In the past 20 years Uzbekistan has marked numerous achievements in the area of economic and social progress and political reforms. While lots of work has been done, there is much that remains to be accomplished, particularly in the area of strengthening of civil society, liberalizing the media and strengthening the rule of law.
The Uzbek government is now focusing on strengthening of civil society. As it does so, it looks towards the experiences of other democratic countries. Openness to experience and ideas of others is the key to more democracy for Uzbek society; it will help better engage Uzbekistan with the international community while allowing Uzbek society to develop its own model of modern democracy.
One of the key features of democratic systems is the citizens’ and civil society’s active participation in checking the power of the state institutions and a vibrant media sector In this manner, a developed civil society contributes to better governance by enhancing the accountability and transparency of the political system. In its next phase of growth and development Uzbekistan will need to implement these changes.
The courage of the Uzbek civil society in taking on this role and a greater openness and tolerance on the side of the Uzbek government should not be overlooked.
For a better insight into internal developments we are publishing the article of an official from the Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan, Mr. Akbar Nabiraev, a.i. Head of Department for Religious Organizations and Public Associations at Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
From a powerful state to a strong civil society
Public monitoring is critical to development of civil society
One cannot overestimate the significance of the reforms aimed at building a rule of law state and a civil society and securing the rights and individual freedoms of citizens. The reforms will also help the country to be a respected member of the world community.
A number of new laws are being prepared and some significant amendments and alterations are being introduced in the laws in force in our country in order to increase the role and influence of the civil society institutions as well as to further expand the range of their rights and authority. Thus, the current issue on the agenda is a need for further deepening of the reforms in this sphere.
President Islam Karimov, in his concept of further development of democratic reforms and civil society in our country, which he proposed at the joint meeting of the Oliy Majlis Chambers on November 12, 2010, specifically emphasized that one of the priorities, along with other areas, is develop legislation designed to expand the authority of the civil society institutes, including the self-governance bodies, in the state-building and development of the society. The address also analyzed work and efforts invested in setting up the legal platform for the work of mahalla - an important and unique element among other civil society institutes, as well as their practical results.
The concept also puts forward a number of initiatives aimed to further develop and strengthen the branches of state power, including the parliamentary system, to address most significant state tasks, to strengthen the role of political parties, to improve the judicial system and the election laws, to develop the institutes of civil society, mass media and to liberalize the economy. We can say that this predetermines the beginning of the new stage in the development of national statehood and society. Indeed, one of the most urgent tasks of today is further consistent implementation of the principle "From a powerful state to a strong civil society", the principle, which predetermines the actual development of the whole system of civil society institutions and integration of this system into the process of governing the country and its administrative-territorial structures.
After gaining independence, development of a civil society and building a rule of law state became the major strategic goal. For the first time in the history of our country, it was recognized that civil society institutions, public organizations are independent legal entities. Political and legal guarantees for development of a civil society and a rule of law state were also reflected in the country’s national legislation. The law provides for the inadmissibility of intervention of state bodies and government officials in the work of public organizations as well as intervention of public organizations in the work of state bodies and officials. Thus, the legal basis for development of a civil society was created.
The system of further development of civil society in Uzbekistan and liberalization of political area in building a rule of law state has been elaborated over the last period. A number of directions for achieving this purpose were established. As a result, the civil society has reached a new level both in quantitative and qualitative terms. At present four political parties and more than five thousand nongovernmental nonprofit organizations are functioning in our country. Self-governance bodies are also developing based on democratic principles. There are more than ten thousand citizens’ assemblies in our country, and more than eight thousand of them are comprised of mahallas, which is developing as the most popular and massive institute of a civil society.
Currently, public organizations such as »Kamolot", "Kelajak Ovozi", "The Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan", "Makhalla", "Istikbolli Avlod" extend support to young people, and organizations such as Women’s Committees, "Women’s Councils", "Tadbirkor Ayol" support women. In addition, the Republican Public Children’s Fund «Sen Yolgiz Emassan», the Foundation for Development of Children’s Sport in Uzbekistan, Children’s Village of Uzbekistan «SOS» play an important role in the harmonious upbringing of the young generation. "Medical Express" provides informational support to reforming the health system in the country.
Guaranteeing the activities of the civil society institutions provides for wide opportunities to further extend the reforms. Of course, these changes made it possible to express the people’s aspirations and interests through the civil society institutions as one of the values inherent to a civil society. Unique opportunities for adopting laws appropriate for the civil society emerged as well.
It is necessary to emphasize here that establishment of strong public control over the bodies of state power represents one of the major conditions for the development of civil society. Thus, the citizens’ active position, their interest in social life as well as understanding of each and every civil servant that his/her work is under strict public control is important factors in the process of the civil society development.
When speaking about significance and necessity of the public control as compared to the function of the state control, President Islam Karimov underlined: "We should not forget that the more we strengthen the functions of the state control, the more we increase the competences of the state monitoring structures and bodies, the more we will promote arbitrary rule of the officials and their corruption. Therefore, we should give a special attention to comprehensive strengthening of public control, which is the control of the society over the state, including its security, defense and law enforcement agencies. There is no alternative way in this respect".
The public control implemented by the civil society institutions is considered to be one of the most important activities of public organizations - political parties, local bodies of self-governance, trade unions and others. Thus, interaction of the bodies of power with people through public organizations bears great importance in promoting democratic processes, since the bodies of power should explain their policy and actions to people and be accountable to them.
Public control is the main factor contributing to the maintenance of balance, equality, mutual responsibility in the relationships between an individual, society and the state in the course of establishment of social justice. This institute not only guarantees respect for human rights and interests by the state but also provides for their priority for the state bodies. In addition, public control is an indication that the political power is in the people’s hands in the full sense of the word.
It is necessary to emphasize that today there is a need in establishing the types, forms and subjects of public control, the object of control, legal mechanisms for its implementation as well as the scope of responsibility for the officials for failure to comply with existing legislation in this area. For this purpose, "The Concept for Further Deepening of Democratic Reforms and Development of Civil Society in our Country" puts forward a proposal for adopting the Law "On Public Control in the Republic of Uzbekistan", designed to create a systematic and effective legal mechanism for the society at large and civil society in particular to monitor the execution of legislation by the bodies of state power and administration. It testifies to the level of attention the government attaches to nongovernmental nonprofit organizations and to their role in the country’s social and economic life. The Ministry of Justice provides a legislative support to the work of nongovernmental nonprofit organizations, to development of civil institutions and ensuring the legality of their activities as well as to resolving the problems in this sphere.
Today there are many more public associations and organizations in the country, which contribute to dynamic development of the civil society, to strengthening the social and economic stability of the state as well as to promoting the democratic reforms. These achievements are the result of the support the state extended to the development of public organizations.
Indeed, active involvement of each of us and of all public organizations in adopting and implementation of the legal initiatives put forward in the concept is critical as the ultimate goal of these instruments is to develop a strong civil society. Therefore, the Ministry of Justice is currently working on preparing and reviewing draft laws in this field, on studying the specialists and experts’ stances in the sphere, on monitoring the current legislation and analyzing foreign laws. Awareness-building and education of the public at large to enable implementation of the priority tasks set by Concept of Development of Reforms are of key importance.
It is necessary to note that large-scale reforms conducted in our country resulted in establishing a constitutional and legal foundation for construction of rule-of-law state and civil society. Now the reforms are being implemented on the basis of developed countries’ experience and traditions of the Uzbek people.Akbar Nabiraev, Ministry of Justice