June 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 May 2016
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ASIA

UNRCCA (Central Asia)

Expected Council Action

In June, the Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), Petko Draganov, is due to brief Council members in consultations on the work of the centre.

Key Recent Developments

In the period since his last briefing to the Council on 4 February, Draganov visited Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. He was in Kyrgyzstan from 22 to 24 March, where he met the president, Almazbek Atambaev, the speaker of parliament, Asylbek Jeenbekov, and the foreign minister, Erlan Abdyldaev, as well as civil society representatives.  Discussions focused on elections, judicial reform, and human rights and inter-ethnic relations, in addition to regional challenges that UNRCCA is mandated to deal with, such as terrorism, religious extremism, management of natural resources and border-related issues. Draganov praised Kyrgyzstan’s efforts aimed at democratic development, notably the recently held parliamentary elections, while stressing the need to further promote and protect human rights. (The OESC electoral observer mission for the 5 October 2015 parliamentary elections concluded that they “were competitive and provided voters with a wide range of choice” and were “unique in the region”. Local elections will be held later this year while presidential elections are scheduled for 2017.)

During his visit to Afghanistan, which took place from 19 to 21 April, Draganov had meetings with the deputy foreign minister, Hekmat Khalil Karzai, senior officials from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, as well as ambassadors from Central Asia and other key countries. Discussions focused on current developments in Afghanistan and the region, regional cooperation and the engagement of Central Asian countries in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. Joint efforts to counter security threats and support human development were also discussed.

The main event hosted by UNRCCA during the period was a regional seminar held on 29-31 March, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, entitled “Recognizing and Responding to Radicalization that Can Lead to Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Central Asia”. The seminar, which was co-organised with the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), aimed to support implementation of the joint plan of action for Central Asia under the UN global counter-terrorism strategy. It aimed to help participants gain a better understanding of the causes of radicalisation and develop strategies to more effectively prevent and combat this growing threat.  

UNRCCA also hosted a regular meeting in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, on 25 April of the mini-Dublin group, an informal coordination group of like-minded countries focused on the fight against illicit drugs. The meeting was attended by representatives of Turkmenistan law enforcement agencies, embassies and international organisations based in Ashgabat. Participants shared information about their activities related to the fight against illicit drugs in order to better coordinate their efforts.

In other developments, there was heightened tension between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan over a disputed border area between the two countries. On 18 March, according to news reports, two Uzbek armored personnel carriers and some 40 soldiers suddenly appeared near the area, prompting Kyrgyzstan to send two of its own armored personnel carriers and a similar number of troops the following day. Kyrgyz officials said the deployment by Uzbekistan was a violation of bilateral agreements between Bishkek and Tashkent not to militarise a tense situation along their common border. The standoff ended on 26 March with the two sides pulling back. The majority of the 1,314-kilometer-long Uzbek-Kyrgyz border is still undefined, and conflicts on and near border crossings in recent years have often been violent and led to civilian casualties.

Key Issues

Key issues include the rising threat of terrorism and extremism, ongoing tensions linked to border-related disputes, trans-boundary water management and drug trafficking. The regional impact of the situation in Afghanistan also remains a key issue, with recent reports of increased fighting along the Turkmen-Afghan border and Tajikistan taking steps to bolster its forces along the Afghan border due to the deteriorating security situation in northern Afghanistan.

With regard to UNRCCA, a key issue is whether UNRCCA’s role as a tool for preventive diplomacy 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.   

Another option is to change the format of the briefing from a closed to an open meeting, perhaps followed by consultations, as is the case for the semi-annual briefings by the UN Office for West Africa and the UN Regional Office for Central Africa. 

Council Dynamics

Since the establishment of UNRCCA in 2007, the semi-annual briefings on its work have normally been welcomed by Council members in a press statement commending the important role played by the centre as a conflict prevention tool, with Russia as the penholder. Following the last two briefings, however, in September 2015 and February 2016, Council members were unable to agree on a statement although they are generally supportive of the centre and agree that it plays a useful role.

It seems that in both cases the lack of consensus was mostly due to the fact that Russia proposed new language relating to UNRCCA’s cooperation with regional organisations. While recent statements simply encouraged increased cooperation and coordination between the Central Asian countries, UNRCCA and “relevant regional organizations” to strengthen the region’s capacity to overcome challenges to peace, stability and sustainable development, Russia proposed adding specific references in this context to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), OSCE and the EU. This was unacceptable to some other members, however, in particular France, the UK and the US, who saw it as an attempt by Russia to gain greater legitimacy through the UN for organisations they perceive as tools for spreading Russian influence in the region, notably CIS, CSTO and SCO. They, therefore, asked Russia to instead use agreed language from previous statements referring to cooperation with regional organisations more generally. Other members, however, were more flexible. At press time, it was unclear whether Russia intended to propose a press statement following the briefing in June.

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 Council President 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 to the Council concerning the establishment of UNRCCA.