TASHKENT -- Political and business leaders as well as economists gathered at the sixth annual CAMCA (Central Asia-Mongolia-Caucasus-Afghanistan) Regional Forum on June 12-14 in Tashkent to discuss how to improve co-operation and economic growth.
The forum "is a non-political and non-partisan network established to promote region-wide discussions on the means of advancing economic growth and social development in Central Asia and the Caucasus", according to a statement.
Members of the network value commitment to a free market, good governance, the rule of law and human rights, according to the organisers of the event.
Promoting such values is one of the ways to prevent the rise of extremism.
The forum was initiated by alumni of the Central Asia-Caucasus Fellowship Programme, which is run in the United States by the Rumsfeld Foundation and the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute.
It was established as one of the first "platforms to bring together representatives of the 10 CAMCA countries, spanning from the South Caucasus to Mongolia, to discuss emerging opportunities for regional co-operation", according to a statement from the Rumsfeld Foundation.
The forum in Tashkent drew more than 300 participants from 20 countries, including CEOs of major companies, ambassadors, ministers, professors and other delegates.
"Since its establishment in 2014, the forum has featured more than 160 speakers and welcomed hundreds of participants representing over 25 countries and 150 companies worldwide", the statement said.
Over the years, the forum has taken place in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Georgia, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.
'Shared Interests, Shared Aspirations'
The theme of the forum this year in Tashkent was "Shared Interests, Shared Aspirations."
Trade, transport and transit, regional business and investments, entrepreneurship and innovation were subjects of plenary sessions at the forum.
Uzbek participants included Minister of Justice Ruslanbek Davletov and Senator Sodiq Safoyev.
Foreign speakers included Frederick Starr, chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute; former Georgian prime minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili; and Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Hafiz Pashayev.
The "Intra-regional Trade within CAMCA" round table involved Uzbek Minister of Agriculture Jamshid Khojayev, Afghan businessman Asadullah Zamir, Uzbek Senate International Relations Committee Chairman Alisher Kurmanov and Islamic Development Bank representative Khusan Khasanov.
The forum also included breakout sessions entitled "What Attracts Quality Investment in the CAMCA Countries?" and "Afghanistan: A New Factor in Intra-regional Trade and Investments?"
US economist Arthur Laffer was the keynote speaker.
Reforms in Uzbekistan
One topic of discussion was the reforms taking place in Uzbekistan, at a roundtable entitled "Nation-Building and Reforms in Uzbekistan: the Driving Force of Regionalism?".
Uzbekistan's government must limit its role in the economy, continue to liberalise the economy and improve conditions for businesses, said Uzbek Senator Safoyev, who spoke at the forum.
Uzbekistan already has gone so far that returning to its "pre-reform" state is impossible, he said.
The government must have the chance to excel at what it knows how to do, said Laffer in his speech, commenting on the reforms and privatisation under way in Uzbekistan.
Governments should privatise railways, airlines and agriculture because they lack the ability to manage a business efficiently, he asserted.
Bokhodir Abdumalikov, a Tashkent businessman and forum attendee, said he was impressed with the gathering and its goals.
"I had the incredible opportunity to listen to the forum participants' ideas," he said in an interview. "I don't know of any similar forums where you can meet so many intellectuals from Central Asia and the Caucasus. They are all energetic and burning with the idea of developing their countries."