Regional Cooperation in Central Asia: Relevance of Foreign Models
A renewed spirit of regionalism is emerging in Central Asia, manifested most overtly in a summit of Central Asian leaders in Astana in March 2018, and the passage of a United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Central Asian region in June of the same year. This has important implications for the region, and will inevitably lead to efforts to institutionalize regional cooperation. As Central Asians ponder how to anchor regionalism in institutions, the experiences of countries as diverse as the Nordic countries, South America, and Southeast Asia may all be relevant. After all, these and other world regions offer a rich history of efforts to develop regional cooperation. They have achieved successes, endured failures, and grappled with challenges that are not dissimilar from those faced by Central Asian leaders today.
Questions range from the technical to the political. How should the freedom of movement of people, labor issues, or trade facilitation be handled? How is regional cooperation affected by the fact that regional countries do not share the same patterns of membership in international organizations? How deeply institutionalized should regional structures be? How do they relate to outside powers, particularly large ones and potential hegemons? These questions are the focus of the following sections.
By Batir Tursunov
September 5, 2018, the CACI Analyst
At its June 22, 2018, plenary session, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on “Strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian Region.” According to Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry, all UN members unanimously supported the draft document, developed by Uzbekistan along with other Central Asian states.
By Farkhod Tolipov
April 10, 2018, the CACI Analyst
On March 15, 2018, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and the speaker of Turkmenistan’s parliament gathered in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana for a long-awaited meeting. Notably, the meeting was five-lateral, not four-lateral like previous meetings, and was consultative. Over 10 years have passed since the latest regional meeting of the Central Asian leaders. Not least for geopolitical reasons, the regional integration process that started in 1991 has since declined. This consultative meeting signaled a possible revitalization of regional cooperation, while the region remains in the shadow of great power politics.
By Johan Engvall
March 22, 2018, the CACI Analyst
Something is stirring in Central Asia. The past two weeks have seen a flurry of bilateral and multilateral get-togethers, starting on March 9, when Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrived with great fanfare in Dushanbe for the first state visit of a president of Uzbekistan to Tajikistan since 2000. Less than a week later, on March 15, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as well as the speaker of Turkmenistan’s parliament gathered in Astana for the first exclusively regional “summit” in almost a decade. What do these meetings, each producing several intriguing bilateral and multilateral agreements and statements, mean for the prospects of Central Asian countries finally embarking upon a path of development through cooperation?
By Jacob Zenn
November 9, 2017, the CACI Analyst
On October 16, Kyrgyzstan announced that the winner of the country’s presidential election with 54 percent of the vote was Sooronbay Jeenbekov. The election nonetheless received criticism for the way it was carried out from international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Other commentators have noted that the departing president, Almazbek Atambayev, also invested personal and state resources to support Jeenbekov’s election. Kyrgyzstan’s reputation as the “island of democracy” in Central Asia has suffered a setback. Amid other concerns about jihadist radicalization in the country, Kyrgyzstan will struggle to reclaim its reputation as a democratic model for the region, especially in the eyes of its neighbors.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.