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SICA Success Stories

NGO Promotes Practice of Public Hearings, Democratizes Work of Public Councils in Uzbekistan

Maruf Aliyev was a well-known public figure in Kokand, Uzbekistan, when he was asked to head the newly minted Public Council for Kokand’s hokimiyat (city administration) in 2019. “At that time the councils were a new phenomenon, created for the implementation of the procedures outlined in Public Control Law [of 2018],” Maruf notes. Public councils intended to bridge the gap between the public and the state, but Maruf soon noticed that the reality was far from the ideal.

Maruf realized the lack of clear regulations and organizational procedures might substantially hinder the work of his council. “According to regulations, we had to conduct our activities on a voluntary basis, which meant that we could not pay salaries to the staff or make payments to purchase simple things like stationery,” says Maruf. “There were no NGO representatives among the staff, no one to actually monitor the civil society situation. We knew that to make it work, all of this had to be changed.”

Guided by Maruf’s zeal to enhance work efficiency, Kokand Public Council’s team created a work plan and developed the council’s structure, charter, and code of conduct. They also pushed for the council to receive official status, which confers the right to pay salaries. As they transformed the council, Maruf and his team ensured that participants represented various backgrounds, including NGOs.

In 2021, the team won an Innovative Solutions Grant from the USAID-funded Social Innovation in Central Asia (SICA) program. The grant allowed the team to create Towards Solutions Through Dialogue, a project that has successfully trained 19 people to manage public councils and conducted public hearings on a variety of issues.

“Through public hearings, we facilitate wide public discussions on the things that matter. We talk about women's rights issues, youth unemployment, COVID-19 vaccination, and more,” says Maruf. After involving the broader community in discussions, councils provide recommendations to government officials on how to improve the situation. The hokimiyat considers the suggestions and usually implements a few. “Our job is to hold a hearing, research these issues well, and provide recommendations to the leadership,” Maruf explains.

These training initiatives proved so effective that the regional administration asked Maruf’s team to share their skills and knowledge with other public councils of the region. Currently Kokand Public Council’s experience is transforming 18 administrative Public Councils of Fergana region.

“What I am most proud of is that we have actually made officials accountable to the public. We have become the bridge between the state and the public. Now the public turns to us [when they need to] raise important issues,” Maruf concludes.

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