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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

17 November 2021

Excellency Mr. Sardor Umurzakov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the current Chair of SPECA

Ms. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of UNECE

Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) Economic Forum 2021.

May I take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the Government of Uzbekistan for chairing this year’s SPECA Economic Forum.

At the last SPECA Governing Council’s session in 2020, we endorsed the Bishkek Declaration “Strengthening Regional Cooperation to Support Socioeconomic Recovery in the Wake of COVID-19.”

It provided strategic directions for strengthening sub-regional and regional framework for realising sustainable economic transformation and recovering  better together.

As the economic recovery is still uncertain across seven SPECA member States, governments need to demonstrate solidarity and promote  a shared vision for delivering on the sustainable development agenda. 


The theme of today’s Forum is very timely and appropriate, especially in the context of ongoing discussions on the required shifts in socio-economic policies and strategies in preparing the economic recovery out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across Central Asia, these economies are facing several economic and social development challenges and systemic vulnerabilities due to lack of direct territorial access to the sea and geographical isolation from the international markets. These existing economic strategies and production structures, coupled with structural constraints have been the impeding constraints for a more diversified economy.

By promoting sustainable connectivity, especially transport, trade and investment, these economies could strengthen sustainable economy framework and invest in social development priorities such as women economic empowerment across Central Asian member States.


To take this agenda forward, please allow me to share key policy actions point for your consideration and further deliberation.

We must work towards a transport system that is integrated, sustainable, climate and disaster-resilient across Central Asia.

By focusing on how to enhance the facilitation and efficient functioning of cross-border logistics and transit transport systems, our work has been able to take solution-oriented actions on the commercialization of railway corridors, effective economic and infrastructure corridor management.

I am delighted to inform you that ESCAP will organize the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Transport, from 14 to 17 December 2021, that will adopt the Regional Action Programme on Sustainable Transport for 2022-2027.

Our coordinated trade facilitation initiatives have been anchored around the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific.

In cooperation with several Central Asian member States, we are scaling up work to prepare the readiness assessments for Cross-Border Paperless Trade and developing and improving Trade Intelligence and Negotiation Advisor to support LLDCs in negotiating trade agreements for regional cooperation and integration.

Digital connectivity and the application of technology-driven and ICT solutions remain one of the key priority areas in this subregion.

Over the past year, we have been working with member States to harness e-resilience readiness of digital networks, ensure ICT infrastructure co-deployment, create an enabling e-commerce environment, and focus on digital adaptation and finance.

There is a growing need to implement e-health, online education and social protection schemes in times of pandemic.

Creation of a SPECA Digital Solutions Centre for Sustainable Development (DSC SD) proposed by Kazakhstan could serve this purpose.

Let us also focus on sustainable development financing through the Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF), financial inclusion, green finance and sustainable bonds.

Since the 2020 SPECA meeting, we are engaging with member States on enhanced INFF, financial inclusion and innovative financing tools such as thematic bonds to address post-COVID-19 financing needs. 

In addition, we are focussing on promoting and facilitating foreign direct investment as one of the approaches in line with the growing and diverse financing priorities of our member States.


ESCAP will be celebrating its own seventy-fifth anniversary in 2022.

Taking this opportunity, I am pleased to invite the Leaders from SPECA member States to share their views and experiences through our Commission platform.

ESCAP, in close collaboration with UNECE and all UN family, stands ready to support the SPECA participating countries in their socioeconomic recovery efforts to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

I look forward to your discussions, views and recommendations on the next steps to build an inclusive, resilient and sustainable future for all.

I commend your commitment and leadership.

I wish you a very successful SPECA Economic Forum 2021.

Thank you very much.

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