Igor Runov: Turkmenistan has become a leader in transport diplomacy


On Tuesday, at the Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, a meeting was held between students and teachers of the university with the executive secretary of the International Center for Transport Diplomacy (ICTD) Igor Runov, who spoke about the work on a global project to create a platform for all types of transport based on blockchain technology.

After the meeting, Igor Borisovich kindly agreed to answer ORIENT’s questions.

– Igor Borisovich, you are visiting Turkmenistan once again. What is the purpose of your visit this time?

– The purpose of the visit is very specific - to discuss with specialists from the Customs Service of Turkmenistan, the Transport and Communications Agency under the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the idea of ​​signing a document between three countries - Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on the preparation of first a trilateral Agreement with the possibility of increasing its participants to level of a multilateral document on mutual recognition of authorized economic operators.

This is a very important tool of the World Customs Organization, which, we hope, if implemented, will be implemented initially on the route from the Pamirs (city of Kulyab) towards Turkmenbashi and further along the sea to Iran or through the Caucasus to Turkey. This project will really help complement the traditional routes of cargo flows, making the most effective use of the huge transit potential of Turkmenistan.

This is what is currently sorely lacking - the shortest route from Asia to Europe. This route will significantly increase the volume of cargo transportation, create new jobs, attract investment in transport and logistics infrastructure, increase the role and significance of Turkmenistan in world trade, etc.

– I think that the significance of this project is increased due to the fact that its participating countries will receive additional opportunities for access to the sea.

- Certainly! And this actually big drawback can be turned, if not into an advantage, then into motivation for the implementation of this idea. We know that Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan... What about Central Asia - there are about five dozen so-called landlocked countries in the world. And the share of these states in world trade is only 1%! This was discussed during the regular WTO Ministerial Conference, taking place these days in Abu Dhabi, where the problems of landlocked countries were discussed.

But you cannot remain inactive in such a situation. And you shouldn’t cry for help, but you need to act as Turkmenistan does, showing a good example of effective work in finding solutions in this direction.

– Since you touched on the topic of Turkmenistan: how relevant are the initiatives that the country puts forward in the transport sector?

– Turkmenistan has quite naturally become a leader in promoting transport issues in the United Nations in our time. In my memory, in the last ten years we have witnessed a strong breakthrough in this direction. Traditionally, transport issues have been dealt with by two regional commissions: the Economic Commission for Europe and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). They are the depositories of most United Nations conventions.

But in our time, the situation in the world is developing so rapidly, changing, that many transport issues need a more immediate solution. And it seems to me that shifting the focus (as is now happening thanks to the efforts of Turkmenistan) to the UN has made it possible to look at transport problems not only from a European, regional perspective, but in a global context.

Many things can be looked at differently, placing transport in the category of truly global issues. The development of the transport and logistics system, on the one hand, demonstrates a really high role in the global economy, and, on the other hand, better highlights the problems and risks that exist in our time.

– In addition, a well-functioning transport and logistics system can minimize the negative consequences associated with the economic crisis. This is, first of all, the speed of delivery of goods, and hence their reduction in price, which allows the population and enterprises to purchase more goods, which stimulates money circulation, revitalizing the financial sector.

- Absolutely right. Although now the word “globalization” does not carry a very positive charge, nevertheless, integration processes objectively continue, despite existing problems. The process of globalization will not stop, despite the fact that it is cyclical. It is unrealistic to be on top all the time; falls also happen. But I am sure that humanity will return to normal development in a few years, when a global restructuring takes place. It is connected with information technology and is being carried out before our eyes. But we do not always realize this, even when we are in the center of an information tornado. To understand the reality of what is happening, we often lack imagination. The digital revolution is bringing enormous changes to our lives.

– The reality is that, thanks to fantastically developing IT technologies, we are entering a fundamentally different world.

– Without any doubt, either we will worthily enter the emerging world, or we will remain on the margins of history. Looking at the capabilities of artificial intelligence, one can come up with such fantasies...

– Igor Borisovich, will the new project you are promoting be able to withstand competition with existing ones?

– You see, we do not enter into confrontation with existing transport projects, we propose a transition to a new level. Our project was not immediately appreciated, they said “there is a TIR EPD” (an application that allows holders of international road transport books to send electronic information to customs authorities of different countries for free). We started developing this TIR system back in the 2000s. Since then, a real revolution has taken place in the information world. It was not easy for us to convince people that blockchain could be used in transport. And this is not only very interesting, but also profitable.

– I would like to know what you have already done during your current visit to Turkmenistan?

– Yesterday, at the Central Office of the State Customs Service of Turkmenistan, we participated online for four hours in an international round table on the practical implementation of the World Customs Organization Guidelines for the mutual recognition of authorized economic operators in the region of Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Specialists from different countries and international organizations joined the forum. The report on the joint project of the Inter-American Development Bank and Microsoft in Latin America was very interesting.

In general, we continue to study the best experience to date that has been accumulated in the modern world. We also conduct seminars on authorized operators. We held one in Baku two months ago and we want to hold the next one in New York on April 17. And we are doing everything to reach the signing of indicative memorandums.

– Are you satisfied with your trip to Ashgabat?

- I'm pleased. I saw understanding from specialists. What I like here is that Turkmenistan always strives to be a leader, including in the implementation of transport policy. I understand there are risks, but, as they say, who doesn’t take risks...

“...he doesn’t drink champagne,” says popular wisdom. Igor Borisovich, this is not the first time you have met with students from the Institute of International Relations, where future diplomats are trained. And transport diplomacy, as is known, occupies a special niche in the foreign policy of the country’s leadership. In your opinion, how did today’s meeting with IIR students go?

– I think it was very interesting. It is clear that the guys are well prepared and inquisitive. And after my speech they asked interesting questions. By the reaction of the guys, in their eyes, you can see how they react to what you say. And it’s immediately noticeable what attracts their attention.

It is clear that behind all this are experienced teachers, university management, and the country’s educational system as a whole. But I also tried to answer the guys’ questions in such a way as to provoke them to a new question. To which the students reacted accordingly.

Your guys have good, interested eyes. They are smart. God bless them!