The meeting of the Steering Committee of the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region

July 14 this year was marked by the 4th meeting of the Steering Committee of the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region created under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) via video-conferencing.

Co-chairpersons, i.e. of the Steering Committee: Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan S. Umurzakov and UN Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan Helena Fraser headed the meeting.

Deputy Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan B. Abidov, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan M. Dimovska, UNICEF Permanent Representative in Uzbekistan S. Graumann, as well as representatives of UN agencies, donor organizations and the non-governmental sector attended the meeting.

The meeting considered the results of the applications for project financing submitted during the first social function of the Trust Fund held in December 2019. The first submission of applications involved approval and financing of 2 projects totaling USD 3.1 million, including a joint project between UNDP and UNESCO on the construction of water supply networks and reconstruction of water treatment facilities in some settlements in the Aral Sea region, as well as on the organization of scientific expeditions to study possible planting on the dried bottom of the Aral Sea. The second project is an initiative of UNICEF and UNFPA to modernize the perinatal institutions in Nukus and the districts of the Republic of Karakalpakstan. It should be noted that constant monitoring by the Trust Fund Technical Secretariat ensures high-quality and timely implementation of these projects.

Here, the attendees noted that currently much attention is being paid to measures mitigating negative effects of the Aral Sea crisis. There is a Program of Social and Economic Developments of the Republic of Karakalpakstan for 2019-2021, including more than 1000 projects totaling USD 1.5 billion developed and being implemented in the healthcare system, construction, textile, pharmaceutical, food, tourism and chemical industries.

Moreover, the Investment Program of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020-2022 provides the implementation of 28 projects totalling USD 3.4 billion in Karakalpakstan.

The comprehensive work is focused on the further development of the region, namely the development of industry, the establishment of major and small industries in various sectors, the creation of favorable conditions for the development of entrepreneurship, the wide adoption of advanced technologies in agriculture, the creation of a modern, convenient for the population and production infrastructure, as well as comprehensive measures to increase quality for the life of the Aral Sea population.

The attendees separately noted the initiatives implemented in the environmental sphere, including protective forest planting on the dried part of the Aral Sea and the rest of the region. Currently, there were UZS 100 billion allocated for this project, and the planting area reached 1.2 million hectares in the winter – spring period of 2019-2020.­

The Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan expressed its special gratitude to the representatives of Finland for contributing EURO 1 million to the Fund, as well as to the Delegation of the European Union in Uzbekistan for contributing EURO 5 million. It is expected to sign an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Korea on contributing EURO 1 million to the Fund in the near future.

During the meeting, the attendees considered the applications developed and submitted during the second submission to finance 3 projects worth USD 12.4 million under 'Youth', 'Innovation' and 'Healthcare' lines. The Evaluation Commission involving top officials of the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade, representatives of UN agencies, research institutes, and the Jokargy Kenes of the Republic of Karakalpakstan reviewed these applications, accepted their compliance with the relevant requirements of the Trust Fund and approved them in a prescribed manner.

Separately they noted the projects for the construction of a multifaceted hospital in Muynak district, which will expand access to health services for the population of the most affected northern regions of the Republic of Karakalpakstan. The project received fundamental support from partners and is subject to approval in the near future after finalization of the feasibility study as a part of the second submission of applications.

Representatives of UNICEF and UNDP addressed a brief presentation on the progress in the projects approved according to the decision of the second meeting of the Steering Committee on June 3, 2019.

The attendees considered the holding of the first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Sustainable Development of the Aral Sea region on the platform of the Trust Fund created by the decision of the Steering Committee dated December 16, 2019. The Advisory Committee should become a single platform for a meaningful dialogue between the government, civil society and partners to develop various aspects of the social and economic development of the Aral Sea region.

Following the meeting, the attendees reconfirmed the commitment to further systematic cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the UN, as well as its field-oriented agencies to effectively use the Trust Fund as a tool for information exchange, dialogue on various issues regarding the development of the Aral Sea region, sharing of knowledge and innovative approaches to solve existing environmental, social and economic concerns.

For reference: Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region is an innovative mechanism created in 2018 under the auspices of the United Nations. It's goal is to develop international cooperation and mobilize donor funds to actually implement comprehensive measures focused on improvement of the environmental, social and economic situation in the Aral Sea region. Since its creation, the Fund's donor contributed USD 11.2 million.

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