The following article is based on story and picture materials provided by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Seoul to The Korea Post media for publication. The Korea Post media own and operate 3 English and 2 Korean news publications since 1985.—Ed.
The Republic of Uzbekistan, in order to form and develop a free civil society, has set itself the most important task--the further implementation of the fundamental principle of state and social construction in Uzbekistan.
President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, during a meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN headquarters in New York on September 19, 2017, noted Uzbekistan's strong commitment to the further development of civil society and the construction of a truly democratic state governed by the rule of law.
In general, measures to improve the institutional and legal framework of civil society activities implemented in the country are reflected in the quantitative indicators of development.
As of January 1, 2020, 10,502 NGOs and their subdivisions were registered by the justice authorities, of which 589 were registered by the Ministry of Justice and 9,913 by the territorial departments of Justice.
The indicators of the last 6 years show that the number of NGOs in the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan is growing rapidly (see figure).
Increasing the activity of NGOs is an important condition for the development of the civil sector, which plays an important role in the process of socio-political and socio-economic development in general. The development of NGOs contributes to the formation of civil society, as they have popular support, which ensures effective participation in efforts aimed at building a democratic state, forming a civil society, ensuring human rights, freedoms and interests, increasing socio-economic activity and improving the legal culture of the population.
In the Republic of Uzbekistan, NGOs are created to protect the rights and legitimate interests of individuals and legal entities, other democratic values, achieve social, cultural and educational goals, meet spiritual and non - material needs, carry out charitable activities and for other socially useful purposes (Article 2 of the Law "On Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations" (hereinafter-the Law).
According to article 21 of the Law, the State registration of NGOs is carried out by the judicial authorities.
In accordance with the Regulation on the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan, approved by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. DP-3666 of 13.04.2018, the Ministry carries out state registration of NGOs and their symbols, as well as monitors compliance by non-governmental non-profit organizations, including religious organizations, with the legislation, statutory activities, constituent documents, the procedure for re-registration and liquidation.
A distinctive feature of the uzbek model of civil society development is the comprehensive readiness of the state to support public initiatives aimed at increasing the participation of citizens independently and in close cooperation with the state to address current issues related to national development.
Much attention is paid to the development and implementation of new mechanisms of state support for NGOs, as a result of which their role and importance in society are increasing.
Favorable conditions have been created for the development of NGOs − their registration procedures have been simplified, strong state support for the implementation of social projects, tax benefits and other opportunities provided, and high-quality monitoring of the implementation of social programs in the field has been established.
In accordance with the Law "On Social Partnership", a well-established system of forms, principles, mechanisms of interaction between state authorities and civil society institutions, NGOs, as well as the rights and obligations of the parties has been introduced.
This Law defines eight forms of public control by citizens 'self-government bodies, such as appeals and requests to state bodies; participation in meetings of open boards of state bodies; public discussion; hearings; monitoring; expertise; study of public opinion; hearing reports of executive authorities, other organizations and institutions by citizens' self-government bodies.
It is also worth noting the contribution of NGOs to the implementation of major state socio-economic programs. For example, since 2018, the Ministry of Justice has implemented the social project of Uzbekistan "We are together!" in order to support the activities of NGOs that unite disabled people.
Within the framework of this project, a Republican exhibition and fair of products prepared by disabled people was organized; a Republican contest "Maftunkor ranglar zhilosi" was organized for drawing pictures among young people with disabilities aged 7 to 17 years; in order to help the victims of the man-made disaster, the Ministry of Justice and the national movement "Yuksalish" organized "Salom, Sardoba, biz birgamiz!" as part of the charity event, another humanitarian aid was formed in the amount of 104,182,765 soums.
The Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. DP-4473 of October 4, 2019 "On additional measures to improve the effectiveness of public control over the ongoing reforms in the socio-economic sphere, as well as the activity of citizens in implementing democratic transformations in the country" gave special dynamics to the processes of development of civil society institutions. In accordance with the Resolution, from January 1, 2020, the rates of the state fee charged for the state registration of republican, inter − regional non-governmental non-profit organizations were reduced from 4 to 3 basic calculation values, and for the registration of regional non-governmental non-profit organizations-from 2 to 1-fold the size of the basic calculation value. For the state registration of public associations of disabled people, veterans, women and children, a state fee is established in the amount of 50 percent of the amount of state fees approved by this resolution.
In addition, NGOs have tax benefits and other mandatory payments. According to the Tax Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, NGOs are exempt from paying corporate income tax, value added tax, water use tax, property tax, land tax, tax on improvement and development of social infrastructure, as well as mandatory contributions to the Republican road fund under the Ministry of finance and to the extra-budgetary Pension Fund.
In accordance with the Concept of improving normative activity, approved by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated August 8, 2018 No. PO–5505, work is being carried out to systematize and unify normative legal acts regulating relations in the field of non-governmental non-profit organizations (more than 20 normative legal acts).
So, starting from January 1, 2019, the e-ngo.uz portal was launched, in which the state registration and re-registration of NGOs and their symbols is carried out in electronic format.
Another important step in achieving further development of the activities of NGOs is the development by the Ministry of Justice of a draft law on amendments and additions to the Code of administrative responsibility of the Republic of Uzbekistan for the introduction of liability for illegal interference in the activities of a non-governmental non-profit organization.
Currently, a working group headed by the Minister of Justice, formed by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. DP–4473 of October 4, 2019, is working on the development of a draft Code on non-governmental Non-profit organizations based on the study of the best foreign experience of countries such as Germany, the United States, France and national law enforcement practice.
The project development process involved an expert group consisting of more than 20 representatives of non-governmental non-profit organizations, such as the Association of Disabled People, the Association of Student Sports, the Association of Business Women "Tadbirkor ael", the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan, the Creative Union of Journalists, the international charitable foundation "Ezgu Maksad" and others.
Based on the analysis, active work is being carried out on the article-by-article revision of the project, special attention is paid to the procedures for simplifying the registration and re-registration of non-governmental non-profit organizations by ensuring transparency, eliminating outdated standards that do not meet modern requirements.
An innovation in the third sector is the adoption of the Presidential Decree (No. DP – 5012 of March 3, 2021), "On additional measures for State support of non-governmental non-profit organizations, ensuring the freedom of their activities, and protecting their rights and legitimate interests".
In accordance with the above act, from March 1, 2021:
the total amount of funds and property received in one calendar year NGOs from foreign sources, with notification (for information) of the registration authority, has been increased from twenty to one hundred basic calculation values;
the period of re-registration of NGOs, as well as the state registration of their symbols, has been reduced from one month to 15 days;
the state fee for state registration (re-registration) of symbols of public associations of persons with disabilities, veterans, senior citizens, women, and children has been abolished;
the procedure for registering a separate division has been canceled;
republican NGOs are recognized as NGOs that carry out activities in accordance with the statutory goals throughout the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as having separate divisions in two or more administrative-territorial units;
the state fee for the registration of territorial NGOs was reduced and amounted to 50 percent of the base calculated value.
The resolution provides for measures aimed at strengthening the status of the National Association of Non-Governmental Non-profit Organizations of Uzbekistan.
Thus, by the Decree of the President, the National Association of Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations has the following powers:
participate in the development of draft legal acts affecting the rights and legitimate interests of NGOs, as well as the preparation of proposals for improving the legislation regulating this area;
the placement of NGOs operating in socially significant areas in the "Houses of Non-governmental non-profit organizations" in the Republic of Karakalpakstan, regional centers and the city of Tashkent is carried out on the basis of the Association's recommendation.
At the same time, the President of Uzbekistan signed a Presidential Order "On approval of the concept for the development of civil society in 2021-2025" and is scheduled to be announced.
The priority areas of the Concept are defined:
consistent improvement of the legal framework for the development of civil society;
assistance to civil society institutions and further improvement of the mechanism of their state support;
creating the necessary conditions for the active participation of civil society institutions in state and public administration;
further expanding the participation of civil society institutions in the implementation of state social projects;
ensuring the transparency of the activities of civil society institutions.
This act also approved the "Road Map" for the implementation in 2021 of the Concept for the Development of Civil Society in 2021-2025, as well as approved Target indicators for the development of civil society in 2021-2025.
The concept will be implemented in stages every two years within the framework of the "Road Map", which will be approved separately by a resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers. Target indicators imply:
increase in the volume of state support for NGOs and other civil society institutions in the form of subsidies, grants and social orders by at least 1.2 times in 2021 and 1.8 times in 2025;
allocation of 16 billion soums in 2021 and 70 billion soums in 2025 to public funds to support NGOs and other civil society institutions under the Jokargy Kenges of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, regional and Tashkent city Kengashes of People's Deputies;
increase in the number of representatives of NGOs created on the initiative of citizens.
ensuring that the total number of proposals submitted by NGOs to higher-level organizations to improve legislation reaches 1,000 in 2021 and 5,000 in 2025;
increase in the number of NGOs participating in the implementation of the state program of the announced year to 30 in 2021, in the state program of 2025 – to 50.
The decree establishes the procedure according to which, from April 1, 2021, an Index of transparency of the activities of NGOs will be introduced and their rating will be compiled based on the work done by NGOs, the level of social partnership, the effectiveness of allocated subsidies, grants and social orders, and other important performance indicators.
The NGOs Transparency index is formed in accordance with the procedure established by the Public Chamber under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the National association of non-governmental non-profit organizations of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Justice, and the results of the index will be published on their official websites.
The development and full implementation of the NGO Transparency index is the responsibility of the justice authorities.
In his message to the Oliy Majlis, the Head of state proposed to create the institution of a permanent representative of non-governmental non-profit organizations in the Legislative Chamber.
The Order stipulates that the Permanent Representative is appointed and dismissed by the Public Chamber from among the NGO employees who have contributed to the development of civil society, actively defended the rights and freedoms of citizens and earned the respect of the people.
It is envisaged that from May 1, 2021, a single interactive portal "Transparent Charity" will be launched, which will allow centralized collection and distribution of sponsorship funds, monitoring their targeted and targeted use.
Reforms in the formation and development of civil society in Uzbekistan correspond to modern trends, as in developed democratic countries, the level of development of national statehood, the processes of democratization and liberalization of society, which are consistently developing, increasing the socio-political and socio-economic activity of citizens and are aimed at strengthening the legal mechanisms for ensuring human rights and interests, as well as democracy in society.
At all stages of democratic reforms and rule-making, Uzbekistan has proceeded from the interests of society and the citizen, the mentality and national traditions of the people, paying special attention to the in-depth study of international experience.