Financial Times blogs
As a strategically vital trade hub and home to nearly 70m people, Central Asia has for too long lacked representation at the top table of global politics.
To date, no Central Asian country has sat on the UN Security Council. This is despite the increasing prominence of the area, not just as a geopolitical player, but as an emerging power with its own unique identity, relationships and above all experiences. This June will see the decision of the UN General Assembly on five non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018. We hope that Kazakhstan will be given the honour of being one of these new members.
As we approach the 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence this year, we can feel proud of the remarkable progress our country has made. Impressive economic growth since our independence, harmonious culture that includes more than 100 ethnic groups and 17 religions, as well as a welcoming attitude to new friends and opportunities, have led us to the position where we are ready to assume new responsibilities as part of the global community.
Our position, both physical and symbolic, as the bridge between West and East, Europe and Asia, has given us a unique perspective on diffusing tensions and building relations that we feel would greatly benefit all states looking for peace and prosperity.
This perspective has led to the development of our consistent and multi-vector foreign policy, focusing on developing relations with all countries and international organizations. We have demonstrated this by acting as a mediator on complex international issues and facilitating dialogue between opposing states.
In major international crises in Ukraine and Iran we have been proud to contribute towards peaceful conclusions. In 2014 and early 2015, President Nursultan Nazarbayev held a series of talks with the international parties involved in the Ukrainian crisis and assisted significantly with the convening and eventual success of the two Minsk summits in August 2014 and February 2015.
Kazakhstan also played an important role in the success of the Iranian nuclear deal by hosting two rounds of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries in 2013, as well as directly participating in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
As the conflict in Syria continues to impact the stability of the region, we provided a platform for the two rounds of Syrian opposition talks in May and October 2015 and will continue to support the case for peace.
We have also shown our capability to take a leading role in strengthening international security as evidenced by President Nazarbayev’s continued work in addressing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. In 2015, the Government of Kazakhstan signed a host country agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to establish a low-enriched uranium bank in the country to provide the world with a guaranteed supply of the fuel for civic nuclear energy, thus making an important contribution to strengthening the non-proliferation regime.
With over 25 years of commitment to diffusing conflict – from being the first country to unilaterally give up its nuclear stockpile, to the recent launch of the Manifesto “The World. The 21st Century” by President Nazarbayev calling for global action to reduce the threat of war – Kazakhstan’s experience will be invaluable as inter-state tensions rise.
Respect and tolerance between the rich array of religions and cultures in Kazakhstan is an attitude that underpins our whole society as well as our firm belief in religious reconciliation. Through tangible action as part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, we have worked to prevent divisions and enhance co-operation between different strands of Islam. The development of the Islamic Organization for Food Security in Kazakhstan and commitment to economic cooperation has helped create jobs, stability and prosperity while addressing some of the symptoms of extremism.
We are also a young democracy. It goes without saying that the hard lessons we have learned over the past 25 years as we move to a full democratic system are fresh in our minds. Kazakhstan knows too well the balance that is required to facilitate the wholesale change in society while keeping fundamental values and traditions enshrined. In our short history we have transitioned from a recipient of aid to a donor, providing over $100m in assistance to our neighbours in Central Asia, including Afghanistan, and other UN member states.
We now work on institutionalising efforts in this direction by launching a national official development assistance agency KazAID. Our experience in this endeavour will be invaluable to other countries looking to do the same. We have also worked to assist our friends further away, helping countries in Africa build up their institutional capacities and fight Ebola, assisting countries in the Pacific in developing sustainable energy solutions, and helping nations in the Caribbean better prepare for natural disasters.
Central Asia has faced numerous challenges over the past half century, yet it is the unique experiences and perspectives gained from overcoming these issues that defines the value our inclusion as a non-permanent member would provide. The UN was founded on the principles of inclusion and fairness, on welcoming new voices and encouraging participation. In this respect, as well as the many others that we have laid out before, Kazakhstan is ready to take up its responsibilities. We therefore look forward with hope to an increased cooperation and support from the UN member states.