Ўзбекистон ёшлари: Келажак бизники, марра бизники!

Out of almost 8 billion people living on planet Earth, more than quarter are young which is at nearly 2 billion hitting the highest number of youth in the history. It is worth noting that close to 90% of all youth live in the developing world.

Youth are undepleteable source of innovation, novatorship, ideas, and solutions. As such, we should include the young people in decision making process more than ever, so they can become the engine for change who will have an opportunity and responsibility to discover their own potential and create a world suitable for future generations.

The international community recognizes that the crucial role in the progress of any society is played by a healthy and harmoniously developed young generation, an energetic, proactive, well-rounded youth with modern knowledge and skills, on which the future of this society depends. In particular, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasizes that “peace, economic dynamism, social justice, tolerance – all this and more, today and tomorrow, depends on tapping into the power of youth”.

During the last decade, more than 10 international acts in this area have been adopted within the UN alone. The World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1995, provided the policy framework and practical recommendations for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world. The Programme of Action covers fifteen priority areas of action related to youth and contains proposals for action in each of these areas.

The crucial role of youth in conflict prevention, resolution and peace-keeping is recognized by UN Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security.

The Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes “Lisbon +21” (2019) calls for the protection, promotion and realization of the human rights of all young people in all their diversity. The Declaration emphasizes the importance of addressing the specific needs of all young people, with particular attention to young women and girls, marginalized groups and young people belonging to vulnerable groups or in vulnerable situations, including youth in rural areas, youth with disabilities, young migrants or those who face discrimination on any other basis.

The UN 2030 Agenda has declared that the well-being, participation and empowerment of young people are key factors for sustainable development and world peace, and therefore the interests of young people are taken into account in all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets to achieve them. Youth issues are identified in the following four areas: youth employment, the advancement of adolescent girls, education and sport for peace. Moreover, young people themselves are involved in the implementation of the SDGs through awareness-raising, data collection and use, local and national initiatives, monitoring and accountability, and reporting on progress.

In order to meet the needs of youth, strengthen the capacity and empower young people in all their diversity around the world, the UN has launched Youth Strategy “Youth 2030”. It emphasizes that “young people constitute a tremendous and essential asset worth investing in, opening the door to an unparalleled multiplier effect”.

The issues of protecting and realizing the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of youth remained at the centre of attention of the international community in the context of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. It has had a devastating impact on the lives of young people, forcing them to adapt to new challenges related to access to health care, decent work and employment, food security and nutrition, as well as social isolation and alienation.

During the pandemic, according to the International Labor Organization, more than 70 percent of young people who study or combine school with work were affected by the closure of schools, higher education institutions and vocational training centers. The challenges facing young people are multifaceted and require a comprehensive response from States and the international community.

In April 2020, the UN released “A UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19”. The Program pays special attention to building the potential of young people so that they can independently make decisions on health issues and take responsibility for its protection, health education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, increasing the role of youth organizations and community groups in combating the pandemic, spreading reliable information in the field of public health.

The importance of ensuring that the voice of young people is heard in the age of the Internet and social networks was emphasized. Understanding the experiences and attitudes of young people can help guide responses and approaches to protect young people.

It should be noted that today, young innovators are already responding to the pandemic with innovation and social impact. All over the world, young volunteers are actively involved in supporting vulnerable groups and implementing social initiatives.

Important point to consider is developing “youth dimension” in the life and work of international organizations under current conditions. Young people should be given the opportunity to develop and implement comprehensive policies and programmes that address their specific needs, protect their rights and recognize their diversity and the challenges they face.

Achievements and experience of Uzbekistan in advancing youth agenda within national and international organizations is deserving of attention and has been the subject of discussions in ECOSOC Youth Forum 2021 and the Intersessional Seminar on Youth and Human Rights.

Youth policy in the next phase of development

Uzbekistan is standing at the threshold of vital demographic milestone where young people under the age of 30 constitute two thirds of the country’s population. This is a kind of precious “demographic dividend” for the country. Over the next two decades, today's children and young people will become the largest labor force in the history of Uzbekistan. With the right investments in the development of young people today, they can become the generation that will lead Uzbekistan to a new level of socio-economic development.

Contemporary world requires proactive and creative young people to take charge of sustainable development and drive it forward. As for Uzbekistan, young people in this country have become main catalyst of change in the communities and vital spring of ideas for modernizing society. Moreover, they are rightly seen as priceless human resource for sustained economic progress and guarantee for welfare of upcoming generations.

The country has taken upon itself to prioritize guaranteeing legitimate rights and interests of young people as part of national strategy for development. The youth agenda has always been the focus of government and the last couple of years this agenda has been advanced by adoption of three laws, dozens of decrees, presidential resolutions and government decisions related to the sphere.

Government has been leading by example in this matter. For one, Prime Minister has been chairing the Agency for Youth Affairs and interdepartmental councils on youth issues, now Legislative Chamber of the Parliament includes a Commission on Youth issues, and Youth Parliaments have started operating under the chambers of the Parliament. The Youth Day, which was established in 2017, in a short time has become mainstay holiday of Uzbek communities.

The National Strategy for Human Rights and the State Program for the implementation of the Strategy of Action on the five priority areas of Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021 in the “Year of Supporting Youth and Protecting the Health of the Population” are being implemented. A number of important tasks are also being implemented within the framework of five important initiatives.

Youth policy of Uzbekistan is set in stone with the Concept of the development until 2025 and the concept has been complimented with a “Roadmap” for its implementation. Priorities in the Concept and the Roadmap include creating necessary conditions for education of physically healthy and spiritually developed young people, and assisting them in their endeavors to realize their scientific and creative potential, protecting their rights, freedoms and interests, along with involving them in the democratic, social, legal and economic reforms being carried out in the country. Unified criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of work with young people and the national youth policy evaluation index are being developed.

At the same time questions related to employment of young men and women and guarantee of decent income for them to build a future in Uzbekistan have been receiving special attention. President of Uzbekistan Sh. M. Mirziyoyev believes that “entrepreneurship, especially small and medium-sized businesses, is the greatest opportunity and resource in this direction”. To tackle this issue, the administrative units throughout the country have initiated a practice of developing and implementing relevant records, which today include 648 thousand unemployed, 283 thousand of whom were employed only in the first quarter of 2021. This should help in the decision making process.

Recently, the President put forward a number of new initiatives that significantly expand measures to support youth entrepreneurship and introduce new employment mechanisms. A number of benefits have been announced for both the unemployed and start-up entrepreneurs, as well as for employers’ organizations. In particular, starting with:

• 1st of May, 2021 entities hiring young people will get funds paid for social tax back. In addition, entrepreneurs who have employed more than 5 unemployed people from the "youth notebook" will receive a discount of up to 50% when renting state property, young people who rent a building and open their own business will be reimbursed up to 30% of the annual amount of rent payments, etc.;

• 1st of June, 2021 - students included in the “youth notebook” will be allocated 500 thousand soums for internships in the companies of their choice. A part of the expenses of the members of the “youth notebook” for the study of foreign languages and general education subjects in non-state educational institutions will also be compensated;

• 1st of July, 2021 -private business will receive up to 1 million soums to cover their expenditures for training and retraining new young hires.

Students and graduates of vocational training centers will achieve a great support in form of tax exemption throughout the first six months of employment and having their payments to vocational training centers qualified as tax-deductible.

In terms of training unemployed youth in professions and entrepreneurship, the “1+1” Program is widely implemented, providing for the training of 100 thousand young people with further provision of preferential loans. In just three months of 2021, more than 21,000 young people across the country were trained in entrepreneurship.

Another important area that contributes to youth employment is agriculture. Today, 175 thousand young people have been allocated 45 thousand hectares of land. They received land plots for agriculture. Young people who find themselves in the records of “youth notebook” will be allocated up to 2 million soums to start agricultural ventures.

For the meaningful organization of youth leisure, an additional 36 thousand clubs were organized, which attracted about 874 thousand boys and girls. Only the children’s centers “Barkamol Avlod” cover 175 thousand children and the task is being implemented to fully use the potential of these institutions, to increase coverage by creating their branches in each school. Efforts to attract young people to sports, culture and art, to hold various festivals and competitions, and to prepare for prestigious international competitions are ongoing.

Initiatives from Uzbekistan receive global backing

At this stage of life people are most productive, but at the same time, they require most support and help as this is the time of biggest vulnerabilities. This is also the reason why it is necessary to pay attention to youth issues at the international level.

The great German philosopher Goethe said: “Although the world as a whole is moving forward, young people have to start over every time”. At the UN and beyond, the issue of ensuring the rights of young people is increasingly at the center of discussion.

However, in a period of global development, it is necessary to take several steps forward. In this context, the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is directly linked to today's and tomorrow's youth, and the initiatives of the President of Uzbekistan Sh.M. Mirziyoyev to further promote and protect the rights of young people are widely supported.

Therefore, the initiative put forward by Uzbekistan at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly to adopt the Convention on the Rights of Youth is of great importance not only for the citizens of our country, but also for the protection of the rights of more than two billion young people around the world. This initiative is gaining more and more support among the international community. A Group of Friends on Youth Rights has been established, whose main task is to support youth policy initiatives and encourage efforts to develop an international legal instrument on youth rights.

Issues related to protecting youth rights and advancing global cooperation for improvement of lives of the young were discussed during the Samarkand Web Forum in August, 2020.

The Forum discussed the draft Convention on the Rights of Youth prepared by Uzbekistan, adopted the Samarkand resolution “Youth 2020: global solidarity, sustainable development and human rights”, which is presented as an official document of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, posted in the UN system of official documents under the number A/74/998. At the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Samarkand resolution was distributed as an official document of the OSCE. The official letter of the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was sent to all the OIC Member States and published on the official website of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The commitment to the protection of the rights of young people was also confirmed in the speech of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, where initiatives were put forward to protect the rights of youth:

• the adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of Youth and the establishment of the UN Special Rapporteur on Youth Rights and;

• holding a World Conference on Youth Rights under the auspices of the United Nations. This conference is planned to be organized in August this year by the Government of Uzbekistan with the support of the Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and in partnership with other international and youth organizations. It will provide an opportunity to exchange views and develop proposals for improving existing international and regional instruments and mechanisms for the protection and promotion of the rights of youth.

Currently cooperation between Uzbek youth, state bodies, and public associations has reached a qualitatively new level due to wide-ranging work done in the field of youth policy. It can be said with confidence that all key sectors of the country are benefiting from the involvement of young people in variety of positions starting from manual workers and ranging to high positions in ministries and departments.

Training and comprehensive development of young people has gained a big momentum with establishment of separate organizations for working with young people. All these efforts will undoubtedly be justified in the coming future, because Uzbekistan is a country of young people, and it is them who is responsible for the further prosperity of the Motherland.

Akmal Saidov,

First Vice-Speaker of the Legislative Chamber

of the Parliament of the Republic of Uzbekistan