Central Asian States Agree to Coordinate Efforts to Combat Economic Crisis

High-level government officials from Central Asian and neighbouring countries, international organizations and financial institutions today pledged to work together in strengthening regional economic cooperation in order to diminish the consequences of the global economic crisis.

The decision came at the 2009 UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) Economic Forum on “The Role of Sub regional Cooperation in Mitigating the Consequences of the Global Economic Crisis” for the SPECA countries, which comprise Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The main objective of the Forum was to examine ideas for developing optimal regional strategies which can bring about an early recovery of Central Asia from the 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, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said in her address. “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.”

Dr. Heyzer also said the main challenges faced by the subregion in the short- and medium-term remained multifaceted, and ranged from geographical disadvantage of being landlocked with small domestic markets.

Jan Kubis, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said in his address, “Let me here commend the comprehensive anti-crisis policy measures taken by governments of SPECA countries which have greatly helped to alleviate economic and social pain in the region induced by this external factor of the crisis.”

Mr. Kubis also noted the SPECA Project Working Group on Knowledge-based Development, which started operations in November 2008 and 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.

H.E. Mr. Akylbek Japarov, First Vice Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic and SPECA National Coordinator, in his opening address said, “One of the major areas of SPECA activity is meant to promote dynamic development and efficient use of economic capacity in all countries of the region in order to increase living standards and well being of the nations as well as to ensure secure and sustainable development of Central Asian States.”

The Forum was jointly organized by ESCAP and ECE in cooperation with the Government of Kyrgyzstan within the framework of the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA).

The participants of the Forum discussed how external shocks were aggravated by the combined water, energy and food crisis and reviewed individual as well as collective policy responses to the emerging challenges. The meeting also considered how knowledge and innovation could contribute to successful economic recovery and, on the longer term, reduce the vulnerability of Central Asian economies to fluctuations in energy and commodity prices.

Before the Forum, Dr. Heyzer and Mr. Kubis met with H.E. Daniyar Usenov, Prime-Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, and H.E. Mr. Kadyrbek Sarbaev, the State Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrygz Republic. Today, Dr. Heyzer, and Mr. Jan Kubis will pay a courtesy call after the Forum to H.E. Mr. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, President of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The Economic Forum was preceded by the second session of the SPECA Project Working Group on Knowledge-based Development and a regional capacity-building seminar on financing innovative enterprises, commercialization of intellectual property and public-private partnerships from 9 to 11 November in Bishkek.

The Governing Council of SPECA is expected to be held on Friday to discuss and approve a new biennial Work Plan for 2010-2011 and review cooperation between SPECA and partner organizations.

For further information please go to http://www.unescap.org/oes/speca