Senior government representatives from Central Asia, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan began a two-day meeting of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) today to discuss how to strengthen regional cooperation in support of sustainable and inclusive development in Central Asia, regional aspects of sustainable development in connection with the Rio+20 Conference outcomes and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The 2013 SPECA Economic Forum entitled 'Inclusive and sustainable development through regional cooperation' and the 8th session of the SPECA Governing Council, is being held in Almaty, Kazakhstan from 21-22 November. The meeting brings together government leaders from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan joined by a number of intergovernmental organizations and financial institutions working in Central Asia.
The regional cooperation forum, convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will elaborate on ways to implement the outcomes of the Rio+20 conference, and accelerate deeper regional cooperation, aimed at effective integration of the economic, social, and environmental pillars of sustainable development for the period after 2015.
In an opening address to the conference, delivered by Mr. Nikolay Pomoshchnikov, Head of ESCAP's Subregional Office for North and Central Asia, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary said: "SPECA member countries have made great progress in reducing levels of extreme poverty. The share of people living on $2 or less per day has fallen from 17 per cent in 1993, to just three per cent. Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has also been impressive, with early achievement of 13 of the MDG indicators."
"We know, however, that serious challenges still remain and the need for Central Asian countries is to strengthen regional cooperation for sustainable and inclusive development. For boosting regional economic integration, the countries would have to address a wide spectrum of constraints in the institutional and physical infrastructure as well as in the policy agenda."
Following the June 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the 2013 SPECA meeting is aiming at stronger regional cooperation which supports better integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development as pledged by world leaders in Rio. It also addresses key economic and environmental cooperation issues among its members, directly influencing sustainable development, stability and security in the region in a long-term period.
The forum will conclude with the 8th session of the SPECA Governing Council, which will review the progress made by SPECA Project Working Groups and discuss further steps to strengthen the Programme for more effective delivery of its mandate.
The SPECA Almaty forum was preceded by two ESCAP Subregional Seminars- 'Energy for Sustainable Development: Policy Dialogue on Opportunities for Cooperation in North and Central Asia' and 'From Rio+20 to Real Outcomes: Strengthening Regional Cooperation in Water Management in North and Central Asia,' on 18-20 November 2013. The seminars were attended by experts from the North and Central Asia member States, as well as representatives of international organizations.
The Seminar on Energy for Sustainable Development focused on issues related to promoting energy efficiency, sustainable development, sound regulation for energy infrastructure, national and regional case studies, including identified policy solutions, accessibility of energy, energy efficiency, renewable energy, advanced fossil fuel technologies and regional and international cooperation in energy-related issues.
The Seminar on Water Management provided the opportunity to exchange best experiences and subregional practice development, to strengthen cooperation between the countries of North and Central Asia on improving water resource management efficiency in the region, as well as elaboration on recommendations and suggestions for the further development of cooperation.
The United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) was launched in 1998 to strengthen subregional cooperation in Central Asia and its integration into the world economy. It is supported jointly by UNESCAP and UNECE, taking advantage of international legal instruments, norms, standards and recommendations of the two Regional Commissions. SPECA provides a neutral forum for the discussion of complex strategic issues of intra- and inter-regional cooperation.
The North and Central Asia Office is one of ESCAP's four subregional offices across Asia and the Pacific. It provides targeted and in-depth technical assistance, capacity building, cutting-edge data and policy advice to member States, supporting their efforts to address the priority issues of the subregion. It also serves as a joint office for the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), in partnership with UNECE.