Representatives of Central Asian countries are in Kazakhstan this week to discuss how to work closely together to grow their economies, which have been buffeted by the continued COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical crisis, in a sustained, greener manner while also taking advantage of advances in technology.
The 2022 SPECA Economic Forum is meeting from 16 to 17 November in Almaty with high-level participants from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
SPECA stands for the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia, which aims to support landlocked developing countries with their integration into the world economy and provides a platform for cross-border cooperation on a wide range of issues, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. SPECA is jointly supported by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
In her opening remarks, the Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, said the recent COVID-19 pandemic reversed much of the progress made by SPECA countries “as it brought economies to a standstill and pushed many people back into poverty.” Geopolitical crises have also contributed to “high inflation, [a] fall in remittances as well as shipping and transport disruptions,” she added. “The adverse impacts of climate change could furthermore have long-term repercussions on development in Central Asia.”
Among the key issues for the Forum, which is meeting under the theme “Greener and Safer Future,” is assisting the countries with transforming their economic structure, transitioning to sustainable energy and adopting more digital technologies, while ensuring the full participation of women in society.
“We envisage the SPECA programme as a catalyst in boosting regional cooperation,” said Alibek Kuantyrov, Minister of National Economy of Kazakhstan, at the opening session. “This meeting is held in a period of economic uncertainty. The global pandemic and security shocks have shaped the world into a new reality. It is essential for the countries of our region to adjust their economic agenda in order to extract maximum profit. Therefore, we have to consistently realize the full potential of cooperation within the framework of SPECA.”
For her part, Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of UNECE, said, “Digitalization of international trade, transport and border crossing operations is key to allowing Central Asian countries to reap all the benefits of their integration in European and Asian markets.
“UNECE projects on transparency and traceability of cotton supply chains, support to the implementation of the SPECA Principles of Sustainable Trade, and policy dialogues on the circular economy contribute to help SPECA countries shift towards sustainable trade and a circular economy,” she added.
The Forum will be followed by the 17th session of the SPECA Governing Council. An “Almaty Declaration” is expected to be adopted, containing much of the outcomes and recommendations from the Forum.