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Uzbekistan-UN: fruitful partnership and fresh advances in cooperation

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Uzbekistan-UN: fruitful partnership and fresh advances in cooperation

On March 2, 1992, Uzbekistan became full member of the United Nations (UN).

Uzbekistan has partnered fruitfully with the UN and its specialized agencies in various areas. The key cooperation priorities include addressing contemporary security threats and challenges, stabilizing and reconstructing Afghanistan, non-proliferation of WMD, environmental problems, in particular, mitigating the Aral Sea disaster, promoting social and economic development and human rights. The UN Resident Coordinator, Permanent Representative of United Nations Development Program Stefan Prisner shared his views and opinions on current state and prospects of cooperation between Uzbekistan and the UN.

—What can you say about the current state and prospects of cooperation between Uzbekistan and the UN?

March 2, 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the Republic of Uzbekistan becoming a full member of the United Nations (UN).

The United Nations and the Republic of Uzbekistan have a long history of cooperation. Throughout these years, the UN system has been supporting the people and the Government of Uzbekistan in addressing a diverse range of development issues and needs. Our support covers areas from economic reform to improving governance. We assist in healthcare, including maternal and child health, and education reform and social protection. We support the preservation of Uzbekistan’s cultural treasures and the conservation of its natural resources and biodiversity. We also help efforts to counter drug trafficking and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Over the last 24 years, the UN has delivered technical assistance to Uzbekistan of more than USD 471 million in these fields.

Currently, we operate within the framework of the new United Nations Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the years 2016-2020. The UNDAF represents a joint commitment by the Government of Uzbekistan and the United Nations System to work together to promote progress in human development of all people living in the country, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Agreed areas of cooperation include:

— Inclusive economic development, with a focus on employment and social protection;

— Quality health and education, to fully realize human potential;

— Environmental protection, to ensure sustainable development;

— Effective governance, to enhance public service delivery and the protection of rights;

The UNDAF is fully aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda. This is the developmentframework that defines world development until 2030, consisting of 17 goals and 169 targets that foster economic growth and good governance while leaving no one behind and ensuring environmental sustainability.Uzbekistan has demonstrated strong commitment to implement the global goals at the national level. The Action Strategy 2017-2021 recently adopted by the Government of Uzbekistan is largely in line with the aspirations set forth in SDGs and seen as means of achieving national SDGs.

The United Nations system in Uzbekistan looks forward to collaborate further with the Government of Uzbekistan to support in nationalization and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at country level and taking forward the reform agenda in line with theAction Strategy 2017-2021 and UNDAF.

—What do you think of the Uzbek government’s initiatives that coincide with key UN ideas and goals to ensure peace and security in the region and resolve conflicts only by peaceful means?

Since independence, Uzbekistan has ratified and signed several UN Conventions on human rights, security, environmental protection, and other fields. The United Nations is supporting the Republic of the Uzbekistan in the implementation of these conventions. Uzbekistan effectively cooperates within the framework of the UN General Assembly, with UN Funds and Programmes, and the various specialized institutions of the UN system.

Uzbekistan has put forward a number of important initiatives in UN forums, in particular, regarding the creation of Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in Central Asia, the advancement of peace process in Afghanistan, addressing the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster, improving international cooperation in combating international terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.

The Uzbek government declared its commitment to the principles of international law enshrined in the United Nations (UN) Charter and the Constitution of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is committed to addressdifferences in opinion and conflicts only by peaceful and political means. We commend the increasing cooperation with neighboring states on issues of bilateral relations, settlement of some accumulated problems and the development of regional cooperation. Encouraging progress is being observedon border delimitation and demarcation processes and on management of cross-boundary water and energy resources. At the same time, greater emphasis is placed on reinforcing cooperation in the trade-economic, transport/communication, cultural and humanitarian sphere.

— What do you think of Uzbekistan’s efforts regarding education and upbringing of the youth?

The United Nations stresses that young people, their leadership, creativity and energy are essential part of the development of the global society and the local communities alike. If countries are to succeed in achieving the SDGs, leaving no one behind along the way, governments must seek to actively engage youth in the development process. In order to do so, young people need high quality education to be able to make best use of the opportunities available.

As a result of reforms in the education sector, Uzbekistan has been able to provide access to free and compulsory education for children aged 7 to 18. We see progress in areas such as having more teachers that meet the minimum standard qualifications and increased coverage of preschool education. In addition, Uzbekistan has been able to provide education in all seven languages commonly used in the country.

In recent years, efforts have been made in improving quality of education. There is a need to further ensure that what children and youth learn in schools is relevant to the realities of their lives and helps them be active participants in the social and economic development of their country.

Promoting lifelong learning, focusing on skills rather than knowledge, is the key for further improvement of education in Uzbekistan. The UN is pleased to see that the Government is increasing investment on preschool education. Providing one year of free compulsory preschool education can ensure equal development opportunities for all and better results in later stages of life: adolescence and youth.

—A major environmental challenge for Uzbekistan is the Aral Sea disaster. Can you please tell us about the Aral Sea Program implemented by UN Agencies? What it makes it so important?

The Aral Sea crisis is an environmental disaster of global importance, which has been high on the agenda of the cooperation between the Government of Uzbekistan and the UN. Recently, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterresin his congratulatory message to Uzbek President emphasized the UN’s continued commitment to support efforts in addressing and dealing with the negative consequences of the Aral Sea tragedy.

Since early 2000, the UN agencies have beenassistingthe Government in mitigating the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster and strengtheningthe livelihood and income generating opportunities of affected people and communities.

In 2016, building on the success of the first phase of the Joint Programme on the Aral Sea region implemented in 2012-2015, the UN Agencies jointly with the Government of Uzbekistan launched the second phase of the Programmewith financial support of the UN Human Security Trust Fund.

The new UN Joint Programme is focused on addressing the human security needs of the region’s population, which is most vulnerable to adverse effects of the Aral Sea disaster through inter alia improvement of the living standards and enhancement of income generation opportunities bоth for the population and communities. The direct beneficiaries of the programme will be up to 150,000 people from sel ected districts of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, facing the most significant human security challenges

One of the specific objectives of the new programme is to render support in establishing, under the United Nations auspices, a Multi-Partner Human Security Fund (MPHSF) as per the suggestion of the Republic of Uzbekistan made at the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2015. The MPHSF is expected to ensure effective and targeted utilization of pooled donor funding.

It is important to note that this Programme contributes to the implementation of the priorities set forth in the State programmes on “The Year of Dialogue with the People and Human Interests” (2017) and theDevelopment of the Aral Sea region for 2017-2021.

— This year in our country is the ‘Year of dialogue with the people and human interests’. What do you think of our country’s efforts in this regard?

The UN agencies in Uzbekistan commend the announcement of Year 2017 as the “Year of dialogue with the people and human interests”. Thisis seen as an indication of the Government’s commitment to intensify two-way communication channels, to hear the citizen’s voice, and enhance the engagement of people in decision-making.

The UN Agencies in Uzbekistan anticipate that such dialogue mechanism will positively contribute to the quality of public policy and services through consultative, transparent and participative mechanisms engaging various stakeholders in constructive discussions and ensuring the respect for diversity voice and views.

As UN in Uzbekistan, we stand ready to support the Government of Uzbekistan in further refining governance systemsand consultative platforms of broad and inclusive dialogue with people over variety of issues related to economic well-being, social protection, investment and trade promotion, environment protection, justice, and local development.

—Your wishes to the Uzbek people on the upcoming Navruz?

Navruz is a national holiday, which is rooted in the rich history of this region and is characterized by tolerance of diversity and exchange of cultures. Due to its role in promoting peace and harmony among nations as well as the multinational origin of this festive spring holiday, it has been included in the UNESCO Intangible World Heritage list.

Navruz is a symbol of creativity and reminds us to cherish the planet we share. By highlighting the beauty of nature and the renewals of springtime, Navruz inspires all of us to value the harmony of human co-existence with nature.

I would like to use the occasion to extend my warmest wishes forthe prosperity, peace and wellbeing of the people of Uzbekistan. We look forward to continuing to strengthen the partnership between the UN and the Republic of Uzbekistan and to contribute to a future filled with promise and opportunities for all.

— Your impressions of Uzbekistan, in general?

I have been honored to serve in my capacity as UN Resident Coordinator for more than four years in this beautiful country. I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit many parts of the country and meet Uzbekistanipeople from all walks of life. I have been deeply impressed by the kindness and warmth of people, the profoundness of ancient and living culture and the beauty of nature, fr om dramatic mountainscenery to fertile oasis and arid desert landscapes.