On November 24, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev participated in the first Summit of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) in the city of Baku.
The event, chaired by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, was attended by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Japarov, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan Khodjamyrat Geldimyradov, Executive Secretaries of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Tatyana Valovaya, and ESCAP Armin Van Buuren, as well as honorary guests, Prime Ministers Viktor Orban of Hungary and Irakli Garibashvili of Georgia, and Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasim Al-Budaiwi.
At the beginning of his speech, the Head of State sincerely congratulated all the participants of the event on the 25th anniversary of the Programme, which was established by the Tashkent Declaration in 1998, as well as on the adoption of a separate resolution by the United Nations General Assembly dedicated to this significant date.
The Uzbek leader paid special tribute to Azerbaijan's fruitful chairmanship of SPECA, during which regional cooperation within the Programme had reached a qualitatively new level.
The President underlined that over the past period, SPECA has demonstrated its relevance as an effective mechanism for regional partnership in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
As part of the programme, more than 400 projects have been implemented to expand practical cooperation in the areas of trade, communications, transport and logistics, digitalization, energy, water resources, environment, gender equality and others, and strategies have been adopted to facilitate trade and promote innovation.
The strengthening of the atmosphere of good neighbourliness and trust in recent years and the deepening of integration processes in Central Asia were welcomed.
"Today, we are implementing major programmes in the field of industrial cooperation and infrastructure with the countries of the region, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Hungary. Joint investment companies have been set up and mechanisms for financing projects have been established. Modern trade and logistics centres and special economic zones are being created in the border areas," the President said.
Taking into account the contemporary challenges and threats faced by the countries of the region in the context of global geopolitical instability, the Head of Uzbekistan outlined a number of practical initiatives to further strengthen regional cooperation under SPECA.
In order to transform the programme into a more effective regional platform for expanding economic cooperation, the need to significantly increase the efficiency of working groups in key areas of the partnership and to strengthen the programme's institutional foundations was emphasised.
It was suggested that the "SPECA-2030" development concept be developed jointly with experts from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and ESCAP.
In order to stimulate intra-regional trade, the President underlined the importance of developing a Joint Action Plan, incorporating world-leading experiences and practices in eliminating existing barriers and harmonizing technical regulatory measures for export-import operations.
According to the Uzbek leader, the implementation of such measures will increase the trade turnover in the SPECA region from the current $52 billion to $100 billion by 2030, with the share of industrial products in its structure reaching 70%.
The importance of creating and launching the SPECA Target Fund next year to support major projects in the areas of green economy, innovation, high technology, logistics, alternative energy and smart agriculture, as well as the creation of modern social infrastructure, was highlighted.
"The Fund should actively cooperate with international development institutions, attract financial resources and provide funds on the most favourable terms for priority projects and programmes. Uzbekistan is also ready to contribute financially to the creation of the fund," said Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Speaking about the development of interconnected transport corridors, the President stressed the need for full implementation of the adopted "roadmap" for digitalization of data exchange within the Trans-Caspian Multimodal Corridor.
The proposal to hold an international forum on "Digital Transport Corridors" in Uzbekistan next year was also mentioned.
The intention was also expressed to actively promote major projects to improve transport connectivity in the region in cooperation with UN specialized agencies.
The President of Uzbekistan proposed the establishment of a Special High-Level Working Group on Food Security under SPECA, with the first meeting to be held in Samarkand next year.
"The agenda of the event will focus primarily on the development of cooperation between leading agro-industrial enterprises, the creation of value chains, the promotion of scientific and technological exchanges, the implementation of advanced resource-saving solutions and the use of express corridors," the President said.
Given the interdependence of water resources, energy, ecology and agriculture, the importance of adopting a comprehensive new policy document within SPECA, namely the multilateral "Green Strategy", was underlined.
According to UN studies, water scarcity is costing countries in the region about $2 billion a year. Without comprehensive solutions to these problems, per capita water availability could decline by 25% and crop yields by 40% if this negative trend continues, the President said.
The President also addressed gender equality and women's participation in entrepreneurship.
In order to promote active initiatives and concrete plans on a continuous and systematic basis, a proposal was made within the programme to establish a Council of Business Women of SPECA.
The President also proposed an initiative to award the international "Recognition of SPECA" prize to women who make significant contributions to the prosperity and economic development of the region.
Addressing his colleagues and the leadership of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and ESCAP, the President of Uzbekistan called for the establishment of working contacts and the restoration of cooperation with Afghanistan within the framework of SPECA.
He stressed that Afghanistan should not be left alone with its problems and that it would be impossible to achieve positive results without establishing an international dialogue with the current government.
The Head of Uzbekistan expressed special gratitude to all participants for their support of the historic decision taken two days ago in Paris to hold the first session of the UNESCO General Assembly in Central Asia, specifically in the ancient city of Samarkand, in 2025.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev concluded by reaffirming Uzbekistan's commitment to multilateral partnership through the SPECA regional programme to ensure sustainable development and prosperity for the people of the region.