An interview given by SRSG Miroslav Jenča on the UNRCCA, its role and cooperation in preventive diplomacy in Central Asia for the press center of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan

8 Aug 2011

An interview given by SRSG Miroslav Jenča on the UNRCCA, its role and cooperation in preventive diplomacy in Central Asia for the press center of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan

1. Please tell us about the main activities of the Centre within its mandate ...

In accordance with the mandate set out in the  Letter from the UN Secretary General on 7 May 2007 to the President of the UN Security Council, the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) supports the Central Asian States in promoting peace, preventing and decreasing the threat of conflicts. In this regard, the Centre aims to develop measures to enhance regional and international partnerships to combat cross-border threats, including issues such as international terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and organized crime, as well as to reach a consensus on the management of transboundary natural resources and to facilitate solutions of environmental problems.

As part of its mandate the Centre holds regular consultations with the leaders of five Central Asian countries, regional organizations, in particular, the OSCE, CIS, SCO, EU, ECO and the CSTO and coordinates joint efforts with the United Nations Country Teams.

The visit of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Central Asia on 2-7 April 2010 gave a great impetus to the preventive efforts of our Centre. During negotiations with the Government of Turkmenistan and leaders of other Central Asian States, Mr. Ban Ki-moon raised the issues of peace and security in the region, preventive diplomacy, countering regional threats, the joint management of transboundary resources, the influence of developments in Afghanistan on the situation in Central Asia.

Subsequent events in Kyrgyzstan have shown the importance of timely response by the international community in case of a local conflict. Our Center, in conjunction with the UN agencies had to use the full power of its peacekeeping capacity to prevent the escalation of the conflict and stabilize the situation.

Unfortunately, the situation in the region remains difficult and therefore much of our activity is aimed at supporting the Central Asian states in building cooperation to deal with cross-border threats, manage common natural resources, combating environmental degradation. Here I would like to emphasize note that the specifics of Turkmenistan's neutral status have been most clearly revealed in this process. In recent years Ashgabat has taken important steps to improve relations with all partners in the region. This fact greatly helps in the implementation of our mandate.

Clearly, such regional issues as drug trafficking, extremism, organized crime should be considered in the context of the situation in Afghanistan. UNRCCA, in cooperation with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, closely monitors the developments in this country, and encourages the efforts of Central Asian states to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan in order to strengthen regional security.

2. The Center carries out its activities in close collaboration with governments and other official agencies of the Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan. What aspects of this interaction do you consider most relevant?

UNRCCA constructively interacts with Central Asian governments, official agencies and regional organizations, civil society.

In this regard, we benefit from the continuous support of Turkmenistan, which effectively uses its neutral status for reaching constructive solutions to regional problems. The international initiative of the Turkmen leadership are very important, in particular, those aimed to strengthen international cooperation on disarmament issues in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea region, the diversification of gas export routes and creating the necessary conditions for safe and secure transit of energy resources to world markets. In this context, the role of Turkmenistan as an important participant of the gas pipeline Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India (TAPI) project has increased and the project certainly has the potential to help stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.

From our side, we are implementing a number of promising projects focused on the facilitation of regional cooperation. In particular, the Centre, together with the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, European Union and with the active participation of governments of Central Asian states, is implementing a project to assist the countries of the region to counter the terrorist threat. Three expert meetings have been already held in Bratislava (Slovakia), Dushanbe (Tajikistan) and Almaty (Kazakhstan). Preparations are under way for a high-level meeting which will discuss the adoption of a Joint Action Plan to implement the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy in Central Asia.

The Regional Center also conducts consultations with the governments of the region and national law enforcement agencies to coordinate anti-narcotics policy and increase efficiency in combating drug trafficking in Central Asia.

Another serious problem is the management of common natural resources, including water. The Centre in cooperation with the Central Asian states and the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) facilitates finding mutually acceptable solutions. In 2010, here in Ashgabat, UNRCCA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the IFAS and organized a ministerial meeting attended by high-ranking officials of Central Asian states and representatives of international and regional organizations. The participants discussed the results of the visit of the UN Secretary General in Central Asia in April 2010 and considered the implementation of the decisions of the April 2009 IFAS Summit, including the preparation of the Aral Sea Basin Program (ASBP) -3 for 2011-2015. We also assisted in the preparation of the donors' conference for discussions on ASBP-3, which received unanimous support, and organized a series of conferences on water and energy issues with the participation of the Central Asian officials.This year, our Centre is planning to increase its efforts in this direction, with an emphasis on early warning on possible conflicts and necessary preventive measures.

During these events, we have formulated the initiative to organize on the basis of our Centre in Ashgabat an international platform for high-level talks to discuss key issues in the region and finding mutually acceptable solutions. The experience shows that this is a correct and timely initiative.

The stabilization of the neighboring Afghanistan remains on the agenda. In recent years,  Turkmenistan has undertaken many initiatives regarding a peaceful settlement for this country. In June this year, the Centre in cooperation with UNECE and Turkmenistan, which holds the chair of the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) in 2011, organized a follow-up event to the SPECA Economic Forum, which took place in October 2010 in Geneva. Participants discussed in detail the opportunities for a greater cooperation between Central Asia and Afghanistan through the implementation of mutually beneficial economic projects.

3. The Centre is currently the only of its kind and aims to play a basic role in the creation of such UN structures in the future in other regions of the world ...

Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia is a UN special political mission set up at the initiative of the five states of the region - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The Center was established as the implementation of a strategic vision of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the role of preventive diplomacy as a more effective conflict prevention and conflict resolution tool in a region that is becoming increasingly important in geopolitical terms. Since the opening of the UNRCCA (December 2007), in general, it has been possible to maintain stability against the background of the apparent existence of a number of serious challenges.

Many techniques and mechanisms for the management of critical situations developed by our Center have already been in demand in international practice. Twice a year I provide a briefing to the UN Security Council on the situation in the region and the activities of the Centre. Security Council members express great interest in our activities and provide all possible support. Moreover, the Security Council, repeatedly citing the experience of the Regional Centre, supports the role of preventive diplomacy and mediation in the UN projects aimed to promote peace and security. In March 2011, a UN Regional Office for Central Africa, largely based on our experience, was opened in Libreville (Gabon).

4. Readers would be interested to know about your experience with Turkmenistan and its people, about interesting events in the life of a diplomat, possible advice and wishes to young diplomats...

During my years in Turkmenistan, I fell in love with your country and hospitable Turkmen people and made a lot of friends. During this period, I was a witness to great socio-economic transformations. Achievements in the years of sovereignty, today’s image of the country are the result of the constructive work of the Turkmen people. As a result of well-defined policies aimed at ensuring stable and consistent development, Turkmenistan has become one of the most dynamically developing economies of the region. Serious work is being done to improve the quality of life of the people, modern medical centers, new schools, health resorts and holiday camps are put into operation. International tourist zone Avaza is being rapidly developed and attracts a huge number of tourists.

I would like to note the involvement of youth in the process of transformation of Turkmenistan. Youth is the main resource of the country. I am pleased that the government of Turkmenistan attaches great importance to the education of young people and invests heavily in the social sphere, particularly in education. Schools, universities and sports facilities built during the years of independence are an invaluable investment in the country's future.

In this regard, it is important to continue with creating conditions for effective self-realization of young people by improving the quality of education and ensuring its effectiveness and accessibility, including the use of the latest information technology. I was very impressed with young people of Turkmenistan looking for education. Watching Turkmen students craving for knowledge and professional development, I believe that Turkmenistan has every opportunity for the successful implementation of ambitious reforms and development plans of the country making use of the creativity of young people.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of state independence of Turkmenistan. In a relatively short historical period the country has made impressive progress, which can be easily seen in the renovated Ashgabat and other cities. On this way the United Nations provided support to Turkmenistan in its emergence as an independent and neutral state. The UN continues its support by deepening our strategic partnership. I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate the leadership and people of Turkmenistan on the occasion of this important event and wish all residents of Turkmenistan, peace, happiness and prosperity.