Central Asian Countries Advance Economic Cooperation for SDG Implementation
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Countries participating in the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia agreed to strengthen their regional grouping as a platform for cooperation on SDG implementation.

The two-day forum addressed ways that economic cooperation can promote trade, reduce transaction costs and help landlocked developing countries integrate into the global economy.

21 September 2018: Countries participating in the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) agreed to strengthen their regional grouping as a platform for cooperation on SDG implementation, at the end of a two-day forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Participants at the SPECA Economic Forum discussed ways that economic cooperation can promote trade, reduce transaction costs and help landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) integrate into the global economy.

The seven Central Asian countries in SPECA are Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) partnered with SPECA countries to co-organize the Forum, along with the Government of Kazakhstan, from 20-21 September 2018. The discussions addressed various possibilities for regional integration, including transport links, management of water and energy resources, and ICT connectivity.

Zavqi Zavqizoda, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Tajikistan, reported on “significant progress” towards the achievement of SDG target 17.10: to promote a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO), including through the conclusion of negotiations within its Doha Development Agenda. He said this had been achieved through convening a regional trade policy forum and several meetings on aid-for-trade, as well as completing two ‘readiness assessments’ of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

Monika Linn, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), emphasized that SPECA can be a forum for countries and development partners to work towards progress on sustainable development for the region. SPECA was established by five of its current member countries in 1998, with Azerbaijan and Afghanistan joining the group in 2002 and 2005, respectively. The Almaty meeting marked the 20th anniversary of this cooperation arrangement. There are several working groups under the SPECA structure, through which countries work together on regional initiatives for transport, trade facilitation, and statistical training, among other matters.

Turkmenistan will serve as Chair of SPECA in 2019, taking over from Kazakhstan. [UNECE-ESCAP press release] [Note on SPECA]

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