"Central Asia plus Japan" Intellectual Dialogue
The Third Tokyo Dialogue
Friday, February 20, 2009
International Conference Room
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
1. Overview of the Third Tokyo Dialogue
The Third Tokyo Dialogue was held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan on February 20, 2009, with the cooperation of the Japan Foundation under the theme of "Environmental Cooperation in Central Asia." This track-two intellectual dialogue representing one of "the five pillars" of the "Central Asia plus Japan" Dialogue is called the "Tokyo Dialogue." At the Third Tokyo Dialogue, 5 persons from Central Asian countries and 20 persons from Japan, including scholars and government officials, participated at the center table, and about 40 people also attended as members of the audience. Akiko Fukushima, senior fellow of the Japan Foundation, served as Chairperson.
Since it was evident from the First and Second Tokyo Dialogues that track-two meetings focusing on specific issues could provide a meaningful input to inter-governmental dialogue, the Third Tokyo Dialogue concentrated on environmental problems from among the themes proposed at the previous Tokyo Dialogue, specifically the subthemes of "Environmental Cooperation for Soil Protection in Central Asia" and "The Effects of Climate Change on the Environment in Central Asia and Countermeasures."
2. Keynote Speech by State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan Shintaro Ito
At the start of the Third Tokyo Dialogue, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Shintaro Ito gave an overview of the importance of Central Asia and described Japan's diplomatic initiatives toward Central Asia that have been promoted through the "Central Asia plus Japan" dialogue. He pointed out that the Central Asian countries faced the challenge of balancing their efforts to tackle soil contamination and other environmental problems--the vestige of economic and social systems of the Soviet era before their independence that placed a heavy burden on the environment--with economic growth. State Secretary Ito emphasized the need for intra-regional cooperation among related countries in order to realize sustainable development. In addition, State Secretary Ito noted the importance of sharing the knowledge that Japan gained through its own experience with pollution and other environmental problems with the Central Asian countries, and he introduced various efforts being made in Japan toward the formation of a recycling-oriented society, such as organic farming. Furthermore, State Secretary Ito expressed his hope that the Third Tokyo Dialogue on the theme of the environment would produce meaningful proposals for the further deepening of cooperation between the Central Asian countries and Japan and that they would be reflected in inter-governmental dialogue.
3. Main Discussions and Proposals in Each Session
Lively discussions took place at the Third Tokyo Dialogue on the two subthemes. The main points of the discussions are as follows:
(1) Session 1: "Environmental Cooperation for Soil Protection in Central Asia"
- (a) As a result of inefficient water use and drainage in large-scale irrigation systems during the Soviet era, soil deterioration, such as salination and desertification, has become serious and is reducing agricultural harvests and leading to other problems. Pasturage has also deteriorated due to excessive grazing, and soil contamination due to inappropriate ways of injecting chemical fertilizers has worsened.
- (b) In areas where mines were developed, radioactive and metal substances have contaminated the soil. The contaminated soil has proliferated through the collapse of dams, lakes, and marshes, as well as through rivers, and is exerting an impact on the ecosystem of the Central Asian region.
- (c) Regarding soil deterioration, it was pointed out that the utilization of advanced technology, such as the Global Mapping System using the Geographic Information System (GIS), would be beneficial. In addition, Japan's support for soil improvement, which is being implemented as part of the project for Karakalpakstan regional development in the Republic of Uzbekistan, and other monitoring support were introduced. It was recognized that such countermeasures need to be implemented comprehensively with the involvement of local residents.
(2) Session 2: "The Effects of Climate Change on the Environment in Central Asia and Countermeasures"
- (a) As a result of global warming and other factors, glacier shrinkage, the appearance and collapse of glacier lakes, sandstorms, and other phenomena are occurring in Central Asian countries. In particular, it was pointed out that the shrinkage of glaciers, which function to adjust the flow of water from mountainous areas, could cause the destabilization of the water supply and deterioration of the soil in Central Asia in the future.
- (b) It was affirmed once again that climate change is a global problem. The efforts of the Central Asian countries, the Japanese government's "Cool Earth Promotion Program," and schemes of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) were introduced. It was recognized that realizing both economic development and environment preservation is important and that cooperation on both a regional and global scale is essential.
- (c) In addition, efforts by the Japanese government were introduced, such as the implementation of a training program in Japan for environmental administration personnel in the Republic of Kazakhstan and the dispatch of a survey team relating to the Tashkent Heat and Power Generation Modernization Project in the Republic of Uzbekistan.
(3) Through discussions in these two sessions, the following proposals were made concerning intra-regional cooperation in Central Asia and cooperation between Central Asia and Japan in the environmental field:
- (a) Since soil deterioration, glacier shrinkage, and climate change are not problems confined within national borders but exert an impact on the whole Central Asian region, intra-regional cooperation, including the sharing of information, is essential for reducing and solving the problems. It is important for Japan to support such intra-regional cooperation on the basis of the Action Plan of the "Central Asia plus Japan" dialogue.
- (b) The sharing of Japan's experience in environmental problems, including its pollution countermeasures, scientific approach, and efforts toward the formation of a recycling-oriented society, can serve as an effective reference for Central Asian countries.
- (c) In tackling environmental problems, scientific surveys, including advanced technology, are important, but since the Central Asian countries became independent, their centers for meteorological observation and soil surveys have been declining in number. Such scientific surveys must be enhanced, and it is necessary to promote further cooperation so that the results of surveys and monitoring conducted by Japan in Central Asia can be fully utilized. In the implementation of such surveys and monitoring, it is important for Central Asian countries to clarify role-sharing among ministries and other governmental institute and improve regulations so that such cooperation can be promoted more smoothly.
- (d) In order to effectively tackle the problems of soil deterioration and climate change, it is necessary to develop human resources, including young researchers. It is important to promote specific forms of cooperation between Japan and Central Asia in this field.
- (e) Since environmental problems exert an impact on people's lives, including their health, it is important to gain the participation of local residents in teaching programs, cooperation activities, and policy implementation.
- (f) A composite approach is necessary to address interrelated environmental problems, such as salination and desertification caused by the inefficient use of water resources in irrigated agriculture; the shrinkage of glaciers and destabilization of water supplies due to climate change; and the spread of soil contaminated by radioactive and other substances through rivers and natural disasters.
- (g) In the light of the results of the Third Tokyo Dialogue, it would be beneficial if Japan provides a forum for consultation among environmental personnel in Central Asian countries so that these countries can deepen concrete discussions with countries inside and outside the region concerning common environmental problems and take steps toward the realization of cooperation.
In the Third Tokyo Dialogue it was understood that environmental problems relating to soil and climate change are closely interrelated and exert an enormous impact on the development of the entire Central Asian region; that, in order to solve these problems, it is important for the central governments of the Central Asian countries to build the necessary social and economic systems and, in cooperation with related countries, to make sincere efforts to implement environmental-preservation policies; and that Japan can fulfill a substantial role in this field.
The participants in the Third Tokyo Dialogue praised the high level of discussions and said it had been a highly beneficial track-two meeting focusing on environmental problems. They expressed their hope that the dialogue would continue and would also address specific themes. Themes suggested for the next Tokyo Dialogue included "the concept of regional cooperation relating to the environment," "human resources development," "the Central Asia-Afghanistan Transportation Corridor," "the stabilization of Afghanistan and stable development of Central Asia," etc.
The above is my report on the outcome of the Third Tokyo Dialogue. I hope that it will serve as a reference in the inter-governmental dialogue of the "Central Asia plus Japan" dialogue in the future and that the proposals will be realized.
Chairperson, Third Tokyo Dialogue
Senior Fellow, Japan Foundation
Research Fellow, Joint Research Institute for International Peace and Culture, Aoyama Gakuin University
Back to Index