The 2010 Economic Forum of the United Nations Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) on 18 and 19 October in Geneva will discuss how strengthened regional cooperation in Central Asia can contribute to the long-term stability and sustainable development of Afghanistan. SPECA, established in 1998, has seven member countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is jointly supported by the UNECE and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
There is full agreement among experts that a regional approach to the stabilization of Afghanistan needs a strong economic underpinning if it is to be successful. Using regional cooperation to boost the economic development of Afghanistan would channel away energies from insurgency towards peaceful economic activities.
A dramatic increase in human and institutional capacity is an important precondition of strengthening economic ties between Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbors. With several projects already up and running, SPECA provides a suitable framework for the implementation of capacity-building activities in key areas of regional cooperation that could contribute to sustained stability in Afghanistan and to the development of Central Asia at large.
The Executive Secretary of UNECE will open the meeting after which the Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs of Afghanistan will deliver a keynote address. The Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan, the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Central Asia and the Kazakh Ambassador at Large for Afghanistan will be among the panelists of the first high-level session. Representatives of SPECA member countries will be invited to comment too.
Subsequent sessions with the participation of United Nations experts and representatives of the international development community will focus on those areas of regional cooperation which can most effectively contribute to the sustainable economic development of SPECA member countries and thus the stabilization of the whole region: trade, transport, border crossing, infrastructure and investment.
A special session will be devoted to the joint management of shared resources, in particular water. Demographics, economic development and climate change are already putting serious strain on the water resources of the region. The expected expansion of irrigated areas in Afghanistan will require more efficient joint management of shared water resources. Riparian countries, including Afghanistan, need to work together to find mutually acceptable solutions to these challenges.
The SPECA Governing Council, consisting of high-level representatives of the Governments of SPECA member countries, will meet on 19 October after the conference to discuss how recommendations of the Economic Forum should be translated into concrete projects in the SPECA framework.
More information about the Economic Forum and the Governing Council is available at: http://www.unece.org/speca/documents/ecf/2010/econfor10.html