In recent years, the participating States of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) - Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan - have observed rapid growth in the number and impact of business incubators and accelerators. At the same time, awareness of circular economy principles and the potential to move towards a zero-waste economic model remains at a relatively early stage.
Embracing the circular economy in the SPECA subregion promises wide-ranging benefits. From stimulating economic growth by creating new markets from otherwise wasted products to preserving the environment and promoting social equity, this sustainable model aligns with the subregion's goals of achieving sustainable development and resilience in an increasingly globalized world. Embracing circular economy principles could position the SPECA subregion as a leader in sustainability, attracting investments, creating green jobs, and preserving the countries’ unique natural heritage for future generations.
Since start-up support programmes in SPECA participating States are undergoing rapid growth and evolution, it is the ideal time to incorporate circular economy approaches.
To this end, UNECE recently organized a two-day study trip in Tbilisi, Georgia, for senior policymakers and practitioners from the SPECA subregion that offered a comprehensive learning experience, combining practical insights from business incubators and accelerators with discussion of policy implementation. By equipping the SPECA participating States with enhanced administrative capacity and knowledge, the trip aimed to foster the effective incorporation of circular principles into innovation and start-up programmes, ultimately contributing to sustainable economic growth and environmental conservation in the SPECA region. SPECA participating States had expressed a strong interest to learn from the Georgian experience in building strong innovation ecosystems.
UNECE conducted a theoretical training to discuss fundamental principles and concepts of the circular economy, such as designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. The training also explored how innovation policy can be aligned with the goals of a circular economy, including regulatory measures, incentives, and support mechanisms that encourage businesses and organizations to adopt circular practices. Practical case studies and mapping exercises were used to illustrate successful policy initiatives and their impact.
Together with Impact Hub Georgia, which is at the forefront of promoting circular economy concepts in the country, UNECE organized meetings with a number of start-ups to learn more about best practices employed in nurturing circular economy-oriented businesses. Participants learned about the strategies used to identify and support start-ups that focus on sustainable resource management, waste reduction, and product lifecycle enhancements. These meetings also provided a platform for networking and knowledge sharing, allowing participants to establish valuable connections with industry experts and entrepreneurs.
UNECE will continue its efforts to strengthen the capacity of the SPECA participating States to promote innovation for sustainable development. By developing guidelines, facilitating dialogue, and offering dedicated training sessions, UNECE aims to empower policymakers in these countries to effectively address policy challenges and ultimately to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.
For further information on other related SPECA activities, please visit the website of the SPECA Working Group on Innovation and Technology for Sustainable Development.