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Sasha Graumann on the development of Uzbekistan: "Investing in children and young people is currently the best strategy"

The changes taking place in Uzbekistan find wide response among the international community, including international organizations that express support for the ongoing state policy and assist in implementation of reforms. The correspondent of Narodnoye Slovo interviewed the head of the UNICEF office in Uzbekistan Sasha Graumann about the main aspects of cooperation.

- UNICEF welcomes the transformation in Uzbekistan. This is a time of progress, including in the realization of the rights of children. We see positive changes. Last year, the Interdepartmental Coordination Council on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Uzbekistan was established. Last year, under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister Tanzila Narbaeva, a National Action Plan was developed to implement all the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, proposed five years ago. And we are glad to see that all recommendations are accepted for execution. This once again confirms the commitment of the state to fulfilling its obligations to implement the convention. Today's reforms are important for the future of children and youth. That is why we are ready to actively support them.

- With the adoption of the State Program, the second phase of the implementation of the Strategy of Actions in Uzbekistan began. What is your opinion on the significance of the planned changes?

- The UNICEF Office in Uzbekistan took part in the discussion of the State Program for the Implementation of the Strategy of Actions in 2018. We are inspired by the fact that the country attaches great importance to international expertise, because global experience can be useful, adapted and used in the context of Uzbekistan.

The Children's Fund assists in a number of directions, contributing to the implementation of the State Program.
Judicial and legal reform. One of our recommendations related to the specialization of the justice system for children, which, of course, must differ from that for adults due to the age and psychological characteristics of the child.

President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the end of last year paid special attention to the need to strengthen work with juvenile offenders in order to prevent crime among adolescents. Most recently, the first child-friendly investigation room was opened in the Ministry of the Interior with the assistance of UNICEF. This is a significant step, because it created an atmosphere of protection for minors in the process of investigation, minimizing the psychological trauma. Modern equipment for video and audio recording allows you not to allow repeated interrogations, contributes to obtaining more reliable evidence at the stage of preliminary investigation. In this direction we also cooperate with the General Prosecutor's Office, the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Public Education.

Last year, we were given the opportunity to visit a colony for boys and two specialized educational institutions. We believe that their employees play an important role in the lives of minors who have violated the law, and must have special knowledge.
Development of education. Uzbekistan pays considerable attention to this sphere in the direction of improving its quality. We work closely with the ministries of public education, higher and secondary special education. We began to actively interact with the newly established Ministry of Preschool Education, whose tasks are determined strategically by the country's leadership. After all, preschool is not only a place where parents leave the child for the whole day in safety, but also where he studies and develops. Therefore, we wholeheartedly support the State Program for the Improvement of Preschool Education, aimed at increasing the coverage of children and improving the quality of work.

Health promotion. Currently, UNICEF is conducting the first study in Uzbekistan on nutrition among women and children. Accurate data on key indicators will help in planning and monitoring programs to promote the health and well-being of women and children in Uzbekistan.

In the health care system, a special place is occupied by the organization of family patronage. This practice is of great importance for identifying families in need of assistance. And we assist in this work. In addition, we cooperate with the government in improving the quality of medical care for the most vulnerable groups, strengthening the district health system, and providing assistance in the field of immunization.

Social protection. I was glad to learn that the country's leadership actively supports vulnerable families and creates conditions for them not to send a child to a special institution, and he grew up and brought up in the family. This is in line with UNICEF priorities for preventing the placement of children without parental care and children with disabilities in special institutions.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations, we are working on a targeting system, that is, targeting of aid of neediest people.

- What is your opinion on the state youth policy implemented in the country? How do you see cooperation in this direction?

- This is a very important issue. UNICEF welcomes the Government's special attention to youth. With one third of the population under the age of 18, Uzbekistan has a unique demographic opportunity: through 15-20 years it will be the labor market of the country. Therefore, investing in children and young people is currently the best strategy for the country's transition to the next stage of social and economic development and prosperity.

Many countries had such experience. For example, South Korea, several years ago, engaged closely with youth issues and invested heavily in high-quality education. And this led to the fact that one generation made South Korea a high-income country.

If we understand the needs and interests of children and young people, help solve problems, provide opportunities for education and development, they will become the force that will lead the country to the next stage of development.

UNICEF works closely with the Union of Youth of Uzbekistan. Recently took part in the conference "Dialogue with youth: problems and solutions". We gave seven main recommendations for the full realization of the potential of youth aimed at the early development of children, providing quality education, developing life skills and improving employment opportunities, encouraging positive social behavior through the media, creating a unified system of social protection for children, a strong justice system for support of youth participation in decision-making. UNICEF remains a reliable partner of Uzbekistan in the development and implementation of youth policy.
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