January 2018 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 December 2017
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ASIA

UNRCCA (Central Asia)

Expected Council Action

In January 2018, the Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), Natalia Gherman, will brief Council members in consultations on key regional issues, including the threat of terrorism and extremism, the impact of the situation in Afghanistan, drug trafficking, trans-boundary water management, and tensions linked to border-related disputes.

UNRCCA was established in 2007 for an open-ended time period.

Key Recent Developments

The briefing in January will be the first occasion for Gherman to address Council members in her capacity as Special Representative for UNRCCA, a post she was appointed to on 15 September 2017 (she succeeded Petko Draganov, who had served in the position since May 2015).

On 17 November 2017, the General Assembly adopted a resolution marking the tenth anniversary of the establishment of UNRCCA and emphasising the Centre’s role in preventive diplomacy in the region. The Secretary-General initiated the process to create the Centre in May 2007, and it was formally established on 10 December in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. On 11 December 2017, UNRCCA organised a meeting of foreign ministers from Central Asian countries to mark the anniversary. The meeting was held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan and focused on security developments and regional cooperation. Following the meeting, the participants issued a joint declaration, which among other things, welcomed the General Assembly resolution on UNRCCA adopted in November.    

From 10 to 11 November, UNRCCA and the regional office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime co-organised a conference on security and development in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The participants included high-level officials from Central Asia and the wider region as well as representatives of various international organisations, such as the EU, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The conference provided a forum for the participants to address security and development; political, social and economic cooperation; and the role of international organisations in implementing regional development projects.         

In November 2017, UNRCCA participated in the seventh ministerial-level Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, held in Ashgabat. The conference focused on ongoing investment projects and regional cooperation in the areas of energy, transport, communication and trade. On 30 November and 1 December, Gherman participated in the seventh ministerial conference “Heart of Asia”-Istanbul Process held in Baku. This annual conference seeks to address challenges in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

Since assuming the post in September, Gherman has visited several countries in the region, where she has met with high-ranking government officials. This included visits to China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Issues and Options

One of the main issues for the Council is how to make better use of UNRCCA’s experience in conflict prevention and what more the Council could do to support UNRCCA’s role in preventive diplomacy and regional cooperation.

The situation in Afghanistan and its effects on the Central Asian region is another issue for the Council to consider, as well as how to incorporate the regional impact in its regular debates on Afghanistan. 

Since the Centre was established ten years ago, the Central Asian region has seen the emergence of a new set of challenges, mainly the rise of terrorism and extremism. An issue for the Council is whether to review the mandate of the Centre to better address these new challenges.

In addressing the aforementioned issues, the Council could consider several options. Regarding the regional impact of the situation in Afghanistan, the Council could invite the UNRCCA Special Representative to participate in the regular debates on Afghanistan. When the Council extends UNAMA’s mandate in March 2018, it could request the Secretary-General to include comprehensive and integrated analysis of the regional impact in the UNAMA report, using contributions from the UNRCCA.  

The Council could request a review of UNRCCA’s mandate and activities to assess the effectiveness of the regional office and to determine whether there is a need to modify the scope of its activities.

Another option for the Council would be to change the format of the briefing from a closed to a public meeting, thus allowing Council members to publicly express support for the work of UNRCCA.  

Council Dynamics  

While Council members are generally supportive of UNRCCA’s work, tensions between Russia and the P3 members have emerged over the past two years regarding the inclusion of language on cooperation with specific regional organisations in a press statement that had been customarily issued following each briefing. This practice of issuing a press statement commending UNRCCA’s conflict-prevention role started in 2008 and was interrupted in 2015. These statements usually encouraged increased cooperation and coordination between the Central Asian countries, UNRCCA, and “relevant regional organisations” to strengthen the region’s capacity to overcome challenges to peace, stability and sustainable development. In September 2015, however, Russia, the penholder on this issue, sought to add specific references to cooperation between the Central Asian countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), CSTO and the SCO, as well as the OSCE and the EU. The P3 opposed this addition, as they tend to see the CIS, the CSTO and the SCO as vehicles for enhancing Russian influence in the region. Similar differences arose in February 2016.

During a 28 October 2016 debate on cooperation between the UN and the CIS, CSTO, and SCO, the US noted that in the case of Georgia and Ukraine, the CSTO and CIS failed to defend or advocate the principle of territorial integrity. The UK did not single out any of these organisations individually, but noted that cooperation between the UN and regional organisations must be based on adherence to the Charter principles.     

In February 2017, while again unable to issue a press statement, Council members succeeded in agreeing on press elements following the 2 February briefing in consultations by the head of the UNRCCA. The comments read out by the Council President welcomed the briefing, reaffirmed the importance of conflict prevention tools, acknowledged the role of UNRCCA, and encouraged greater cooperation between the states in the region, UNRCCA, and relevant regional organisations. 

As the only Central Asian country on the Council and a member that is directly involved in UNRCCA’s work, in 2017, Kazakhstan has attempted to find a compromise and suggest possible alternatives to Russia’s proposals. Nonetheless, no compromise was possible because of diverging and entrenched positions of the P3 and Russia, and there were no public comments following the June briefing by the head of UNRCCA.

UN DOCUMENTS

Security Council Press Statement
23 January 2015 SC/11751 This press statement welcomed the briefing in consultations on 21 January by Miroslav Jenĉa, the Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, and reiterated support for UNRCCA as an early-warning and preventive-diplomacy tool.
General Assembly Document
17 November 2017 A/RES/72/7 This resolution was on the tenth anniversary of the establishment of UNRCCA and emphasising the Centre’s role in preventive diplomacy in the region.