President’s speech at UN Session on Millennium Development Goals
Distinguished Mr. Chairman!
As underscored in the UN Millennium Declaration, one of the most serious obstacles in fighting poverty, misery, hunger, growth of maternal and child mortality, epidemics and other problems facing humanity, are the ongoing wars and conflicts on our planet, continuing interstate, interethnic and inter-religious confrontations.
We can see the proof of this reality in the case of long-suffering Afghanistan where the hostilities have been going on for as long as thirty years.
It becomes ever more obvious today that there can hardly be a military solution to the Afghan crisis, while the preferred strategy of coalition forces to bring peace to Afghanistan has barely borne any effect. The unfortunate state of the people of Afghanistan has been deteriorating with every coming day of the war, complicating the solution of the problem itself.
In the current circumstances, it is critically important to seek for alternative ways of establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan. One of those means, a contact group of “6+3” under auspices of the United Nations, proposed by Uzbekistan back in 2008, could in our opinion play an essential role.
The essence and significance of our initiative are built on the sense that Afghanistan’s troubles must be addressed by the Afghans themselves with the assistance of those nations who are inherently interested in seeing the end to the war and a peaceful future in Afghanistan.
In this case, one should primarily refer to the United States, NATO, Russia, who are in effect involved in the peacemaking mission, as well as Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors.
The central objective of “6+3” contact group is to propose to the confronting parties a Program of Secession of Hostilities in Afghanistan, to seek out compromise solutions to key issues and disagreements dividing the country, to ensure security and provide required guarantees taking into account the interests of every party.
At the same time, the first and foremost emphasis in the Program must be placed on rendering economic assistance, implementing socially oriented, infrastructural and humanitarian projects, addressing unemployment, tackling the most pressing tasks in fighting poverty, misery and lawlessness. It is necessary to demonstrate a complete respect for the ages-old traditions, customs and values of Islamic religion adhered to by the people of Afghanistan.
The peacemaking coalition forces based in Afghanistan for, let me stress it, the time being can facilitate accomplishing these goals.
The tragic events that took place in Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 pose a serious threat to stability in the Central Asian region.
The last April overthrow of the presidential power that had discredited itself, the subsequent tensions and confrontation, as well as the vacuum of legitimate authority in the country, served as a preface to provoke the brutal and bloody actions built on interethnic base in southern Kyrgyzstan. As a result, hundreds of people were killed and thousands of innocent and peaceful citizens suffered.
Today we have every reason to claim that the Kyrgyz themselves and the numerous Uzbek Diaspora living in the south of that country, fell hostage to a deeply thought-out and well-organized action on the part of third forces.
The action was aimed not only at instigating chaos and unruly situation in the country, but also pursued far reaching goals of drawing Uzbekistan into this brutal massacre and in the end turn the interethnic standoff into an interstate confrontation of the two neighboring nations, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
In these exceptionally complex and explosive circumstances, to prevent the forethought scenario of events has been the toughest challenge for us. It cost us a profound straining of forces and resources to admit more than one hundred thousand refugees, children, women and the elderly in our territory, give shelter, accommodate and provide them with all the necessary. So did the prevention of the most brutal violence from expanding, managing to preserve calm on the border territories, excluding any surge of emotions, passions and extremism which could have unpredictable effects.
It was only a sound reason – as well as the comprehension of a simple truth that Uzbeks and Kyrgyz have for ages lived side by side on that land, and that their children and posterity will continue to live together for many centuries – that gave us, our people, the will to thwart this tragedy from turning into a new large-scale confrontation spot in Central Asia.
Doubtless, Kyrgyzstan is today in need of humanitarian assistance and support from neighbors and the international community.
However, it is no less important a task to conduct an independent international inquiry into the pogroms, murders and violence committed on June 11-14 in southern Kyrgyzstan, in order to bring to trial all those who ordered, organized and executed those bloody outrages.
I am convinced that the timely impartial, independent international investigation that rules out any prejudgment and biased approach, a firm and principled position of the international community can pave the way to reconciliation and harmony between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbek minority in southern Kyrgyzstan. I would like to stress that any deviation from these positions may lead to a situation whereby the tragic events can repeat themselves and a rather dangerous source of tension in southern Kyrgyzstan can emerge.
In this respect, we can rightfully expect the United Nations to provide comprehensive assistance in conducting an independent international investigation of the dreadful events. This would help prevent a possible escalation of tensions in the neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
Enormous significance in accomplishing the goals set by the Millennium Declaration, especially in the face of latest abnormal climate changes, has been placed on protecting and preserving the environment.
The tragedy of Aral Sea, which practically during the lifetime of one generation has turned from once one of the unique and most beautiful seas into a drying and vanishing water reservoir, stands as a stunning example and evidence of our irresponsible attitude toward environmental problems.
For forty years the water area of the Aral Sea shrank more than 7 times, the volume of water decreased 13 times, its salinity increased tens of times, made the sea an unacceptable place for living organisms and as a result of which practically all kinds of flora and fauna degraded and disappeared once and for all.
A complex set of not only environmental, but also socio-economic and demographic problems, that have planetary-scale consequences, has emerged in the Aral Sea region. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon became convinced of this during his travel to the Aral Sea area earlier this year. And we are tremendously grateful to him for that.
Given the ongoing drying up of the Aral Sea and unfolding humanitarian catastrophe around it, today’s most important task is to preserve the natural biological pool of the area adjacent to Aral, reduce the disastrous impacts of the Aral crisis on the environment, and crucially, on the lives of hundreds of thousands and millions of people living there.
It is essential to bear in mind that the Aral Sea area is maintained with water from the two core rivers – Amudarya and Syrdarya – and any decrease in the watercourse of these rivers means a radical disturbance of the existing fragile environmental balance in the entire vast region.
And in these circumstances, any attempts to implement projects drafted 30-40 years ago, yet in the Soviet period, to construct large-scale hydropower facilities with gigantic dams in the upper streams of these rivers, and, moreover, if given the seismicity of the area of anticipated structures makes up 8-9 points – all of these may inflict an irreparable damage to the environment and will be a cause for the most dangerous man-made catastrophes.
As a number of international environmental organizations and reputable experts recommend, it would be much more rational to switch to constructing less dangerous, but more economical minor hydropower plants on these rivers to have the same power generating capacities.
The problems of the drying up Aral Sea are the problems of millions of people living in this region, who hope for assistance and appeal to such a high-profile organization as the United Nations.
I would take this opportunity to very briefly inform the Summit about the concrete steps made by Uzbekistan on the way to achieve the goals set in the Millennium Declaration.
Only 19 years have passed since the time when the Republic of Uzbekistan became an independent state and joined the ranks of full-fledged members of the United Nations.
For over the years of independent development, Uzbekistan – with its one-sided hypertrophied, raw-based economy, destructive monopoly of cotton raw production, primitive manufacturing and social infrastructure and low per capita consumption level – has managed to secure achievements that have entirely changed its image and place in the world community.
During these years the gross domestic product grew 3.5 times and in per capita – 2.5 times, the average salary – 14 times. The expenditures of the state for social sphere and social protection have grown more than 5 times. Annually, over 50 percent of the national budget is earmarked to social sphere.
At the moment, provision of the population with pure drinking water reached 82.5 percent and natural gas – 83.5 percent. The resolute steps have been made to radically reform and develop the healthcare system, liquidate and considerably reduce the gravest infectious diseases.
The maternal mortality level has decreased more than 2 times and the child mortality – 3 times. The average life expectancy of people during this period has increased from 67 to 73 years, and of women – up to 75 years. Today, 48 percent of all employed in the country are women.
Despite the serious impact of the global financial and economic crisis, Uzbekistan among few states in the world maintains stably high growth rates of economy and a reliable financial and banking system.
Thus, for over 2008-2009 the growth rates of economy made up 9 and 8.1 percent, respectively, and this year this index is expected at the level of 8.5 percent. The external state debt does not exceed 10 percent of the GDP.
Our own model of democratization of the country, transition to socially oriented free market economy adopted as early as in the wake of our independence, has served as a foundation of these achievements. This model is built on such principles as stripping economy of an ideological bias and priority of economy over politics, assigning the state the role of a key reformer, ensuring rule of law, robust social policy, and providing consistency and gradualness in implementing reforms.
From the onset we avoided shock therapy methods and deceptive ideas imposed on us about self-regulation of market economy, chose the evolutionary approach in the transition from administrative-command totalitarian system to a market system of management, in line with the principle “Do not destroy your old house unless you build a new one”.
I would like to especially underscore an enormous role and significance that the learning process and growth of people’s consciousness have been due in all these transformations.
In Uzbekistan, annual expenditures for education make up 10-12 percent of the GDP, while this indicator does not exceed 3-5 percent in international practice. The unique National Program of Training has been implemented in the country. A mandatory 12-year education system is introduced from 2009.
Uzbekistan sees its critical prospects in joining the ranks of developed nations of the world, keeping with and intensifying the political and economic reforms, modernizing the country, developing civil society and, on that basis, ensuring worthy living standards for its citizens.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that Uzbekistan supports the Global Action Plan on Accelerating Progress in Achieving the Millennium Development Goals proposed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and intends to take the most vigorous part in its implementation.
Thank you for attention.