ECO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Dr. Huseyin Avni Bicakli represented the ECO at the High-Level International Conference “Aral Sea Region ,“ Zone of Environmental Innovations and Technologies”, convened by the Government of Uzbekistan under the aegis of the United Nations in Nukus, Uzbekistan on 24-25 October 2019.
The conference was attended by about 250 participants from 28 countries as well as representatives of international organizations, academia, civil society and the private sector. The Uzbek side was attended by deputies of the Senate and the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, senior representatives of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Finance, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Within the framework of the conference, plenary session and four thematic sessions were held, and visits to familiarize guests with tree planting works on the former seabed of the Aral Sea were organized.
The Conference focused on developing measures to create conditions for attracting foreign investment in the development and implementation of environmentally friendly technologies; taking integrated approach in implementing the principles of a green economy, environmentally friendly, energy- and water-saving technologies; introducing water-saving technologies and ensuring food security; desertification prevention, environmental migration and development of ecotourism.
For the first time the idea of transforming Area Sea Area to a zone of environmental innovations and technologies was raised by the President of Uzbekistan H.E. Shavkat Mirziyoyev during the Summit of Heads of the Founder States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea on August 24, 2019 in Turkmenbashi city.
During the event, perspective project proposals of Uzbekistan on the integrated development of the Aral Sea region were also presented, including through the introduction of innovative environmental developments and technologies.
Particular attention was paid to the discussion of measures taken to improve public health and strengthen the health care system in Karakalpakstan, both at the level of early detection and prevention, and treatment of socially significant diseases. In this context, information was voiced on projects and initiatives being worked out jointly with foreign partners: the construction of a multidisciplinary hospital for the population of the most affected northern regions of the Republic of Karakalpakstan and a clinic for maternal and child health in Nukus; modernization and equipment maternity hospitals and primary health care services with public and private funding. Also, readiness to consider opportunities for co-financing these projects was expressed by the management of the European Investment Bank.
The Government of Uzbekistan and the UN agreed on a draft special resolution of the UN General Assembly on declaring the Aral Sea region as the zone of environmental innovations and technology.
In a message to the attendees of the conference, which was read by First Deputy Prime Minister Achilbay Ramatov, President H.E. Shavkat Mirziyoyev emphasized: “It is impossible to restore the Aral Sea. Therefore, our task is to reduce the negative impact of the Aral Sea crisis on the environment and people's livelihoods in the region. We propose to transform the Aral Sea region into a zone of environmental innovations and technologies”.
The UN Secretary General Antoniu Guterres, who sent a video message, noted that the disappearance of the Aral sea had numerous negative consequences for livelihoods and the health of the locals. However, thanks to the joint efforts of the government of Uzbekistan and the world community, it is clear that an improvement is possible.
“Now it is the big time to act. It is necessary to restore the conditions for the livelihoods of people in remote areas of Karakalpakstan, which will be an incentive for the return of the youth who will play a part in reviving the Aral Sea region”said the Special Advisor to the UNDP Administrator Abdoulaye Mar Dieye.
Musa Yerniyazov, Chairman of the Zhokarga Kenes of Karakalpakstan, noted that the economy is suffering from the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster, unemployment and emigration has thriven, and the quality of life of the local population has sharply fallen. In recent years, thanks to the consolidation of efforts of the government and international institutions, new jobs are being created in the Aral Sea region and infrastructure is now being developed.
Helena Fraser, UN Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan, emphasized that despite the catastrophic consequences of the Aral Sea crisis, the Aralkum desert needs to be transformed into an attractive economic zone.
Badriddin Abidov, Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekstan, said that in November the UN Development Program will send a special mission to finalize the Concept “Aral Sea Region – Zone of Environmental Innovations and Technologies.”
A meeting of the Interstate Commission for Sustainable Development of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea was also held as part of the forum in Nukus, at which the chairmanship of the commission was transferred from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan.
The Communique of the High-level International Conference called for targeted, multifaceted and systemic interactions between the states of the region, UN structures, financial and donor organizations to ensure the development of programmes and projects aimed at addressing the most acute problems in the Aral Sea region through attracting innovation and modern technologies.
Deputy Secretary General Dr. Huseyin Avni Bicakli, in his speech during the first session of the conference, highlighted the role of the ECO on environmental issues and stressed the ECO’s constant attention to the environmental problems of ECO region including the Aral Sea. He expressed that the ECO was committed to continuing regional cooperation on the environment, climate, joint management of water in its region.
Ambassador Bicakli also said that the ECO has been always ready to work with international and regional donors who wants to support the sustainable development in Central Asia, to develop and implement environmentally friendly projects, to increase synergy and complementarity of actions of individual partners for achieving maximum efficiency, to create opportunities of international cooperation in the donor assistance activities in the region, to the consolidate efforts of the governmental and international institutions. In his statement, Dr. Bicakli emphasized: “The ECO is implementing the ECOVISION 2025 for the need to pay more attention to prevention of the environmental and water problems of the region.