Marking the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), high-level participants from the seven landlocked participating countries - Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, recognized the benefits of regional integration and cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region.
The 2018 SPECA Economic Forum was held in Almaty from 20 to 21 September, followed by the 13th session of the SPECA Governing Council. Jointly organized by the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan - current Chair country of SPECA, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Forum considered how developments in transport, trade, water, energy, the environment, statistics, ICT and innovation, and gender could transform geographical constraints into advantages, while other integration initiatives could facilitate the economic development of SPECA countries.
The Governing Council and the Forum agreed on a set of practical recommendations for structural reform to address the challenges of sustainable development in the subregion. These recommendations clearly outlined steps for strengthening SPECA as a unique platform to harness regional cooperation for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
“As a UN platform, SPECA can be a forum for the countries and development partners to join forces and work towards progress on sustainable development for the region,” said Ms. Monika Linn, Principal Adviser and Chief of Sustainable Development and Gender Unit at UNECE.
Mr. Hirohito Toda, Head of the ESCAP Subregional Office for North and Central Asia highlighted that high-transaction costs impede the integration of landlocked developing countries into the global economy. “Integration provides impetus for further economic diversification. Such economic transformation, however needs to consider its impact on gender, as well as the statistics needed to measure the resulting economic, social and environmental change, so that growth is inclusive, broad-based and equitable.”
Mr. Zavqi Zavqizoda, First Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Tajikistan and Chairperson of the SPECA Working Group on Trade added, “Significant progress had been made towards the achievement of SDG target 17.10 on the promotion of a multilateral rules-based trading system under the WTO in the SPECA setting through the regional Trade Policy Forum in Ashgabat, meetings on Aid-for-Trade, and two readiness assessments of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.”
SPECA was established through the Tashkent Declaration of 26 March 1998 to promote regional economic cooperation in Central Asia and the integration of these countries with the economies of Europe and Asia. Stronger subregional cooperation helps countries to fully capitalize on their strategic advantages and jointly address their economic and social challenges.
The SPECA Governing Council elected Turkmenistan to chair the Programme in 2019. The next Economic Forum will focus on connectivity, trade and transport facilitation in the age of the SDGs. The Economic Forum and Governing Council session are scheduled to take place in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in November 2019.
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Ms. Katie Elles, Public Information Officer, ESCAP
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Information Unit, UNECE
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