ESCAP Executive Secretary calls for improved regional integration to meet SDGs in North and Central Asia

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar (centre), Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, speaks to reporters following a special seminar at the Azerbaijan State University of Economics in Baku, Azerbaijan on 2 February 2016.
Photo Credit: United Nations ESCAP
Dr. Shamshad Akhtar (centre), Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, speaks to reporters following a special seminar at the Azerbaijan State University of Economics in Baku, Azerbaijan on 2 February 2016. Photo Credit: United Nations ESCAP

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Dr. Shamshad Akhtar met with H.E. Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the President of Turkmenistan today, as she concluded her official visit to five landlocked countries in North and Central Asia, aimed at strengthening collaboration between ESCAP and its member States in the subregion.

Dr. Akhtar’s two-week visit included meetings with H.E. Mr. Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia, H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, H.E. Mr. Karim Massimov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, along with senior ministers, Central Bank Governors, leading academics and private sector representatives to discuss the current economic situation in North and Central Asia.

During talks with leaders, Dr. Akhtar emphasized the need to accelerate regional economic cooperation and integration in support of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and highlighted priorities for the upcoming Leadership Dialogue for North and Central Asia, to be held in Bangkok on 17 May, 2016 as part of the 72nd ESCAP Commission Session.

Dr. Akhtar noted that job-generating growth and wider prosperity in Central Asia and the Caucasus call for a renewed commitment to economic diversification specifically in priority areas such as cross-border infrastructure in transport, energy and ICT, as well as for additional policy reforms to support market-driven trade and investment-led diversification and integration.

“Enhanced regional integration will accelerate economic structural diversification and promote job-generating growth for sustainable development in North and Central Asia,” said Dr. Akhtar, adding that “a valuable window of opportunity now exists for the subregion to revisit its development trajectory, and to effectively implement the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

North and Central Asian countries have experienced growth slowdown and growing macroeconomic complications caused by the decline in oil prices which has hit the region's large oil producers. The region is home to landlocked countries which are striving for improved access to markets so critical for the region's growth.

The Region's leaders were united in their view that current investments in physical infrastructure will be most productive if accompanied by a regional integration architecture that provides expanded opportunities for mobilizing financing for development, as well as trade and investment.

The leaders also underlined their commitment to the ESCAP intergovernmental platform, noting that the May Leadership Dialogue will provide the subregion with a timely opportunity to set the parameters for a sweeping vision for cooperation and regional integration of landlocked countries.