• English

Fourth session of the Regional Advisory Committee of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA)

(Bishkek, 29 November 2002)
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary,
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my first opportunity in my new capacity as Executive Secretary of the UNECE to address the supreme body of SPECA: the Regional Advisory Committee. It is also an honour and a pleasure for me.

The United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia came into existence in 1998. The Programme is aimed at strengthening cooperation between participating countries, promoting economic development and stimulating their integration into the economy of Europe and Asia.

Since 1998 the importance of SPECA has not diminished. On the contrary: the war in Afghanistan had a great impact on the region and the need for reconciliation calls for urgent action. The region is far from reaching prosperity and, unless this is attained, we cannot achieve stability and peace. The United Nations and its Secretary-General therefore look with attention at the Central Asian countries.

In addition, in the process of EU enlargement, when ten more European States will join the EU in 2004, there will be a need for a close look at the future cooperation between the enlarged EU and non-acceding countries in South Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia. The UNECE – whose role is to promote economic cooperation and integration in this region – will therefore focus more on South-Eastern Europe and CIS including Central Asia. We will provide more advisory assistance to member States at their request, including SPECA. Having said this we will have to generate new resources which will allow us to extend our activities in Central Asia. The Energy project there is financed by the United Nations Development account; this account will terminate in 2003 and new funding is so far not available.

In promoting cooperation in post-enlargement Europe our focus will be on the development of transport infrastructure (like Euro-Asian transport links), trade facilitation, cooperation in the fields of energy and environment. The programme of SPECA has achieved considerable results in some of its areas. Its achievements are indicative of the potential of the Programme and of the fact that it belongs to the participating States.

It has been recognised that rational and effective use of energy and water resources in Central Asia is the key issue for the region and therefore represents one of the key priority fields in cooperation. Progress has been achieved which includes preparation of diagnostic reports and recently a common strategy. The current session should give guidance on the further process. I am sure that in the atmosphere of goodwill and cooperation your deliberations will ensure the success of your work. I would like to congratulate you on this achievement. But there are areas where progress must advance:

In the field of energy it is: (a) energy saving to stimulate growth and prevent environmental degradation. General potential of energy saving in the region represents about 30% of total energy use; (b) energy legislation; (c) appropriate pricing policies and other aspects of a friendly investment climate for water-energy and energy investments; (d) development of water-energy markets, and (e) development of interstate water division.

In the areas of transport and border-crossing we also note progress, for example the preparation of a MoU on road transport of goods in Central Asia and border-crossing facilitation between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, etc. However, the full benefits of the transport and border crossing facilitation project funded from the UN DA have not been achieved. More efforts have to be made to solve transit issues and achieve further progress in trade facilitation. At the same time, the experience of using the PWG Transport to expose practical difficulties and barriers and to negotiate their decrease has been quite impressive. The Tajikistan conference will provide an opportunity to discuss the economic and social developments in Central Asia and the role of economic cooperation in the region. The strategy of how to prevent the existing gap between Central Asia and the developed economies from deepening, and how to reduce poverty within Central Asian countries, should also be addressed.

The lack of FDI in the region represents an important impediment to economic growth, to reducing unemployment, and to higher incomes. The Tajikistan conference will address the issue of best practices in how to attract FDI. FDI’s greatest requirement is political stability, positive macroeconomic developments progress in transition and a friendly business climate. If this is not achieved, efforts to mobilize foreign investments for funding investment projects in water, energy, transport, etc. and other sectors will be wasted. It is also important that investors are properly informed on achievements in the countries. The organization of regular Investors’ Forums under SPECA could therefore be considered as part of the follow-up to the Tajikistan conference. Prior to the Tajikistan conference, UNECE will assist in the preparation of the key documents. The UNECE would like to organise a workshop in Geneva on the Perspectives of SPECA with relevant UN and non-UN organizations and Permanent Missions of UNECE member States in Geneva. We would like (a) to stimulate discussions on stage II of SPECA (b) to raise awareness of other UN organizations, (c) and to attract more interest of FDI and donor member States.

In stage II of SPECA, extending issues like restructuring and diversification of production, improving investment climate, preferential trade regime, could be addressed.
This would further stimulate economic cooperation, economic and social development and stability in this part of the region.

As SPECA plays a consolidating role in the region we welcome the new member State Azerbaijan in SPECA and call for the full involvement of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the Programme.

I note the progress in developing new structures in SPECA, like the Business Advisory Council. The involvement of the business sector in all fields of SPECA will further support the efforts of Governments.

In conclusion I would like to wish you success in your deliberations.

Thank you for your attention.