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Executive Secretary discusses strengthening cooperation in the Aral Sea Basin

Published: 16 July 2010


Ján Kubiš, UNECE Executive Secretary, visited the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) on 16 July in Almaty. The visit is part of broader efforts by UNECE to actively support the sustainable development of Central Asia, in particular by strengthening transboundary water cooperation. UNECE efforts build on the solid basis of international legal instruments, in particular the UNECE environmental conventions, as well as on internationally accepted tools and approaches like integrated water resources management and the river basin approach.

“UNECE stands ready to further assist the countries of Central Asia in finding mutually acceptable, cooperative solutions to the complex problems related to the water and energy nexus in the region. There are no easy or rapid solutions; however, we support the efforts led by the Executive Committee of IFAS to strengthen legal and institutional frameworks for regional cooperation. Strong and modern regional institutions will enable IFAS member countries to effectively address present and future challenges”, Ján Kubiš told the Committee.

UNECE closely cooperates with the Executive Committee of IFAS in an ambitious programme, which aims to improve regional institutions and legal frameworks for water management in the region. The Regional Dialogue and Cooperation on Water Resources Management, implemented by UNECE and funded by the Government of Germany through GTZ in the framework of the Berlin Water Process, is part of the Water and Environmental Pillar of the European Union’s Central Asia Strategy. The programme identifies ways to modernize institutional agreements, to increase the efficiency and coordination of the regional organizations and to strengthen their analytical capacity. These efforts are supplemented by strengthening the understanding and application of international water law in the region: national capacity-building workshops are organized in Central Asian countries with an emphasis on the UNECE Water and Espoo Conventions. The programme also contributes to improved water monitoring and information exchange — a key tool to support decision-making at the regional level.

In cooperation with IFAS, UNECE also helps the countries of Central Asia to strengthen cooperation on dam safety in the region by improving national legislation and by negotiating a regional agreement, which will include commitments to exchange information, notify and provide assistance in case of accidents at hydro-technical installations. The agreement is also expected to establish a body for regional cooperation on dam safety.

The visit by the UNECE Executive Secretary is a good opportunity to evaluate existing cooperation with IFAS as well as to discuss future needs. Among such needs is the development and implementation of the Third Aral Sea Basin Programme (ASBP-3) — a major action plan for coordinated efforts of Central Asian countries and the international community to mitigate the environmental and social consequences of the Aral disaster. UNECE will continue to provide advice and assistance to the Executive Committee of IFAS in the elaboration of ASBP-3 in order to bring it to a qualitatively new level and to make it a regional framework for coordinated efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and other international development priorities.

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Note for Editors:

The International Fund for saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) was established in the early 1990s by five Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – to implement in a coordinated way the practical measures and programs to overcome the impacts of the Aral crises and to improve environmental and socio-economic conditions in Aral Sea basin.

Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH is an international cooperation enterprise for sustainable development with worldwide operations, which supports the German Government in achieving its development-policy objectives. It provides viable, forward-looking solutions for political, economic, ecological and social development in a globalised world.

The Berlin Water Process was launched at the first “Water Unites” conference (Berlin, 1 April 2008) by German Foreign Minister. The Process is an important part of the water and environment pillar of the European Union’s Central Asia Strategy. The Transboundary Water Management in Central Asia Program is implemented by GTZ under the Berlin Water Process to optimize cooperation in the Central Asian water sector and improve the lives of people in the region.

The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) of 1992 aims to strengthen national measures and transboundary cooperation for the protection and ecologically sound management of transboundary surface waters and groundwaters. The Convention has 37 Parties. In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are Parties to this instrument.

The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) was adopted in the Finnish city of Espoo in 1991 and entered into force in 1997. It sets out the obligations of its Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries. The Convention has 44 Parties. In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are Parties to this instrument.

Ref: ECE/ENV/10/P23


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