Remarks by Ambassador Dilyor Khakimov on Uzbekistan's Constitutional Referendum
On 27 March at the Brussels Press Club, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the European Union and the Benelux countries, H.E. Dilyor Khakimov, delivered a statement on the upcoming constitutional referendum in Uzbekistan, taking place on April 30.
Ambassador Khakimov remarked that the process started one year ago, as Uzbekistan embarked upon a national dialogue process that culminated – after receiving input, feedback, and affirmations from tens of thousands of Uzbek citizens – in the drafting of a revised Constitution. This month, the draft was considered in the Legislative Chamber and a flurry of activity ensued that will usher in a new era for Uzbekistan.
Having reviewed the draft, the Constitutional Court of Uzbekistan ruled that the decision by the Legislative Chamber to hold a referendum was in constitutional compliance. And then, the Senate confirmed this decision and officially approved the draft for submission to a constitutional referendum that will take place on April 30. On that date, the citizens of Uzbekistan will go to the polls to decide on the most important additions and updates to Uzbekistan’s Constitution in over three decades.
They will decide if they agree with the comprehensive reform programme led by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. They will decide if they wish to establish Uzbekistan – via their new Constitution – as a sovereign, democratic, legal, social and secular state with a republican form of government.
They will decide if they wish to commit the country to a greater protection of human rights, fair and open democratic values, and equality within Uzbekistan’s diverse multi-faith and multi-ethnic population. The constitutional amendments are further designed to enshrine the principles of the rule of law, democratic representation, the separation of powers, and a strengthened civil society.
In addition, the reforms support economic development in a secure investment and entrepreneurial environment, and establish important environmental protections. These constitutional amendments represent a transformation of the new Uzbekistan, guaranteeing a modern democratic state that prioritises every person’s individual rights and freedoms.
Where once the state came first, now the citizen comes first – a profound shift from our recent history. We believe that every citizen of Uzbekistan will be able to say with pride and confidence: ‘This is my Constitution.’ The most important priority of the reform process was strengthening guarantees covering the basic personal rights and freedoms of the country’s citizens.
To this end, the reforms would establish that human rights and freedoms belong to everyone from birth, including freedom of speech, media, and assembly. For the first time, the constitution will stipulate that human rights and freedoms may be restricted only in accordance with the law, and only to the extent necessary in order to protect the constitutional order, the health and morals of the people, and the rights and freedoms of others, while ensuring public safety and public order.
The constitution would also enshrine the principle of habeas corpus and establish that the basic law holds the country’s highest legal force and creates a single legal space throughout the country.
Furthermore, ethnicity is decoupled from citizenship and religious freedom is guaranteed – just as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional society like ours demands.
At an economic level, the constitutional amendments support fair competition, the protection of private property, and the development of a favourable investment and business climate. The Government now has responsibility for ensuring sustainable economic growth, macroeconomic stability, and the implementation of measures to reduce poverty, create decent living conditions, and ensure food security.
The constitution also recognises the importance of protecting the environment, including the vulnerable Aral Sea, and the country’s natural resources. The state is constitutionally committed to sustainable development, addressing climate change, restoring and protecting the environment and ecological systems – including strengthened urban planning regulations with compulsory public hearings and working to combat epidemics and pandemics.
The extent of the reforms can be measured in numbers: There are 155 articles in the proposed new constitution, compared with 128 in the current document; 434 norms compared with 275 currently; and the number of specific provisions on human rights and freedoms has more than tripled
Sixty-five percent of the existing Constitution has been changed.
Taken together, the figures demonstrate that the document is not merely an amended constitution, but is in fact a renewed Constitution.
The people voiced their affirmation of these changes during the national dialogue process in the context of a modernization of separation of powers, in which the presidency cedes powers in favor of the Parliament, thus enhancing the responsibility and accountability of the Government.
All of these amendments have been developed and drafted in line with a range of international laws, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Examples from other countries’ constitutions and amendment processes from around the world have also been used as guides to best practice.
The proposed constitution represents a renewed commitment to democratic values and individual rights and freedoms, and on April 30, Uzbek citizens will have the opportunity to vote in a historic moment for Uzbekistan.