Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA)
Its strategic importance makes Central Asia a unique region within the UNECE area: it plays a significant role in the energy security of Europe and Asia, it is a potential transport hub between the two continents and plays and active role in the fight against such global security challenges as terrorism, religious extremism or drug trafficking.
These countries face unique challenges: all of them are land-locked, they follow divergent paths of economic development and there is a rapidly growing gap between the income levels of energy exporting and non-energy exporting states. In addition, they all face an urgent task of diversifying their economies, moving away from their present status of energy and commodity exporters. Strengthening regional cooperation is a key precondition for the rapid, balanced and sustained economic development of all the countries of the region. Only through close regional cooperation can they fully capitalize on their strategic advantages and fight jointly and effectively the challenges that can potentially de-stabilize the region.
The United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) addresses the unique needs of its member countries. It was established in 1998 by the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Azerbaijan joined in 2002 and Afghanistan in 2005. The Programme is supported jointly by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (UNESCAP).
SPECA has distinct comparative advantages: it was initiated and established by its member countries, it is governed by them, it addresses crucial issues of regional cooperation taking advantage of international legal instruments, norms, standards and recommendations the two Regional Commissions are custodians of, and it combines technical assistance and capacity building by in-house experts of the UNECE and UNESCAP with high-level, cross-sector, inter-ministerial policy discussions and regular policy-business- research dialogue. Since all major partner countries of Central Asia are members either of the UNECE or UNESCAP, SPECA can provide a neutral forum for the discussion of complex strategic issues of intra and inter-regional cooperation.
There are six Project Working Groups under the Programme:
PWG on Transport
PWG on Water and Energy
PWG on Trade
PWG on Statistics
PWG on ICT for Development
PWG on Gender and Economy
The activities of each Project Working Group are supported by the relevant Divisions of UNECE and UNESCAP in a coordinated and mutually reinforcing way.
The PWG on Transport focuses on the development of Euro-Asian transport linkages, including the possible extension of the TER (railway) and TEM (road) networks into the region. It plays an active role in preparations for the Mid-Term Review (2008) of the Almaty declaration of Land-Locked and Transit Developing Countries.
The PWG on Water and Energy, among others, worked out the Cooperation Strategy for the Rational and Efficient use of Energy and Water Resources of Central Asia (2003) and prepared diagnostic reports on the energy and water resources of Central Asia. It played a key role in establishing institutionalized cooperation between the Kazakh and Kyrgyz governments in the management of water installations on the Chu-Talas Rivers. Presently it works on a project on dam safety for Central Asia, strongly and actively supported by all SPECA member countries.
The PWG on Trade is engaged in trade facilitation through the introduction of electronic data corridors based on UNECE norms, recommendations and standards, as well as capacity building on issues related to the WTO accession of Central Asian countries.
The PWG on ICT for Development facilitates cooperation in the initiatives related to knowledge-based economy development. It has been organizing capacity-building activities in the area of ICT policy-development and supporting initiatives to improve ICT access through Community Access Points. The PWG serves as a forum for discussion and knowledge sharing among ICT policy makers of SPECA member countries.
The PWG on Statistics, besides general capacity building activities for the statistical offices of SPECA member countries is presently launching projects on some areas, where there is an urgent need to improve data collection and analysis, like labour migration statistics or MDG-related statistics.
The PWG on Gender and Economy is about to launch a project financed by the UN Development Account on developing additional MDG targets for the region in the area of social inclusion and the participation of women in the economy.
More detailed information on the activities of each Project Working Group can be found in the reports of the relevant Divisions of UNECE and UNESCAP.