Director of the Center for Economic Research and Reforms under the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
From September 16 to 20, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of the Republic of Uzbekistan participated in the activities of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. On September 19, the head of our state delivered a speech during the general debate of the plenary session of the General Assembly, in which he presented his vision on pertinent regional and global agenda items.
Initiatives of Uzbekistan at the United Nations
In recent years, Uzbekistan has been actively addressing global issues internationally. This is evidenced by a brief chronicle of Uzbekistan’s initiatives at the United Nations General Assembly sessions.
In 2017, Mirziyoyev spoke at the UN and outlined his goals of improving human rights, implementing economic reforms, prioritizing relations with Central Asian nations, and creating a new image for Uzbekistan. He also proposed the development of a UN International Convention on Youth Rights and initiated regular meetings of the heads of Central Asian states.
At the 2020 United Nations General Assembly, the President of Uzbekistan proposed several new global initiatives. One of the proposals was to establish an International Code of Voluntary Commitments of States during pandemics under the UN’s guidance. Additionally, the President suggested adopting a General Assembly resolution on strengthening the parliament’s role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals and promoting human rights. Poverty eradication and alleviation were also designated as the primary themes of the General Assembly session, and the President suggested hosting a Global Summit dedicated to tackling these issues.
During this address, President Mirziyoyev noted that the regular meetings of heads of state in our region, initiated in 2017, had already giving its results. He also mentioned establishing the UN Multi-Partner Human Security for the Aral Sea region. He proposed a General Assembly resolution declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of ecological innovations and technologies, while the day of adoption of this document named “the International Day of Environmental Protection and Restoration”. Furthermore, as a continuation of the Central Asian theme, the President proposed to establish a UN Regional Center for Transport and Communication Connectivity Development and organized an International Forum on Central Asia at the Crossroads of World Civilizations in Khiva in 2021.
In 2021, Shavkat Mirziyoyev addressed the UN General Assembly through a recorded video, advocating for strengthening the World Health Organization’s coordinating role in the pandemic response. The draft of the Code of Voluntary Commitments of States during Pandemics, developed by the Republic of Uzbekistan, was officially adopted as a UN document. He also proposed hosting an International Conference in Tashkent on studying issues related to global economic recovery and poverty reduction in the post-COVID-19 period.
The President thanked for the UN resolution declaring the Aral Sea region as a zone of ecological innovations and technologies. He also suggested strengthening connectivity between Central and South Asia with a General Assembly resolution.
In 2023, the Sixth United Nations Environment Assembly should be hosted by Uzbekistan at a high level, according to his suggestion. It’s evident that Uzbekistan is taking a proactive approach to significant current affairs, as a number of ideas are already being implemented.
On Economic Reforms
During his UNGA address on reforms in Uzbekistan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed his commitment to building a New Uzbekistan as a legal, secular, democratic, and social state. UN Secretary-General António Guterres commended the President’s speech and conveyed support for the irreversible reform program in Uzbekistan. The President highlighted the ambitious nature of the “Uzbekistan 2030” reform strategy, which closely aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The President of Uzbekistan highlighted in his speech that despite global challenges, the country’s economy has shown stable growth rates due to consistent reforms. Over the past six years, the gross domestic product has increased by 1.5 times, and the goal now is to double this indicator by 2030.
The “Uzbekistan 2030” Strategy aims to achieve sustainable economic development for citizens to be content with their lives.
Uzbekistan aims to raise its GDP per capita from $2200 to $4000 to become a higher medium-income country by 2030.
Reforms are implemented to enhance the private sector’s role in the economy. Its planned to decrease the number of state-owned enterprises by six times and increasing the non-state sector’s share in the economy to 85%. The transition of monopolistic industries towards market principles will also be carried out gradually.
Operations of railway services, road construction and management, and the supply of natural gas and electricity sectors will be given to the private sector.
On WTO Accession
During his address, the President emphasized that becoming a full member of the World Trade Organization is a top priority for our country to achieve higher economic integration. Despite some analysts suggesting that the WTO is losing its significance during current geopolitical conflicts, Uzbekistan still considers it is relevant to join this organization soon.
To overcome the domestic market’s limitations, expanding export potential is necessary. To achieve this, within “Uzbekistan 2030” Strategy, its aimed to increase exports to $45 billion, more than twice of the $19 billion achieved in 2022. To support this goal, an Industrial Development Fund will be created to assist enterprises in producing competitive and high-value-added products for external markets.
The accession of Uzbekistan to the World Trade Organization will be crucial in expanding export opportunities as it will help reduce barriers to Uzbek products in most markets worldwide.
Social Support and Human Capital Development Initiatives in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan has decreased its poverty rate by 50% since 2017 and aims to lower it to 7% by 2030. They have also pledged to support the UN’s ” Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions”. They will host a world conference on “Social Protection: The Path to Sustainable Development” in 2024.
Uzbekistan has made significant progress in social protection, with 2.3 million low-income families receiving assistance, up from 500,000 in 2017. Funding has increased sevenfold to 11 trillion Uzbek sums annually. One million people were lifted out of poverty last year, and 210,000 more in Q1 2021. Affordable housing has also improved, with 300,000 new homes built over the previous six years.
Uzbekistan plans to improve social protection by creating a National Social Protection Agency and Social Protection Centers at the district level. Professional social workers will be available in every neighborhood. An online system for women on maternity leave will be introduced. Taxes will be allocated to the makhalla for development. Access to clean water and affordable housing will be ensured.
Uzbekistan prioritizes human capital development by improving the quality of education and cultivating a skilled young generation. Preschool education coverage has increased from 21% to 70% in the past six years, and higher education enrollment has increased from 9% to 38%. The President aims to ensure every child has access to kindergarten and that half of high school graduates attend university by 2030.
The “Uzbekistan 2030” Strategy prioritizes empowering individuals to reach their full potential by providing favorable conditions. The plan involves concentrating on children’s development, upbringing, and education at a young age. By 2030, the goal is to have 100% enrollment in preschool education. Additionally, the strategy aims to create more student spaces in schools. While 500,000 spots have been added recently, there are plans to implement a “Five Hundred Thousand Student Places per Year” programme, which will establish 2.5 million more student places by 2030.
By 2030, Uzbekistan has set important objectives for its healthcare sector. These include the digitization of the healthcare system and the establishment of a medical insurance system. The government aims to provide the population with a “guaranteed package of medical services” at no cost, and the state will cover the total cost of treatment for “Hepatitis C”.
Uzbekistan’s Engagement in Central Asia, Climate Change, and Environmental Initiatives
Central Asia stands as a pivotal focus of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly session on cooperation in Central Asia, Shavkat Mirziyoyev underscored the progress achieved through collaborative efforts between Uzbekistan and its neighboring countries. He emphasized that these endeavors have successfully addressed numerous issues at the national border, transportation corridors, and water resource management. Mutual trade among nations of the region has increased by two and a half times, while the number of joint ventures has grown fivefold.
The President of Uzbekistan initiated this regional rapprochement by proposing Consultative Meetings of the Heads of Central Asian States in 2017.
Significant documents were signed to enhance regional cooperation at the recent fifth Consultative Meeting. These agreements encompassed youth policy direction, improving ground transportation connectivity in Central Asia, setting up a National Coordinators Council, and creating a roadmap to support health and well-being in Central Asia from 2022-2025.
Central Asia has become more appealing to foreign investors and tourists, thanks to the united policies of its countries. This has also enhanced the reliability of transportation corridors, which is crucial considering the current context of transportation and logistical instability. President Mirziyoyev believes that the region is establishing itself as a center for economic development and a transportation and communication bridge that connects the East and West, North and South, and interest in the region continues to grow. He expressed confidence that Central Asia will continue to progress with international support.
In his speech, the President highlighted the importance of the youth, as almost half of Central Asia’s population comprises young people. Issues related to them are vital for the region. He suggested the formation of a United Nations Working Group on supporting youth development in Central Asia and to create a “Central Asian Youth Agenda 2030” within this framework.
The global ecological situation is a significant challenge, particularly in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea tragedy continues to ravage the region. President Mirziyoyev recognizes that Central Asia is already grappling with the consequences of climate change and has become one of the world’s most vulnerable regions. The air temperature in the area has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past thirty years, leading to the disappearance of approximately one-third of the glacial regions. The flow of two major regional rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya may decrease by 15% over the next twenty years, and water availability per capita is expected to drop by 25%, leading to a decrease in agricultural yields up to 40%.
Failing to act promptly could lead to severe socio-economic instability in the region. That’s why Uzbekistan has supported establishing the position of Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Water Resources and is advocating for adopting advanced technologies through the “United Nations – Water Resources” mechanism to create a Water-Saving Technologies Platform in Central Asia.
The President of Uzbekistan, Mirziyoyev, has proposed the establishment of a “Central Asian Climate Dialogue” to address global climate threats and promote solidarity for shared prosperity. He has also initiated a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly, which will be discussed at the International Climate Forum in Samarkand in 2024.
Uzbekistan has taken robust measures to combat climate change and improve the environment. The country has already made strides in developing renewable energy, which accounts for 14% of its total energy capacity. The government plans to increase this share to 40% by 2030. Additionally, green zones covering 1.7 million hectares have been created on the dried-up Aral Sea bed. The new Strategy also includes expanding forested areas in the Aral Sea region from 1.7 million to 2.4 million hectares and increasing overall afforestation in the country to 30%. Lastly, the new Strategy aims to transition all arable land to water-saving technologies by 2030, thus contributing to water conservation.
In conclusion, Uzbekistan’s new policy, initiated in 2017, focuses not only on radical economic reforms within the country and economic integration into the global economy but also on active participation in the international arena, mainly through global institutions like the United Nations. Uzbekistan actively engages in addressing global and regional issues, and its international initiatives gain international recognition, especially those related to resolving regional problems, such as combating poverty, promoting social development, as well as environmental sustainability. These initiatives enhance the international image of our country as a responsible nation.