UNRCCA (Central Asia)
Expected Council Action
In January, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), Kaha Imnadze, is expected to brief Security Council members on UNRCCA’s work in closed consultations.
Key Recent Developments
Imnadze last briefed Council members in closed consultations on 10 August. Among other matters, he provided an update on UNRCCA’s activities pertaining to counter-terrorism, transboundary water management, and the women, peace and security, and youth, peace and security agendas. Imnadze also highlighted the resolution on the role of UNRCCA that the General Assembly adopted on 17 February 2023, and discussed the finalisation of the border negotiations between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the border dispute between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and electoral developments in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as the effect that the Taliban’s seizure of power has had on efforts to combat climate change in Afghanistan.
Since Imnadze’s last briefing, tensions between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have continued to ease. According to media reports, Kyrgyz and Tajik officials recently announced that they had reached preliminary agreement regarding demarcation of more than 90 percent of the disputed parts of the border between the two countries. Talks are expected to continue next year, with an 11 December 2023 statement from Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov reportedly expressing hope that the border issues will be resolved by the spring of 2024. The talks followed four days of fighting between Kyrgyz and Tajik border forces in September 2022, during which at least 100 people were reportedly killed and more than 130 others wounded.
The war in Ukraine has had a ripple effect in Central Asia, with several analysts noting that the conflict may have led to diminished Russian standing in the region and sparked increased diplomatic competition for regional influence among other member states. On 19 September, US President Joe Biden met with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Japarov, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on the sidelines of UN General Assembly high-level week. The meeting marked the first time that the “C5+1” format has met at the head of state level. In remarks delivered after the meeting, Biden noted that the leaders had discussed cooperation on counter-terrorism, regional economic connectivity, and a new initiative on disability rights. Less than two weeks later, on 29 September, leaders of the five Central Asian countries attended a summit with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have also travelled to Central Asia for high-level meetings in recent months, as has French President Emmanuel Macron.
The situation in Afghanistan continues to create challenges for Central Asian states. On 6 September, Tajik officials announced that Tajik forces had killed three members of a “terrorist group” who had entered Tajikistan from neighbouring Afghanistan. According to these officials, the three had crossed into Afghanistan intending to carry out a terrorist attack on 9 September, Tajikistan’s national holiday.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are also concerned about the construction of the Qosh Tepa irrigation canal in Afghanistan, a $684 million project that completed its first phase in October. At a conference held in Tajikistan in September, Mirziyoyev reportedly warned that the canal could “radically change the water regime and balance in Central Asia”.
On 28 November 2023, UNRCCA hosted the thirteenth annual meeting of deputy foreign ministers of Central Asian states. Participants exchanged views on options for addressing the challenges facing Central Asia, including climate change, transboundary water management, terrorism, and risks relating to the situation in Afghanistan. Attendees also discussed how UNRCCA can further support preventive diplomacy efforts, including through an increased role for women and youth in decision-making.
On 16 October 2023, UNRCCA participated in the regional forum on the implementation of resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security in Central Asia, held in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In his remarks, Imnadze emphasised the importance of resolution 1325 and called on a range of actors to address the gaps in its implementation across the region. Imnadze also highlighted the role played by the Central Asia Women Leaders’ Caucus in advancing women’s participation in efforts designed to counter transnational threats and peacebuilding processes in Central Asia.
Imnadze also participated in the fifth consultative meeting of the heads of state of Central Asia, which took place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 14 September. Attendees at the meeting discussed the prospects of expanding regional cooperation in trade, energy, security, transport, healthcare, and youth policy, among other matters.
Key Issues and Options
One of the main issues for the Council is how to make the best use of the UNRCCA’s expertise and whether there is anything else the Council can do to support the UNRCCA’s efforts to facilitate preventive diplomacy and regional cooperation.
The situation in Afghanistan and its impact on Central Asia is another issue for the Council. The Council could consider inviting a representative of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to participate in the consultations and provide information regarding developments in the country that may affect the wider region.
Council members are generally supportive of UNRCCA and view it as an important tool in promoting cooperation in Central Asia. Until 2015, Council members issued a press statement following the consultations, encouraging increased cooperation and coordination among the Central Asian countries, UNRCCA, and “relevant regional organisations”. In September 2015, however, Russia, the penholder on UNRCCA, sought to add specific references in the statement to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), as well as the OSCE and the EU. The P3 (France, the UK, and the US) opposed some of these additions, seeing the CIS, the CSTO, and the SCO as vehicles for enhancing Russian influence in the region. A press statement could not be agreed upon for more than two years owing to disagreements regarding this issue.
Kazakhstan was able to overcome these difficulties during its 2017-2018 term as an elected member by proposing compromise language. Press elements were issued in February 2017, and a press statement was agreed upon in January 2018.
Since then, however, Council members have again been unable to reach agreement on a UNRCCA press statement because of disagreements over referring to regional organisations. Press elements commending then-Special Representative and head of UNRCCA Natalia Gherman for her efforts and expressing support for UNRCCA’s work were read out following the UNRCCA consultations in January 2023.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNRCCA
|Security Council Letters
|7 May 2007S/2007/279
|This was a letter from the Secretary-General on the establishment of a United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Ashgabat.
|Security Council Press Statements
|25 January 2018SC/13179
|This was a press statement welcoming further cooperation and coordination between UNRCCA, the Central Asian States, and relevant regional organisations, including those organisations of which the Central Asian States are members.