The role of non-governmental non-profit organizations and civil society institutions, whose activities are aimed at ensuring the interests of broad sections of the population, has increased in the process of further deepening democratic reforms and development of civil society in Uzbekistan today. In this regard the most important and national democratic institution of civil society in Uzbekistan is makhalla, which has been considered to be a unique institution that combines the lowest and regional branches of self-government in the country.
Literally translated from Arabic the word «makhalla» means an adjacent camp or a city camp, actually expresses a part of the city exercising local self-government. In Uzbek practice makhalla is a system of territorial, social, political, and spiritual-educational self-government, which is not found in any other country. Moreover, for centuries, Uzbek makhalla has been considered a center of education, preservation of national customs, traditions and values, a spiritual center for citizens. Makhalla has an essential role in formation of human qualities such as mutual respect, kindness and mercy, unity in carrying out khashar (public works) and family rituals among the residents of makhalla. The significance of makhalla institution is that it has information about all residents and their life conditions, people who need material and moral support and also about the unemployed, conflicts in families and concerns of the population. In this regard, it provides targeted social assistance to socially vulnerable groups of the population and ensures a stable spiritual and moral atmosphere in families, attracting citizens, especially young people to useful work.
Today in Uzbekistan there are more than nine thousand bodies of self-government of citizens, which make a significant contribution in resolving issues of local importance, ensuring a stable spiritual and moral atmosphere, strengthening friendship and solidarity, educating the younger generation and strengthening interethnic harmony and tolerance.
With achievement of independence in Uzbekistan, special attention has been paid to the development of the activities of makhalla institution, the improvement of its institutional and legal framework. The legal status of makhalla for the first time was enshrined in Article 105 of the Constitution, adopted on December 8, 1992.
The law of the Republic of Uzbekistan «On the bodies of self-government of citizens» adopted on September 2, 1993 was the first to streamline the activities of the makhalla institution. The concept of self-government of citizens is determined by the law as an independent activity guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan for solving local issues based on their interests, historical features of development, as well as national and spiritual values, local customs and traditions. The law sets basic principles of the activities of citizens’ self-governing bodies as well as a standard structure of these bodies consisting of a Council (Kengash), commissions on the main activities of the assembly of citizens and an Audit commission.
The Council is formed in order to fulfill the decisions of the assembly of citizens as well as the current activities of the citizens’ self-government bodies. It operates in the composition of a chairperson (aksakal) of the assembly of citizens, his deputies (consultants on the elderly and veterans and youth issues), advisers, executive secretary and a specialist of the Women’s district (city) Committee for working with and strengthening the spiritual – moral values in families, head of the public formation “Mahalla Posboni”, as well as local preventive inspectors, heads of educational institutions, rural medical units and family polyclinics.
Furthermore, the law sets up number of commissions which function on the main activities of the assembly of citizens such as, Conciliation commission, Education and spirituality сommission, Commission on social support, Commission on work with women, Commission on minors, youth and sports, Commission for the development of business and family business, Commission on ecology and nature protection, landscaping, Commission on public control and consumer protection. The management of these commissions is carried out by the chairman (aksakal) of assembly of citizens and his deputies while the members of the сommissions are elected by open or secret ballot according to the electoral legislation. Regarding the Audit сommission it is established to check the financial and economic activities of the assembly of citizens and operates independently while being accountable only to assembly of citizens. Members of the commission are not entitled to be simultaneously a member of another body of citizens.
Depending on the relevance of the problems in the relevant territory assembly of citizens can establish other commissions on its main activities. Commissions on the basis of the Model regulations are entitled to develop their own regulations which are approved by the assembly of citizens. In accordance with these provisions, the members of the commissions contribute to the elimination of existing problems in the relevant territory, participate in the preservation of national and spiritual values, traditions and customs, strengthening families, education of younger generation, ensuring inter-ethnic friendship and harmony. They also carry out public control over the implementation of measures to support socially vulnerable groups of the population, protect motherhood and childhood, develop small business and private entrepreneurship, national handicraft, sanitary and environmental conditions of the territory of makhalla and the execution of the legislation by assembly of citizens. So, commissions take an active part in all events of makhallas.
Employees of makhallas based on the direction of its activities cooperate with general education schools, employment centres, associations of private home owners, the youth Union, the Women’s committee, internal Affairs offices and other state, non-state and public organizations, operating in the relevant territories to address relevant problems. In order to ensure peace in makhallas and prevent crime and delinquency about seven thousand prevention inspectors operate in the same building with makhalla activists and contribute to more effective crime prevention.
An important step towards the democratization of activities of makhalla was made by the adoption of the Law «On the election of the Chairman (Aksakal) of assembly of citizens» on April 29, 2004. The law defined democratic principles of election to the bodies of self-government of citizens and introduced elective system to the makhalla bodies.
Within the framework of deepening and development of democratic reforms in the country, it became necessary to improve the legal framework for the activities of the makhalla institution. As a result, above mentioned laws were amended several times. By the adoption of the decree of the President Sh.Mirziyoyev on February 3, 2017 «On measures for further improvement of the makhalla institution» the activities of the makhalla institution have reached a new stage. In accordance with this decree, the Republican Council for the coordination of the activities of self-government bodies of citizens was given the status of a legal entity with its formation in the form of an Association of assembly of citizens. The document identifies five priority areas for further improvement of the makhalla institution.
According to the decree, changes in the structure of the assembly of citizens have been made by introducing new posts of Deputy Chairman of the assembly of citizens for issues concerning the elderly, veterans and the youth. Furthermore, inspectors for prevention of delinquencies, as well as heads of educational institutions, rural health centers and family clinics have been included into the Councils of the assembly of citizens.
The main purpose of the Republican Council, which is a non-governmental non-profit organization, is to increase the efficiency of the bodies of assembly of citizens and turn the makhalla institution into the closest to the population structure, realization of the rights to unite in an Association representing the common interests of the assemblies of citizens, strengthening their material and technical base, as well as further development of their interaction with state bodies and institutions of civil society.
To date Council pays special attention to improving the activities of the assembly of citizens, strengthening their material and technical base, providing training facilities, improving the skills and knowledge of workers and activists of the makhalla, providing support to low-income families, persons with disabilities and lonely elderly.
Over the past two years, 24 legal documents aimed at improving the activities of the makhalla, have been adopted and are being implemented.
It is important to underline another innovation in this direction, awarding initiative citizens and representatives of public structures who have made a worthy contribution to the implementation of the tasks of self-government of citizens by a newly established badge «Makhalla Iftikhori» («Pride of Makhalla»).
It is well known that public control is considered an important form of building civil society. The activities of the makhalla also concern the issues of public control. If earlier makhalla mainly conducted work on the basis of citizens’ appeals, now, according to the Law «On the bodies of self-government of citizens» it quarterly hears reports of heads of executive authorities of regions, cities and districts on issues within the scope of activities of the assembly of citizens, as well as reports of heads of enterprises, institutions and organizations located in the relevant territory on environmental protection, sanitation, landscaping issues, within its competence. Reports of heads of executive authorities of regions, cities and districts on issues concerning the activities of the assembly of citizens were heard at 6459 meetings over the last two quarters. The problems and shortcomings expressed by the population after hearing the reports found their solutions.
Strengthening healthy atmosphere in families, makhallas and society, education of the youth, preservation of peaceful and quiet life has been emphasized by our President as of great importance. There have been identified priorities in this direction.
At present, along with the education of a harmoniously developed younger generation and obtaining modern education for young people new mechanisms of cooperation, such as «Family-makhalla-educational institution» has been established in order to educate the youth in the spirit of universal and national values, high human qualities and reliably protect their minds from various ideological and spiritual threats. The main goal of the project is to control the attendance of classes by the young people, to be informed about what they do in their free time as well as to provide leisure activities, for instance, by attracting them to various study groups, craft training and sports clubs.
Parents, representatives of the older generation and the atmosphere in families play an important role in the education of the younger generation. In order to improve spiritual outlook of parents in the education of children «Parent universities» have been established under the self-government of citizens.
The strengthening of families are given great consideration, the important role of the Conciliation commission set within the assemblies of citizens should be underlined in this field. The Commission considers appeals on conflicts concerning family relations. According to statistics, out of 73.214 appeals examined over the past year 46.430 conflicts between family members were successfully resolved, in 7.974 cases relatives found reconciliation.
In order to prevent family divorces, troubles and other unpleasant cases, it is necessary to conduct regular explanatory work among the population, since peace and tranquility in families and makhallas ensure the development and well-being of society. In this regard significance of social projects and programs should be emphasized. From August 1-25 of the past year, Republican Council for the coordination of the activities of self-government bodies of citizens together with partner organizations, held a month aiming at strengthening families under the motto «We are against family divorces». Within the framework of the project various events were held to explain the value of the family and the responsibility of parents and representatives of the older generation of makhallas in family education and preparation of young people for family life, as well as to promote healthy lifestyles in families and popularize positive experience of exemplary families. Moreover, a number of educational events were held in all makhallas all over the country, for instance, educational event on the topic “The place of makhallas in preserving and developing national and universal values” was important in creation of an atmosphere of mutual respect, kindness, mercy and cohesion as well as strengthening of marriages in families, especially in educating young people.
Republican Council provides methodological and practical assistance to all makhallas of the country in formation of a healthy atmosphere in families and education by issuing manuals and recommendations, brochures and relevant literature.
Uzbekistan has developed a separate programme to ensure employment and create new jobs and is still implementing the measures outlined in it. In this regard, assemblies of citizens have become close assistants to the population in employment and development of family and private entrepreneurship. In order to create conditions for each family to engage in entrepreneurship and turn it into a source of income, program named «Every family entrepreneur» is being implemented, thereby the number of families engaged in business in makhallas is being increased.
In short, the role of the makhalla is proved to be invaluable in our country in the process of deepening democratic reforms and the development of civil society, including the local solution of socio-economic issues, strengthening families, increasing the activity of the population, especially young people as well as formation of a healthy lifestyle in society.
It should be noted that effective activities of assemblies of citizens is encouraged by our government. Up to date 500 employees of the makhalla system have been awarded high state awards for the past five years.
Despite the gradual development of the makhalla institution, there is still much work to be done. It is necessary that the relevant state and public organizations provide methodological and practical assistance to the commissions on the main activities of assemblies of citizens, especially in makhallas. Some commissions, such as Commissions on education and spirituality issues and Conciliation commission require experienced community activists to be involved in their work. Given the importance in raising exemplary parents, enhancing their full awareness of duty and responsibility to children, it is necessary to raise the educational culture of parents and turn the work of «Parent Universities» into vitality. In order to achieve active participation of community activists, parents, teachers and educators of educational institutions in the upbringing of the younger generation, it is necessary to improve their joint work and the «Family-makhalla-educational institution» cooperation mechanism. In the direction of prevention of youth neglect and homelessness, it is essential that the employment, full enrollment, organization of meaningful leisure activities for the young generation, such as sports, subject and creative classes should be ensured. Public oversight in ensuring the upbringing of children in the spirit of national values should also be established. Moreover, there is a need for the cooperation with partner organizations to study together the life of families, develop and implement systematic measures to eliminate the facts that negatively affect the situation in families.
In conclusion, it should be underlined that further enhancement of the role of the makhalla institution in solving social and economic problems is a requirement of time. After all, the successful implementation of these tasks is important in providing targeted social support to the population, providing employment, developing private entrepreneurship and family business, protecting the environment, increasing the civic activism of compatriots and their legal culture and strengthening the family institution, which as a result will serve to build a strong civil society.