Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

Doubly landlocked by its neighbors, Uzbekistan is rich in a variety of resources, such as cotton, gold, uranium and zinc. However, since becoming an independent country, the people of Uzbekistan have suffered from high rates of poverty, coupled with a lack of access to a reliable source of clean drinking water and subpar health care. In order to fight poverty in Uzbekistan and improve the quality of life, the government has embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and worked to establish a variety of reforms within its framework. As of 2018, the Asian Development Bank lists the poverty rate for Uzbekistan at 11.4 percent.

Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In October 2018, the government of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution titled “On Measures to Implement the National Goals and Targets in the Field of Sustainable Development for the Period Until 2030.” This resolution reaffirmed Uzbekistan’s dedication to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The resolution also set 16 national sustainable development goals for Uzbekistan that focused on environmental, economic and social issues in the country.

The country’s environmental goals include considerably reducing waste production and significantly increasing renewable energy generation by 2030. Economical goals include reducing youth unemployment, increasing Uzbekistan’s per capita GDP and significantly reducing the poverty rates by 2030.

Electricity, Clean Water and Sanitation

As of 2016, 100 percent of the population of Uzbekistan has access to electricity. However, only 3.2 percent of Uzbekistan’s total energy comes from renewable sources. As part of Uzbekistan’s national sustainable development goals, it hopes to significantly increase renewable energy production by 2030. In addition, it plans to reduce waste production by promoting prevention, reduction and recycling.

Uzbekistan has made major strides in improving its sanitation services and water supply throughout the years. However, despite these efforts, less than half of the population has access to a piped water supply. Only 17 percent of city households receive water for the entire day. The situation is much worse in smaller towns and rural communities.

The situation is particularly poor in the Syrdarya region where low-income families must either rely on small storage tanks that are refilled every month at a high price or spend hours of their day walking to a public tap outlet to fill containers with water. The World Bank has launched the Syrdarya Water Supply Project to help provide clean drinking water to the region of nearly 280,000 inhabitants.

Gender Equality

The Uzbekistan government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have worked to empower women and support gender equality in the country. They have established laws that support women in the legal system and in government, such as laws against sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The UNDP has also supported initiatives that economically empower Uzbek women. Financial decision-makers are working closely with the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan in order to ensure that these initiatives receive proper funding. The UNDP has also aided women-run businesses to grow and achieve success domestically and internationally.

The government has worked with the UNDP to ensure that women receive the same help and benefits as men, including the protection against and treatment of HIV infections. With the support of the UNDP, 5,995 women are currently receiving continuous ARV treatment for HIV. Women also make up 38 percent of participants in HIV prevention programs in the country.

Health Care Reforms

The maternal mortality rate in Uzbekistan has significantly decreased from 33.1 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2013. In addition, the government of Uzbekistan is currently working with international partners in developing new and effective health care programs. By 2030, they aim to decrease the child mortality rate by 50 percent, the maternal mortality rate by 30 percent and reduce the number of deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 30 percent.

People often suffer from subpar health care, particularly in rural regions. The government began implementing major health care reforms in 2017, particularly focusing on training health care professionals and fighting tuberculosis. They have also worked to improve the quality of health care in rural hospitals and clinics by requiring all graduates of publicly-funded medical schools to work in rural areas for three years. Uzbekistan already offers free health care; however, the cost of medical supplies is often high. In order to make health care more affordable, the government has instituted reforms to lower the costs of medical devices and fight against corruption.

Economic Liberalization

The Uzbek government implemented vital reforms to liberalize its economy. In 2017, the government commissioned 161 major industrial facilities. As a result of these reforms, the economy grew by 5.5 percent in 2017 and exports grew by 15 percent. The som, the national currency of Uzbekistan, was unpegged from the U.S. dollar and allowed to float freely. This increased currency trading and provided more revenue for the government. A dozen new free economic zones were created alongside 45 industrial zones to spur the economy. The government also created national development programs to promote innovation and investment in the economy.

In cooperation with international organizations including the UNDP, the government of Uzbekistan has worked to distribute income more equitably and create new jobs, particularly in rural areas. It has put a particular effort into helping the most vulnerable communities. The government has proven its dedication to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by promoting sustainable development throughout the country, supporting women’s empowerment, economic reform, health care reform, clean energy and more. As a result of this dedication, the government of Uzbekistan has successfully reduced poverty and improved the quality of life for its citizens.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Pixabay

The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

Violence in Uzbekistan

The former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan contains approximately 33 million people and is the largest nation in Central Asia. Despite its surveillance apparatus, Uzbekistan struggles with various forms of violence that contribute to its high poverty rate of 12.8 percent. Terrorism and drug trafficking associated with the Afghanistan border spur fear and international concerns. Widespread domestic violence in the poor countryside hinders women’s rights and blocks economic productivity. However, important international partnerships with the U.N., U.S. and non-governmental organizations are working to create more responsible governance and halt violence in Uzbekistan.

Violent Triad

Uzbekistan’s unrest centers on three main areas:

1. Drug Trafficking: Uzbekistan is a thoroughfare for opiates originating in Afghanistan. Authorities routinely capture narcotics en route to Europe and have burned 54 tons of drugs since 1994. Addiction is a major problem that is at least 10 times as prevalent as official statistics display, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council. Narcotics trafficking often involves organized crime, which spawns corruption and human trafficking as well.

2. Terrorism: Terrorism used to be quite severe in Uzbekistan. Suicide bombings killed 50 people in the cities of Tashkent and Bukhara in 2004. Attacks within the nation have lessened in recent years, but the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan still resides on the Afghan border. A larger problem is the amount of Uzbek terrorists committing attacks on other countries. A 2017 State Department report showed multiple instances of this, the most severe being when an Uzbek man massacred 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub.

3. Domestic Violence: The most prevalent type of violence in Uzbekistan is spousal abuse. An extensive 2001 Human Rights Watch report displayed domestic violence was viewed as a private matter by village council, or mahalla, officials. Even in a case where beatings caused one woman to have four miscarriages, nothing was done. In 2019, Uzbekistan still lacks domestic violence legislation and abuse is culturally acceptable to 41 percent of women. An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report showed that 61 percent of women distrusted the justice system, particularly because mahallas focus on lowering divorce statistics rather than protecting women.

UNODC Partnership

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has worked in Uzbekistan since 1993 to fight illegal narcotics. Today, Uzbekistan is the headquarters of UNODC’s Central Asia Program, a $70 million initiative that hopes to increase anti-drug regional cooperation over five years. UNODC also stops the related crime of human trafficking across the Afghanistan border and administers antiretroviral treatment to those infected with HIV from drug needles. The U.N. helped 12,000 Uzbeks receive ARVs in 2015.

The Paris Pact Initiative is another program run by UNODC. It combines the efforts of 80 countries and organizations to combat the flow of opiates from Afghanistan. Uzbekistan is one of 11 nations hosting Paris Pact Research and Liaison personnel, who conduct narcotics research in the field. The success of the program’s first three phases garnered it a $6.7 million budget between 2013 and 2017.

U.S.-Uzbekistan Military Partnership

Stronger ties between the American and Uzbek militaries will counteract terrorism while promoting government reforms in the country. President Trump met with President Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan on May 16, 2018 to commit to a bilateral relationship that would ensure security in the region. Both leaders agreed to the first ever “Five-Year Plan of Military Cooperation” and condemned terrorism in Afghanistan. Trump encouraged Mirziyoyev to pursue more human rights reforms for his people as the American military became involved.

The Department of Defense highlighted the progress of the Five-Year Plan in early July 2019, when Uzbekistan’s Defense Minister, Bakhodir Kurbanov, visited America. Kurbanov witnessed the effectiveness of officer exchange programs and American training curriculum in fighting violence in Uzbekistan. One Uzbek pilot will be training with Americans in Columbus Air Base’s Aviation Leadership Program in 2020.

International-Local NGO Partnerships

International NGOs focus on empowering Uzbek organizations to combat domestic violence. ACTED is one of the most influential NGOs providing support in the country, and its social media campaign dispels domestic violence myths among youth. It funds and trains local women’s NGOs in a society where they are traditionally blocked from operating. The Oydin Nur Center is one successful project supported by ACTED. Since 2000, the center has counseled 5,155 abused women and assisted 9,000 women over a hotline.

The Marta Resource Center for Women is another international NGO educating groups on violence in Uzbekistan. Originally fighting domestic abuse in Latvia, Marta expanded to Uzbekistan in 2009 to address similar problems. It specifically targets the mahallas and teaches them the importance of stopping domestic violence. Marta also recognizes the stifled economic potential of abused women. In an interview, Marta’s founder Iluta Lāce discussed how a partnership with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, Craft and Agriculture helps women discover independence by founding small businesses.

Much work remains in the fight against violence in Uzbekistan. Legislation against abuse is still nonexistent, and conflict resonates throughout the region. There is a long road ahead. However, the above international partnerships display that Uzbekistan does not travel that road alone.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikimedia

Agriculture in UzbekistanUzbekistan is located in central Asia, and its citizens mostly live in rural areas with low housing, mostly congregated in the eastern half of the country. A big reason for this is the desertification of land in the western half of the country, particularly around the Aral Sea. The sea has also been polluted by pesticides and industrial waste, which has significantly impacted crop production in the immediate area.

All things considered, not only has the western half of Uzbekistan come to resemble a wasteland but the entire country continues to suffer water shortages to this day. Fortunately, agriculture in Uzbekistan is beginning to show signs of improvement in the eastern half of the country. Rural farming and agriculture accounts for more than one-third of employment, and is mostly focused on cotton. There is also a multitude of fruits and vegetables grown for at least local consumption and, in some cases, export. There is also a healthy silkworm cultivation sector.

Aid from The World Bank

In 2018, the World Bank launched the Additional Financing — Horticulture Development Project in Uzbekistan. The project focuses on improving horticulture, both in terms of productivity and marketability. Uzbekistan is currently transitioning from a state development focused economy to a private sector-focused economy, and the improvement of the agricultural sector can jumpstart economic growth in the country.

Hideki Mori, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Uzbekistan, said: “agriculture and rural development are at the heart of the transformation underway in Uzbekistan and the shift to horticulture is a big part of the Government’s investment strategy.” Indeed, most of the project is focused specifically on growing the horticulture sector commercially, with the diversification of crops cited as a major focus area. The overall goal is for rural areas to be able to cultivate better more produce than cotton. Fruits and vegetables will be the focus for exports, as they account for up to 50 percent of the value of crop output, as well as 35 percent of the sector’s trade value. Uzbekistan’s agriculture improvement begins with the diversification and increased marketability of its yields.

Rising Benefits

The shift toward diversified horticultural exports is already showing results. At least 45 Dutch trading companies are looking to partner with sellers in Uzbekistan, the first of many opportunities for increased profits. In addition to shifting the focus to diversified yields, there is also a focus on creating labor-intensive agricultural positions, providing regular work for many in rural communities.

With a solid agricultural base, Uzbekistan can both provide for citizens at home in terms of food and work, and with the trend toward export-driven growth, it can leverage that base to grow the new economy. If the country continues this way, there’s a lot of room for substantial growth, including into other sectors. Boosting agriculture in Uzbekistan can open doors for improvement in other sectors of the economy.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Pixabay

8 Facts About Education in Uzbekistan

Since 1925, the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic had been following the Soviet Union’s lead in education. But in 1991, after the Soviet Union collapsed, Uzbekistan became an independent state, which led to a need for reform in the public education process. Currently, Uzbekistan, a country with a population of around 32 million, ranks highly among the most developed countries, with an education index of 0.92, compared to the world average of 0.77. How Uzbekistan has reached this education index can be analyzed by looking at eight facts about education in Uzbekistan, focusing on educational reforms, enrollment rates, gender disparities and children with special needs and disadvantaged backgrounds.

8 Facts About Education in Uzbekistan

  1. Since Uzbekistan is under reform to gradually shift from a planned economy to a liberal market economy, it needs to do so by avoiding social conflicts, since Uzbekistan consists of many ethnicities. At the same time, Uzbekistan wishes to maximize intellectual potential and promote education as a national social priority. Uzbekistan also maintains a centralized form of implementing education reforms that are usually maintained by the National Program of Personnel Training (NPPT).
  2. One of the key changes in the education processes from 1991 to 2010 was the increase in the years of schooling from 11 to 12 years, where the last three years constitute compulsory secondary education. The Uzbek government expected the top ten percent of students graduating from high school to attend the more academic-oriented Academic Lyceum, and the other 90 percent to attend more technically and vocationally oriented institutions.
  3. Enrollment rates in both primary and secondary education reduced in Uzbekistan during the first part of the 1990s when the state got its independence, but they steadied by the 2000s. It is currently stabilized at 100 percent for primary education for both boys and girls. As for secondary education, it has steadily increased from around 89 percent in 2009 to above 92 percent in 2017 for both boys and girls.
  4. In addition to the NPPT, there are three other specialized ministries that are involved in the education reforms in Uzbekistan: the Ministry of Preschool Education, the Ministry of Public Education and the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education. The Uzbek government also devotes a large share of its resources and expenditures on education, at a 34.2 percent share of the 2017 state budget. Meanwhile, the average government expenditure on education for OECD countries stands at an average of 13 percent.
  5. Despite the high percentages among male and female students, there is still some gender disparity in education in Uzbekistan. Women are only a minority of students enrolled in higher education institutions, making up only 38.2 percent. In secondary education, the ratio of girls to boys has decreased from 0.39 in 2000 to 0.37 in 2011.
  6. UNICEF is advocating for Uzbek children who are at the appropriate age to be present in preschool establishments. The organization argues that the lack of access to early learning and developmental skills does not allow for the maximization intellectual potential. In Uzbekistan, less than 30 percent of children have access to quality preschool education, which mostly consists of urban male children. However, this will change, as there are regional plans to increase access to these programs in Bukhara, Djizzakh and Samarkand.
  7. Education in Uzbekistan for children with disabilities has been getting more attention recently, as a pending new law in education is to be released that would protect the rights of these children and their education. At the present rate, the number of children with special educational needs enrolled is at a nationwide average of 0.79 students per school. The schools which accommodate these children are the only ones who currently offer accessible or inclusive classes.
  8. The government attempts to provide support to children from low-income families and orphans. Such students qualify for free school materials, including textbooks and school accessories. In addition, around 80,000 children from a low-income background are exempted from tuition fees for preschool education.

These eight facts about education in Uzbekistan only provide a brief insight into the current situation and how it can be improved. Comparatively, education in Uzbekistan is performing at a better rate than its neighboring countries of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan continues to strive for equality among its citizens, which include their rights to an education.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Wikimedia

top ten facts about life expectancy in Uzbekistan
The top 10 facts about life expectancy in Uzbekistan reflect the many changes that the nation has endured since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. An evolving healthcare system, which now technically includes primary care for all, still struggles to meet the needs of the country’s poorest inhabitants.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Uzbekistan

  1. The average Uzbek person has a life expectancy of approximately 66 to 72 years. However, the last 9 of those years are typically not spent in good health. When one accounts for the years lived in failing health, it changes the picture considerably.  It is an unfortunate fact that for too many Uzbek people, their final years are characterized by pain and sickness, most often due to heart disease and respiratory infections.
  2. Uzbek women, on average, live about 5 years longer than their male counterparts. Maternal mortality is at a 20 year low, down from 380 deaths for every 697,000 births in 1990, to 240 deaths for every 667,000 births in 2015. Prenatal care is also on the rise in Uzbekistan, up from just less than 95 percent in 1996 to more than 99 percent in 2015.
  3. The top 10 facts about life expectancy in Uzbekistan cannot exclude the leading cause of death, which is cardiovascular disease.  In Uzbekistan, where many traditional dishes are laden with bread and meat, the dietary risk is the number one cause of heart disease. Stress is another mitigating factor, unsurprising because in Uzbekistan the norm is to work 6 days a week.
  4. The Uzbek people are suffering from the adverse effects of polluted water. It is due to the prevalence of water-borne diseases and an overall scarcity of drinkable water. More than 30 percent of households lack drinkable water, thanks to an infrastructure that cannot properly purify drinking water or treat sewage.
  5. The good news is that Uzbekistan is now one of the 7 countries participating in a pilot program with the UNDP, called “Piloting Climate Change Adaptation to Protect Human Health in Uzbekistan.” The mission of this project is to provide medical personnel and the greater population with the information and tools to reduce the negative impact of climate factors on the health of the Uzbek population. The success of this project will be tracked by the decline of intestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses connected to climate.
  6. Another one of the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Uzbekistan is that many people in the country do not earn enough to access healthcare and fitness centers which would keep them healthy. Having financial resources makes it possible to buy healthy foods, pay for medical services and engage in activities that are optimal for a long and healthy life. A monthly gym membership in Uzbekistan is the equivalent of 20 American dollars, a considerable sum when the average Uzbek citizen earns only about $124 a month.
  7. The World Health Organization estimates that a typical 20-minute medical visit cost about 8 American dollars in 2005. While all citizens ostensibly have access to primary and emergency healthcare regardless of their ability to pay, the resources of the public sector are severely limited and medical personnel often prioritize patients who can pay for private care, often informally with cash or a bartering of services.
  8. Uzbekistan became independent of the Soviet Union in 1991, relinquishing a great deal of financial assistance. This has resulted in hospitals having fewer beds to spare and a decline in the number of doctors per population. The decline has been from nearly 350 physicians for every 100,000 population in 1990 to fewer than 250 in 2012.
  9. Out of a population of approximately 32 million, an estimated 52,000 people in Uzbekistan are living with HIV. The number has increased sharply in the last 30 years, which is attributed to the new mandatory reporting system and increased drug use. There are state-funded facilities dedicated to servicing HIV/AIDS patients in Uzbekistan, and outpatient pharmaceuticals are covered by the state, but there is still a tremendous stigma attached to an HIV diagnosis, which hampers treatment.
  10. Climate change has already impacted life expectancy in Uzbekistan.  An increase in dust storms has caused serious health issues for people exposed to an excess of dust particles, especially in the region of Karakalpakstan, which has an approximate population of 1.8 million.

The Uzbekistan government is working toward reinforcing the country’s preparedness for climate issues. It is doing this with the support of The Green Climate Fund (GCF). GCF, which is a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project, is focused on accessing funds for climate financing and increasing private engagement. These recent strides demonstrate that Uzbekistan is well on its way to improving the stations of its individual citizens and the health of the nation as a whole.

– Raquel Ramos
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Change in Uzbekistan

After Karimov’s 27-year rule, the U.S. is supporting sustainable change in Uzbekistan, partnering with the World Bank by loaning $500 million.

A Changing Economy

The Development Policy Operation’s goal is to switch from a privatized, government-ruled economy to a market economy. A strong market economy should translate into jobs being created for the youth. However, Uzbekistan’s 2017 Development Strategy also wants to make these economic changes sustainable while implementing social reform to protect less fortunate people.

So far, Uzbekistan’s government has committed to these transformations by “liberalizing its currency, lifting trade and investment barriers, reducing business regulations and opening markets to attract investment and boost imports and exports.” While these changes are already putting the country on a great trajectory, other projects like urban development are raising living standards for those who are less fortunate.

Modernization in Uzbekistan

The World Bank supported the modernization of the District Heating system at the beginning of 2018, which will provide 240,000 Uzbek residents new and improved heating and hot water services. By providing these services, the quality of life will go up for those dealing with harsh winters, reducing the risk of health-related issues caused by the cold. This will be great for young school children who sometimes go to school with no heat. Not only is this a health risk, but it is a distraction from learning. The new heating project will ensure kids have a brighter future in a healthy learning environment.

The District Heating Energy Efficieny Project will help people living in apartment building in Andijan, Bukhara, Chirchik, Samarkand and Tashkent. Government buildings like hospitals, schools and municipal offices also benefit from this project, and state-owned power companies will see a reduce number of power outages due to more networks being added. This project will also reduce CO2 and natural gas emissions in cities.  With all added benefits aside from helping people stay warm and healthy, the District Heating Energy Efficiency Project is a sustainable change.

A Free Market

In addition to education, health and safety being increased by public works projects and foreign aid, Uzbekistan is celebrating a free market with the switch of power from a private market to a public one. Uzbekistan’s market formerly known as Abu Sahiy became Tashkent Silk Road in early December 2017. Because former President Karimov owned this market, trade bans were in place that didn’t allow merchants to import goods. Now, small businesses are thriving and buyers can buy everything from food to phones.

The new market is also inspiring trades between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Opening the door to trade with neighboring countries will continue to boost the economy of Uzbekistan. Continued aid and progress of political reform is inspiring hope for Uzbekistan’s poor. A free market, foreign trade and the new government’s commitment to do good allows for sustainable change in Uzbekistan.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan’s developmental capacity is, to some extent, contingent on the inclusion of young girls and women in the formal education system. Though work is being done to improve girls’ education in Uzbekistan, there is still a long way to go. Access to early education for girls is scarce in Uzbekistan. The U.N. uses a mechanism called gross enrollment ratio (GER) to analyze the education levels of its member states.

Pre-primary Education

Pre-primary school enrollment ratios for girls (ages 3-6) have been around 26.5 percent in the last 10 years. While pre-primary education may seem to be an inconsequential aspect of education for young girls, a study from the World Bank linking preschool attendance to employment outcomes in Uzbekistan shows that it is rather important to girls’ futures.

The Government of Uzbekistan and The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) have both recognized the need to improve pre-primary education. With financial support from the GPE, The Ministry of Preschool Education plans to expand early childhood care and education, with the ultimate goal of achieving 100 percent enrollment by 2021.

Education and the Role of Women

The foundational laws and reforms in Uzbekistan have created an education system that is compulsory for primary school (ages 7-10) and secondary school (ages 11-18) boys and girls. However, practice school attendance, particularly for girls, has not been universal due to socio-cultural and socio-economic barriers. In recent years, the government has worked to remove those barriers and integrate underserved populations into the education system; a majority of those populations includes girls.

Between 2008 and 2017, the GER for girls’ primary education increased from 92.6 percent to 102.28 percent, remaining relatively equal with that of male students during the same time period. In 2017, the enrollment ratio for females in secondary school was 92.42 percent, lower but still relatively equal to their male counterparts.

Girls’ education in Uzbekistan is lacking most at the tertiary, or university level. The GER for females in tertiary schools (ages 19-23) is just 6.33 percent. However, this meager statistic is not a reflection of young women’s unwillingness to pursue higher education or a satisfaction with the status quo. It is, rather, a reflection of a lack of funding, high tuition costs and an outdated societal expectation that young women take on traditional, household roles after secondary school.

The Future of Girls’ Education

Changing the landscape of girls’ education in Uzbekistan requires structured and integrated reforms at every level. Extracurricular activities are another tool that can be used to expand and strengthen girls’ education in Uzbekistan. Encouraging girls to explore activities and career paths seldom held in the past can have an empowering effect. This was exemplified in early 2017 when the UNDP held a “technovation challenge,” in which hundreds of young female programmers collaborated to tackle social issues, including education, using their programming and innovative skills.

“The idea that ‘it is too hard for girls and women’ is as outdated as it is offensive, and yet we still hear it,” according to the event’s press release. At the end of the challenge, the girls in attendance were able to meet and hear from the Uzbek women that make up a small portion of the tech workforce now. In terms of cultural change, events like the technovation challenge are some of the most impactful as they dispel the notion that investing in these girls’ education is unnecessary. It puts on display the untapped potential within the Uzbek female population and changes the perceptions of those who still hold “outdated” understandings of the role of women in society.

The UNDP and the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan have also put their monetary resources to use in order to provide grants to female university students. Monetary investment will prove to be a vital part of expanding girls’ education in Uzbekistan given the high tuition costs. This, alongside the structural and cultural changes being implemented, can break down barriers to girls’ education in Uzbekistan in the short-run and the long-run, expanding the potential paths of all women in Uzbekistan.

– Julius Long
Photo: Flickr

developmental aid around the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was once a large saltwater lake located in Central Asia. With Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south, both countries bordered the body of water. Fishing communities in the countries prospered for years, yet a decisive change in the 1960s led to the demise of these towns. The two countries experienced drastically different outcomes, all due to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

Causes of the Aral Sea’s Water Loss

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union decided to redirect the water in the Aral Sea for agriculture, predominately for cotton. Previously, the sea was replenished by the water that rivers returned, making it a reliable source of income for neighboring fisheries. Over the past four decades, the sea has retreated about 93 miles, losing a surface area the size of Maryland. With salinity levels continuing to rise to more than seven times the normal amount, a once plentiful resource has run dry.

As the sea dried up, so did jobs. A reported 60,000 jobs disappeared in direct relation to Aral fishery shutdowns. Dust storms that swelled within the barren seabed contained various chemicals from the agriculture in the surrounding areas and caused irrevocable harm to citizens. Diseases related to poor air quality were rampant. Even the food produced in the area contained hazards for consumers, which forced thousands from their homes. Those that chose not to leave, despite the water and air pollution, were left living in poverty.

Intervention in Kazakhstan Improves the Lives and Livelihoods of Residents

In 2005, the World Bank intervened with a plan for developmental aid around the Aral Sea and partnered with the Kazakh government to install a dam. The plan cost $86 million and was designed to improve irrigation along the rivers and restore the sea. The dam primarily prevented water in the northern regions from flowing south. Additional measures to improve irrigation along the Syr Darya River made sure enough water flowed back into the North Aral Sea. Previously, as much as 40 percent of water was lost due to poor irrigation.

In 2006, the Kok-Aral Dam was constructed and saw quick success. As the surface area of the sea expanded, fish stocks were reintroduced. The replenishment of local resources meant that the economy, once built on fishing, could flourish and grow to its previous grandeur. The water and air quality also improved, meaning that residents no longer needed to move away from the area.

In 2006, the ports handled around 2,000 tons of fish and houses in the area were no longer empty; about 17 homes were occupied as opposed to eight. As the local fish diet improved, so did the ability to grow vegetables. The changes to the ecosystem led to more rainfall and fewer sandstorms. Life was reintroduced to the region.

Uzbekistan’s Focus on Cotton Deprives the Fishing Industry

A very different story played out in neighboring Uzbekistan, where government leaders are still insistent that cotton production is their “white gold”. The country ranks 12th in highest value of cotton exported in 2017. The enterprise brings in around $850.4 million and accounts for 1.6 percent of total exported cotton.

However, similar health risks and impoverishment are seen in areas previously home to fisheries. Many people migrated to agricultural regions to make a living farming and picking cotton. Conditions around cotton production in Uzbekistan remain questionable, with allegations of forced labor becoming rampant.

The Effects of Developmental Aid Around the Aral Sea on Poverty

Although both countries experienced high levels of poverty at the height of the Aral Sea’s reduction, the current state of poverty in the two countries is quite different. In 2005, 31.6 percent of the country lived in poverty in Kazakhstan, while in 2016, only 2.6 percent of the population lived in poverty. This reduction is directly related to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

In Uzbekistan, the decline is much slower. From 2012 to 2016, poverty decreased from 15 percent to 12.3 percent. This progress is promising, yet slow compared to its neighbors. When the World Bank asked the Uzbek government if it wished to participate in developmental aid around the Aral Sea, like that in Kazakhstan, it declined.

The Future of Development in Central Asia

In partnership with World Bank, the Kazakh government provides an example of successful developmental aid around the Aral Sea. Currently, the World Bank is working with the Uzbek government to implement projects around horticulture. As new enterprises are explored, such as oil drilling in the south Aral Sea by Uzbekistan, avenues to combat poverty will vary. For Kazakhstan, working to reinvigorate a previously plentiful resource was the key to poverty alleviation.

This triumph in poverty reduction provides a hopeful message to those wanting to see a drastic drop in poverty through developmental aid.

– Taylor Jennings
Photo: Google

Water Supply in Karakalpakstan
The autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan occupies the entire northwestern end of the country of Uzbekistan. With a poverty rate of 32 percent, this region is considered one of the poorest in Uzbekistan.

The Necessity of Water

Because most of this nation’s produce comes from agricultural production, water is an essential resource for the people of Karakalpakstan. The economy is supported through the production of cotton, melons and livestock, making extensive irrigation systems critical for the smooth execution of farming practices and water management.

Water is essential to life in Karakalpakstan; more than 30,000 hectares of land have been abandoned because of the lack of water. Since the shortage of water in the region often results from farmers using water inefficiently, new and effective water-saving technologies are in high demand.

Improving irrigation systems would help these impoverished farmers move out of poverty. Effective water management can reduce the cost of supplying and storing water, which would inevitably increase the farmers’ yields and enable them to cultivate more crops. With a steady and reliable source of water supply in Karakalpakstan, the region’s farmers can be assured that they will be able to tend to their crops and rely on them for financial support.

The Project to Improve Water Supply in Karakalpakstan

In response to the ongoing water crisis, the World Bank initiated a project that aims to help 1,500 private farms and 40,000 small farming households secure access to water in Karakalpakstan.

The South Karakalpakstan Water Resources Management Improvement Project (SKWRMIP) for Uzbekistan focuses on the restoration of irrigation systems and improvements in water management. With 80 percent of its resources aimed at irrigation and drainage, the project aims to build a sustainable water distribution system and a financially stable community of farmers.

“Better water management and irrigation will lead to increased farm productivity, and thus help farmers in South Karakalpakstan build their assets and improve their living standards,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, the World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. “We estimate that 41,000 water users will be provided with new or improved irrigation and drainage services under this project.”

Financial Benefits of the Project

This project would replace the 1950s water infrastructure in Uzbekistan, which is experiencing many complications due to age. The deteriorating infrastructure and poor water management of the 1950s system is estimated to cost Uzbekistani government $1.7 billion USD annually. However, the SKWRMIP proposal comes with a total annual energy cost of $2.4 million USD, saving the government a significant amount.  It also relieves much of the burden on rural farmers paying operation and distribution fees, allowing them the freedom to save the money for themselves.

“Our firm is planning to complete the civil works along the Buston channel this year. Thousands of farmers in several districts of South Karakalpakstan will be able to receive water for the irrigation of their lands,” said Islombek Ismatov, a SKWRMIP construction manager. “Lack of water in this region makes it more valuable than gold.”

In regions like Karakalpakstan, water is extremely valuable for livelihood. Water supply has been erratic and fleeting over the past few decades in the Republic of Karakalpakstan, but the SKWRMIP works to build and maintain a functional and accessible source of water supply in the region.

– Jenny S Park
Photo: Google