The United Nations established a presence in Uzbekistan within just two years of independence. On the ground since 1993, ten agencies of the world body now work in this Central Asian country. In an exclusive interview from Tashkent, VOA's Navbahor Imamova talks to Helena Fraser, head of the UN’s Uzbekistan office. Fraser argues that the reform process now underway in the country is irreversible. Their in-depth conversation ranged widely, including the reasons why the UN is so supportive of the country’s current trajectory.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Well, good morning!
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Good morning!
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Thank you so much for finding this precious time for us, it was very important for me to be able to talk to you while I'm here. We see you as one of the leading representatives of the international community in Tashkent, and as much as I am exploring the political circles in Tashkent, the Uzbek circles, I'm also eager to talk to people like you. Because, honestly, you've been quite active in both media and political scene in the Uzbek capital. I want you to explain your position here, the nominal one and of course, the real one. The UN officials have very complicated titles. What is your tittle?
I'm the Secretary General's representative, coordinating the whole range of UN agencies, funds and programs efforts, to support the government with their national development priorities.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Thanks, Navbahor, really lovely to see you here at the UN office in Uzbekistan. Currently I have two titles. I'm the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan, in which capacity I'm the Secretary-General's representative, coordinating the whole range of UN agencies, funds and programs efforts, to support the government with their national development priorities. My second title, which will only last for three or four more months, is UN Development Program resident representative, in which capacity I'm the head of UNDP which is the biggest UN agency operating in Uzbekistan.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: What will happen afterwards, someone else is coming to do that job?
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Well, the member states of the United Nations agreed with the UN Secretary-General's proposal for a wide ranging set of reforms to the UN development system. These reforms will take effect from 31 December this year. That's when around the world in 129 countries, including Uzbekistan, the colleagues who hold the position of resident coordinator and head of the UN country team, will be de-linked from UNDP. Over the past three or four decades, UNDP has provided its head of organization to be also the resident coordinator.
... it will be challenging to achieve this hugely ambitious but exciting agenda.
Of course, that has both great advantages and some challenges. As part of the Secretary-General's reform initiative, the idea is to release from day to day management of a big agency, the resident coordinators, so that we have full time dedicated and empowered UN representatives in the country, who will lead the whole system of the UN, both those agencies present in Uzbekistan, and all the non-resident UN agencies will also engage, that we lead them to support the achievement of Agenda 2030. Because, the Agenda 2030, which all countries of the world signed up to in 2015, is really a complex, multi-dimensional and very integrated program for people, planet and prosperity. If we don't ensure that the proper, empowered leadership is there to drive results, and drive change in support of national priorities, and the Sustainable Development Goals, it will be challenging to achieve this hugely ambitious but exciting agenda.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: When I asked you to explain your position, I really wanted to say that, it's not only hard to understand the positions that UN diplomats are in, but also you cover so much, you have such multi-edged missions, right? I mean, Uzbekistan was obviously is the largest country in Central Asia. Many UN agencies are involved in some way if not just represented, here in Tashkent, a very obvious question, how does one get to represent UN in a country like Uzbekistan? I know you're career UN diplomat. But how did you end up here?
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: That's a very good question. I've worked for the UN for over two decades, primarily working in emergencies. But I started my career in the former Soviet space, I would say, in Georgia back in 1997, working on humanitarian response after the conflicts that had ravaged Georgia in the early 90s. So, as I gradually went through the system through different duty's stations, different roles and responsibilities, I appreciated that one of the exciting roles where you can really draw on all aspects of the UN's amazing set of mandates, and really try to focus results for change, was the role of resident coordinator. Now, obviously, that role demands leadership responsibilities, communication capacities, diplomacy and tact, obviously, because we are the Secretary-General's representative in country, and also an ability to drive change for assertive agencies for whom you have no real direct accountability. Because, every agency has its own accountability line to its executive board.
In order to recruit for those positions, there's a comprehensive recruitment process that's called an Assessment Center, where you go for two days along with many peers from the whole world, and you get assessed on your capacities and competencies in all of these areas that are critical for these positions. Once you pass that assessment, then you're in the pool, and then you can apply to positions, resident coordinator positions that interest you.
I had visited Uzbekistan 25 years ago. When the opening came up here, I applied, partly because, as I said, I started my career in the former Soviet space, and I feel comfortable and motivated and interested, both from a historical cultural, and a language perspective because I speak Russian. Although Russian is not the official language, it's very useful in Uzbekistan. But I also felt excited about the opportunities in Uzbekistan for sustainable development and for advancing the UN's mandate, and I was lucky enough to be appointed by the Secretary-General for this position a year ago.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: When you are chosen for these specific positions, to be the heads of mission in countries like this, how much freedom or flexibility do you have to set your own priorities? We know that UN has its own agenda, for all the member countries. You have goals to accomplish. But how do you tailor everything for a country like Uzbekistan? I'm asking this because you arrived in Tashkent right when the country started changing, right? So, this was a different time.
I think the UN is well positioned as a trusted multilateral partner with no particular vested interest other than advancing the set of international obligations, conventions standards, that Uzbekistan is already signed up to in principle, but needs technical advice and support in order to align policy and practice to these standards.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Yes, I arrived in July last year, and we were five-six months into the Action Strategy for Development, the five-year development plan, which was frankly, a sort of radical opening up towards a set of priorities that were closely linked to the sustainable development agenda that are closely linked: judicial reform, public administration and governance reform, economic liberalization, foreign policy and security reform and then of course, critically social economic reform, including environmental issues, education and health.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: So much to cover!
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: I know. But those five pillars really are aligned to the UN's mandates. We have here in Uzbekistan 10 resident UN agencies, and they cover the full spectrum of what is in the action strategy for development. I think the UN is well-positioned as a trusted multilateral partner with no particular vested interest other than advancing the set of international obligations, conventions, standards that Uzbekistan is already signed up to in principle but needs technical advice and support in order to align policy and practice to these standards. So, it's a tremendously exciting time and it's also a very demanding time. As much as I'm sure, you've seen, the government is working extremely hard to achieve the vision outlined in the action strategy.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: The first, I would say the UN has been in Uzbekistan for 25 years. Just since 1993, and although indeed, as you say, there were challenges, I wouldn't say that the partnership in those years did not reap fruit. In fact, interestingly, many of the openings that we're seizing now build on support advice and input that the UN has provided over the past decades. I wouldn't like you to come away with the impression that the UN was here and unable to work. That's not the case. There was a lot of very constructive engagement but they will also very significant challenges, particularly in areas which were difficult to discuss, including maybe youth migration issues, human rights issues, rule of law reform. Indeed the UN recommendations coming to Uzbekistan were difficult to follow through in some areas.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: In many ways, you're in an envious position, because for years, let's be honest, the UN struggled to do its work here. And the Uzbek government also struggled to find a common language and to be able to, let's say accomplish those goals as the world body, things that will be decided in New York. We heard Uzbek ministers and other officials and diplomats talk about how disappointed they were with the UN, how the UN wasn't enough supportive to push for the kinds of changes and progress they wanted in the region. There was a lot of criticism back and forth. We also saw the world body represented here paralyzed for a long time. They were not being able to do their work because of various restrictions, because of various policies in place here. You really came in when the system was opening up. Do you see that opening continuing? Where do you see Uzbekistan right now?
... many of the openings that we're seizing now build on support advice and input that the UN has provided over the past decades. I wouldn't like you to come away with the impression that the UN was here and unable to work.
Nevertheless, the UN remained engaged those recommendations were carried in. And now we're seeing that many of the fruits of that engagement are now coming to fruition, if I can say that. For example, we gave support to Uzbekistan over 10-12 years ago, I think on WTO accession before it was put on pause. And now we're bringing out some of those policy papers and supporting the government to reopen its perspective on WTO accession. For example, UNESCO has been supporting the government on management plan concepts for the outstanding areas of universal cultural heritage. And, you know, there were some challenges, and now that again, is opening up, and that UNESCO is able to provide more engagement and support for management plans for Khiva and Bukhara... That's my first point. The second point that you mentioned, you asked what, where do I see us Uzbekistan now? Well, we're two years into change...
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: The reforms...
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Yeah, the reforms, although they were articulated and framed only in February last year, but we're two years into a change of administration, a change of approach and a very citizen-oriented approach, which I think is one thing that for the UN is really important, and we've certainly provided a lot of support on the ability of citizens to engage in the process of reform and give their input and feedback. I would say that we've passed, in my view, the tipping point where these reforms are reversible, I believe.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: You don't worry that system will go back?
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: I don't think so. I think you can see very clearly, a very strong vision and a very clear vision of where the country wants to go. The country wants to create jobs, create opportunity and change in a way that compact between the citizens of Uzbekistan and the government of Uzbekistan to a place where the citizens are consumers and clients and agents, and I think that is really a critical place. We also see definitely the outreach and opening up on the pillar five of the actual strategy to neighbors. The Central Asian countries first and foremost, but Afghanistan, critically, also and then to the wider community. We had President Lukashenko (from Belarus) here, as you know, first state visit in 24 years. We had President Sissi from Egypt, and we are having a level of international engagement, a determination for connectivity, with all the opportunities and the challenges... And I think that is also irreversible.
The country wants to create jobs, create opportunity and change in a way that compact between the citizens of Uzbekistan and the government of Uzbekistan, to a place where the citizens are consumers and clients and agents, and I think that is really a critical place.
I would say, and I believe that I speak for many of the multilateral partners in Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan is really shifting to a range of opportunities across all aspects of the reform, which will lead maybe not tomorrow, but we very strongly believe and hope soon to the shifts, for example, in productivity and in employment that are absolutely critical in this young country, where with the growing population of youth entering the job market, but also to a situation where the rights and dignities of the human are a fundamental part of the compact between government and people.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Well, the UN goals are usually long-term. You have a long-term vision, you want to be able to envision the society, and as you said, in 30-50 years, for example, like 2030 goals, but people want tangible results now. And when I talk to the public and also to the Uzbek government, they want to deliver now and they seem to be struggling, which in many ways is very natural. And the challenge is: How do you prove that you're effective? That you're productive now... How can the UN help in that to the government?
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Those are very good points. The balance between the long-term strategic objectives and quick wins is always a challenging one, particularly in Uzbekistan, which is really trying to transform on all fronts at once. The great advantage that Uzbekistan has is that, it is transitioning its economy 20 years, after other countries in the region have beyond transitioned. There's a lot that can be learned and Uzbekistan is cleverly learning from it. And it's not just from the former Soviet countries, it is Vietnam and Korean experience, other countries that are trying to leapfrog ahead or tried to leapfrog ahead and successfully achieved that.
I think one clear lesson that emerges from many of these experiences is indeed the balance between staying focused on the long-term, because you can't run a transition of this kind on an electoral cycle. Because if you focus only on the short-term wins, you will have to end up making compromises that don't, for example, on environmental change... Big issue for Uzbekistan. Big challenges. Trans boundary challenges like those we've seen in the Aral Sea crisis. If you only stay focused on the next two or three years, you're not going to begin to safeguard the environment for future generations, which is absolutely vital if you're also trying to create jobs, frankly.
I think it's critical and I see Uzbekistan trying to stay focused. For the first time, as you know, the government has commissioned long-term sectoral and regional development strategies with intra-government coordination mechanisms within those strategies. Let me give you another concrete example where the UN is trying to help and were also this quick wins come in, and that's in the health reform. Uzbekistan's health system, I think we can all acknowledges under invested, and outdated in terms of taking opportunities of information technology, data capacities etc, to manage the health challenges of the 21st century. One of which is non communicable diseases. 80 percent of mortality and morbidity in Uzbekistan is associated with risk factors linked to non-communicable diseases. That's really high.
The balance between the long-term strategic objectives and quick wins is always a challenging one, particularly in Uzbekistan, which is really trying to transform on all fronts at once.
The government is therefore losing money, people are losing their lives, more importantly, on issues that could be addressed through a really strategic long-term non-communicable diseases plan. How do you do that in a way that brings some quick wins because if we just focus on people's health over the next 15 years, the population will be frustrated. They want to see their health clinics improved now. They want to see diagnostics improve now. They want access to ...
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Basic health care now.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Basic health care, pharmaceuticals etc. I think it's critical that the World Health Organization has stepped in and understands the need to provide some of that basic infrastructural and primary health care wins now, but because it's the World Health Organization has a long-term vision. It's also really supporting and advising the Ministry of Health and the Presidential Commission on Health Reform on the long-term goals and objectives. I think, the UN, we have a duty to do that. One of the beauties of the UN is it can stay focused on the long-term.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: And the system is set for that.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: We're here as partners for as long as it requires. Come hell or high water as it were, the UN will stay, and I think we have shown that. And yes, in some cases, challenges that we would like to see addressed are moving at a slower pace, others are moving at a faster pace. The point is that we, in my job as coordinator, is to try to make sure that we support national priorities. And we support those national priorities in line with the international best standards, as well as the treaties and obligations and commitments that Uzbekistan has signed up to. And I hope that that overall package means a win for the government and a win for the people of Uzbekistan.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: As I listened to you, I am thinking of this criticism that I hear in Washington, in the West specifically, from various human rights organizations and other critics who say that the UN is being too positive about Uzbekistan. They are just cheer-leading too much instead of pushing the government to change, instead of pushing to accelerate whatever reforms that the system is ready to do, they've joined this bandwagon and they're promoting the interests of the current administration, the interests of President Mirziyoyev and his mission. " What do you see to that? To those who say that you are not questioning the policy but unconditionally supporting it?
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Well, I would like to in invite those critics to come to Uzbekistan and talk to me and my colleagues about what we're doing on a day to day basis because I don't think they're necessarily basing that on deep understanding of how the UN operates. In my public-facing diplomacy, I am indeed where appropriate applauding movement into the right direction and I believe strongly, that is the role of the UN to support positive movement and positive trajectories. The work we do with the government, however, is not primarily to conduct diplomacy. It's really pragmatic day to day conversations behind closed doors, and across the range of our work, whether it's in education, in health care, in public administration, in human rights in, from reform challenges to climate action, we have both difficult, constructive and positive conversations. We push. We engage. We support.
I am indeed where appropriate applauding movement into the right direction and I believe strongly, that is the role of the UN to support positive movement and positive trajectories.
The UN has a range of roles and, I would say the most important point is we are here at the request of government, to support national priorities inline with international conventions, commitments and standards. And that's what we do. But I don't see any value in working in a way that projects me as being an NGO activists. I'm not an NGO activist. There is a role and very important role and I commend the role of all NGO partners. I commend the role world of the journalists, who are looking at the challenges, opportunities and are questioning. There is a different role. My role is to work in support of the government, and as I said, I really welcome anyone with questions come talk to us, if you feel we're not upholding every principal of standards, because am fully confident that we are.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Do you encourage the Uzbek government to provide more access to the outside groups to boost the presence of the civil society in this country? I know you work with a lot of communities. You work with local NGOs in many sectors you mentioned earlier, but at the same time how do you think you engage the public? How do you promote yourself inside the country?
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Well, I feel like there are many aspects to that question.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Yes, I'm asking a lot things at the same time.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Let me try, and break it down. On the issue of civil society, I see it very clearly under my role as a champion of the Sustainable Development Goals, that are stakeholders and partners are not only in government. Yes, we're here at the government's request. Yes, we're here to engage with the government and support them through this process but also civil society is a critical partner to the UN in all of its areas of work, and the opening up the space for civil society is really important. I believe that the UN country team is engaged in that respect with the Ministry of Justice in our work directly with NGOs in Uzbekistan, and then the advocacy and engagement that we provide. For example, we routinely ensure that NGOs are invited to events and seminars where they would have their voice. We routinely encourage their engagement, for example, the presense of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International at recent discussions in Tashkent on human rights. That is also linked to our advocacy engagement.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: And with local human rights and activists in various events?
I don't see any value in working in a way that projects me as being an NGO activists. I'm not an NGO activist.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Exactly. My colleagues in ILO had made an absolute point of joining local human right activists and are engaged in a dialogue on labor reform and that is now enshrined in Ministry of Labor practice, and I really assured and welcomed that because that's a breakthrough. I think from a civil society perspective, there's lots to do but I believe that we're working in the right direction. On the question of how we engage with wider community, there's a number of ways, I mean first is, person to person contact.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Which is very important.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Yeah. In the run up to the United Nations General Assembly Youth Dialogue, we invited a bunch of young people and these were not pre-selected... They were a bunch of young people, some were nominated by youth department that we engage with, some were nominated by universities that I had contact with, through support to different lectures or Model United Nations efforts, some are young people that we've come across who have expressed their interest in supporting our mandate. We get a lot of volunteers coming to help. And we framed that engagement not only as a way to support Uzbekistan's reform agenda through engaging with the UN, but also as an opportunity to give diverse set of inputs from young people about, what priorities they see, we should be forecasting on. Going forward I'm hoping will have some kind of a youth network for the SDGs in Uzbekistan. This is what I'm moving towards, and I think it is essential that we ensure that the voice of youth is really helping to drive our sense of priorities.
And we recently managed to get the Secretary-General's Youth Envoy to Uzbekistan. That was a great trip. Actually I hosted a dinner at my house for her and young leaders. And again, they were not young leaders nominated from a certain part of government. They were a range of young leaders. I also tried to engage with some schools and my colleagues at UNICEF are usually engaged with. I was invited to the academic lyceum under the University of Oriental Languages... I really enjoy those people to people contacts.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: How do you explain your mission in simple words? It's hard to do so, right, especially when you are leading the team that represents so many different parts of the UN, so many different missions? Again going back to the goals and missions, for the ordinary folks, UN is up there. It is not only just some kind of an elite organization but it's something unreachable. Something that is not necessarily interested or engaged in the their lives. What is UN now?
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Again, a really good question, multifaceted. The UN now is a set of global experience, good practice and standards that help countries increase their prospective, ensure peace and security, and ensure the dignity of the person and human rights for all. Those are the three mandates of the UN, quite frankly. Sustainable development, peace and security, and human rights. How we do that, is a mix of technical support and advice... For example, in Zarafshon near Tajikistan border, we are supporting the renovation of a canal but are also engaging with local community to support them to learn, how to best negotiate access to water for the families who have small market gardens and in the past had difficult time because most of the water were sent to the big farms.
The UN now is a set of global experience, good practice and standards that help countries increase their prospective, ensure peace and security, and ensure the dignity of the person and human rights for all. Those are the three mandates of the UN, quite frankly. Development, peace and security, and human rights.
We're also engaging the community in listening to their needs. How do they need to shape their water use and their rights to access water for their market gardens, so they can sell produce for their families etc. And at the same time, fulfill our infrastructural approach of rehabilitating that canal. I'd say a lot of what UN does is about engaging the communities. Let me give you another example, in the Aral Sea region... In Karakalpakstan which, as you know, it is the large region, autonomous republic, around the Aral Sea, with over million inhabitants, and it's the poorest in most vulnerable region of Uzbekistan, according to all indicators. Unemployment, health and environment...
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Uzbeks themselves called it a "forgotten land."
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: We have a joint program, a UN joint program in the Aral Sea region. And when I say UN joint program, that sounds complicated. What it means is five main agencies have come together to pull their technical capacity and their know-how to meet people's needs. And how did we do that? We went out and we conducted survey, with thousands of house holds, to understand their needs, their perspectives on what that priorities are. Unsurprisingly, the main needs that they have are jobs, health, drinking water and education for their kids. Some of them are in remote villages, it's difficult to get their kids to go to school etc.
They have dissatisfied with the quality. This is the first time such a human- oriented survey has been conducted, and we've published the results, and the data is all open to access, and again this is the first, and obviously, it was a partnership with Karakalpak authorities. And then, we've designed and are executing different projects to help these communities rise out of poverty and deal with the fact that they're living in the shadow of this environmental catastrophe. But we always make sure that communities involved in the feedback loop and that we understand what their needs are, so we're talking to women-headed households, where the men gone on migration and they are saying "I can't feed my children," and we help them, for example, with a small greenhouse to grow tomatoes which are needed in the market at certain time of year and how good irrigation practices they use less water because there is shortage of water etc.
That's for me, that kind of work, is really flagship. It's interesting and it's a good way to encapsulate the role of the UN. We're addressing human dignity. We're addressing challenges around prosperity. We're also addressing possible future challenges around conflict in the community, because of lack of water, because of environmental hazards and so forth. We are doing these in partnership with the communities but also in partnership with government.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: I have another multifaceted question. I know you have a very busy day and I really appreciate your patience, and sitting down with me for this wonderful conversation. The Uzbek government says it wants to uphold its international obligations. We hear a lot about that from diplomats. They also say the UN should lead, whenever there is any kind of a talk about the world body. They say that the UN must lead and we follow. What is that all about, how do you understand that message?
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: The UN is always going to be there to support any of our member states to reach international standards that they have signed up to. Let me give an example... The Convention on Biodiversity or the Montreal Protocol on Eliminating the Use of Hydro- Chlorofluorocarbons, which I'm doing an event on later today, because it is annual ozone layer day, International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. We are helping and supporting the government of Uzbekistan to realize its commitments under both of those conventions and treaties. That means partly helping the government report and ensure they have the data available to say what they're doing to preserve biodiversity and what further challenges they are facing. Or in the case of the Montreal Protocol, we're providing concrete technical support to replace coolant in air conditioning units in hospitals around Uzbekistan, so that we are ensuring was Uzbekistan meets its commitment to eradicate the use of ozone polluting substances.
he UN is always going to be there to support any of our member states to reach international standards that they have signed up to.
It ranges from very practical technical work, training air coolant technicians on replacing and managing these types of refrigerants, for example, to more policy work. What legislation needs to be changed, for example, so that it's illegal to import substances which are banned under various protocols. That's one area of how the UN support our countries including Uzbekistan. On the human rights side, for example, we also take stock of and support the government to address recommendations coming from different human right's treaty bodies.
Another practical example is the recommendations on the Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. There are a number of treaty recommendations from the UN on this issue. And we're currently helping the Women's Committee to and other parts of government to elaborate, for example, a law on domestic violence, which is a really important issue as well as a concept for a law on the equality of women and men in Uzbekistan. Now that is enshrined in Uzbekistan's Constitution, but it's important to have the appropriate legal structure in place, so that women indeed don't face discrimination whether it's in the issue of job applications or university entrance or political participation. Across the range of international standards, our role is to provide technical advice, share policy experience and in some cases provide practical, on the ground support to enable the country to follow and reach the standards it's committed to.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Obviously, the policymakers of Uzbekistan and elsewhere listening to you will be making certain marks right, "Oh, yeah, UN is doing this..." The point of this conversation was to dive into the work of the UN in Uzbekistan. But if the ordinary folks are wondering about how can they be part of that or this initiative, how can they participate ? What can they do? What would you say to those whose Uzbek who say, I want to be a part of what UN is doing now? I want to contribute and believe in their work.
Helena Fraser, UN Uzbekistan: Well, I would like to say to anybody watching this program, we want you as partners. The UN is willing to engage and support. How can you do that? The first way is to learn about what your country has signed up to. Obviously, the Action Strategy which is the national development plan, but also the Sustainable Development Goals. The government is on the verge of adopting its own national targets and indicators, it's critical that every Uzbek should know what the collective spirit of Uzbekistan is trying to achieve, under all the goals, that the whole world has aspired to, and signed up to.
I think it's important that Uzbeks know what's in the Universal Declaration and to understand what's been committed to there.
Secondly, you should educate yourself about the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. This is the 70th anniversary, and Uzbekistan has passed a specific decree to celebrate this, and we really welcome that. And I think it's important that every Uzbek knows what's in the Universal Declaration and to understand what's been committed to there. And, then thirdly, once those big picture objectives are clear, act as agents for helping to change, so that your government can achieve together with the people, those really great aspirational objectives that are enshrined in Agenda 2030 and in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Concretely, you can engage in your community to raise awareness, for example, on conservation of water, on preservation of the rich biodiversity or the cultural heritage of Uzbekistan. You can engage by writing to your local Oliy Majlis representative or to your senator, saying, "I'm really inspired by these commitments, we would like to see this happening in our region or district." And this kind of engagement, this kind of motivation is important for government and for the Oliy Majlis to understand. And on our side, we always welcome volunteers who want to support our mission by talking about the aspirations of Uzbekistan to achieve sustainable prosperity and dignity for all its citizens. And we welcome concrete participation and community input to our work.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Thank you so much.