By Eldor Tulyakov, Executive Director of the “Development Strategy” Center.
After Shavkat Mirziyoyev became the head of state in Uzbekistan, during a new stage of development, he began to pay special attention to the development of a strong civil society. The process of radical reforms carried out in the country has embraced all spheres of the social and political life of society.
The head of state presented the main program – the Strategy of Action in five priority areas of the country’s development for the medium term, which identifies such priority issues, as enhancing the role of civil society institutions in the life of society, in particular, the media, improving the activities of non-governmental organizations, developing and introduction of effective mechanisms for the implementation of the system of public control in all areas.
In this regard, the strengthening of the necessary institutional framework, aimed primarily at improving the legal framework, in order to ensure the effective operation of civil society institutions, their comprehensive support, and stimulate their initiative in exercising public control over the activities of state bodies, has acquired particular importance in this direction.
Also, in the course of the new stage reforms, a system was formed to take into account the opinion of the population by state bodies when establishing a dialogue with the people and making decisions on important socio-political issues. Ample opportunities are provided for the active participation of non-governmental non-profit organizations in social protection of the population, strengthening its health, solving environmental problems as soon as possible, harmonious education of the younger generation, increasing medical and legal knowledge of citizens and a number of other reforms.
After the issue of the practical assurance of citizens’ participation in public administration was put on the agenda on the basis of the initiative put forward by the President “not the people should serve the state bodies, but the state bodies must serve the people” , the activity of non-governmental non-profit organizations and other civil society institutions in the implementation of democratic reforms began to increase significantly.
In particular, due to the fact, that laws, decrees, resolutions and other normative legal acts adopted in the interests of the people, first of all, are submitted for public discussion, public examination, and as a result of public criticism of the work of government agencies and their leaders in the media and social networks – a number of shortcomings and problems, violations are put to an end.
In turn, Virtual and People’s Receptions of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan were created in order to ensure human rights and interests, dialogue with people, careful study and solution of life problems and needs of the people. These structures have become a mechanism for in-depth analysis of the effectiveness of the activities of state power and management bodies, as well as local problems and a criterion for assessing their activities, increasing the responsibility of state bodies and officials to society. In order to further strengthen the legislative basis for the system of working with complaints, the Law “On Appeals of Individuals and Legal Entities” was adopted in a new edition .
Today, People’s receptions in all regions, cities and districts of Uzbekistan have switched to an active system of identifying and solving problems by door-to-door rounds . At the same time, there is ensured the organization of a direct dialogue with the population, the identification and solution of problems on the ground, the protection of the rights, freedoms and legal interests of individuals and legal entities. People’s receptions are empowered to systematically study the activities of state bodies, introduce submissions to state bodies for consideration, proposals to bring officials who have violated the law to disciplinary responsibility, up to and including dismissal.
In the past 2020 alone, the virtual reception of the President and People’s receptions received about 1.2 million applications. As a result of the information and heard reports submitted by the People’s Receptions of the President, 752 senior officials who did not work with appeals at the required level were brought to justice. At the same time, since recently, it has become possible to observe how the practice of receiving applications and complaints from citizens, and timely appropriate response to them has been established through the virtual reception rooms open on the official websites of all ministries and departments.
In addition, responsible officials at all levels, working on the ground in the context of mahallas, identify shortcomings in improving the living standards of the population, study the opinion of the people about the reforms being carried out and try to organize their work on this basis. In addition, a system was formed for organizing regular mass visiting receptions for the heads of the Presidential Administration, ministries and departments, khokims of regions, cities and districts in the regions. In the past 2020 alone, more than 19 thousand of such field receptions were held, at which measures were taken to solve more than 124 thousand problems of about 120 thousand representatives of the population.
In the process of reforms on shaping of a new Uzbekistan, in the preparation of draft annual state programs adopted within the framework of the tasks defined by the Action Strategy, there are taken into account the topical issues raised by the population, problem that are awaiting solutions, proposals of civil society institutions, non-governmental organizations, as well as critical speeches distributed in the media and social networks. After development, a draft program is submitted for public discussion; it is adopted and sent for implementation only after taking into account the opinions, proposals and recommendations of ordinary people, experts, as well as representatives of international organizations.
It should also be noted that in the renewed Uzbekistan, the constitutional right of every person to freedom of thought, speech and belief, to search, receive and disseminate information that he wants is practically ensured, which, in turn, received the recognition of the international community. In particular, at the request of the President, “closed doors” were opened in the activities of government bodies, transparency was ensured, in particular, an “open space” was created for the free expression of the critical opinion of the population on the desired topic. The head of state in person regularly monitors speeches on social networks, national and foreign media and other sources about the problems that society faces and that concern the public, sometimes reprimands responsible leaders who are indifferent to resolving these issues, sometimes applies disciplinary sanctions, even releases them from office and calls on civil society institutions to be uncompromising in these processes.
At the initiative of Shavkat Mirziyoyev, effective mechanisms of this institution were introduced into the law “On Public Control”, adopted in 2018. The relations of government and government bodies with citizens, citizens’ self-government bodies, non-governmental non-profit organizations, as well as the media in the field of organizing and exercising public control over the implementation of legislative acts were regulated. Also, by the decree of the President, Public Councils were created under state bodies. These councils are called upon to exercise public control over the activities of a state body and its officials on the implementation of adopted regulations, programs, agreements, contracts, projects and programs implemented within the framework of social partnership, take an active part in systematic monitoring and comprehensive analysis of public opinion on the activities of a state body on the most important issues affecting the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens, the development and implementation of state programs and other programs in the field of combating corruption.
Thus, the fact that the institution of public control is the most important tool for building a strong and free civil society in the new Uzbekistan, organizing fruitful cooperation between state and public organizations, as well as ensuring the effectiveness of reforms – is the core of the updated policy.
In this sense, the priority attention is paid to the issues of further development of the institution of public control in the country, improvement of the activities of non-governmental non-profit organizations, strengthening participation of citizens in the affairs of the state and society, introduction of modern mechanisms of public-private partnership, in a word, establishment of a systemic dialogue between the state, citizens, civil society institutions.
It should be openly admitted that although at present there are about 9,200 non-governmental non-profit organizations in Uzbekistan, many of them have not found their place and role in the life of society, their activities were not significant. At the same time, the issue of participation of citizens who are subjects of public control, citizens’ self-government bodies, non-governmental non-profit organizations, and the media in the reform process did not meet modern requirements. In particular, the majority of civil society institutions, having legal powers to hold public hearings to discuss issues related to the activities of state bodies and their officials, those having social significance, did not pay due attention to the practical application of this norm.
Proceeding from this, based on the idea of the Head of State, NGO houses are being created in all regions of the country, which, one by one, are transferred to the disposal of independent institutions of civil society. Also, they are provided with legal knowledge to participate and win in national and international grant competitions, practical assistance is provided in establishing close cooperation with international organizations. In short, in order to establish social justice, NGOs are actively supported, which serve balance, equality, mutual responsibility and accountability in the relations of the individual, society and the state.
As a result of the measures taken, there is a gradual revival of the activities of civil society institutions in the country. In particular, it should be noted that last year, in the context of a pandemic, on the initiative of NGOs, a huge amount of work was carried out in the fight against coronavirus, charity events, efforts to protect the health of citizens were extremely effective.
At the same time, projects and programs implemented by non-governmental non-profit organizations are yielding tangible results in healthcare, science, culture, education and other areas. In this process, civil society institutions enter the arena as an important factor in the protection of human rights, freedoms and legitimate interests, democratic values.
The adoption of two more especially important documents – a resolution and a decree by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in March of this year – became another big step towards the development of civil society and bringing the reforms carried out in this direction to a new level, in particular, ensuring the openness of their activities. The issue of ensuring the openness of the activities of civil society institutions is defined as one of the main directions of the “Concept for the development of civil society in 2021–2025” approved by this Decree.
According to the Decree, from April 1, 2021, the Index of openness of the activities of non-governmental non-profit organizations will be introduced, and at the end of each year their rating will be formed, based on the results of the activities of non-governmental non-profit organizations, the degree of social partnership, the effectiveness of allocated subsidies, grants and social orders and other important indicators of their activities.
Also, from now on, information on the activities of non-governmental non-profit organizations will be posted on their official website and on the website www.e-ngo.uz or on other open sources of information with a link to this website. Based on these data and assessments made by the public, an index of NGO openness will be determined at the end of each year. At the same time, the main indicators are summarized in real time and will be available for general review. In determining the final result of the Openness Index, broad participation of governmental and non-governmental organizations, in particular the public, is ensured.
Based on the results of the Openness Index, lists (ratings) are formed for “the top 20 most transparent non-governmental non-profit organizations” and “the top 20 most active non-governmental non-profit organizations”.
The positive work of non-governmental non-profit organizations included in these ratings will be popularized among the public; within the framework of social partnership, there will be issued recommendations (vouchers, certificates) for receiving state grants and social orders; in accordance with the established procedure, assistance will be provided in strengthening the material and technical base (office equipment, computers, other technical means, provision of buildings, etc.); measures will be taken to develop cooperation with government agencies and international organizations.
Summing up, it should be especially noted that the Head of State is deeply aware of how important and necessary the role of the third sector is on the path of progressive development of Uzbekistan. In this regard, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev promotes relevant life ideas and initiatives to establish a systemic and effective dialogue between the state, citizens and civil society institutions in a modern form, combining efforts aimed at the comprehensive development of the state, and is making effective efforts to ensure their practical implementation.
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