Regional Cooperation Offers Central Asia a Better Pathway to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Ganja, Azerbaijan (ESCAP News) -- Central Asian countries today adopted the Ganja Declaration on “Enhanced Implementation of SDGs through Cooperation”, at the Governing Council of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA). The Declaration demonstrates a common vision for the subregion centered on a firm commitment to strengthen collaboration and policy coherence for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It also strategically repositions SPECA as a platform for promoting policy coordination and coherence among SPECA countries.

While SPECA participating countries have made clear progress in integrating the Goals into their national development strategies and in establishing national coordination mechanisms, they recognized that enhancing regional economic cooperation and integration will be vital for reviving and rebalancing economic growth and laying the foundations for sustainable development. The shared vulnerabilities of the subregion, exacerbated by external economic shocks, rising inequalities, and the impacts of changing climate, further provide compelling reasons for strengthened connectivity and regional cooperation.

The Chair of the 2016 SPECA Governing Council, H.E. Mr. Sahil Babayev, Deputy Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan, stressed that “in the context of globalization, multilateral economic cooperation and integration processes have become increasingly important. Regional and interregional cooperation is one of the key components of modern international economic relations, as well as an important factor on achieving prosperity, sustainable development and economic growth.”

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), taking note of the outcome, emphasized that “the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development has presented a window of opportunity for SPECA countries to shift their development trajectory. This year’s SPECA events enabled the countries to take stock of progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and areas where strengthened regional cooperation and integration in North and Central Asia can deliver major gains, including on trade, connectivity, development of statistical capacities, and enhancing resilience to natural disasters.”

In his opening statement, Mr. Christian Friis Bach, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), stressed “the need for a comprehensive approach to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda that responds to today’s urgent social, economic and environmental challenges; a response which is based on peaceful co-existence and the rule of law, and leaves no one behind.”

The 2016 SPECA Economic Forum and the 11th session of the SPECA Governing Council were held on 22 and 23 November 2016 in Ganja, Azerbaijan, the present country-chair of the Programme. More than 80 participants, including high-level policymakers at the Ministerial level, representatives the UN system and international organizations, as well as civil society, academia and the private sector were also present.

SPECA was established in 1998 by the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan joining the programme soon afterwards. Supported by two United Nations General Assembly resolutions, the purpose of SPECA is to enhance subregional cooperation in order to meet the pressing economic development challenges of its members.

ESCAP provides countries with expertise in trade, infrastructure connectivity, data and statistics, disaster risk reduction and other areas to support SPECA participating countries in transforming their economies and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.