INFORMATION DIGEST - PRESS OF UZBEKISTAN - March 5, 2016

posted 7 Mar 2016, 04:38 by Webmaster Ambasciata
AGRICULTURE
Uzbekistan is planning to implement a range of measures to increase the production of potatoes

SOCIETY
Civil Society in Uzbekistan: Quantity and Quality


Agriculture

Uzbekistan is planning to implement a range of measures to increase the production of potatoes

More than 2.69 million tons of potatoes were cultivated in the country last year, and it is planned to bring the index to 3.6 million by 2020.

The strategy will be built on the organization of primary seed breeding through the broad application of biotechnologies and introduction of the micropropagation technology. The Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry and the Research Institute of Melons and Potatoes will establish specialized biotech labs for research and production of potato seeds of elite grades.

The biotechnology products will be tested at pilot stations on the production of seed potatoes of the virus and disease resistant grades ‘super super-elite’, ‘super-elite’, as well as at specialized greenhouse insulators in Tashkent, Jizzakh, Namangan and Samarkand regions in 2016-2018.

It is also planned to establish specialized farms on the production of elite seed potatoes in four mountain regions of the country in order to expand the potatoe cultivation areas.

Experts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of Uzbekistan predict the creation of a system that would annually supply the agricultural sector with 15,000 tons of seed potatoes of ‘elite’ grade, 3,000 tons of ‘super-elite', and 600 tons of ‘super super-elite’ grade.

(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)

Society

Civil Society in Uzbekistan: Quantity and Quality

Building a strong and open civil society that would guarantee protection of human rights, interests and freedoms, and provide favorable conditions for implementation of human resources has been a state policy priority in Uzbekistan.

In a short period of time, Uzbekistan has made significant headway in building a system of independent, sustainable NGOs that enjoy the support of the general public as an essential component of a democratic state with the rule of law.

The rights and responsibilities of civil institutions have been significantly expanded of late. Today, they play an important role in ensuring the balance of interests in society, help to identify relevant problems in the field, and mobilize the population for their effective and targeted solution.

NGO activists have been implementing diverse projects on enhancement of the legal culture of citizens, building the capacity of the institution of the family, environment protection, involved in the development of legal acts, implementation of national and regional programs.

The Independent Institute for Monitoring the Formation of Civil Society (IIMFC) has been playing a pivotal role in the formation of civil society institutions and enhancement of people’s activity. It focuses on the profound studies on identification of the sector-related problems, on the analysis of structural and quality changes in the society, on the study of foreign practices of building the civil society, development of its institutions, and construction of a democratic state.

Along with the abovementioned objectives, the annual IIMFC conference in Tashkent reviewed the IIMFC last year’s performance. It was attended by members of the Senate and the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis, representatives of the diplomatic corps and accredited international organizations, public and government agencies, research and educational institutions. The Institute presented the annual report on ‘Qualitative and quantitative changes in the development of civil society in Uzbekistan’, which was built on the IIMFC research.

As noted in reports and statements, the streamlined performance of civil institutions has created important prerequisites for their dynamic development. The state support has ensured the sustainable and effective operation of NGOs. In particular, the Public Fund for Support of NGOs and Other Civil Society Institutions under the Oliy Majlis has been promoting the involvement of NGOs in the implementation of national programs, and solution of social problems. Over the last eight years the government budget has allocated 47.7 billion soums (currency rates of CB RU from 05.03.2016, 1$=  soums) to support the NGOs, the media and other civil society institutions, as well as their social projects and programs. The amount of the allocated funds has increased more than 5 times - from 2.1 billion soums in 2008 to 10.7 billion soums in 2015, indicating steady growth of state financial support for the ‘third sector’.

The number of NGOs involved in grant competitions of the Public Fund for Support of NGOs and Other Civil Society Institutions under the parliament has increased markedly: 421 NGOs participated in contests in 2014, while in 2015 the contests involved 528 NGOs with 819 projects. The number of winning NGOs in grant competitions amounted to 177 in the said period.

An analysis of the content and subject matter of grant projects, which were supported by the resolution of the Parliamentary Commission, showed that in 2015 the major part of them focused on the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of the older generation. In particular, 65 out of 279 social projects funded by the Public Fund last year, were aimed at improving the living standards of the older generation and their overall support, as conditioned by the active involvement of NGOs in the implementation of the national program The Year of Attention and Care for the Senior Generation.

The practice of involving NGOs in the implementation of sectoral, regional and territorial programs of socio-economic development was continued. For instance, 612 NGOs implemented certain items of the national program The Year of Attention and Care for the Senior Generation. In this context, it would be appropriate to note the increasing role of NGOs both on national and regional scale. Twenty-seven national and over 370 regional NGOs were involved in the implementation of the national program in 2014, while in 2015 their number amounted to 36 national and 576 regional NGOs accordingly.

Strengthening legislative foundations

In 2014, Uzbekistan approved the Law ‘On social partnership’ under the ‘Concept of enhancement of democratic reforms and building the civil society in the country’. The act settled the mechanisms of interaction between governmental and nongovernmental organizations in the implementation of priority projects, making the measures taken much more effective, and increasing citizens' confidence and support. Representative bodies of state authorities in regions established public commission on social partnership, which deal with identifying the crossing points of interests, priorities of interaction, forms and methods of state support. Their first experience has been already producing certain yields.

The settlement of the institution of social control in the Basic Law, as well as approval of the Law ‘On environmental control’ was a significant step towards the strengthening of the constitutional right of citizens to participate in managing the affairs of state and society.

The Law ‘On the openness of state authorities and administration’ has helped to streamline the system of informing the public about the operation of state authorities, bring the work on reception and consideration of citizens’ appeals to a new level, enhance the public control, and increase the responsibility of officials for decision-making. The public council on coordination and monitoring of the work on ensuring the transparency of public authorities and administration was instituted in pursuance of the law. Uzbekistan is currently introducing a ‘transparency index’ of public authorities and administration, which is assessed by the extent of their cooperation with the media and civil society institutions.

As a result of the measures taken, the number of the NGOs that build up a foundation of civil society in Uzbekistan, has increased by 64.5% over the past five years and now exceeds 8,400. The majority of them (22%) are engaged in the development of entrepreneurship and farming, 13% - sports, 7.6% - youth education.

As emphasized at the forum, the media retained the tendency of growth last year. As of January 1, 2016, the Uzbek Agency for Press and Information has registered 1,437 media, including 1,005 print editions (690 newspapers, 300 magazines, 15 newsletters), 96 electronic media (65 TV channels, 31 radio channels), four news agencies, and 332 news websites. The country's media publish and broadcast in 17 languages of nations and nationalities living in Uzbekistan.

Sixty-four percent of the total number of media outlets are nongovernmental.

The conference participants also pointed out to the increasing role of regional media in public control through the identification, critical and impartial coverage of relevant problems in the performance of local authorities and economic administration. 659 relevant critical and analytical materials were published in 2012, while in 2015 their number reached 3,564.

15.8% articles of the total number of critical materials cover the activities of public and local authorities, 16.2% criticize public utilities, 2.5% - health, 12.1% - business and the service sector, 14.6% cover the problems of road traffic security. It is worth noting the effectiveness of the publications, because in most cases state authorities take certain measures to address the problems they had raised.

The law on appeals of individuals and legal entities entered into force in 2015 as a form of social control and as a new impetus for the development of the institution of citizens’ appeals. The act has expanded the practice of exercising the citizens’ right to appeal the authorities and administration, improved quality of their performance and responsibility of government agencies for consideration of the appeals.

The role of political parties

The conference assigned an important part to the assessment of performance of political parties. The legal foundations of activity of political parties were further developed in 2015, thereby strengthening their role in the renewal and further democratization of the country.

Factions of political parties in the parliament have been effectively using their powers, as assigned by the Constitution and laws. The groups of local people’s representatives have been showing enhanced activity in the implementation of deputy control over the activities of the executive authorities, and monitoring the execution of legislation in the field.

The number of reports of executives on relevant issues of socio-economic development in the field more than doubled in 2015. They were heard in the sessions of Zhokargy Kenes of Karakalpakstan, regional and Tashkent city councils of people's representatives at the initiative of members of the party groups (416 in 2015, 205 - in 2014).

Over the past period, members of each political party widely exercised the right for deputy inquiry. 1,598 deputy inquiries were submitted in 2014, and in 2015 their number exceeded 3,500.

In 2015, party groups stayed active in proposing on program goals and objectives of political parties, as well as on the interests of their permanent electorate. For instance, the number of proposals made by the party groups at the council sessions amounted to 129 in 2015 (and 97 – in 2014). The corresponding councils answered 80 proposals (62%) of the total of 129 proposals that were submitted for consideration.

The further streamlining of the work of party groups on identification, study and protection of the interests of their electorate at local representative bodies and structural subdivisions of the parties is the requirement of time.

During 2014, all the four political parties of Uzbekistan - UzLiDeP, People’s Democratic Party, Milly Tiklanish DPU, and Adolat SDPU – focused on expanding their ranks, strengthening their grass-roots units, or primary party organizations, published and distributed party newspapers. The results of monitoring research in the field point out to the need to intensify the work of political parties on ensuring the effectiveness of their print editions. They are called to promote effective communication between party members and advocates, enhance the trust of voters, and clarify the position of a party on relevant issues of domestic and foreign policy.

Participation of NGOs in grant competitions of the Public Fund under the Oliy Majlis in 2009-2015

A unique institution of mahalla

The participants of the conference pointed out to the growing role of the institution of mahalla in the socio-economic development of territories, raised civic activity, spiritual and moral atmosphere in the society.

All the activities are backgrounded by a strong legal framework, which aims at the transformation of self-government bodies into centers of social protection of the population and development of entrepreneurship, and strengthening their independence.

10,000 citizens’ assemblies across the currently perform more than 30 functions that were previously administered by local representative authorities. They have working commissions on education and spiritual enlightenment, social support, work with women, youth and sport, ecology and environmental protection, and others. They are seen as an important component of upbringing of young generation, strengthening of family values, and provision of targeted social assistance to low-income population strata.

Social voluntary patrols ‘Mahalla Posboni’ have been effectively functioning in the system of civil self-governance bodies. They are called to maintain social partnership with government agencies and NGOs in promoting peace and stability. There are also ‘Parent Universities’ to promote healthy lifestyle in families and enhance the legal knowledge of parents in child education. Last year, parent universities organized more than 106,000 events involving more than 2.8 million people.

Targeted support for socially vulnerable population strata, including social benefits and financial assistance for needy families, ranks among the major missions of citizens' self-government bodies. In 2015, self-government bodies forwarded a total of 1.3 trillion soums of funds in support of the socially vulnerable and low-income families.

The powers delegated by the legislation have been widely introduced into practice, as evidenced by the growing number of quarterly reports of executive authorities in districts and cities on the issues under the competence of citizens' self-government bodies. 7,070 reports were heard in 2014, against 7,652 in 2015.

As emphasized at the conference, the IIMFC studies show a steady increase in the level of civil consciousness and political culture of the population, especially young people, which is the outcome of joint efforts of civil society institutions, government organizations, and an essential factor for building a democratic state and a strong civil society.

In an open and constructive exchange of views the participants worked out recommendations on how to further strengthen the role of civil society institutions in democratic renewal and modernization of the country. 

 


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