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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

18 November 2020

Opening Remarks


Excellency Mr. Sanjar Mukanbetov, Minister of Economy of the Kyrgyz Republic and the current Chair of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA),

Excellencies and Distinguished delegates from SPECA member States,  

Ms. Olga Algayerova, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of UNECE,

Mr. Ozonnia Ojielo, UN Resident Coordinator in Kyrgyzstan,

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) Economic Forum 2020.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the Government of Kyrgyzstan for chairing this year’s SPECA Economic Forum.

The SPECA member States—Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan— are landlocked developing countries in our region.  These economies are already facing several development challenges and systemic vulnerabilities due to lack of direct territorial access to the sea and geographical isolation from the international markets.

In the pre COVID-19, the SPECA member States were not on track to achieve several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, these member States were experiencing reverse trends in several SDGs, including gender equality (Goal 5),  sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11), climate change (Goal 13), and preserve life on land (Goal 15). With the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, there is a major concern to the advancement of the 2030 Agenda.

The socio-economic crisis is further exacerbating the well-being of over 123 million people across the seven SPECA member States.

In this context, it is evident that member States need to work together to undertake swift policy actions in addressing the unprecedented socio-economic crisis.

Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me focus on four policy issues for your further deliberations and consideration.

First, enhance regional transport connectivity to build resilient supply chains.

By enhancing regional connectivity, member States can transform transport systems and services to follow a low-carbon development path. These policies are important instruments to increase the share of clean energy and adopt innovations within their respective national contexts.

Furthermore, policymakers should be given support in preparing for smart transport technologies to improve supply chain and strengthen environmental sustainability.

Second, foster cross-border trade facilitation and paperless trade for inclusive and efficient recovery.

The cross-border trade facilitation and paperless trade framework agreement can accelerate and set implementation priorities for trade digitalization with rest of the subregion and the region.  

With the continuing challenges regarding the economic recovery, this digital trade can facilitate and help to make trade more resilient and ensure efficient recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Third, realize digital potential for sustainable economic transformation.

Governments need to work with the private sector to mobilize resources and invest in critical infrastructure. Development partnerships must be utilized to encourage digital innovation solutions that support vulnerable groups first to leave no one behind.

We can embed digital skill formation as part of a lifelong learning among communities, so that digital dividends can be shared across generations. By scaling-up investments in digital literacy, there are clear opportunities for making progress in modernizing school curricula.

Fourth, ensure economic policies and financing strategies to support socio-economic recovery.  

Implementing innovative financing strategies is essential to improve diminished fiscal space and to support micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) through fiscal stimulus packages.

There are several good practices designed by member States to promote women entrepreneurs’ access to finance and digital technologies in close collaboration with financial institutions and the private sector. We must scale up these programmes through multi-country collaborative frameworks.

Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen,

The SPECA Economic Forum provides an important platform for us to jointly discuss the progress of the group and to increase its relevance and alignment with the subregional, regional and global SDGs agenda.

Today, overcoming the COVID-19-induced developmental setback provides a unique opportunity for SPECA member States to repurpose policy priorities in making economies more resilient to future pandemics and crises.

In this context, harnessing regional cooperation, especially among SPECA member States and with its neighbours, must be focused to promote the SDGs and other internationally agreed development goals.

Governments need to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the vulnerable groups first, while integrating sustainability consideration by factoring in environmental and governance aspects into the policy priorities.

ESCAP, in close collaboration with UNECE and all UN family, stands ready to move forward the recommendations of the Forum to build back better and advance the SDGs for SPECA member States and beyond.

I count on your commitment and leadership.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you a very successful SPECA Economic Forum 2020.

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