Top United Nations officials today pledged the Organization’s ongoing support to preventive diplomacy to assist the Central Asian region in tackling persistent and emerging challenges more effectively, with Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson spotlighting terrorism and extremism, poverty, human rights, and environmental issues as areas of special concern.
“The UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) is an important part of this picture,” Mr. Eliasson said in his opening remarks to a high-level meeting on the world body’s efforts in the region, which was held on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual general debate that opened on Monday and wraps up on 1 October.
The UNRCCA is a special political mission established by the world body in 2007 at the initiative of the Governments of the five Central Asian countries – Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Headquartered in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the Centre serves as a platform for dialogue and exchange of views among the countries of the region.
It promotes dialogue between the governments in finding solutions for emerging problems and eliminating potential threats; keeps regular contacts with international organizations, operating in the region, to stimulate their peace-making efforts and initiatives; and cooperates with other UN agencies working in the field of sustainable development and conflict prevention.
“The Centre has made valuable contributions to finding solutions to Central Asia’s challenges, in particular issues related to the sharing of water and energy resources, as well as counter-terrorism,” Mr. Eliasson said, urging cooperation on water to avoid conflict and telling participants that the UN stands ready to help “hydro-diplomacy” reach acceptable solutions.
He also said that while the Central Asian region is understandably apprehensive about the possible impact of the security and civilian transitions in Afghanistan that are expected to be completed next year with the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the UN will continue to support an environment conducive to peace in Afghanistan, including through technical assistance for next year’s elections.
“We will also continue collaborative efforts to tackle the illicit economy and counter the cross-border trade in narcotics and precursors to improve security in Afghanistan and throughout the region,” Mr. Eliasson said, adding that the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and UNRCCA will also continue to promote regional cooperation on trade, transport, energy and infrastructure.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson at the conclusion of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the holding of the meeting, which featured the participation of the countries of the region, as well as his Special Representative for Central Asia and Head of UNRCCA, Miroslav Jenca, and the Assistant Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Cihan Sultanoðlu.
Water scarcity and the fight against terrorism in Central Asia featured prominently in the statement delivered to the General Assembly today by Erlan Abdyldayev, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan. He said his country’s main strategic resource – water – was under serious pressure due to global warming.
“Kyrgyzstan’s glaciers have shrunk by 30 per cent. According to preliminary expert forecasts, unless urgent measures are taken, there will be practically no glaciers and snowfields on the country’s territory by the year 2100; and these melting waters are the primary source of the rivers of Central Asia,” he said.
Mr. Abdyldayev said it is important that the international financial and ecological organizations continue to assist the countries of Central Asia in addressing this problem. Such assistance is particularly important in the transition to a sustainable use of both water and natural ecosystem resources. The development of hydro-energy is strategically important for the sustainable socio-economic development of the region. “We are confident that this will contribute to an integrated solution of many current and future challenges.”
On terrorism, extremism and other transborder threats such as drug trafficking, he said these issues are most acute in the region because of the current situation in Afghanistan. “Despite some progress in advancing the political process in Afghanistan, there is still a threat to stability and security in the country,” he said, underscoring Afghan drug production as fuelling a full range of threats.
“We believe that in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and other security challenges generating from Afghanistan, regional organizations that have proven to be effective should now be more involved,” Mr. Abdyldayev said, noting in particular the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
He said that it is also important to involve Afghanistan in the development of regional cooperation and implementation of major joint socio-economic and infrastructural projects such as the export of electricity, and the creation of road and railroad communications.