Statement by SRSG Natalia Gherman at Briefing on IFAS Summit Results

27 Aug 2018

Statement by SRSG Natalia Gherman at Briefing on IFAS Summit Results

ASHGABAT, 27 August 2018

Dear Minister Meredov,

Dear participants,

United Nations and our Regional Centre welcome and highly appreciate the outcomes of the 12th IFAS Summit held in Awaza.

The summit confirmed the Fund’s key role as a platform for intergovernmental exchange to overcome the diverse ecological, socio-economical and humanitarian consequences of the Aral tragedy.

The Summit’s success was, to a large extent, achieved thanks to the diligent efforts and thorough coordination of Turkmenistan, which is currently chairing the Fund. And all of the IFAS member states and various organizations, including the UN, were also actively involved in preparing this event.

I cannot fail to note the historical meaning of the summit. Thanks to the personal contribution of the President Berdimuhamedov, the Meeting on the Heads of States level has finally materialized after a long-term break. Five Central Asian Presidents met together to give new impetus to regional cooperation and confirme their strong commitment to continue strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation to recover from the ecological crisis.

During his last visit to the region in June 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres was shocked by the Aral Sea tragedy. Today more than ever his appeal for immediate action and reaction in this regard is critically important.

One of the most important results of the IFAS Summit is the Joint Communique expressing the political will of all five Central Asian States to continue their constructive cooperation and break new ground.

Another example of the positive development of cooperation is the recent Caspian Sea Summit, where the regional states proved once more their readiness to solve together issues that were pending decisions for decades. Thus, the landmark convention signed during the 5th  Caspian Summit in Aktau was waiting for its moment for quarter-century.

Enhancing cooperation in the region, based on mutual trust and understanding of the Central Asian States, is the core task for the Regional Centre.

UNRCCA is a long-term and reliable partner of IFAS and actively works with the Fund on water and energy issues in line with the Memorandum of Understanding between UNRCCA and IFAS signed in 2010, General Assembly resolution 72/273 of 12 April 2018 and the mandate of the Regional Centre.

UNRCCA also closely cooperates with the Central Asian states to implement SDG 6 within the framework of the “International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2018.” In particular, this past June in Dushanbe on the margins of the international high-level conference, UNRCCA in partnership with UNESCO organized a side event on melting glaciers.

UNRCCA representatives also actively participated in the Tashkent international conference “Joint actions to mitigate the consequences of the Aral catastrophe: new approaches, innovative solutions, investments,” held in June 2018.

UNRCCA has begun to review its strategy for supporting the Central Asian states on water cooperation, taking into consideration current trends and positive dynamics in the region, and also in line with the Centre’s 2018-2020 Programme of Action, which was endorsed during the last Foreign Ministers and Deputy Foreign Ministers Meeting we organized in Ashgabat in December 2017.

Dear colleagues,

We support the proposal of Turkmenistan to develop a centralized and systematized approach towards regional partnership for water cooperation on the basis of a legal mechanism accommodating the interests of all parties. This is specifically important, given the diversity of issues associated with climate change, melting glaciers and the reduction of water resources in the region.

The initiative suggested during the summit to improve coordination among IFAS members with a view to achieving a high-level consultative format is very timely, considering the positive dynamics of regional cooperation and trust.

I also would like to mention here another initiative promoting water diplomacy as a new form of multilateral diplomatic cooperation. Water diplomacy has always been one of the most critical aspects of UNRCCA’s mandate. And here we see huge potential for capacity building in the region and confirm my personal commitment to be actively engaged in promoting this initiative.

Dear Minister Meredov,

Let me stress as well the importance of the idea of aggregating Aral Sea issues into a special area of cooperation with United Nations. In our opinion, this will be a significant contribution to the further development of cooperation between IFAS member states and UN on the basis of a structured and long-term approach. The President of Turkmenistan made this suggestion back in 2012 during the sustainable development conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Such documents as the 4th Action Programme to Assist the Countries of the Aral Sea Basin and the Concept of the UN Special Programme for the Aral Sea were considered during the IFAS Summit. The Regional Centre had an opportunity to review the draft concept of the UN Special Programme. I believe that the proposed concept could be useful in mobilizing regional efforts for solving issues related to the Aral Sea and also for engaging interested parties such as regional and international organizations, including the UN.

The draft concept is an internal document that will be elaborated and finalized by the IFAS member states with a view to its further consideration by the Fund’s governing bodies.

I would like to note that IFAS has had observer status at the General Assembly since December 2018. The expertise of such well known structures as UNDP, UNECE, UNEP, the World Bank, UN-Water, UNESCO, FAO and others have much to offer IFAS as it develops its Concept. I see a natural need in enhancing UN-IFAS cooperation, which will make this process even more effective thanks to the operational complementarity of all parties.

In this connection, I would like to emphasize the need to develop and strengthen our partnership to confront the Aral Sea ecological disaster together with other international organizations such as the European Union, the OSCE, the Asian Development Bank, and others.

The Regional Centre will also continue providing regular updates to partners regarding summit’s results and suggested initiatives at UN Headquarters and on the margins of the opening of the 73rd General Assembly in New York, in particular.

Dear colleagues,

UNRCCA is ready to continue its close cooperation with IFAS and its provision of constructive support within our partnership framework. UNRCCA has always welcome IFAS efforts and initiatives to overcome the consequences of environmental disaster in the Aral Sea basin and improve the overall ecological and socio-economic climate in Central Asia.

We are confident, that the results of the IFAS Summit and our coordinated work for their implementation, will have a significant impact for enhancing the regional cooperation and improving lives of millions of people living in the countries of the Aral Sea basin.

Thank you very much for your attention!