On September 15, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, took part in the meeting of the Council of Heads of the Founding States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.
The event, chaired by the Tajik side, was attended by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov, as well as the First Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic Adylbek Kasymaliev and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General – Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, Kaha Imnadze.
By the agenda, the results of Tajikistan’s presidency of IFAS in 2020-2023 were summed up. Views were exchanged on the current issues of improving the environmental, water management, and socio-economic situation in the Aral Sea basin. Prospects for further enhancing mutually beneficial interaction within the Fund were discussed.
In his address, the President of Uzbekistan pointed out that the activities as part of the Global Water Conference, under the co-presidency of distinguished Emomali Sharipovich, were successfully held at the UN headquarters. This historic event has attracted the entire international community’s attention to vital issues and problems in Central Asia’s water sector.
The Head of state analyzed the role and significance of this structure over the 30 years since its founding in addressing issues of countering environmental challenges and developing coordinated approaches to implementing joint programs and projects in the Aral Sea basin.
“The International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea is, above all, a unique experience of multilateral cooperation of the countries of Central Asia in addressing one of the most pressing problems on a global scale”, the President of Uzbekistan noted.
The role and significance of such a structure increase even more in the context of the emergence of new challenges and threats due to global climate change. The water shortage problem in Central Asia has become acute and irreversible and will only worsen.
The Leader of Uzbekistan, noting the importance of the tasks of legal and institutional support for the effectiveness of multilateral partnerships, made several practical proposals for further interaction in the water and environmental sphere.
As part of the work to further improve the legal framework and modernize the institutional mechanisms of the Fund, it was proposed to conduct an inventory and revise the primary documents and agreements, analyze the current structure, and prepare proposals to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the work of the Fund’s organizations, develop “Rules and Procedures” that regulate issues of cooperation and activities of the Fund.
“The Fund’s development and reform process must be held based on cross-sectoral principle – an integrated approach “water – energy – food”, accounting for modern environmental challenges”, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev emphasized.
Concerning the progress of the fourth Action program to assist the countries of the Aral Sea basin, which is mainly carried out in line with national plans, the President of Uzbekistan proposed instructing the Fund’s Board to critically review the current Program, providing for the preparation of “road maps” for the implementation of each regional project, identifying the volumes and sources of financing, as well as agreed schedules for their implementation.
The need was noted for strengthening systemic engagement on the issues of attracting investments, technologies, and technical assistance to advance priority regional projects.
In this regard, each country was proposed to take on a responsibility to attract external assistance into regional projects by defining specific targets and under the coordination of the presiding party, to develop mechanisms for attracting and distributing investments and technical assistance.
It was also proposed to convene a special regional conference to accelerate the implementation of joint projects with the involvement of foreign partners, leading international institutions, and donor organizations.
The Leader of Uzbekistan emphasized that to promote a coordinated policy on integrated management of water and energy resources in the region, it is advisable, with the participation of international consultants, to develop long-term Development Plans for the Amudarya and Syrdarya basins.
“Particular attention should be paid to working with the youth at the regional level to raise their awareness of the need for reasonable use of water and other natural resources, supporting youth initiatives and start-ups by adopting a special program. We count on close engagement with the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in addressing these issues”, the President of Uzbekistan noted.
Dwelling on the issues of cooperation in preventing further degradation of ecosystems, primarily in the Aral Sea region, the President of Uzbekistan noted that currently, Uzbekistan is carrying out large-scale work to improve the environmental and social situation in the Aral Sea region.
“In the last few years, forest plantings have been carried out on the dried up seabed of the Aral on an area of 1.7 million hectares. We intend to create protective green screens on another 400 thousand hectares in the next two years. To mitigate the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster and conserve biodiversity in the Aral Sea region, natural parks and reserves and state reserves were created over an area of more than 3.5 million hectares”, Shavkat Mirziyoyev said.
In addition, Uzbekistan is implementing full-scale measures to improve water use efficiency. Over the last 7 years, water-saving technologies have been introduced in more than 1 million hectares, about a quarter of all irrigated land in the country.
Partners were invited to strengthen cooperation in water conservation, identifying it as one of the priorities of the Fund. To comprehensively consider all these issues, establish a Regional Platform for regular meetings of the Ministers of Water Resources, Energy, Environment, and Economy.
The President of Uzbekistan also shared his vision regarding constructing the Kushtepa Canal. It was noted that a new stakeholder in the water use process has appeared in the region, in connection with which it was proposed to set up a joint working group to study all aspects of the construction of the Kushtepa Canal and its impact on the water regime of the Amudarya with the involvement of research institutes of our countries, as well as to consider the issue of involving representatives of Afghanistan in the regional dialogue on the sharing of water resources.
In conclusion, the President of Uzbekistan expressed his conviction that implementing the initiatives put forward and the documents adopted will increase the efficiency and expand mutually beneficial cooperation within the Fund to benefit our people and the prosperity of the entire Central Asian region.
The heads of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and a member of the Government of Kyrgyzstan also addressed the meeting, and a message from the United Nations Secretary-General was read out.
Following the event, the heads of the IFAS Founding States signed the following documents:
– Dushanbe Statement by the heads of state of the founders of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea;
– Decision of the Council of Heads of the IFAS Founding States on the results of the chairmanship of the Republic of Tajikistan in the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea;
– Decision of the Council of Heads of IFAS Founding States on the election of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as President of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea for 2024-2026;
– Decision of the Council of Heads of IFAS Founding States on activities to improve the organizational structure and legal framework of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.
The IFAS chairmanship for 2024-2026 passed to the Republic of Kazakhstan.