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For the five countries of Central Asia – the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan – the sustainable development movement launched in Rio in 1992 has played out in the context of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The transition from a planned to a market economy and from totalitarianism to democracy and independence was a rocky period of geopolitical changes that coincided with rapid technological development and globalization and a growing awareness of environmental changes related to climate, biodiversity and land degradation. Regional tensions and conflicts gave rise to new security requirements. New demographic and labour market realities and changes in the ownership and control of natural resources created shifting social dynamics.

With more than 90 per cent of their national territories considered as mountainous, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are mountain countries, while Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – with much smaller mountainous regions – are countries with mountains. The mountain regions of these latter three countries are no less important, but this report necessarily devotes more space to the main Central Asian mountain regions, which lie in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The Central Asia mountain report team recommends the exploration of two ideas that have been a part of discussions of sustainable mountain development in Central Asia:

• The creation of a mountain countries group under the auspices of the United Nations
• The exchange of external debt for an equivalent investment in sustainable development.

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