UNDP in Turkmenistan, a longstanding strategic development partner, collaborates with national and international stakeholders to address various development challenges, and support people-centered priorities to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda as the backbone for ensuring benefits for people across its programme scope. On February 18, 2024, the Government of Turkmenistan and UNDP solidified their enduring partnership through strategic agreements aimed at advancing national development goals. Mr. Tomica Paovic, UNDP Officer-in-Charge in Turkmenistan, provided insights on the importance of these agreements in a discussion with the “Neutral Turkmenistan” correspondent.

March 6, 2024

Tomica Paovic, UNDP Officer-in-Charge in Turkmenistan

NT: This year, Turkmenistan celebrates 32 years of UN membership, affirming its commitment to a strategic partnership with the organization. Over the years, UN agencies have offered crucial support in various areas such as socio-economic development, legislative framework enhancement, and environmental protection. With the Sustainable Development Goals aligning with national priorities, UNDP's focus remains pertinent and impactful. How do the new agreements influence our country's priority areas?

-UNDP’s mandate is to end poverty, build democratic governance, strengthen the rule of law, human rights and justice, and help countries move towards low-carbon development, more sustainable use of natural resources, as well as build resilience to climate change and disasters. We advocate for a positive change, and connect countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help make the SDGs a reality.

UNDP's longstanding partnership with Turkmenistan has resulted in hundreds of successful human development projects across various sectors, with investments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. We assist the nation in diversifying its economy, advancing digital transformation, reinforcing the rule of law, advocating for human rights and gender equality, enhancing resilience against climate change, managing natural resources, reducing disaster risks, and improving the efficiency of health and social protection systems, with a focus on the most vulnerable populations.

The newly signed initiatives complement our ongoing joint endeavors to achieve national development objectives and expedite progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Turkmenistan. These initiatives prioritize areas such as promoting human rights, advancing digital transformation, enhancing financial market regulations, improving trade capacity through better statistics, strengthening healthcare systems, and empowering vulnerable populations, including youth.  

Similarly, as in other countries worldwide, UNDP in Turkmenistan goes beyond solving immediate development challenges towards focusing on achieving systemic change and building resilience against global crises. Our approach is based on human rights, inclusion and equity to tackle areas where people’s needs are the biggest. 

NT: Could you provide more details about the two recently signed initiatives aimed at supporting the Central Commission for holding elections and referendums in Turkmenistan, as well as strengthening the institutional capacity of the Office of the Ombudsman of Turkmenistan?

-Promoting rule of law and protecting human rights is in the core of UNDP’s work, which enables more strategic and sustainable development programming. UNDP in Turkmenistan strengthens the national system of protection, promotion, and implementation of human rights in Turkmenistan by harmonizing laws and practices in accordance with the country's international human rights obligations. 

The newly signed project to be implemented jointly with the Office of the Ombudsperson in Turkmenistan will focus on continuing our work on strengthening the institutional capacity of the Ombudsperson’s Office and expanding the independent and effective functions of the Ombudsperson’s Office to protect human rights in accordance with the Paris Principles. The efforts will be made to support accreditation of Ombudsperson`s Office with Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, while also ensuring the effective interaction of the Ombudsperson`s Office with the judiciary system, law enforcement agencies, and CSOs to protect and promote human rights in the country. 

We also plan to assist in capacity building of the Central Commission for Holding Elections and Referendums in Turkmenistan by sharing best international practices. We will provide support in developing strategies for establishing a unified voter register with gender disaggregated data, including international/comparative best practices. We intent to promote ways to increase political participation of women, including by introducing temporary special measures for women into national electoral legislation.

Additionally, as part of our collaborative efforts with the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population of Turkmenistan we will be implementing the Turkmenistan Country component of the Central Asian regional project to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable youth against societal challenges. This project empowers low-skilled youth through vocational training, mentoring, and counseling. It aims to increase economic opportunity, build community resilience, and support youth facing challenges.

NT: How do the new initiatives contribute to enhancing Turkmenistan's financial sector and statistical capacity?

-UNDP in Turkmenistan will continue to focus on supporting the financial sector and the national statistical capacity to enable more agile, efficient and evidence-based decision-making and ensure better measurement of progress towards the SDGs in a way that is both inclusive and fair. 

In support of SDG implementation efforts, we've committed to bolstering the Ministry of Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan's capacity as the regulatory authority for securities market development. Earlier, UNDP also signed another agreement between UNDP and the Ministry of Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan to enhance the Ministry's capacity in SDG financing, formulating economic policies, and facilitating Turkmenistan's WTO accession.

Within our joint efforts with the State Committee of Turkmenistan on Statistics we plan to strengthen the Country’s statistical capacity, as well as improve the quality of statistical data that will contribute to a more detailed assessment and monitoring of economic, monetary and financial developments in the economy.

We plan to support the existing efforts of the Government of Turkmenistan in improving statistics of foreign and domestic trade in services by strengthening institutional mechanisms, bringing national legislation in line with international standards for statistics on international trade in services, as well as improving the quality of data on the volume of passenger and freight traffic.

We value the continued trust of the Turkmenistan government and are confident that sustaining these collaborative initiatives will bolster the financial underpinnings of national development strategies, thus expediting progress towards SDG attainment in the country.

NT: During the signing ceremony, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 18 February, UNDP and the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan have signed the extension of two big ongoing significant projects. What are the specific objectives and anticipated outcomes of the extended health projects?

-Investments in health are essential for the acceleration of the 2030 Agenda. I'm pleased to acknowledge the strengthening of the collaboration between UNDP and the Turkmenistan government in enhancing the country's health system. The volume of our past and ongoing cooperation only on health totals approximately $150 million, with the vast contribution coming from the government of Turkmenistan.

UNDP in Turkmenistan provides quality, affordable medicines for the treatment of communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCD). From 2021 to 2023 alone, UNDP delivered more than 100 vital medical products, which were distributed in medical facilities in Ashgabat, velayat specialized clinics and primary healthcare facilities across the country.

Within our ongoing initiatives we plan to strengthen the national healthcare system by improving quality health services and providing quality-assured medicines, such as insulin for patients with diabetes, drugs for treating a range of conditions including cardiovascular, oncological, endocrine, neurological, and chronic respiratory diseases, as well as health products for controlling communicable diseases, following the leaving no one behind principle to ensure high-quality and free treatment for patients nationwide. Due to the cost-efficiency approach that we follow in both initiatives, during this year we will be able to deliver even more medical supplies, equipment and medicines, hence provide help to more patients and strengthen the capability of health system by introducing the up-to-date treatment regimens.

NT: What are the primary goals of the 'Single Window for Export-Import Operations' project, and how does extending this initiative align with UNDP's endeavors to advance digital acceleration in Turkmenistan?

-Digital transformation in the public sector has become an essential part of UNDP’s work in Turkmenistan, including its support to the simplification and harmonization of business processes and strengthening interaction between the State Customs Service of Turkmenistan (SCS) and state control authorities (SCAs) engaged in control of import and export operations. 

UNDP, jointly with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), channels relevant technical assistance to the government to further automate and modernize customs clearance procedures using the Single Window concept to strengthen country’s trade capacity for development. These joint efforts promote fair trade and private sector development, ensure people’s economic rights, strengthen public institutions, improve the quality of public finances and promote economic stability and growth.

Extending the "Single Window for Export-Import Operations" project until the end of 2024 will enable us to simplify and harmonize interagency business processes. During this year, we will also facilitate integrated monitoring and control of licenses, certificates, and permits (LCP), implements interagency risk management in customs clearance, and enhances Turkmenistan's capacity for global, regional economic integration, and international trade.

UNDP in Turkmenistan will continue actively advancing the country's digital development priorities as outlined in the “Concept for the Development of the Digital Economy in Turkmenistan for 2019-2025” and the “State Programme for the Development of the Digital Economy in Turkmenistan for 2021-2025”. Our focus lies on enhancing digital capabilities across various sectors, including electronic government, statistics, banking, finance, customs, civil registration, and other public services. Our aim is to ensure that the benefits of the new digital era are inclusive and accessible to all.