Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA): what’s in the name?

If the territory of all 26 member states was painted on the world map in one colour, it would cover the space from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Indian Ocean to the northern seas. This is the CICA region: one-fourth of the planet’s landmass, whose peoples are united by a desire to ensure their common security and stability and protect the world for the joint development of national cultures, economies and a common bright future. This desire is based on the enormous potential inherent in the diligence, enterprise and openness of the peoples of Asia and the richness of their natural resources. This potential has been realised for 25 years for the prosperity of all corners of the Asian continent through the equitable cooperation of countries that differ in size, population, religion, culture, economic development and political order.

Gong Jianwei

On Oct. 5 this year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the CICA process. It all began with the initiative President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev put forward at the 47th Session of the UN General Assembly in 1992, which gave way to a new understanding of security based on principles of mutual trust and cooperation. Thus, interstate relations were transferred to a new level of equal partnership. A model of regional cooperation was proposed, the innovation of which was the priority of the indivisibility of security, joint initiative and mutually beneficial interaction of small and large states. The interests of sustainable development of all peoples were put at the forefront.

During this period CICA gained a foothold as a platform for trustful dialogue, mutual understanding and equal partnership between member states and became an important mechanism of the modern system of interstate relations, contributing to the maintenance of security and stability in the region. Here we will try to briefly outline the main points of what has been done so far.

The leader of Kazakhstan proposed starting with simple and practical steps to establish a regional structure of security. A delicate approach and the correct identification of the key parameters of the interaction of the countries concerned contributed to the evolution of a new and effective institution in the field of Asian security. Painstaking efforts that began with meetings at the level of representatives of foreign affairs offices of Kazakhstan and the 15 countries that supported the new idea have borne fruit. The tireless work of diplomats led to the first meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of CICA member states in Almaty in September 1999 to adopt the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations between CICA member states. This laid the foundation for the subsequent institutional development of the CICA process. It is important that it emphasises that “the diversity of national characteristics, traditions, cultures and values of Asian states is not a divisive, but valuable mutually enriching factor of their relations.”

Here I would like to note the following. We often hear figurative expressions like  “speak the same language” and “family of peoples.” Within the CICA, from the very beginning, the diplomats sought, found and developed this new language of equality and mutually beneficial cooperation with partners from other countries of the conference. Now, meetings and events at all levels use this language of mutual understanding and respect. This atmosphere of confidence must not be overlooked as a factor contributing to an increase in the number of member states. The new members do not shyly listen to what is happening, but immediately actively join the work of the “family,” making their suggestions and ideas, which we will talk about below.

In June 2002, Almaty, warm and smothered in verdure, hospitably received the participants of the first Summit of Heads of State and Government of 16 CICA countries, which marked the formal birth of the conference as a multilateral forum for deepening cooperation for peace, security and stability in the region. The Almaty Act, adopted as its outcome, clearly showed the intention of the member states to find an acceptable platform for creating a viable security structure in Asia, in spite of the existing disagreements. It also declared the determination of the states to form a common and indivisible security space in Asia, where “military-political aspects, confidence-building measures, economic and environmental problems, humanitarian and cultural cooperation” should be involved. A sign of the political perspicacity of President Nazarbayev and the pride of Kazakhstan’s diplomacy was that some countries embroiled in very tense relations became signatories of this document. The summit also adopted a Declaration on Eliminating Terrorism and Promoting Dialogue among Civilisations.

CICA logoIn 2004, the CICA Catalogue of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) was elaborated as a basic document for practical activity defined in five dimensions: military and political issues, the fight against new challenges and threats, economy, the environment, and human issues. This document was one of a kind. Countries agreed to choose confidence-building measures acceptable to them and implement them on a gradual and voluntary basis. A cooperative approach for the implementation of CICA CBMs was adopted in 2007. I would like to note that now 14 countries are coordinators/co-coordinators of confidence-building measures in different areas.

Regarding CICA’s organisation, an important milestone was the establishment in 2006 of its Secretariat, the executive body of the forum intended for administrative assistance to the chairing country and member states in the implementation of confidence-building measures. The staff of the Secretariat consists of diplomats sent by countries on secondment, as well as administrative and technical personnel. The Secretariat contributed to the launch of work on all five dimensions of CICA and the development of mechanisms for creating and implementing plans. The Secretariat’s website contains information on daily activities and recent developments in CICA.

In the economic sphere, attention is focused on the promotion of small and medium-sized businesses, trade, infrastructure development and transport corridors, telecommunications, the expansion of opportunities in agriculture and other directions. The rapid pace of introduction of innovative technologies, especially those created in the countries of the region, helps in implementing CICA tasks in these areas. The five business forums held in support of small and medium-sized businesses facilitated the establishment of direct links and dialogue between representatives of commercial organisations and executive bodies of the CICA countries. Based on their results, it was decided to establish the CICA Business Council, tasked with establishing contacts, signing contracts between the business circles of the countries, further implementing joint projects and expanding trade, financial and investment flows. This successful experience prompted the idea of organising a Specialised Business Forum. Such a forum, dedicated to problems and solutions in the export of consumer goods in the CICA region, was held in Moscow on Oct. 12 this year.

It is no secret that the most pressing problem in the Asian region continues to be the cultivation of narcotic plants. Everyone knows that proceeds from the drug business are used to sponsor terrorism, corruption, human trafficking, weapons purchases and other illegal and destructive trades. World experience has shown that simply burning fields of illegal crops is not effective. It is necessary to replace narcotic plants with agricultural crops to provide the rural population of those countries with work, food and income. So the branches of the fight against the drug threat and provision of economic security are intertwined. Now, China has proposed an action plan for the coming years intended to transform and modernise agricultural work. The plan guarantees employment and profitability, and should increase the competitiveness of the agricultural sector in the region and the rational allocation of resources. Thailand has become a coordinator for sustainable development and is holding courses on this issue in October.

Over the years, dozens of events have been held in all five dimensions, including business forums, military exercises, seminars and festivals. Hundreds of specialists of various profiles were given the opportunity to exchange experience, methods and technologies, whether it be in  the fight against drug trafficking, developing the agro-industrial sector, supporting small and medium-sized businesses, understanding and managing migration, cooperating between law enforcement agencies, and understanding and facing new challenges. Events have also grown more targeted, directed at specific requests of member states. For example, teachers and lecturers at seminars on the fight against the drug threat are representing CICA countries; thus, participants study material based on real situations in the region.

In the Secretariat databases of contact persons, national coordinators, including departments, are being created. This is an important detail. After all, individuals can leave departments, but departments retain responsibility for implementing action plans.

It should be noted that for a more complete study of issues of the greatest interest for all countries, CICA periodically conducts scientific and practical conferences and seminars with the participation of member states’ analysts and experts. From the outset, the conference has used every opportunity to ensure continued effective action. A nongovernmental forum was established to facilitate civil communication between CICA member states, to popularise CICA’s goals and objectives and to increase the influence of the forum in the field of security.

Since then, several meetings have taken place, during which prominent scientists, politicians – including former leaders of nations – experts, representatives of the media elite and public organisations were given the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues of peace, security and stability in Asia. A deep exchange of views on these and other issues led to very constructive proposals that are used in the current activities of the CICA.

It should be noted that political cooperation and cooperation in the field of security continues successfully. Negotiations among member states on the development of the CICA Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy are continuing. In recent years, Kazakhstan, as a coordinator in the military-political dimension, held seminars and lectures for military experts, diplomats and military attaches of CICA countries and organised visits to a number of military facilities and exhibitions. A very interesting seminar was held in Kazakhstan – participants visited the Baikonur space port for a rocket launch. This was a unique and informative addition to the rest of the seminar, held in Astana.

Climate change, including disruptions caused by human economic activity, requires new solutions. The need for cooperation in this area is also evident in all Asian countries. A regional approach based on the fair consideration of the interests of all parties involved is required to address issues of using trans-boundary water resources and combating desertification. Mongolia coordinates this activity.

Last month, member states adopted the concept paper for implementation of CBMs in the area of sustainable development, presented by Thailand as a coordinator. Its essence is to study alternative approaches to sustainable development already underway and exchange its experience and best practices for the successful implementation of the UN Agenda for the period until 2030. Goals will also be supported through the development of a network of cooperation between CICA member states.

CICA member states support China’s Belt and Road initiative, which fits perfectly into the ideology of the conference, as it represents a vision for integration projects in Eurasia. This initiative is a step forward in this direction in creating infrastructure and developing trade, finance and relationships between people.

Of great interest is CICA’s activity in the human field. Measures have been taken to promote inter-civilisational dialogue, cultural cooperation, the development of democratic processes in the region and more, all with the aim of promoting mutual understanding and interaction between the peoples of CICA countries. Festivals, a cultural exhibition of the countries of the Silk Road and the New Delhi seminar “CICA: Building Bridges across Asia through Tourism” were held, a collection of fairy tales and legends of CICA countries was published and a youth camp was organised.

The CICA Youth Council, set up in 2014, explores and improves national youth policies based on real-world situations and addresses many challenges facing young people in the region. We see how vulnerable young souls are and how easily they can fall under negative alien influences, especially considering the potential of modern communications. Our task today is to build in young generations the desire for peace, goodness, dignity and freedom. The main thrust is acceptance of responsibility based on understanding of true religious, universal and moral values, as well as respect for the experience of their elders. Therefore, the tasks of the CICA Youth Council are very broad and are not limited to the possibility of obtaining education in neighbouring countries. They include the involvement of volunteers in international movements, eco-tourism, agro-tourism, the organisation of scientific and industrial practices, and other activities. Through this, young people from different countries can test their strength and knowledge in different sectors and countries. Youth cooperation is not just part of people’s diplomacy and an important component of interstate relations: It is also a real and universally recognised resource for development.

Since the establishment of CICA, four summits of heads of state and five ministerial meetings have taken place. CICA is actively building external relations and its authority is growing. An increasing number of states are expressing a desire to establish contacts with the conference. It should be noted that CICA countries participate in the work of a number of other regional organisations and forums. To date, memoranda of understanding have been signed with such organisations as the International Organisation for Migration, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan (APK) and more. These links contribute to the specialisation of these structures and prevent the duplication of work.

No process can develop rectilinearly. From time to time, there is a need to impart a new impetus to work. Thus, in addition to the role of ministerial meetings and summits, the importance of rotating the chairmanship should be noted. At the same time, the importance of the experience of previous chairmanships is always taken into account in order to realise the priorities of all participants for the subsequent period. In 2010, for the first time in the history of CICA (17 years after the initiation of the process), the chairmanship was rotated – Kazakhstan handed it to Turkey, one of the most active participants in the forum. As a coordinator in the field of combating new challenges and threats, Turkey stepped up its efforts to address problems related to cross-border crime, drug trafficking, illegal migration and terrorism, without disregarding other dimensions of CICA.

Four years later, China assumed the chairmanship of CICA in May 2014 during the fourth CICA Summit in Shanghai. In his speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed China’s continuity of and commitment to CICA policy. Developing the provisions of the Almaty Act on the indivisibility of comprehensive security in new realities, Asian countries must develop a new concept for success, based on the principles of mutual responsibility, trust and benefit, equality and cooperation. This thesis became central when President Xi Jinping presented the new concept of Asian security, which was widely supported by the leaders of countries participating in the summit. The concept takes into account modern realities and presents the basic principles of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. Thus, modern security includes economic, cultural, information, environmental and military-political components. All these components form a coherent system in which security must be ensured by an integrated policy and concrete actions to eradicate its threats.

On Sept. 20 of this year, the Chinese chairmanship organised another informal meeting of foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. During the event, the participants adopted a joint statement on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of CICA and noted the main achievements of the forum over a quarter of a century. They also talked about improving practical cooperation in all five dimensions of CICA cooperation, expanding the geography of the forum, developing external relations, creating a mechanism for regular meetings of ambassadors of member states in Astana, strengthening the role of the Secretariat, and transforming the forum into a full-fledged international organisation.

Over 25 years, CICA member states have made significant progress, but they intend to increase the pace of interaction. Currently, concrete short-term cooperation plans are under way. It is important to note that since countries participate in the forum on a voluntary basis, CICA brings concrete benefits to those countries that are actively involved in its activities.

As President Nazarbayev noted, “CICA is a young forum, often going on uncharted paths, and therefore not having ready recipes for all cases. Optimal solutions are developed in the process of dialogue.” Here you can only add that CICA has succeeded, become stronger and is occupying a worthy place in the system of international relations. Aware of their responsibility for the future, all the countries of the conference make a significant contribution to strengthening the climate of trust, mutual understanding and partnership. The integration processes of cooperation in various spheres are gaining momentum: economy, culture, social life, security. Obviously, the forum’s prospects directly depend on the ability of Asian countries to respond collectively and effectively to all challenges and threats of the future.


The author is executive director of the Secretariat of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.



A New Era of Cooperation for Central Asia

Central Asia is a dynamic and fast-changing region. Over the past couple of decades, it has shown that increased regional cooperation is indispensable to achieving development goals.

The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) programme started operations in 2001 and has made significant contributions to the region’s growth. The programme has grown steadily to 11 member countries (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and has financed more than $30 billion in investments to enhance transport and energy linkages and boost cross-border trade. Over a third of this amount, or $10.5 billion, has come from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has supported CAREC since its inception.

Takehiko Nakao

Despite their rapid development, countries in the region face significant challenges. The spillover impacts of global economic and financial crises and of lower oil and gas prices have been acute.  Climate change is a major global and regional challenge. These issues do not respect borders and underscore the value of working together to navigate the shifting development landscape.

The CAREC programme needs a scaled-up mandate to become more effective and relevant in the years ahead.

Its CAREC 2030 strategy, unanimously adopted on Oct. 27 by member countries in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, shows the region is ready to fully achieve its enormous potential by connecting its people, policies and projects. I see four key ways in which it can create the conditions for future growth, stability and prosperity.

First, it will deepen support for traditional areas of cooperation, such as transport, energy and trade facilitation. Regional cooperation cannot be achieved without the basic building blocks of good roads and railways, reliable power supplies and the ability of businesses to seek new markets.

Infrastructure investments that integrate new technologies, coupled with appropriate regulatory reforms, will help accelerate the region’s integration with global value chains and support the adoption of clean and renewable energy.

Second, there is a pressing need for macroeconomic policy dialogue among member countries to promote economic and financial stability. The CAREC programme has provided a practical and flexible platform for infrastructure investment and policy planning.

Through initiatives such as a planned forum for countries to share experiences on banking and market regulation, CAREC 2030 can also help improve the region’s investment climate, sustain economic growth and manage the impact of cyclical economic downturns.

Third, for Central Asia to truly prosper it must commit to cooperating in new areas. CAREC 2030’s support for regional initiatives in tourism, agriculture, water resources, health and education will help countries achieve their sustainable development goals. Deeper cooperation will also help countries reach their targets under the COP21 climate agreement.

Cross-border tourism, value-added agricultural exports and educational exchanges have tremendous untapped potential in Central Asia. But these can only be unlocked through a regional agenda where countries work together and share expertise.

Finally, development in Central Asia will depend crucially on building the capacities of its own people. Enhancing people-to-people contacts will help deepen intra-regional understanding and increase personal mobility. Enhanced business-to-business contacts are vital to increase private sector development and create jobs.

Greater labor mobility will allow people to improve their skills and obtain new jobs. It is encouraging that CAREC 2030 has embraced in principle a regional labor market information system focusing on skills needs and regional job search and placement, as well as cross-border higher education and technical training.

CAREC’s new strategy will enhance its convening power for high-level policy dialogue among ministers and senior officials on key development issues. This dialogue needs to be backed with high-quality research by the CAREC Institute, which recently became an intergovernmental organization, and from member countries and development partners to build capacity in areas including education, health and financial and economic stability.

The broader scope of CAREC 2030 provides new space for development partners like ADB to further support the region’s prosperity. It also opens the prospect of exciting new partnerships with other regional programmes such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

ADB will commit $5 billion to support CAREC 2030 in the next five years. We have just approved a new $800 million Multi-Tranche Financing Facility for CAREC road corridor development in Pakistan. Next year, we will finance the first phase of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan transmission line project for $150 million. ADB has also already begun discussions for regional projects in agribusiness, tourism and railways—areas covered in CAREC 2030.

We seek the strong support of all member countries and development partners for the financing and successful implementation of the new CAREC strategy.

By harnessing the collective energies of CAREC member countries, the new strategy will help the region to capitalize on its unique geographic position and proximity to global markets. There is vast potential to improve connectivity and trade between the region’s countries, to Europe and beyond.

CAREC 2030 is an opportunity to promote growth, stability and prosperity in Central Asia. By working together, countries and development partners can secure the future that the region and its people deserve.

The author is the President of the Asian Development Bank.



Kazakhstan and Germany: 25 years of cooperation

Before I came to Kazakhstan in 2011 as the Ambassador of Germany, I had been an ambassador to a big African country, which gained its independence in 1961. Despite good preconditions, this country, because of its experiments with “African socialism,” was economically destructed by 1980s. The good preconditions were mineral deposits, long coast line, world-known tourist sites, English as an official language, no war of independence, good physical, administrative and legal infrastructure first taken from German and then from English colonisers.

Guido Herz

In 1991, it was one of the poorest countries in the world, and today it remains as such. At the same time, a transition to market economy in 1990s brought many advantages. The commodities boom since 2000 and huge payments for development assistance during all these years have brought great revenues to the country. Nevertheless, in 2011 per capita income was approximately $700, which is not more than it was back in 1991.

When it gained its independence, Kazakhstan was just as poor but by 2011 it increased per capita income twentyfold to €12,000 ($14,060).

In addition, the preconditions in this case were much worse. The state unity was not secure at all, the country’s borders were not marked accurately and with a significant potential for conflict with strong neighbours, transport infrastructure was not developed and it was laid only from North to South, the legacy of the bureaucratic centralism was a burden, and additionally, Kazakhstan is a huge country with no access to the sea. Despite this, the country has moved along the path of democratic development and is doing well compared to its Central Asian neighbours and other states of the former Soviet Union. The country is stable both internally and in external policy, the economy is efficient and is aimed at the future, and the physical and social infrastructure develops dynamically.

This all became possible thanks to a wise and forward-looking government. Certainly, the country’s raw material wealth also helped, but there are enough examples when the country’s raw material wealth becomes more a curse than a blessing. Therefore, Kazakhstan’s achievements within 25 years cannot be overestimated.

Germany has cooperated closely with Kazakhstan since its independence. We have had an important link since the very beginning – there was about a million ethnic Germans living in the country who had been deported to Kazakhstan in Stalin’s times. Many of them wanted to move to Germany after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite the fact that Kazakhstan needed labour force to create independent state, the country did not prevent the Germans’ desire but actively supported them. Therefore, many ethnic Germans managed to come back to their ancestral homeland. About 800,000 of them currently live in Germany and create a so called “living bridge” between our countries.

The current year Kazakhstan and Germany mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations; Germany at the beginning of February 1992 became one of the first countries which established diplomatic relations with independent Kazakhstan.

Relations between our countries have always been positive. When I came to Kazakhstan in 2011, the country had just concluded successful chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010 which was marked by personal participation of the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Astana summit in December 2010.

For five years of my work as the Ambassador, Kazakhstan continued developing on the international platform playing a far more important role within the “international concert” than most of the countries with population around 18 million usually do. Since the first years the independent, the state has confirmed itself as a trustworthy counsel for the world free of nuclear weapons by complete refusal from the nuclear arsenal left from the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan is an important actor of the Eurasian Economic Union; it plays a significant role in Iranian negotiations, the Syrian peace process, as well as in overcoming the Ukrainian crisis. Kazakhstan in light of its foreign policy was justly invited as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping chose Astana and Nazarbayev University for the official presentation of the project of the century – “New Silk Road” in September 2013 should not be forgotten.

The Kazakh-German relations have been constantly developing since my appointment as ambassador in 2011. The commodity agreement signed in 2012 is a good platform for further long-term development of our economic relations. Germany as one of the first countries that confirmed its participation in EXPO 2017, and I hope that it thereby contributed to the success of this big event. The visit of the newly elected Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a long-standing friend of Kazakhstan and its President in July of this year, emphasised this.

In my opinion, Kazakhstan is an example of successful development. However, there is no room for complacency, and, in accordance with changing premises, conditions should be created for the country to continue developing. The country’s leadership knows that, and therefore it has announced extensive political and economic reforms. If the country implements these reforms gradually, the country will develop consistently the following 25 years. Kazakhstan can count on Germany as a reliable partner.


The author served as German Ambassador to Kazakhstan in 2011-2016.



Kazakhstan’s efforts aimed at long-term stabilisation of Afghan situation

At the present time, issues of stabilisation of the situation in Afghanistan draw the attention of the entire international community. Long-term stability of the Central Asian region in whole is related to this issue. Consequently, building a secure and prosperous region is impossible without resolving the Afghan crisis. In this regard, Kazakhstan, within the framework of the United Nations Security Council, is making significant efforts to stabilise the situation in this country.

Adilkhan Gadelshiyev

The presidency of the UN Security Council’s sanctions committees on Afghanistan/Taliban (the Committee 1988) and in particular, ISIS/IS/Al-Qaida (the Committee 1267/1989/2253), empowers Kazakhstan with opportunities to improve the Afghan situation.

It should be noted that the work of this committee is conducted within the sanctions policy, implemented by the UN in respect to persons or organisations supporting the Taliban. Besides, a close cooperation between Kazakh diplomats and Interpol has been established. It must be emphasised that Kazakhstan, within the framework of its presidency of the UN Security Council in January 2018, will work on the convening of open debate at the ministerial level on Central Asia and Afghanistan.

In addition, Astana is planning to establish a Central Asian hub on countering transnational crimes, terrorism and global threats by 2020, where security forces of both Central Asia and, in prospect, Afghanistan and Pakistan will receive training. Such a project has already enlisted the support of the UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in particular as it is aimed at post-conflict rehabilitation of Afghanistan.

At the same time, Kazakhstan is also conducting independent work on improving the standard of living and infrastructure of Afghanistan. Humanitarian aid in the form of supplies of food and essential goods is provided on an annual basis. The education programme for Afghan students in Kazakh universities is also carried out. In addition, construction of schools, hospitals and roads is funded by Kazakhstan.

It is remarkable that in 2009 Kazakhstan donated $1 million to the Islamic Solidarity Fund of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) for rehabilitation of Afghanistan. In addition, Kazakhstan made a special-purpose contribution of $300,000 to the UN Trust Fund for fighting terrorism to implement the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia.

In the work of regional organisations there are positive efforts of countries in the region on implementing infrastructure, transit transport and energy projects. Such steps promote gradual integration of Afghanistan to trade and economic cooperation with Central Asian countries.

Moreover, regional formations such as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre for combating the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors (CARICC) make active efforts in resolving the ongoing conflict. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states and Afghanistan establish cooperation in meetings of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. Iran and Turkmenistan also express interest in resolving the Afghan issue within this platform. Thus, the recent session of the SCO demonstrated willingness to settle current challenges, as well as to consider issues related to development of cooperation between the SCO and Afghanistan. The proposals of Kabul on joining the SCO as a full member are taken into consideration.

At the same time, there activity of the working group on Afghanistan under the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) Foreign Ministers Council has been stepped up. In this context, the work continues on countering crimes committed with the use of information technologies.

Thus, multilateral cooperation of countries in the region is able to decrease not only internal tension, but also to create favourable economic conditions in Afghanistan.


The author is a research fellow at the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies.



Kazakh government takes comprehensive approach to fighting corruption

Most Kazakh citizens don’t litter because they know it’s wrong. The same is true for an individual as he or she considers trying to bribe an official. They don’t do it not only because of fear of punishment and public censure but because they know it is wrong.

Bergen Bespalinov

Fighting corruption with both enforcement and the public’s inherent sense that it is wrong is something all nations strive to achieve and is characteristic of the Anti-Corruption Strategy of Kazakhstan, adopted in 2014.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev represented the importance of such an integrated approach in his state-of-the-nation address, “The Third Modernization of Kazakhstan: Global Competitiveness.”

“We have taken significant steps to reduce the level of corruption in the country. At the same time, the focus is on combating the consequences of corruption. It is necessary to strengthen the work to identify and eliminate the causes and prerequisites of corruption,” he said.

Kazakhstan is able to point to successes in eradicating the causes and conditions that generate corruption, creating a breakthrough in the public consciousness, creating an internal rejection of any of its manifestations.

Nevertheless, there are still officials who continue to commit official crimes, lobbying the interests of commercial organisations. As before, the spheres of increased corruption risk are the use of state property, expenditure of budget funds, public procurement procedures for construction, repair of social facilities and transport communications.

Corrupt manifestations in these, as well as in other spheres, damage the budget, can lead to disruption of the implementation of state and sectoral programmes. Most importantly, they reduce public confidence in the government, freeze and even exacerbate the unresolved social problems.

Current legislation provides severe penalties for officials found guilty of corruption and the system of their prompt detection is being improved. But demand creates supply and this axiom of market relations is applicable to any sphere of human life.

Entrepreneurs who are looking for workarounds for getting a state order, winning a tender, should be well aware that officials who agreed to “help” for a certain reward render them a disservice. It is not only because the risk of disclosure and cancellation of contracts concluded in violation of the law increases every day. But also because by trying to take immediate advantage, entrepreneurs risk their business reputation. Having chosen roundabout ways, they voluntarily deprive themselves of legal protection. It is unlikely that they will dare to turn to law enforcement when they are in the difficult situation, such an illegal takeover. Not having learned to act within the framework of the law, they elementary do not survive in a competitive environment.

The violator of traffic rules trying to “negotiate” with the policeman who stopped him, should remember that another driver can do the same thing. Another driver who does not have a driver’s license and who drinks too much before getting behind the wheel can hurt anyone, including ourselves, our relatives and friends.

The whole system of anti-corruption legal education of citizens is meant to bring this causal connection to citizens. This is done through publications in the media, broadcasts on state television and radio channels, provision of free legal anti-corruption assistance, meetings and various public events.

An anti-corruption mobile group of our department together with representatives of the regional branch of the Nur Otan party, the branch of the NGO National Movement Against Corruption Zhaharu, the National Chamber Atameken holds meetings with work collectives and meets with the population of the region. The dialogue has helped inform the fight against corruption.

We are well aware that not only the process of counteracting corruption is important to our citizens and society, the result is also important. In the whole system of public service, accountability, transparency of work, adherence to the principle of meritocracy in the appointment of civil servants, improvement of the quality of public services are being improved.

At the same time, our successes and our temporary unsuccessful failures fully confirm the correctness of President Nazarbayev’s words: “Much of the fight against corruption will depend on the active participation of the whole society. With the development of social networks and other media resources, universal rejection must become a powerful tool in countering corruption.”

We can only cope with corruption when we realize that civilisation and genuine competitiveness begin with the fact that we can give up immediate personal benefits for the sake of greater benefits for everyone.

The author is head of the Department of the Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan for Civil Service and Anti-Corruption Affairs in the Akmola region.



Kazakhstan’s fight against corruption aims to build a graft-free state, top official says

ASTANA – A Kazakh delegation recently attended the Anti-Corruption Network for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ACN) meeting in Paris. ACN, a regional programme established under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provides a forum to promote anti-corruption activities and exchange best practices. Kazakhstan reported on the progress achieved as part of the fourth round of monitoring of the Istanbul Anti-Corruption Action Plan.

Photo credit: Civil Service and Anti-corruption Agency

In an exclusive interview, Alik Shpekbayev, Deputy Chairman of Kazakhstan’s Agency for Civil Service and Anti-Corruption, provided an overview of the issues presented.

Could you please provide background on the anti-corruption cooperation between OECD and Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan presented its own model of building a corruption-free state developed during the past 25 years of independence based on the best international practices and national peculiarities. OECD experts have been helping us greatly in doing this through the Anticorruption Network as well as in the framework of the country’s programme. Speaking of the country’s programme, since 2015, 20 activities were carried out, 13 of them being comprehensive overviews. We are working actively on the implementation of the Integrity Scan recommendations. Today, we are involved in 32 OECD working bodies in different capacities – as an invitee, a participant, a partner and an associate member.

What about the model you presented?

Our commitment and uncompromising stance in combating corruption is inspired by the political will and initiatives of the President. We are building a modern state model similar to that of the countries leading in preventing corruption. Large scale economic, social and political reforms have been carried out.

We have started what is known as the Third Modernisation of Kazakhstan. The first prerequisite of modernisation is the establishment of an open and accountable government. In this regard, we have adopted the Law on Access to Information and created an Open Government electronic platform consisting of five open data portals. Thanks to them, every citizen can see the budgetary expenses, participate in discussing law drafts, get online consultations and file online complaints, as well as assess the effectiveness of government authorities, without leaving his or her home. Currently, the government is working on enhancing and optimising the functioning of the mentioned portals on the basis of feedback from the people.

Today, the government’s interactions with the citizens are based on the principles of customer-orientation, transparency and accessibility of services. Currently, more than 60 percent of public services are rendered in electronic format. During the first half of this year, 47 percent of services were rendered in electronic format. All the licenses and permits are issued for businesspeople in electronic format only. Twenty-four percent of services are rendered through one stop shops via the Government for Citizens state corporation. These measures allowed reducing the level of everyday corruption by two thirds. In the coming years, we are planning for 80 percent of public services to be transferred to electronic format; the rest will be delivered through one stop shops.

As a result of the measures taken, Kazakhstan occupies a leading position in the electronic government development index among Southeast Asian countries. Our country is also 33rd among 174 countries according to the UN index.

Since the adoption of the Law on Public Councils, heads of government authorities have to publicly report to the citizens. More than 200 public councils are functioning on a regular basis. Every government authority has to submit the drafts of the legislation it is preparing for the review of the public council and has to consider the suggestions.

You spoke about the modernisation in light of the reform of the state apparatus. Could you please tell us more about this?

The next stage of the modernisation of our country is redistribution of powers. As a result, 35 functions of the President have been transferred, thus strengthening the role of the Parliament and the autonomy of the government. For instance, starting next year we are introducing the fourth level of the budget. Local budgets will be adopted only after they are discussed with the public. Thus, the budget will be planned taking into account the needs and interests of the citizens of every region.

The success of the reforms depends on the effective work of the government. It is commonly known that during the epoch of the Soviet planned economy, the state controlled everything. During the independence years, we have reduced the control functions by half. This work continues. Currently, in the framework of Kazakhstan’s modernisation, we are conducting a comprehensive overview of controlling and supervisory functions of government authorities. There are plans to reduce more than 40 percent of supervisory functions and part of the state functions will be transferred to a competitive environment.

Kazakhstan has switched to a career model in civil service. What are its principles?

Today, civil service has switched to a career model that maximises the principle of meritocracy. Now, entering civil service begins with entry-level positions and promotion along the career ladder is possible with the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience in lower-level positions. When entering civil service, there is a need to pass a three-stage selection system, including testing for knowledge of legislation, an assessment of competencies and an interview. Also, in order to increase the transparency of the state apparatus, we anticipate that foreign managers will be hired to work in state bodies.

A special place in the protection of meritocracy is taken by the new Code of Ethics. It regulates the standards of conduct of civil servants during official and off-duty hours. To comply with the norms of service ethics and prevention of violations of legislation, an independent post of ethics commissioner was introduced at government institutions.

Kazakhstan is progressing along the path to form a law-based state. What milestones have been achieved?

A key aspect of the reforms was the development of modern justice:

– transition from a five-level justice system to a three-level system has been implemented;

– the independence of the procedure for the selection and appointment of judges by the Supreme Judicial Council is ensured, as well as their inviolability;

– a new code of ethics for judges was adopted; and

– full automation of court records management and distribution of court cases is ensured.

In December 2015, the President signed the Law on the Establishment of the Astana International Financial Centre. Within this, an independent financial court will operate based on the principles of English common law. This will allow for effective resolution of investment disputes.

The results of international ratings prove the effectiveness of ongoing judicial reforms. According to the Global Competitiveness Index, Kazakhstan has improved its Judicial Independence indicator by 43 positions over the past five years, moving from 111th to 68th place. Kazakhstan also moved up 27 positions in the ensuring the fulfilment of contracts indicator of the World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business rating.

Alik Shpekbayev

Alik Shpekbayev

What about law enforcement?

The law enforcement system and the prosecutorial authorities are also undergoing crucial changes. Notably, we got rid of punitive-repressive methods and accusatory bias in criminal proceedings. The fundamental change in the sphere of prosecutor’s supervision is the exclusion of the leftover of the Soviet past, the so-called “general supervision” from the functions of the prosecutor’s office.

The new look of the prosecutor’s office is in line with the best practices of OECD and gives priority to protection and the restoration of human rights and freedoms, as well as the legality of the criminal process.

Functions of the police are decentralised by creating a local police services which are accountable to local executive authorities. Online maps have been created, with the help of which it is possible to see all statistics on crimes in each region, as well as all appeals addressed to state authorities. In the same place, everyone can leave a comment or question.

The system of recruiting to law enforcement agencies has changed. Now, candidates for law enforcement agencies, like all state employees, are tested for knowledge of legislation and undergo an assessment of personal competencies and interview.

The effectiveness of reforms in law enforcement is confirmed by a three-fold increase in our country’s indicators in the indicators of organised crime and reliability of law enforcement agencies of the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Moreover, Kazakhstan has consistently pursued a policy of liberalisation and humanisation of criminal penalties. Today, the emphasis in the penal system is shifted to probation. As a result, the share of non-custodial sentences amounted to 73 percent (22,627). The number of institutions of the penitentiary system is decreasing. This in total allowed reducing the prison population by three times. While in 1996 we occupied third place in the world in terms of the prison population (94,000 inmates), conceding only to Russia and the United States, today we are already at 68th (35,000 inmates).

Based on the implemented reforms, what are the significant steps Kazakhstan is undertaking to reduce corruption?

Following the implementation of a new anti-corruption policy based on the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, the Plan of the Nation “100 Concrete Steps” and the Anti-Corruption Strategy, our country has taken significant steps to reduce corruption. This work is based on a rational combination of anti-corruption education and prevention measures, with penal sanctions being the last resort. Preventive measures such as creating an anti-corruption culture, analysis of corruption risks, anti-corruption monitoring and standards have been set out in the legislation. These comprehensive and complex measures resulted in:

– reduced administrative barriers and corruption risks;

– increased quality of public services (due to the introduction of standards and regulations for their provision); and

– increased legal awareness and anti-corruption culture of the population.

We pay great attention to anti-corruption education and awareness-building. Honest Generation (Adal Urpak) voluntary clubs were created in almost every school (more than 90 percent). With the support of the OSCE, the Foundations of Anticorruption Culture textbook has been developed and is used now in all universities of the country for teaching the corresponding subject.

Mobile anti-corruption groups on specially-branded buses have begun their work. All of them are united by a single goal – to reach every citizen and to develop a stable immunity from and a general rejection of corruption. As a result, there is an increase in the population’s activity in fighting against corruption. In order to encourage those who are willing to inform, material incentives are being widely used – 167 people were given awards totalling to 21.5 million tenge (US$62,679) in 2016, which is 14 times more than in 2015.

The state does not intend to loosen institutes of criminal prosecution of corruption crimes. Officials convicted of corruption, regardless of their positions and ranks, are prosecuted with all the severity of the law. According to official data, more than 10,000 people have been convicted of corruption crimes since 2001. Among them there are two former prime ministers, seven ministers and chairpersons of agencies, seven akims (governors) of regions and their deputies, eight heads of national companies and eight generals of the national security, defence and law enforcement agencies.

Shifting the emphasis from punitive to preventive measures received a positive evaluation from international rating agencies. According to the results of the Global Corruption Barometer study by Transparency International, over the past three years the proportion of citizens in Kazakhstan observing progress in countering corruption has doubled. The number of people giving bribes decreased by one third. Similar results are demonstrated by the Global Competitiveness Index according to the Informal Payments and Bribes criterium, which has improved by 38 positions over the last five years (2011 – 99th, 2016 – 61st).

In general, all anti-corruption work is based on close cooperation with OECD in the framework of the Istanbul Action Plan. It laid the groundwork for adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy, introduction of external monitoring and evaluation of its implementation and adoption of more than 60 laws aimed at minimising corruption. Currently, government authorities have resumed the work on introducing criminal liability of legal entities and criminalisation of promising and offering bribes, as well as a number of other recommendations.

These international standards received the conceptual support of the intergovernmental working group on improvement of criminal law and we are now developing mechanisms for their implementation. OECD recommendations direct us to further improve our national anti-corruption legislation. We have done a lot, but there is still work to do.



Enhanced Kazakh-Uzbek relations offer opportunity for Central Asian regional cooperation

Against the backdrop of Kazakh boxer Gennady Golovkin’s fight and just because it happened over the weekend, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s visit to Tashkent and its outcomes did not, perhaps, receive sufficient coverage. Of no small importance is the fact that the visit had the status of an official state visit.

Yerlan Karin

Both sides called the meeting ground-breaking and historic. And such a characterisation is not a cliché politesse but a reflection of the actual situation. The two countries have signed a large package of documents, expanded cooperation horizons and indicators, and laid new traditions of bilateral visits at the highest level.

The Uzbek side was scrupulous about Nazarbayev’s visit, which included, for instance, a visit to the Tole bi mausoleum and a launch of an Uzbek translation of Nazarbayev’s book. These would seem simply subtle details, but in Central Asia they are very significant. They confirm the existing warm relationship between the two presidents and, in particular, the Uzbek leader’s special respect for the President of Kazakhstan. Therefore, this visit has definitively taken this bilateral relationship to a qualitatively new level.

It is worth reminding that the Kazakh President’s working visit to Uzbekistan last September ushered in a new stage of expectations and set the trend for the future Kazakh-Uzbek relations. Back then, forecasts about the prospects for cooperation were cautious. There were also fears that expectations were just illusions. However, the leaders of the two states were able to bring bilateral relations to a new dynamic within a span of just one year.

Since September 2016, Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev have had seven telephone conversations. In March, the Uzbek President paid a state visit to Kazakhstan, which was followed by another working meeting in Saryagash in South Kazakhstan a few weeks later. In June, the Uzbek leader visited Astana to take part in the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. He came back to Astana in early September to lead the Uzbek delegation to the first ever Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Summit on Science and Technology. Apart from that, Nazarbayev and Mirziyoyev held bilateral talks in May on the fringes of other multilateral fora, including the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and the Belt and Road Initiative Forum in Beijing, China.

In Tashkent, both Presidents emphasised in their remarks that this was their sixth meeting over a short period of time.

The leaders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have given an impetus to economic cooperation, which reflected in concrete indicators. Since the beginning of the year, bilateral trade has grown 35 percent, communication between the two countries has intensified, and border collaboration issues are being solved on a systematic basis.

The most important is that both leaders are trying to give a boost to the overall process of regional cooperation. With the strengthening of the Kazakh-Uzbek ties, there is indeed a chance to restart regional cooperation in Central Asia.

The author is a political analyst and the head of the Kazakhstan Council on Foreign Affairs.



The Decisive Step towards Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity

The International Turkic Academy team has conducted comprehensive research on adopting a Latin script, studied what it took for several Turkic speaking nations to switch their alphabets to Latin-based ones, and published a monograph on the issue.

Dr. Darkhan Kydyrali

Our studies showed that a Latin-based alphabet is the common alphabet of turkology. For instance, turkologists rely on the Latin transcription while studying ancient Turkic writings. So did “The Soviet Turkology” led by Baskakov. Turkologists in today’s Russia are still using this method. As New York University Professor Larissa Bonfante writes, the Latin alphabet derives from ancient Etruscan. “Codex Cumanicus”, which is considered as an encyclopedia on the Middle Age Turkic people, is also written using the Latin alphabet. In the 1926 Baku Assembly, our intellectuals chose the Latin script.

In the 1990s, intellectual communities of the Turkic nations made to the same decision.

These facts show that the Latin-based alphabet is the most appropriate alphabet taking into account our phonetics. A Latin-based alphabet not only serves as the symbol of the Kazakh statehood revival, but it revives the public memory and conscience. The alphabet boosts the usage of the Kazakh language, promotes cultural unity in the Kazakh community, and liberates the Kazakh information space. An alphabet symbolizes culture, nationality, statehood, sovereignty and unity.

Thus, choosing an alphabet means choosing a way towards prosperity. We believe that by choosing the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet we have decided to move towards realisation of the aspirations of Mangilik El (Eternal Nation).

Switching to the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet, we will solve some issues in spelling the Kazakh words in Latin. Our nation’s name, for example, is written in three different ways. Through the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet, we would be spelling Kazakhstan as Qazaqstan since the latter meets uniqueness of the Kazakh language.

Furthermore, the new alphabet would allow us to adapt foreign words in accordance with the Kazakh language rules. The Latin-based Kazakh alphabet would make it possible to standardise spelling of foreign words comprising the Kazakh vocabulary. Integrity in Kazakh orthography and orthoepy leads to integrity in a language. Thus, many non-Kazakh ethnic groups will have a unique opportunity to master their knowledge of Kazakh and our people will be united, not divided, by the state language. As President Nazarbayev notes in his article titled “Course towards the Future: Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s identity”, the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet will revive the Kazakh public conscience and promote national cohesion.

The Latin script has been widely used in many online media outlets so far. There is a large number of people on Internet and social media, who use the Latin script to express their views in Kazakh. But there is no standardised version of the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet. Therefore, the adoption of the new common alphabet facilitates resolving this issue.

In the age of globalisation, English skills and the Latin alphabet give journalists an opportunity to effectively navigate in the global information space. Since beginning of this year the updated Egemen Kazakhstan newspaper website has been telling stories in Russian. In the past, the Latin-based version of the site has been disseminating information for Kazakhs overseas. The site materials are automatically converted into the Latin-based alphabet. From September 2017, we started telling stories of the Kazakh people to the world in English. Foreign citizens and embassies representing foreign governments in Kazakhstan will be kept posted on Kazakhstan through the Egemen Kazakhstan stories.

Most of us are well aware of the fact that from 1929 to 1940 the Egemen Kazakhstan newspaper, then named as “The Enbekshi Kazakh” and “The Socialist Kazakhstan newspaper”, used the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet. Therefore, switching to the new alphabet would be a natural transition for the leading Kazakh newspaper.

Undoubtedly, changing an alphabet script cannot be done overnight or even in a year. As the recommended Latin script will be used/implemented as a pilot project, the public will eventually become comfortable writing on it. Most importantly, through having a hearing on the Latin script in the Kazakh Parliament the government took the decisive step towards modernisation of public conscience. May this step herald further steps towards modernisation of public conscience.

The author is President of the International Turkic Academy. The article was originally published by the Egemen Kazakhstan newspaper.



TCO partnership key to Tengiz reaching 3 billion barrels milestone

Significant and often untapped oil and gas reserves can still be found in abundance and in places where the business climate is conducive and attractive to energy investors.

Ted Etchison

Kazakhstan is such a place.  Its growing importance as a key energy supplier is impressive. According to a recent Foresight-2050 report, oil production from Kazakhstan in the 2030s will increase by up to 102 million tonnes (http://wsec.kz/wp-content/uploads/file/19/Kanat%20Bozumbayev.pdf).

Tengizchevroil has worked in this vast and dynamic nation for over two decades, in an exceptional relationship with the government of Kazakhstan, to develop the country’s vast energy potential and advance its economy.

June 9, 2017, was a major milestone in the history of Tengizchevroil (TCO), the Chevron-led joint venture that operates two world-class oil fields deep beneath the western Kazakhstan steppe along the northeast shores of the Caspian Sea. It was on this day that TCO produced its three billionth barrel of crude oil since its creation in 1993.

The unique TCO partnership was vital to getting to this incredible three billion barrels achievement. Together, this partnership has unlocked one of the world’s richest resources and also empowered thousands of people in Kazakhstan in the process.

Much of the success in enabling this world-class asset to achieve this massive record is simply down to the commitment of our workforce – past and present – many of which are local people. And, of course, the trust and support from the Republic of Kazakhstan.

It all started in April 1993 when TCO was formed between the Republic of Kazakhstan and Chevron Corporation to explore, produce and market crude oil, gas and sulphur. The joint venture participants, today, alongside Chevron (50 percent interest) who leads the partnership, include ExxonMobil (25 percent), KazMunayGas (20 percent) and LukArco (5 percent).

Beneath the country’s western steppe and energy low lands, lies the joint venture’s largest asset, Tengiz.  Discovered in 1979, the oil column of the reservoir measures an incredible 1 mile (1.6 km). The reservoir area is so large that one would have to run nearly two marathons to cover the entire distance around it. All of this means Tengiz ranks as the world’s deepest producing supergiant oil field. The nearby Korolev field is another giant reservoir, also under TCO’s development arm.

Covering an area of more than 594 square miles (1,538 sq km), TCO requires facilities of an equally impressive scale to operate the fields. Yet, when the reservoir was first discovered there was little in the way of logistics or even roads to support what today has been ranked as possibly the world’s largest oil field, outside of the Middle East.

Three billion barrels of crude is enough to meet the petroleum consumption needs of Kazakhstan for more than 30 years. A remarkable achievement, but the exciting part is that there are many more barrels to come.  The field’s yearly output alone right now could satisfy the annual oil demand of entire nations both within neighbouring central Asia and further afield.

So what’s next for this super giant? Well, the next stage of expansion, the Future Growth Project-Wellhead Pressure Management Project (FGP-WPMP), is designed to further increase TCO’s production (by approximately 260,000 barrels per day) and maximize the ultimate recovery of its resources. The final investment decision was given for this expansion in July 2016. In parallel, work is underway to help extend the field’s production plateau and keep the existing plants producing at full capacity.

Expansion isn’t only about boosting production; it will also help drive the development of local skills. Extending the life of TCO’s assets will rely on new cutting edge technology too. And around 20,000 jobs will be created at peak construction.

One constant over the years has been our commitment to investing in the social infrastructure, capacity and capability of both local business and our local workforce – whose hard work and creativity are the foundation of our success. TCO has been consistently increasing Kazakh content in goods and services year-by-year.  In 2002, the enterprise purchased goods and services from domestic producers for $415 million, and in the first 6 months of 2017, these expenses reached over $1 billion. Since 1993, TCO has spent over $22.9 billion on Kazakh goods and services.

Nearly two years ago, TCO committed to partner with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to strengthen small and medium sized business in Kazakhstan and enable them to grow into more successful businesses. TCO also provided co-financing to support the EBRD’s on-going Kazakhstan Small Business Support Programme over an initial period of two years (2015-2017). On May 2017, this programme won the European Business Association of Kazakhstan (EUROBAK) Corporate Social Responsibility Award for best programme in the “Entrepreneurship Development” category.

Today, 84 percent of TCO jobs are held by Kazakhstan citizens.

As I mentioned, the TCO partnership was fundamental in reaching three billion barrels. To bring on board our next phase of production, this relationship will be even more crucial.

To date, TCO has contributed over $121 billion to the local Kazakh economy and people. This asset continues to be of vital importance to the people of Kazakhstan and we are excited and also confident that we will safely and successfully celebrate the next three billion barrels.

The author is General Director of Tengizchevroil LLP.



Implementing public strategies in Kazakhstan

The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has devised at least three important strategic documents, the purpose of which is to build on the country’s existing success and ensure Kazakhstan is among the top 30 developed nations by 2050.

The three documents – Kazakhstan 2050, Plan of the Nation (100 Concrete Steps), and the Third Modernisation of Kazakhstan – propose a route map for the future in a turbulent and uncertain global environment.

These documents offer foresight and leadership consistent with a strong President who has a clear vision for where he wants to take Kazakhstan.

Despite the pledges in these strategic documents, the recent review by the OECD of governance in Kazakhstan found key deficiencies in terms of the implementation process: “The country’s governance model suffers from excessively hierarchical structures in its strategic orientations and policy design, together with inadequate focus on policy implementation, in particular in terms of evaluation of policy effectiveness and accountability… Insufficient focus on implementation also hinders understanding of the actual outcomes of policy.”

There is, however, a body of international research that might offer some insights into why public policies within Kazakhstan’s strategy documents fail to get fully implemented as intended. These are discussed in no order of importance.

First, Kazakhstan has a very complex system of governance. There are 15 government ministries and one central executive body (i.e. the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption); 6,269 state enterprises which operate in sectors where the direct provision of a public service is deemed necessary; 679 joint stock companies and limited liability partnerships established by the government and the National Bank to both engage in the production of market goods and services in a competitive environment; and 18,902 state institutions which are non-commercial entities created by the President, the government or local executive bodies for carrying out socio-cultural or administrative functions.

With such a complex system of governance comes the likelihood of poor horizontal and vertical coordination and duplication across executive bodies.

Second, there can be a problem of reform overload where civil servants are unable to absorb the volume of changes coming from the top-down without a sense of prioritisation. This can lead to officials using their own discretion to make sense of the roll-out of reforms in ways which were not intended at the stage of policy formulation (public policy research refers to this as ‘street level bureaucracy’).

Third, because of this issue of reform overload, officials can lack accountability to deliver, sometimes described as circumstances ‘where everything is important and nothing is important’. Lack of accountability can also encourage inaccurate monitoring and reporting of changes intended to happen through the three strategies, a kind of ‘tick-box’ exercise where tasks are fulfilled in a perfunctory way to meet the demands of process rather than produce good policy outcomes. Lack of accountability also risks the potential of corruption and civil servants putting their own self-interests in front of the country’s needs.

Finally, high staff turnover can result in a lack of consistency in policy implementation. Officials and politicians do not remain in their positions long enough to see through the full impact of policy change.

This, combined with a hugely complex governance structure, means that leadership of the reforms becomes diffuse, ownership amongst officials and politicians is shifting, and there is no time/space to undertake proper policy evaluation of those strategic changes which are successful or failing.

The end result is that even though there is a clear route map of the strategic direction for Kazakhstan until 2050, the implementation of the operational plans can prove difficult to deliver in practice. International research tells us that the ‘implementation deficit’ is a neglected issue in public policy.

We cannot assume that good strategic plans will be faithfully implemented, not through negligence, but rather the bureaucratic mosaic through which they pass and lack of attention to the successful achievement of policy outcomes and their evaluation.

The author is a professor at Nazarbayev University’s Graduate School of Public Policy.