On July 23, U.S. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia Henry Ensher led the U.S. delegation to the C5 + 1 Security Working Group in Tashkent. This one-day event, opened by Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs Head of the Department of European and American Countries Ghayratshoev Sohibnazar was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Pamela Spratlen and other U.S. experts, as well as representatives from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan. C5 + 1 Economic and Environmental Working Groups were held in Almaty on July 20.
This week’s C5+1 forum is one more in a series of meetings that have followed a historic gathering in Samarkand in November 2015, where the five Central Asian Foreign Ministers and the U.S. Secretary of State launched this format for cooperation. C5+1 aims to address common security and environmental challenges, improve regional trade flows, and enhance prospects for U.S. trade and investment with the region. This desire for cooperation, embodied in the spirit of Samarkand, continues to be very much alive today.
In Tashkent, participants from the six countries reaffirmed their commitment to
- join hands as one region to address common security challenges and further mutually advantageous goals
- bolster regional counterterrorism efforts and border security cooperation
- counter violent extremism in the region
- support the UN General Assembly Resolution recently adopted at Uzbekistan’s initiative to strengthen regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in Central Asia
- explore ways to strengthen cooperation in the promotion of a stable, peaceful, and economically prosperous Afghanistan and
- explore additional areas of cooperation such as border security and information sharing
The Meeting also launched the first two Security Working Group projects. Organized with the assistance of the U.S. Institute of Peace, these projects will focus on community engagement in preventing radicalization.
Five C5+1 projects areas were agreed upon in August 2016, at the second C5+1 ministerial, held in Washington, and have been funded by a $US15 million appropriation from the U.S. Congress:
C5+1 Counter-Terrorism projects, conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Institute of Peace, convene policymakers and experts to promote best practices and regional approaches to counter terrorism and foreign terrorist flows. This week U.S. Institute officials will be consulting with many Uzbek officials as the detailed plans for this project are developed.
The C5+1 Central Asia Business Competitiveness projects, carried out in conjunction with USAID, are facilitating private sector development of the Central Asian market, with an initial focus on the horticulture sector. In Uzbekistan, these projects have increased fruit and vegetable production, have greatly reduced post-harvest losses and have resulted in multimillion-dollar export contracts.
These projects also assist Uzbekistan in complying with international food safety rules. To help assure that Uzbekistan’s exports are free of pests and disease, USAID recently brought an international expert for two weeks of training seminars for Uzbekistan’s State Plant Quarantine Service, including certification, pest risk management and legal issues related to World Trade Organization standards.
The C5+1 Transport Corridor Development Projects implemented by USAID will increase the competitiveness of Central Asian economies by improving their transport and logistics sectors. For example, Uzbek officials and freight forwarders are being trained in the most modern practices so that exports can quickly reach their markets.
The C5+1 Power the Future project through USAID is supporting the transition to low emission and advanced energy solutions. Through the Central Asian Regional Energy Market (CAREM), Uzbekistan and its neighbors will enjoy more reliable energy supplies and an expanded market for their own energy resources.
The C5+1 Supporting National and Regional Adaptation Planning projects under USAID support the development of national plans that identify environment risks and prioritize actions. Water Management is a key goal. Last month students from Central Asia and Afghanistan came to Tashkent to study water policies and management at the Tashkent Institute of irrigation and Agricultural Mechanization Engineers (TIIAME). Last December 75 scientists, researchers and policy makers from 15 countries gathered in Tashkent for a three-day workshop on “Innovations in Marginal Water Resource for Resilient Agriculture and Food Security.”