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Experts of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Commend Uzbekistan on fulfilling its Treaty Obligations, Ask about Corruption and Violence against Children

24 February 2022

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of Uzbekistan on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Committee Experts commended Uzbekistan on the positive steps taken toward fulfilling its treaty obligations, while asking about corruption and violence against children in the country. 

A Committee Expert, commended Uzbekistan on the positive steps it had taken toward fulfilling its treaty obligations on economic, social and cultural rights, and for ratifying a number of human rights treaties.  The Expert noted that Uzbekistan was undertaking reforms to fight corruption, including the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Act (and the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency, for which it was commended.  The Committee asked how effective the measures had been to curb corruption.  What were the number of investigations, prosecutions and sentences handed down in relation to corruption offences?  One Committee Expert said that in order to prevent violence against children, the State had created the position of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights.  How were the mechanisms for protecting children evaluated?  What measures were being taken to ensure equality for Roma children regarding access to education?

Responding to questions about corruption, the delegation said that there were 7,101 corruption crimes, according to a 2021 analysis, the majority of which were in the health care and banking spheres.  The State had seized over 120 million dollars, and fined perpetrators over 50 million dollars in these cases.  The Academy of the Prosecutor carried out training courses related to combatting corruption for public officials.  Through these courses, over 400 officials were requalified in 2021.  An online course and platform for anti-corruption education had also been developed for public and private individuals.  The delegation responded to questions on violence against children, saying that work had been done to raise awareness of children’s rights and to protect children from discrimination.  Five humanitarian actions had been carried out with the United Nations Children’s Fund to return 332 children from areas of armed conflict, to reintegrate these children into society, and give them access to education and medical services.  The delegation said that there were more than 50,000 Roma people in Uzbekistan and the State had carried out measures to alleviate their problems.  Minors had been placed in educational facilities.

Akmal Saidov, Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan and Head of Delegation, said large-scale democratic reforms had been carried out in Uzbekistan over the last five years, with 300 new laws adopted and more than 4,000 decisions passed by the President, aimed at fundamentally reforming all spheres of life of the State and society.  Uzbekistan had adopted legislative measures to ensure human rights, but the need for a timely response was growing due to the COVID pandemic.  Measures were being taken to protect the right to life and health and ensure access to health care for all, without any discrimination, paying particular attention to vulnerable segments of the population, including the elderly, disabled, women, migrants, and the homeless.  New laws had also been passed on affordable housing, education, participation of civil society institutions, protection of migrants and person with disabilities, and prevention of poverty.

In concluding remarks, Preeti Saran, Committee Expert, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, saying that the Committee appreciated the positive spirit of the State party.  She recommended that the delegation sign and ratify important treaties, including on human rights and refugees. 

Mr. Saidov expressed thanks to the Committee, saying that all the questions were constructive and forward looking, aimed at improving the rights and freedoms of people in Uzbekistan.  He concluded by saying that communication was the most important value for humankind, thanking the Committee for the constructive approach.  While a lot of problems had been tackled, a lot remained, with Uzbekistan ready to undertake these challenges.

Mohamed Ezzeldin Abdel-Moneim, Chair of the Committee, said that he appreciated the development strategy being applied by Uzbekistan, which showed good understanding of the Covenant.  He bid farewell to the delegation, wishing them good health and their country success and prosperity. 

The delegation of the Uzbekistan was comprised of representatives of the Ministry for Support of Mahalla and Family; the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations; the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction; the Ministry of Construction; the Ministry of Culture; the Ministry of Preschool Education; the Ministry of Public Education; the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education; the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the Committee on Interethnic and Friendly Relations with Foreign Countries under the Cabinet of Ministers; the Committee on Budget and Economic Reforms; the Anti-Corruption Agency and; the Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to United Nations Office at Geneva.

Documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to start its consideration of the initial report of Bahrain (E/C.12/BHR/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the third periodic report on Uzbekistan (E/C.12/UZB/3).

Presentation of Report

AKMAL SAIDOV, Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan and Head of Delegation, said large-scale democratic reforms had been carried out in Uzbekistan over the last five years, with 300 new laws adopted and more than 4,000 decisions passed by the President aimed at fundamentally reforming all spheres of life of the State and society.  Strategies implemented by Uzbekistan included the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026, the National Strategy of Uzbekistan on Human Rights, and the Voluntary National Review on progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Uzbekistan had adopted legislative measures to ensure human rights, but the need for a timely response was growing due to the COVID pandemic.  Measures were being taken to protect the right to life and health and ensure access to health care for all, without any discrimination, paying particular attention to vulnerable segments of the population, including the elderly, disabled, women, migrants, and the homeless.  New laws had also been passed on affordable housing, education, participation of civil society institutions, protection of migrants and person with disabilities, and prevention of poverty.  Over 50 laws, decrees and resolutions of the President in these areas had been adopted in Uzbekistan.  They were aimed at curbing and preventing the spread of coronavirus infection; supporting the sanitary and epidemiological well-being and safety of the population; and meeting the need for medicines, medical products and essential goods.  Targeted social protection of the population had been provided, as well as active support for the economy and entrepreneurs.

In Uzbekistan, priority was given to the implementation of a consistent policy for the gradual and full provision of the rights provided for by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  This involved the adoption of legislation, followed by State programmes implementing the recommendations of the Committee; implementation of National Action Plans; the creation of institutions and information campaigns; and the involvement of non-governmental and international organizations in the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights.

Comprehensive measures had been taken to improve the activities of the Commissioner of the Oliy Majlis for Human Rights (Ombudsman), which was accredited with B status.  The institution of the Oliy Majlis Commissioner for Children's Rights had also been established.  The powers of the Business Ombudsman to protect the interests of entrepreneurs in court had been expanded.  The Anti-Corruption Agency had been created.  On poverty reduction and employment, according to the data of 2020, 4 to 5 million people or 12 to 15 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line in Uzbekistan.  According to the results of 2021, the unemployment rate in Uzbekistan amounted to 9.4 per cent, having decreased by 1.7 per cent in annual terms; this affected 1.4 million people.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert commended Uzbekistan on the positive steps it had taken toward fulfilling its treaty obligations on economic, social and cultural rights, and for ratifying a number of human rights treaties.  The Expert also thanked the State party for implementing several of the recommendations contained in the Committee’s report dated 13 June 2014, including efforts to eliminate child labour, reduce statelessness, and achieve gender equality and women empowerment.  However, issues of fair trial, independence of judiciary, establishment of effective human rights institutions, and greater space for civil society to operate independently had not yet been addressed.  Was the Covenant invoked by national courts, and were those judgements made public?

Judges were appointed for an initial five-year term, followed by a 10-year term, and subsequently by a lifetime appointment.  The risk of not being extended could potentially place some pressure upon the judges, which might adversely impact upon their ability to remain independent.  Were there measures being taken or planned to prevent the interference by the executive and the legislative in the judiciary?  What was the mandate of the Supreme Judicial Council?

The Authorised Person of the Oliy Majlis for Human Rights (Ombudsman) was accredited with B status in December 2020 by the Subcommittee on Accreditation of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights.  What was the mandate of this Ombudsman in relation to the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights, and did it have an independent complaints mechanism?

Important steps had been taken to facilitate the registration of the non-governmental organizations and trade unions in Uzbekistan, while the current Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations Act regulated trade unions.  Could the Ministry of Justice deny the registration of non-governmental organizations and trade unions?  If so, on what grounds? 

The Committee Expert commended Uzbekistan for undertaking reforms to fight corruption, including the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Act (2017) and the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency.  How effective had these measures been to curb corruption?  What was the number investigations, prosecutions and sentences handed down in relation to corruption offences?

On climate change policy, the Expert commended Uzbekistan for its goal to reduce specific greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030, and the adoption of the Strategy for Transition to a Green Economy by 2030.  What policies had been put in place for the mitigation of natural disasters and climate change, particularly for marginalised groups?

What measures were in place to increase the low share of the gross domestic product allocated to public spending? What were the levels of poverty and extreme poverty?

On same-sex relations, the Expert noted that the State party had not considered the decriminalisation of such relations due to “the pressing need to combat the spread of HIV”.  Had the State party considered exploring a human rights-based approach, as some other countries had done, in dealing with the scourge of HIV? What efforts had been made to address the prevalence of violence, harassment and stigmatisation against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, including by law enforcement?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation thanked the Rapporteur for noting that many of the 2014 recommendations of the Committee had been implemented.  The State had ratified a law protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.  There were some laws that had not yet been ratified, including those related to refugees and stateless persons, however, there were efforts to eradicate statelessness.  One major achievement was the eradication of child labour and forced labour.  Environmental protection in the Aral Sea region was prioritised, and the situation had improved recently due to Government measures.  Work on education policies had been made that had encouraged increased participation in preschool and primary school attendance.  Children were now in school, rather than working in cotton fields.  The number of educational institutions in the region had increased from four to 10.

Women made up 50 per cent of senators, and more and more women were represented in the private and public sectors.  Measures taken to support women included work to increase their representation in State bodies through training and promotion.  In regional areas, there were advisers for governments with high female representation.  Three thousand persons from low-income families were being supported to earn places in higher education institutions.  All of the Mahala (self-governing bodies) were supported during the pandemic with the establishment of 203 support centres as well as a support hotline.  Financial support was also provided to low-income families during the pandemic.

In Uzbekistan, international human rights standards were incorporated into legislation as treaties were ratified.  The independence of the judiciary was guaranteed as it was an independent entity from the State.  Measures were in place to reform the judicial system, and the Supreme Judicial Council promoted the training of judges.  The Constitutional Court’s powers were expanded to ensure its transparency.  There were also measures in place to protect those involved in the court process, including victims and witnesses.

To combat corruption, more than 70 legislative acts had been adopted over the last five years.  The Anti-Corruption Agency had also been established, and a roadmap and State programme to combat corruption in State bodies were being implemented.  Academics were given the right to investigate corruption.  In all regions, territory councils were established to combat corruption.

According to a 2021 analysis, there were 7,101 corruption crimes, the majority of which were in the healthcare and banking spheres.  The State seized over 120 million dollars, and fined perpetrators over 50 million dollars in these cases.

The Academy of the Prosecutor carried out training courses related to combatting corruption for public officials.  Through these courses, over 400 officials were requalified in 2021.  An online course and platform for anti-corruption education had also been developed for public and private individuals.

Uzbekistan had unique experience in creating human rights institutions.  In recent years, special attention had been paid to protecting the rights of business through the Business Ombudsman.  In 2017, a law in line with the Paris Principles regulating the activities of the Ombudsman had been adopted.  The Ombudsman conducted inspection activities electronically through a mandatory reporting system.  Two hundred and thirty reports of offenses had been reported, and 149 businesses reprimanded.  Charges had been brought against over 2,000 individuals, and 10 million dollars had been restored.  The Ombudsman had developed nine acts to improve legal procedures, and over 50 acts to provide support for small businesses.  As a result of this support, over 500 business entities affected by the pandemic had resumed activities.

In line with the Paris Principles, the Parliament Ombudsman carried out its duties independent of the Parliament, and had made a submission for membership with the global alliance.  Over 18,000 complaints had been received, including 3,000 complaints related to economic and social rights.  Social welfare was paid to citizens, and support was also provided to regional groups.

Non-discrimination was enshrined in over 80 laws, and a law preventing the discrimination of disabled persons had also been drafted.  Uzbekistan had regularly participated in conferences on business rights.  The State was also considering ratifying the Optional Protocol of the Covenant.

On refugees, there were only eight Afghan refugees in the country compared to 8,000 20 years ago.  A body had also been established to protect the human rights of refugees.

Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert sought clarification regarding means of complaints of victims of business operations.  What measures were in place to protect victims of harmful business activities, and was there a body in place with which individuals could file complaints?

A Committee Expert asked for more information about the challenges that the State party had identified regarding economic, social and cultural rights.  Did the State party plan to ratify the 1951 Convention regarding the status of refugees? What was the legal status of recommendations adopted by treaty bodies?

The Expert welcomed the State party’s efforts to combat forced labour and the achievements it had made.  What was the normative framework to prohibit and criminalise forced labour?  There were reports that in 2020, public and private sector employees were forced to pick cotton or pay for replacement pickers.  Had investigations and prosecutions been conducted regarding this and other cases of forced labour?  Also, what were the criteria to review and adjust the level of the minimum wage?

The Expert further asked for information on measures taken to combat discrimination in the area of the right to work.  What was being done to combat discrimination against people with disabilities? In addition, what were the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to work and working conditions?  What measures were in place to ensure equal pay for men and women, and prevent gender stereotypes?

Could the delegation provide information on citizens’ freedom to form trade unions? How many applications had been submitted to register trade unions over the past five years?  What protections were in place for members of trade unions?

Reports noted that over 60 per cent of working age people were in the informal sector and did not have access to social insurance schemes.  How did social security cover people working in the informal sector?  What social benefits were distributed to disadvantaged and marginalised groups?

The Expert commended the establishment of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights.  How was this mechanism evaluated? What measures were being taken to ensure that Roma and Lyuli children had access to education?  The Expert also asked for statistics on the number of children in institutions.

Further, the Expert asked for information on complaints and prosecutions related to domestic violence and rape, which reports indicated were serious and systematic; information on the care provided to victims was also requested.

On the right to housing, the Expert asked if forced evictions were regulated.  What was the State party’s plan to address homelessness, and make social housing available for vulnerable groups?  What measures were being taken to provide housing to victims of the flood in the Sardoba region in May 2020.

On health care, the Expert asked about the status of the Health Care Bill being drafted, and the results achieved in the State’s programme to develop the health care system.  What was the State’s strategy for fighting corruption in the health system?  Would it repeal legislation criminalising HIV-positive people and homosexuals?  What measures were in place to ensure the confidentiality of patients?  The Expert further asked for updated information on suicide rates and maternal and infant mortality rates. 

Responses by the Delegation

In response to these questions and comments, the delegation said that business people had the right to file complaints and the Business Ombudsman had the right to produce a report on the issue and implement administrative fines.  The Ombudsman had the power to present conclusions on violations to State bodies and lodge complaints on individuals’ behalf.

The delegation agreed that there was also a need to discuss challenges, and the status of Committee recommendations; 95 per cent of the recommendations of the Committee made in 2014 had been implemented, and efforts would be made to take on future recommendations.

Uzbekistan was a tolerant, multi-race and multi-faith society, and the State had drafted a law on all forms of discrimination in collaboration with representatives of civil society.  Ratification of international conventions was only 10 per cent of the task, 90 per cent of it was the implementation of those conventions.

Uzbekistani society did not accept decriminalisation of homosexuality, and work needed to first be done to encourage acceptance of homosexuality in society.    

The delegation said that the International Labour Organization, the World Bank and other international organizations had confirmed that Uzbekistan had been successful in tackling forced labour.  The Code on Administrative Responsibilities and the Criminal Code criminalised forced and child labour, and fines had been issued to perpetrators.  Pay for cotton pickers had been increased five-fold, decreasing the risk of forced labour.  Mechanisation of the agricultural industry had also led to decreased forced labour.  Half a million unemployed people were involved in work on cotton farms.  There were only 146 notifications of forced labour in 2021, a significant drop.  In addition, there were only five officials who were found to have perpetrated forced labour.  The delegation expected that organizations monitoring the situation would announce next year that forced labour was no longer an issue.

The New Uzbekistan 2021-2026 Strategy aimed to increase the percentage of females in the workforce.  Centres for entrepreneurship for women had been established in all 14 regions of the country.  The centres provided career guidance and training for women.  The People’s Bank was also supporting female entrepreneurs to obtain business skills and knowledge, as well as loans.  Around 156,000 families had received preferential loans.  There were more than 5,000 sewing enterprises ensuring the employment of women.  Mahallah centres had also provided support for disadvantaged women in finding work.

For almost 25 years, Uzbekistan had not acknowledged poverty in the country, but in 2020 the State started actively working on poverty reduction.  It created the Ministry of Poverty Reduction and introduced measures at the local level.  Since independence, the State had enshrined in its legislation minimal consumer needs and expenses, and this served as a baseline for determining poverty levels.  The Government established the threshold for poverty at 400,000 so’m, and this had been increased to 498,000 so’m, an increase of 2 per cent over 10 years, benefiting more than a million people.

Child benefits were now paid up until the age of 18.  In the past, children from disadvantaged families were forced to seek work from the age of 14, but new legislation prevented this.  The State provided schoolbooks to children and 500 billion so’m in subsidies were paid to disadvantaged families.  Twenty per cent of families had used loans from the Government to support their children’s education.  The State had built 1,002 houses for homeless people.  Measures had been taken to support access to preschool, and preschool fees were paid for children of women who had lost their husbands.  Twenty years ago, nine per cent of people went into higher education, but this figure was now over 30 per cent due to Government support measures.  In 2020, Uzbekistan provided its first report on its progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals at the Economic and Social Council.  It aimed to become a middle-income country by 2030; however, this would require doubling average income.  Despite the Government’s measures, the delegation expected that it would take 40 years to eliminate poverty.  A new institute for eradicating poverty had been established that would allow measures to be implemented quickly at the grassroots level.

Major budget allocations had been made toward social protections.  In 2022, 2,000 more people than in 2021 would be provided with social payments.  Around 134,00 persons without work would be provided with social payments, 1,500 more than last year.  The housing costs of 461 disadvantaged children were being paid for by the State.

There were several articles in the Labour Code regarding persons with disabilities, particularly in the new Code being deliberated in Parliament.  The new Code would prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, require facilities for such people, and assure their paid leave.  Employers who provided jobs to persons with disabilities received grants, as did employers who adapted workplaces for persons with disabilities.  The State sector was also securing jobs for persons with disabilities, and support was provided in Mahallah centres.

The Labour Code also prohibited discrimination against women.  There was a gender pay gap problem in the informal section of the economy, and gender disparities between sectors.  The State had worked on a strategy with international organizations for providing work for all, supporting vocational training, and developing occupational health and safety for migrants.

Around 770,000 people had disabilities, including 130,000 children;18,000 people received special benefits.  Uzbekistan was developing a national plan of action with civil society organizations for supporting disabled persons.

In recent years, four independent monitoring initiatives had been working to eliminate forced labour.  No forced labour had been reported in the cotton industry in 2021.  Cotton pickers were given the opportunity to become temporary members of trade unions, and 64 per cent of pickers did so.  These people were given the right to bargain regarding wages, and as a result over 70 per cent of pickers were paid above the minimum wage.  On 8 March 2020, a new Act was introduced guaranteeing the rights of trade unions based on article 8 of the Covenant.  The Act determined the right of employees to form and join trade unions.  According to the Act, trade unions were independent from State bodies.  Joining a trade union did not entail any restrictions on workers’ rights and freedoms.  Government bodies, officials, and employers could not be initiators of the formation of trade unions.

Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert thanked the delegation for its detailed answers.  What were the remedies provided to people who had been discriminated against regarding their right to work?  What were some specific examples of court cases where such issues had been discussed?  What was the number of applications to join trade unions over the last five years?

If companies were major economic actors, their behaviour must be required to respect human rights.  How were organizations required to do this?

Finally, the Expert noted that the criminalisation of homosexuality was not compatible with international human rights law, and called on the State party to decriminalise it.

Another Expert asked the delegation to update the Committee regarding the legislation on the right to strike.

One Committee Expert noted that the minimum spending was used to determine the poverty rate, but asked if there were other indicators used to determine the rate.  Additionally, he stressed that the State’s goal should not be to halve poverty but to eradicate poverty.  Further, he noted that development, not growth, was vital for the fulfilment of the Covenant.

Responses by the Delegation

In response to these questions and comments, the delegation said that Uzbekistan fully supported the activities of the United Nations regarding business and human rights.  A national action plan on business and human rights had been drafted, and the crux of this was corporate social responsibility.

The new Labour Code had been passed by the Lower Chamber of Parliament and was being considered by the Upper Chamber.  The right to strike peacefully was enshrined in this Labour Code.  Strike activities were required to be announced to the authorities, and police officers would ensure the safety of those striking.

Violations of labour rights could be reported to State inspectors, and there was also a hotline and an online platform for making labour complaints.  If there were labour complaints, the labour inspectorate would go to employers as necessary to mediate and hand out fines as necessary; 65 State officials were found liable for violations in 2021.

The State had adopted measures to promote youth employment.  The youth fund “Youth are our Future” provided support, as did an Internet platform helping young people to find employment.  Preferential loans were provided for start-ups, and employers were provided with benefits for employing young people.  Employment centres offered free vocational training for young people.

In 2021, there were 126 requests for registration in trade unions, with 102 people registered.  In the new Labour Code, persons who had experienced discrimination were allowed to take their case to court and request compensation for damages.  There was also protection provided by the National Institute for Human Rights and the various Ombudsman institutions ensuring equal pay for equal work for men and women.

Uzbekistan planned to become one of the top 50 most developed countries, and the delegation agreed with the Chairman’s observation regarding the difference between growth and development.

The State was aiming to ensure the wellbeing of all people as part of its plan to reduce poverty by 20 to 25 per cent in 2022.  It had secured farmland to supplement agricultural employment.  Uzbekistan had a very young population and expected that investment in building up human capital would yield large benefits for the State.  It was therefore investing in improving the information technology skills of young people.  People who earned less than a certain level were considered to be in poverty, but those people who were close to the poverty line were also given support in education and other areas.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert said that in order to prevent violence against children, the State had created the position of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights.  How were the mechanisms for protecting children evaluated?  What measures were being taken to ensure equality for Roma/Lyuli children regarding access to education?

Had the bill on social protection of orphans and children deprived of parental care been developed and adopted?  What State supports were provided for such children?  The Expert also asked for statistics on the number of children in institutions, particularly children with disabilities.

The Expert noted that domestic violence was serious and systematic in Uzbekistan, asking for information on the effective criminalisation of domestic violence, and on the adoption of the bill on domestic violence.  What forms of care and support were provided to victims of domestic violence?

Further, the Expert asked about the State’s strategy to combat homelessness.  What was the number of social housing units granted to people in disadvantaged groups?  Had affordable housing been provided to residents of the Sardoba region who lost their houses as a result of the flood in May 2020.

What measures were in place to address malnutrition, particularly among children?

On healthcare, the Expert asked about the status of the Healthcare Bill being drafted, and the results achieved in the State’s programme to develop the healthcare system.  What was the State’s strategy for fighting corruption in the health system?  Would it repeal legislation criminalising homosexuals and deliberately exposing others to HIV?  What measures were in place to ensure the confidentiality of patients?  The Expert further asked for updated information on suicide rates and maternal and infant mortality rates. 

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation stated that in 2019, a Children’s Rights Ombudsman had been established.  The Ombudsman had focused on supporting children without parental care and orphans.  Some 40 monitoring visits had been carried out over two years, including visits to homes of children with disabilities, boarding schools, and institutions.  Around 21 children’s homes were visited in 2021, and these contained 2,500 children.  As of 2022, the number of children’s homes had dropped to eight.  Around 1,300 children had been transferred to children’s institutions for guardianship or returned to their families.

Work had been done to raise awareness of children’s rights and to protect children from discrimination.  A pilot project had been launched toward this aim.  Five humanitarian actions had been carried out with the United Nations Children’s Fund to return 332 children from areas of armed conflict, and to reintegrate these children into society, and give them access to education and medical services.  A bill on social protection for children was currently under discussion.  There was also a working group aiming to draft measures to prevent harassment of children.

There were more than 50,000 Roma people in Uzbekistan and the State had carried out measures to alleviate their problems.  Minors had been placed in educational facilities.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert asked what impact the COVID measures had had on omitting the right to education and how they had affected school-aged children.  What steps had the State party taken to reduce any negative impacts invoked by the measures?  It would be desirable for current human rights training to be expanded to include issues on diversity and homosexuality.  Did Uzbekistan plan to deepen such training?  

The Expert noted that gender equality was tied to content.  What measures were being taken by the State to ensure that curriculum content in schools fostered gender equality?  The Committee Expert asked how the rollout of the Disabilities Act would ensure the general integration of these students.  Were there sufficient teachers who were properly trained to ensure this?  What steps were being taken to ensure that school infrastructure was more accessible to people with disabilities?

The Act on Culture was raised, with the Committee Expert asking whether the content and provision of the law had a focus on human and cultural rights.  The Expert expressed concern about the number of hotels being built.  How was the State incorporating the best practices for cultural asset management, bearing in mind the participation of the local population?  The Expert noted that the building of hotels sometimes involved forced evictions, which was concerning to the Committee.

Responses by the Delegation

In response to these questions and comments, the delegation said there were 55,203 Roma in Uzbekistan.  A series of events had been carried out to examine the social issues faced by Roma.  Roma people received help to find work, with nearly 2,000 Roma finding permanent work.  The large majority of this population were Uzbek citizens and had passports, with the State working to provide the remainder with identification and birth documents.

Youth aged 18 to 30 represented more than 7 million people in Uzbekistan.  There were more than 17 million women and girls in Uzbekistan.  More than 300 inspectors oversaw child and women’s affairs as well as the Department of Social Security.  A law had been adopted to prevent domestic violence and harassment against women and girls, while also rooting out the causes underlying the violence.  Some 19,842 cases of domestic violence had been reported, some of which were prosecuted before the criminal courts.  Correctional programmes had been implemented, with rehabilitation centres established for women who had suffered violence.  The centres provided support to more than 7,000 women and girls. 

AKMAL SAIDOV, Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan and Head of Delegation, said that rape by a close relative was an aggravating circumstance, with very stringent punishment,  including 10 to 15 years imprisonment imposed for such crimes. 

Concerning social housing, the delegation said there was a series of legislative acts in place in this area, with a major construction programme carried out to build houses for low-income families.  In 2022, the State planned to build 80,000 apartments, with 40,000 subsidised by the State budget.  Measures were being increased throughout the country, including the building of apartments, schools and pre-schools, with construction clusters created to improve the quality and affordability of housing.  Mr. Saidov said that over the last five years, a large-scale programme had been implemented to build housing, following many years with no building.  He said that because of specific measures which had been adopted for the support of the homeless, 616 persons had received jobs, a great increase from previous years.  Mr. Saidov said that decrees had been adopted to ensure equality in land relations, with a council being established to coordinate work to overcome land disputes under the General Prosecutor. 

Land plots were regulated by the Government of Uzbekistan and withdrawal of a land plot for public needs received compensation at market prices.  A new concept for developing public health care had been adopted, increasing the quality and the quantity of medical personnel.  The concept of a ‘village doctor’, for remote areas had been introduced.  The rural doctor’s programme had increased the number of family assistance centres.  Projects were rolled out in stages to increase compulsory medical insurance.  A mechanism had been created for family doctors to use remote consultation mechanisms, which would eventually be rolled out nationwide. 

A programme for providing additional nutrients to children had been implemented, with a nationwide study carried out in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund, to find deficiencies in children and pregnant women.  Anaemia, vitamin B and stunting were key areas of focus.  A national programme had been launched in 2021 which included the provision of poly-vitamins in children under 15 and pregnant women.  In 2022, free breakfasts or lunches would be provided to children in the early school grades. 

The delegation said that foreign citizens in Uzbekistan were guaranteed the right to access public health on an equal footing with citizens.  For HIV/AIDS, a budget had been allocated for anti-viral drugs, with funds allocated for medication.  A centre for accommodating HIV/AIDS had been established which ensured data confidentiality.  The procedure for providing documents was strictly regulated, with all people with HIV/AIDS having access to quality medical assistance.  Concerning suicide in teenagers, the statistics were comparably low compared to other countries; however, Uzbekistan was sparing no effort in continuing to fight child suicide.  Maternal mortality had fallen in the country.  Comprehensive measures were in place to combat the illegal use of drugs and drug trafficking.  Illegal drugs such as methadone could not be used for medical treatments.  A draft document was being developed to increase the number of beds for people suffering from drug addiction.  Awareness raising initiatives were in place to combat drug use in young people.

The delegation spoke about how corruption was being prevented in the health sector.  Free and paid medical services were studied to prevent corruption risks, with the amount of equipment and medicines being reviewed.  The hiring procedures for staff in these centres was also a key focus.  A great deal of information sharing and awareness raising had been sent to doctors, clinics and hospitals, with a call centre established to receive calls on alleged cases of corruption.  Mr. Saidov said that the fight against corruption involved a whole system in Uzbekistan, with necessary laws adopted and institutions set up, including the National Council to combat corruption.

AKMAL SAIDOV, Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan and Head of Delegation, said the delegation welcomed the in-depth questions from the Committee.  There was a unique education system in Uzbekistan with ministries for each stage of schooling.  A member of the delegation said that a new law had been developed, which guaranteed equal rights to education, including for minorities such as Roma children.  They said every child had the right to the same level of education, including the Roma minority, who had the right to enjoy the same opportunities as all of Uzbekistan.  Uzbekistan had children’s homes as well as alternative solutions, and upon completion of time in a children’s home, the children received housing.  A member of the delegation said that following the first case of COVID-19 in March, schools resumed online in April.  Three television and radio channels broadcast education programmes nationally, with equality ensured through this approach. 

A new national curriculum had been launched which covered knowledge and skills for today’s global citizens with an increase in the number of hours for practical skills.  Regarding access to quality education for children with disabilities, the delegation said that this was a challenge.  Specialised education establishments existed, including 14 institutes for the blind, 18 for the deaf and 3 for those with mobility issues, with Uzbekistan focused on increasing the number of schools in the country.  Some regular schools also had inclusive classes.  All new schools being built in Uzbekistan were using an inclusive strategy.  Given the needs of the population, seven languages were taught in schools, with students able to receive schooling in their mother tongue and all material provided by the State. 

Discrimination based on sex was unacceptable and equal opportunities needed to be ensured for equal education for all.  The State aimed to broaden women’s participation in teaching, including girls from disadvantaged families who received free education.  There were 5,000 students with disabilities in the higher education institutions, studying in 19 different spheres in Uzbekistan.  Works had been undertaken on 150 buildings to ensure access for people with disabilities.  A special quota for people with disabilities had been provided based on receiving government grants.  The delegation said that Uzbekistan had had to work quickly to adapt the entire education system to the new reality of COVID.  This had included a special platform for remote learning and measures to organize distance learning for remote technologies.  Mr. Saidov said that 30 per cent of all school finishers in Uzbekistan now went to university, compared to 9 per cent previously.  By 2030, the goal was to see 50 percent of school finishers attend university.

A member of the delegation said that the coverage of pre-school education had increased to 2 million children aged 3 to 6.  Concerning pre-school education, there were five times more pre-school education establishments today than in 2017.  With the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, a State programme for early age education had been developed.  More than 80,000 education groups had been established, which provided tuition in several languages.  A decision had been adopted to hold the Global Forum of Education, with vast resources being laid into the education system.  Measures had been implemented to increase the protection of cultural heritage sites.  The law aimed to avoid the destruction of cultural sites and made the crimes offenses with liability and custodial sentences introduced.  A programme of measures was in place to identify the level of protection for cultural sites in the country, with administrative and criminal offenses investigated.  A national plan had also been approved to protect the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage sites. 

Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert noted that the Sardoba Reservoir burst in 2022, asking whether any investigation had been undertaken and if an outcome had been reached.  Had analysis been undertaken on the higher level of female suicide?  Had COVID significantly impacted mental health?  The Committee Expert asked about the Labour Act and whether the right to strike had been legislated. 

A Committee Expert asked about opioid therapy, saying this was a recommended practice by the World Health Organization, encouraging the delegation to use the therapy.  What measures were being taken to strengthen harm reduction programmes?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that international experience would be taken into account when drafting the code of public health of Uzbekistan.  Around 400 children had committed suicide in Uzbekistan of which 60 per cent were girls – a relatively small figure.  Mr. Saidov said that a systematic job was underway to codify all legislation in Uzbekistan, which was a very important undertaking.

Concluding Remarks

PREETI SARAN, Committee Expert, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, saying that the Committee appreciated the positive spirit of Uzbekistan. She thanked the State party for signing a number of human rights treaties, raising issues which still warranted attention.  Uzbekistan should sign and ratify important treaties, including on human rights and refugees.  Ms. Saran repeated the request for data on gender equality and the fight against corruption, amongst others. 

AKMAL SAIDOV, Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan and Head of Delegation, said that rape by a close relative was an aggravating circumstance and expressed thanks to the Committee, saying that all the questions were constructive and forward looking, aimed at improving the rights and freedoms of people in Uzbekistan.  The ratification of human rights treaties was on the agenda and would be done and corruption would be tackled – these issues were under control.  A broad effort would be undertaken to disseminate the dialogue and the recommendations which stemmed from the Committee.  Mr. Saidov highlighted overcoming gender stereotypes as the main challenge, stating that Uzbekistan would undertake more education to overcome this.  Mr. Saidov concluded by saying that communication was the most important value for human kind, thanking the Committee for the constructive approach.  While a lot of problems had been tackled, a lot remained to be done, with Uzbekistan ready to undertake these challenges.

MOHAMED EZZELDIN ABDEL-MONEIM, Chair of the Committee, said that he appreciated the development strategy being applied by Uzbekistan, which showed good understanding of the Covenant.  Uzbekistan was entitled to tell the Committee if there were obstacles to the implementation of any of the obligations.  Mr. Abdel-Moneim said that he believed Uzbekistan could have an intellectual lead in moderate thinking throughout the Islamic world.  He bid farewell to the delegation, wishing them good health and their country success and prosperity. 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/fr/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/02/experts-committee-economic-social-and-cultural-rights-commend