The main organization handling cooperation in the region is the International Fund for saving the Aral Sea (IFAS). Its leading role is due to it being the only regional organization where all the five countries of post-Soviet Central Asia are collaborating. Its President is elected from among the Heads of State. The central structural units of the Fund are: the Board, members of which, as agreed by the meeting of the Heads of Central Asian States, held on April 28, 2009, should be appointed from among representatives of the countries at the level of the Deputy Prime Minister, - and the Executive Committee, a standing executive body of the Fund. The most important decisions concerning the strategic directions for activities of the IFAS shall be adopted by the Council of Heads of State of Central Asia. Its meetings are usually held every few years.
IFAS has a fairly broad mandate. In accordance with the Regulations of 9 April 1999, the main objective of the Fund is to finance and credit joint practical measures, programmes and projects for saving the Aral Sea, ecological rehabilitation of the Aral Sea surroundings and Aral Sea Basin as a whole, taking into account the interests of all States in the region. The stated objectives of IFAS include establishing and maintaining an interstate environmental monitoring system, database and other information systems with the data on the environment of Aral basin, mobilizing financing for joint activities to protect air, water and land resources, flora and fauna, as well as funding joint scientific and technological projects and measures for the management of transboundary domestic waters.
Since the early 1990s the issue of water in the Aral Sea Basin has been seen in the context of regional security and stability. Water is valuable and it is scarce. There are enough water resources in the Region but they are not used effectively and, as a result, the use of transboundary water resources in Central Asia (CA) is a source of potential conflict.
The Heads of the Central Asia states recognise this and set up the International Fund for saving the Aral Sea (IFAS). The member states of IFAS are: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
The objectives of IFAS and its organizations are to work towards integration and cooperation in order to use existing water resources more effectively and efficiently, to ensure sustainable development and to adapt to climate change in the region. However, it is widely recognized that the present structure of IFAS needs to be improved and the legal base to be adapted to fit the needs of today.
In the framework of Component1 of the programme “Transboundary Water Management in Central Asia” – Fostering regional institutional cooperation, the project on “Regional Dialogue and Cooperation in Water Resources Management” is implemented in cooperation with UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). This project presents contribution to implementation of the EC IFAS activities aimed at the institutional and legal strengthening of IFAS and its organizations.
“Transboundary Water Management in Central Asia” Programme is implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ GmbH) on behalf of German Federal Foreign Office. This program represents one of the mechanisms of the “Berlin Process” – the Initiative which is an offer by the German Federal Government to the countries of Central Asia to support them in water management and to make water a subject of intensified transboundary cooperation.
International Fund for saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) performs its activity on the basis of decisions of the Council of Heads of states, Board of IFAS, IFAS Regulations, the Agreement on the status of IFAS and its organizations.
The working meeting of the Expert group on improving the structure and legal base of IFAS took place on October 23 in Almaty.
The First meeting of the Working Group on Institutional and Legal Strengthening and the Development of Aral Sea Basin Programme - 3 took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 10-11 December 2009. The meeting was convened by the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) and facilitated by the UNECE under the program on Regional Dialogue and Cooperation on Water Resources Management in Central Asia, financed by the Government of Germany through GTZ (German Agency for technical cooperation).
As a part of implementation of the task of the Heads of the Central Asian states–founders of the International Fund for saving the Aral Sea with regard to the development of cooperation aimed at improvement of ecological and socio-economic situation in the Aral Sea basin, the IFAS Board meeting took place in Almaty on 3 December 2009 under chairmanship of the first Deputy Prime-Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, member of IFAS Board U.E.Shukeyev with participation of the Board members from IFAS state-founders.
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