Central Asian youth unites to solve regional environmental problems!

Today, young people play a significant role in the life of the countries and societies. Young people on the path to growing up are always faced with the need to choose a profession, get a decent education and interesting work, as well as have access to opportunities for self-development in the future. However, whatever professional way a young man chooses for himself, he needs to keep in mind other important goals in his life and the life of the society, in which he plans to realize himself.


In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Agenda-2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the important goals is the SDG4: “Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It is assumed that by 2030, young people will be provided with the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for sustainable development, including by promoting green and healthy lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, a culture of peace, global citizenship and understanding of cultural diversity. The full participation of young people in the decision-making process and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is also important.


In this relation, the regional cooperation can significantly influence not only the achievement of the goals set for the countries, but also the effectiveness of the implementation of national development programs and strategies, including using the potential of the younger generation. For the full development of any region, it is necessary to use energy, willingness to change, creativity and innovative way of thinking of young people. In the context of growing globalization, the growth of the world’s population and the limited natural resources, it is important that young people can make a significant contribution to solving complex problems of world importance.


That is why today, as well as throughout the world, the role of new generation managers in Central Asia is increasing, since young people are more often ready to apply innovative technologies, use acquired skills and competences to jointly search for answers and solutions to global challenges, including environmental ones.


One of the platforms where these important issues related to environmental protection and sustainable development are raised and discussed by young leaders is the Central Asian Leadership Programme (CALP), which, for the tenth year in a row, has been organized by the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC) in cooperation and with support of its partners. This programme is designed for active, progressive, and eco-friendly youth from middle-level managers, academia, representatives of the private sector, entrepreneurship, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).


It is noteworthy that the CALP, being the flagship initiative of CAREC, today is the only regular programme to improve environmental capacity for sustainable development in Central Asia, which helps to ensure a comprehensive understanding of environmental protection and sustainable development. One of the principles of the Leadership Programme is the principle “Think globally, act locally, manage regionally!”.


CAREC is implementing this unique programme to increase the potential of the leaders of Central Asia, starting in 2010, and to this day. In the period from 2010 to 2018, about 250 participants of the Leadership Programme were released who work in the environmental, water, energy, non-governmental and academic sectors of the Central Asian region. Today, graduates of the CALP make significant contributions to the promotion of regional cooperation and sustainability in various sectors throughout the region. Our graduates not only collaborate, share experiences, work together in regional meetings and forums, but also study together at foreign universities, communicate, exchange useful information, make friends and support each other. We are proud that one of the graduates of the CALP in September 2018 was appointed as Vice-minister of the National Environmental Protection Agency in Afghanistan, some graduates work in the water and energy departments of the region, at the headquarters and country offices of CAREC, in environmental media, universities and NGOs, promoting values and the benefits of regional cooperation.


Traditionally, this event is held annually in September, and the 10th Anniversary CALP will be held from September 16 to September 22, 2019 in Almaty (Kazakhstan). The main objective of the event is to promote the unification of Central Asian youth through promoting and supporting a neutral regional platform for youth dialogue to discuss water cooperation, water diplomacy, gender equality, climate change, energy efficiency, the NEXUS approach between governments, academia, civil society and private business, and also strengthening the role and voice of young people in regional cooperation.

In 2019, the international partners of the CALP are the UN Environment, the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna, Austria, the OSCE Programme Office in Nur-Sultan, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Union, the World Bank, the Government of Finland and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).


The Anniversary CALP in 2019 will be held in an innovative format of active discussions with international experts and will be designed to demonstrate to specialists from different areas the benefits of regional cooperation on green economy, water management and energy, gender equality, and thereby contribute to the development potential of young leaders in Central Asia and Afghanistan.


It is worth noting that the organizers and partners of CALP in the selection of participants in the Leadership programme, the main criteria for online selection and the formation of the list of participants suggested gender equality. Of the more than 150 applications from Central Asia and Afghanistan, 30 candidates were selected – 5 from each target country.


In 2019, the Leadership Programme will be organized in conjunction with the “Regional Training on Water Diplomacy with a special focus on negotiating skills and gender-sensitive mediation” to be conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from September 23 to September 25, 2019 in Almaty. This event, as well as the CALP, is designed to draw attention to global environmental issues, water resources use, development of water diplomacy through young leaders and focus on gender factors.


Central Asian countries are rich in water resources; however, they are unevenly distributed. Climate change creates an additional burden on the environment, in particular, on water and land resources, and creates new challenges for the adoption of adequate institutional measures. Cooperative water management can help build trust and improve relations between different water users, neighboring communities and states. Currently, approximately 80% of the region’s population lives in some form of water scarcity, which is increasing due to the pressure of climate change. Current water management, from the grass-roots water user community and the basin level to the national level, does not take into account that women are the main water users at the community level, … and the participation of rural women in community water management, … often disproportionately compared to their participation in Water Supply and Agriculture (Smart Waters Project “Gender Scoping Status Report”, 2018).


This course will provide an opportunity to enhance the capacity of leaders and specialists in water resources in Central Asia in the issues of water management and water diplomacy, taking into account gender factors. Its speakers will be international experts and trainers from the International Center for Water Cooperation (under the auspices of UNESCO)/Stockholm International Water Resources Institute (SIWI), OSCE experts, graduates of previous regional training courses on gender mainstreaming in water management.


Successful implementation of the CA Leadership Programme and the OSCE Training on water diplomacy will largely depend on activity, interest in regional cooperation and adherence to the environmental values ​​of young CA regional leaders – participants in the CALP and the Training, as well as their willingness to promote in the future innovations in the field of climate change, energy efficiency, and water resources for the sustainable development of Central Asia and Afghanistan.