Central Asia, at a crossroads, has the potential for making “modern development visions” a reality

Sep 12, 2016

Poverty, inequality and exclusion, coupled with governance deficits

With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Central Asian countries have the potential to transform themselves into dynamic economies and role models for sustainable human development, said UNDP at a consultation with the European Union on Central Asia.

The SDGs present “a unique opportunity to assist the Governments in the formulation of a modern development vision, and set of reform priorities that can have a positive impact on the quality of governance and living standards, to tackling jobless growth and environmentally damaging growth, and ultimately on the overall development in each country,” said Cihan Sultanoğlu, Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan grew at an average of 7 percent between 1996 and 2011 and have successfully tapped into the global demand for raw materials to establish themselves as key exporters of these goods.

In Kazakhstan, for instance, economic growth and specific policies targeted at marginalized groups have led to a 50 percent reduction of the number of people living in poverty.

Still, a large proportion of the people in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States living below the poverty line are in Central Asia. The sub-region also sends a large number of migrant laborers to Russia, with remittances accounting for up to 50 percent of GDP as in the case in Tajikistan.

The recent global financial crisis, coupled with a slowing economy in the Russian Federation, and the plummeting price of oil and other extractive resources, has put a considerable burden on the economic prospects of these five countries.

“Reducing inequalities and promoting green jobs and growth are at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and one of Central Asia’s priorities,” said Ms. Sultanoğlu. Economic diversification would go a long way towards creating work opportunities for young women and men. It would also reduce the threat of radicalism, an important emerging challenge.

Governance featured high on the agenda as members of UNDP and the European Union discussed possible areas of collaboration over the next few years. UNDP has helped accelerate public administration reforms, civic engagement in local governance, and corruption prevention initiatives as means of achieving better development results.

“The unique format of a coordination meeting between EU Heads of Delegation and UN Resident Coordinators in Central Asia provided an opportunity to discuss in a synergetic manner the activities of two like-minded partners and significant donors in the region.  The recently adopted SDG's present new opportunities for cooperation between EU, UNDP and Central Asian partners”, said Peter Burian, EU Special Representative for Central Asia, at the meeting.

The countries of Central Asia are also prone to climate-related extreme weather events and natural disasters. Every year, for instance, rivers flood, causing enormous damage to houses, infrastructure, and economies across the region’s intricate borders.

In November 2015, at a ministerial level regional summit on disaster risk, held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the five countries for the first time unveiled a single roadmap for reducing disasters, establishing a legal basis for regional coordination, sharing real-time information and intervening jointly in case a disaster strikes.

UNDP and the EU are partnering in 140 countries to deepen democratic governance, prevent or help countries recover from conflict and natural disasters, build resilience, and adapt to climate change. In Central Asia, EU-UNDP development assistance focuses on good governance, promotion of economic development and livelihoods, sustainable energy, environmental sustainability and water, as well as on combating common threats and challenges.

More information on EU-UNDP partnership in Central Asia: http://goo.gl/DxUtmU

Contact information

In Brussels: Ludmila Tiganu, Communications Specialist, ludmila.tiganu@undp.org

In Istanbul: Nicolas Douillet, Communications Specialist, UNDP Europe & CIS,
nicolas.douillet@undp.org

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