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Uzbekistan’s constitution and sustainable development goals

By: Akmal Saidov.

As you know, on the initiative of the chambers of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the “Month of Sustainable Development Goals” is being held in our country. Within its framework, over 20 events are held – international conferences, round tables, public hearings dedicated to each of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in Uzbekistan.

In particular, recently an international conference was held in Tashkent on the topic “Expanding the participation of civil society institutions and persons with disabilities in achieving the SDGs,” organized by the Senate and the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the National Center for Human Rights, the Center for Sustainable Development, National Association of Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations, Institute of State and Law of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan, UN agencies, representative office of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).

Senators and deputies of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, over 250 representatives of the scientific and expert community, civil society institutions of Uzbekistan, as well as foreign experts took part in its work.

The main emphasis of the event was on consideration of issues of expanding the participation of civil institutions, citizens, especially persons with disabilities, in the implementation of the sixteen National Goals for Sustainable Development of Uzbekistan until 2030, as well as discussion of the draft resolution of the UN General Assembly “On expanding the participation of citizens and civil society in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Let us note the main findings and conclusions reached by the participants of the international forum.

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First. The forum participants came to a common conclusion that the concept of development itself, primarily the concept of sustainable development, is the most important component of the philosophy of reforms in New Uzbekistan, based on the ideas of human value, dignity, rights and freedoms, as well as the new development paradigm “first man – then society – then the state.”

It was emphasized that the ideas for achieving the SDGs, based on three – social, economic and environmental pillars, are the connecting link of large-scale reforms in Uzbekistan, and run like a “red thread” through such comprehensive strategic development programs of the country as the Strategy of Action for the five priority areas of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021, Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026, as well as the Uzbekistan-2030 Strategy.

In particular, using specific examples, it was shown that the five directions of the Uzbekistan 2030 Strategy not only correspond to the UN Agenda 2030, but also fully cover all National goals and objectives of Uzbekistan for sustainable development.

The conference participants emphasized that this Strategy and its 100 goals reflect the desire of our people to build a New Uzbekistan, creating all opportunities for every citizen to develop their own potential, raising a healthy, educated and morally mature generation, forming a strong economy, which is an important link in global production, ensuring justice and the rule of law, security and stability.

In this context, UN Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan Consuelo W. Bruce recalled the words of UN Secretary-General A. Guterres about the scale of the goals and objectives of the Uzbekistan 2030 Strategy, and its full consonance with the SDGs, and also expressed “the readiness of the UN and all its institutions to promoting the practical implementation of this program document.”

At the same time, the main principle of the Uzbekistan 2030 Strategy is “in the name of the honor and dignity of man,” as well as the idea of “Leaving no one behind.” She especially noted that the SDGs are also fully integrated into the new edition of the Constitution of Uzbekistan and other important national strategies and concepts for the development of our country.

Second. The forum emphasized that the new edition of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan reflects the main provisions of the SDGs and created a constitutional and legal basis for their achievement, which once again indicates New Uzbekistan’s strong commitment to the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development until 2030.

Participants of the international forum especially noted that the initiator of the past constitutional reform in Uzbekistan, of course, was our people, broad sections of the public, and its main ideological inspirer was the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev.

Firstly, during the presidential elections in Uzbekistan in October 2021, at meetings of all candidates with representatives of the electorate, an important proposal was put forward, demanded by life itself and dictated by the logic of democratic transformations in our country. This is the implementation of constitutional reform.

In particular, voters put forward proposals on the relevance and vital importance of reflecting in the Basic Law of the country environmental human rights, the rights of current and future generations of the country’s residents to a favorable environment, and improving the situation in environmentally unfavorable regions.

The need to further strengthen the constitutional and legal framework for the protection of private property, including land and subsoil, to ensure human dignity, human rights, freedoms and legitimate interests, interethnic and interfaith harmony in the country, to increase the role and status of civil society institutions, including h. mahallas, carefully conveying traditional values to future generations, strengthening the institution of family, developing state youth and gender policy, innovative and green economy and knowledge economy, expanding investments in the economy and social sphere.

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Voters also emphasized the importance of determining the status of Uzbekistan as a social state, expanding constitutional and social protection of vulnerable segments of the population, especially persons with disabilities, building a socially oriented state, strengthening the constitutional foundations of the independence of the judiciary, ensuring the fairness of laws and court decisions, and implementing the principles of the supremacy of the Constitution and laws, human rights.

Secondly, based on an in-depth study of the wishes of voters, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev pointed out the need for constitutional reform, which was reflected in his two addresses to parliament and the people of the country, numerous speeches, as well as in his first fundamental monograph “Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan” .

Thirdly, political parties, primarily UzLiDeP and the Milliy Tiklanish Democratic Party, organized an in-depth study of the moods and wishes of their electorate regarding the upcoming constitutional reforms.

At the same time, over 1.5 million members of these parties and their electorate not only supported, but also pointed out the need to modernize the Constitution as the most important condition for achieving the goals and objectives of the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan supported by the people, ensuring sustainable development, creating the necessary legal foundations for even more accelerated and dynamic reform of all spheres of socio-economic, political-legal, cultural and humanitarian life of society and the country.

Fourthly, during various stages of development and popular discussion of the draft new edition of the Constitution of Uzbekistan, over 220 thousand proposals were received from citizens, representatives of the academic community, civil society institutions, the private sector, government agencies and organizations. This is about 50 times more than the national discussion in 1992.

Fifthly, civil society institutions and the country’s academic community took an active part in the development and discussion of the draft New Edition of the Constitution of Uzbekistan and the implementation of constitutional reforms.

According to the forum participants, all this testifies, on the one hand, to the strengthening of the civic position of the country’s population, increasing the activity of democratic institutions, and, on the other hand, to the growing openness and transparency of the reform policy being implemented in the country, based on the full involvement of citizens and civil institutions in the management of public affairs and states.

During the forum, participants used specific examples to demonstrate the full implementation of the SDGs in the new edition of the Constitution of Uzbekistan. In particular, the Constitution strengthens the norms in the field of ensuring a harmonious union of man and nature, combating climate change and protecting the natural environment (6th SDG), providing for:

further constitutional development of the country along the path of increasing and preserving for current and future generations the country’s invaluable natural resources and a healthy environment, as well as the implementation of a unified state policy in the field of environmental protection, conservation of natural wealth and biological diversity, combating climate change, epidemics, pandemics , mitigation of their consequences (Preamble, paragraph 4., Article 115);

securing the rights of everyone to a favorable environment, reliable information about its condition (Article 49), as well as the obligations of citizens to take care of the natural environment (Article 62);

responsibilities of the state in the implementation of measures in accordance with the principle of sustainable development to improve, restore and protect the environment, maintain ecological balance, as well as protect and restore the ecological system, social and economic development of the Aral Sea region (Article 49).

In terms of achieving the SDGs, the importance of the novelties of the Constitution of Uzbekistan is also indicated, in the new edition concerning the construction of a social and legal state, ensuring sustainable economic development, etc.

Third. Participants of the international forum noted the trend of consistently expanding the participation of civil society in the implementation of the goals and objectives of sustainable development. The UN 2030 Agenda itself is based on the concept of participation and involvement of civil society, implementing the principle of “leaving no one behind”.

Moreover, if at the creation of the UN consultations were organized with approximately 240 NGOs, today 6,494 NGOs have consultative status. In 2023 alone, the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, having examined 560 NGO applications, granted such status to 214 of them.

The experts emphasized that over the past 20 years, more than 60 resolutions of the UN General Assembly, as well as international treaties, have been adopted aimed at assisting states in creating an inclusive and open society, recognizing the role and providing civil society with the opportunity to actively participate in sustainable development, creating favorable political , organizational, legal and other conditions for their free development and activity.

The world is witnessing a growing trend in the contribution of the “third sector” to economic development and solving pressing problems in the social, humanitarian, environmental and other spheres.

Over the past 4 years, the contribution of the “third sector” to the development of the economy and GDP in some countries of the world has increased by 2-2.5 times, in particular in Canada this figure reached 8.1% of GDP, in France – 4.7%, Brazil – 4.4%. The growth rate of employment in the non-profit sector also significantly outpaced the growth rate of employment in the economy (twice in some countries) as a whole.

Today, NGOs are also actively involved in solving pressing issues of sustainable development in various sectors, including education, health, poverty eradication, human rights and gender equality, and many others.

In addition, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to Uzbekistan M. Prabhat outlined India’s experience in developing cooperation with civil society in implementing tasks and monitoring the achievement of national SDGs, incl. in the development of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).

In particular, the 2020 VNR reflected a “whole of society” paradigm by incorporating ideas from more than 1,000 vulnerable civil society institutions that fully contributed to the “Leaving No One Behind: Community Voices” section.

It noted that “thanks to economic growth and civil society initiatives for social inclusion, India was able to reduce “multidimensional poverty” by almost half, from 24.85% in 2016 to 14.96% in 2021, indicating that that 135 million people have escaped multidimensional poverty. It was also possible to improve the level of education, actively expand the capabilities of basic infrastructure, preserve rich biological diversity, and establish partnerships for sustainable development.”

The head of the Department of Politics, Press and Information of the Delegation of the European Union, M. Kačerauskis, emphasized that “all over the world, civil institutions are participating in the implementation of reforms, calling governments to account.

They contribute through their participation to the search for solutions to which global problems, play an important role, in particular, in providing assistance to people with disabilities, forming an inclusive society, as well as realizing their rights and freedoms in the sphere of participation in the management of the affairs of society and the state.”

According to him, Uzbekistan’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a huge achievement, indicating the country’s policy in ensuring the dignity, rights and freedoms of people, especially people with disabilities. This step accelerates achievement of the SDGs.

At the same time, the discussion of the implementation of the Convention is held on a platform in which not only government bodies, but also non-governmental organizations participate. Based on the results of the discussion, regulations are adopted based on relevant proposals and recommendations.

These legislative acts are devoted to issues of expanding opportunities for the use of vehicles and computer technologies, which are currently relevant for persons with disabilities. These issues are also relevant for the EU, where approximately 7-8 million people with disabilities live.

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Participants of the international Forum positively assessed the experience of Uzbekistan, the activities of over 600 non-governmental non-profit organizations in the country involved in protecting the dignity and rights of people with disabilities, ensuring their independence, freedom of choice, not allowing them to be discriminated against on the basis of disability, including in the protection of children with disabilities and the right to maintain one’s individuality.

Particularly noted were the efforts of representatives of NGOs to monitor and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, their wide involvement in the process of not only ratifying UN conventions in the field of human rights, but also in the process of ensuring their implementation.

Thus, the representative of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) O. Dutinchem noted the exceptional importance of expanding the participation of people with disabilities and civil society institutions in achieving the SDGs in Uzbekistan.

As development partners, the German Government recognizes the need for inclusive development policies as a precondition for ensuring that no one is left behind. One of the notable achievements of Uzbek-German cooperation is the attraction of German investment in improving social protection in Uzbekistan, increasing inclusiveness and expanding social services for vulnerable groups of the population. It is inclusion and equal participation that are the fundamental principles of social development. The guideline for this is the National Strategy for Social Protection of the Population and, of course, the Uzbekistan 2030 Strategy”.

Expert of the International Organization for Migration S. Brestovitsky especially noted the contribution of civil society in achieving the SDGs by promoting safe, orderly and legal migration.

Analyzing the “New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants” of September 19, 2016, which is used as an international legal instrument for achieving the SDGs in this area, he emphasized “the role of civil society in the social integration of migrants into the destination society, improving the well-being of migrants, and also in determining the best ways to solve problems associated with international migration and realize the opportunities that it opens up. Indeed, in every region of the world, civil society is a key partner in meeting the needs of refugees.”

Participants at the international conference gave many more examples of how civil society can contribute to progress and actively participate in the implementation of many SDGs. They emphasized “the importance of leveraging these efforts in the current phase of accelerating SDGs.

Because responsibility for their achievement lies with everyone, and not just with states and the UN, since many problems of our time can only be solved with the participation and broad involvement of citizens and civil institutions.”

Fourth. The international conference was held in the context of significantly strengthening cooperation between Uzbekistan and the UN, as well as increasing the relevance of the SDGs for the whole world.

Participants in the international conference noted in their speeches, in particular, that over the past 7 years:

firstly, an unprecedentedly high level of cooperation between Uzbekistan and the UN has been achieved. Today, about 140 joint programs and projects are being successfully implemented;

secondly, Uzbekistan was elected a member of a number of authoritative UN structures and actively participates in their activities.

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Uzbekistan has put forward over 30 initiatives on a global, regional and national scale to ensure human rights and freedoms. The adoption of 7 resolutions of the UN General Assembly on the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan Sh.M. Mirziyoyev received special recognition from the international community.

In this context, the main event of the international conference was the discussion of the next initiative of the head of state, incl. draft resolution of the UN General Assembly “On expanding participation and strengthening the role of civil society in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

According to the general opinion of the participants of the international conference, best international experience shows that close cooperation between governmental and non-governmental organizations is the key to success in achieving Agenda 2030.

In this context, the proposed draft resolution of the UN General Assembly covers two of the most important patterns of today’s world development:

on the one hand, ensuring sustainable development based on ensuring human rights and freedoms, creating conditions for increasing and realizing its potential, as well as economic, social and environmental progress on this basis;

and on the other hand, the involvement of citizens and civil society in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the 2030 Agenda and the implementation of their objectives. Indeed, today the community of non-governmental organizations represents a global network that should be involved in the work to achieve common goals in the field of sustainable development, empowered and their role strengthened.

Considering the draft resolution of the UN General Assembly, experts noted that its developers took into account many problems that exist in various countries of the world in the field of forming civil society and supporting its institutions.

In particular, attention is drawn to the fact that in many countries there is a lack of constructive dialogue between the government and civil society organizations on achieving the SDGs, their weak involvement in the processes of developing national development plans, insufficient level of funding for their activities, as well as the lack of active effective participation of non-governmental organizations in monitoring the implementation of state obligations in this area, etc.

In this regard, it is important that the draft UNGA resolution emphasizes the importance of institutions such as social partnership and public control for achieving the goals and objectives of Agenda 2030, as well as further strengthening the global partnership for sustainable development.

The importance of supporting existing mechanisms of international, regional and bilateral cooperation between government agencies and non-governmental organizations was emphasized, as well as the valuable contribution that civil society institutions make to promoting sustainable development thanks to their long-term and diverse experience, special knowledge and potential, especially in the field of analysis and exchange information and knowledge, developing dialogue and supporting sustainable development processes.
National and international experts of the international forum emphasized that from the point of view of civil society, the following recommendations and proposals contained in the draft resolution are of interest:

firstly, further expanding the participation of civil society institutions, as well as improving the dialogue with NGOs in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, incl. in the field of legislative development;

secondly, stimulating and encouraging partnerships between government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. This promotes the involvement and use of the potential and resources of the entire society and state to achieve the SDGs;

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third, supporting civil society institutions and facilitating their involvement in the follow-up and review processes of the SDGs, especially in the preparation of voluntary national reviews. For these voluntary national reviews provide valuable lessons and help countries track progress and ensure that the SDGs are mainstreamed into national plans and policies;

fourthly, the adoption of the necessary organizational and legal measures that would ensure the real participation of non-governmental organizations at all levels of decision-making and decision-making, as well as their implementation. In particular, M. Kacherauskis emphasized that “in the European Union, 2 strategic directions for the development of civil society have been identified – creating a favorable environment and conditions for civil society, as well as increasing capacity and improving their activities. This is the key to effectively addressing the SDG objectives”;

fifthly, support and further development of international cooperation in the field of involving and ensuring the participation of NGOs in achieving the SDGs, increasing the role and place of civil society in this area;

sixth, the development of special financing mechanisms, including “SDG-based budgeting”, to support the activities and expand the capacity of NGOs that contribute to the implementation of SDG targets.

In particular, the participants noted that today the Report of the UN Secretary-General dated September 18, 2023 is particularly relevant on the global agenda, including his remark that the Sustainable Development Goals need a global rescue plan, the transition of countries to the SDGs. oriented budget” so that the achievement of the goals determined by states is supported by financial and necessary other resources;

seventh, promoting the leading role of civil society institutions in accelerating the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals in a balanced and integrated manner, reaffirming commitment to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions – economic, social and environmental dimensions.

At the international forum, more than ten other proposals in this area contained in the draft UNGA resolution were positively assessed, and individual recommendations were made to the draft document.

They expressed “confidence that their broad discussion, as well as the adoption of the draft resolution “On expanding participation and strengthening the role of civil society in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals” will help raise the processes of sustainable national, regional and global development, appropriate support and assistance to organizations to a qualitatively new level civil society on the ground.

In turn, civil society, with its experience, expertise and capacity, will continue to play an important role and make a worthy contribution to achieving the SDGs. For, only through common aspirations and joint efforts can lasting peace and prosperity be achieved. Today, more than ever, we need mutual trust, solidarity and cooperation,” concluded the forum participants.

These proposals and the draft resolution of the UN General Assembly are also expected to be considered during the II International Global Forum “Interparliamentary Cooperation in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

This indicates that this latest initiative of the President of Uzbekistan remains the focus of attention of the international community.

*The author is First Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan.* 

**The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of  Global News Pakistan. The organization neither endorses nor assumes any responsibility for the content of this article.