Moving Forward to 2020
The CAREC Program has made tangible progress in moving toward its goal of development through cooperation over its first 10 years. Despite many challenges, CAREC has established itself as a premier regional cooperation program with a clear vision anchored on partnership, and a Comprehensive Action Plan, which defined shared priorities for cooperation.
As of 2015, 166 CAREC-related projects worth around $27.7 billion have been implemented in the four core areas of cooperation—transport, trade facilitation, trade policy, and energy. Some benefits of these projects are already clear:
- Better connectivity, allowing people and their businesses to move with greater ease and at less cost within their own country and throughout the CAREC region, increasing trade and improving the quality of life for all; and
- Progress toward energy efficiency, security, and trade on a regional basis which contributes to both productive capacity and social development.
In the course of CAREC’s evolution, many important lessons have been learned, and new challenges in the regional and global environment have emerged. These factors have compelled strategic adjustments and operational refinements as CAREC moves into its second decade of cooperation. The stock-take study that was prepared for the 9th Ministerial Conference discussed these lessons and identified strategic imperatives going forward in the next 10 years of regional cooperation.
CAREC 2020: Focus, Action, Results
At the 10th Ministerial Conference in 2011, ministers endorsed the CAREC 2020: A Strategic Framework for the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program 2011-2020 (CAREC 2020) that will guide the program in its next 10 years. CAREC 2020 reflects required enhancements to the Comprehensive Action Plan to move CAREC toward its vision of Good Neighbors, Good Partners, and Good Prospects. These include the following:
- Expanded trade and improved competitiveness through a focused, action-oriented, and results-driven program of regional projects and initiatives in transport, trade facilitation, energy, trade policy, and economic corridor development.
- A reenergized CAREC Institute to build capacity and share knowledge, to support CAREC priority sectors and themes as well as second-tier areas such as agriculture and public health.
- Identification of a medium-term (2011–2015) rolling list of priority investments and technical assistance projects, representing key regional projects that are also included in the participating countries’ national development plans. To date, the list has more than 68 transport projects amounting to $23 billion. Energy and trade projects have also been identified.
- Country ownership of projects and initiatives and their mainstreaming into the national development plans of participating countries. To meet the resource requirements of CAREC 2020, existing partnerships will be strengthened, and partnerships broadened to include other development partners such as bilateral donor agencies and the private sector. The first CAREC Development Partners' Forum was convened in November 2011 as part of the 10th Ministerial Conference to mobilize resources for the next 10 years.
- Performance monitoring by CAREC’s sector committees, and annual assessment of development effectiveness by senior officials through the CAREC results framework. The result framework is being improved by introducing indicators for CAREC 2020’s strategic objectives of expanded trade and improved competitiveness, which will help improve the link between CAREC’s sector outputs and its envisaged development impacts.
At the 11th Ministerial Conference, the Wuhan Action Plan was endorsed to guide the implementation of CAREC 2020. To achieve the objectives of expanded trade and improved competitiveness effectively and in a timely manner, the action plan emphasized these priority areas of actions: sector operational priorities, CAREC Institute Work Plan 2013-2017, and the Transport Facilitation Action Plan.
At the 15th Ministerial Conference, the Midterm Review of CAREC 2020 (MTR-CAREC 2020) was endorsed by CAREC senior officials, who reviewed the findings and recommendations of the MTR-CAREC 2020 for the accelerated formulation of a new long-term strategy for the region- CAREC 2025.
The new CAREC strategy must explore selective expansion of its agenda while taking into account national strategies of member countries and priorities of development partners. This would entail exploring new institutional mechanisms, such as flexible expert groups, innovations in development partnerships, and a regional investment framework that will facilitate financing and implementation of the new strategy. That said, priority actions will need to be carried out to ensure that CAREC 2020 agenda is completed.