Conference Promotes Dialogue on Border Dynamics in Central Asia

Date: 05 February 2020
Kindness to one’s neighbour is an important value in Central Asian culture. However, over the past decades, new realities have emerged where conflicts and threats have become more and more common in neighboring countries of the former Soviet Republics, and are echoed on political stages locally, regionally, and internationally.

On February 5th, a regional conference was organised by the University of Central Asia’s (UCA) Mountain Societies Research Institute (MSRI) on “The Art of Neighborhoods: Border Dynamics, Natural Resources, and Mobility in Central Asia.” The event gathered over 100 leading experts, representing state and international organisations, research centres, and academic institutes, who shared their experiences from Central Asia, Great Britain, Germany, the Caucasus, and China. 

Participants at the Border Dynamics Conference.
A range of topics were discussed including cooperation practices in the region;how systems of cross-border management of natural resources can be adapted to emerging crisis; and how dynamics of the economy and water cooperation can lead a modern regional agenda.

According to Asel Murzakulova, Senior Research Fellow of MSRI, transboundary territories are the subject of heated debates in practically all countries of Central Asia, and is only viewed through the prism of national interests. Over the past four years, UCA’s MSRI has conducted research in the Fergana valley, studying the dynamics of natural resources' management, and problems faced by transboundary communities in the context of natural resources, human security, and social cohesion challenges.

“For the Isfara river, which feeds the densely populated Fergana region, it makes no difference where people put their borders. What matters is for neighboring countries to coordinate their national interests in a way that does not exhaust their vital resources,” said Murzakulova, who presented MSRI’s research findings at the conference. “In this context, the expertise and recommendations from this conference could be useful for decision making, and developing appropriate policies.”

The conference also featured speakers from other international think tanks, who discussed resource management in a global context; nationalism and regionalism in Central Asia; the experience of the Ingiloy ethnic community at the Azerbaijani-Georgian borderlands; agricultural change in  Tajikistan and at Kazakhstan-China borderlands; recent trends in economic cooperation in Central Asia; challenges in trade and tourism development in the region, as well as water resources. 

The keynote speakers at the conference included researchers from the University of Oxford, Ruhr-University in Germany, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, “Bilim Karvoni” non-governmental Research and Education Institution in Uzbekistan, Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Institute in China, and UCA’s Institute of Public Policy and Administration.

The conference was organised in the framework of “Improving Stability and Better Natural Resource Management in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan” project implemented by the University of Central Asia’s Mountain Societies Research Institute and funded by the Government of the United Kingdom (UKAid).
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