Constitution as a Guarantor of Democratic Reforms and Formation of Civil Society in Uzbekistan – By H.E. Sadyk Safayev, Ambassador Uzbekistan

Since the first years of Uzbekistan’s independence the main purpose of large-scale reforms has been to build a democratic state with a socially oriented market economy and a strong civil society.

The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, adopted 21 years ago – on 8 December 1992, in which a human being, his/her life, freedom, honour, dignity and other inalienable rights were declared as the highest value, became a solid legal foundation to achieve these goals.

To the basis of the Constitution laid five principles of the «Uzbek model» of development, worked out by the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov – priority of economics over politics, state as the main reformer, rule of law, strong social policy, gradual and evolutionary reforms.

The main law of Uzbekistan – a document of historical significance, its ideas and norms reflect centuries of experience and spiritual values, rich legal heritage of the Uzbek people. Along with this, it comprised the best of advanced practices of constitutional construction of many democratic countries. Before being adopted, the Constitution’s draft went through a comprehensive examination – the social, legal, linguistic and international – with the participation of leading international experts.

The adoption of the Constitution laid the basis for creation of a comprehensive legal system in Uzbekistan. Over the past period, the country’s Parliament adopted 15 codes, over 600 laws, ratified more than 200 multilateral international treaties.

Today Uzbekistan has a stable and dynamically developing political system, including the bicameral parliament which works on the professional basis. All conditions have been formed for a free and active participation of citizens, political parties and other civil society institutions in the implementation of the most important tasks of social, economic, political and legal development of the state.

Reforms in Uzbekistan have a systematic and consistent character. Thus, developed by the President of the country «The Concept of further deepening democratic reforms and formation of civil society» (November 2010) opens a fundamentally new stage of development of the state, representing the strategy of a logical continuation of democratic reforms in the framework of the Constitution.

Based on the Concept, in March 2011 the Law «On introduction of changes and amendments to some articles of the Constitution of Uzbekistan (Articles 78, 80, 93, 96 and 98)» was adopted. It aims at further democratization of state power and management, ensuring a more balanced distribution of powers between three subjects of the state authority: president – the head of state, legislative and executive branches, as well as strengthening the role and influence of political parties. Under the new law, part of the President’s authority was transferred to the Senate, while powers and authority of the Prime Minister were also strengthened.

In Uzbekistan, according to the principle «From a strong state to a strong civil society», an advanced election system was established. Regular elections conducted at multiparty basis clearly demonstrate the implementation of the right of citizens to vote and to be elected, as well as contribute to the growth of their social and political activity.

Radical reforms were implemented to liberalize the legal system. The independence of the judiciary and specialization of courts were ensured, the institution of appeal was reformed, the appellate procedure for reviewing cases and the institution of reconciliation were introduced, the equality of sides on all stages of the legal process was guaranteed. As part of the implementation of the articles of the Constitution saying that the right to life is an inalienable natural right of every person, from 1 January 2008 the death penalty was abolished in the country. The courts were empowered to issue sanctions for arrest (institute of “Habeas Corpus”).

Uzbekistan has accumulated a significant experience in the field of human rights and freedoms. Based on the norms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the system of national institutions was created that promote the rule of law, protection of personal, political, economic, social and cultural rights of citizens. A system of continuous education on human rights and improvement of legal culture of population was formed.

Another important component of reforms is the formation of an open civil society. Civil institutions play an increasingly important role in our society. Today there are over 6000 NGOs operating in the various spheres of life. They enjoy a significant state support in the form of subsidies, grants and social orders.

A comprehensive work is being conducted on the gradual democratic reforming of the information sector, implementation of constitutional rights of citizens to the freedom of thought, expression and belief, ensuring the transparency of reforms, openness of the authority bodies, strengthening the independence and economic self-sufficiency of mass media. In the last ten years the number of print media in the country has increased 1.5 times, electronic media – 7 times. Today in Uzbekistan there are more than 1200 media outlets, most of which are private.

The Constitution also established a solid foundation for dynamic and sustainable development of the national economy, continuous improvement of the people’s welfare. This is evidenced by the fact that even during the global financial crisis, the GDP growth rate in Uzbekistan was an average of at least 8.2%. The country has a strong, competitive, socially oriented market economy, rapidly growing small business and private entrepreneurship. New companies producing goods demanded in domestic and external markets are emerging, new jobs are being created, income of population is increasing.

To date, Uzbekistan’s gross domestic product has grown 3.1 times if compared to figures of the year 2000, and in per capita calculus it has risen 2.6 times. The volume of exports has increased 4.4 times; the nominal wage has multiplied 22 times in comparable prices; the average retiree pension has grown 12.7 times; per capita real incomes have swelled 8.4 times, while the economic growth within the last six years has been exceeding 8 %.

Achievements in the past period, including the fuel and energy as well as grain independence, the total self-sufficiency in essential consumer goods, and crucially, the public healthcare (notably, the 3.2 times reduction in maternal mortality and the 3.4 decrease in child mortality, the growth in life expectancy from 66 to 73.5 years) – all this is suggestive of an immense path of growth and development Uzbekistan have passed, of the rising living standards of Uzbek people.

One of the major achievements of Uzbekistan during years of independence is preservation and strengthening of environment of peace and stability, interethnic and interreligious harmony in the country. It is a direct result of observance of the constitutional principle of respecting languages, customs and traditions of all nations and nationalities living in the country. Today more than 130 nationalities live in peace in Uzbekistan The Constitution of Uzbekistan embodies a new, progressive constitutional model. It creates all necessary conditions for the evolutionary legal development of the state and society, their effective interaction in order to increase dynamics and efficiency of democratic reforms.

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