Government officials from Central Asian and neighbouring countries, international organizations and financial institutions pledged at a United Nations-sponsored forum today to cooperate in developing the best strategies for an early regional recovery from the global economic crisis.
“While economic stimulus packages and other special budgetary measures are important for reviving the economy, regional economic cooperation could be another driver of growth,” Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), told the meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
“There are enormous opportunities to promote intra-regional trade and investment in this region. SPECA provides an excellent framework for addressing a broad range of regional connectivity issues,” she said, referring to UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) Economic Forum, comprising Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The main challenges faced by the region in the short- and medium-term remain multifaceted, including the geographical disadvantage of being landlocked with small domestic markets.
The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Jan Kubis, commended the comprehensive anti-crisis policy measures taken by SPECA governments for greatly helping to alleviate economic and social pain in the region caused by the crisis.
He noted that the SPECA Project Working Group on Knowledge-based Development, which started operations last November, was an important initiative of both ESCAP and ECE to promote economic modernization and knowledge-based development in Central Asia.
“This new SPECA Project Working Group is mandated to support the further integration of member countries into the global economy by promoting innovation and knowledge-driven development,” he said.
Participants discussed how external shocks were aggravated by the combined water, energy and food crisis, reviewing individual as well as collective policy responses to emerging challenges. The meeting also considered how knowledge and innovation could contribute to successful economic recovery and, in the longer term, reduce the vulnerability of Central Asian economies to fluctuations in energy and commodity prices.
The Forum was jointly organized by ESCAP and ECE in cooperation with the Kyrgyz Government within the SPECA framework.