The 16th Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Ministerial Conference was held in Dushanbe (Tajikistan).
CAREC Ministers from 11 member countries unanimously endorsed CAREC 2030, a new long-term strategy that will take the CAREC program to its third decade of operations.
The strategy is anchored on the mission to connect people, policies, and projects. It envisages scaling up and broadening CAREC’s mandate, including supporting regional economic and financial stability, and regional initiatives in the areas of tourism, agriculture and water resources, and health and education. At the same time, CAREC will maintain focus and its comparative advantage in the existing priority areas of transport, energy, trade, and economic corridors development.
Adoption of the CAREC 2030 strategy will also help countries in the region achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change targets under the Paris agreement, while aligning with national development priorities.
In his speech, Mr. Nakao announced that ADB will commit more than $5 billion to supporting CAREC 2030 in the next 5 years. This is about a quarter of the total ADB financing for projects in CAREC countries except the People’s Republic of China.
As part of ADB’s commitment, it has just approved a new $800 million Multi-Tranche Financing Facility for CAREC road corridor development in Pakistan. Next year, ADB will finance the first phase of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) transmission line project for $150 million. ADB has already begun discussions for regional projects in the areas of agribusiness, tourism, and railways covered in CAREC 2030.
ADB functions as the secretariat of the CAREC program. Cumulatively, the CAREC program has mobilized more than $30 billion of investments since it was set up in 2001. Over a third of this amount, or $10.5 billion, has been financed by ADB, and the rest by member governments and other development partners.
To date, CAREC financing has been used to build or rehabilitate 8,592 kilometers (km) of road and more than 5,103 km of rail across 6 transport corridors, strengthening connectivity and trade within and outside the region. Over 9,041 km of power transmission lines have been constructed, supporting the expansion of energy trade between energy surplus Central Asian countries and energy deficit countries in South Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Besides investments through projects, CAREC has contributed to trade facilitation, and capacity building and knowledge generation and sharing across CAREC countries. The CAREC Institute which is spearheading knowledge efforts is now operating as an intergovernmental organization.
In a joint statement titled the “Dushanbe Declaration,” CAREC Ministers highlighted that regional cooperation has become even more critical to meet their development goals. Ministers stressed the need to engage with the private sector, civil society, development partners, and other stakeholders in regional projects; and strengthen linkages with other regional cooperation programs including the Belt and Road Initiative.