As part of its EU funded program entitled »Human Rights Dialogue in Uzbekistan«, Regional Dialogue conducted a public discussion event on March 15th at Tashkent Palace Hotel in Tashkent. RD Director Mjusa Sever hosted two guests: Baroness Vivian Stern, member of House of Lords from United Kingdom and Senator Svetlana Artikova, Chairwoman of the Senate of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Both guests, being outspoken female politicians, with extensive professional record in advancing human rights and justice reforms, talked about different areas of their special interest and shared their evaluation of the state of respect for human rights in both countries and the efforts leading to better protection of citizens.
Baroness Stern shared her experiences in addressing the issues of domestic violence in United Kingdom and discussed the support that the state needs to offer to victims of violence or crime. Senator Artikova shared her professional experiences about the ongoing process of reforms achieved in the area of criminal justice in Uzbekistan and pointed out the need for stronger engagement of civil society and media in raising legal awareness and professional performance of govemrnent officials on all levels, that is needed for further efficient implementation of all legal reforms. Senator Artikova also described her own experience of reaching out to public and citizens as part of her work as senator.
The audience of more than 50 participants from different Uzbek government institutions, non governmental organizations, media, international organizations and diplomatic missions, including some experts of the EU project of assistance to judiciary reforms. During the Q&A period, the audience actively participated in the inter-active discussion with the two guests, putting questions to Baroness Stern and Senator Artikova covering different areas such as mechanisms for human rights protection available in UK or in Uzbekistan, evaluation of the state of prisons both in United Kingdom and in Uzbekistan, on engagement of civil society and civilian experts in working with prisoners during their serving of sentence and following their release, on the role of civil society and state institutions in protection of victims suffering from domestic violence, human trafficking or as a result of other crimes, the need for awareness building and raising of state's obligations related to the conditions for disabled citizens, encouraging civic education about the role of democratic institutions among children (discussing ongoing project of children's parliament in Uzbekistan). Since several participants represented socially active non govemrnental organizations working with women, some questions for the guests also inquired about the role and motivation of women in politics, in response to which both Baroness Stern and Senator Artikova shared their own personal feelings why they became active and publicly engaged. Senator Artikova stated that - as part of her parents' heritage and upbringing in her native region of Namangan - she wanted to be actively involved in the nation and state building of her country inspired by the desire that her children and grandchildren would be able to live in a safer, just and better world. Baroness Stern shared her experience with her mother, whose generation experienced attrocities, tragedies and hardships of the two world wars and was robbed of normal lives. So her mother's instructions to the Baroness and her two sisters during her childhood years were encouraging them try to do whatever they can to contribute to building a different, better and just world for all.
Baroness Stern also described her efforts in a country with almost thousand years of democratic rules where democratic practices nevertheless remain a task never fully accomplished . But she also pointed out to the Uzbek audience the unique opportunity that Uzbeks citizens have in comparison to those living in established democracies: a new independent state that allows the people of Uzbekistan to invest their efforts and talents to build their new nationstate according to their own visions, desires and identity that would provide Uzbek citizens to live in peace, prosperity and mutual respect and tolerance.
The event was part of Regional Dialogue program in Uzbekistan aiming to contribute to a more active role of civil society, raising political culture, freedom of expression and assembly with active cooperation between government and civil society leading to better protection and respect for human rights.