UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tashkent yesterday, June 11, as part of his Central Asian tour. The Secretary-General was met at Tashkent International Airport by the Prime-Minister of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. After a brief conversation, the UN Delegation departed to the suburban Kuksaroy Residence.
The UN chief is scheduled to meet with President Islam Karimov and discuss the current state and prospects of bilateral cooperation and issues of regional and international scale.
This is the second visit by the UN chief to Uzbekistan, following his first trip in April 2010, when the sides signed the Joint Declaration on Cooperation between the Secretariats of The United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. He then visited Nukus and took part in the presentation of Uzbekistan’s achievements in improving the environmental situation in the Aral Sea region. He witnessed one of the world's worst environmental disasters as he flew over the shrinking Aral Sea – a sight which he said underscored the need for collective action to save the planet's resources. “This is a serious warning for all mankind. I urge all the leaders … to sit down together and try to find the solutions,” he said, promising United Nations support.”
The Central Asian tour of 2010 was widely discussed by foreign experts, who emphasized the importance of the tour in assessing Uzbekistan’s efforts to ensure regional security and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to the comments of US experts, the visit to Uzbekistan, where Ban Ki-moon took a trip to the shrunken Aral Sea, was the most memorable for him. Some American mass media quoted his following words: “It is clearly one of the worst environmental disasters of the world... It really left with me a profound impression, one of sadness that such a mighty sea has disappeared.”
Nikolai Zlobin, the then Director of Russian and Asian programs at the Center for Defense Information noted that the visit of the UN leadership indicated the growth of the strategic importance of Central Asia in all areas of global politics, starting from security issues and finishing with environmental challenges, especially those related to the impact of the Aral Sea Crisis. According to prominent Korean politician Lee Mang-song, despite the trip was eventful, visiting Uzbekistan was crucial in the context of raising the awareness of the Aral Sea crisis and equitable use of the Aral Sea Basin transboundary waters and attracting international support. Experts anticipate the current visit will help in finding practical solutions to mentioned issues and enhance the relationships between the parties.
Prior to his visit, the Secretary-General spoke to the UN News Service about what he hopes to accomplish.
“I fondly remember my visit to all the countries of Central Asia in April 2010, and have been eager to return. I am visiting Central Asia to support and promote a common response to the many cross-border challenges the region faces, including environmental issues, water and energy, drug trafficking and trans-boundary crime. I also hope to emphasize the importance of dialogue and cooperation. Countries in the region are seeking to build momentum on many priority issues, such as water and disarmament. I encourage further progress in this regard.
We will be soon transitioning to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. Its implementation depends on global solidarity through a renewed global partnership. As a land-locked region, Central Asia faces a particular set of challenges, such as the lack of territorial access to the sea, remoteness and isolation from world markets, and high transit costs. I am heartened that the post-2015 agenda addresses the needs of countries in special situations like this. I applaud the efforts to actively explore transport links within the Asia-Caucasus-Europe region to enhance trade.
This will be a universal agenda with responsibilities for all countries – developed and developing. The role of parliaments, a bridge between citizens and their governments, will be pivotal. They can help to galvanise action and foster accountability and implementation. I hope all of the countries of Central Asia will participate in the September summit at the highest level.”
Talking about the Aral Sea, Ban Ki-moon said, “I remember my April 2010 visit to the Aral Sea vividly. This disaster was long in the making. Decisions made in the 1960s and 1970s have had profound ramifications: the sea has shrunk, losing 60 per cent of its water volume and doubling in salt content, which has caused significant economic and social deterioration in the region. The purpose of my visit then was to highlight the need to make the right policy decisions to address climate change, food security and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, as well as to draw the international community’s attention to this disaster and mobilization of support. Since then, the UN has been assisting the region under its programme on sustaining the livelihoods affected by the Aral Sea disaster, but more attention and mobilization of resources are needed to address the multiplicity of challenges faced by the affected population.
Central Asia is also at risk from rising global temperatures leading to the melting of mountain glaciers. The majority of the region’s water – including the little water that still makes its way to the Aral Sea – originates from these glaciers. The melting of these glaciers threatens the region with an even greater ecological catastrophe than even the desiccation of the Aral Sea. In recent years, the UN agencies have increasingly focused on climate risk management and climate change adaptation projects in areas of the region that will be impacted most by climate change. The UN is closely cooperating with governments and development partners to scale up climate-change related projects and mitigate its effects, a global approach will be key to address climate change, and in this, the cooperation of the Central Asian countries will be essential.”