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Against the background of the growing political instability in the world and escalation of international, regional and internal conflicts, measures for their early prevention and neutralization become particularly important and relevant. In this context that the traditional post-factum dispute resolution schemes often do not produce the desired outcomes the focus is shifting on preventive diplomacy, which is still underestimated as a factor of international politics. For several years now, Turkmenistan has been persistently and consistently proposing its use as an important proactive political and diplomatic instrument. In this regard, the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia - a body in many respects unique in terms of the specifics and range of tasks assigned to it - has a great role to play.
On November 17, 2017, in New York, at its 72nd session, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed the resolution "The Role of the United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia" that was initiated by Turkmenistan. The resolution was co-sponsored by 57 states representing all continents.
The resolution reaffirms the importance of preventive diplomacy in supporting the UN efforts to ensure peaceful resolution of disputes, recognizes the role of the Regional Center in assisting the Central Asian states to enhance regional cooperation with the view of countering transnational threats to peace and supporting sustainable development.
The initiative to establish the Center belongs entirely to Turkmenistan that since the early 2000s has been persistently advocating for the adoption by the international community of a substantive and systematic approach to issues related to ensuring peace and security in the Central Asian region. According to Ashgabat, the effective use of preventive diplomacy tools and measures of early warning of conflict situations could be one of the most important conditions for this. The idea was gradually accepted and supported by the international community and, first of all, by the regional states. In May 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Chairman of the Security Council, American diplomat Zalman Khalilzad exchanged letters expressing mutual agreement on the advisability of establishing a special body in Central Asia that would monitor the situation in the region and develop measures to prevent and neutralize potential conflicts in a timely manner. Already at the end of December of the same year, the UN General Assembly decided to establish such a structure with headquarters in Ashgabat. A few weeks later, the blue flag of the United Nations was hoisted over the building that was provided by the Turkmen government for the Center.
Assessing the past period, it is clear that the decision to establish the Regional Center, which was unanimously approved by the UN General Assembly and supported by all the countries of Central Asia, turned out to be right, timely and strategically justified.
All these years, the Regional Center has carried out its activities in strict compliance with its goals and objectives based on the principles of the UN Charter. From the very beginning, the Center embarked on a course of establishing close and constructive cooperation with the governments of the regional states, individual ministries and departments, public associations, research and educational institutions, other national structures, diplomatic missions and offices of international organizations accredited in Turkmenistan and neighboring countries. This made it possible to ensure good interaction, delve deeply into national and regional specifics. Now this structure serves as an effective link between the United Nations and the countries of Central Asia in solving many emerging issues. The main of them is naturally the work to prevent and neutralize the threats and challenges facing the region, establish a solid foundation for peace, security and strategic stability. In this regard, it is no coincidence that during its meeting in August 2012 the UN Security Council, noting the importance of preventive diplomacy and early resolution of disputes, supported the efforts of the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia.
Over the years, the Regional Center has established constructive working relations with other international structures and regional organizations, such as the OSCE, the European Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States and others. In the course of its work, common approaches are being developed to such urgent problems as transnational threats, terrorism, extremism, organized crime, drug trafficking, environmental degradation and management of trans-boundary water and energy resources, regional security in the context of the situation in Afghanistan.
In mid-2010, the Center opened its offices in all states of the region. This step helped to significantly expand opportunities for holding bilateral and multilateral consultations and events of various formats for regular exchange of views. For example, the Center held a series of international seminars on International Water Law and talks on water agreements in Central Asia. A number of expert and agency-level meetings were held discussing implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy to enhance cooperation in the field of countering terrorism. Such events contributed to the adoption of Joint Action Plan and Joint Declaration that became important instruments in consolidating the efforts of the international community in this area. Regular trainings on preventive diplomacy for young professionals are certainly useful.
It is evident that a lot has been done over the past years. But time moves on, new phenomena and new factors spring up, which indeed affect the situation both at the global and regional level. They require further thought, thorough analysis and an adequate response. It is here that ample opportunities open up for the use of tools of preventive diplomacy, identification and use of modern negotiation mechanisms, innovative models of interaction. In this regard, the Central Asian states and international organizations have great prospects to constructively influence regional processes into a positive channel, embedding them in the context of cooperation on a strong and long-term basis. The UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia is destined to play an important role in this work.
The Center's potential will be of great use in such important area as energy security. As part of its mandate, the Center is called upon to take measures to establish a region-wide energy dialogue. Turkmenistan has consistently declared its readiness to cooperate fully with the Center and provide necessary support to its activities. It is also evident that this support will be especially relevant in the light of construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline that can have a serious positive impact on strengthening security, stabilizing the political and socio-economic situation in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.
The potential of the Center can be successfully used in such important aspect of regional interaction as transport and communications. The Center can use diplomatic tools to step up work in this direction, analyze the prospects for establishing modern regional transport and transit infrastructure in terms of its impact on the general political situation and strengthening interstate cooperation. The modern politics and economics are inseparable from each other and, as practice shows, joint economic, trade and investment projects can smooth over and neutralize the most heated foreign policy controversies and serve as effective measures of preventive diplomacy.
Environmental security is one of the most pressing issues affecting the vital interests of all Central Asian states and neighboring regions. It is a multifaceted problem, and diplomacy is one of the ways to address it, among others. Turkmenistan strongly believes that environment should not be a bone of contention, a hostage to various industrial and economic interests of states. On the contrary, Ashgabat sees cooperation in the environmental sphere, through the introduction of advanced technologies of the "green economy", as the key to solving many issues of sustainable development of Central Asia and improving the socio-economic conditions of people. And here, the Regional Center can play a positive role, acting as one of the coordinators of multilateral cooperation with participation of special international and national structures. First of all, we are talking about preserving the unique natural resources of the Caspian Sea and saving the Aral Sea.
The Afghan problem is one of the important areas of work of the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia. The Center has been particularly instrumental in monitoring the situation in this country, taking part in various international events on this issue. The Center's recommendations and assessments are important for planning the actions and steps of the world community to resolve the situation in Afghanistan.
The international community needs to make utmost efforts to ensure long-term peace, stability and security in this country and even closer international coordination to resolve intra-Afghan conflict by peaceful, political means, restoring the economy and social sphere and addressing humanitarian issues. In this context, preventive diplomacy and hence the Regional Center have objectively the greater responsibility and role to play.
Strengthening the security system in the region is directly related to building up joint efforts in the field of disarmament. This requires systemic multilateral interaction between states and reputable international organizations in order to impart a consistent and irreversible character to disarmament processes. In fact, we are talking about the establishment in this part of the globe of the fundamentally new political-psychological background, conducive to the affirmation and consolidation of the non-confrontational worldview in relations between states, a conscious rejection of military force as a tool to solve existing problems or controversial issues. According to Turkmenistan, this approach is the most important condition for building truly good-neighborly relations in the region of Central Asia and the Caspian basin, opens up a whole layer of new opportunities for cooperation, development, improvement of quality and standards of living of people, successful integration into global processes as a region free from the risks of conflicts and confrontations and therefore attractive for external investments and long-term international projects in various fields. In this context, disarmament issues should also remain among the main priorities of the Regional Center.
The events happening nowadays in various parts of the world rapidly change the geopolitical picture, transforming views on the course and nature of regional and global processes. Therefore, a strong commitment to the principles and goals that underlie the activities of the United Nations, adherence to its high humanistic ideals that proved their viability and universality become all the more valuable and important in international affairs.
It is thus especially important to support the activities of a special body such as the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia that embodies the international community's determination to consistently uphold these ideals.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005