February 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2016
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ASIA

UNRCCA (Central Asia)

Expected Council Action

In February, the Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), Petko Draganov, is scheduled to brief Council members in consultations. It is possible that this will be followed by a press statement, as has been the practice in the past.

Key Recent Developments

The last time Council members discussed UNRCCA was on 8 September 2015. It was Draganov’s first briefing since taking over the position as Special Representative from Miroslav JenĨa on 17 March. Breaking with previous Council practice, there was no press statement following the meeting. Russia, as the penholder, put forward a draft but decided to withdraw the text when some Council members requested changes that it was not willing to accommodate.  

Since the last briefing, Draganov has visited several key partners outside Central Asia. On 29 September, he had meetings in Brussels with the EU and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to discuss recent developments in the region and promote further coordination, especially in the field of preventive diplomacy. On 26-27 October, Draganov visited Beijing, where he met the Chinese deputy foreign minister and the secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Discussions focused on political and security dynamics in the region and ways to promote greater cooperation in dealing with key security threats, managing trans-boundary water resources and protecting the environment. On 23-24 November, he travelled to Moscow for meetings with senior Russian officials, including the special envoy of the president for Afghanistan. He also met with the deputy secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Among other things, they discussed how to further strengthen bilateral interaction between UNRCCA, Russia and the regional organisations. 

UNRCCA continued its efforts to promote regional cooperation on water resource management. On 23-25 September, the centre co-organised a workshop in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with the Kazakh-German University, titled “The management of trans-boundary water resources in Central Asia and Afghanistan in the context of climate change”. The discussion focused on integrated management of water resources and also on prospects for enhanced regional cooperation in the Aral Sea Basin. Also in Almaty, UNRCCA organised a roundtable on 11-12 November with the support of the US government on “Advancing regional dialogue on the efficient application of international law in the management of water resources as a factor for strengthening cooperation and stability in Central Asia”. It focused on the evolution of the law, its main norms and principles and their application in the context of the Aral Sea Basin. It also considered ways to strengthen trust and cooperation among regional states.   

In the area of counter-terrorism, Dragonov participated in an SCO conference on 22 October on cooperation against international terrorism and extremism, held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Addressing the conference, he underlined the increasing threat of terrorism and highlighted the role that regional organisations like SCO can play in complementing UN efforts in the field of preventive diplomacy. On the margins of the event, Dragonov met with an SCO official to discuss closer cooperation in promoting implementation of the UN global counter-terrorism strategy.     

On the issue of illicit drugs, on 15 October, UNRCCA hosted a meeting in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan of the mini-Dublin group, an informal coordination group of like-minded countries focused on the fight against illicit drugs. Apart from relevant embassies, the meeting was attended by representatives of Turkmenistan law enforcement agencies, several UN entities and the OSCE. Participants shared information about their forthcoming activities related to the fight against illicit drugs in order to better coordinate their efforts. 

UNRCCA also organised an international seminar titled “The impact of external factors on security and development in Central Asia”, which was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 9-10 December in cooperation with various institutes of strategic studies and the expert community in Central Asia. Participants discussed the problem of external challenges and threats to stability in the region, ways to respond to external negative factors, the prospects for strengthening security cooperation among states and the role of key partner countries and regional organisations. There was a special focus on the threats posed to the region by the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). 

In addition, on 27 November in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, UNRCCA hosted the annual meeting of deputy foreign ministers from the region aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and discussing how UNRCCA can best assist countries in addressing security threats. Topics discussed included the fight against transnational crime, the situation in Afghanistan, the management of water and energy resources, environmental security and main priorities for cooperation in 2016. 

Key Issues

Key issues include the rising threat of terrorism and extremism, ongoing tensions relating to trans-boundary water management and other border-related disputes, and drug trafficking. The regional impact of the situation in Afghanistan also remains a key issue. 

With regard to UNRCCA, a key issue is whether its role as a preventive-diplomacy tool could be further developed.

Options

One option for Council members is to issue a press statement, as they have done in the past, reaffirming the importance of conflict prevention, expressing support for UNRCCA’s activities in the region and reiterating other key elements from previous statements, such as highlighting the centre’s role relating to regional trans-boundary water management, counter-terrorism, drug trafficking and regional engagement with Afghanistan.   

Council Dynamics

Council members are generally supportive of the work of UNRCCA and agree that it plays a useful role in conflict prevention. It seems that the absence of a press statement following Draganov’s briefing last September was mostly due to the fact that Russia included new, more specific language on cooperation between UNRCCA and regional organisations, including references to SCO, CSTO and CIS. This was unacceptable to other members, however, who saw it as an attempt by Russia to gain greater legitimacy for these organisations through the UN. They therefore asked Russia to instead use agreed language from previous statements referring to cooperation with regional organisations more generally. At press time, it was unclear whether Russia intended to propose a statement following the briefing in February.

UN Documents

Security Council Press Statement
23 January 2015 SC/11751  was the most recent press statement on UNRCCA.
Security Council Letters
15 May 2007 S/2007/280 was a letter from the President of the Council to the Secretary-General taking note of his intention to establish UNRCCA.
7 May 2007 S/2007/279 was a letter from the Secretary-General informing the Council about the establishment of UNRCCA