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ADB President Commits More Than $5 Billion to Support New Strategy for Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation

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Today the 16th Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Ministerial Conference was held in Dushanbe. Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon made the keynote address. Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao made the special address.

The meeting was chaired by Minister of Economic Development and Trade Nematullo Khikmatullozoda. CAREC Ministers from 11 member countries[1] 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.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

[1] The 11 members of CAREC are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

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UNIDO and Kenya to increase cooperation for inclusive and sustainable industrial development

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LI Yong, the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), arrived for a two day official visit to Kenya where he will meet numerous high-level government and private sector representatives, including H. E. President Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the Africa Heads of State and Government who are also Champions for the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III).

During his official visit, LI Yong will also meet with the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with whom he will have the opportunity to discuss stronger collaboration, including through UNIDO’s Programme for Country Partnership (PCP), the Organization’s innovative model for accelerating inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

Further, the UNIDO Director General will meet key private sector representatives, including from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and will pay a visit to the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI). The two day visit will allow LI Yong to also meet with donors and development partners, including the UN Resident Coordinator and the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) as well as, inter alia, the Head of Development Cooperation and Acting Ambassador of the EU delegation to Kenya and the Ambassador of Italy to Kenya.

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UN Security Council discusses Kashmir- China urges India and Pakistan to ease tensions

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

The Security Council considered the volatile situation surrounding Kashmir on Friday, addressing the issue in a meeting focused solely on the dispute, within the UN body dedicated to resolving matters of international peace and security, for the first time since 1965. 

Although the meeting took place behind closed doors in New York, the Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Jun, spoke to reporters outside the chamber following deliberations, urging both India and Pakistan to “refrain from taking any unilateral action which might further aggravate” what was an already “tense and very dangerous” situation. 

The Indian-administered part of the majority-Muslim region, known as Jammu and Kashmir had its special status within the constitution revoked by the Indian Government on 5 August, placing it under tighter central control. Pakistan has argued that the move violates international law. 

The UN has long maintained an institutional presence in the contested area, which both countries claim in its entirety, with the areas under separate administration, divided by a so-called Line of Control. The UN Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) observes and reports on any ceasefire violations.  

In a statement issued on 8 August, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he had been following the situation in Jammu and Kashmir “with concern”, making an appeal for “maximum restraint”.  

“The position of the United Nations on this region is governed by the Charter…and applicable Security Council resolutions”, said the statement. “The Secretary-General also recalls the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan also known as the Simla Agreement, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means”, in accordance with the UN Charter

Ambassador Zhang said Council members had “expressed their serious concern” concerning the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir…The Kashmir issue should be resolved properly through peaceful means, in accordance with the UN Charter, the relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.” 

Pakistan requested the Security Council meeting on 13 August, and it was subsequently called for by Permament Member, China.  

Speaking to reporters outside the chamber, Pakistan’s Ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi said the meeting had allowed “the voice of the people of the occupied Kashmir” to be heard “in the highest diplomatic forum of the world.” She argued that “the fact that this meeting took place, is testimony to the fact that this is an international dispute.” 

She said that “as far as my country is concerned, we stand ready for a peaceful settlement of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I think today’s meeting nullifies India’s claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter for India. Today the whole world is discussing the occupied state and the situation there.” 

Speaking a few minutes later, India’s Ambassador, Syed Akbaruddin, said that “our national position was, and remains, that matters related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, are entirely an internal matter of India…The recent decisions taken by the Government of India and our legislative bodies are intended to ensure that good governance is promoted, socio-economic development is enhanced for our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.” 

He said that the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir had announced measures which would return the region towards a state of “normalcy” 

“India remains committed to ensure that the situation there remains calm and peaceful. We are committed to all the agreements that we have signed on this issue.” 

But without naming names, he stated that “of particular concern is that one state is using terminology of jihad against and promoting violence in India, including by their leaders”, adding that India was committed to the principle “that all issues between India and Pakistan, as well as India and any other country, will be resolved bilaterally, peacefully, and in a manner that behooves normal inter-state relations between countries.” 

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ADB to Help Drive Modernization in First Loan for Sri Lanka’s Railway Sector

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $160 million loan to modernize the operations and improve the efficiency of Sri Lanka Railways, the country’s railway operator, by upgrading its infrastructure and technical capacity. This is ADB’s first loan in Sri Lanka’s railway sector.

“There is a need to improve public transportation in Sri Lanka to serve a growing population, expected to reach 25 million by 2050,” said ADB Transport Specialist Mr. Johan Georget. “An improved railway system will help promote the development of services and industries across Sri Lanka, as well as put the railway as a viable transportation mode of choice for the people. This is particularly the case in suburban Colombo, where the impacts of traffic congestion are strongly felt by all road commuters as vehicle numbers have doubled between 2008 and 2018, while rail commuters often face overcrowded trains.”

Sri Lanka Railways moves 136.7 million passengers and 2 million tons of goods annually. However, the market share of the railway sector has progressively declined over the years, while the country’s railway infrastructure is overdue for significant upgrades and modernization. The network’s signaling and telecommunication systems are outdated, and the paper tickets are manually printed for all ticket classes and station pairs. Sri Lanka Railways owns 250 diesel locomotives and multiple units, but only about three-quarters of them are operational and half of the fleet is more than 30 years old.

The Railway Efficiency Improvement Project will finance the modernization of the country’s railway system in several aspects to improve the operations, maintenance, safety, skills development, and technical capacity of Sri Lanka Railways. The project will provide a modern multichannel—paper, mobile, and smart card—ticketing system, and will also install a state-of-the-art telecommunications system, which will replace the original system installed in 1985, and allow for two-way communications with train drivers and reduce train delays. The project will also finance a new operations headquarters and train control center, provide infrastructure and equipment for the maintenance of track and rolling stock, and improve railway safety. The technical training center of Sri Lanka Railways will be upgraded and new courses will be developed to provide future graduates with knowledge of modern railway technologies.

The project will also strengthen the capacity and readiness for future railway projects. This will include a detailed study for the Kandy suburban railway network; a study on transit-oriented development and land value capture; the preparation of a railway asset inventory and a land management strategy; and the modernization of the information technology and maintenance capacity of Sri Lanka Railways.

The total cost of the project is $192 million, with the Government of Sri Lanka providing $32 million. The expected project completion date is the end of 2024.

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