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Electoral process transformation in Uzbekistan: Achievements and challenges during 30 years of independence




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"Uzbekistan is a country with rich history and dynamically developing present, with its priority to move towards an open democratic society. Human and civil rights and freedoms where the voice of every citizen is heard are the priorities for a democratic society. A democratic society exists when power is formed legitimately through universal suffrage and free elections. Democratic society and democracy are more often exercised as a political and social phenomenon; its legal foundations are enshrined in normative legal acts," writes Dr. Gulnoza Ismailova, member of the Central Election Commission of Uzbekistan.

"The preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan affirms its commitment to the ideals of democracy and social justice. Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan states: "The people are the sole source of state power. This norm reflects the essence of building statehood in the Republic of Uzbekistan. The people and their will are the core of democracy.

"Recognizing the priority of the generally accepted norms of international law Uzbekistan has implemented international standards into its legislation. The Constitution of our country has implemented this provision, reflecting in Article 32: All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall have the right to participate in the management and administration of public and state affairs, both directly and through representation. They may exercise this right by way of self-government, referendums and democratic formation of state bodies, as well as development and improvement of public control over activities of state bodies.


"In modern democracies, elections are the foundation of the principle of democracy, it is the main form of expression of the will of citizens and a form of realization of popular sovereignty. Participation in elections makes it possible to exercise the right to participate in the management of the affairs of society and the state, as well as to control the formation and activities of bodies of both representative and executive power. Paragraph 6 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document establishes that the will of the people, freely and fairly expressed through periodic and genuine elections, is the basis of the authority and legitimacy of the government. The participating States will accordingly respect the right of their citizens to take part in the governing of their country, either directly or through representatives freely chosen by them through fair electoral processes. Article 117 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan guarantees the right to vote, equality, and freedom of expression.

"On the verge of celebrating the 30th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan, looking back, we can note its bright breakthrough in the field of transparency and openness over the past five years. Uzbekistan has acquired a new image in the international arena. By the 2019 elections held under the slogan 'New Uzbekistan – New elections' is real evidence for that.

"First of all, it should be noted that the elections-2019 were of historical importance, which testified to the irreversibility of the path of adopted reforms. For the first time, the elections were held under the guidance of the Electoral Code, adopted on June 25, 2019, which regulates relations related to the preparation and conduct of elections and establishes guarantees that ensure the free expression of the will of citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The adoption of the Electoral Code served to unify 5 laws and many regulatory documents. The Electoral Code has been fully brought into line with international standards.


"Secondly, the 2019 elections were held in the context of strengthening democratic principles in the life of society, openness and transparency, significant liberalization of the socio-political environment, and the increased role and status of the media. The principle of transparency and openness is one of the fundamental principles of elections. This principle is enshrined in many international agreements and documents. Its main features are the promulgation of decisions related to the conduct of elections, the obligation of the electoral body (election commission) to publish its decisions on the results of the elections, as well as the ability to carry out public and international observation of the elections.

"Following the statistics, about 60,000 observers of political parties, more than 10,000 observers of citizens' self-government bodies (Mahalla), 1,155 representatives of local and foreign media took part in the monitoring process. In addition, along with local observers, first-time accreditation was granted to a full-fledged OSCE / ODIHR observer mission, and a total of 825 international observers were registered.

"For an objective assessment, we may refer for an example to the Final Report presented by the OSCE / ODIHR Mission, which says that the elections were held against the backdrop of improved legislation and increased tolerance for independent opinions. The report assessed the work of the CEC of the Republic of Uzbekistan positively, saying it "made great efforts for better preparation for the parliamentary elections." It is amazing to see the results of the work done.

"In the year of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of state independence, our country continues cardinal transformations aimed at creating a New Uzbekistan, where human rights, freedoms, and legitimate interests are of the highest value. Among the most important directions in the country are democratic transformations aimed at liberalizing social and political life, and freedom of the media.

"These days, preparatory work is in full swing for an important political event – the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. All processes are conducted openly, transparently, and based on the national electoral legislation and the time frames specified therein. The time for electoral action is both political and legal time. The following changes and additions have been made to the Electoral Code recently this year:

"Primarily, this year, for the first time, presidential elections will be held on the first Sunday of the third decade of October, under the amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan introduced by the law dated by February 8 this year. This major political campaign was launched on July 23 this year.

"Second, a procedure for the inclusion in the voter list of the citizens of Uzbekistan who live abroad has been introduced. They can vote regardless they are registered in the consular register of diplomatic missions or not, and a legal basis for voters abroad when using portable ballot boxes at the place of residence or work has been created. This practice was first implemented in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

"Third, this election campaign operates and is formed on the principles based on publicity; for the first time, an estimate of expenses for the preparation and conduct of elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan was openly presented. The exact procedure for paying wages and compensation to members of election commissions, calculating their salaries has been established. To ensure transparency in the use of funds allocated for pre-election campaigning in accordance with the Law on the Financing of Political Parties, a procedure is being introduced for announcing an interim report and a final financial report after the elections, as well as announcing the results of an audit of parties' activities by the Accounting Chamber.

"Fourth, to prevent the receipt of repeated complaints against the election commissions, and their adoption of conflicting decisions, the practice has been introduced that only courts consider complaints about the actions and decisions of election commissions.

"In 2019, during the elections, the Electoral Management Information System (EMIS) and the Unified Electronic Voter List (EECI) were successfully introduced into the national electoral system. The regulation of this system based on the Electoral Code guarantees the implementation of unified voter registration and the principle 'one voter – one vote'. To date, more than 21 million voters have been included in the EESI.

"The organization of presidential elections in New Uzbekistan is a logical continuation of the ongoing large-scale democratic reforms in the country. And they will become a vivid confirmation of the implementation of the tasks defined in the Action Strategy for the five priority areas of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

"The participation of representatives of international organizations and foreign observers in holding the presidential elections is important as the campaign is based on democratic principles of openness and publicity. In recent years, their number and participation have significantly increased in Uzbekistan, compared to previous elections.

"Thousands of representatives of political parties, citizens' self-government bodies and hundreds of international observers, journalists, including international ones, will observe the process of preparation and conduct of the presidential elections, including the voting of voters.

"In May, experts from the Needs Assessment Mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) visited Uzbekistan, who positively assessed the pre-election situation and the process of preparing for the elections, the measures taken to ensure the holding of free and democratic elections in the country. As a result, they expressed an opinion on sending a full-fledged mission to observe the presidential elections.

"I believe that these elections are of historical importance, which will testify the irreversibility of the path of adopted reforms, which aimed at strengthening our democracy."


Uzbekistan is reforming the banking sector



The reform strategy adopted in 2017 provided for the reform of the banking sector, including the privatization of state property. Over the past 4 years, there have been major changes in the development of this sector, which was mainly due to the liberalisation of monetary policy in September 2017 and the free movement of the national currency, writes Khalilulloh Khamidov, Centre for Economic Research and Reforms.

Development dynamics of the sector

Over the past years, there has been a development dynamic of the sector. 55 new credit organizations have appeared, including 4 commercial banks (Poytakht Bank, Tenge Bank, TBC Bank, Anor Bank), 33 microcredit organizations and 18 pawnshops. The assets of commercial banks grew, which in 2020 increased by 120% compared to 2017. The average annual real growth of assets (excluding devaluation) was 24.1%.


The volume of lending also expanded. As of January 1, 2021, the total volume of loans increased by 150% compared to 2017. Real growth of loans averaged 38.6% per year. The volume of loans to individuals increased by 304%, the volume of loans to industry increased by 126% and the volume of loans in the trade and services sectors increased by 280%.

The average annual real growth rate of deposits for the same period was 18.5%. As of January 1, 2021, 24% are deposits of individuals, and 76% are deposits of legal entities. However, the growth rate of household deposits has accelerated significantly in recent years. In national currency, they amounted to 38.2% in 2018, 45.2% in 2019, 31.7% in 2020. The volume of deposits in foreign currency increased by 2% in 2018, by 40.1% in 2019, by 27.7% in 2020.

As a result of the liberalisation of foreign exchange policy, the level of dollarisation in the banking sector has significantly decreased. If in 2017 the share of banks' foreign currency assets was 64% in total assets, then in 2020 this indicator decreased to 50.2%, the share of loans in foreign currency decreased from 62.3% to 49.9%, and the share of deposits in foreign currency decreased from 48.4% to 43.1%.


Entering the international capital market

Following the successful placement of US $1 billion of sovereign Eurobonds by the government of Uzbekistan in February 2019, several commercial banks entered the international market to raise long-term capital.

In November 2019, Uzpromstroybank was the first commercial bank to issue Eurobonds on the London Stock Exchange in the amount of 300 million Eurobonds. In October 2020, the National Bank for Foreign Economic Relations raised $300 million from the London Stock Exchange. In November, Ipoteka Bank also issued $300 million in Eurobonds.

As a result of the ongoing reforms, the growing investment attractiveness of the financial sector of Uzbekistan has attracted the interest of foreign investors. In 2018, a joint-stock company, managed by the Swiss company ResponsAbility Investments and specialising in development investments, bought out a 7.66% stake in Hamkorbank from IFC. In 2019, Halyk Bank of Kazakhstan established a subsidiary of Tenge Bank in Tashkent. TBC Bank (Georgia) opened its branch in Tashkent as the first digital bank in Uzbekistan. In 2020, Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH, DEG and Triodos Investment Management invested in the authorised capital of Ipak Yuli Bank through the purchase of new issued shares in the amount of $25 million.

Privatization of banks

Although the positive trends in the banking sector of Uzbekistan have strengthened in recent years, however, the share of funds received from the government remains high in commercial banks with state assets.

The banking system of Uzbekistan is characterized by a high concentration: 84% of all bank assets still belong to banks with state shares, and 64% to 5 state-owned banks (National Bank, Asaka Bank, Promstroy Bank, Ipoteka Bank and Agrobank). The share of deposits of state-owned banks in loans is 32.9%. For comparison, in private banks this figure is about 96%. At the same time, deposits of individuals account for only 24% of total deposits in the banking system, which is 5% of GDP.

Therefore, the banking sector needs to deepen reforms by reducing public participation and strengthening the role of the private sector. In this regard, last year the President issued a decree on reforming the banking system of Uzbekistan, which provides for the privatisation of state-owned banks. The decree stipulates that by 2025 the share of non-state banks in the total assets of banks will increase from the current 15% to 60%, the share of banks' liabilities to the private sector from 28% to 70%, and the share of non-bank credit institutions in lending from 0.35% to 4%. In particular, Ipoteka Bank, Uzpromstroybank, Asakabank, Aloqabank, Qishloq Qurilish Bank and Turonbank will be privatised.

The Project Bureau for the transformation and privatization of state-owned commercial banks has been established under the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The organization has the right to engage international consultants and enter into agreements with international financial institutions and potential foreign investors. To support the privatization of Ipoteka Bank, IFC has allocated a loan of $35 million in 2020. The EBRD advises Uzpromstroybank on privatization, improvement of treasury operations, asset management. The bank has introduced underwriting, which allows to conduct credit operations without the participation of employees.

It is expected that the privatization of the banking sector in Uzbekistan in the coming years will increase its competitiveness and will actively contribute to attracting foreign investment in its development.

In conclusion, it is worth noting the changes that have occurred under the influence of the pandemic in the banking sector of Uzbekistan. As in the rest of the world, the pandemic in Uzbekistan has stimulated the transformation of banks towards digitalization, the development of remote banking services, and the restructuring of customer service algorithms. In particular, as of January 1, 2021, the number of users of remote services amounted to 14.5 million (among them 13.7 million are individuals, 822 thousand are business entities), which is 30% more than in the same period last year. The issuance of licenses by the central bank for digital banks and branches has also contributed to the further digitization of the financial and banking system.

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Youth is a strategic resource of Uzbek society



Youth is a resource of key social and cultural patterns of change in contemporary civilisation and culture. According to specialists, youth policy is not so much a normative genre of managerial activity as a cognitive and vital attitude. It is aimed at the application of everything advanced and viable in actual human civilisation - to work with youth, [1] writes Abror Yusupov, head of department of the Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Youth at all times has always been a complex, multidimensional and at the same time unified multifaceted social phenomenon. Accordingly, youth policy in modern states is also a multidimensional and multifaceted phenomenon. The multiplicity of approaches to it further underscores its complexity. At the same time, youth as an object of youth policy today is changing its status, transforming into its subject.

According to some specialists, youth has been placed at the forefront of social and economic change because of globalization[2]. In these conditions, youth policy is becoming an integral part and important direction of state policy in almost all countries of the world.


At the same time, youth policy has taken a firm place in the theory and practice of international relations. It has become an integral element of interstate cooperation. Today there are over 1,8 billion young people in the world.

1 billion 800 million young people under 25 years of age, which underscores the importance of effective youth policy for the members of the global community.

Modern States are taking into account a range of basic international instruments in shaping their youth policies at the national level.


In recent years, more than 10 international instruments have been adopted within the framework of the United Nations alone. The political basis and practical recommendations for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world were laid by the World Program of Action for Youth, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1995. The Program of Action covers fifteen priority areas of activity related to youth and contains proposals for action in each of these areas.

The UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development proclaimed that the well-being, participation and empowerment of youth are key factors for sustainable development and peace around the world. Young people are therefore taken into account in all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets to achieve them.

UN Secretary-General Guterres said, "Peace, strong economic growth, social justice, tolerance - all these and more depend on harnessing the power of youth.[3]

According to Guterres, "it is young girls and boys who face the major challenges of growing up, self-identifying and gaining independence. Because of the pandemic, things did not go the way they had dreamed and planned. Many have already dubbed them the 'quarantined generation'.

The modern youth or the lost generation?

Contemporary youth is the most active and mobile social group, requiring special attention from state institutions and a need for socialization and adaptation. At the same time, they are increasingly seen as the most important and promising part of society.

Despite the persistence of the so-called "conflict of fathers and children" (a sociological phenomenon in which the cultural values of the younger generation are very different from the cultural and other values of the older generation), positive shifts in the process have been observed.

Observations show that each generation has its own central event according to which it is labelled by those around it, e.g. generation of sixties, seventies ("age range")[4], etc. Nevertheless, there is an ongoing public debate about today's youth in the context of comparing them to the older generation. It is often noted that today's youth is lazy.

However, many experts do not agree with this. On the contrary, they work as hard as previous generations; the problem is that the demands on their skills and the need to constantly adapt to something new are unparalleled in human history.

At the same time, it is worth noting that the most important indicator of young people's social well-being is a success orientation ("achievement" strategy). Research shows that this particular strategy is becoming the defining one for modern youth today.

Modern science provides different definitions of today's youth. In particular, generation Z (for whom digital technology has been absolutely familiar since their birth). An American psychologist at San Diego University J.Twenge suggests calling it the Internet generation, or iGen. Before them were millennials - those who came of age at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

At the same time, one cannot ignore the fact that today's youth are unnecessarily rushed. Often the psychological frame of contemporary youth is dominated by the principle "everything, now and at once". At the same time, we have to admit that each generation is a product of the previous one, and we cannot blame young people for that. Of course, young people today are not what they used to be. Each new generation is unique in its own way.

Periods of time when the generation prevails among high school students and students. Source.:

Key reforms and priorities of State policy in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is a country with a dynamically developing young society. As experts say, over the next two decades today's children and young people will become the greatest resource in Uzbekistan's history. This is a precious "demographic dividend" for the country. If the right investments are made in the development of young people today, they can become the generation that will bring Uzbekistan to a new level of socio-economic development.

In the Republic of Uzbekistan, State youth policy is defined as a priority area of State activity in order to create socio-economic, legal and organizational conditions and guarantees for the social formation and development of young people and the disclosure of their creative potential in the interests of society.

In this context, safeguarding the legal rights and interests of young people has always been at the center of attention in the country.

The Strategy for Action on the Five Priority Development Areas of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021 has a separate section on improving state youth policy.

It covers a set of priorities designed to increase the effectiveness of state policy with regard to the country's youth.

An analysis of Uzbekistan's youth policy reforms in recent years reveals a number of peculiarities.

First, the improvement of the legal and regulatory framework and the adoption of new legislation in line with modern requirements.

Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase of positive reforms in the country aimed at improving the state policy in relation to youth. In particular, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On State Youth Policy" has been adopted[5]. It is the first document that President Mirziyoyev signed after his election to this position.

The law defines state youth policy as a system of social-economic, organizational and legal measures implemented by the state and envisaging creation of conditions for social formation and development of intellectual and creative potential of youth.

A comparative analysis shows that, unlike the previous Act “On the basis of State youth policy” of 20 November 1991, the new Act contains a number of new provisions.

In particular, it has laid down the priority areas of State policy in the light of contemporary requirements. This includes ensuring the social, economic, political and other rights and interests of young people, providing them with accessible, high-quality education, promoting their physical, intellectual and moral development, creating conditions for employment and work, ensuring respect for the law and for national and universal values, protecting them against actions that undermine their moral principles and lead to radicalism, violence and cruelty, supporting talented children and young families, promoting a healthy lifestyle, developing youth sport, etc.

The Act also provides that State, regional and other programs may be adopted to support young people in order to implement its provisions.

The Act also seeks to strengthen the role and place of civil society organizations, particularly youth organizations, citizens' self-governance bodies and the media in the implementation of State youth policy. Legal mechanisms are defined for the mandatory participation of civil society institutions in the development and implementation of State and other programs, the organization and implementation of measures to foster a healthy and harmoniously developed younger generation, the enhancement of the role and activity of young people in public life and public control over the implementation of legislation and State programs in this area.

Most importantly, effective measures for the protection and support of young persons are enshrined in legislation. For example:

- legal and social guarantees - ensuring rights and freedoms, free medical care and general education, conditions and guarantees of higher education within the limits of state grants, employment, provision of privileges in the area of labor, allocation of preferential loans for construction and purchase of housing, material support for low-income young families, development of recreation and leisure system

- state support for talented young people: the awarding of prizes, scholarships and educational grants; the organization of sports schools, competitions, contests, exhibitions, conferences and seminars; access to training programs for gifted young people; and the creation of conditions for young scientists and specialists.

Overall, the new Act on State youth policy aims to improve State governance in the area of youth policy by strengthening the powers of each of the entities involved in that process. At the same time, the adopted document has expanded and established additional State guarantees that will stimulate the all-round development of young people in Uzbekistan and their involvement in private enterprises, which has become the locomotive of the country's economic growth.

In order to create new and international standards for the implementation of State policy on youth in the country, the Concept of Development of State Youth Policy in Uzbekistan until 2025 has also been approved and is being implemented[6].

The Youth Affairs Agency and interdepartmental councils on youth issues, chaired by the Prime Minister, have begun to operate within the framework of the concept. A Youth Commission has been set up in the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis and Youth Parliaments have been established in the chambers of the Oliy Majlis.

In addition, the National Human Rights Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the State Program for Implementing the Strategy of Action on the Five Priority Development Areas of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021 in the Year of Youth Support and Health Promotion are being implemented.

Second, a fundamental change in the approach to youth policy, based on the principle "for youth and with youth".

In that context, it is worth mentioning the implementation of five important initiatives put forward by the President of Uzbekistan. They involve the broad involvement of young people in culture, the arts, physical education and sport, raising their awareness of information technology, promoting reading and ensuring women's employment. Particular attention is paid to the most important task of ensuring employment for young people and creating the conditions for them to earn a decent income.

As part of five important initiatives, 2.9 million students in educational institutions are involved in various clubs (sports, arts and culture, science, robotics, computer technology, etc.). Based on the American T.E.A.M. up program, master classes have been organized for 3,000 students.

In addition, a book club was created and in a short period some 270,000 boys and girls became its members. As part of the Book Challenge project, over 600,000 different books were donated to schools.

An additional 36,000 clubs have been set up to provide meaningful leisure activities for young people and some 874,000 boys and girls are involved in them. Within the framework of five major initiatives, 97,000 art supplies, sports equipment and computers were donated to educational institutions, libraries and training centers.

Analyzing the work in this direction, it is noteworthy that all required conditions have been created for the younger generation to fully develop as an individual.

A noteworthy step has also been the launch of the Youth Press Club, which has become a platform for quality and timely coverage of events in the life of young people. The club will host an open dialogue between representatives of government agencies, the expert community and the media to constructively discuss youth issues. This platform will also serve to increase the activity of young people in the socio-political life of the country.

The establishment of the Institute for the Study of Youth Problems and Training of Perspective Personnel under the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Uzbekistan can be called a "social lift" for young people. This conclusion is based on the fact that the Institute has been entrusted with such ambitious tasks as compiling a database of promising young staff of State authorities and voluntary organizations, creating a system for monitoring their professional development, preparing proposals for their promotion to managerial positions, and organizing training courses for retraining and further training of promising young staff of State authorities, State and economic administration and society.

In order to improve State youth policy based on foreign experience and to develop cooperation in this area, cooperation has been established with 13 foreign youth organizations. Moreover, in 2018 Uzbekistan was accepted as an equal member of the SCO Youth Council and, in 2020, of the Forum of Youth Organizations of CIS Member States.

The commitment to protecting the rights of young people was reaffirmed in the President's address to the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where an initiative was put forward to hold a World Conference on Youth Rights under the auspices of the United Nations. On 12-13 August 2021, the World Conference on Youth Rights "Youth Involvement in Global Action" was held on the occasion of the International Youth Day. The event resulted in the unanimous adoption of the Tashkent Youth Declaration on "Youth Involvement in Global Action". The Tashkent Youth Declaration calls for special attention to vulnerable categories of young people and greater involvement of young people in decision-making at all levels[7].

Thirdly, the creation of conditions for the self-realization of young people.

It is common knowledge that in order to effectively realize the potential of young people, it is first and foremost necessary to create the right conditions. This, in turn, is inextricably linked to the whole chain of education.

In order to solve this issue, new type of educational institutions, particularly, presidential, creative and specialized schools have been established. In 2020 alone, 56 such schools have been created in mathematics, 28 in chemistry and biology and 14 in information and communication technology.

In the last five years, 64 new institutions of higher education have been established in the country, and today their number has reached 141. Admission quotas to higher education institutions have been more than tripled. Coverage of young people in higher education has reached 28 per cent, compared to 9 per cent in 2016.

At the same time, the Concept of Development of Higher Education in the Republic of Uzbekistan until 2030 has been approved and is being implemented in order to identify priority areas of systemic reform of higher education in the country, to raise the training process to a new level, modernize higher education, and develop the social sphere and sectors of the economy on the basis of advanced educational technologies[8].

One of the most pressing issues for Uzbekistan's young people is employment. In the past three years, 841,147 young persons have been employed and a new system has been introduced for the employment of unemployed young persons, the Youth Notebook[9]

The country's "youth notebook" includes 648,000 unemployed people, of whom 283,000 were employed in the first quarter. In particular, 175,000 young people have been allocated 45,000 hectares of land[10]. It is noteworthy that the cost of driving training and a month's military service for young people from "Notebook" and orphanages will be covered by the state budget.

The government program "Yoshlar - kelajagimiz" (Youth is our future) is being actively implemented, aimed at providing employment for young people through assistance business initiatives, start-ups, ideas and support for young people

It provides training for unemployed young people in professions and business skills that are in demand in the labor market and also increases their social and economic activity in general.

As part of the "Yoshlar - kelajagimiz" project, soft loans worth a total of 1 trillion 830 billion soums were provided for 8,635 business projects of young entrepreneurs, as a result of which 42,421 new jobs were created.

To develop entrepreneurial skills among young people there are 19 «Yosh tadbirkorlar» (Young entrepreneurs) co-working centers and 212 «Yoshlar mehnat guzari complexes»[11].

Fourth, structural changes involving young people in public and state affairs.

In order to consistently implement the new legislation on 30 June 2017, at the congress of the public youth movement, formerly known as Kamolot, the country's leader took the initiative to transform it into the Youth Union of Uzbekistan. This decision was reflected in a presidential decree of 5 July of the same year, declaring 30 June as Youth Day.

The Youth Union has begun to fulfil such functions as the formation of a harmoniously developed new generation, historical consciousness and historical memory, a healthy way of life and ecological culture, spiritual and moral education with the inculcation of a sense of patriotism, protection of rights and legitimate interests, support for young people's desire to master modern professions, involvement in business activities, shielding young men and women from the influence of religious extremist organizations and much else.

It is well known that the development and effective implementation of state youth policy is a task not only for the executive, but also for the legislative (representative) bodies of state power. Parliaments strive to involve young people in the decision-making process and to involve them in various formats of parliamentary activity.

To that end, a "Youth Parliament" has been set up under the Senate of the Oliy Majlis to effectively address the problems of young people in the country.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the proportion of young parliamentarians in the world today is about 2.6 per cent. In Uzbekistan, the figure is over 6 per cent, and the country ranks among the top 20 in the IPU ranking. Youth under 30 are not represented in 25 per cent of parliaments.

The Youth Affairs Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan, with its regional branches, has also been established to raise State youth policy in Uzbekistan to a new level, develop effective solutions to problems, and effectively organize and coordinate the activities of the competent bodies.

The main tasks and directions of activity of the Agency are defined as following: elaboration and implementation of unified state policy, strategic directions and state programs in spheres and directions related to youth, preparation of proposals on improvement of normative and legal acts aimed at support of youth in the country, protection of its legal rights and interests, conducting state control over observance of legislation in the field of youth policy.

Fifth, a system of support, assistance and encouragement has been created for the representatives of young people.

The Mard uglon (The brave patriot) State Prize and the Kelajak bunyoodkori (The builder of the future) medal have been established to reward dedicated young people who achieve high results and attain outstanding achievements in various areas.

At the national level, interdepartmental councils on youth issues are organized under the leadership of the Prime Minister and at the regional level under the chairmanship of the khokims. The new post of deputy hokim and deputy interior minister for youth affairs has been created in the local executive authorities and internal affairs bodies.

The President of Uzbekistan has rightly noted that young people are "a powerful force in the nationwide movement to build the New Uzbekistan. For the enthusiasm, courage and noble aspirations inherent in youth to be transformed into practical action, it is necessary to set concrete goals. These are precisely the specific goals set by the Tashkent Youth Declaration, which "promotes and supports the rights of young people, taking into account the principles of Nothing about us without us and No one should be left behind.

President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev's initiatives to further promote and protect the rights of young people are also receiving broad support in the international arena.

In particular, the initiative to adopt a Convention on the Rights of Young People, proposed by Uzbekistan at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, is gaining increasing support among the international community.

A group of friends on the rights of young people, comprising 22 States, has been set up as part of this work, the main purpose of which is to support initiatives in the area of youth policy and encourage efforts to draw up an international legal instrument on the rights of the younger generation.

The Uzbek leader's call was included in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report Youth and Human Rights, which stresses the need to "renew and strengthen the commitment to realizing the rights of youth" and "take all necessary measures to ensure that young people can enjoy their rights without discrimination". Among the measures that most effectively promote the rights of young people, the OHCHR supported the consideration of an international instrument on youth rights.

The Samarkand Web Forum held in August 2020 focused on topical issues of youth rights protection. The forum adopted the Samarkand resolution "Youth-2020: Global Solidarity, Sustainable Development and Human Rights", which has been presented as an official document of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.

It is encouraging that the socio-political and academic community has adopted new expressions in the field of youth, such as "Tashkent Youth Declaration" and "Samarkand Youth 2020: global solidarity, sustainable development and human rights".

According to the Global Progress Report on the UN Youth Strategy 2020, Uzbekistan has been ranked as one of the top countries in 2020 with the best performance in response and recovery from the pandemic with the participation of young people, as well as creation of cultural and architectural opportunities for young people.

In addition, Uzbekistan has been identified as one of the top ten countries (fast-track countries) in the fast-track implementation of the UN Youth Strategy 2030, with a number of youth initiatives supported by the organization. Uzbekistan ranks 82nd out of 150 countries in the Youth Progress Index.

This ranking measures the quality of life of young people around the world based on three dimensions - "youth needs", "foundations of well-being" and "opportunities" - and provides a comprehensive picture of what life is like for young people today regardless of economic indicators.


To summarise the above, in the context of globalisation, IT development, dynamic growth of needs and various challenges to young people, this issue is more relevant than ever. In this connection, mobilization and coordination of efforts of not only governmental bodies but also of youth representatives themselves remain important.

It should be noted that the implementation of modern youth policy is impossible without scientific understanding in order to make effective managerial decisions in the sphere of work with youth. In this context, Uzbekistan's experience with youth demonstrates a model of transition from situational to anticipatory management.

Because of analysis, it can be emphasized that the framework of Uzbekistan's state youth policy rests on a triple confluence of youth empowerment, economic development and the provision of accessible education.

Moreover, as mentioned above, Uzbekistan today stands at an important demographic juncture. This period is also referred to as the 'window of demographic opportunity', which actualizes the necessary investment in the development of the younger generation.

The term "demographic dividend" describes the economic growth that can be achieved by having a large share of the working-age population in the total population. In this case, the main driver is the country's demographics. As mortality and fertility decline, the age structure of the population changes. As birth rates fall, the number of dependent minors in relation to the working-age population also falls. And this is precisely where the dividend can be paid: A growing share of the working-age population relative to other age groups means that each working-age person has fewer dependents and thus a higher net income. This stimulates consumption, production and investment, which in turn can boost economic growth. Generations 2030 Uzbekistan. UNICEF contribution.             Source:Поколение/202030.pdf.

The above said allows us to state that Uzbekistan has set a firm course towards enhancing the role of young people in the socio-political life of the country. In this regard, emphasis is being placed on comprehensive support for youth initiatives on the part of both the State and youth organizations.

On this basis, it may be asserted that, at the new stage of development, Uzbekistan's young people are becoming a strategic resource for society as the most promising target group.

[1]  Тренды молодежной политики в зеркале социальных наук и технологий//Под общей редакцией доктора педагогических наук А.В.Пономарева; кандидата философских наук Н.В.Поповой. Екатеринбург Издательство Уральского университета 2018

[2] Furlong A., Cartmel F. Young People and Social Change: Individualization and Risk in Late Modernity. 1997. Buckingham, Open University Press; Miles S. Youth Lifestyles in a Changing World. 2000. Buckingham, Open University Press.

[3] Международное признание молодежной политики нового Узбекистана //

[4] Куда пропал конфликт отцов и детей //

[5] Закон Республики Узбекистан от 14.09.2016г., №ЗРУ-406.

[6] Постановление Кабинета Министров от 18.01.2021г., №23.,

[7] полным текстом Ташкентской молодёжной декларацией можно ознакомиться на веб-сайте Всемирной конференции.

[8] Указ Президента Республики Узбекистан от 08.10.2019г., № УП-5847.

[9] Постановление Кабинета Министров от 11.03.2021г., №132.

[10] Веб-сайт Президента Республики Узбекистан.

[11]Указ Президента Республики Узбекистан от 27.06.2018г.

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Uzbekistan: The issues in improving the religious policy regulation system



Today one of the key directions of the reform strategy is liberalisation of the state policy in the sphere of religion, development of the culture of tolerance and humanity, strengthening of inter-confessional harmony, as well as creation of necessary conditions for meeting religious needs of believers[1]. The existing articles of national legislation in the religious sphere make it possible to significantly guarantee and safeguard the interests of citizens, irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliation, and to effectively counteract manifestations of discrimination on the grounds of nationality or attitude to religion, writes Ramazanova Fariza Abdirashidovna - leading research fellow of the Institute for strategic and regional studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Independent Researcher of the Higher School of strategic analyse and foresight of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Positive changes in the area of religious policy and the guarantee of freedoms are evident. At the same time, current legislation and regulations have aspects that are vulnerable to outside observers and are reviewed below. Some areas of ensuring religious freedoms in Uzbekistan are always subject to criticism, especially by external observers and experts[2]. But they do not take into account the changes of the last 3-4 years and the conditions of the emergence of current restrictions as a result of negative experience of the past years[3]. From these issues we have selected the most important and most discussed in the context of international criticism. It should be said that the highlighted problems are relevant not only for Uzbekistan, but for all Central Asian countries[4] because these parts of legislation and by-laws are the same for the whole region. So, these are the following issues:

A). Procedures for registration, re-registration and termination of religious organizations (including missionary organizations);


B).  The norms regulating the issues of religious dress and religious dress code and appearance in educational and state institutions;

C). Ensuring freedom of religious education of children by their parents, as well as children's attendance of mosques;

D). Religious literature and religious items (admissibility of examination);


E). The issue of liberalization of laws on countering religiously motivated extremism and terrorism, administrative and criminal liability for crimes in the area;

F). Humanization instead of victimization (release of "prisoners of conscience", cancellation of "black lists", return of compatriots from conflict zones of operation "Mehr").

А. Procedure for registration, re-registration and termination of religious organizations (including missionary organizations).

According to the definition, religious organizations in Uzbekistan are voluntary associations of Uzbek citizens formed for the joint practice of faith and the performance of religious services, rites and rituals (religious societies, religious schools, mosques, churches, synagogues, monasteries and others). Current legislation provides that the establishment of a religious organization is initiated by at least 50 Uzbek citizens who have reached the age of 18 and are permanently resident in the country. In addition, the registration of the central governing bodies of religious organizations is carried out by the Ministry of Justice in consultation with the SCRA under the Cabinet of Ministers.

This is the provision, which is being constantly criticized, especially by U.S. experts and politicians who insist on the complete cancellation of registration requirements for religious organizations[5].  Local legal scholars, and especially by law enforcement or SCRA officers think this criticism is exaggerated, and the cancellation of registration is premature for several reasons. Firstly, as our interviewees remind us, registration procedure is extremely simplified (number of people applying, amounts for registration etc.). Secondly, many unregistered missionary religious groups are de facto active and there is no criminalization of their activities. Thirdly, the authors of this report see obtaining permission from civil authorities, mahalla as the main obstacle. They must approve the activities of missionary or other religious groups in their territory. This condition is not a restriction tool, but a requirement of the local community. Their demands cannot be ignored by the authorities and law enforcement agencies based on past experience (late 1990s - early 2000s), when radical Islamic groups, operating without registration, created serious problems that led to open conflicts with local Muslim communities. The arisen problems always required intervention by law enforcement agencies and the removal of entire families of affected missionaries from their homes, etc.

In addition, for the Ministry of Justice (hereinafter referred as “MoJ”), registration of religious institutions is a way to record and protect religious minorities, including their property, legally regulate their relations with the local Muslim community, and obtain legal grounds to protect the complex rights and freedoms of these religious groups, but not their limitations. The legal system in the area of regulation of religious policy is structured in such a way that the legal protection of a religious organization requires the status of a legal entity, i.e., registered with the MoJ.

These arguments may be subject to criticism, but local legal scholars and law enforcement officials believe that without taking these arguments of "legal practitioners" into account, it is not appropriate to allow complete abolition of registration of religious organizations. Especially considering continued underground activity of radical groups that may take advantage of the lifting of the ban for improper purposes, for example by legalizing their own group under the banner of an educational and humanitarian institution.

The situation with clandestine activities of radical groups is indeed aggravated if one bears in mind that their material (video or audio production, electronic texts, etc.) has long been obtained in digital rather than paper form.

Another aspect of criticism of the registration process of religious institutions is the mandatory approval of the head of the registered religious organization by the SCRA. This condition does indeed look like state interference in the affairs of the religious community. However, according to a senior SCRA official, this rule remains in the new version of the Law due to the fact that the leaders and founders of a number of Muslim non-traditional communities, mosques or madrasas (registered) were individuals who called on their followers to violence, hatred against foreigners, etc. In addition, over the past 15 years, the SCRA has not once rejected the candidacies of nominated religious community leaders.

Despite a reasonable explanation, this clause remains subject for criticism and discussion as it violates the constitutional rule of non-interference by the State in the activities of religious organizations.

Another weakness of the legal provisions in force in Uzbekistan regarding the actual exercise of religious freedoms can be assessed by the fact that the legislation does not clearly establish the ownership status of religious associations. This applies, for example, to land and temples considered to be World Heritage sites of the country's architectural heritage. However, in Article 18 of this Law, a community may claim the right to a specified or indefinite use, without damaging the monument.

Nevertheless, the liberalization of the Law is a requirement of today. In 2018, the procedure for the registration of religious organizations and the conduct of their activities was significantly improved and simplified in connection with the new decree “On adoption of regulations for the registration, re-registration and termination of the activities of religious organizations in Uzbekistan” approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, (31 May 2018, No. 409).

At the same time, on May, 4th of 2018, the Parliament of Uzbekistan adopted the Road Map on the real safeguarding of freedom of conscience and religion, the beginning of the process of reviewing legislation on freedom of religion and further simplifying the registration of religious organizations.

Measures are currently being taken to improve and liberalize national legislation on religion. The development of a new version of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations has almost been completed. More than 20 new articles have been introduced to the draft law, which regulates the sphere of religious freedom through the introduction of effective mechanisms of direct action.

B. The norms regulating the issues of cult dress, religious dress code and appearance in educational and state institutions.

The prohibition of wearing religious garments in public places, except for religious figures, is the most conservative and even archaic aspect of the law, and therefore widely discussed and criticized. It is worth reminding that the same norm exists in many countries of the world, including European ones. This norm is set out in article 1841 of the Administrative Code. It is fair to say that de facto this law has not worked for a long time. At least for the last 12-15 years it has not been applied at all. For example, many women walk freely in hijabs everywhere, and religious clothing in public and other places is not uncommon either.

The situation is different with educational institutions. In recent years these institutions have been places of conflict related to religious attires (such as hijabs, niqabs, so-called "deaf" or "Arabic" forms of clothing) between the leadership of schools and higher education institutions of the country.  There have been cases when parents have filed complaints with the courts against school principals and university provosts who, according to the Charter of these educational institutions (approved by the Ministry of National Education), prohibited wearing hijabs in educational institutions. This is legally formalized by the Cabinet of Ministers Decree No. 666 of 15 August 2018 “On measures to provide modern school uniforms for students in public education institutions”.  The paragraph # 7 of this decree prohibits the wearing of uniforms with religious and interfaith attributes (crosses, hijabs, kip, etc.). In addition, the dress code and the appearance of pupils and students are defined in the internal charters of the state agencies and ministries in the field of education.

Firstly, the existing prohibitions on wearing the hijabs only applied to secular educational institutions, which are guided by the rules (Charters) of the educational institutions themselves (there were no problems with wearing the hijabs in public places). Secondly, restrictions on religious dress codes were de facto lifted in November of 2019. Though the issue is still relevant now, since the majority of society, which adheres to the national forms of hijab (ro'mol), sharply objected to the “Arabic” forms of hijabs in educational institutions and defended the national forms of Islamic dress, for which there were no prohibitions. This part of the public also posted their complaints about the so-called "Arabic hijab" on the Internet and insisted on observance of the charters of educational institutions and filed complaints with the public education institutions, authorities and law enforcement agencies. 

Law enforcement officials and the authorities have found themselves in a very difficult situation, which is causing legal conflicts. They are urging opponents to ensure that tolerance is mutual. Consequently, part of Uzbekistan's society, while not objecting to the freedom of religious dress codes as a sign of religious freedom, believes that it is not worth ignoring or trampling on the rights of other believers who carry different codes and national subcultures and prefer the religious dress that has been formed over the centuries among the local community of believers.

C. Ensuring freedom of religious education for children by their parents, as well as children's attendance of temples.

1.       Secular and religious education, religious education institutions.

Under the Constitution, everyone has the right to education (art. 41). Under the Education Act, everyone is guaranteed equal rights to education, irrespective of sex, language, age, race, ethnic background, beliefs, attitude towards religion, social origin, occupation, social status, place of residence or length of residence (art. 4).

As it is in all secular and democratic countries, according to international standards, the main principles of state education policy are: consistency and continuity of education, the obligatory general secondary education, etc.

At the same time according to the Law on Freedom of Religion and Religious Organizations (art. 7) the education system in Uzbekistan is separate from religion. It is prohibited to include religious subjects in the curricula of the education institutions. The right to secular education is guaranteed to Uzbek citizens regardless of their attitude towards religion. This does not apply to the study of the history of religion or religious studies.

Under article 9 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, religious education must be provided after secondary education (except for Sunday schools) and providing religious teaching in private is prohibited. Teaching is the prerogative of registered religious organizations, which must be licensed. 

The largest changes due to the reforms have been introduced in the sphere of religious education. Its liberalization is obvious and has removed almost all previous restrictions, with the exception of remote monitoring of the educational process in order to prevent the teaching of religious intolerance, inter-ethnic hatred or other subjects with the propaganda of the VE ideology. At least this is the reason why the Ministry of Justice justifies keeping the requirement of obtaining licenses as a tool of control. The procedure for obtaining a license for religious education is established in the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers "On approval of the regulation on licensing the activity of religious educational institutions" (March 1, 2004, No. 99). Only legal entities may apply for a license. Standard (simple) licenses are issued for the right to carry out activities in the sphere of religious education. The license for the right to carry out activities in the sphere of religious education is issued without any limitation of its duration (Quote from the above-mentioned law: "It is not permitted to teach minors religious education against their will, against the will of their parents or persons in place of parentis (guardians), as well as to include propaganda of war, violence in the process of education...").

The introduction of religious education in schools is currently under active discussion. However, according to comments on various Internet platforms, the majority of society is against this initiative, which comes from Muslim imams and theologians.

At the same time, in recent years, many registered (licensed) training courses were reactivated or started. Teenagers can safely attend these courses outside of school hours to learn languages, the basics of religion, etc. 

The liberalization, strengthening and expansion of religious education is often regulated through administrative instruments. For example, about a year ago the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On measures to radically improve the activities in the religious and educational sphere" was adopted. (April 16, 2018, № 5416). The decree is mainly of an ideological-propaganda nature, designed to encourage tolerance and the use of the positive aspects of religions as an educational component and as a tool to counter the ideology of VE. At the same time, it has legitimized a number of special courses for those who want to study the Sacred Books in their religions, including teenagers with the permission of their parents or guardians.

2. The issue of visiting temples by teenagers. This issue was especially painful a few years ago, when teenagers' attendance of mosques had certain restrictions, including by the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Republic of Uzbekistan. By the way, both in the recent (pre-reform) past and now, the Uzbek legislation does not prohibit minors from visiting mosques. This ban was used as an administrative tool to restrict conservative forms of post-Soviet Islamization.

As a result, teenagers in mosques are no longer uncommon, though they mostly represent religious families. Minors freely participate in festive prayers (Ramadan and Kurban Khayit), accompanied by their parents or close relatives. In other faiths, this problem (visits by adolescents to temples) has never occurred.

According to the opinion of certain schools’ teachers, mosque attendance by adolescents raises a number of cognitive, communicative, psychological and social problems. For example, it causes local conflicts with classmates with mutual insults. The reason for conflicts emerging among such children is that the form of their identity encounters not only with the mentality of the rest of the students, but also the themes of the curricula of secular educational institutions. Religious pupils often refuse to attend certain classes (chemistry, biology, physics). The teachers who participated in the survey see the main social problem in loss of the basics of rational thinking of pupils from religious families.

At the same time, this issue also faced a number of provisions in legislation, sometimes irrelevant to religion. For example, the legislation provides for the obligation of parents (as in most countries of the world) to ensure the attendance of their children in educational institutions. However, the schedule of lessons coincides with midday and Friday prayers. Pupils from religious families leave the classes without explaining anything, and attempts to organize additional classes for them have also failed, as these pupils do not attend additional classes. In such cases, teachers, public education officials and State bodies monitoring the implementation of laws on the rights of the child have been at an impasse and have insisted that State bodies adopt laws restricting pupils from attending mosques. However, this issue has also been the subject of external criticism as a sign of a suppression of religious freedoms.

At least this kind of example also makes it necessary to be extremely cautious about different manifestations of religiosity, to the detriment of existing laws. Once again, it is necessary to take into account the extreme complexity of the whole set of issues related to the actual implementation of religious freedoms in Uzbekistan. 

D. Religious literature and objects of religious use (admissibility of expertise).

Another vulnerable issue of the republic's legislation, often criticized by foreign partners of RU, is the mandatory expertise of imported and distributed religious literature, as well as control over this type of publications on the territory of the country.  

According to international recommendations, religious communities should have the right to produce, purchase and use, to an appropriate extent, necessary items and materials related to the rites or customs of a particular religion or belief[6]

However, under Uzbek law, these areas are also strictly regulated and controlled by the State.  The law authorizes the central governing bodies of religious organizations to produce, export, import and distribute religious items, religious literature and other information materials with religious content in accordance with the procedure established by law (see below for conditions and references). Religious literature published abroad is delivered and sold in Uzbekistan after the examination of its content, conducted in accordance with the procedure established by law. The governing bodies of religious organizations have the exclusive right to produce and distribute religious literature, subject to the appropriate license. However, "illegal production, storage, import of religious literature and printed material in Uzbekistan for the purpose of distributing or disseminating religious information", without an expert examination of its content, entails administrative liability (article 184-2 of the Administrative Code and article 244-3 of the Criminal Code).

Even on a brief acquaintance with the articles of the abovementioned Law, it becomes obvious that it is only aimed at literature or digital media products of exclusively extremist content. For example, it is stipulated that the production, storage and distribution of printed publications, film, photo, audio, video and other materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism are subject to punishment under the law. For example, Administrative Code states that, "production, storage for distribution or dissemination of materials promoting national, racial, ethnic or religious enmity" (art. 184-3); and the Criminal Code says, that "production, storage for distribution or dissemination of materials propagandizing national, racial, ethnic or religious enmity" (art. 156), "production or storage for distribution of materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism, etc."(article 244-1).

In accordance with paragraph 3 of the Regulation on the procedure for the production, import and dissemination of materials of religious content in Uzbekistan, approved by Cabinet of Ministers Decision (No. 10 of 20 January 2014), the production, import and dissemination of materials of religious content in Uzbekistan are permitted only after a public religion expert review.

The only State body responsible for carrying out the religious scrutiny is the SCRA.  In accordance with paragraph 12 of the Regulations on the SCRA, approved by Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan (November 23, 2019 № 946), the Committee carries out an examination of religious products published in the country or imported from abroad (printed and electronic publications, audio and video mediums, CD, DVD and other types of memory storage) and coordinates this activity.

The regime of forced examination of religious literature raises several problems. First, religious expertise is carried out by one Department of Expertise under the SCRA (Tashkent). There are no branches in other regions. The department does not cope with materials throughout the country, which causes many problems in the production of religious literature. Second, the official results of the expertise by SCRA is often used as the basis for administrative or criminal case initiation. However, when the Department of Expertise is overloaded, their decision on seized material (e.g., at Customs) takes a long time. Third, the Department of Expertise works without clear and specific legal definitions to accurately classify the content of seized literature as "extremist". This leaves room for flaws in the work and makes it difficult to pass fair judgments in courts. By the way, the Tashkent Board of Judges think that having its own independent experts in its offices (attached to the city and oblast chambers) might be a good solution and will allow it to quickly and clearly determine the degree of guilt of those held accountable. 

E. The issue of liberalizing laws to counter religiously motivated extremism and terrorism, administrative and criminal liability for crimes in the field of VE.

The Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations (1998) contains both positive aspects and those requiring revision. The Law stipulates that the state is obliged to regulate issues of mutual tolerance and respect between citizens who profess different religions and do not profess, must not allow religious and other fanaticism and extremism, and prevent incitement of hostility between different faiths (Articles 153, 156, etc.). The state does not assign religious organizations the performance of any state functions and must respect the autonomy of religious organizations in ritual matters or religious practice.

Citizens have the right to perform alternative military service based on their religious beliefs, if they are members of registered religious organizations whose creed does not allow the use of weapons and service in the Armed Forces (Article 37). For example, at present, citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan, who are members of the following religious organizations, enjoy the right to undergo alternative service: "Union of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches" "Jehovah's Witnesses", "Seventh-day Adventist Church of Christ", "Council of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists", etc.

In connection with the adoption of a resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers “On approval of the regulation on the registration, re-registration and termination of activities of religious organizations in the Republic of Uzbekistan” (dated May 31, 2018, No. 409), the procedure for registering religious organizations and carrying out their activities has been significantly improved and simplified. In particular:

  • the registration fee for the central governing body of a religious organization and religious educational institution is reduced from 100 minimum wage (MW). ($ 2,400) per 20 MW. ($ 480) (5 times), registration of another religious organization reduced from 50 MW. ($ 1,190) per 10 minimum wages. ($ 240);
  •  the number of documents required for registration of a religious organization has been reduced (henceforth, the submission of documents such as a declaration-act on the source of funds, a copy of the certificate of registration with the khokimiyat of the name of a religious organization is not required);
  • the religious organizations registered with Government authorities are required to submit a report to the justice authority only annually, compared to quarterly earlier;
  • the procedure for issuing duplicates of constituent documents in the event of their loss or damage to the certificate of state registration or constituent documents is regulated.

Also, the power y of the registering authority to take a decision on the liquidation of a religious organization in case of violation of the requirements of the law or the charter of the religious organization itself was transferred to the judicial authorities.

At the same time, on May 4, 2018, the Parliament of Uzbekistan adopted a “Road Map” for ensuring freedom of conscience and religion, reviewing legislation on freedom of religion and simplifying the registration of religious organizations, in accordance with the mentioned Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers No. 409.

The Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations has some flaws as well. The main reason for the contradictions that arise is that the Law establishes the regulatory status of the state and prescribes restrictions, instead of real ensuring religious freedoms. In addition, the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations (Article 5) and the Constitution stipulate that religion is separate from the state and the state does not interfere with the activities of religious organizations if it does not contradict the law. However, state bodies (primarily the KPDR) continue to control the activities of religious organizations, but interfere in their activities from the moment that their activities are contrary to national law.

Among religious scholars and human rights activists, the question often arises of why religious activity should be legal or illegal. After all, this is a fundamental and inalienable right of every person. For this reason, the discussion (which has not yet ended) of the draft amendments to this law is currently being actively discussed among jurists and the public. It is expected that the new edition will eliminate the mentioned disadvantages.

F. Humanization instead of victimization (release of "prisoners of conscience", annulment of "black lists", repatriation from the conflict zones, "Mehr" programs).

The main outcomes of the reforms in liberalization of the religious policy, which are positively perceived in the country and by international observers, are as follows:

Firstly, elimination of the so-called "List of unreliable", drawn up by the MIA. It included those persons who had been noticed in connections with radical groups, or recently amnestied. The mechanism of drawing up the list was unclear, which opened up space for possible abuses.

Secondly, in the past three years, more than 3,500 citizens have been amnestied and released from detention facilities. The practice of release continues and is usually timed to coincide with holidays. The practice of artificially adding terms to detention facilities has been discontinued.

Thirdly, citizens of Uzbekistan who have found themselves deluded into terrorist, extremist or other prohibited organizations and groups are exempt from criminal liability[7]. In September 2018, a procedure was approved for exempting such persons from criminal liability (the relevant forms are submitted to a specially established interdepartmental commission addressed to the Prosecutor-General through Uzbek diplomatic missions abroad). In this framework the programs of repatriation of women and children from Middle East conflict zones have been organized:  «Mehr-1» (May 30, 2019) repatriated 156 individuals (48 women, 1 man, 107 children. Of them 9 were orphans); «Mehr-2» (October 10, 2019) repatriated 64 orphan children and adolescents (39 boys and 25 girls, of them 14 are children below 3 years old).

At the same time, the State has taken the responsibility to provide assistance (including financially) to the amnestied and repatriated citizens. Special commissions have been set up in the country's regions and cities from among local executive authorities and law enforcement, religious and voluntary organizations. The aim is to encourage cooperation of public and voluntary organizations to promote social and economic reintegration of these citizens[8].

The reintegration of repatriated women has encountered a number of legal conflicts. Firstly, formally they were lawbreakers (illegal immigration from the country, illegal border crossing, assistance to terrorist organizations, etc.). Secondly, all of them lost or destroyed their passports, were homeless, had no profession and no livelihood, etc. To get a job, loans, etc., they needed documents. Lawyers were in a difficult situation, as there were almost no precedent. By presidential decree, these problems have been overcome. All adult women underwent judicial investigation and were eventually pardoned and amnestied according to the Presidential Decree ("On Approving the Regulation on the Procedure for Granting Pardon"). Also, the documents of the repatriates were restored, the rights to credit, monetary assistance, etc. were granted.

It seems that this important experience should be consolidated in the legislation, as the positive solution of the mentioned problems has been found purely with administrative resources and tools.

Conclusion. Thus, there are a number of problems in the legislation and in the real implementation of religious freedoms. They are related not only to the wording of the legislation, but also to the existence of a serious “burden of the past”, meaning long-established laws that need to be revised in the spirit of the time and Uzbekistan's international obligations.

The continuing complexity of the religious situation and both, latent and open conflicts of religious norms (mainly Muslim) on the one hand, and the existing legislation on the other, impact the nature of implementation of religious freedoms in Uzbekistan. Added to this are the dangers of radicalization (primarily of young people), challenges in the sphere of cyber-security (open and mass recruitment to radical groups through cyber networks), lack of experience in building communication strategies in cyberspace, and the use of "soft power" in stabilizing the religious situation, etc.

At present, there is no unified understanding of the essence of extremism and extremist crimes. Lack of clear definitions and differentiation of extremist crimes create difficulties in law enforcement practice. It is important not only to determine the illegality of certain extremist acts and their punishment, but also to form a clear conceptual apparatus, hierarchy of principles and subjects of counteraction to this phenomenon. To date, legal practice does not stipulate exact distinctions between the concepts of terrorism, religious extremism, separatism, fundamentalism, etc., which does provide right approach to law enforcement agencies in their work on prevention and suppression of such activities. It also does not allow to properly identify if a socially dangerous act took place or not, to what extent the perpetrator is guilty, and other circumstances that are important for the correct resolution of the case.

The composition and quality of the Muslim community in Uzbekistan is very diverse. Believers (primarily Muslims) have their own - most often mutually exclusive - views on religious freedoms, dress codes, norms and rules of relations between the state and religion and other issues. The Muslim community in Uzbekistan is characterized by intense internal discussions (sometimes reaching into conflicts) on all the issues mentioned at the article. Thus, the regulation of complex relations within the Muslim community also falls on the shoulders of law enforcement agencies, the authorities and society itself. All this complicates the situation and makes one extremely cautious in choosing strategies for religious policy and legal regulation of religious freedom, as well as in seriously discussing with society the norms of legislation.

All these circumstances require a very well-thought approach to initiation and implementation of legal norms when it comes to religious communities, some of which do not always take a positive view of the dominance of law. Therefore, not only law enforcement and regulatory bodies, but also the believers themselves, at least the most active part of them, should undergo their own journey to recognition of laws as the only tool for regulating religious-state relations.

Unfortunately, external evaluations do not take these complexities into account and offer a one-sided and extremely limited view of the problems or rely on outdated data. These conditions, associated with the serious dispersion of opinions within society and among legal scholars in relation to the "Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations" revised in 2018, seriously delay the necessary consensus among the public and legal scholars. This has led to a delay in the adoption of this document. In addition, international experience suggests that such documents should be oriented not only to the declarations on freedom of religion adopted in other countries, but also to the peculiarities of their own domestic situation. The adoption of such an instrument without achieving the necessary public and legal consensus, without taking into account one's own cultural and historical traditions, as well as international experience, can lead to unpredictable consequences.

Reforms are transforming old rigid religious situation control patterns and activity of religious organizations. Reforms have also touched upon the scope of legislative initiatives and law enforcement. The easing of restrictions and liberalization in these areas are evident.

At the same time, a number of problems of a legal nature that hamper the liberalization of religious freedoms remain. These problems are solvable and cannot be justified by references to a difficult situation. In particular, the existing laws use some terms (e.g. "fundamentalism") which are not formulated as legal terms containing a clear definition of their social danger or as a form of encroachment on the constitutional order. Other terms ("extremism", "radicalism") have not essentially changed their definitions since the pre-reform era, nor differentiated them (e.g. as violent and non-violent forms, in the case of extremism). This leads to the fact that in sentencing/giving judicial verdict, judges do not have the possibility to differentiate the punishment according to the seriousness of the act. 

The positive impact of the reforms should also be assessed by the fact that government agencies start to realize that problems in the religious sphere cannot be solved by means of only one-time administrative and legal acts (for example, in the form of presidential decrees and decisions). In addition, for a number of reasons, Uzbekistan tries to respond to external criticism regarding the implementation of religious freedoms, which is associated with the obligation to implement signed international treaties and declarations, improve the investment climate, increase stability as a guarantor of tourism development, etc.


[2]  Анализ законодательства стран ЦА и правоприменительной практики по противодействию НЭ онлайн.

[3] Oтчет Aгентства «USAID»: «Насильственный  экстремизм  в  Центральной  Азии, 2018: обзор  террористических  групп,  законодательства  стран  ЦА  и правоприменительной  практики  по  противодействию  насильственному экстремизму онлайн. С. 7, 11-12// Violence Prevention Network, Deradicalisation, Intervention, Prevention, accessed December 20, 2018, Prevention.pdf // (

[4] John Heathershaw and David W. Montgomery. The Myth of Post-Soviet Muslim Radicalization in the Central Asian Republics. In: Russia and Eurasia Programme. November, 2014. 14%20Myth%20summary%20v2b.pdf

[5] USCIRF upgrades Uzbekistan to special watch list:

[6] Генеральная Ассамблея ООН, Декларация о ликвидации всех форм нетерпимости и дискриминации на основе религии или убеждений, п. 6 (с). Вена 1989, п. 16.10; Генеральная Ассамблея ООН, Декларация о ликвидации всех форм нетерпимости и дискриминации на основе религии или убеждений, пп.6 (c) и (d).

[7] 23 февраля 2021 г. состоялась научно-практическая конференция на тему: «Опыт стран Центральной Азии и ЕС в сфере реабилитации и реинтеграции репатриантов». Онлайн-диалог был организован Институтом стратегических и межрегиональных исследований при Президенте Республики Узбекистан (ИСМИ) совместно с представительством германского фонда им. Конрада Аденауэра в Центральной Азии.

[8] См. Доклад Ф.Рамазанова «Политические и правовые аспекты реинтеграции вернувшихся граждан: обзор национального опыта» ( www.

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