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16 February, TASHKENT – A workshop has been held in the conference hall of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan, to discuss prospects for the national implementation and development of participatory budgeting. This workshop was organized within the framework of the UNDP project ‘Financing Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan’, as implemented together with the Ministry of Finance. The event was attended by representatives of the Senate and the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, relevant ministries and government agencies, regional khokimiyats and the public councils under them, the Development Strategy Centre, the ‘Yuksalish’ Youth Movement, and others.

As part of reforms undertaken in Uzbekistan over recent years, more attention is being paid to strengthening the accountability of executive authorities, enhancing the role of the Oliy Majlis and the Kengashes of People's Deputies, and involving civil society institutions in discussions and decision-making at all levels. Within the budgetary sphere, mechanisms are being introduced to increase budget transparency, and to involve citizens in making budget decisions.

Participatory budgeting is a mechanism widely used around the world for distributing part of budget funds for proposals for initiatives and projects put forward by citizens. UNDP has assisted the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan in developing and implementing participatory budgeting mechanisms over the past two years, providing methodological and expert support.

The results of this joint work were outlined at the workshop in the presentation by Ms. Alexandra Khvan, Head of Division with the Department of the State Budget of the Ministry of Finance, dedicated to the main approaches and proposed models (practices) of participatory budgeting to be implemented in Uzbekistan. As noted, the relevance of this issue is particularly great in the context of broad political support aimed towards enhancing mechanisms for involving citizens in the distribution of budgetary funds. Starting in 2021, 5% of expenditures will be allocated from local budgets for proposals (initiatives, projects) put forward by citizens to improve local infrastructure, on top of the previously established 10% of the local budgets’ additional revenues. How these funds will be used will be decided based on an efficient mechanism of citizen participation in their distribution.

To become acquainted with world experience, the workshop’s participants reviewed best practices of participatory budgeting in select countries, with summaries and conclusions which may be useful for Uzbekistan.

Mr. Vladimir Vagin, Director of the Centre for Initiative Budgeting at the Scientific-Research Finance Institute (FRI) under the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation, presented experience of integrating participatory budgeting practices into state and municipal administration in Russia and other foreign countries.

World experience shows that participatory budgeting is not a simple process and that there are no standard ways to implement it, since each country has its own specific requirements. What problems and challenges have countries faced in introducing participatory budgeting? What were the results and lessons learned? These issues were discussed in the presentation by Ms. Tatyana Vinogradova, Consultant of the Budget Community of Practice of the PEM PAL (Public Expenditure Management – Peer Assisted Learning) Initiative of the World Bank, and Ms. Oksana Kosenko, Project Coordinator for Civil Society Support, of UNDP Ukraine.

The experience and examples presented at the workshop clearly showed how involving citizens in distributing part of budget funds helps to create better solutions to local problems, considering the opinions and interests of residents. Based on the discussion’s results, the working group will propose the most suitable model (practice) and mechanisms for citizens' participation in the distribution of 5% of regional budget expenditures, for piloting in certain regions of Uzbekistan.

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The joint project of UNDP and the Ministry of Finance ‘Financing Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan’ aims to expand dialogue, coordination, national capacity and measures to help create an effective financing mechanism to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Uzbekistan. One of the Project's activities is to promote public finance management reform in terms of further increasing openness and fiscal transparency, including involving civil society in the budget process.

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