MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing $4.5 million to foster closer cooperation among participating countries of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) by establishing a virtual institute that will coordinate research, training, and dialogue within the regional organization.

"The CAREC Institute will make an important contribution to the deepening regional cooperation among the countries of greater Central Asia. Research and training on transport, trade and energy issues would help the countries find new areas of cooperation," said Natasha Davis, Regional Cooperation Specialist of the Central and West Asia Department.

ADB will provide $4 million to the project from its technical assistance fund and another $500,000 from its Regional Cooperation and Integration Fund, a special fund under the Regional Cooperation and Integration Financing Partnership Facility that supports technical assistance projects.

Another $500,000 will come from the People's Republic of China (PRC) Regional Cooperation and Poverty Reduction Fund, while participating governments will provide $200,000 to complete funding requirement.

The CAREC Institute will further improve regional cooperation by coming up with knowledge resources that meet global standards to support regional infrastructure networks in transportation, trade, and energy. This should help speed up identifying and developing regional projects in the priority areas.

Through partnerships with institutes, experts, and researchers from member countries, the CAREC Institute will offer training programs to improve knowledge and skills of government officials in regional cooperation.

The institute will also come up with applied research programs to generate new knowledge, innovation, and recommendations to support more effective regional cooperation, as well as an outreach program to broaden the impact of the institute's training and research.

The CAREC Program started in 1997 to improve living standards and reduce poverty in member-countries through more efficient and effective regional economic cooperation. To date, the program has focused on financing infrastructure projects and improving the region's policy environment in the priority areas of transport, energy, trade policy, and trade facilitation, which are critical to improving the region's economic performance and livelihoods of the people, especially the poor.

The current CAREC participants include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, PRC, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The region is home to a portion of the historic Silk Road, a loose network of trade routes linking PRC to the Mediterranean Sea and Southern Asia to Central Siberia.

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