Bridging the gap: Engaging with civil society and young people in Uzbekistan 

This week’s blog discusses GPGF’s work with the Human Rights Commission of the Oliy Majlis in Uzbekistan and our team’s visit to Tashkent in February. 

Global Partners Governance’s programmes have a long history of human rights promotion. For the best part of twenty years, and with the support of our expert Associates, our projects have sought to broaden and support the rights of young people and to promote their political engagement. Our current work in Uzbekistan offers great opportunities for Parliament to bridge the gap between the youth and the government for young voices to be heard and become vectors of change, and to provide the country with effective advice and direction to drive the next phases for change in the country.  

Uzbekistan has made much progress on its reform agenda since 2016, which was bolstered by President Mirziyoyev’s re-election in October 2021. He set out ambitious reforms and emphasised how the country’s growing youth population is at the heart of those changes. Approximately 60% of Uzbekistan is under the age of 30, which is telling of the bright future the country holds.  

You will have read about our work with the Human Rights Commission in the Oliy Majlis in previous blogs. More recently, GPGF has been working closely with the Commission to examine the rights of young people in Uzbekistan. In February, we held a joint Uzbek-British Youth Forum with the Human Rights Commission and the National Centre of Human Rights, entitled “Beyond the Pandemic: Rights and Opportunities for Young People”. It explored shared experiences and examples from young people in Uzbekistan and the United Kingdom, the challenges they have faced as a result of the pandemic, but also the opportunities and lessons that can be seized going forward.  

Several leading civil and youth organisations attended the Forum, including the Uzbek youth movement Yuksalish, the Youth Union of Uzbekistan, the Agency for Youth Affairs, and members of the Youth Parliament. The number of young people who attended and engaged both virtually and physically was encouraging to see. A strong British contingent was present, chaired by our Associates Baroness Suttie and Aileen Walker, and presentations were given by members of the Welsh and Scottish Youth Parliaments. They shared their insight and experience on best practice, representing the voices of young people in their respective Parliaments, and engaging the youth in politics and policies that impact them. Young people from both countries voiced that efforts must be made to ensure inclusive and collective engagement between policy- and decision-makers and those impacted by the policies – in this case, young people.

A key part of the Forum was the exchange of experiences and approaches between the Joint Committee on Human Rights from the British Houses of Parliament and the Human Rights Commission of the Oliy Majlis. They discussed ways to adopt an inclusive approach with young people and civil society when setting key policies and legislation to protect youth rights. This was further explored throughout the week as the GPGF team developed and worked on a nine-stage process with the Commission on conducting effective parliamentary inquiries as a tool to engage young people and civil society in the policy reform process, but also as a mechanism to monitor the impact of those policies and provide meaningful recommendations in response to the needs of citizens.  

Thanks to the British Embassy’s ongoing support and funding of this project, GPGF produced and successfully presented the research work on prevailing human rights in Uzbekistan. The purpose of the research was to provide analysis that would help the government stakeholders understand the state of the reform process in the field of human rights. The research considerably contributed to shedding light on a number of understudied fields, and our experts gathered data from the ground and conducted interviews with academics, journalists, representatives of international organisations, and members of NGOs.  

In light of the engagement we observed at the February forum, it is apparent that human rights, and particularly the rights and opportunities of young people in Uzbekistan, remain an item of importance on the reform agenda for future generations. As we draw towards the end of this phase of our project with the Commission, we continue to develop with them a comprehensive guide for engaging with civil society, carrying out effective parliamentary inquiries, and effective strategic communications. We hope these guides will prove to be helpful and ever-evolving resources for the Commission’s – and more broadly, the Oliy Majlis as a whole – future use in their championing of their young citizens’ rights.