First Central Asia – Security and Cooperation Forum – Astana – Kazakhstan
Central Asia, a large region of nearly 80 million people, is at a crossroads surrounded by significant opportunities and risks.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development projects that the economies of the five Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – will grow by at least 5.2 % on average in 2023 and 5.4 % in 2024. This trajectory has existed for two decades, which is undoubtedly welcome news.
Over the past 20 years, Central Asian countries’ GDP has grown more than sevenfold at an average rate of 6.2%. It is faster than in most developing countries. Also, it is more than twice as fast as the world as a whole.
The region is also taking full advantage of its transit potential. The total foreign trade turnover of the Central Asian states over the last six years has exceeded $200 billion. Mutual trade between Central Asian countries is growing faster than their total foreign trade.
Despite these positive trends, significant threats and challenges remain.
Uncertainty over global developments in interest rates, inflation, and commodity prices are clouding the long-term outlook for the region. Water and energy supply is an issue that requires constant attention, particularly in view of climate change and its consequences, including droughts and rising temperatures, which can lead to soil degradation and worsening conditions for agriculture and food security.
Enhancing cooperation between Central Asian states is vital
To ensure that Central Asia uses the presented opportunities and successfully navigates the challenges, it is vital to enhance cooperation between all the regional states.
The fourth consultative meeting of Central Asian leaders in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, in July 2022 was a milestone for regional cooperation.
Globalisation is being paralleled with increased regionalisation. Geopolitical uncertainties have caused mistrust among global powers. New rules and mechanisms of international relations are being proposed, including an updated security architecture. Asian countries should cooperate to adapt to the new realities and ensure we do not fall behind.
Kazakhstan is organising the first Central Asian Security and Cooperation Forum. It will be held on July 13-14 in Astana.
The forum will address the future dynamics in Asia. It will include the spheres of global and regional politics, economy, human capital, climate change, digital transformation, and governance. It will bring together leading international and Kazakh experts. Also, government and business representatives from around 30 countries.
The Asian region is rapidly becoming a political and geoeconomic centre. The 21st century will be the century of Asia. It is easy to see why. More than half of the world’s population lives in Asia, while 21 of the 30 largest cities in the world are located in the region. Asia is on track to top 50 per cent of global GDP by 2040 and drives 40 per cent of the world’s consumption, representing a real shift in the world’s centre of gravity.
As an integral part of the wider Asian region, Central Asia will continue to play a key role in facilitating trade and cooperation not just within Asia but also between East and West. The theme of this year’s forum is “Central Asia in the Changing World: Agenda for the Future.”