Image: UNDP Uzbekistan

Assalomu alaykum, hurmatli honimlar va janoblar, muhtaram tadbir ishtirokchilari, aziz hamkasblar.

(Good morning, dear event participants and colleagues)

Bugungi konferensiyada ishtirok etish men uchun katta sharaf.

(I am honoured to participate in today’s conference)

UNDP is honoured to co-host this important and timely event and to reflect on the progress Uzbekistan has made in achieving its national SDGs.

I am particularly interested in exploring with you some of the possibilities for the future of Uzbekistan’s sustainable development. With the new generation of bright minds becoming of age, the sky is the limit for the new types of innovations that are starting to emerge on the horizon.

Milestones and Achievements

Let me start with reflecting on Uzbekistan’s progress so far in terms of SDGs attainment.

 

Remarkable progress has been made in adoption, monitoring and moving to implement national SDGs and targets for Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan’s first Voluntary National Review on SDGs presented to the High-Level Political Forum in July this year provided strong evidence of the progress to date, and of the consultative approach that has characterized the country’s engagement on Agenda 2030.

The proportion of women in parliament, for example, doubled to 32 percent, while the poverty rate decreased from 12.8 percent in 2015 to 11.4 percent in 2018. Life expectancy overall increased from 73.5 in 2015 to 74.6 in 2018.  In 1971 only 27.7 percent of children were in some form of pre-school education; in 2019 that figure had risen to 52 percent. These are indeed impressive gains, which – if continued – may ensure that Uzbekistan meets its targets on schedule.

The establishment of a bicameral parliamentary commission on SDGs this spring was a further signal of such commitment. We heard the reconfirmation of the commitment to sustainable development into the recent statement of the President at the 76th Session of the UN GA.

Challenges and Issues

Today’s conference is taking place during a difficult time for the world and Uzbekistan, when both internal and external challenges and shocks are affecting the speed and scale of the development efforts.

First, as in other countries throughout the world, Uzbekistan is struggling with the implications of the extended COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary measures taken to control its spread. The pandemic is far beyond a health crisis, it is a development crisis, with an unprecedented impact on societies, livelihoods of communities, and the wellbeing of families, redefining the overall everyday life of people all around the world. The Human Development Index was estimated to suffer a “steep and unprecedented decline” in 2020 for the first time in the 30 years since the measure has been computed.

For example, between 1.3 and 2.6% of the population (around 0.4-0.9 million people) may have fallen into poverty during the pandemic, with the most vulnerable experiencing significant hardship.

Second, even before COVID-19, the challenge of reaching the 2030 Agenda was already huge for Uzbekistan due to the country’s structural issues and lack of resources.

These include social protection and health governance systems, a large unprotected informal sector, and gaps in digitalization, particularly in the public sector.

Third, traditional security risks have emerged, threatening to undermine peace and stability, especially in the border areas.

The recent cross-border clashes in the Fergana Valley, the situation in Afghanistan, and the risk of humanitarian crises demonstrate that regional stability and security are all topics of utmost importance in Central Asia.

In meantime, all countries came with its response to the crisis, with variations – but in general with approach beyond the health sector - to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate the devastating impact on vulnerable populations, economy and human development.

We saw such an approach in the response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uzbekistan. It included a forceful public health response and deployment of a comprehensive set of fiscal, monetary, and financial measures. As a result, economic activity rebounded in the second half of 2020 and Uzbekistan was among the few countries posting positive growth in 2020.

Looking forward

Every crisis brings not only losses and challenges, but new opportunities. And the key question early on during the COVID crisis and the recovery phase was – will the responses and actions lead towards sustainable development in our countries, our region and globally?

We in UNDP were clear that this is the time to look beyond recovery, towards 2030, and make policy choices that will link the immediate response efforts to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. UNDP also analyzed the global data and trends and assessed COVID-19 Impact on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The research produced by UNDP, in partnership with the Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver finds that the long-term social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will widen the gap between people living in rich and poor countries. It found that approximately 8 out of 10 people that could become poor by the end of this decade will live in countries with low or medium human development.

The research also looked at potential pathway for socioeconomic recovery. It highlighted the benefits of bold choices that can power the global recovery effort, accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, and support investments that reap long-term benefits for sustainable development.

Or how countries can turn this around. It argues that a combination of policy choices and investments in governance, social protection, green economy and digitalization – the four areas which are called ‘SDG Push’ – can turn it around.

These are becoming a necessity, not an option, and I am pleased to note that many of these are becoming integrated into the policies of Uzbekistan.

Closing

Let me summarize - as Uzbekistan recovers from the pandemic and embarks on a new phase of its ambitious reforms: we have a profound opportunity to steer the country’s development on to a more sustainable and inclusive path – a path that reverses inequalities, tackles climate change, protects the environment, and ensures the long-term health and security of its people.

Much progress has been made in terms of returning Uzbekistan to an accelerated development path with a strong commitment. Uzbekistan has indeed made some impressive achievements in recent years with strong commitment from the country’s leadership. But there are still many challenges that need to be addressed collectively.

Our task today is to identify possible solutions to these challenges.

E’tiboringiz uchun katta rakhmat. (Thank you very much for your attention).

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