The Central Asia region (CA) comprises the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is a diverse region with a mix of upper middle and low income countries with major strategic importance due to their geographic location and natural resource endowments.
The World Bank Group recently marked the 20th anniversary of its engagement in Central Asia. Over this period, the Bank has supported the efforts of the countries to improve the living standards of their people, promote economic growth, and ensure that future generations benefit from sound environmental practices and social development.
The countries of Central Asia share more than just geography; they also share a similar legacy and, more importantly, a common vision for the future. Hence, the World Bank is increasingly approaching the development challenges of Central Asian countries through a regional lens. Such an approach facilitates cross-border cooperation and knowledge sharing and strengthens dialogue and collaboration between the countries.
One example of this approach applied is the Migration and Remittances Peer-Assisted Learning (MiRPAL) network which shares country experiences in establishing dialogue on migration policy. In Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, MiRPAL helped establish country-specific migration strategies and action plans which were approved by the governments.
Through the Central Asia Water & Energy Program (CAWEP), the World Bank is partnering with Central Asian governments and development partners to strengthen energy and water security in the context of a changing global environment. The program identifies threats and opportunities, strengthens institutions, stimulates investments and builds a transparent knowledge platform to foster dialogue on issues of common concern.
CAEWDP is actively engaged in technical assistance on energy and water issues with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and supports Turkmenistan and Afghanistan in regional engagements. The Bank also supports power sector interregional cooperation initiatives between Central Asia and South Asia. The proposed CASA-1000 project is one of these initatives and is the most advanced among others under CASAREM (Central Asia South Asia Regional Electricity Market). Read the latest correspondence on the matter here -- link.
CA countries rank among the most climate change vulnerable in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region. The Bank is actively facilitating timely sharing of knowledge and experiences accumulated at the national and global levels, identifying gaps in knowledge, deepening coordination for addressing common challenges in a collaborative manner.
The Central Asia Hydrometeorology Modernization Project (CAHMP) is another example of the Bank’s efforts to improve the accuracy and timeliness of delivery of weather, climate and hydrological services in the region with particular focus on Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, as well as enabling regional cooperation in hydrometeorology, including through sharing of related information. In trade policy, the Bank’s team is supporting client countries in CA with policy analysis and technical assistance.
The Central Asia Regional Trade activity, launched in FY 2013, is informing governments and stakeholders on number of components of a successful trade-agenda in the region, including analysis of outcomes and policies and recommendations to make trade integration more effective. However, the trade flows of Central Asia have an important bearing on transportation challenges. Within the region, distances are substantial and access to major markets involves very long travel distances.
The rapid economic expansion of China, Russia, and other nearby countries creates an unprecedented opportunity for Central Asia to emerge as a hub for trade and commerce. Kazakhstan provides an example of the large effort deployed by the region to upgrade its transport infrastructure at a fast pace. The country embarked on an ambitious roads development program – the Western Europe - Western China (WE-WC) International Transit Corridor Project (part of CAREC).
The Bank, with 2 projects of more than USD 3 billion in total, is the Government’s major development partner in the sector. Similar efforts are taking place in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and to a lesser extend in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. Central Asia Regional One Health (CAR/OH) was the first regional multisectoral technical assistance project, addressing food safety and control of zoonoses (infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans) in Central Asia.
While Central Asia Aids Project (CAAP) contributed to controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS by establishing regional mechanisms to support national HIV/AIDS programs in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, taking into account the region’s existing challenges, addressed common epidemic drivers and constraints.
The World Banks is also resetting its engagement with the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program to improve cooperation with developments partners - Asian Development Bank (ADB) in delivering results for the Client Member Countries—Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People's Republic of China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This will also help the WB leverage the CAREC platform for discussing and progressing on resolution of regional projects issues in ECA, SAR, and EAP more effectively. The other development partners of CAREC are European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).