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Confronting nuclear dangers – The Astana Times


The goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from this planet received a timely boost this year with the successful negotiation of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017.

This Treaty is a remedy for some of the shortcomings in the existing legal and moral framework on nuclear weapons, but it is by no means the end of the road.

Prohibition sends a clear message that the majority of people in this world do not believe that nuclear weapons increase their security; but getting to elimination is a long-term activity.

While disarmament can take place, there remain areas of the world that can be described as being of “nuclear danger” – relatively new areas where nuclear weapons are present or where there is a serious risk of further nuclear proliferation.

Of course, “new” here is meant in relation to the time of the Cold War, the height of nuclear weapons folly. The legacy of the arms race means that the majority of nuclear weapons are still possessed by the U.S. and Russia, and nuclear disarmament must take place in the context of ever-more strained relations between these two.

Creative measures and reinvigorated political will are necessary to overcome the antagonism, not just between the U.S. and Russia, but equally amongst the other states possessing nuclear weapons. The fact that none of these states saw fit to participate in the UN-backed process on the prohibition of nuclear weapons shows the stark divide between haves and have-nots.

Since the early days of the Cold War, and continuing to this day, the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs has been a relentless champion of disarmament. Since the very first conference 60 years ago, Pugwash has been synonymous with “dialogue across divides”, providing opportunities for scientists and policymakers to meet and confront the conflicts and issues of the world.

At this time, perhaps more than ever, such dialogue is needed. It is not simply that progress toward nuclear disarmament is slow, nor that too many weapons – 15,000-16,000 – continue to pose a threat to humanity. Rather, the world is in a dangerous moment with respect to forms of extremism and non-state actors, protracted and unresolved conflicts and the rise of various nationalisms. It is precisely at this time that more must be done to ensure people talk, listen and understand one another in efforts to build peace.

The founding goal of Pugwash is to decrease the salience of nuclear weapons that continue to threaten people’s security.

Kazakhstan set an example to the world by categorically rejecting the possession of nuclear weapons and the continuation of their testing at Semipalatinsk. Kazakhstan was also a leader in the establishment of Central Asia as a zone free of nuclear weapons. These are concrete actions that must be supported and other countries should follow their lead.

For the past 15 years, Pugwash has addressed the changing international environment. The Middle East, South Asia and North-East Asia are all areas where there is a propensity for conflict that is unfortunately matched with the existence of nuclear weapons or nuclear capabilities. The combination can create very dangerous situations of global significance, as we are seeing on the Korean Peninsula most recently.

Furthermore, where insecurity prevails there continues to be the danger of states seeking to rely upon nuclear weapons, either through developing their own programme or by the de facto reliance on other states to provide a nuclear umbrella. These examples of possible proliferation should be of grave concern to all states – they provide yet another reason to strengthen the existing normative framework governing nuclear weapons.

Promoting dialogue across the divides in these areas is with the hope of helping to lower conflict and hence the risk of possible nuclear use. This is the message of the founding document of the Pugwash movement, the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955: “We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?”

In a country that is geographically very close to Kazakhstan, namely Afghanistan, there is war that has been going on for 37 years, with the direct involvement of Russia first and the U.S. later. The instability that comes from Afghanistan can further cause the spread of chaos in the entire region, and creates possible risks of spill-over into nuclear-armed Pakistan. For this reason, Pugwash has been very much committed to helping Afghanistan to find a peaceful way out of a conflict where no side is reasonably allowed to have a military victory. Afghanistan will be just one subject of a wide debate in Astana during the forthcoming 62nd Pugwash International Conference this week that aims to confront nuclear dangers.

The author is Secretary General of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.



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Pugwash movement: how world scientists have stood against nuclear war


In July 1955, eleven internationally renowned scientists signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, which laid the foundations of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

The movement’s first conference took place in July 1957 in the village of Pugwash in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

In 1995, the Pugwash Movement was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms.”

The authors of the historic manifesto in 1955 noted with concern that “the general public, and even many men in positions of authority, have not realised what would be involved in a war with nuclear bombs” and “what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation more than anything else is that the term ‘mankind’ feels vague and abstract.”

The authors of the manifesto warned that “in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed.”

Unfortunately, after more than 60 years, the text of the manifesto remains topical.

In his Nobel lecture in 1995, the President of the Pugwash movement Joseph Rotblat said, “I have to bring to your notice a terrifying reality: with the development of nuclear weapons Man has acquired, for the first time in history, the technical means to destroy the whole of civilisation in a single act.”

In fact, any war, any murder, any use of weapons and violence are contrary to a brighter destiny of man.

Nuclear weapons, the use of which will lead to “universal death, sudden only for a minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration,” is an extreme expression of evil created by humanity.

In this sense, the words of the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Francis Sejersted on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Pugwash Movement in 1995 are more relevant than ever: “Since we have no way of banning knowledge concerning nuclear weapons, the only guarantee that they will never be used is, in the last analysis, probably a world without war.”

And this is how Article VI of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1968 should be read: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

This year, the Pugwash Movement marks the 60th anniversary of its activity, and its 62nd conference will be held on August 25-29 in Astana.

It is symbolic that the conference will come to its end on the day of the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site, which saw 456 nuclear explosions. Our country, our people know about the horrors of nuclear weapons firsthand. More than one and a half million people were affected by nuclear tests, and the echo of nuclear explosions still resonates to our days.

By hosting the 62nd conference of the Pugwash Movement of Scientists in Astana, together with scientists from all over the world, again appeals to everyone: the threat of nuclear weapons is not an abstraction, and we must put all our efforts to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The mere fact of the existence of nuclear weapons poses to each of us, as Erich Fromm wrote, a question point-black: is a man inclined to destruction or creation?

The root of the problem of the existence of nuclear weapons lies not in strategic stability or nuclear deterrence, nor in multilateral arms reduction and control treaties.

The problem is in a man himself. In good and evil. In culture. In education. In the aesthetics and ethics of human existence.

In 1931, the eminent philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev in one of his speeches, said: “The future of man, the future of culture depends on whether a person wants to free himself/herself for a moment, to think about it, to comprehend his/her life, and to turn his/her gaze to the sky.”

And one of the greatest poets of our time Joseph Brodsky aptly noted: “I believe that for a man who has read much of Dickens, it is more difficult to shoot a similar person in the name of any idea than for a man who did not read Dickens.”

This is what the Russell-Einstein Manifesto states: We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

 

The author is Director of the Astana-based International Security and Policy Centre.



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from Soviets to democratic values


On August 30, 1995, the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan was adopted. The current constitution is the supreme act in Kazakhstan’s system of law. It has the highest legal force and has a direct effect on the entire territory of Kazakhstan.

The legal formalisation of real relations in society, i.e. the actual constitution, is ensured by a written legal constitution. In the history of Kazakhstan there have been five such constitutions. Three of them were adopted during the Soviet period, the other two adopted during the years of Kazakhstan’s independence. Undoubtedly, all of them in one degree or another affected Kazakh statehood and its development.

The foundation of the first Constitution of an independent Kazakhstan was the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Kazakh SSR of October 25, 1990, and the Constitutional Law of December 16, 1991, “On State Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” This demonstrates that the sovereign people and sovereign country have a sovereign constitution. It organically proceeds from the inalienable sovereign right of the people to have statehood and to be a full-fledged subject of the world community.

At the same time, being adopted by the Supreme Soviet (the parliament of the time), it had a compromise character. The question of whether Kazakhstan was a presidential or parliamentary country at that time remained open.

At the first session of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan in March 1995, Nursultan Nazarbayev initiated the adoption of a new constitution. The Constitution of 1995 embodied the will of the people – it passed through a broad public discussion and was then adopted through a national referendum.

The main feature of our constitution is that it takes into account the fact of the multi-ethnicity of the people and does not infringe on the interests of the state-forming Kazakh nation. It is enough only to pay attention to its preamble: “We, the people of Kazakhstan, united by a common historical destiny, creating statehood on the ancient Kazakh land…” Both chambers of the Parliament stipulate the existence of a quota for representation of national, cultural and other significant interests of society, and the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan is given a constitutional status.

The preparation of the draft constitution was initiated by the, First President of Kazakhstan, and he played a key role in its development with the assistance of a group of leading local and foreign lawyers. As is known, it is based on the model of the French Constitution from 1958. The system of supreme bodies of state power with the “arbitration” position of the President practically reflects the Constitution of the French Republic. The President is elected by citizens and without the participation of the Parliament. At the same time his authority, on the one hand, is limited by the constitution and laws, on the other hand, it is balanced by the functioning of the bicameral Parliament and the Constitutional Council.

The ideas expressed by the President laid the foundation for the construction of the Basic Law. In his book “The Kazakhstan Way”, President Nazarbayev detailed the history of drafting the constitution and elaborating the main approaches of the constitutional reform.

For example, among Kazakhstan’s fundamental principles, the current constitution includes public consent and political stability, economic development for the benefit of the whole nation, patriotism and the solution of the most important issues of state life by democratic methods, including voting in a national referendum or in Parliament. He made a direct contribution to fixing those principles, whose immutability in 2017 was designated by parliamentary deputies as part of constitutional reform. With the huge support from broad sections of society, we can call our constitution both charismatic and national.

Kazakhstan claims to be a democratic, secular, legal and social state. In other words, the country intends to progressively develop as a modern, strong state, whose power is based on the law that restricts it and reflects progressive universal ideals. The individual; his life, rights and freedoms; are proclaimed as the highest values of the state.

It is very significant that one third of the articles of the constitution is devoted to the legal status of a person and a citizen.

The people are defined as the only source of state power, exercising power directly through the national referendum and free elections, as well as delegating the exercise of their authority to state bodies.

The presidential form of government, as history demonstrates, is the most acceptable for multiethnic Kazakhstan and helps avoid political crises. Ideological and political pluralism is recognised. Unified state power is exercised on the basis of the constitution and laws in accordance with the principle of its division into the legislative, executive and judicial branches and interaction among themselves using a system of checks and balances. Moreover, the coordinated functioning of all branches of state power and the responsibility of the authorities to the people is provided by the President.

Since the adoption of the current constitution, amendments and additions have been made to it four times: in 1998, 2007, 2011 and this year. The need for reforms every time was initiated by the President. Neither the government nor the Parliament have taken advantage of this opportunity.

We see that the reforms that have been undertaken have been consistent, reconciled and carried out while preserving the entire framework of the political system in order to achieve the goals of phased implementation of democratic reforms, without excessive politicisation, shocks and tensions in society. They are relevant to the historical situation and the objective level of the country’s development.

Approaches that are aimed at reviewing certain articles of the constitution are possible and are not excluded, because the introduction of new articles and the modification or abolition of already obsolete ones takes into account the political, economic and social needs and demands of society.

The stability of constitutional norms is guaranteed by the fact that the constitution contains provisions on subjects entitled to make a proposal to amend the constitution and make a final decision. The procedure and limits of such reforms are stipulated.

Proceeding from the fact that the President is a symbol and guarantor of the unity of the people and state power and the inviolability of the constitution, draft amendments and additions to the constitution are submitted to a national referendum or to the Parliament only by the President. The unity and territorial integrity of the state established by the constitution, the form of government, as well as the independence and fundamental principles of the activities of the republic, are not subject to any change.

From the point of view of current conditions and foreseeable prospects, Kazakhstan’s constitution is quite conducive to the consistent formation and promotion of the state policy, its sustainability and continuity, as well as comprehensive modernisation of all spheres of life.

The author is head of the Legal Analytics Department of the Centre for Political Analysis and Strategic Studies of the Nur Otan Party.



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Kazakhstan’s defence industry increases its competitiveness, company official says


ASTANA – What happened to Kazakhstan’s defence industry after the collapse of the USSR? How did it manage to establish a new military equipment production? What is the Kazakh defence industry proud of? And what is it currently working on under the “secret” stamp I We sought answers to these and other questions in an interview with Vladimir Bobrov, former deputy of the Senate of Kazakhstan’s Parliament  and currently independent  director of JSC National Company Kazakhstan Engineering (governed by the country’s Ministry of Defence and Aerospace Industry).

Vladimir Bobrov.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev recently tasked the Minister of Defence and Aerospace Industry of Kazakhstan Beibut Atamkulov with developing the defence industry complex on the basis of advanced scientific and technical achievements. Is there a basis for this in Kazakhstan?

During the Soviet time, the military-industrial complex was a powerful system of enterprises producing military equipment, weapons and ammunition. One third of all material, financial, scientific, human and technical resources was spent on solving the country’s security problems.

In the Soviet period, about 50 enterprises of the defence industry complex were deployed in Kazakhstan. They mainly specialised in the production of weapons for the naval forces, weapons for tanks, small arms, missile systems and air defence systems’ components.

The Almaty Machine Building Plant named after Kirov was in the forefront. It was the world’s largest torpedo manufacturing enterprise.

The Petropavlovsk Heavy Machinery Plant, which specialised in the production of medium-range ballistic missiles, was one of the flagships of the Soviet defence industrial complex. The factories of Uralsk, which produced communication and navigation equipment for ships and submarines, missile systems of coastal defence are also worth noting.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the independent Kazakhstan inherited a solid inheritance – 200,000-strong armed forces, a huge amount of weapons and military equipment, buildings and military units. Thus, the Kazakh army received Soviet-made equipment. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, economic ties also collapsed, domestic enterprises were in a difficult situation: on the one hand, we no longer received parts from other republics, on the other, our products were not in demand, as there was no market. As a result, the plants of the defence industry refused to produce new products and began to deal only with repairing and modernising the remaining Soviet equipment.

Fortunately, Kazakhstan managed to maintain the human potential for research and development.

So, was it the human resources that played a crucial role in restoring Kazakhstan’s defence industry?

Exactly. Almost seven thousand people work in our teams. At the same time, young people work in all our new enterprises created in recent years. For instance, there are Bolashak scholarship holders, Nazarbayev University graduates, Karaganda State Technical University (KSTU) graduates  working in Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering. The workers were retrained in South Africa, as well as at the KamAZ-Engineering joint venture with Russia. And this is just one example.

As for our other enterprises, we organise further training for specialists in countries such as Singapore, the Netherlands, Turkey, Spain, Germany, France, and Belarus.

And how much has the range of domestic military equipment expanded over the years? Does our defence industry have something to be proud of?

Sure. Today, Kazakh enterprises produce ships, unique combat vehicles, helicopters, optical instruments, communications and radar reconnaissance systems, salvo fire systems and much more that is being used by our army. We can take the current year’s indicators as an example. Kazakhstan Aselsan Engineering LLP that specialises in the manufacture of night vision devices, electronic cards and optical lenses, made the first deliveries of thermal imaging sights, which are applied at night and daytime in all weather conditions, to Turkey.

Arlan, the multi-purpose armoured wheeled vehicle produced by Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering LLP, has been tested. This machine is equipped with a combat module SARP manufactured by Kazakhstan Aselsan Engineering LLP, which allows monitoring and shooting at any weather conditions and regardless of the time of the day.

In the Almaty region, a joint Kazakh-French enterprise Granite-Tales Electronics was set up in April this year to produce radar stations of a new generation named NUR. These stations will be used for reconnaissance and airspace control and will become one of the best in the world in terms of their tactical and technical characteristics.

By the way, this is the first project of this kind in Central Asia. With its implementation, more than 70 percent of products will be made locally. All the nodes, units, communication equipment and special automotive equipment required for the project will be produced in Kazakhstan.

In addition, on July 18, specialists of the Ural plant Zenit launched a speedboat for the Border Guard Service of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee. It is the 27th boat that was produced at the enterprise.

The boat has high speed and manoeuvrability. This, along with a low draft that allows it to enter rivers, gives the border guards the most effective way of fighting off violators of the country’s  sea borders and poachers. The special feature of this boat is the improved living conditions for the crew.

It should be noted that all the new items of the domestic defence-industrial complex were presented at the military parade dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan May 7 in Astana.

Last month, an agreement on cooperation between Kazakhstan Engineering and the Russian MiG was signed. What do you expect from this?

Indeed, at the MAX 2017 13th International Aviation and Space Salon, an agreement was concluded July 19 on cooperation between Kazakhstan Engineering and MiG Russian Aircraft Corporation.

The agreement provides for joint promotion of the MiG-35 multipurpose fighter and localisation of production of separate units and units of MiG aircraft in Kazakhstan. Thus, a full-fledged service centre for servicing aircrafts manufactured by MiG will be established in Kazakhstan, and Russian specialists will train the engineering and technical staff from among Kazakh employees.

As we see, the agreement signed is aimed at expanding military-technical cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia and the further development of Kazakhstan’s aviation industry.

By the way, we are already supplying about 40 products not only for MiG, but for other aviation enterprises in Russia.

Your argument is that domestic military products are competitive in the world market. And if our products are so good, then there is demand and, as a result, an economic effect. Is there a real increase in the share of the defence industry in the country’s GDP?

Here I would like to emphasise that a full-fledged creation of a defence industrial complex takes several years and, consequently, constant support from the state. According to forecasts, defense industry development will lead to an increase in the industrial sector of the economy.

Here are some statistics. In 2010-2017, the defence enterprises that are part of the Kazakhstan Engineering saw a five-times increase in production volumes and a threefold rise in labour productivity. These enterprises became profitable.

In 2016 alone, the enterprises of Kazakhstan Engineering produced ten percent of all machine-building production in Kazakhstan, contributing to the diversification of the country’s economy and GDP growth, which is additional proof of the demand for the available scientific and production potential.

It goes without saying that part of Kazakhstan Engineering’s work is classified, but I think you can slightly open the “veil of secrecy” and talk about further plans. Certainly, there are new projects that will serve for the benefit of the country.

Today, Kazakhstan’s defence industrial complex faces the task of implementing the ‘Future Soldier’ project. It will be a combat kit, including modern means of protection, communications, surveillance and targeting, weapons and ammunition.

Now the Ministry of Defence and Aerospace Industry are deciding on what exactly should be included in the domestic combat equipment kit of the personnel of Kazakhstan’s Armed Forces.

In neighbouring Russia, work is underway to equip the armed forces with the Ratnik combat kit. Its own sets of equipment are already in more than 50 countries.

I have already told you about the recent launch of a speedboat for the needs of the Kazakh border guards. At the same Ural shipbuilding plant, construction of a ship with a displacement of ten times more than this boat has already begun. According to the plan, it should be put into operation in 2019.

At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the need to export domestic military products to foreign markets.

This year, construction of the first Kazakhstan cartridge factory will be completed in Karaganda, in the territory of the Saryarka special economic zone. Kaztechnology, which is implementing this project, is already studying the possibility of supplying the enterprise’s products abroad. The launch of this plant will allow Kazakhstan to become one of the countries producing small arms ammunition.

Summarising, we can say that over the years of independence, Kazakhstan has made a huge leap in the development of its own defence industrial complex. Of course, there are still many tasks and projects ahead, as the production and repair of modern combat equipment is primarily aimed at the needs of the country’s defence, the ability to protect itself from external threats and ensure further economic development.



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Kazakh tourism industry poised for major expansion


Over several decades, tourism has been developing continuously and has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy. The sphere of tourism equalised and even surpassed oil exports, food trade and the automobile industry in terms of business operations.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the tourism share constituted 10 percent of the global GDP and 7 percent ($1.5 billion) of global exports. The number of international tourists grew by 4.6 percent and reached 1.2 billion visitors. The average annual increase in tourists in the world is 3-4 percent. The demand of China and India for tourism products is growing.

Such trends reveal new opportunities for the development of the world tourism industry, including in Kazakhstan (ranked 81st in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index of the 2017 World Economic Forum).

The world entered the era of new discoveries and innovative, scientific and technical solutions that change the nature of economic growth and the habitual way of life. In this regard, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced two modernisations:

Modernisation 3.0 aimed at diversifying the national economy, one of the main drivers of which is tourism;

Modernisation of national identity aimed at strengthening Kazakhstan’s identity and adapting it to the modern world.

Both modernisations directly affected the tourism development sector in Kazakhstan. On the instructions of the Prime Minister, tourism entered the so-called Olympic track of six industries that are the drivers of diversification of the national economy. The industry faces the task of increasing its share in the GDP structure to eight percent by 2025 and ensuring a percentage growth in inbound tourism to the country.

Such indicators require bold political decisions to remove administrative barriers to the development of the tourist business and facilitate the visa and immigration regime for foreign tourists, as well as develop the tourism infrastructure, diversify tourism offer and develop Kazakhstan’s tourism culture. Those were the tasks set by the President for tourism in his decree of Nov. 24, 2016 on elaborating a new concept for the development of the tourism industry until 2023.

The concept was adopted by the Kazakh Government June 27, 2017 and opened a new stage in the development of the tourism industry. The concept identifies six clusters reflecting the geographical diversity and ethno-cultural identity of Kazakhstan’s tourism offer:

  • “Astana – the heart of Eurasia” is a cluster, geographically located in the city of Astana, is a symbiosis of architectural thought. With the existing high-tech infrastructure, it is ready for the development of cultural, medical and business tourism.
  • “Almaty – Kazakhstan’s free cultural zone”– includes Almaty and part of the Almaty region with an infrastructure of alpine, scientific and educational tourism that is in accordance with international standards.
  • “Pearl of Altai”– includes the territories of the East Kazakhstan region and is the centre of ecological tourism in Kazakhstan.
  • “Revival of the Great Silk Road”– is located at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road in Kyzylorda, South Kazakhstan and Zhambyl region. It has a well-known world history of architecture, such as the monuments of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, the towns of Taraz, Turkestan and Otrar.
  • “The Caspian Gates”– are located in Mangistau, West Kazakhstan and Atyrau regions and have the potential to develop the infrastructure of coastal and resort-sanatorium tourism.
  • “Unity of nature and nomadic culture” is a cluster that includes Akmola, Karaganda and Pavlodar regions and is the centre of nomadic culture and diversity of the steppe.

Considering Kazakhstan’s rich tourism and recreational potential, the concept envisages the diversification of promising types of tourism – cultural-cognitive, ecological and ethnographic, event, children’s, youth, medical, camping, caravanning, trophy hunting , sacral and sport (trekking).

Within the modernisation of national identity, the President paid special attention to the issues of preserving Kazakhstan’s cultural identity and its own national code, which should make the country recognisable on the global tourism market.

In this regard, Kazakhstan will have a new tourism product –Kazakhstan’s Sacred Belt – a map of macro- and micro-sacral objects comprised of 600 sacred monuments, some of which we plan to include in the list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Cultural Heritage.

One of the elements of ethnographic tourism is ethno-auls (ethnic villages) created throughout Kazakhstan. They are seasonal in nature and work annually from May-September, which will enable Kazakhstan’s guests to touch the ancient traditions of Kazakhs – our music, craft, cuisine, sports games and rituals.

World practice has confirmed that trophy hunting tourism is an effective mechanism for attracting funds for wildlife conservation. It radically changes the attitude of the local population and local governmental bodies to the issues of preserving wild animals and their habitats.

Kazakhstan is exceptionally rich in wildlife for hunting. All of our efforts in trophy hunting tourism will be directed to its growth, preservation and development, from which the country will receive investments for the conservation of nature and development of the regions.

We assume that potential markets of foreign tourists to Kazakhstan will be Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, India and the developed world. In this regard, we are consistently moving towards the liberalisation of the visa and migration regime, a visa-free regime for foreign citizens applies to more than 60 countries and ADS memorandums were signed with China and Iran. In June, we launched a pilot regime until the end of the expo (Sept. 12), according to which 72 hours of visa-free transit is provided to Chinese citizens who transit via Kazakh airlines through international airports of Astana and Almaty to third countries.

Kazakhstan is thoroughly preparing to host foreign and domestic guests, strengthening existing institutions, developing tourism infrastructure and raising the quality standards of tourism services. One of the important steps is the creation of the Kazakh Tourism national tourist office to promote the country’s tourism industry in the national and international markets.

Welcome to Kazakhstan!

 

The author is the chairperson of the Tourism Industry Committee at Kazakh Ministry of Culture and Sports.



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UNIDO will support EXPO 2017 legacy projects, its chief says


ASTANA – It may be argued that industrialization is one of the most important events in the history of humanity. Due to this process, relatively more goods were produced in relatively less time. Average real incomes rose dramatically. Thus, more time was left for education, innovation and recreation.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) meets the industrial development needs of its member states through a variety of highly specialized and differentiated services that promote social inclusion, economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability, as well as the promotion of knowledge networks and institutional partnership.

In an exclusive interview, UNIDO Director General Li Yong speaks of his priorities at the helm of the organization, efforts to ensure sustainable industrialization globally and cooperation with Kazakhstan as part of EXPO 2017 and beyond.

Mr. Li, you give great importance to fiscal and financial measures. As Vice-Minister of Finance of the People’s Republic of China you prompted major financial institutions to establish corporate governance, deal with toxic assets and strengthen risk management. So, what has changed in your personal agenda since you started to serve as the Director General at the UN specialized agency, UNIDO?

My experience of growing up, and of living and working in China taught me a lot. In Asia we saw countries like Japan and the Republic of Korea develop very fast after World War II, and become members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What created the ‘miracle’ of the South-East Asian countries? Industrial development. Thanks to industrialization, these so-called ‘tigers’ and ‘dragons’ quickly reached the status of middle- and high-income level countries.

China learnt from them in the 1980s. We opened up a very poor country with a big population to the world. You can’t imagine that in 1978 GDP per capita at current prices was US$228, and now, more than 30 years after the reforms to open up the economy, GDP per capita is over US$6,000. What was the driving force? Agriculture? No. Over the past 30 years China transformed from an agricultural-based to a more industrialized country.

I have a finance background. I think everyone agrees that the global financial crisis beginning in 2008 taught us many lessons. One of them is that we should re-focus on the development of the “real sector”. This does not just apply to developing countries or middle-income countries, but is agreed on by countries at all income levels. I am very happy to see that many advanced countries are re-focusing on industrialization.

In many ways my personal agenda has not changed. As Vice-Minister of Finance of the People’s Republic of China and member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank for a decade, I was involved in setting and harmonizing fiscal, monetary and industrial policies, and in supporting long-term economic growth in China. I accorded great importance to fiscal and financial measures in favour of small and medium-sized enterprises, the cornerstones for creating economic opportunities, reducing poverty and promoting gender equality.

As Director General of UNIDO, I am heading an organization that forges partnerships, in which governments, the private sector and other stakeholders work together to create an enabling environment for inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

UNIDO pursues noble goals such as promotion of industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability. However, one may argue that there are not only benefits but also negative effects of industrialization such as deforestation, extinction of species, widespread pollution and excessive waste. So, how does your organization work with these problems? Is it possible to advance the country’s economy without causing harm to the environment?

As we all know, no developing country has ever become a developed country without a concerted policy focus on industrial development. UNIDO estimates that manufacturing alone provides more than half a billion jobs globally per year. Thanks to the multiplier effect of industry, every job in manufacturing creates 2.2 additional jobs in other sectors.

Nevertheless, industry is also one of the largest contributors to climate change and environmental degradation and, therefore, has a particular responsibility in ensuring the highest environmental standards and safeguards.

UNIDO strongly believes that sustainability must be the foremost consideration of any industrial development process. Our mandate makes explicit reference to this aspect. We work to harness industry’s full potential to create economic growth and shared prosperity, while safeguarding the environment.

In order to achieve sustainable industrialization, we work closely with our member states, the private sector and various development partners to scale up green industry solutions and technologies. We advise on resource-efficient cleaner production techniques. We provide expertise on the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. And we bolster energy efficiency standards.

For example, UNIDO has helped to phase out 340 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which corresponds to the exhaust emitted by 71 passenger vehicles in one year.

Furthermore, UNIDO has contributed to the phase-out of over one third of ozone-depleting substances in the developing world since 1992. UNIDO is promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development to mitigate the potential negative impacts of industrialization. When we manufacture products to use and to trade, we need to consume raw materials. We need to use energy, water, electricity, oil, etc. This creates pollution. UNIDO and the international community are working very hard to avoid, or at least reduce, such negative effects. This is, and will remain, a learning process.

This summer’s EXPO 2017 in Astana on Future Energy will give a powerful boost to Kazakhstan’s scientific and technological fields. A plentiful and sustainable energy supply to all parts of the world will help create conditions for peaceful co-existence. Despite the fact that Kazakhstan has an abundance of oil and gas reserves, the country hosts this exhibition in order to create a clean and sustainable future for us all. Are there any common points that Kazakhstan and UNIDO have? Could you please share with us if there are any joint programmes?

The theme of the Astana EXPO 2017, ‘Future Energy’, could not be timelier. Nearly two years have passed since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The realization that we need sustainable energy solutions to guarantee our planet’s integrity and achieve sustainable development has reached all corners of the world.

We at UNIDO recognize the importance of sustainable energy when we support our member states in achieving industrial development, in a way that is both socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. We are convinced that sustainable energy provides the foundation for shared prosperity around the world.

That is why UNIDO was very pleased to accept the invitation to participate in the Astana EXPO 2017. Over three months, we have the chance to demonstrate in the International Organizations Pavilion, how our work will help secure sustainable energy, for example, by promoting green finance and green technologies, and by facilitating the flow of expertise and best practices across countries.

To move the sustainable energy agenda forward, we need to accelerate clean energy innovation. We also need holistic technology solutions, entrepreneurship and policy innovation. For these reasons, in my recent meeting with Zhenis Kassymbek, Minister for Investment and Development of Kazakhstan, I commended the initiative of the Government of Kazakhstan to establish the International Centre for Green Technology and Investment Projects, the Astana International Financial Centre, and the techno-park for IT start-ups in the EXPO City, as legacies of the Astana EXPO 2017. We are looking into ways to support these initiatives. I can also add that the minister expressed an interest in establishing a UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office in Astana, and this is something we will discuss further.

We are already working with the Government of Kazakhstan and signed a joint declaration of cooperation in May 2014. UNIDO is delivering on its commitments to develop three projects that are financially supported by the Government of Kazakhstan. One is for industrial modernization and enterprise competitiveness in Kazakhstan. A second is for trade capacity building through strengthening standards, metrology, testing and quality infrastructure. And a third is the development of Kazakhstan’s industrial statistics.

Furthermore, UNIDO will continue to work closely with the Government of Kazakhstan to support the adoption of clean and sustainable energy standards and best practices in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda and thereby a sustainable future for all.



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Hassan Rouhani: term two – The Astana Times


As a result of the recent elections in Iran, Hassan Rouhani was re-elected the President for another four years. How will this affect the nation, which is one of Kazakhstan’s most important partners in Asia? The topic was presented to Dr. Sanat Kushkumbayev, Deputy Director of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies.

Sanat Kushkumbayev

 

First of all, could you tell us about the election campaign itself and the voting results?

It should be pointed out from the outset that the current president secured a firm majority. Last time, he received a little more than 50 percent of the vote; now, he has 57 percent and he already proved in the first round that the majority of voters stood behind him. One of the features of the current Presidential campaign is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran, was not allowed to run for President. The Supervisory Board did not support his candidacy and this is a prerequisite for participating in the election. Unlike Ahmadinejad, Rouhani is considered a moderate politician, prone to gradual reforms of the Iranian society. That is, there have been noticeable changes in Iranian sentiment. And this, perhaps, is the most important result of the presidential elections in Iran. I will note that the most important rival of Rouhani was Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered a more conservative politician. He is an experienced, charismatic politician who is popular among conservative voters. He was the candidate from the Combatant Clergy Association and was supported by a key coalition of Iranian conservatives, the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces. It is a serious political force.

 

We cannot overlook the terrible terrorist attacks in Iran.

The explosions occurred in the Parliament, which is one of the key centres of power. Gunmen attacked the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution. He ran the country from 1979 to 1988. Khomeini’s mausoleum is a sacred place for the Iranians. According to official data, 13 people died and 42 sustained various injuries.

 

This is a case when you can say “Nothing is sacred to these people!” It is not a very good beginning of the second presidential term. Will this tragedy affect a new policy?

The purpose of terrorist attacks is clearly to shake the country and force out concessions from its leaders. But this terrible story will not affect the state policy or the position of the country in a global and regional context. It is obvious that the Iranian leadership will not succumb to the threats of terrorists. Observers, including Western ones, note that these suicide attacks are the first in the history of the Islamic Republic since its inception. That is, since 1979, and the Iranian society has shown a high degree of resistance to such attacks.

 

Many experts say these terrorist attacks were predictable. Iranian volunteers are fighting in Syria for President Assad against ISIS. Their troops are in Yemen protecting their Shia brothers. Are we witnessing the next round of Sunni and Shia showdown? Since ISIS, first of all, are the Sunnis and only then terrorists and extremists who behead their “opponents.”

I absolutely disagree with this point of view. It is not a Shia-Sunni confrontation, since the Sunnis are also murdered by ISIS. This is not a religious war, but a political confrontation. Bashar al-Assad is not a Sunni nor a Shia, but an Alawi. He is the leader of the secular regime and his closest ally is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, their fight against ISIS does not fit into the religious context. Let us not deny: many Shias of the Middle East support the Shia Iran. But this does not in any way mean that the Iranians fight for fellow believers only because of religious reasons. The Palestinian movement Hamas is essentially Sunni, but a close partner of Iran. Therefore, everything is subtle here. By the way, the terrorist attackers were Iranian citizens who joined ISIS. You have to be extremely careful when assessing the situation in this country.

 

You have convincingly stated your point of view. I will add that Tehran 2017 does not fit into the outlook of the American President, who constantly surprises us. Let me remind you: during his visit to Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump called Iran a terrorist state. This statement is illogical. It is clear that Iran’s relations with the transatlantic power have worsened. Will this affect the situation in Central Asia?

This will surely not make the world and our region, in particular, more stable. The anti-Iran narrative and its escalation are counterproductive on all sides, but especially in the case of the Middle East. ISIS claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks in Tehran and it is clear that Iran is at the forefront of the fight against this terrorist organisation. The Americans have created an anti-ISIS coalition and are carrying out military operations in Iraq and Syria. But at the same time they stubbornly ignore the country, which actively opposes ISIS. Iran is a serious, influential political player in the Middle East. The sooner America admits this, the better.

 

Let us close the topic of terrorism, although it prevails today. What has changed in Kazakh-Iranian relations during these four years? For Iran, our country is not a priority. Their bane is the relationship with the United States. Europe and the Russian vector; the situations in Syria and Yemen are important to the Iranians.

Iran has a very positive attitude towards Central Asia and Kazakhstan in particular. Progress has been made in the negotiations on the status of the Caspian Sea and although the final decision is yet to be made, things are moving forward. Negotiations are underway and this is the most important thing today. Iran demonstrates a constructive position which inspires cautious optimism. This year, the 50th anniversary meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group (AWG) on the status of the Caspian Sea will be held in Tehran. The bottom line is that Iran and other Caspian countries are essentially committed to the diplomatic way of resolving the issue through dialogue.

At the same time, Iran’s geopolitical interests are now concentrated in the Arab world, in particular, in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Iran is certainly interested in good-neighbourly relations with Central Asia. The region is the strategic rear for Tehran. In this sense, the visits of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Tehran and President Hassan Rouhani to Astana have continued and enhanced the traditions of good-neighbourliness and pragmatism. New trade agreements were signed. In particular, the potential of the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran Railway is to be unlocked. The trunk railway, built along the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, will play a role in commercial transactions.

It is clear that after lifting sanctions on Iran, our trade turnover has a chance to grow. Now, nothing prevents Iran from using international financial systems. Oil transactions will be resumed and the sales of Kazakh grain to Iran will increase.

 

Experts predicted Iran would invest in the development of the oil industry of our country. But, obviously, there were more important things to think about…

Iran was severely affected by isolation. Therefore, the Islamic Republic spends its financial resources very carefully, and private business does not like taking risks. In addition, the Kazakh oil market is extremely competitive. We are open to the whole world. Such oil giants as Chinese and American companies “crossed swords.” In particular, the Chinese oil business enjoys an almost unlimited support of its state. Therefore, it will not be easy for the Iranians to win in the “value-for-money” ratio. The door for Iranian business is open. But the question is, will they be able to make an offer we cannot refuse?

 

Good-neighbourly relations are the hallmark of diplomats. But do they have an impact on the real state of affairs? Turnover, for example?

One should not expect quantum leaps here. It will require hard systematic work. You are talking about “hallmarks.” And they do reflect the true state of affairs! Good-neighbourly relations are the foundation, without which you cannot construct a single building. And the Iranians appreciate the undeniable fact that even in difficult times of international sanctions, Kazakhstan tried to maintain trade relations [with them] although [Kazakhstan] was suffering because of the global financial crisis and its purchasing power plummeted. I will give an example. Iran bought our oil for its needs through the Caspian Sea, and then shipped equivalent raw materials from its ports in the Gulf. During the sanctions, this process ceased. International banks were afraid to make payments. Now we need to restore many things, in particular the supply chain, to reconnect with old customers and find new ones.

 

It is difficult to talk about Iran and not to mention its nuclear programme. After visits by representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world believed in the peaceful aspirations of the Iranians. Or has the American point of view now taken over, according to which we must not trust insidious Persians under any circumstances?

I believe that even the most aggressive media outlets today have become convinced of the groundlessness of their accusations. Hysteria in relation to this country has become less evident. An agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme was signed on July 14, 2015. The guarantors of the agreement are four permanent members of the Security Council: the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and France, plus Germany and the European Union. This was a comprehensive plan of action that Iran consistently implements. There are no complaints against it. Ironically, America, despite the strident anti-Iranian discourse, seems reluctant to withdraw from this treaty. Trump accuses Iran of supporting terrorism, but he cannot press any charges against his opponents. This is not a technical or a scientific problem, but a purely political one.

 

Many in the world are concerned about Iranian missile programmes …

Iran’s missile technology is not directly related to nuclear weapons. The missiles do not fall under the agreement of July 14, 2015. This is a matter of national defence. By the way, even if Trump wants to break the hard-won agreement of the P5+1 with Iran, it will not be easy. He will have to negotiate with his own NATO allies. And this process is anything but simple…

 

Your forecast: how will Kazakh-Iranian relations develop in the near future, say until 2021?

I think that our good relations, established thanks to the politicians of the two countries, including Rouhani, are a valid argument in favour of their further development, as we have already said. Iran was as an observer at the recent [Shanghai Cooperation Organisation] SCO summit in Astana. The delegation was headed by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. He was received by President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and held a series of bilateral talks with his colleagues, including those from Kazakhstan. Iran is mindful of the countries of Central Asia. It is no secret that Iran wants to join the SCO. This is a strategic issue for Tehran. But there is no solidarity among the SCO members. Tajikistan objects. I would not like to comment on Tajik-Iranian relations. Hopefully, both countries will resolve their bilateral issues. Russia actively promotes Iran’s membership. As for Kazakhstan, our country supports Iran’s membership in the SCO. This corresponds to our multi-vector foreign policy.

 

This interview was first published in the Argumenty i Fakty Kazakhstan newspaper and is translated and reprinted with permission.



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Kazakhstan: a promising and inspiring state


Kazakhstan is a promising state. The Great Steppe covers a large territory on the Eurasian continent: from west to east, it extends to almost 3,000 kilometres and from north to south to 1,650 kilometres – from the Altai Mountains to the Volga River delta and from the southern edge of the Western Siberian Plain to the foothills of the western Tien Shan Mountains. Kazakhstan inherits the golden history and has been granted an abundance of natural resources and magnificent human resources.

My very humble personal observation on the history of Kazakhstan is that it is filled with heroism, patriotism and is rich in culture and civilisation. From archaeological and scientific research, the richness of Kazakh history can be traced even farther back to the pre-history until the Silk Road and the emergence of Kazakh Khanate, the formation of Kazakh statehood all the way through the establishment of a new independent nation and then a dynamic sovereign state up to modern world nowadays.

The country, which was once a part of the Soviet Union, is one of the steadfast emerging economies. Within a relatively short time since its independence on Dec. 16, 1991, Kazakhstan has been growing substantially in terms of economic development and has emerged as a key player in the regional and international political realm.

On economic performance, Kazakhstan’s growth amazingly multiplied 16 times from 1.7 trillion KZT in 1997 to 28 trillion KZT in 2011. The World Bank reported that Kazakh GDP per capita skyrocketed from $1,515 in 1992 to $11,245 in 2011. Kazakhstan gained its peak in 2013 with per capita income at $13,588 before slugging to slightly below $10,000 in 2016 due to the global economic crisis and plummeted international commodity prices, mainly crude oil as the country’s main source of income.

The government has a strategic platform to develop the nation. Under the visionary leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakhstan 2030 Strategy was launched in 1997 and then renewed in 2012 for further advancing until 2050 by ambitiously targeting the country to become among the world’s 30 most-developed nations.

Blessed with an abundance of natural resources, such as oil, gas, uranium and other minerals as well as fertile soil for growing grain, cotton and other crops, Kazakhstan has all the necessary conditions to become an advanced economy. The Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy followed by Nurly Zhol (Bright Path) programme and implementation of 100 steps inked by the government are definitely the right track to gain the ultimate goal as one of the 30 most developed economies in the world by 2050.

The record shows that within two years since it was adopted by President Nazarbayev in November 2014 and by pouring about $9 billion economic stimulus programme for 2015-2019 to increase liquidity in loans to small-and-medium-sized business, infrastructure development and domestic exporters focusing on non-oil productivity, such as agribusiness, manufacturing, trade and logistics, tourism, information technology and finance, the Nurly Zhol programme created more than 100,000 jobs in 2016 as unveiled by the Minister of National Economy. The World Bank projected that Kazakhstan’s economic activity is gradually picking up and its annual growth will be in a positive trend for the year 2017 and onward.

Kazakhstan is an inspiring state. Being a natural resources rich country did not ensure an easy task for the government to ensure the successful implementation of national development programmes. The country may have to maintain domestic and regional stability, peace and security as a prerequisite for advancing the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, Nurly Zhol programmes and 100 steps.

In a globalising modern world, sovereign states find themselves interdependent on each other. No one can isolate from another, but must collaborate. Such a paradigm was well-taken care by the government of Kazakhstan by establishing friendly relations and cooperation with all countries guided by principles of a multi-vector foreign policy.

At his inauguration address on April 2015, President Nazarbayev reemphasised five institutional reforms to be conducted until 2020, which include reforming the public sector and judicial system. Kazakhstan continues to build closer ties with its strategic partners, including Russia, China, the U.S. and the EU as well as the Islamic world while enhancing its active role in international organisations so that it provides a conducive environment for Kazakhstan to ensure the successful implementation of these reforms.

Kazakhstan has also actively initiated and played a significant role in maintaining international peace and stability, among others by establishing the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in 1992, the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in 2003 and the Central Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone effective on 21 March 2009. The government also closed in 1991the nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk. Inspired by the closure of Semipalatinsk Test Site and the Kazakh government’s decisive action in promoting a nuclear non-proliferation regime, the United Nations declared Aug. 29 the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Kazakhstan also is committed to peace by facilitating peaceful solution efforts on the Iran nuclear deal and Syrian conflict by hosting meetings between the countries and parties concerned.

Besides, the significant contributions and active role played by Kazakhstan within regional and international organisations led Kazakhstan to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2017-2018.

Indonesia and Kazakhstan have so far enjoyed close and cordial relations since June 1993. The two countries shared many things in common and mutual interests. It is well known that Indonesia and Kazakhstan also play significant roles in maintaining their respective regional stability as well as contribute towards world peace and prosperity.

As a matter of fact, the two nations are complimentary to each other. Both countries are blessed with abundant natural resources coupled by high-quality labour forces and market potential as well as rich biodiversity. Should they be well-managed by high-technology, capital and skilled management, they will bear fruit to the economic development of both nations and will in turn give value to the welfare of their respective peoples.

Kazakhstan has been passing through a long period of history from the beginning of the establishment of the Kazakh Khanate until the formation of a vibrant and dynamic sovereign state of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has its optimism to progress further to achieve its goals as stipulated in Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy and realisation of the Nurly Zhol programme to become one of the developed countries and provide prosperity for its people.

 

The author served as Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Republic of Kazakhstan in 2012-2017.



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CSTO is a tool to ensure regional security


Kazakhstan’s foreign policy is based on several strategic principles. One of them has to do with ensuring national security, defence and the sovereignty of the country, strengthening regional and global stability.

There are various mechanisms and tools that Kazakhstan employs to implement this principle at the regional level, including major international forums, such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

The latter multilateral institution – CSTO – is celebrating a couple of major milestones this year, so it seems appropriate to address CSTO’s long-term relationship with the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Collective Security Treaty was signed in Tashkent 25 years ago, on May 15, 1992, by six countries: Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. And on May 14, 2002, which is 15 years ago, the parties to the Treaty decided to establish a full-fledged international organisation on the basis of this multilateral agreement. Throughout the years, various countries joined and left the organisation, and today it consists of the original six member states with one notable substitution – Belarus joined the Treaty in lieu of Uzbekistan who preferred to withdraw.

The CSTO’s history has been patchy – with its own highs and lows, and drawing all kinds of comments from observers and decision makers. For instance, in 2010, the then President of Kyrgyzstan Roza Otunbayeva, called upon the organisation to deploy the CSTO Rapid Reaction Force to end bloody interethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan in 2010. However, the leadership of the organisation declined the request and chose to provide logistical and technical support to Kyrgyzstan’s own security forces. At the time, this decision was heavily reprimanded, and observers and decision makers alike asked tough questions, including “why do we need CSTO at all.” But years later, it turned out that the decision was spot on. Deployment of foreign troops to resolve an internal conflict could have produced more violence instead of soothing the tension.

As for CSTO’s value for Kazakhstan, first of all, the organisation allows Astana to secure sizable discounts on purchase of foreign weapons, military and special forces equipment. This helps cut the expenditures of our military, law enforcement agencies and special services and provide them with up-to-date weaponry and technologies.

In addition, the CSTO has approved a programme of long-term military-economic cooperation. One of the implications of this document is the establishment of a network of service centres for armament and military equipment. This provides more opportunities to enhance and develop Kazakhstan’s domestic military industry. Moreover, Kazakhstan can send its officers to Russian and Belarusian military schools free of charge or at a discounted rate. Our country, in turn, provides similar opportunities to military personnel from other CSTO countries.

The organisation has created a collective security system that comprises coalition-based and regional groups, peacekeeping forces, law enforcement agencies, and special purpose units of the emergency ministries. Various trainings are being conducted to improve and develop the preparedness of these units and strengthen their military discipline mechanisms.

With regard to new challenges and threats, CSTO is currently focusing on international terrorism and extremism. The pro-active lobbying of Kazakhstan’s representatives resulted in the adoption at the CSTO meeting in October 2016 of a list of actions against international terrorism and a single list of organisations recognised as terrorist by all CSTO member states. In addition, the CSTO anti-drug strategy was adopted to implement the priorities of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the Organisation in 2012.

To sum up, our cooperation with CSTO contributes significantly to Kazakhstan’s own national security, as well as regional stability.

The author is Director of the Eurasian Council on Foreign Affairs.



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The role of EXPO 2017 in forming Kazakhstan’s national brand


EXPO 2017 gives Kazakhstan a chance to promote its brand in the world and improve the perception of many aspects of the country’s development.

EXPO 2017, held this summer in Astana, opens up a lot of opportunities for Kazakhstan: from modernisation of the energy sector to a breakthrough in tourism and from the optimisation of transport infrastructure to the strengthening of international cooperation.

One of the expo’s most important achievements, undoubtedly, will be the promotion of Kazakhstan’s national brand. Unfortunately, today this aspect of the expo is not given much attention; some pundits discussing “expo effects” often dismiss it as “PR” or diminish it to “raising awareness.” Shaping an integral and attractive image of Kazakhstan is perceived as a kind of secondary effect, the benefit of which does not seem obvious, although now in a world where the quality and nature of goods and services are less connected with the place of their origin, it is not so much the competition of products that comes to the fore, but the competition of reputations.

 

Nation branding – the importance of the trend

 

The importance of national branding in the modern world cannot be understated, because it is not just about recognition or positive feedback. It is about building an integral and recognisable reputation of Kazakhstan, designed to become the basis for the nation’s attractiveness to potential investors and tourists, as well as its political and cultural influence.

In the modern world – with its information openness, dynamism and the importance of mutual relations – the value of properly-built national branding is growing every year. As one of the world’s leading authorities in national branding, Simon Anholt notes that nowadays the perception of a country has no less significance for its global reputation than assets or real achievements. Realising this, practically all the leading countries of the world include work on the formation and promotion of the national brand to the priorities of their foreign policy.

Today, there are several major ratings of national brands in the world. One of them is the Anholt-GfK National Brand Index, where in 2016 Kazakhstan was included among the selected six states of Central and Eastern Europe. It is the only state in Central Asia and the only post-Soviet state, except Russia, included in the ranking.

 

The value of EXPO 2017 for national branding

 

Kazakhstan has been an independent state for only 25 years. As a consequence, worldwide recognition of its culture and history is still relatively weak. If many states’ national branding efforts can rely on the images they have been promoting for centuries, Kazakhstan has to do much more extensive work. In addition to presenting the history and the key foundations of the country’s development to the world, Kazakhstan must actively shape modern events that can form the desired image. In these conditions, holding an expo is really akin to a jackpot.

World and international expos are a recognised platform for the presentation of countries. The exhibitions in Shanghai and Milan have notably enhanced the cultural and innovative attractiveness of those countries and cities.

The value of the expo is that the proposed images and perspectives of the host country are transmitted directly to viewers. Taking into account modern technologies, such demonstrations are actively appealing to the imagination and emotions of the audience. And this is very important. Any foreign policy measures, if they do not work with feelings and images, will lose to the bright impressions formed during an event such as expo.

 

EXPO 2017 for the Kazakhstan brand

 

For expo visitors, Kazakhstan offers an image of an open, friendly country aimed at innovation, the development of green technologies and the preservation of its unique nature. The situation is that for many, Kazakhstan is now the country whose brand is strongly connected to the expo.

In this regard, we can note that Kazakhstan’s temporary visual brand today is the trefoil logo of EXPO 2017. This symbol also advertised the Kazakh pavilion at EXPO 2015 in Milan.

The fact that it reveals Kazakhstan itself not as completely as we would like is less important, because the associations that are related to it during the expo are of greater importance. Now, we are focusing on such strengths of Kazakhstan’s brand as an orientation towards development and innovation, a wealth of traditions and uniqueness of culture, an open and peaceful foreign policy and the development of tourism.

In the above-mentioned Anholt-GfK Index, they are evaluated based on a study of the perception of six key areas: export, government, culture, human capital, tourism and attractiveness for investment and immigration. Obviously, expo has serious potential to “pull up” Kazakhstan’s positions, at least in such spheres as tourism, culture and people. If you use the potential of the exhibition in the best possible way, then interaction with entrepreneurs will provide an opportunity to disclose Kazakhstan’s investment opportunities and show its attractiveness for other foreign specialists.

 

 Astana – a platform of world national branding

 

This summer, Astana has become a platform of world national branding. The fact that the current exhibition is among the record holders by the number of participants, having hosted 115 countries, means the success of the work done by the country’s diplomats and the importance of the presence at the expo for the development of many states. Quite a significant number of pavilions are aimed not so much at presenting the achievements of countries in the field of energy, but rather in demonstrating those images that the country would like to broadcast to foreign tourists. This is perfectly normal, as the exhibition of national brands is just as important at the expo as the presentation of thematic exhibits.

The advantage of Kazakhstan is that for all countries, the ability to broadcast images is limited by the place and time; in other words, the territory of the pavilion and the national day. For Kazakhstan, these three months are an opportunity for continuous work with the audience.

Moreover, it is important not to lose sight of the actively-ongoing process to promote the image of Astana: not only for foreign tourists, but also for the residents of Kazakhstan. It is no secret that for many, especially the residents of the old capital of Almaty, the image of the young capital was rich in stereotypes that people did not aspire to part with. Now, Astana shows itself from a new angle, in parallel strengthening the human capital of its inhabitants by becoming accustomed to the most relevant trends in the sphere of green technologies in the urban environment.

 

Strengthening ties and political capital

 

Promotion of the brands of countries, carried out in the framework of public diplomacy, is increasingly based in the modern world on cooperation and not on propaganda. This is not only cooperation between countries, but also interaction with international, regional, commercial and non-governmental structures. Kazakhstan, as part of the preparations for the expo, has made very serious progress in this direction.

Kazakhstan is constantly increasing its foreign policy activity, both regionally and globally. Working in the UN Security Council, being involved in peacemaking activities and strengthening contributions to the work of a number of international organisations increases the political capital of Kazakhstan, but the low awareness of Kazakhstan in many countries complicates the promotion of many projects and initiatives.

The situation today means it is not enough if the initiatives and programmes are sound and relevant. The party promoting it should have sufficient authority and an appropriate reputation to advocate and advance them. The work done by Kazakhstan to attract participants and organise the expo undoubtedly strengthened these resources.

Information in the world is becoming more accessible; therefore, fakes or empty “image materials” practically do not give a real effect. The connections and impressions of living people, easily transferred in the information space, come to the fore. It is very important to promote real projects and most importantly, projects backed by real impressions. Holding the expo is one of such projects.

 

The author is independent political analyst.



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