To decide which of Uzbekistans resources is most likely to support the nations continued social, economic and democratic development, we dont need to look further than its growing number of talented, enthusiastic and socially-aware youth. While in Uzbekistan citizens below 30 years of age comprise more than half of the total population, the dramatic transition from a centrally-planned economy to a more liberalized system has presented many challenges for young people. Despite official efforts, unemployment remains high among youth, too often resulting in labour migration abroad.
Nonetheless, youth in Uzbekistan belong to a society where the tradition of social engagement and volunteerism is so deeply-rooted that it even has its own name, Hashar.
It has been the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programmes on-going objective to motivate and support Uzbekistans energetic and remarkable youth volunteers in their endeavours. As part of these efforts, a national project will soon begin, and it will enhance youth civic participation and involvement in democratic governance practices.
The project Social Innovation and Volunteerism in Uzbekistan will be implemented from mid-2012 to the end of 2014 by UNDP and UNV, with the support of the Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund (DGTTF). This project has been possible thanks to an agreement established after a DGTTF Steering Committee meeting held on 13 October 2011, during which it was determined that youth empowerment and democratic governance should become priority areas for DGTTFs call for funding proposals.
The main goal of this upcoming project will be to foster and encourage youth empowerment by providing valuable support and capacity for development, both at the individual level and through the broad networks of youth volunteers already established in Uzbekistan. The project will work to create a national volunteer network, while strengthening existing youth and volunteer programmes like Kamolot and Kelajak Ovozi, two civic youth movements in Uzbekistan.
It will also work to directly support rural volunteers and interested youth, while setting up peer-to-peer training programmes and encouraging Kelajak Ovozi activists to participate in Training-of-Trainers courses, so as to help in the education of their rural colleagues.
International Youth Day on 12 August will be the official start of the project activities in Uzbekistan, with the objective to consolidate previous UNV successes in the country, coordinate volunteer efforts in coming years, and continue to boost the appeal of youth volunteerism within the nation in a sustainable and lasting way.
Bio: Marc Liberati was Programme Officer in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan from October 2009 until July 2012 at UNDP.