Press Release: Lucerne Conference on the CIS-7 Initiative
January 22, 2003
A conference on the seven poorest countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS-7) ended in Lucerne today with a call to donors to find ways to increase financial assistance on grant terms to the countries of the CIS-7. "Donor assistance in the form of highly concessional finance and debt relief will only succeed if linked to effective reform," said World Bank Managing Director Shengman Zhang in his concluding statement on behalf of the four co-sponsoring organizations (International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Asian Development Bank).
The CIS-7 Initiative was launched a year ago to address concerns about the severe economic difficulties, increases in poverty, and rapid build-up of debt in many of the CIS-7 countries since independence in the early 1990s. The countries covered by the Initiative are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The Lucerne conference, which brought together government and civil society representatives from the CIS-7 as well as the international donor community, broadened and deepened the debate to include a range of economic, institutional and social issues that must be tackled if the seven countries are to achieve the targets of the Millenium Development Goals.
A wide range of substantive papers were prepared for the conference and are available on the CIS-7 web site in English and Russian (www.CIS7.org).
Conference participants emphasized that achieving ownership of the reform agenda by governments and people is key in assuring implementation of reforms reflecting clear national priorities. The Poverty Reduction Strategy process, now underway in all seven countries, is designed to reinforce this sense of ownership by putting the countries themselves in the driver's seat of reforms.
Participants underlined the importance of better governance and fighting corruption. "While recent evidence shows corruption is moderating and the investment climate is beginning to improve, the key remains continued economic and institutional reform and a more open and inclusive society," said Mr. Zhang.
Regional cooperation and better integration of the small and relatively isolated CIS-7 economies was a recurring theme at the two-day conference. "Recovery and future prosperity will depend crucially on successful regional integration and improved access to markets in the rest of the world," said Mr. Zhang.
The Initiative's co-sponsoring agencies will now work with CIS-7 governments, donors and civil society to elaborate follow-up actions on finance and debt relief, ownership and governance, capacity building, and regional integration.