas and creating a green environment. Mahallas annually organize Hashars (voluntary action associated with participation in construction or landscaping).
Raising the role of Mahalla is not limited to economic and social tasks. It also has spiritual and educational connotations. The role of Mahalla is boundless in forming relationships within society and promoting national values. Looking to Mahalla is looking to a new, fair civil society which is seeking to engender democratic principles. This is the main goal of Uzbekistan in its sovereign and independent course of development.
Uzbekistan’s experience in social protection and the strengthening of the family, characterized by a high degree of social partnership between government agencies, local government agencies and civil society, and accompanied by the effective implementation of national historical and cultural traditions based on the principles of high culture, morality and justice, in interpersonal relationships, kindness, mercy, careful attention to each other, repetition for elders, courtesy, repetition and rigor, and equality of community members regardless of their social status, may be useful for other countries in addressing daily social problems.