Thirty participants from five Central Asian states, including the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (EC IFAS), basin and regional organisations and national ministries and agencies responsible for water, land management, energy and economic development attended the meeting.
The meeting was opened with welcoming remarks by Ms Shakhnoza Umarova, Director of the CAREC country office in Uzbekistan, Mr Serdar Eyebenov, official representative of Turkmenistan, EC IFAS and Mr Johannes Stenbaek-Madsen, Head of Cooperation Section, European Union Delegation to the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Meeting participants and RSC members discussed the regional experiences of cooperation from the Senegal River Basin and reviewed progress made in identifying regional priorities that foster water, energy and food security in Central Asia, including benefits for all countries. The committee also discussed preliminary results of an analysis conducted on the institutional gaps in multi-sector investment planning, particularly in the Aral Sea Basin Program planning process. The regional deliberation of WEF-based investment project ideas proposed by Central Asian countries began with the presentation of eight project ideas proposed by the intersectoral Working Groups of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Ms Snejana Popova, Project Officer, EU Delegation to Kazakhstan, chaired the first session and provided an overview of recent developments in the ASBP-4 programming process and the Nexus Regional Dialogue in Central Asia.
Ms Ludmilla Kiktenko, CAREC, presented the latest developments and plans of the Nexus project, notably contributions to the draft concept on the development of the action program to assist the countries of the Aral Sea Basin (ASBP-4) regarding WEF Nexus-based criteria for the selection of investment projects.
Mr Serdar Eyebenov presented recent and future ASBP-4 developments as a programme of regional cooperation with participation of the international donor community. The focus of the cooperation is to improve the ecological and socioeconomic situation in the Aral Sea Basin and achieve water, energy and food security in the region, while considering the interests of all Central Asian countries.
Ms Ludmilla Kiktenko, CAREC, chaired the second session. Mr Vokhidzhon Akhmadzhonov, Ministry of Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan, presented on the cooperation experience with Senegal Basin riparian countries, which showed how joint management of shared infrastructure and assets results in macro-level benefits. This practical example was beneficial for participants involved in the development of the new Aral Sea Basin Program and the institutional strengthening of IFAS.
Ms Zukhro Mukhtorova, Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Tajikistan and Mr Igor Naumov, EC IFAS Secretariat, Turkmenistan, presented initial ideas for WEF Nexus-based investment projects being discussed in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The Nexus project team agreed to work with Central Asian countries on identifying project ideas of regional or transboundary importance. They concluded that it would be beneficial to follow the example of the Senegal River Basin by hiring an expert with international experience to prepare proposals for regional projects.
Despite differences in national investment planning systems, each country’s interventions stressed the need to increase the capacity of national Inter-Sectoral Working Groups (ISWG) and RSC members to enable the identification of priority investment projects, as well as the development, assessment and evaluation of bankability and investment criteria.
Ms Saltanat Zhakenova, CAREC, chaired the third session. This session focused on the preliminary results of an institutional analysis for cooperative investment planning across sectors in Central Asia, carried out by IUCN.
Ms Kristin Meyer, IUCN, presented on the challenges related to institutional capacities, planning and budgetary processes based on data collected through interviews with key stakeholders. She also mentioned the prevalence of the water sector, particularly in the Aral Sea Basin Program planning process. Interview respondents identified political and institutional factors, low levels of mutual understanding and trust, lack of knowledge, institutional and technical capacities, as well as the need for more open data and information exchange as significant factors preventing multi-sectoral dialogue for planning water-energy-food investment projects at the regional level in Central Asia.
Participants agreed that an initial selection of regional multi-sectoral investment projects should be made at the third RSC meeting that will take place in conjunction with the Conference of Parties to the UNECE Water Convention in October 2018, Astana, Kazakhstan. They also agreed that official nominations for representatives of the RSC are needed to legitimate RSC decisions. Currently, seven RCS members are officially nominated: representative of EC IFAS, BWO "Syrdarya," Directorate of IFAS in the Republic of Kazakhstan, two representatives from the Republic of Tajikistan, one representative from the Republic of Uzbekistan and a Project Coordinator from EC IFAS in Turkmenistan.
The meeting concluded with closing remarks by Mr Johannes Stenbaek Madsen, EU Delegation Kazakhstan, Ludmilla Kiktenko, CAREC and Mr Serdar Eyebenov, EC, IFAS.