The 2021 SPECA Forum focuses on progress in the development of sustainable transport and trade in the SPECA subregion and their potential contribution to making the economies of the subregion greener, circular, and inclusive: building back better after the pandemic. The choice of topic reflects some of the priority issues for the subregion today: the effects of climate change on key aspects of economic development and cooperation, as well as sustainable development. COVID-19 related restrictions, lockdowns, and border closures caused serious disruptions of supply chains and citizen’s mobility, which created additional costs. Therefore, this year the emphasis will be on efficiency and best practices in handling transport operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and building back better in the aftermath. The session on sustainable transport will tackle connectivity as a key issue for lowering transport and transit costs – crucial for competitiveness and economic development of SPECA landlocked developing countries (LLDC). LLDCs pay more than double what coastal countries do to export their goods and high trade costs erode the competitiveness of the LLDCs resulting in an enormous negative impact on their overall sustainable development. Given the environmental benefits of using railway and its high resilience, greater rail transport development is important for increased sustainability and resilience of the SPECA economies. The session on sustainable trade focuses on the implementation of the SPECA Principles of Sustainable Trade and the digitalization of multimodal transport data and document exchange in the region. The objective is to promote the implementation of the Forum programme also highlights innovative ways to attract investment into a greener and more resilient economy in the region. A separate session is dedicated to the gender aspect of rebuilding the economies of the region better, and empowering women who work on sustainable development, transport, and trade. Given that Uzbekistan is hosting the SPECA events this year and has strengthened its involvement as the Chair of SPECA, one session combines various studies and initiatives related to Uzbekistan.
In line with the recommendations of the 2018 SPECA Evaluation Report, endorsed by all SPECA Governments, this Forum is conceived as a policy and operational meeting, with a less formal format, leading to more meaningful exchanges. It aims at enhancing discussions through panel sessions, oriented towards building partnerships for the achievement of concrete tasks, adopting regional initiatives ad strategies, outlining actions to achieve them, formulating ideas for enhancing international transport regime, lowering trade barriers and other actions to foster cross-border supply chains. The participants will help prepare recommendations on how to make the SPECA subregion a well-connected, and sustainable transport system and trade facilitation hub, devising follow-up mechanisms on how to ensure the realization of these policy recommendations that will help achieve relevant SDGs.
Discussions will focus on improving connectivity in the region, using sustainable transport and trade facilitation legal instruments, norms, standards, and tools to foster sustainable growth in the subregion.