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Regional coordination and support for the European Union Central Asia enhanced regional cooperation on Environment and Water: WECOOP

Background

The Central Asian countries are strongly interdependent regarding their water and energy resources and their environment. The most challenging issues for Central Asia are increasing water deficiencies, aggravated by the growing demand for water, and the degradation of aquatic and land ecosystems. The management of regional water resources between competing demands for human consumption, irrigation, industrial use and electricity production is essential. Climate change, population growth, industrialisation, urbanisation and deforestation are creating a huge burden on the water resources of the region. Unsustainable forest and land management leading to land degradation, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity are exacerbating water and environmental problems. Another problem is a lack of awareness (at both governmental and local levels) about the severity of environmental degradation in a desert region like Central Asia. This region is connected by cross-boundary rivers. Therefore, a regional and integrated approach to protecting these resources is essential.

Key factors affecting the region as a whole mostly relate to water which is an extremely valuable resource in Central Asia. Water, energy and environmental resources are closely linked to both geography and the vast infrastructure systems. The CA states are tightly interconnected through the management of these resources and the interdependence reflecting differences in natural resources endowment.

In the environmental sphere, perhaps the greatest challenge to be faced is the management of regional water resources between competing demands for human consumption, irrigation, industrial use and the generation of electricity.

To promote better cooperation both amongst the countries of the region and also between these countries and the EU, EU-CA regional political dialogue has been launched. This regional dialogue complements and reinforces the EUs bilateral relations with each individual state aiming at:

• safeguarding the stability and the security of the countries of the region

• poverty reduction and increase living standards in the context of Millennium Development Goals

• facilitating and promotion of closer regional cooperation both within Central Asia and between Central Asia and the EU, particularly in the energy, transport, higher education and water environmental sectors.

It has been broadly recognized that environmental integration is a key to good governance in tackling environmental and resource challenges. It is also widely agreed that the rational water management is a vital environmental challenge for the region and that there is a need to strengthen cooperation between EU and CA in taking steps to put environmental integration into practice.

Development Objective

To promote and support enhanced regional co-operation on environment and water both between EU and Central Asia and within Central Asia as called by the EU CA Strategy.

The purpose of the project is to support the development, effectiveness and visibility of the Environment and Water Cooperation Platform aiming at facilitating enhanced regional cooperation both between the EU and Central Asia and within Central Asia, through support to regular high-level meetings and joint expert working groups or other ad-hoc events, and through support to the strengthening of regional institutions responsible for environment and water issues.

One of the main priorities of the project is to ensure continuity and coordination of actions, and to provide further advancement in the areas that have already been initiated in beneficiary countries and been created by previous projects and other initiatives.

Activities

The EU Strategy for a New Partnership provides a framework for enhanced cooperation and increased regional approach to foster integrated and efficient resources management. The framework of the Strategy includes:

• regular high-level meetings to promote political dialogue with the Central Asian Countries

• transfer of knowledge, know-how and best practices, as well as capacity building and training for local experts and institutions

• strengthening regional cooperation for achieving sustainable economic and social development

• strengthen the regional approach for dealing with environmental trans-boundary issues, and to reinforce cooperation for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change

• high-level meetings to review the implementation of the environment and water pillar of the EU Central Asia strategy

The project will:

• act as the Technical Secretariat of the EU-CA Working Group on Environmental Governance and Climate Change (WG EGCC), providing technical and logistical support to the activities carried out within the framework of the Platform for Cooperation, in particular in relation with and support to the EU-Central Asia Joint Expert Working Group on Environmental Governance and Climate Change, but also to the EU-CA High-Level Conferences.

• liaise and collaborate with the German Transboundary Water Management Programme in Central Asia (GIZ) and the EU water Initiative (EUWI) both at regional level (EECCA Working Group chaired by Romania) and national level (UNECE and OECD, as well as EU Delegations).

• support EC IFAS and other IFAS technical bodies in implementation of the Aral Sea Basin Programme 3.

• disseminate information on the EU programmes and projects in the area of environment and water cooperation in Central Asia.

www.wecoop-project.org