Opening Speech by Matilda Dimovska, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan at the Launch of Sustainable Rural Development project

October 18, 2022
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Assalomu aleykum hurmatli anjuman ishtirokchilari, honimlar va janoblar, 

Dear Mr. Jamshid Kuchkarov, Dear Mr. Ibrahim Ali Shoukryn, Dear Ms. Olga Mikhailova, dear colleagues and delegates to this very important meeting. UNDP is pleased to be part of the new Rural Infrastructure Development Project, a joint effort with the Islamic Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for International Development, the Saudi Fund for Development, and the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction. We will be the implementing partner of one of the project’s components.

I do not need to repeat the numerous benefits that this project will bring to the rural communities in Uzbekistan but I would like to highlight a few important things. Firstly, I would like to note that this launch event coincides with two very important internationally observed days:

The 15th October was the International Day of Rural Women, which recognizes the critical contribution of rural women and girls. Women and girls play a key role for enhancing agricultural development, building climate resilience, fighting malnutrition and seeking to ensure food insecurity. 

Yesterday, 17th October was 30th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  This important day honours the millions of people suffering from poverty and recognizes the shared responsibility we hold to eradicate poverty and combat all forms of discrimination.

I highlight those two days as the project we launch today covers both themes in the context of Uzbeksitan – and serves to underline the importance of this project with its focus on rural areas, particularly in the Aral Sea region.

Dear colleagues, rural development is of particular importance for Uzbekistan, where more than 60% of population of the country reside. At the same time, there is a poor state of rural infrastructure and gaps in service delivery, exacerbated by climate change impacts.   Furthermore, the negative consequence of drying Aral Sea is forcing rural migration to cities, with many fleeing the country in search of opportunity.

To address these challenges, the Government has adopted a number of measures to improve access to basic infrastructure, access to health and education, public services, and economic opportunities. The challenges are particularly acute in rural areas and those regions affected by the Aral Sea disaster. Among those, “Obod Qishloq” and “Obod Makhalla” stand out, as have produced tremendous results in improving the rural infrastructure.  

Still, much more needs to be done to ensure that no one is left behind. 

The recent UNDP 2021/22 Human Development Report revealed that for the first time in 32 years, the Human Development Index, which measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living, has declined globally for two years in a row. It has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress many countries have made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  

In the case of Uzbekistan – there has been no drop of the HDI – on the contrary, the trend of steady HDI improvement continues. Uzbekistan remains in the high human development category. Between 2000 and 2021, Uzbekistan's HDI value increased 19.8 percent. 

The report also points to the unprecedented confluence of crises the world faces today. We have seen war and pandemics before, but the uncertainties we always faced are now happening against a backdrop of dangerous planetary change and widespread political polarization. 

And that to confront these, we shall move beyond the conventional ways of understanding and doing things. We must focus on tackling social deficits, including deficits in human development. This relates to Uzbekistan as well, if it is to further contain and improve its HDI.  

I would like to talk briefly about UNDP’s perspective and our input to the implementation of the project. The core of this project is about addressing the deficits of human development in rural areas of Uzbekistan, and propose new solutions to promote shared prosperity in rural areas.

UNDP is therefore pleased to be part of this great joint initiative and to be able to help ensure the resources invested in it bring the best possible human development value for Uzbekistan. In short, I would just like to highlight a few of the areas on which UNDP will be focused. 

First, that the investments be made with the involvement of  local communities. The basic understanding is that an integrated multi-sector approach with community engagement is critical for the success and for the sustainability of the public investments. These will be achieved through Community Development Plans, stronger local governments, municipalities and service providers in effective asset management. UNDP has been applying this approach for a long time. We have been promoting Area Based Development together with the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction in several regions, including in Ferghana Valley, Kashkadarya, the Area Sea region – particularly Karakalpakstan. In this investment, we bring UNDP’s longstanding experience on community empowerment, mobilization and implementation of community-based infrastructure. 

Second, all investments must be climate resilient and result in environmentally friendly solutions. In the current world that also means making sure the investments benefit from digital technologies. Therefore,  we will promote SMART villages with improved digital levels of service delivery, specifically for vulnerable groups, but also with climate-resilient and energy-efficient solutions, from the community level up to the regional level. For example, UNDP will work with local architecture-design institutions and regional departments of architecture to improve engineering designs and master plans that include sustainability considerations including economic, operational, and environment sustainability -- as well as digital and innovative IT solutions.

Third, all investments must be inclusive and fair – which can only be achieved if all sectors across society are involved in the planning and benefit from the results. This means ensuring that the young and the old, women and men, the vulnerable and those living with or with disabilities are all included. We will therefore work together with all partners to ensure the initiative results in strengthened, more empowered women, youth, elderly, people with disabilities and others are all involved in decision-making, operation and maintenance of the infrastructure delivered through this process.

Being fully inclusive and striving to leave no one behind is the only way to ensure the sustainability of the investments. Therefore, UNDP will firmly take a people-centred, gender-sensitive, climate risk-informed and IT-savvy approach in the implementation of this important initiative. 

We will count on your support throughout so that the project brings the best possible human development value to the people of Uzbekistan. 

Thank you.