The following article and pictures were provided by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
By Akmal Saidov, director of the National Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights
The international conference "Regional Cooperation in Central Asia in the Framework of the Joint Action Plan for the Implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy" which was held in Tashkent on March 3-4, 2022 is crucial and timely. This international conference aims to encourage the region's and the world community's efforts to unite and work together to combat terrorism.
As the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan stated in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly during its 75th session, "The Central Asian region is undergoing fundamental transformations at the moment. We have succeeded in creating an atmosphere of good neighborliness, mutual trust, friendship, and respect among the region's countries. The Consultative Meeting of Central Asian Leaders, which was held on a regular basis in accordance with the initiative put forward at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, was our overall achievement"
The Head of our state spoke from the UN rostrum about the effective cooperation in the field of security in Central Asia, as well as the successful implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
"We welcome the organization of an international conference on the results of the 10-year Regional Joint Plan and the future prospects of this approach", the President emphasized.
The upcoming Tashkent International Conference is being organized as part of the President of Uzbekistan's initiative. The fact that the conference is being held under the auspices of the United Nations and with the participation of international and regional organizations demonstrates that Uzbekistan's policy and the initiatives announced from around the world are widely and strongly supported by the international community.
Today, the Central Asian region is undergoing significant geopolitical changes that are affecting all aspects of regional development, including politics and economics, ecology, and cultural and humanitarian criteria. As the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted at the Central Asian Summit in 2019, “Central Asia has been at the center of global processes for thousands of years due to its geostrategic location. Our region has always served as a unique bridge connecting Europe, the Middle East, South and East Asia with its rich cultural and historical heritage”.
This approach has had a positive impact on the region's overall political, economic, and cultural-humanitarian landscape. The "priority to make Central Asia a region of security, coherence, and sustainable development" serves as the policy's foundation. Currently, despite the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a steady trend of deeper cooperation in our region.
Human rights are one of the 4 pillars of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which was adopted on September 8, 2006. This section is titled "Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism”.
The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is a global tool for strengthening national, regional, and international counter-terrorism efforts. Every two years, the UN General Assembly reviews the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, making it a living document that is responsive to Member States' counter-terrorism priorities.
As recognized in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, one of the most effective measures taken in the fight against terrorism and the protection of human rights does not negate the other. On the contrary, they complement each other and are extremely necessary to support and protect the rights of victims of terrorism.
It should be noted that the sixth priority in the "New Uzbekistan Development Strategy for 2022-2026" is titled "Approach to global problems based on national interests." Goal 82 of this priority, titled "Formation of effective mechanisms to combat extremism and terrorism" is particularly important. Currently, within the framework of the Development Strategy, the following are included:
- improvement of preventive mechanisms aimed at preventing factors contributing to extremism and terrorism, improving the socio-spiritual atmosphere, preventing the impact of alien ideas and eliminating the problems of persons influenced by them through systematic work;
- formation among the population, especially young people, of firm and stable immunity against the ideology of terrorism and extremism;
- improvement of the international legal framework for countering extremism and terrorism, as well as expanding the contractual and legal framework for cooperation with foreign states, regional and international organizations in the field of countering extremism and terrorism;
- strengthening the personnel potential and resources of diplomatic missions and consular offices, the Agency for External Labor Migration, as well as other departments dealing with citizens who leave abroad for a long time and live abroad;
- exchange of information and experience with foreign states and international organizations in the field of combating extremism, terrorism and their financing;
- active participation in international and regional organizations whose activities are aimed at countering extremism and terrorism;
- coordination of joint efforts to implement the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia within the framework of a Joint Action Plan;
- expanding the role of Uzbekistan in the implementation of international initiatives that promote the exchange of information and the development of cooperation within the framework of joint work to counter extremism and terrorism in Central Asia;
- accelerating initiatives in drawing the attention of the world community and regional organizations to ensuring peace and harmony in Afghanistan, involving this country in the processes of regional cooperation, including countering extremism and terrorism.
The fact that the international conference pays great attention to human rights issues is in line with the principle of "For the human dignity" put forward by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on the path to building a new Uzbekistan. This is evidenced by the fact that within the framework of the conference the topic "Universal respect of human rights and ensuring the rule of law – the main pillar of the fight against terrorism” is planned to be discussed in a separate session.
Our country has supported the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, ratified 14 international conventions and protocols on combating terrorism and religious extremism.
In addition, the country has adopted laws "On Combating Extremism", "On Combating Terrorism", "On Combating Money Laundering, Financing of Terrorism and Financing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction" and other normative legal acts.
On December 16, 2021, the 76th session of the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution No. 76/169 "Terrorism and Human Rights". This resolution condemns terrorism and all attacks, methods and practices of extremism that create conditions for terrorism, regardless of the form in which they occur, by whom they are committed, by what motivation, financial or political support they are carried out.
The UN General Assembly Resolution also draws attention to the fact that terrorism and extremism that create conditions for terrorism become an obstacle to the full exercise of human rights, freedoms and legitimate interests. Because of these negative factors, on the one hand, there are obstacles to the exercise of political, personal, economic, social and cultural human rights, on the other hand, the territorial integrity and security of States, the stability of Governments, the priority of law and democracy, as well as the well-being of society, world peace are threatened.
In addition, Resolution 76/169 called on all governments to provide all possible assistance to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in the performance of its duties and responsibilities. In this regard, it is worth noting that the Uzbek side worked closely with UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin during her visit to our country from November 28 to December 7, 2021.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev received UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin. The Special Rapporteur commended Uzbekistan's efforts to return the country's citizens as part of operation “Mehr” (Mercy), their rehabilitation and reintegration. New approaches in the fight against terrorism and extremism were especially noted.
F. Ní Aoláin visited a rehabilitation center for people who returned from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. She got acquainted with the conditions for the rehabilitation of women and children taken out of "hot spots" in the rehabilitation center of the Bostanlyk district of the Tashkent region. "The Uzbek model premised on family unity and community support is an example of best practice on repatriation, placing the best interest of the child, and the meaningful reintegration of women returning from conflict zones at the centre of political, legal and social action," Ní Aoláin said.
As you know, on June 5, 2021, within the framework of the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council, with the participation of representatives of Uzbekistan, an online event was held on the topic “Rehabilitation and reintegration of women and children repatriated from Syria and Iraq”. In this seminar, it was announced that almost 70 thousand people are kept in the camps "Al-Khol" and "Rozh" - citizens, mostly women and children from 57 countries.
It should be especially noted that since 2019, Uzbekistan has conducted five Mehr operations to repatriate women and children from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 531 people who were in a difficult situation were taken out of the conflict regions. The international community lauded Uzbekistan's efforts to repatriate and reintegrate its citizens from conflict zones, including Syria and Iraq. It was acknowledged that only a few countries, such as Uzbekistan, were involved in this matter.
“While Central Asia has had its challenges, the region has always placed humanity first and foremost as a moral imperative. Central Asian countries have always accepted people and adopted them as their own during times of upheaval. The will to step forward and take responsibility for national seeking to return from Syria and Iraq is a prime example of caring for the most vulnerable,” said Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism.
These efforts to recognize children as victims and take gender issues of children and women into account, according to international experts, are crucial in terms of protecting personal interests through reintegration programs. These actions aimed at providing strong technical assistance and realizing human potential will help to strengthen democratic development and the rule of law. Reintegration of returned children, women, and families into society, on the one hand, eliminates social loneliness; on the other hand, reducing poverty in society strengthens peace and stability.
UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin highlighted the new approach in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Uzbekistan actively participates in the global fight against terrorism and consistently backs the activities of the international anti-terrorist coalition. The National Strategy of Uzbekistan for Countering Extremism and Terrorism for the years 2021-2026 is being implemented successfully. As a result, our country is a member of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee and the CIS Anti-Terrorism Center. The original experience of Central Asian countries cooperating in the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy will be presented at the Tashkent International Conference.
The conference is also planned to discuss the prospects for expanding the UN's role in integrating international and regional efforts to combat terrorism, as well as strengthening states' capacity to ensure human rights and the rule of law in these complex processes.