A new boost for better regional governance

30 Jan 2017

2017 has the potential to be a major year for developing stronger, regional-level governance – a new impetus behind the balanced growth of regional government, emboldened by key resolutions, a new government direction, and the declaration of the ‘Year of Dialogue with People and Human Interests’. The Local Governance Support Programme’s first and second phases have piloted initiatives to strengthen local-level governance, building up to the Regional Development Strategies. Previously these efforts have focused on the economic and cultural hubs of Jizzakh, Namangan and Tashkent regions – there is now the exciting prospect of making these examples the benchmark for nationwide scale-up.

The foundations we’ve built

Broadly speaking, enhancing the ability of local governments to decide on their own direction of growth requires three things from the partnership between the Government of Uzbekistan and UNDP Uzbekistan – a) better practical tools and infrastructure, b) the ability to be financial independent, and c) the ability to make decisions. Significant progress has been made on all three fronts.

Some infrastructure development has been similar to UNDP’s broader work in Uzbekistan’s regions – the installation of green energy solutions and reliable gas, power and water. Staff can now work at a digital speed, with the hardware, software and training supplied to set up an e-governance system (currently in the Jizzakh, Namangan and Tashkent City regions where the LGSP project operates). Financially, the recently-established Budget Code has let regional bodies report back to central ones, regarding the regions’ project-based budgetary needs.

These infrastructural and financial improvements, bolstered by LGSP’s strong links with national decision-makers, has been fundamental for setting up Regional Development Strategies. Evidently the needs of urbanised Tashkent, industrialized Jizzakh and agricultural Namangan are going to be different, so with regional government possessing better resources they can now design plans – Regional Development Strategies or RDSs – to best utilize their own competitive advantages.

Meanwhile LGSP and its partners have provided training on the elaboration of RDSs - for example Lithuanian international experts arrived 2014 to assist in designing a Development Strategy for the Kibray district of the Tashkent region. Similar collaborative efforts led to the creation of a comprehensive socio-economic development strategy for Jizzakh City.

Scaling-up these piloted RDSs to a national level requires broader support and finding ways to measure and address varied development requirements.  Some practical solutions were discussed during a study tour to Latvia in September 2016, visiting regional governments of the state which, like Uzbekistan, is undergoing nation-wide development with an awareness of individual regional needs.

The following workshop worked to adapt these findings to Uzbekistan’s particular conditions. The study tour had underlined the importance of legislative and financial reform – setting up a legal and institutional framework for stronger regional governance. Latvia’s successful ‘electronic indicators’ system of monitoring development rates, and identifying gaps, was also considered an applicable approach.

Which brings us to this year.

The Year of Dialogue with People and Human Interests

This national focus for 2017 is a proverbial goldmine when it comes to region-specific development. It speaks directly to the Human Development concept as presented by Amartya Sen, who emphasised that development should focus on meeting the actual needs of the individual members of society, to the most practical level. 2017’s development direction will also serve to strengthen feedback channels not just between regional and central government, but also between government and people – at the risk of sounding glib, this is very exciting.

Today sustainable regional policy is vital for utilizing the maximum internal potential of regions. In this regard there is a need for further legislation improvement in this area, involving the development and adoption of new edition of the law ‘On Local Government’ and the corresponding another law ‘On Regional Development’, which will significantly increase the role of local government bodies, supply them with an opportunity to operate as decentralized powers without referring to the republican authorities, and timely solve regional issues, thereby allocating resources based on local conditions and needs, determining priorities and attracting foreign investors. (Learn more about the law ‘On Local Government’ here)

It is notable that the resolution ‘On approval of the regulation on information-analytical department on issues of complex social-economic development of the territories’ has also recently been issued. This means that heads and leading specialists of Uzbekistan’s regions can now directly represent Tashkent’s government in the regions.

UNDP implements the Local Governance Support Programme/Phase-II together with the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, to promote more effective, accountable and inclusive governance in Uzbekistan by enhancing local government performance, supporting accountability and transparency and increasing citizen participation in local governance. Jizzakh, Namangan and Tashkent are the pilot regions. Check out its project page, and Facebook.