UNDP Expands Partnership with Mahallas

November 7, 2023
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Violent extremism is a complex phenomenon that knows no boundaries, impacting people globally and posing significant challenges to societies.

It splinters social cohesion, exploits grievances, and leads individuals towards violence.

Violent conflicts set to rise globally affecting the lives of 2 billion people with 82.4 million forcibly displaced. In 2022, the UN General Assembly declared February 12 as the International Day for the Prevention of Violent Extremism, as and when Conducive to Terrorism aiming to raise awareness about the dangers associated with violent extremism and foster international cooperation.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is a key player in promoting peace building and addressing the root causes of violent extremism. Through its multidimensional and development-focused approach, UNDP cooperates with partners in 41 countries, including Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has been actively working to enhance its capacity in countering extremism and terrorism. The "National Strategy to Counter Extremism and Terrorism for 2021-2026," adopted on July 6, 2021, promotes dialogue and cooperation between public authorities, citizens, civil society, and the media in this sphere.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

To support the country in implementing the foregoing strategy, UNDP's office in Uzbekistan from 2021 to 2023 has undertaken the pilot project "Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism in Asia (STRIVE Asia)" Funded by the European Union and implemented in partnership with various UN entities, STRIVE Asia aimed to contribute to the prevention efforts in Central, South, and Southeast Asia.

One essential aspect of the project was its focus on local communities known as "mahallas" in Uzbekistan. This is an effective citizens’ self-governing body and considered as a unique civil society institution, with a rich history. Mahallas are of pivotal importance in safeguarding human values, culture, and social cohesion.

Through the project, UNDP supported mahallas by improving their capacities on socially inclusive decision-making, encouraging civic engagement, raising public awareness and vigilance, understanding and knowledge on violent extremism and identification of community grievances at an early stage.

Within the project, UNDP collaborated with government entities and civil society organizations to establish advisory groups that represent mahalla interests. The project also focused on empowering mahalla leaders, including youth and women, with knowledge and skills in areas such as counter-terrorism legislation, human rights protection, mental health support, and gender aspects related to violent extremism prevention.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

UNDP provided grants for the projects of local non-governmental organizations that focused on promoting alternative narratives, making mental health and socio-psychological support available for vulnerable groups in mahallas and researching into international best practices.

Furthermore, UNDP supported national efforts to enhance the role of women in the fight against terrorism and extremism by sponsoring conferences and community dialogues.

During its term, the STRIVE Asia project has benefited 35 mahallas in Uzbekistan.

Looking ahead, UNDP remains committed to further collaborating with Uzbekistan in implementing national action plans and supporting mahallas. Building on achievements and lessons learned of STRIVE Asia, UNDP will continue delivering context-specific interventions through an approach that is grounded in human rights and development solutions. Upcoming projects will also explore innovative approaches such as tapping behavioral science and leveraging artificial intelligence.