USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia Änjali Kaur’s Remarks at the Third Caspian Business Forum
Author: Caspian Policy Center
Sep 23, 2022
Good evening, everyone. On behalf of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, it is my honor to be here this evening to celebrate the strong relationships that connect our nations. Thank you for inviting me. I’d like to thank the Caspian Policy Center for hosting this event. It is an honor to speak before so many distinguished guests and panelists. As Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia at USAID, part of my role is overseeing our wide-ranging development efforts across Central Asia.
When one thinks of the Caspian region, one pictures an area marked by great beauty: from the inviting shores of Batumi, through the enchanting ancient cities of Central Asia, to the soaring majesty of the Pamir mountains. History often refers to the region as a “crossroads” - a critical link that has connected East and West trading routes for over fifteen hundred years. Looking forward, we see that the Caspian region’s true value is as more than just transiting goods from one end of it to the other. We see it as a source - a wellspring of goods, of ideas, of culture, and of leadership.
For more than 30 years, USAID has supported the success, independence and prosperity of our partners in Central Asia and the Caucasus. USAID has provided direct assistance to support peace and security, governance reform, economic growth, energy diversification, health and education, and humanitarian needs across this dynamic region. USAID is reinforcing our commitment to the Caspian countries at a time when Russia’s second unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has caused food insecurity and economic instability around the globe. USAID stands alongside your governments to mobilize assistance to address these issues.
First, we will continue to provide food and nutrition assistance. We are helping vulnerable households grow nutritious food, providing cash in exchange for work so people can earn a livable income, diversifying supply chains and income streams, and supporting efforts that increase the availability of food both before and after harvest. In Uzbekistan, we provide technical support to fertilizer producers to increase production and train farmers on ways to optimize fertilizer use. This assistance is expected to increase annual production between 10-20 percent. And, in the Kyrgyz Republic, USAID invests in cold storage facilities to prevent spoilage, thus increasing available produce by as much as 40 percent.
Second, USAID helps spur economic growth through trade diversification, regional connectivity, and job creation. To help diversify the trade options, USAID works to increase the economic competitiveness of the Trans-Caspian trade corridor. USAID will help identify new international markets for Central Asian exports, connect Central Asian businesses to regional and global firms in key growth sectors, and introduce digital solutions to improve logistics planning and reduce customs processing. Through our trade promotion activities, USAID has supported the Central Asia Trade Forum, one of the region’s largest annual connectivity events that promotes regional trade and facilitates participation by U.S. businesses. The Forum led to $84.3 million in signed contracts between 2017 and 2021 alone.
Across the region, we will continue to support communities to build their resilience in the face of extreme events like droughts, fires, floods and food crises. USAID is at the heart of President Biden’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE), a whole-of-U.S. government effort to improve the resilience of more than half a billion people this decade. At the same time, the Caspian region has the opportunity to drive the future of clean, renewable energy through increased development of hydropower, wind and solar. With our support, Tajikistan has opened its first major solar power plant that provides thousands of Tajiks with clean, renewable energy. In Kazakhstan, USAID’s efforts to establish competitive auctions and energy markets has helped the government to leverage nearly $2 billion in private sector investment for renewable energy projects. And, in the Caucasus, USAID is building the regulatory foundation for a liberalized energy market, advancing greater integration between Armenia and Georgia, and demonstrating the potential for renewable power generation.
We also continue to strengthen the region’s healthcare systems and support education reform. The U.S. has donated over 14.6 million adult COVID-19 vaccine doses to the countries of the Caspian. And, as the region emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, our programs are bolstering health systems and helping communities prepare for future crises. Specifically, our partnerships have made tremendous advances in tuberculosis treatment. In the Kyrgyz Republic, for example, we shifted from costly and lengthy inpatient treatment to an outpatient system which improves the quality of life for patients and their families, frees up TB facilities and medical personnel for other health emergencies, and saves the government more than $1 million a year.
On the education front, we help partner governments implement systemic reforms to improve the quality and accessibility of education. In Uzbekistan, USAID’s activities have laid the foundations for improved and modern approaches to English, Math, literacy and information and communications technology (ICT) instruction, and we are thrilled to see USAID-supported inputs being rolled out by the Ministry of Public Education nationwide this year to 6.5 million children and tens of thousands of teachers. And in Tajikistan, USAID and the Ministry of Education and Science recently signed a monumental agreement that will initiate a flagship education activity designed to improve teaching and learning outcomes in 80 percent of primary schools across the country.
Importantly, to support the sovereignty and stability of the Caspian region, we will continue to strengthen democratic institutions. From strengthening judicial systems and independent media to expanding access to justice and human rights, USAID’s partnerships in the Caspian region strive to build inclusivity, expand civic participation, and strengthen democratic institutions.
In this time of profound change and opportunity, the United States has taken truly meaningful steps to expand our strategic partnership with the Caspian countries. USAID is proud of the friendships we’ve forged with our Caspian partners. We know that these diverse countries will grow stronger together by leveraging the extraordinary power of regional connectivity. And we stand firmly committed to supporting you as you chart your independent paths forward and create a more peaceful and prosperous future. Thank you.