The Central Asian nation of Tajikistan is home to more than eight million people. It is bordered by Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and China. This beautiful and mountainous country is filled with ice-capped ranges as well as an abundance of lakes, flora and fauna. There are about 947 rivers longer than 10 kilometers with a total length of more than 28500 kilometers. The rivers account for 60% of all hydro-resources of central Asia. Tajikistan’s soil, and its flora and fauna are determined by the alpine environment. The flora abounds in wild fruit-bearing trees and in numerous species of plants, which are widely used by the population. Animals are also abundant. Tajikistan boasts some 80 species of mammals, more than 365 kinds of birds, 49 kinds of reptiles, 40 kinds of fish and 10 thousand various species of insects. One can observe such predators as snow leopards, lynx, bears, hyenas, otters, wolves, foxes and martens, as well as deer and rock-goats.
At present, there are 4 natural reserves (“Tigrovaya Balka”, “Romit”, “Dashti Jum”, and “Zorkul”), 13 sanctuaries and two national parks in Tajikistan. The total protected makes 21% of the total territory of the Republic of Tajikistan and is also richly endowed with mineral deposits. Currently, more than 400 deposits have been identified, about 100 of which are being exploited. Some 40 kinds of raw materials are being extracted, such as fossil minerals (about 10) and ores and non-metallic resources (about 90). Tajikistan has the largest coal reserves in Central Asia. The estimated total geological coal reserves amount to some four billion tons. Eighty percent is coking coal. Deposits have been discovered for many rare and precious metals such as zinc, lead, bismuth, molybdenum, tungsten, gold, silver, antimony, mercury and fluorite, as well as gas and petroleum, among others.
Today the Republic of Tajikistan is an active, recognised and respected member of the international community and takes its rightful place in the modern, civilised world, maintaining fruitful cooperation both at the regional and international levels. Over the past 20 years since independence the main achievements in the field of foreign policy was the fact that the Republic of Tajikistan has been recognised as an independent and democratic country in the world community and diplomatic and trade relations with other countries were founded and developed, as well as membership in international and regional organisations.
Currently, the Republic of Tajikistan has trade relations with more than 100 countries, and these relations are enhanced year after year. Since independence, the policies of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan have been aimed at developing economic relations, rehabilitation of infrastructure, attraction of investments, and creation of conditions for free trade, reduction of tariff barriers and removal of barriers in foreign trade, to support entrepreneurship, problem solving on transit roads and tunnels to support and develop trade in Tajikistan. In the context of market globalisation and interconnectedness of the economies of all countries of the world, the development of international economic organisations and associations, no one country can stand alone. Under these conditions, the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) facilitated the integration processes of the Republic of Tajikistan in the regional and global contexts.
On 2 March 2013 the Republic of Tajikistan became the 159th member of the World Trade Organization. So, Tajikistan completed the process of joining all the authoritativeinternational organisations. Membership of Tajikistan in the affluent organisations will give a serious impetus to finished products, having high quality, meeting international standards and competitive products, and will also contribute to the growth of foreign trade turnover, production profitability of domestic goods of export destination, increase knowledge and skills of local entrepreneurs and increased foreign investment.
Tajikistan relations with international financial institutions, namely the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and a number of foundations and organisations in different countries have been developing in a very fruitful and successful cooperation.
Tajikistan with its policy position of “open doors” expressed its willingness to develop and improve the productive relations with countries in the East and West, and the Islamic world. In order to attract more investment from countries such as Russia, China, the USA, Europe, the Islamic world and other countries, Tajikistan is taking steps to develop strong relationships at bilateral and multilateral levels based on economic pragmatism and mutual understanding.
In the past two decades, the policy of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan in foreign relations was aimed at creating a favourable climate for investments, progressive liberalisation of trade, reduction of tariffs and elimination of non-tariff barriers in foreign trade, trade promotion, and removal of obstacles to transport and transit of goods with continuous development of trade processes. The Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, led by President of the Republic of Tajikistan, adopted a number of key strategic documents that outline the main priorities and socioeconomic policies of the Republic. Among them are the Poverty Reduction Strategy for 2007−2009 and for 2010−2012; Strategy for Improvement of Population Living Standard in the Republic of Tajikistan for the period 2013- 2015; the National Development Strategy of the Republic of Tajikistan for the period until 2015; State Investment Programs of grants and capital construction for 2011−2013, 2012−2014, 2013−2015.
These documents have a strategic objective of improving the level and quality of life through sustainable economic development, diversification of production, export building capacity of the state, improvement of the investment climate, support for entrepreneurship, and social protection of the population, labour market development and human capacity building. This policy will be continued in the future as a result of these measures, the level of poverty in the country has decreased from 81% in 1999 to 38%, which is cut by almost 45%. Poverty reduction is mainly a result of economic development, macroeconomics and social stability.
Bilateral Relations with Malaysia
Tajikistan sees Malaysia as a country with an ancient history and unique culture, having a rich potential and considered one of the drivers of the world economy, a country that makes confident steps towards its goals. Today, Malaysia is one of the reliable partners of Tajikistan in the Southeast Asia and the Muslim world. The start of the official bilateral cooperation between Tajikistan and Malaysia dates back to March 11, 1992, when the countries established diplomatic relations. The main areas of cooperation were identified during the first working visit of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon to Malaysia in October 2003. Meetings with the leaders of Malaysia opened an important chapter in the history of dialogue, based on the tradition of sincere friendship and mutual readiness to building a mutually beneficial cooperation.
The significance of the reached agreements is that in the conditions of a new geopolitical situation when everything is changing rapidly, establishing and strengthening partnerships between the two countries is particularly relevant. For Tajikistan, Malaysia is a reliable, time-tested partner, mutually beneficial cooperation with which acquires a dynamic, sustainable and irreversible nature. The agreements and MOUs signed during the visit are in the fundamental and long-term interests of both countries; they suggest a more mature, pragmatic and focused multifaceted cooperation. Thus, the state visit of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan to Malaysia signaled the move of the legal basis of mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries to a new quality level.
The Government of Tajikistan is interested in the development of dynamic relations in the economic sphere, deepening and expansion of bilateral trade, investment and financial relations based on mutual benefits. Diversification of trade by strengthening the long-term and mutually beneficial relations with leading Malaysian manufacturing companies, as well as the creation of joint ventures and high-tech industries, are meant to serve as an important course of trading and investment cooperation. Chemical products, palm oil and refined products, electronics, home appliances, natural rubber, and furniture dominate in the Malaysian export. The priority areas of cooperation may be designated to the social sector, the construction industry, oil and gas, transport and communications, supply of furniture and computer equipment, and many other branches.
The cooperation in the field of science and technology is successfully carried out within the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP) through the implementation of training programs in the fields of international relations, strategic research, management, information technology, industry, economy, investment, tourism, etc. The direct contacts between educational institutions of our countries are established and sustained. Every year a large number of students from Tajikistan enter various universities of Malaysia taking part in public and private scholarship programs. Over 150 students from Tajikistan are enrolled to Malaysian universities. In Tajikistan Education Fairs are held with the active participation of universities from Malaysia on a regular basis. Both countries have a great potential in tourism sector, which is largely a historical legacy of the Great Silk Road. It is safe to say that Tajikistan places for Malaysian tourists by organizing trips to such gems of the Silk Road, as Gisar, Kulyab, Panjakent, Istaravshan and Khujand.
The relations between the countries are developing not only bilaterally but also in the framework of regional and international organisations such as the UN and Nonaligned Movement and Asian Cooperation Dialogue. A significant component of bilateral relations is the cooperation within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Tajikistan and Malaysia lay a special emphasis to the successful development of the OIC and active participation in its activities. The opening of diplomatic mission of the Republic of Tajikistan in Kuala Lumpur in August 2015 became a bright landmark event in the relations of two countries.
Extended Global Initiatives
In line with the Government’s desire for global social, environmental and economic prosperity an extended initiative through the UN was launched by President Emomali Rahmon for the first time during the 7th World Water Forum in the Republic of Korea. On 21 December 2016 the UN General Assembly adopted with consensus a resolution A/ RES/71/222 titled the “International Decade for Action, Water for Sustainable Development, 2018–2028. The initiative was sponsored by the 177 UN member states and is a followup to the prior water initiatives launched by President Emomali Rahmon: the “International Decade for Action, Water for Life, 2005– 2015”, and the “International Year for Water Cooperation 2013”. Additionally, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, along with other heads of 10 UN member states, is a member of the High-level Panel on Water. First Deputy Minister of Energy and Water resources of Tajikistan has been appointed as a Special Representative of the President to the High- Level Panel on Water.
In accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution (OP4) the objectives of the Decade will be mainly focused on: sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental goals; implementation and promotion of related programmes and projects; furtherance of cooperation and partnership at all levels in order to help to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition, the resolution (OP5) highlights the importance of promoting efficient water usage at all levels, taking into account the water, food, energy, environment nexus.
In addition, the resolution identifies the following objectives to be pursued: improving knowledge generation and dissemination, facilitating access to knowledge and exchange of good practices, generating new information relevant to the water-related Sustainable Development Goals; pursuing advocacy, networking and promoting partnership and action by different actors to implement the water-related goals and targets; strengthening communication actions at various levels for the implementation of the water-related goals.
The idea of launching International Decade of Actions “Water for Sustainable Development (2018–2028)”, which was voiced during the 7th World Water Forum of April 2015 by the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, is based on the particular importance of water resources as a strategic welfare and the growing importance of this issue in the contemporary world. The main objective of the Decade is to promote the efforts of the International Community in implementation of new international water resources commitments. The climate change, financial crisis, increasing natural disasters, energy and food issues, growth of transmissible diseases, terrorism and extremism, military conflicts in a number of countries and regions of the world, and many other current threats mainly prevented full-fledged achievement of the goals of the previous International Decade “Water for Life (2005–2015)” declared also by the initiative of the Republic of Tajikistan.
This is the main reason why the water issues remain as one of the urgent items in the international agenda. Though tangible outcomes are achieved in terms of MDGs on drinking water at the global level, however, other goals indirectly related to water, particularly sanitation, healthcare and other goals were not implemented. According to experts the globe population will reach nine billion by 2050, which will accordingly lead to increased water consumption. Besides, as a consequence of the climate change impact already more than 50 percent of the globe’s population will face the lack of water by that time. In addition, the process of desertification, increasing water-born natural disasters, urbanisation and other issues, which have negatively been impacting on water resources and their quality, urge the international community to undertake immediate and realistic measures.
It is worthwhile noting that several effective institutions and mechanisms were established for the implementation of the International Decade of Actions “Water for Life (2005–2015)”, which continuously plays an important role in addressing global water issues. One of the effective mechanisms for implementation of the previous Decade was the UN-Water established in 2003. The UN-Water, comprised of 31 members and 38 partners, coordinates the water resources management activities of various UN agencies and other regional and international institutions as well as the civil society and the nongovernmental organizations. One has to outline that the United Nations established a very effective and important Group of Friends of Water in 2009 by the initiative of Tajikistan, which unifies over 100 country members of the Organization. This Group plays a proactive role in discussion and consideration of all water related issues in the UN Agenda. The abovementioned institutions played an important role in promotion of the rational ways and mechanisms of the “Water for Life” Decade of Actions implementation.
In this regard, we expect that these institutions alongside with international, regional, basinbased and national agencies will proactively promote implementation of the Decade of Actions “Water for Sustainable Development (2018–2028). Besides, the above-mentioned Resolution determines other mechanisms of integrated water resources management. For this purpose, it is expected that the midterm and comprehensive assessment of the Decade to be conducted within the UN GA Sessions. For the new Decade implementation in particular all need to foster the activities of all existing national, regional and international agencies dealing with the water issues, strengthen partnership and coordination of actions to achieve the Decade goals. Besides, to ensure successful implementation of this new Decade, all need to establish and strengthen partnerships and improve mutual understanding at all levels, first and foremost on the issues of financing, exchange in the latest technologies, the best practices on the use and protection of water resources and other water related issues.
Due to the water initiatives of President Emomali Rahmon the definition of water diplomacy obtained practical importance. This phenomenon proved to the world community that the water diplomacy differs from the classical meaning of diplomacy and requires new mechanisms of negotiations, which would promote successful settlement of conflicts on water management and use of water resources, particularly in transboundary river basins. This process attaches attention to enhancement of cooperation and regulation of relations, establishing the dialogue on understanding and use of transboundary water resources between the countries of the region, and has been applying the global best practices on resolution of conflicts on water resources management. This trend can promote serious and wide-range cooperation in drafting and enforcement of rational and objective agreements between the countries of various transboundary river basins. Having promoted its global initiatives, Tajikistan supports integrated water resources management at the transboundary river basins for the sake of all countries. Tajikistan, being a pioneer and active initiator of solution to water issues at the international level, will further remain supporter of effective use of water resources.
The International Decade of Actions “Water for Life (2005–2015)”, “International Year of Fresh Water (2003)”, International Year of Water Cooperation (2013), and last but not least the International Decade of Actions “Water for Sustainable Development (2018–2028)” are the most important input of the Republic of Tajikistan at the international stage.