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Kazakhstan and the UN: cooperation for the sake of peace, security and development

On 2nd of March, it was the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the resolution on the 46th session of the General Assembly of the UN, which approved the membership of our country in the major international organization. Here we present an interview with Marat Tazhin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, about the results of Kazakhstan’s participation in the UN and perspectives on strengthening the cooperation.


- Marat Mukhanbetkazievich, what do you think was the most typical feature of the cooperation between Kazakhstan and the UN in the last 15 years?
- These 15 years of Kazakhstan’s membership in the UN should be considered as part of the history of our development as an independent country and a competent member of world society. After all, on the 2nd of March 1992, our country became a secure member of the community of nations, as the organization is sometimes known. Membership of the UN is one of the bright symbols of sovereignty and evidence of Kazakhstan’s invariable devotion to the ideas of peace, development and universal prosperity. At the time of Kazakhstan’s first steps on the international arena, the President Nazarbaev emphasized the priority of cooperation with the UN. Our country has gained the reputation of a responsible partner by implicit fulfillment of its international responsibilities. World society highly appreciates the decision of the leader of the country to give up its nuclear arsenal, which was fourth in the world by its military potential. Kazakhstan initiated carrying out the First International Ministerial Conference of the UN on the problems of the developing landlocked countries, which was held in Almaty in January 2003. In January 2005, the Republic of Kazakhstan arranged the session of the Counterterrorist Committee of the Security Council of the UN in order to consolidate efforts on fighting the international terrorism. The election of Kazakhstan to one of the most important bodies of the UN – the Economic and Social Council –recognized the constructive role of our country. On the plenary session held on 2nd of November 2006, Kazakhstan received the support of 187 countries out of 192 members of the UN to become the first Central Asian country to be elected as one of the 54 members of the UN ESC. Starting from this year, Kazakhstan will represent the Asian region in the organization. Membership in the UN ESC is based on a recognition of Kazakhstan’s practical contribution towards strengthening international security and the nonproliferation of the weapons of mass destruction, development of dialog among the civilizations, and successful achievement of the Millennium Goals. The 63rd session of the Economic and Social council of the UN for Asia and Oceania (UN ESCAO), the largest regional economic council that unites more than 50 countries, will be organized in Almaty in May this year. The forthcoming forum will become one of the most significant international activities in the history of Kazakhstan and the Central Asian region by the composition of the members and the range of considered issues. By hosting this important forum, our country assists in the participation of worldwide society in solving the most topical issues of Central Asia. In general, summarizing the past 15 years, we need to notice that it was a very eventful period (even by the standards of the UN, with its rich history), which included events of historical importance. Kazakhstan, due to its active and thoughtful position, contributed to the matters of peace, security and development, as well as functional and structural modernization of the UN.

- Kazakhstan’s multidirectional diplomacy has developed its own characteristic features during the years of cooperation with the UN and its specialized structures. How do our partners see these features?
- Typical features of Kazakhstan’s cooperation with the UN are intense activity, with which our country joined the realization of the goals spelled out in the regulations of the UN, devotion to the basic principles of ensuring peace, security, and development of friendly relations among the nations, and realization of international cooperation in solving international problems. The speech by N. Nazarbaev, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which can be considered as historical for Kazakhstan’s external policy, on the 47th session of the General Assembly in October 1992 is an example of the feature mentioned above. That’s when the CICA (Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia) was presented to world society. CICA was Kazakhstan’s initiative and became a real factor in the international relations and formation of the security system in Asia. Standing on the tribune of the UN, Kazakhstan’s leader emphasized the principal readiness of our country to share with other members of international society the responsibility for achievement of the development goals, observance of human rights, strengthening of the issue of nonproliferation of the mass destruction weapons and working out efficient measures of opposing the contemporary threats to stability and security. The appeal for the member countries to begin forming funds for the peace keeping actions of the UN, created by voluntary contributions (one percent) from the defense share of the budget, was made in the same speech. Although, this initiative has not yet been realized, the objective of decreasing the world’s military expenses is not unachievable.

- The examples, given by you, are evidence that Kazakhstan is devoted to strengthening the multidimensional idea and principles of collective responsibility of civilized countries for solving global problems.
- The hopes for ensuring the stability and forming a just order in the world binds Kazakhstan, as many other countries, with the UN. It is especially important now, when globalization processes cover practically all spheres of life and increase the mutual dependence of some problems, previously considered separate, as well as regions, which are sometimes located thousands of kilometers apart. Today no country, even the strongest super power, can resist on its own such challenges as international terrorism, the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, poverty, regional conflicts, etc. These problems are international in their core and thus require collective solutions. The modern world wouldn’t accept unidirectional actions. It is as true as the fact that there is no alternative for a multidirectional diplomacy. Today, the experts speak of the “renaissance of multidirectional diplomacy”. Kazakhstan consistently supports the multi polar world as the optimal formula for ensuring a balance of powers and international security. This position is expressed in Kazakhstan’s strategy of carrying out a multidirectional and balanced external policy. It is not only the pragmatic choice of the country, which borders with two member countries of the UN Security Council; it is also our vision of the future structure of the world.

- Speaking of the central role of the UN in developing solutions for the most urgent problems of the humanity, we cannot forget the issue of the organization’s efficient activity, the issue of reforming the UN, which is discussed in the top rated international forums. What is the situation with this task, and what is Kazakhstan’s position?
- It is true that the question of reforming the UN has long been under the attention of member countries and world society. This is not surprising if we consider the changes that the organization has faced since its creation in 1945. During the 60 years of its existence, the number of member countries increased almost fourfold from 51 to 192. Since Kazakhstan joined the UN, thirteen other countries either joined or re-registered their membership. Naturally, such changes influence the efficiency of the organization, including the General Assembly, Security Council, and the Economic and Social Council. Therefore, the member states and the leaders of the organization decided on the necessity of carrying out reformation of the UN, to the ends of increasing transparency in the decision making process, eliminating redundant bureaucratic matters in the activity of the UN Secretariat, and precisely defining the powers of all of the bodies. The above questions were discussed on the Summit of the world leaders in New York in autumn 2005. This resulted in adoption of the special summarizing document on reformation of the UN. Since that time, many decisions of the forum have been realized, such as the creation of the Human Rights Council, Committee on peace-making, UN Democracy Fund, and the Central Fund of reacting to a state of emergency. The power of the General Assembly and the UN ESC were approved. Regarding Kazakhstan’s position on UN reform, I’d like to say that the position was developed as a result of consulting with the member states of the UN, and represents a big picture that includes our national interests and responsibilities to our partners. We support the idea of a strong and capable UN being the key instrument for the collective regulation of international relations and formation of a multi-polar world based on the Charters of the UN and the norms of international law. We support the necessity to adjust the institutions of the UN according to the modern geopolitical and geo-economic situation, and the necessity of rational reformation in order to take into account the opinions of all countries in solving the main international problems. All of the most important international problems and issues, such as peace keeping, security, sustainable development, disarmament, nonproliferation of mass destruction weapons, international terrorism and extremism, drugs trafficking, organized crime, and compliance with human rights should be resolved in the framework of international law under the supervision of the UN. However, the reformation process is being delayed. We think that only a constructive dialog can produce a result. The key to solving this problem is in the denial of the thoughts of the time of the “cold war”, taking into account the factors of the modern world and considering the opinions of all members of the international society. We hope that, on these grounds, the member states will find a compromise.

- How did you react to assigning Ban Ki-moon to the position of the Secretary General of the UN, and what are the prospects of Kazakhstan in relation to his actions on this position?
- One of the reasons we supported Ban Ki-moon in his contest for the position of the Secretary General was that he would be a representative of the Asian region. As you know, according to the unwritten rule of geographic rotation, the new administrative head of the UN should be a person from an Asian country. That’s why we considered Ban Ki-moon to be one of the most appropriate candidates, taking into account his extensive experience as the head of the external policy department of South Korea. Besides, he has done much for strengthening regional security and improvement of mutual relations between Kazakhstan and South Korea. By the way, Ban Ki-moon has visited our country several times, including participating in the second summit of CICA in June 2006, when he signed the Charter documents of the CICA Secretariat on behalf of the government of South Korea. In the position of the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon has proved himself to be an experienced administrator and politician, and provided himself, his team and the member states with difficult tasks, without which the further development of the UN is impossible. We thoroughly observe his actions and would like to note that in his speech to the delegates of the UN Conference on Disarmament, which took place in Geneva on 22 of March this year, he said the following: “The world military expenses reached 1,2 trillion USD. This incredible figure amounts to 2,5% of the world GDP. If only one percent of these expenses were redirected to the development goals, world society would have come significantly closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals”. Mentioning one percent of military expenses directly relates to our President’s suggestion mentioned above. This is the evidence of the fact that truly humane ideas never die and sooner or later obtain a second wind.

- We know that there are offices of the UN system in Astana and in Almaty. How efficient is their cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and what is the reason for the offices’ presence in our country?
- Representatives of several specialized institutions, funds and programs of the UN have been actively working in Kazakhstan since 1992. Initially, their activity was directed to providing a wide range of technical, consultative and financial assistance to our country. We should remember that the UN came to Kazakhstan being invited by our government during difficult times for country, and the assistance provided by the UN in developing Kazakhstan’s governmental, economic and social infrastructure was very valuable. We should also note that the assistance was provided by the UN free of charge. This demonstrates the nature of the organization, which provides help and shares its knowledge and resources very well. I think that the best features of the UN were observed when the tragedy of the children becoming infected with HIV took place in the Southern Kazakhstan oblast. The representatives of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Kazakhstan were one of the first to respond to the tragedy and send their staff, as well as inviting specialists from abroad, to help the families. We are grateful for this support. In general, currently the cooperation between the government of Kazakhstan and the representation of the UN in Kazakhstan is realized within the program of the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for 2005 – 2009, which was adopted in summer 2005. The document is the roadmap which defines the cooperation projects to be realized together with the government of Kazakhstan, the amounts to be spent on the projects and their spheres. We hope that the representation of the UN will take the necessary actions to move their office in Almaty to Astana, so that their management is located in the same city as the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan. We would be glad to help with the move.

- In conclusion, could you tell us your vision of future role of the UN and development of the cooperation between Kazakhstan and the UN?
- Recognizing the central and unique role of the UN in solving the most important questions of the modern world, we are not going to be merely observers of the processes taking place in the organization. During its 15 years of membership, Kazakhstan has made a great contribution to maintaining peace and security in the world. Giving up its nuclear arsenal, creation of the confidence-building measures in Asia, strengthening the integration processes in Eurasia, encouragement of the dialog between the civilization and religion – these are only a fraction of actions taken by Kazakhstan in accordance with the principles and regulations of the UN. Kazakhstan deserves its recognition as the country with a well-thought out and constructive approach to solving international problems. Speaking of the perspectives on cooperation, we intend to purposefully use the capabilities of the UN and the organizations of its system to take certain actions towards alleviating the negative economic and humanitarian consequences of such catastrophes as the Aral Sea and Balkhash lake drying out, radioactive pollution of Semipalatinsk polygon, reduction of the number and pollution of the sources of drinking water. Another important task is to act on a range of humanitarian problems, including a reduction of poverty, general improvement of the population’s health, and reduction of maternal and infant mortality. In connection to the above, attention will be given to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the Principles of Sustainable Development, which were approved by international society on the Millennium Summit in New York in 2000 and the Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. Kazakhstan’s devotion to the responsibilities of achieving these goals and principles will be the central part of further development of the cooperation between our country and the UN, as well as other donor societies on solving the above problems.

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