Global crises, energy, Afghanistan top agenda at UN-organized Central Asia forum

13 March 2009
Miroslav Jenca

The impact of the global financial crisis, problems concerning water and energy supplies and developments in Afghanistan were high on the agenda at a United Nations-organized seminar that brought Central Asian nations together to address current challenges.

The meeting was organized by the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), established in 2007 to help the countries of the region – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – respond more proactively to cross-border challenges and threats, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and environmental degradation, before they become costlier and more difficult to control.

The two-day meeting, which began on 10 March, brought together government officials, experts and academics, among others, to the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, for what a senior UN official called a “necessary and timely” gathering amid important developments in the world and in the region.

“The participants acknowledged that an individual approach is not a viable solution, that it is important to find shared solutions,” Miroslav Jenca, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNRCCA, told the UN News Centre.

The need to work together in facing challenges was especially underscored in the context of dealing with the ongoing economic and financial crisis. Mr. Jenca noted that some countries might be tempted to find solutions taking into account their national interests only, and not considering the interests of the whole region.

Participants at the meeting, which also included representatives from Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Germany, Iran, Turkey, Russia, France, Slovakia and the United States, recognized this as a “dangerous tendency,” he said, and they agreed that regional cooperation was vital in order to find viable solutions.

The impact of the global economic downturn has been felt in the region, especially in countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that are more integrated in the global economy, Mr. Jenca pointed out, while adding that “none of the countries in the region are immune against the crisis.”

The effects have included the devaluation of national currencies and a curtailing of projects due to lack of funding. The downturn has also affected labour migration, with migrants being unable to find enough jobs in other countries, or if they can find jobs, they are being paid less, all of which lead to a decrease in remittances, he said.

In addition, problems related to water management and energy supplies are a major challenge for the region, which as a whole has enough water and enough energy. “The problem is how to find agreement among the five countries in order to use these resources for the benefit of all countries in the region,” stated Mr. Jenca, who took up his post last June.

The Regional Centre is particularly active in the area of water and energy, which is one of its priority areas. At the same time, the Special Representative noted that the UN’s role is to assist countries, not replace governments.

“The role of the leadership of the countries is extremely important in order to ensure sustainable development, and they bear primary responsibility for socio-economic development and also for addressing the crisis,” he stated.


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