Photo: Celebrations on the Day of the Capital City of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Credit: - Photo: 2017

Diplomacy Brings the World to Kazakh Capital Astana

By Ramesh Jaura

This is the fifth in a series of articles from Kazakhstan which being geographically located both in Asia and Europe, considers itself a Eurasian country. The articles are based on information gathered during a visit from June 7 to June 15 on the occasion of the opening of EXPO 2017 in Astana. Video clips accompany the articles in this series. – The Editor

NEW YORK | ASTANA (IDN) – The world has been meeting in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana several weeks ahead of the 25th anniversary of the country’s diplomatic service on July 2: at the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Expo 2017, the Astana Economic Forum, and the Eurasian Media Forum.

These four notable events – attended by heads of state and government, senior United Nations and national governments’ officials, representatives of business and industry, print, radio and television journalists as well as cameramen and camerawomen from around the world – imparted Astana the flavour of a vigorous hub of international activity aimed at connecting people of all ethnicities, religions and political predispositions.

Kazakhstan is home to 130 ethnicities, which include Kazakhs (comprising 63 percent of the population), Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Germans, Tatars, and Uyghurs. Islam is the religion of about 70 percent of the population, and Christianity of some 26 percent.

“The capital city’s success in hosting over weeks a series of important events might turn out to be one of the first tests the country has passed with merit to host the United Nations Headquarters in a not too distant future,” noted an observer, recalling President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s address to the 70th UN General Assembly on September 28, 2015.

UN Headquarters in Astana in 2045?

Looking ahead 30 years to UN’s 100th birthday in 2045, President Nazarbayev proposed far-reaching reforms of the world body, from creating a supranational currency to moving its headquarters from New York to Asia.

As to the location of UN Headquarters, he said: “The powerful rise of Asia’s developing economies has defined a new reality in global processes. In order to use this historic change and opportunity to give a new boost to relations between states, I propose considering the transfer of the UN headquarters to Asia.”

Apparently President Nazarbayev considers Astana and the Eurasian country of Kazakhstan – officially a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic with a diverse cultural heritage – as an appropriate venue for the UN Headquarters.

Not only because as the world’s largest landlocked country it shares borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea. Besides, the terrain of Kazakhstan offers flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts.

Thinking ahead, six years after declaring independence, President Nazarbayev moved in 1997 the capital from Almaty, the country’s largest city, to Akmola, which was in May 1998 renamed Astana, “the capital city” in Kazakh, the country’s language.

Beyond that, Akmaral Arystanbekova, the Ambassador-at-Large of the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says, Kazakhstan faced the daunting task of ensuring its speedy integration into the international community and a full entry into the world political and economic arena.

She adds: “Having joined the United Nations on March 2, 1992, our country had two specific tasks to complete. First, we had to expeditiously establish cooperation with the United Nations’ various funds and programmes to be able to qualify for their assistance in resolving our most urgent economic, social and environmental problems.

“Secondly, as one of the newest member states of the United Nations, Kazakhstan had to learn on the spot how to participate in and contribute to the solution of pressing international issues on the General Assembly’s agenda.”

“Much to be proud of”

Against this backdrop, Arystanbekova says, Kazakhstan’s foreign service has “much to be proud of” while celebrating the 25th anniversary. She served as the first Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations from 1992 to 1999 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan from 1989 to 1991.

Current Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov recalls in an article in Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper that in a decree in 1992, President Nazarbayev defined the key functions of the new Foreign Ministry. The most important of these was “to ensure protection of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and inviolability of the Republic of Kazakhstan’s borders and its interests in the international arena by using the instruments and methods of diplomacy”.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan has established diplomatic relations with 182 countries of the world. Kazakhstan has 57 embassies abroad, 11 consulate-generals, 3 diplomatic missions, 16 consulates and 4 permanent missions to international organizations. Kazakhstan hosts 69 embassies, 19 consulates, and 27 representative offices of international organizations.

Regional and global diplomacy

As Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko told IDN in Astana, Kazakhstan’s diplomacy in 25 years was marked by 25 achievements that were topped by those in regional and global diplomacy.

These include: peaceful settlement of Kazakhstan’s borders after the dissolution of the Soviet Union with all neighbours; establishing good relations with all countries of the world by deploying multi-vector diplomacy; launching the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), a structure for promoting security in Asia which now brings together 26 nations.

Besides, Kazakhstan has been actively participating in establishing and developing regional economic and security organisations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Kazakhstan also chaired the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 and hosted its summit, the first in eleven years, which adopted the Astana Commemorative Declaration, reconfirming the Organisation’s fundamental principles.

Non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament

Kazakhstan made invaluable contributions to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in the previous quarter of a century. The most important of these were the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and renouncing the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal.

The country also established with four regional neigbours, the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (CANWFZ) in 2009. A Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was created.

Kazakhstan also hosted two rounds of Iran and P5+1 – the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany – talks in 2013 that helped lead to a successful conclusion in the Iranian nuclear deal in 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Peace and security

The quarter century has been marked by important contributions to peace and security. It coincides notably with the country’s election as a non-permanent member of the UN’s formidable Security Council for 2017-2019. Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian country to bag the seat.

This represents for Arystanbekova, who served as the first Permanent Representative of the independent Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations from 1992 to 1999 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan from 1989 to 1991 “a historic milestone”.

Kazakhstan has also been assisting with the successful hosting of two Minsk summits on Ukraine in 2014-2015. It played a crucial role in healing the rift between Russia and Turkey in 2015-2016.

Similarly, the country hosted four rounds of talks on the Syrian crisis as part of the so-called Astana Process in 2017.

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry has also been working with regional neighbours to promote cooperation and maintain stability in Central Asia, and assisting Afghanistan on a systematic basis in its efforts to rebuild peace.

Economic development

Economic developments is another important pillar of the Foreign Ministry’s achievements: Kazakhstan became one of the founding states of the Eurasian Economic Union, comprising five nations – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Russia – and a common market of more than 180 million people.

Kazakhstan has also been developing a new transit route between Europe and Asia, thus playing a major role in China’s Silk Road Economic programme.

The country has become a favourite destination of foreign investment in the region – a total of more than $260 million; a leader among CIS countries in FDI (foreign direct investment volumes per capita) achieved in part through economic diplomacy.

Two further achievements in economic development are: Kazakhstan’s membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and ensuring close cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the hosting the landmark EXPO 2017 with the theme of Future Energy.

Humanitarian and harmony aimed activities

Humanitarian sphere, equality and harmony are yet another pillar of foreign policy achievements in the previous 25 years. It includes: leading the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2011-2012, initiating the creation of the Islamic Organization on Food Security of the OIC (2016), hosting the first ever OIC summit on Science and Technology in 2017.

An important achievement is also transitioning from a recipient of aid to a donor. Kazakhstan provides various forms of assistance to UN member states, amounting to more than $300 million in humanitarian support. It has also launched a national programme of official development assistance (ODA), to be implemented under the umbrella of KazAID.

The triennial Congress of Leaders of the World and Traditional Religions, hosted in Astana since 2003, is yet another unique and inspiring undertaking. Kazakhstan also initiated the proclamation by the United Nations of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures for 2013-2022.

Gender equality and empowerment is another distinguished plank on which bKazakhstan has built its diplomacy as a soft power. Arystanbekova finds it noteworthy that over the past 25 years among Kazakhstan’s six permanent representatives to the UN there have been two women – Madina Jarbussynova and Byrganym Aitimova – who have worked hard to solidify and enhance the country’s cooperation with the UN.

“I am encouraged by the fact that women have slowly but surely made their way to high leadership positions in the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan,” she notes. [IDN-InDepthNews – 6 July 2017]

Related articles:
EXPO 2017 Shows the Way to Sustainable Energy Solutions
Astana Summit Favours UN Security Council Reform and a Polycentric World Order
What SCO Summit in Kazakhstan Means for India-Pak Ties
UN Chief Lauds Kazakhstan, Vows Close Cooperation with SCO

Photo: Celebrations on the Day of the Capital City of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Credit: /Capital_day.jpg

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate –

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