The republic is divided into 12 oblasts, or provinces. There is also the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, which has the right of legal secession, though is unlikely to exercise it. Administration is performed by locally elected councils, overseen by presidential appointees.
An April 1999 decree by Karimov granted mahallas , the smallest communal or neighborhood units in Uzbekistan, a greater level of autonomy than they previously had. The mahallas are traditional institutions charged by law with regulating communal life, and carrying out many state functions, such as community policing, political surveillance, and distributing social welfare payments. This increase in decentralization for the mahallas has been welcomed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attempting to provide assistance to the mahallas and to strengthen the participation of communities in political, economic, and social matters.