Central Asia and Mongolia

Following a long tradition, scientific cooperation with the countries of Central Asia and Mongolia is continuously evolving and of great strategic importance to both Germany and the European Union. Accordingly, Germany is actively committed to intensifying and strengthening the cooperation of German and European Partners with Central Asian research infrastructures.

Observatory in the mountains of Kazhakstan

Observatory in Kazakhstan © korvit / Fotolia

Funding the cooperation

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports the cooperation of German institutions with Central Asian and Mongolian partners with a variety of funding measures.

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Political framework

The political basis for the diverse scientific cooperation between Germany and Central Asia is the governmental agreement on Science & Technology Cooperation (STC) from 1987, which the Central Asian successor states of the Soviet Union continue to view as applicable.

In addition, other agreements, contracts and declarations have been signed with various countries in the region. This includes:

  • Kazakhstan: Bilateral STC Agreement (1995), Joint Declaration on the Foundations of Relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Kazakhstan (1992), and Treaty on the Development of Comprehensive Cooperation in the Field of Business, Industry, Science and Technology (1995).
  • Uzbekistan: Bilateral STC Agreement (1998), and Innovation Partnership signed between the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Uzbek Ministry for Innovative Development (2019).
  • Mongolia: Departmental Agreement on Cooperation in Science, Technology and Education  (2003).

German goals in cooperation with the Central Asian countries and Mongolia are closely linked to the objectives of the EU's Central Asia Strategy, and the Internationalisation Strategy of Germany's Federal Government. These set political guidelines for increased European engagement in the Central Asian countries. The strategy 'EU and Central Asia - New Opportunities for a Stronger Partnership' adopted by the European Commission more than ten years ago and extensively further developed in 2019 was significantly shaped by the German side. Scientific research and technological development are central elements of the EU's Central Asia strategy.

Cooperation with Central Asia is also based on Germany's obligation to implement the Paris Declaration (2005), the Accra Agenda for Action (2008), the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (2011) and the achievement of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a partnership-based and sustainable approach.

Priorities of the cooperation

The BMBF's priorities in international cooperation are closely aligned with the goals set out in the German government's Internationalisation Strategy. To implement these goals in the region, the BMBF supports German research institutions in their cooperation with partners from Central Asia and Mongolia in the areas of research, science, development and innovation. The DLR Project Management Agency (DLR-PT) is implementing these measures on behalf of the BMBF.

To this end, the BMBF's funding announcements focus on two priorities: funding mobility measures to initiate and prepare joint research projects (e.g. 'STC funding announcements', 'definition projects' or 'travelling conferences'), and funding pilot and research projects (e.g. 'Research for Development' or 'CLIENT II').

Developed along the lines of the Sustainable Development Goals, research funding focuses on the following thematic priorities: climate and environmental issues, sustainable land management, energy efficiency, natural risks, materials science, production technologies, innovation, raw material efficiency and circular economy.

Recurring funding announcements include 'Research for Development – Partnerships for Sustainable Problem Solving in Emerging and Developing Countries', a format which has been continuously refined since 2010. It focuses on developing and expanding research potential in the region. Accordingly, the mutual transfer of information and knowledge and the promotion of young scientists play an important role.

Based upon the agreements and declarations signed with Uzbekistan, bilateral (i.e. jointly implemented) funding announcements on mobility measures that facilitate the preparation of joint research projects, have been published since 2012 (most recently in 2016 and 2020).

By funding of 'Networking and Exploratory Tours of German Universities and Research Institutions (Travelling Conferences)', the BMBF aims to further develop research cooperation with the region. To this end, the ministry funds corresponding event series in South Caucasus, Central Asia and Mongolia.

In addition, the ministerial department supports the cross-unit BMBF funding measure 'CLIENT II – International Partnerships for Sustainable Innovations'. Embedded in the Framework Programme 'Research for Sustainable Development' (FONA3), related funding announcements aim to promote demand-oriented research cooperation. They are meant to find innovative and sustainable solutions for specific challenges in the partner country and involve representatives from both business and administration.

Highlights of the bilateral cooperation

The agreements and declarations signed with the Central Asian countries and Mongolia are brought to life through delegation trips, events and funding announcements. Every year, this results in numerous cooperation highlights, of which only a selection can be featured here:

Germany was Uzbekistan's partner country at the annual 'Tashkent International Innovation Forum' in 2017 . Under the leadership of the BMBF, a high-ranking delegation of German research and innovation representatives travelled to Uzbekistan. On this delegation trip, additional activities to expand Uzbek-German research cooperation were agreed. In the same year, a delegation led by representatives from two departments of the BMBF travelled to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to ensure regional political support for the CLIENT II funding initiative.

In 2018, an Uzbek delegation headed by the Vice Minister for Innovative Development visited the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In the autumn of the same year, the BMBF-funded CLIENT II project office 'Central Asia Sustainable Innovation Bureau (CASIB)' started its work. As a regional project office, it performs coordination transfer and networking tasks for CLIENT II projects in the region. It also serves as a communication and information interface between the funding agency and the project groups working in the target region. In addition, CASIB contributes to the sustainability of project outcomes and resulting innovations. This is achieved by getting the involved project groups in touch with Central Asian science, business and policy stakeholders.

In January 2019, the BMBF and the Ministry of Innovative Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan signed a letter of intent to implement a German-Uzbek innovation partnership. This aims to expand cooperation in science and technology and make it more sustainable and to strengthen cooperation in the area of innovation. From 2019 until 2022, an official from the BMBF had been supporting the Ministry of Innovative Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan as a high-level consultant with the aims of intensifying the cooperation within the innovation partnership and further harmonising the cooperation between Germany and Uzbekistan. As one example, a two-week long information trip of 13 Uzbek young scientists to Germany in autumn 2019 in order to familiarise them with the German science system should be mentioned. In May 2023, the German-Uzbek Innovation Partnership was re-affirmed with the signing of a new Joint Declaration of Intent on Cooperation in Science, Research and Innovation.

Successful projects (selection)

The BMBF funded network projects AGRIWANET and ANICANET aim to investigate the complex relationships between land reforms, water availability and land management in Central Asia. Scientists from all five Central Asian countries are participating in an international consortium led by Germany. These projects offer training opportunities from which numerous young scientists in the region benefit, and the transnational, coordinated data collection and publication will expand the existing research infrastructure for agricultural development in Central Asia. In addition, project activities will enhance the research competence of the participating institutions. Funding is based on the 'Research for Development' initiative mentioned above.

TransMoMo prepares the targeted knowledge transfer from the long-term research project on integrated water resource management (IWRM) in Mongolia to Kazakhstan. To facilitate this, the scientific foundations of an IWRM were discussed, the prerequisites for monitoring the status of water resources were defined,  possible solutions to secure drinking water supply and treat wastewater were taken into consideration and, finally, existing obstacles to the implementation of an IWRM in Kazakhstan were identified. Funding is based on the 'Travelling Conferences' format mentioned above.