Tashkent has played host to an international conference “Pressing issues of social partnership between government agencies and civil society institutions in ensuring the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of population”.
The forum was attended by experts from Belgium, Germany, the United States and other countries, as well as representatives of both houses of the Oliy Majlis (parliament of Uzbekistan), ministries and other government agencies, local Kengashes (Councils) of People’s Representatives, regional nongovernmental nonprofit organizations (NNOs), media, diplomatic missions and international organizations accredited in Uzbekistan.
It was organized by the houses of the Uzbek legislature, the National Center for Human Rights of Uzbekistan, the Independent Institute for Monitoring the Formation of Civil Society, the National Association of NNOs, the Ministry of Justice with support from the OSCE, Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Germany), and USAID.
The conference participants enquired into the socio-political and legal conditions of the establishment and advancement of social partnership in Uzbekistan, the role and place of civil society institutions in democratic renewal and modernization of the country. The contributors to the forum also discussed the basic principles, forms and mechanisms of cooperation between the parliament and representative bodies of government with NNOs in provinces, self-government bodies and the media in the elaboration and deliberation on socially important draft laws. Particular attention was placed on mechanisms of law enforcement bodies’ interaction with civil institutions in cementing the rule of law and protecting citizens’ rights and freedoms, with an eye to the international experience in this sphere.
It was emphasized that Uzbekistan has chosen its own path of reform and modernization of the country from the very early days of national independence, identified the formation of a robust and open civil society as a priority course within large-scale democratic transformation, designed to protect the rights, interests and freedoms of people and create an environment conducive for the implementation of their potential.
“Considerable endeavors have been undertaken in Uzbekistan within a short span of time aimed at the development of independent and sustainable institutions of civil society that enjoy the support of the general population as the most important component for the formation of a democratic constitutional state,” said the honorary member of the Belgian Senate Dominique Tilmans. “I have participated in several such forums in Uzbekistan, observed the parliamentary and presidential elections in this country, and I think this allows me to objectively assess democratic reforms taking place in the country. Today, many NNOs in Uzbekistan provide for reliable protection of democratic values, human rights and freedoms. Their participation in public affairs has been expanding. Uzbekistan studies foreign experience in legislative regulation of public relations and practices of civil society formation, but it does not copy the models: it adapts democratic principles through the values of the Uzbek society. We fully support these processes.”
Under realization is the principle “From a strong state to a strong civil society”, the essence of which is the expansion of civil institutions’ rights and responsibilities, including the role of NNOs in protecting the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of people, in ensuring extensive participation of citizens in the management and organization of their lives and society as a whole.
The favorable conditions created by the state, incentives and opportunities provided has been instrumental in boosting the engagement of these civil institutions in public affairs, contributing thus to public, socioeconomic activity of people and uplifting their legal culture.
“Democratic reforms in promoting civil society institutions in Uzbekistan are carried out systematically, consistently and gradually, based on the consideration of the peculiarities of country’s development and the growth of political and legal culture as well as social consciousness of the population,” Shuhrat Bafaev, member of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan, has suggested. “They are closely linked to the processes of democratization and modernization of other areas in nation-building.”
It was noted during the conference that Uzbekistan has a robust legal framework to establish and promote civil society, national infrastructure that secures actual independence of civil society institutions, material and financial support for their activities.
It has helped consolidate the NNOs’ position in the process of democratization of public life, state-building, in ensuring and maintaining the balance of interests in society, to become a counterweight to government agencies in the political and social spheres, to advocate for democratic values, human rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of the people.
“Civil institutions are intended to strengthen democratic values and norms in the minds of people, promote high spirituality, civil engagement, national consciousness, cultivate people’s self-esteem, independent thinking, responsibility and a desire to build the future with their own hands,” said Gulrukhsor Hatamova, project manager at the Independent Institute for Monitoring the Formation of Civil society.
The Concept of Intensifying the Democratic Reforms and Forming the Civil Society in the Country, adopted by the parliament in November 2010, has opened up a new phase of revitalization and expansion of the scope of NNOs’ activities, their authority in the management of society and state affairs. Triggered by the Concept, such important laws as “On environmental control”, “On transparency in the activities of government and management bodies”, “On social partnership” and other legislative acts, having great importance for the dynamic development of civil society, have been adopted within the past five years.
The law “On environmental control” was passed as a result of extensive public discussion in 2013 and aimed at bolstering the public and NNO participation in the implementation of ecological scrutiny, monitoring the situation in provinces in the field of protection of the environment and public health.
The adoption of the law “On transparency in the activities of government and management bodies” was an important step toward augmenting the position of civil society institutions, which provided for a broad access of public and nonprofit organizations to information about the decisions made by public authorities, especially those that affect citizens’ rights, freedoms and legitimate interests.
The elaboration and adoption of the law “On social partnership” has had great importance in boosting the development of civil society, which improved organizational and legal mechanisms of state bodies’ interaction with NNOs to enhance their role in working out and implementing socio-economic development programs and legislative acts.
“The national legislation consisted of more than 30 laws and over 100 other normative acts before the adoption of the bill regulating certain aspects of interaction between government agencies and NNOs,” said the chairman of the board of the National Association of NNOs of Uzbekistan Abdumajit Karimov. “At the same time, no single codified act of legislation existed to provide for a coherent system of forms, principles, mechanisms of interaction between the government and NNOs, as well as the rights and obligations of both parties contained in various legislative acts.”
The law “On social partnership” defines concepts, principles and main areas of social partnership, perpetuates the notion of “social partnership” as an interaction of state bodies with NNOs and other civil society institutions in the elaboration and implementation of socio-economic advancement programs, including industry-based, provincial and district programs, normative acts and other decisions affecting the rights and legitimate interests of citizens. The rights and liabilities of state bodies, on the one hand, and NNOs and other civil society institutions, on the other, are clarified and delineated. Organizational, legal, procedural mechanisms of government agencies’ interaction with NNOs, forms and methods of NNOs’ engagement in addressing social issues, improving the socio-political, social and economic activity of citizens are narrowed.
“The law is of great socio-political importance,” Serge Embacher, expert of Friedrich Ebert Foundation for Civil Society, a political scientist and journalist, stressed. “The process of deliberating on the law “On social partnership” indicated how the state and society are interested in fruitful interaction. Today, the bill is implemented effectively. Civil society institutions structurally cooperate with state authorities, constitute valuable channels of inverse connection between the society and the state, are conductors of interests of different strata of the population, thus providing for the balance of interests in society, increasing the activity of the population in addressing urgent issues of socio-economic, social and human development, contributing to the welfare and well-being of people and bolstering civil harmony in society.”
Public commissions on social partnership were formed in the course of sessions of Kengashes in provinces and Tashkent city, Jokargy Kenges of Karakalpakstan, with representative bodies on the ground, in June and July 2015, whose creation is stipulated by the law “On social partnership”. The committee consists of members from representative bodies of local authorities, experts from relevant parts of hokimiyats, the judiciary, finances and NNOs.
“Activities of public commissions for social partnership will further enhance the role and responsibilities of representative and executive authorities in the field of formation and free development of civil society institutions, as well as the creation of new organizational and normative conditions, economic and legal guarantees to ensure the active participation of NNOs and other civil institutions in democratic reforms and modernization of the country,” said the deputy of Tashkent City Kengash of People’s Representatives Nodira Umarova.
According to Sayyora Baratova, member of the Senate of Uzbekistan’s Oliy Majlis, today the law has been quite successful in practice. “In particular, the recently passed laws “On the sanitary-epidemiological welfare of population”, “On physical culture and sports” and many others have also been initiated and elaborated with the participation of NNOs.”
“It is rather critical that the bills, at the stage of elaboration and deliberation, are posted on the websites of corresponding ministries and agencies, of the lower house of parliament and other media,” said Marina Lokert Sostaric, head of department at the office of cooperation with NNOs in the government of the Republic of Croatia. “It provides with an opportunity for citizens to familiarize with the new regulations and submit proposals to the interests of specific groups of the population, thereby uplifting the law culture of people, their political activity and civil responsibilities. In Croatia, much attention is also paid to the organization of public consultation on the laws being adopted. This allows us to gather more views and recommendations and reduce the time from its elaboration to its implementation.”
Foreign participants of the conference noted that the economic, political and social reforms undertaken in Uzbekistan are designed to secure decent living standards for people and a well-deserved place in the world community. Upholding the mechanisms of social partnership is an important step in this direction.
“The institute of social partnership in Uzbekistan does not only create opportunities to engage the general public in addressing the critical issues,” El Dorry Aley, deputy director of the office of US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Uzbekistan, said. “Effective dialogue of NNOs and the government strengthens the role of the state. There are a lot of examples. For instance, the NGO “Istiqbolli avlod” successfully cooperates with law enforcement agencies in combating human trafficking, which, of course, increases the effectiveness of the measures implemented by the government. The law “On social partnership”, in its elaboration process, was discussed at all levels as well as in international forums. Bolstering and advancement of cooperation between the state and society will now depend on how effectively the law will be implemented.”
The conference concluded with participants coming up with recommendations and proposals designed to cementing social partnership between government agencies and civil society to secure the protection of rights and legitimate interests of the population.