Economies of Central Asia Establish Initiative to Increase Connectivity, Sustainable Development

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan committed to increase cooperation on connectivity through sustainable transport and trade facilitation. The countries are participating in the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) and collaborating to advance sub-regional implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Countries agreed on several documents related to connectivity, trade, transport facilitation and sustainable development at the annual SPECA Economic Forum. The 2019 Forum convened from 18-21 November 2019, in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, with a focus on improving regional connectivity and strengthening regional cooperation for achieving the SDGs. The 14 session of the SPECA Governing Council took place on 21 November.  SPECA is a country-owned and country-driven programme for the land-locked economies of Central Asia, which is supported by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

To advance sustainable transport and facilitate trade, the countries adopted the ‘Ashgabat Initiative on the reduction on barriers to trade and transport in the region,’ drawing on UN standards and best practice recommendations. The initiative is expected to enhance cross-border supply chains and regional markets, helping Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to integrate with European and Asian economies. Turkmenistan’s Minister of Finance and Economy, Batyr Bazarov, explained “our goal is to make the region a modern centre of transport services and trade.”

“Our goal is to make the region a modern centre of transport services and trade.”

The SPECA Governing Council also adopted a SPECA Strategy on Innovation for Sustainable Development, a framework for regional cooperation and international technical cooperation and assistance. The Strategy aims to improve national capacity and capabilities of the SPECA countries to formulate and implement innovation policies for sustainable development and raise the quality and level of regional cooperation in implementing innovations to target and support sustainable development. The Strategy identifies four objectives: upgrading the knowledge and skills base of SPECA stakeholders to match SDG challenges with innovative solutions; facilitating the diffusion of innovations and technology transfer to address sustainable development challenges; enhancing the institutional framework for regional cooperation to implement innovative sustainable development; and contributing to improved performance by SPECA countries in SDG achievement. The Strategy presents collaborative strategies for each objective.

Additional documents adopted include a SPECA Trade Facilitation Strategy, a proposal for a SPECA study on non-tariff barriers to trade and recommendations on implementing UN legal instruments on transport. To facilitate implementation of these strategic initiatives and documents, participating countries agreed to establish a Fund to support their development. [UNECE Press Release] [UNECE Press Release in Advance of Meeting] [Forum Webpage] [Publication: SPECA Strategy on Innovation for Sustainable Development


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