Toward a Robust Civil Society
Said-Abdulaziz Yusupov, director of the Public Fund for Support and Development of Independent Print Media and News Agencies.
A democratic constitutional state (ruled by law) can hardly be imagined without civil society institutions. It is no accident that Uzbekistan has chosen the path of democratic renewal, of an enduring civil society.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev constantly notes the firm commitment of our country to the advancement of civil society, construction of a truly democratic constitutional state.
The normative basis for the activities of civil society institutions in our country is specified in the laws on public associations, on non-state nonprofit organizations, on public funds, on political parties and others. The Constitution of the Republic establishes the legal foundations for the creation and operation of civil society institutions, defines the principles for their interaction with the state. This circumstance opens favorable conditions for their effective activity in the country.
Today, the civil society of Uzbekistan is characterized by processes of improving public and social governance. Extensive efforts are undertaken in the country in the sphere of liberalization of public life, development of modern forms of public control, growth in the effectiveness of social partnership and implementation of the concept “From a strong state to a robust civil society”, consolidation of the role and importance of civil society institutions, citizens’ self-government bodies in the modernization of the country, their harmonious integration into the system of government and society.
Uzbekistan’s experience confirms that the sustainability of the movement towards civil society and a market economy is directly dependent on the formation of its legal framework. The study of the political processes taking place in the world show that if the legislation does not develop and lags behind the dynamically developing social relations, then this inevitably leads to systemic, sometimes antagonistic contradictions in social development.
In accordance with the Strategy of Actions, taking into account the current state and prospects for the development of civil society in Uzbekistan, systematic and comprehensive measures are being taken to strengthen the legislative bases for the activities of civil society institutions – non-governmental non-profit organizations, selfgoverning bodies of citizens, public funds, trade unions and other public associations.
Over the years of independence, more than 250 legislative acts aimed at boosting the role and significance of civil institutions have been adopted, while more than 50 of them were passed in September 2016 - November 2017. They include such laws as the Youth Policy, On Social Services for the Elderly, Persons with Disabilities and Other Socially Vulnerable Segments of Population, On Counteracting Corruption, among others.
For the first time in the national practice, the concept of a “youth non-state non-profit organization” as a self-governing NGO has been defined, which has the goals of realizing and protecting personal, political, economic, social and cultural rights, freedoms and legitimate interests, as well as increasing the social activity of young people.
It was established that the state renders material and financial support to youth NGOs, they were granted the right to use the premises of educational institutions, clubs, cultural and leisure centers of the population, sports and other facilities. They may own buildings, housing stock, equipment, implements, cultural and educational and recreational facilities, money, securities and other property necessary for material support of activities envisaged by its charter.
The law enshrines the guarantees of activities and spheres of interaction of the state with non-governmental nonprofit organizations in the field of implementing youth policy. At the same time, ensuring the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of young people is defined as the priority areas of such cooperation; protection of her life and health, the formation of her desire for a healthy lifestyle; spiritual, intellectual, physical and moral development of the younger generation; providing young people with affordable and quality education; development of youth entrepreneurship, provision of employment and employment of youth; moral and material support of young families.
In order to create favorable conditions for the comprehensive and harmonious development of young people and young families, the state’s obligations are legally fixed on supporting the development of the system of NGOs, especially those that provide social services and assistance to young people.
Another important factor in strengthening the role of NGOs was the adoption of the law on social services for the elderly, disabled people and other socially vulnerable categories of the population. It includes in the system of organizations in the field of social services, along with public authorities and management, business entities, as well as non-governmental non-profit organizations and citizens’ self-government bodies.
The services are aimed at improving the quality of life, first of all, for socially vulnerable categories of the population, including single and lonely elderly people in need of extracurricular care, disabled persons, incapacitated and disabled citizens, people with socially significant diseases, orphans and children, left without parental care. It is about creating equal opportunities for other citizens to participate in the life of society and expand their opportunities to provide their basic life needs on their own.
The Law on Counteracting Corruption has a special significance in strengthening the role of civil institutions in ensuring peace and stability in the country and in the sustainable development of society. Particular attention is paid to their participation in the development and implementation of programs in the field of combating corruption, raising the legal consciousness and legal culture of the population, and forming an intolerant attitude towards corruption in the society.
Within the framework of the Actions Strategy, separate decrees and resolutions of the head of state were signed to further improve the activities of such non-governmental non-profit organizations as Nuroniy, Mahalla, the Republican Council for Coordinating the Activities of SelfGovernment Bodies, the Union of Youth of Uzbekistan, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Council of Farmers, the Center for Development Strategy.
For example, the presidential decree on measures to further improve the activities of the Nuroniy Foundation for the social support of veterans of Uzbekistan is aimed at supporting older people, social protection of the elderly and veterans, increasing their activity, creating conditions for full participation in the sociopolitical life of the country, role of the older generation in ensuring peace and tranquility in the country.
In accordance with the document, the Nuroniy Foundation was reorganized into the Nuroniy Foundation for Support of Public Activities of Uzbekistan’s Veterans. In other words, this means translating the emphasis from the passive policy of “social support for veterans” to an active and dynamic policy of supporting the public activities of veterans.
This act is also another evidence of constructive state support for the activities of non-state non-profit organizations, the development and strengthening of social partnership. In particular, the document provides for an annual transfer to the Nuroniy Fund of 10% of the funds coming from the charity khashars entering the Mahalla Fund, the introduction of the post of deputy chairman of the citizens’ assemblies (auls, kishlaks, mahallas) in the selfgoverning bodies of citizens, as a consultant for the elderly and veterans and others.
The possibilities of state structures and NGOs for solving the problems of raising the level and quality of life of elderly people, people with disabilities and lonely elderly, strengthening targeted social protection and expanding the types of assistance provided to them, and providing them with quality medical services are greatly enhanced.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that one of the main directions pursued by sociopolitical and socio-economic reforms is the strengthening of the role and significance of civil society institutions and independent media. A significant role here is played by selfgoverning bodies of citizens – mahallas, where the most valuable traits are initiative, efficiency, patriotism and humanism of citizens of our country.
The state and society must ensure the full realization of the potential of citizens seeking to take direct and active participation in the political and public life of the country, including through their participation in the daily life of self-government bodies.
For example, given the fact that more than 60% of the population of Uzbekistan is young people under 30 years old, the adoption of the Law on Youth Policy has received a great public and political reverberation. The bill provides with directions, forms and mechanisms for interaction between state bodies and nongovernmental nonprofit organizations, citizens’ selfgovernment bodies, the media in implementing social, economic, organizational and legal measures taken by the state, and provide for the creation of conditions for the social formation and development of intellectual, creative and other potential of the younger generation.
In particular, measures are in place to ensure the full coverage of 2.8 million elderly citizens by in-depth medical examination by specialized medical teams for the timely detection and treatment of diseases; prevention of diseases of elderly citizens through constant monitoring of their health by attached nursing nurses; construction and equipment of three new sanatoriums for the elderly, disabled, veterans of war and labor in Bukhara, Kashkadarya and Khorezm regions; establishment of interregional cardiosurgery centers for open heart surgery in Andijan, Bukhara, Samarkand and Ferghana regions; consolidation of the material and technical base of 23 boarding homes for the elderly and disabled, Sakhovat and Muruvvat.