Turkmenistan is located in Central Asia and borders with Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Caspian Sea. Its territory is 488,100 square kilometers, of which approximately 80% is desert. The country is rich in oil and natural gas resources and cotton is its major agricultural product. The Amu-Darya river is the main source of water, running along the eastern border between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan located in the southern part of the country. Turkmenistan is divided into five administrative regions (velayats): Ahal, Balkan, Lebap, Mary and Dashoguz, each consisting of several districts (etraps). The main sea port of Turkmenistan is the city of Turkmenbashi on the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan is located in a disaster prone region and can be affected by a number of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, drought, desertification and others. The northern part of the country falls within the Aral Sea disaster zone, where salinisation of water and soil poses a serious challenge to all countries of the region.
Despite its rich past history, Turkmenistan is a relatively young state. It declared its independence in October 1991 following disintegration of the former Soviet Union In March 1992, Turkmenistan became a member of the United Nations (UN). On 12 December 1995 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the status of permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan, which has become the guiding principle of Turkmenistan's foreign policy. Along with other twelve ex-USSR republics, Turkmenistan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in December 1991 and retained its status of a full CIS member until 2005. During the Summit of CIS heads of states held in Russia in August 2005, Turkmenistan announced its decision to change its participation level to “Associate Member,” using the country’s policy of permanent neutrality to justify the change.
Turkmenistan, as a country producing oil and gas, has experienced robust economic growth in recent years. Forecasts suggest that the growth will continue in medium term. Along with the fast pace of economic development, realization is growing that attention must increasingly be focused on investment in institution building and human resource development as the main pillars of sustainable growth. Economic diversification is still in the initial stages and energy exports continue to play a key role in the country’s economy.
Further, demands for the state institutions to improve efficiency of spending and the effectiveness of service delivery to the population are increasing. An enabling environment for private sector development needs to be built.
Turkmenistan has made progress around compliance with international human rights treaty obligations, while harmonization of national legislation with international standards is ongoing. There is a need to strengthen rule of law and access to justice for people at large, as well as to promote civil society activity.
Turkmenistan continued its strong economic performance driven mainly by hydrocarbon-led export and surge in public investments in 2012. According to the ADB’s “Asian Development Outlook 2012 Update”, exports in Turkmenistan grew by 44.7%. IMF projected real GDP growth of Turkmenistan to remain at about 8 per cent in 2012-13 and inflation in single digit. The country was classified as an upper middle income country with GNI per capita of $4,800 (Atlas methods, 2011) by World Bank in October 2012.
Since 2007, Turkmenistan has been implementing reforms in economic sectors and political areas. Turkmenistan adopted a new version of the Constitution in September 2008. Turkmenistan’s legislation is being reviewed in line with its international treaty obligations, including in the area of the rule of law and protection of human rights. A new Party of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists was established following the adoption of a new law on political parties. Turkmenistan opened five human rights resource centres mainly at the tertiary educational institutes in four provinces and at the National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in the capital city to provide better access to citizens on human rights related literature.
Turkmenistan introduced a Notional Defined Contribution (NDC) pension system (replacing the previous pay-as-you-go system) and the Pension Fund in early 2012. According to the Government of Turkmenistan, 75% of the 2012 national budget was allocated to the implementation of the National Programme (2007- 2020) on Improving Social and Living Conditions of People. This rate of social expenditures is also stated by ADB.Turkmenistan's Human Development Index in 2013 is 0.698, which gives the country a rank of 102 out of 186 countries.
Turkmenistan approved the National Climate Change Strategy in June 2012 which lays out the policy framework for building climate resilience and low emission economy in Turkmenistan. The strategy stipulates a number of sector-tailored measures to ensure mitigation and adaptation response from the key economic areas, such as oil and gas, power engineering, construction, water, agriculture and the like. The adoption of this strategy signals that Turkmenistan is eager to make its economy greener have less carbon emissions and become more resource efficient.
Turkmenistan has been active in some global and regional development issues in recent years. Turkmenistan was elected member of the UN Commission on Population and Development for the period of 2012-2015, to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs for the period of 2012-2015, and to the Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on continuing basis. Turkmenistan is the Chair of UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (UNSPECA) for 2012 and Vice-Chair of the UN Economic Commission for Europe until 2015. In 2013, the UN General Assembly elected Turkmenistan to ECOSOC for 2013-2015.
Turkmenistan, as one of the major oil and natural gas producers, is a leading advocate developing an appropriate international legal framework for security of energy transit system.