Strengthening regional cooperation is the key to Central Asia’s economic prosperity

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On November 23-24, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev visited Azerbaijan on a working visit and take part in a meeting of the UN Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), which was hold in Baku.

The United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) was established on 26 March 1998 by the Tashkent Declaration signed by the participating countries – Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The main objective of SPECA is to promote the development of economic interconnections in the region, integrate member countries into the world economy and provide a platform for cross-border co-operation to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The highest decision-making body of SPECA is the Governing Council, composed of national focal points at the ministerial or vice-ministerial level, and the Executive Secretaries of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The Steering Board is chaired by one of the SPECA participating countries. The chair country is elected annually on a rotating basis, usually for a one-year term. Decisions are taken by consensus.

Azerbaijan currently holds the chairmanship of SPECA.

The SPECA Economic Forum is organized annually and focuses on selected strategic issues of economic development and cooperation in the region that contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. The Forum serves as a platform for high-level policy dialogue among all stakeholders and produces concrete recommendations for the SPECA Governing Council.

The 16th meeting of the Steering Council was held in Tashkent from 17-19 November 2021 in a hybrid format, resulting in more than a dozen decisions covering a wide range of SPECA issues.

The SPECA Economic Forum on the theme “Sustainable transport and trade for a «green» and inclusive post-pandemic economy” was also held during this period.

The Economic Forum resulted in the adoption of the Tashkent Statement on Strengthening Sustainable Transport, Trade and Connectivity for a Greener, Circular and Inclusive Post-Pandemic Economy. Recommendations were made to enhance the economic connectivity of the SPECA subregion, create conditions for its emergence as the center of a sustainable transport system, further facilitate intra regional trade, and accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.

The 27th meeting of the SPECA Working Group on Transport and Logistics Connectivity Development was held in Tashkent on 26-27 October 2022. The participants discussed the issue of accession of SPECA member countries to international conventions and agreements in the field of foreign trade, transport and transit. As a result of the meeting an agreement was reached on the development of existing and new transport corridors in the region of Central Asia and South Caucasus, as well as on the establishment of the Regional Centre for Transport and Communications Development in Tashkent.

At present, the Programme countries continue to work on the establishment of SPECA Secretariat, as well as on the establishment of SPECA Fund on the basis of the UN Multi-partner Trust Funds.

It should be noted that during the SPECA Ministerial Meeting in April 2023 in Geneva, a Joint Statement was adopted in which an agreement was reached on the establishment of the Trust Fund.

The strong ties between the countries of the region, the proximity of traditions, customs and cultural values of the people of the participating countries in symbiosis with the active foreign economic policy of Uzbekistan in recent years has brought significant results in the development of trade, economic and investment cooperation.

In recent years, trade turnover between Uzbekistan and SPECA member countries has doubled, reaching $9.2 billion. The number of enterprises in Uzbekistan established jointly with companies operating in the region has increased fivefold to 2212 units since 2017.

Taking into account the trade and economic potential, significant natural and human resources and favorable geographical location of the region’s countries, priority areas for realizing this potential have been identified. These include the creation of favorable conditions for strengthening and increasing mutual trade through the use of competitive advantages, elimination of existing trade barriers, simplification of technical regulations, digitalisation of customs and border procedures.

Cooperation is intensifying in promoting initiatives to ensure food security, diversification of transport corridors and adoption of the «Road Map» on digitalisation of multimodal exchange of data and documents along the Trans-Caspian Transport Corridor using UN standards.

At the summit in Baku the issues of further development of cooperation in priority spheres, as well as improvement of the structure and activities of SPECA were discussed.

The participation of the head of our state in the forthcoming summit is a logical continuation of Uzbekistan’s regional policy and efforts to strengthen interregional interconnectivity, and the initiatives put forward at the summit once again confirmed our country’s commitment to the consistent development of multilateral, open, practical and mutually beneficial partnership within SPECA.