United Nations and Uzbekistan Work Together to Empower Youth as Actors of Positive Change and Build Community Resilience in the Fergana Valley in the Wake of COVID-19 

As many other countries around the world, Uzbekistan continues to grapple with the health and socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have faced a loss of income due to the economic slowdown associated with the outbreak of COVID-19. Young people below the age of 30 who make up 56% of Uzbekistan’s society are significantly affected in terms of reduced access to socio-economic opportunities.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are currently partnering with Uzbekistan’s Youth Affairs Agency and other national counterparts to implement a joint initiative aimed at supporting the implementation of the country’s youth policy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from the UN Peacebuilding Fund, the initiative is geared towards increasing the opportunities of youth for self-fulfillment and to pilot new models for the government to deliver reform and services inclusively in the Fergana Valley.

A key objective of the joint initiative is to give young women and men in the Fergana Valley increased opportunities to learn about their legal and social rights. This can relate to access to education, social services, personal identification and other documents, property and land rights or other issues they face in their everyday life.

Following a recent training of 20 young lawyers, on 28 and 29 October 2020, the project partners opened 3 new legal clinics in Fergana, Andijan and Namangan cities. “We are committed to running these clinics at the premises of our youth unions in the Fergana Valley”, noted the Director of the Youth Affairs Agency, Mr. Alisher Sadullayev, at the opening ceremony of one of the clinics in Andijan. “For this purpose we are also signing a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Justice”, Mr. Sadullayev added.

“Legal aid is an essential element of a fair, humane and efficient justice system that is based on the rule of law. We are proud to make a contribution to improving legal aid in Uzbekistan and to support the authorities in their efforts to create an enabling environment for the country’s youth to grow and thrive”, stressed Ms. Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative to Central Asia.

17 lawyers, psychologists and social workers will be engaged at the clinics to provide various types of legal advice, assistance, and representation, mostly in civil and administrative cases, but also in criminal cases when needed. The clinics will also involve university and college law students who will have an opportunity to support the work of the clinics. Under close supervision, over 60 law students are expected to complete internships at the clinics on an annual basis.

The project partners also launched the “Just Start” accelerator program and watched presentations by finalists of the Technovation Girls initiative in the Fergana Valley. These 2 programs are designed to provide comprehensive support to young people, particularly by promoting entrepreneurship and developing women's knowledge and skills in the field of IT.

“The Ferghana valley presents an area with large untapped resources. It includes some of Uzbekistan’s most highly productive agricultural land and at the same time, has a relatively high level of industrial development with approximately 9.3 million people, comprising 28% of country’s total population. The Fergana Valley has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent economic downturn, against the backdrop of key constraints the region is facing, which include a lack of productive employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for large portions of the economically active population, particularly youth and women,. UNDP, therefore, prioritizes the region and is considering in the coming years to further strengthen its engagement in the Fergana Valley”, said Ms. Matilda Dimovska, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan.

Whilst on mission, the Director of the Youth Affairs Agency of Uzbekistan, UNODC Regional Representative to Central Asia, Ms. Ashita Mittal, and UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan, Ms. Matilda Dimovska, met with the governors of Fergana, Andijan and Namangan regions to discuss priority directions for sustainable development, youth employment, participation and access to socioeconomic opportunities. They also participated in a youth dialogue platform, in which young politicians, civil society activists and students participated.

“Youth participation is a key element of social cohesion. Giving youth opportunities to develop life skills and creating platforms for their civic engagement can serve as catalysts for sustainable development and inclusive growth in a safe environment, especially as we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic together in Uzbekistan and around the world”, said Ms. Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative to Central Asia.

Such dialogues are conducted on a regular basis to inform government action in the regions and support implementation of national level youth policies. The joint UN initiative will continue to work with the Youth Affairs Agency and other national partners to provide young people from diverse backgrounds with key competencies and opportunities to constructively participate in community life and act as key agents of change, to develop skills and knowledge that foster their employability and entrepreneurship and positively influence attitudes to prevent anti-social behavior, and create cooperation platforms between young people and local administrations in the Fergana Valley.



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