May 19, 2017
This year, the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) celebrates its 10th anniversary. Petko Draganov, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of this structure, has expounded on the activities of the Center.

Mr. Draganov, this year you celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Center. What have been the main achievements of UNRCCA in this period?

To begin with, there have been no major interstate conflicts in Central Asia during this time. This, of course, is the merit of the states themselves, but there is also a part of our efforts. First and foremost, the Center provided a platform for governments to dialogue on the most complex regional issues: trans-boundary water use, countering security threats, strengthening stability, and developing regional cooperation. The Center provided good services to prevent and promptly respond to emerging problems that threaten the internal stability of both individual countries and the entire region.

As part of monitoring the situation, we have accumulated considerable analytical potential. We provide information support to the UN governing bodies with the aim of adopting and implementing timely and effective decisions. Twice a year I address the Security Council with reports on the work done and analysis of the regional situation. The proposals that we are coordinating with the countries are brought to the attention of the Security Council members and receive international response. To enhance the global visibility of Central Asian problems, the Center initiated several visits of the UN Secretary General to all five Central Asian states. This is the evidence of the great attention paid by the leadership of the United Nations to the region and the willingness to assist in addressing the existing issues.

We are sometimes told: "Your work is just talking, give us concrete results: roads, equipment, infrastructure, financial support, etc." Such reproaches are often heard by diplomats. I can recall the famous phrase: "As long as diplomats speak, guns go silent." The issues of social and economic development are the responsibility of the states themselves. The main goal of the Center is to build confidence between countries, which will create a favorable climate for all-round cooperation, including in the trade and economic sphere. Of course, the results of such work will not be immediately visible, but we note positive trends. We particularly welcome and support in practice the efforts of countries aimed at facilitating customs and other administrative barriers to trade.

And what can you say about the initiatives proposed by your Center in the field of management of trans-boundary water resources?

In 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) was signed at the UNRCCA headquarters in Ashgabat on the development of a mechanism for monitoring and preventing threats to the environment in the Aral Sea basin. Based on this document, the Center interacts with the Executive Committee of IFAS in terms of information exchange, enhancing the capacity of its staff, assistance in mobilizing international support for implementing the Aral Sea Basin Program (ASBP), and a number of other issues. Currently, the UNRCCA is in contact with the Turkmen chairmanship of IFAS EC on the development of a regional water strategy. The Center also cooperates with UNESCO in the study of the problem of melting of high mountain glaciers and its impact on national and trans-boundary water systems, as well as the creation of an appropriate system for the exchange of information and knowledge.

In cooperation with the Scientific Information Center of the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination (SIC ICWC), the Center is developing an early warning mechanism on potential problem situations on trans-boundary rivers. We are currently preparing and distributing quarterly early warning bulletins on the basis of an agreed set of indicators.

For several years now we have been working with the Central Asian states to create a legal mechanism for an integrated solution of the region's water and energy issues. Following several years of negotiations in March 2017, the Center sent an updated proposal to governments on the development of agreements on the use of water resources in the Amudarya and Syrdarya river basins. The proposed projects are aimed at helping countries create a clear legal mechanism for managing trans-boundary water resources on the basis of taking into account the interests of all parties, the equivalence of different types of water use, rationality and justice. Projects also offer the creation of a multi-stage dispute resolution mechanism. I have already held the first round of talks in the capitals of the Central Asian states and have received confirmation of the willingness of most of them to negotiate on this issue.

What is necessary for more successful preventive diplomacy in Central Asia?

The key objective of the UNRCCA mandate - to assist nations in ensuring regional peace and stability - is of particular importance for national security and is entirely in the sovereign competence of states. Therefore, the effectiveness of the work is determined by the political will of governments to conduct a dialogue and seek solutions to problems. The Center is making efforts to mobilize political will to respond to the challenges and threats to regional security. At the same time, do not forget that “East is a matter delicate”. The countries of the region follow their own paths, and each has its own specifics, different from that of others, and their national interests. The Center has to take into account these subtle points.

(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)


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