Consistent, systematic change necessary for Kazakh education system to achieve goals of Bologna Process

As the 10th anniversary of joining the Bologna Process approaches, the Kazakhstan government shall take stock of its progress and address two main questions. Have we achieved our goals? Where do we go from here and how?

Aray Ilyassova-Schoenfeld

The answers to both these questions depend on who you ask. For some, perhaps, joining the Bologna Process was the goal. Kazakhstan’s achievement in this regard is commendable. The world has recognised our sincere efforts to reform the higher education system.

For others, perhaps, the goal was to reform the higher education system in line with the developed European countries. For this, we need to know what the Bologna Process is all about.

The Bologna Process is a collaborative European effort to overcome the problem of mobility in education and the labour market. The process also aims to increase the competitiveness of the European education system in the face of challenges posed by the technological revolution and globalisation. It is centred on students and markets, making them a governing stakeholder instead of passive consumers.

The process is built upon underlying values and principles such as academic autonomy and freedom, critical thinking, linking research and teaching, civil liberties, and tolerance enshrined in the Magna Carta.

The three-cycle degree system, European Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (ECTS), diploma supplement, and independent accreditation are mere administrative instruments. They create an enabling environment to achieve the actual goals of mobility.

Kazakhstan has successfully installed the above administrative mechanisms through legislation and continues to improve upon the implementation process.

Nevertheless, 20 years of reforms fall short when it comes to meeting the actual objectives or cultivating the underlying values of the Bologna Process. Both of which require more than passing legislations.

The membership to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has not bestowed upon students an automatic ticket to Europe for study and work. Kazakh students continue to face great difficulties in getting accepted to Western universities mainly because of the problematic quality of education.

According to the 2018 competitiveness report by the World Economic Forum, Kazakhstan ranked 59th in the aggregate but 116th on graduate skills. The problem does not begin at universities, but at the primary and secondary level. According to the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment report, 45 percent of Kazakhstan’s secondary school leavers do not have basic reading proficiency. The Unified National Test, main entry point to higher education, has been widely criticised for failing to assess students’ preparedness for higher education.

Take for example, the fact that the primary independent quality assurance agency in Kazakhstan accredited, on average, two programmes a day and certified 98 percent of all applications between 2013 and 2016. These numbers may indicate a higher level of efficiency. But one wonders about the level of scrutiny of the contents and delivery mechanisms of a programme that go through.

Nevertheless, Kazakhstan still does better than many of its peers in the EHEA on many accounts. The government remains determined to turn things around and the Bologna Process offers a direction and framework. We shall actively participate in the process and strive for outcome-based, instead of mere procedural, reforms.

The effective implementation of the Bologna Process would require a paradigmatic shift on the part of the political elite, civil servants, and academic community at large. The only way out of this infinite loop is to provide institutionalisation; put expert dedicated people at the helm; develop decision-support information systems and structure goals and means before embarking on implementation.

Kazakhstan should focus on quality enhancement, which would inevitably require promotion of the Magna Charta values. There cannot be any quality education and innovative mind-set without critical thinking and venues to express the creative potential.

Quality enhancement is a long-term painstaking process requiring a systemic approach with no arbitrary deadlines or obsession with world rankings. Such obsessions led Kazakhstan civil service astray. Consequently, they have focused on paper procedures and numbers rather than substantive outcomes.

A point so aptly put by Dr. Andris Barblan, Secretary General of the Magna Charta Observatory, who said during the Taraz Declaration ceremony, we shall resist the bureaucratic temptation to “quantify rather than qualify.”

As a first step, the budget for education requires a substantial increase at all levels and it shall be balanced horizontally. Teacher salaries and teaching/administrative workload (at the cost of research) remain the biggest hurdle in attracting and retaining well qualified educationists. Currently, three quarters of the higher education budget goes to Nazarbayev University (NU).

Secondly, the Ministry through the National Qualifications framework, the management of universities, and quality assurance agencies all need to make an effort to genuinely engage the industry stakeholders.

Finally, the primary and secondary schools require more systemic attention than what they receive at the moment. Besides increasing inputs to the system, the curriculum design activity shall engage more international and local critical voices from intelligentsia.

Dr Ilyassova-Schoenfeld is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Graduate School of Public Policy, Nazarbayev University.

Dr Lodhi is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy, Nazarbayev University.

The views expressed here are their own and do not represent those of their organisation.



Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the nuclear suppliers group 2019-2020

In June 2019, Kazakhstan takes over the Chairmanship of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) from the current chair Latvia.

Tariq Rauf. Photo credit: ceness-russia.org.

The 2019 session of the NSG Plenary will be held on June 20-21 in Nur-Sultan under the chairmanship of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The 48 “Participating Governments” (PGs) in the NSG are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States.

Some of the key issues before the NSG, among others, are: controlling intangible transfer of nuclear technology and know-how; further strengthening nuclear export controls and verification by the IAEA; and criteria for membership of countries not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – in 2016, India followed by Pakistan tendered applications for membership in the NSG…

Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship of the NSG

Kazakhstan ascends to the chairmanship of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at a critical juncture in international politics where multilateralism and pacta sunt servanda (the principle that agreements must be honoured) remain under threat. The consensus in the NPT review process on nuclear disarmament has frayed to near breaking point. And, unlike Kazakhstan, countries that never joined the NPT and have exploded and possess nuclear weapons are vying for NSG membership –thus giving them access to civilian nuclear technology and material in the absence of any internationally legally binding commitments to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

Kazakhstan brings the strongest credentials, among all of the 47 PGs to the NSG Chairmanship; indeed Kazakhstan’s actions in support of the global nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament regime are unparalleled.

In brief, in October 1990 then USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, in response to the request by Mr Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of Kazakhstan, announced a moratorium on nuclear weapon tests at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan where about 500 nuclear detonations had been carried out by the USSR since 1949.

Following independence in December 1991, Kazakhstan found itself in possession of the fourth largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world after the Russian Federation, the United States and Ukraine. These nuclear forces included 104 SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 40 Tu-95 strategic bombers armed with air-launched cruise missiles, totalling approximately 1,410 nuclear warheads.

In an unprecedented move, the new Kazakhstan government renounced nuclear weapons and repatriated all nuclear warheads to the Russian Federation for dismantlement by April 1995. It also completely dismantled the nuclear weapon testing infrastructure at Semipalatinsk by July 2000; and earlier in 1994 approximately 600kg of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) was removed from the Ulba Metallurgical Plant to the US, in addition 2,900kg of nuclear fuel (enriched up to 26% U-235) was removed from the Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Combine in Aktau to Ulba for down-blending into low enriched uranium for civilian nuclear applications under IAEA safeguards.

On February 14, 1994, Kazakhstan acceded to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State. Kazakhstan signed its NPT-related comprehensive safeguards agreement (INFCIRC/504) with the IAEA on July 26, 1994, which entered into force on August 11, 1994. On February 6, 2004, Kazakhstan signed the additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, and it entered into force on May 9, 2007. Kazakhstan was one of the leaders in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia.

Besides several other initiatives, Kazakhstan signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) on September 30, 1996 and ratified it on May 14, 2002. Kazakhstan remains an unrelenting champion of the CTBT and has noted this treaty’s importance during its presidency of the UN Security Council. And, resisting significant pressure, Kazakhstan showed determination in signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on March 2, 2018.


During its chairmanship of the NSG, Kazakhstan would be well placed given its long record of significant achievements in promoting nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, to guide the NSG in meeting its challenges in an open, fair and transparent manner.

Peaceful nuclear applications are in use in nearly every country in the world, some 30 States rely on electricity generated in nuclear power plants and some others are in the process of doing so, and nuclear technologies contribute to several of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). In all these areas, enhanced, fair and transparent cooperation in peaceful applications of nuclear energy can be facilitated by the member States of the NSG.

During Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the NSG, the 50th anniversary of the NPT shall be commemorated in April-May 2020 at the NPT review conference in New York at the United Nations. This should provide a unique opportunity for NSG participating governments, under the leadership of Kazakhstan, to recommit to the NPT, promote the early entry into force of the CTBT and also make its ratification a “factor” for all present and future NSG member countries, and work collaboratively to find common ground on the TPNW.

The author formerly was Head of Nuclear Verification and Security Policy Coordination at the IAEA, Alternate Head of the IAEA NPT Delegation 2002-2010, and point of contact in the Office of the Director General for the NSG and the ZAC. Exclusively personal views are expressed in this article.



Central Asia should capitalise on opportunities for cooperation

Central Asia is a unique place that can be self-sufficient and prosperous. It is a market of 70 million with a young, educated workforce. It has common roots, beliefs and mentality. Deeper integration in the region will only benefit people and economies.

Transport and mobility are among the most important elements of a modern economy. The movement of people and goods – provides access to jobs, education, healthcare and trade.  

In that regard, Kazakhstan has achieved a lot in building its infrastructure. Over the past 10 years the total investment in infrastructure development, transport and logistics assets and competencies amounted to  approximately $30 billion. Railroads, highways, as well as air routes that pass through Kazakhstan form effective transcontinental corridors from Asia to Russia, Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Persian Gulf.  

There are great opportunities for infrastructure to align with changes in trade and economic geography. Kazakhstan needs to refocus its economy towards larger mutual trade and investments with Central Asian countries.  

Major exporters of natural resources in Central Asian countries face difficulties accessing the infrastructure of neighbouring countries (access to ports, shortage of wagons) and reduction of transport costs (tariffs).

Nevertheless, we can already note a major shift in relations between Central Asian countries and greater mobility in the region. Kazakhstan’s medical and educational facilities have attracted a large number of visitors from the region.

In 2018, according to the data by Ministry of Education, the number of foreign students in Kazakhstan increased two fold, reaching 14,000. The majority of students are from the other Central Asian countries. It is estimated that by 2020, this number will reach more than 50,000.

In medicine, more than 90 percent of foreign visitors are from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Central Asian countries. The Astana medical cluster has been essential in attracting medical tourists.

In tourism, introducing the Silk Road Visa will send  a signalto the international community that our region must be viewed as a tourism destination.

To date, more than 90 percent of total foreign direct investments in Central Asia are in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan government has a plan of introducing new policy initiatives that will support foreign investors doing business in Kazakhstan. The Prime Minister as an investment ombudsman will have authority to fast track approval process for important projects and deal with issues that investors may face.

The newly minted Kazakhstan Investment Development Fund will support strategic investors by jointly implementing projects in infrastructure, tourism and other industries.

Foreign companies are showing more and more interest in investing in various sectors of the economy in neighbouring Uzbekistan. According to the recent BCG report, Uzbekistan’s investment potential is US$65 billion, including $20 billion in non-extractive industries.

A joint Kazakh-Uzbek plan to build a free economic zone at our joint border will combine the strengths of each side to achieve comparative advantage in exporting goods.  

AIIB, in its recent study, has suggested the goals and structure of CAREC-7 (Central Asia, Mongolia and Azerbaijan) programme reflect those of other regional cooperation initiatives in Asia, and it should improve trade openness and support industrial upgrading. At the same time the study noted trade and investment potential in the region is underutilised.

More regional initiatives are needed to deepen the economic cooperation in Central Asia.

First, Kazakhstan should more actively invest in infrastructure projects in other countries of the region.

The long-awaited highway connecting Almaty to Issyk-kol, high-speed rail connecting Almaty, Bishkek and Tashkent and railway lines to Afghanistan should be implemented. Border points need further upgrading to avoid bottlenecks and delays.

Second, Kazakhstan can promote soft power initiatives in the region. Exchange programmes, cultural and medical centres in Central Asian capitals will promote the region’s image and produce benefits from cooperation.

Third, a single entity promoting investments and tourism, mutual investment funds to implement regional initiatives can follow.

Finally, the Belt and Road programme offers the opportunity to be the part of global supply chain from Western Europe to China. For centuries, the Silk Road brought the benefits of trade and exchange for people in the region.

Central Asian states have much more to gain from mutual trade, investments and cooperation.

The author is an advisor to the First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan.



Foreign Ministry embraces new role as attractor, supporter of foreign investment

International competition for investment is increasing, and investment flows are fluctuating due to a global decline of investor confidence in emerging economies. Today, to encourage foreign investors, many countries are taking drastic measures to improve their investment legislation.

Photo credit: mfa.kz.

In these circumstances, Kazakhstan is committed to improving its model of interaction with foreign investors. Moreover, our country, which already ranks 28th in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, continues to systematically improve the conditions for encouraging and retaining investment.

2018 showed good results: the total inflow of foreign direct investment increased by 15.8 percent and amounted to $24.3 billion. Nevertheless, in response to new trends in the world, Kazakhstan is building a three-level functional system to bring and support investment.

At the present stage, Kazakhstan, reflecting on many years of experience in investment climate development, consistently restructures and develops the internal ecosystem of investor support. Foreign investment will ensure sustainable economic development and provide a basis for creating new jobs and addressing social issues.

This year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan has been given functions and powers in the sphere of implementation of the state policy to attract investments. From the very first days, the foreign ministry immediately has made active steps in this area, initiating a number of business processes that improve the investment climate in the country and began to engage all government agencies and national companies in this process.

On the basis of the ecosystem, a three-level system for attracting and supporting investments is built: the external level (overseas institutions), the central level (government agencies, Kazakh Invest and other national companies) and the regional level (local authorities and Kazakh Invest).

We have identified 40 priority countries to attract investment. Each embassy of Kazakhstan is given specific tasks in the host country and performance indicators.

Priority sectors in which there are significant reserves identified for the implementation of major projects. These are the food industry, agrochemistry, agricultural engineering, gas chemistry, information and communication technologies and the mining and metallurgical complex.

To date, foreign missions have held meetings with 650 new companies. They considered 78 projects with high potential for implementation. Since the beginning of the year, Kazakh diplomats have held 13 major investment events with Germany, France, China, Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Finland, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Zimbabwe.

Now, the foreign ministry and the Kazakh Invest national company have organised an information and monitoring system (CRM), which will automate the process of interaction of all interested organisations to support investors at all levels. There are 185 projects with foreign participation in this system worth more than $49 billion. Detailed road maps have been developed and approved for each project.

The foreign ministry has carefully studied the entire path of the investor: the scenario for all stages has been developed starting from the idea to the stage of implementation. A new architecture of investor support has been built on this basis.

The new structure abroad is represented by foreign missions; state bodies, Kazakh Invest and other national companies cooperate together at the central level. The system is supported at the regional level by local authorities and representatives of Kazakh Invest on the ground.

In pursuance of the instruction of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev given at the enlarged meeting of the Government on Jan. 30, each line ministry, akimat (local government administration) and national company identified responsible deputy heads who are personally responsible for investment policy and export promotion.

This is of particular importance given that all investment projects are implemented in the regions and most of the services to investors are provided by the state locally.

In support of this, in accordance with the best international practices, a Foreign Direct Investment Fund has been established in our country. By the decision of First President Nazarbayev, the National Fund allocated 370 billion tenge (US$970 million) to the Investment Fund. This fund will be one of the key mechanisms for encouraging and implementing projects with co-financing up to 50 percent.

In order to further improve the investment climate in Kazakhstan and better encourage investment, the Government of Kazakhstan has adopted additional mechanisms for coordination at the national level.

An Investment Coordination Council has been established under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. All major decisions on investment will be submitted to the council.

Along with other opportunities, the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) operates in Nur-Sultan city, which is an important element of the system of attracting investment with the appropriate financial instruments and international level services.

Today, to support the activities of the AIFC, Kazakhstan has established a special legal regime: adopted a new Constitutional Law and regulates investors’ activities using English law. Investors can already enjoy favourable conditions: independent regulation and a court and an international arbitration centre that meet international standards and provide legal comfort to foreign investors.

Kazakh diplomats are carefully considering further improvements to the legal conditions for encouraging investment capital flow. Thus, together with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Kazakh Foreign Ministry has analysed all intergovernmental agreements on the promotion and mutual protection of investments. The results have been referred to the Ministry of National Economy.

Based on the recommendations of UNCTAD experts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with interested state bodies, will develop conceptual approaches for further improvement of investment agreements.

In general, according to the tasks set by the country’s leadership, the foreign ministry becomes a true breadwinner for the national economy. However, this is only the beginning of vigorous work. The results achieved in bringing capital to the economy of Kazakhstan would only encourage the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to continue its active efforts. The established Coordination Council on Investment Policy significantly enhance the foreign ministry’s capabilities to impact the investment climate and promote investment projects.

The author is Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.



Art, artists are helping to shape a green future

The Sustainable Development Goals approved by the UN, the concluding of the Paris Agreement in 2015 are events that formed constructive development trends for the planet.

The Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow hosted April 17-19 an International scientific conference “The Image of the City in the Art.”

Striving for the new and asserting the dignity of contemporary Russian art in the world, the Russian Academy of Arts preserves its traditions and the historically established structure, contributing to global cultural development. In 1998, a UNESCO department was established at the academy, to generalise the importance of art education as a platform for sustainable development, the development of creativity, innovation and cultural range.

Reports presented at the conference ranged from “The image of the city in Arabic manuscripts” to “Jerusalem in painting of the Early Italian Renaissance” to “The image of the city in Dutch painting of the 12th century”. The conference also included an interdisciplinary approach that featured reports not only from the arts but from cinema, theater, literary and musical discoveries.

Conferences at the Russian Academy of Art are not only an opportunity for colleagues to exchange ideas but, most importantly, one of the main ways to preserve the cultural heritage that now requires particular attention.

At the conference, I presented a report “Green Art Projects: The Impact of Art on Urban Space and Changing the citizen modus vivendi.”

Created in 2018 as a legacy of EXPO 2017, the International Green Technologies and Investments Projects Centre under the guidance of former EXPO 2017 Commissioner Rapil Zhoshybayev considers one of its activities to be creating art projects for sustainable development. The centre is just starting its activities in this area and hopes the centre will transform Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan and the world into more sustainable places with an emphasis on green thinking.

In 2016, at the Global Salzburg Seminar of Culture and Sustainable Development, one of the plenary sessions was called “Artists inspiring change”. As the then UNESCO General Director Irina Bokova noted in her speech in Hanzhou: “Culture allows for sustainable development because it is a source of strength, values, social integration and participation of people in society. Culture is the driving force of creativity and renewal.”

Artists and creators strive for a better world. The presence of the artist transforms the urban landscape, makes it better, inspires.

The great Leonardo da Vinci dreamed about building an ideal capital: there was a project of the Great Master for King Francis I of France. Leonardo da Vinci supervised large fortification and irrigation works, he was fond of plans for building grand canals, cleaning harbours, rebuilding cities. In his project of an ideal capital, he abandoned the medieval model of the city with narrow, tangled streets. His “new city” is spacious, multi-tiered. The project of Leonardo da Vinci was not realised, but his ideas spread over time.

Urban projects by Gaudi, Salvador Dali, Tonino Guerra are bright indicators of the influence of artistic reality on the surrounding reality, interactions and incarnations of artistic symbols and premonitions. Wim Wenders in his 1990s film “Notes about the cities,” marked a great crisis of urban existence and a need for change. At the third World Forum of UNESCO on Culture and Cultural Industries, Culture and Art were proclaimed as the main drivers for change the following way: “Urban and rural areas are true laboratories for sustainable development. Providing a central place for creativity and well-being in sustainable urban and rural planning allows to create a safer, more productive and highly organised urban environment.”

The Florence Declaration, which was proclaimed at the forum, emphasises: “Creativity contributes to the making of open, socially inclusive and pluralistic societies in which various sources of inspiration and innovation have free flow and support.”

The demands and premonitions of the new century create a new trend in modern art — green art projects. The cultural initiatives that international organisations are creating, such as UNESCO, the International Federation of the Arts Councils and Cultural Organizations (IFACCA), the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), the British Council in the United Nations development programme are helping change reality.

The UNESCO Network of Creative Cities is an experiment that changes the idea about ​​urban space and citizens. The network meeting in 2017 was held under the title “Creativity in the interests of sustainable urban development: creating inclusive public spaces in the digital time.” The network is an attempt to restart urban thinking: “A creative city is not a trend, it is a reality, it is a way to promote sustainable development, which begins from social integration. To implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we need culture and creativity,” noted the participants of the network meeting.

Green art projects create more eco-friendly lifestyles in urban spaces

The value of green art and green artists increased at the U.N. after actor Leonardo DiCaprio spoke at the U.N.

The Festival for the Earth, which included the participation of Monaco’s Prince Albert II and contemporary artist Maria Rebecca Ballestra, brought together the artistic and scientific communities. The festival was conceived as an art project that will promote social and scientific, economic transformation through creativity and culture. In 2018, the focus of the Festival for the Earth was on mitigating climate change, creating economic opportunities associated with a sustainable future, accelerating the transition to a greener world and contributing to the development of environmentally friendly culture.

Co-organiser of the Festival for the Earth and artist Ballestra is one of the creators of green art world projects. In 2014, she began the project “Journey into Fragility.” The composition of the “Green City” from the project is dedicated to the City of the Future, Masdar City, which will operate 100 percent on renewable energy sources. The composition consists of graphics, accompanied by modern Arab poems.

The influence of art on the urban space and art’s influence on the way urban citizens live is often increased by the so called creative-analytical laboratories created by the mayors of large cities worldwide. A striking example is the artist and the director of the creative analytical laboratory at the mayor’s office of Mexico City Gabriella Gomez Mont. She and her colleagues are trying to change the spiritual climate of the city.

During the signing of the Paris Agreement at COP21, artists, seeking to support this initiative, held the Art COP21-initiative, which continued for four months and included 550 art events involving 250 artists.

Green Art is not only a new trend in modern art creating images and symbols for a new reality, but also an art of action spreading new ideas on ecological thinking.

The City of the Future is a city of creativity, with the creative people of the New Century, writing a new history of the planet.

The author is Coordinator of the Art for Sustainable Development Project supported by IGTIC.



Economic integration: a driving force for sustainable development

Leading thinkers from the world over gather at the Astana Economic Forum this week. Their focus is on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and how it should shape long-term economic growth and social development strategies in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. As international best practice and practical solutions are considered, one longstanding objective must remain in our sights: deepening economic integration between Central Asia and the broader region. This is a key means of accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Kazakhstan, with its experience of reforming and modernising its economy, mainstreaming sustainable development and successfully attracting foreign direct investment, has a major contribution to make.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

This contribution is important as our analysis demonstrates the region must significantly strengthen its effort to achieve sustainable development. Progress in Asia and the Pacific has been made towards eradicating poverty and providing universal education. Measures are underway to achieve affordable clean energy. Yet on its current trajectory, the region needs to do more to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This includes Central Asia, where action is needed to improve gender equality, build sustainable cities and communities and achieve decent work and economic growth – Sustainable Development Goal 8. Regional economic integration will be a key part of the solution.

Kazakhstan has demonstrated its commitment to achieving this goal overtime, despite the financial and economic crises in international markets by which it has been affected. The digitisation of the economy and public life is underway and key programmes such as the ‘Business Roadmap’ or the ‘Employment Programme’ are being implemented. Deeper economic integration supported by improved transport infrastructure and trade facilitation measures across the North and Central Asia would support Kazakhstan’s 2050 strategy designed to achieve annual sustainable growth and a diverse knowledge economy. It would also deliver the economic diversification necessary for more equitable distribution of wealth in the sub-region.

Today, trade between North and Central Asian countries accounts for only 8 percent of its exports, much less than other parts of Asia and the Pacific. The region’s exports are concentrated in low-value added commodities and the foreign direct investment it attracts focused on natural resource exploitation. Many countries’ landlocked positions make trading particularly costly, weighing heavily on competitiveness. To overcome these challenges, both hard and soft infrastructure is needed.

Starting with the hard infrastructure, transport in particular, there are firm foundations on which to build. The UN backed Asian Highway Network has supported the development of efficient road infrastructure, Euro-Asia transport links and improved access to maritime routes. ESCAP support to Dry Ports improves the transport and logistics systems needed for the efficient shipment of sea cargo to inland destinations by road or rail. The Kazakh-Chinese logistics terminal in the port of Lianyungang, the Aktau, Bautino and Kuryk seaports, and the Khorgos-Eastern Gate dry port on the border with China all contribute to deepening regional integration. As does the newly opened Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway line connecting Central Asia to the Persian Gulf, providing much needed access to the sea.

Yet to make the most of this hard infrastructure, we need to focus on the softer elements as well. We must eliminate non-tariff measures and restrictive rules of origin, which weigh on trade and foreign direct investment. ESCAP is mapping the impact of non-tariff measures on intra-regional trade and helping strengthen governments’ capacity to lessen their impact. Automating trade, transit and investment procedures would also help. The electronic exchange of trade data and documents between the North and Central Asia could reduce trade costs by 25 percent. A United Nations treaty to facilitate cross border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific has recently been agreed for this purpose. In North and Central Asia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have signed and acceded. I hope that more countries in the region will follow suit to maximise the treaty’s benefits.

A sustainable future for countries in North and Central Asia will depend at least in part on a sustainable approach to transport infrastructure and trade facilitation. More hard infrastructure projects, consistent norms and standards, and harmonised legislative frameworks are needed so that companies can sell into new markets, expand and create jobs.

ESCAP is committed to supporting the intergovernmental work needed for such integration to occur, working with sub-regional organisations such the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Kazakhstan’s position on the Eurasian continent means it is well placed to help drive this agenda forward. I am looking forward to joining forces with Kazakhstan’s leadership to deepen economic integration and achieve sustainable development by 2030.

The author is United Nations UnderSecretaryGeneral and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).



Pavlodar Region is attracting investment, further developing industry, says region’s governor

NUR-SULTAN – In this exclusive interview, Pavlodar Region Akim (Governor) Bulat Bakauov talks about industrial development, fields attractive for foreign investments, tourism and infrastructure.

Bulat Bakauov. Photo credit: Valeriy Bugayev.

What socio-economic issues are on the agenda in your region? What work is planned to improve performance in the coming years?

We have been increasing industrial production in the region for the third year in a row. These figures grew by 4.8 percent in 2018. The region has 16 backbone enterprises, its own fuel, a widely developed energy system that enables to keep creating energy-intensive enterprises and small and medium businesses around them.

Having said that, we decided that today we should follow the path of a cluster development. After launching the production of alloyed aluminium and light alloy wheels with a capacity of 1 million units per year in the Pavlodar Special Economic Zone (Giessenhaus, LLP and Vektor Pavlodar, LLP), we opened an aluminium cluster. We are going to create the production of cast alloys, aluminium profiles, sheets, aluminium foil, wrought alloys and others. These are high value-added products with a great export potential.

The aluminium cluster is not the only one being developed in the region. A petrochemical cluster with enterprises such as Neftekhim LTD LLP, UPNK-PV LLP, KazBitumService LLP, Severkhim LLP, has already grown around the Pavlodar Petrochemical Plant LLP.

Ekibastuz that used to be the mining production centre developed a railway cluster. A number of enterprises have been created, such as the Kazakhstan car-building company, Prommashkomplekt LLP and others that have mastered the entire product line for railcars and railway tracks. These are Format Mach Company LLP, Technological Lines LLP, RWS Binding LLP, RWS Wheelset LLP and RWS Concrete LLP. All cluster enterprises will fully provide Kazakhstan Temir Zholy national company with domestic gondola cars and components for railway rolling stock produced using state-of-the-art technology.

Last December, as part of the Industrialisation Day, the First President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, launched a railway wheel production facility, which will be among the top three manufacturers of solid-rolled wheels in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). There is a strong demand for these products. Over 80 percent of them will be exported to foreign countries.

The region is actively involved in digitisation and is working on a cluster of blockchain technology. The mining data centre of BNK Energy LLP has launched in Ekibastuz. Today, its power consumption capacity is 33 MW. Seven billion tenge ($US18.4 million) was invested in the project and 16 jobs were created. A Korean company has implemented a mining data centre project in Pavlodar. Its capacity exceeds 20 MW.

How much foreign investment was attracted to the Pavlodar Region in 2017 and 2018? Please tell us about the most significant projects in the construction, manufacturing and agribusiness fields.

The Pavlodar Region attracted 114.5 billion tenge (US$302 million) of foreign investment in 2017, and 81.4 billion tenge (US$214.7 million) in 2018. As previously noted, thanks to two projects funded through foreign investment, we started to develop the aluminium cluster. These are the projects for the production of light alloy wheels worth 530 million tenge (US$1.4 million) with Russian participation and the production of alloyed aluminium worth 4.9 billion tenge (US$12.9 million) together with German investors. The projects will further the development of aluminium production of the fourth and fifth processing stages.

The most significant commissioned construction projects are the following: the launch of the first stage of the production of small concrete articles of Greatbrick LLP worth 800 million tenge (US$2.1 million) and the modernisation of the production of high-pressure hoses and spare parts for agricultural equipment of Agromir LLP worth 50 million tenge (US$131,930).

Of note are projects of PTF Company FRESHMILK LLP for the production of freeze-dried mare’s milk amounting to 350 million tenge (US$923,510), Galitskoe LLP for the production of refined sunflower oil and flour-based products worth 200 million tenge (US$527,720), a creamery construction project of Greenland Invest, together with Chinese investors, amounting to 1.5 billion tenge (US$3.9 million). We are about to implement the projects of MTS Uspen Agro APC for the construction of an elevator, mills, groats and pasta-making workshops for an agricultural production cooperative worth 335 million tenge (US$883,931), and also Astana Fresh LLP for opening a baby food production facility worth 29.4 billion tenge (US$77.5 million).

Could you talk about activities and projects in the field of public-private partnership (PPP)?

The region has 73 PPP projects totalling 54.6 billion tenge (US$144 million) at various stages of planning and implementation. As of March 26, we concluded contracts for 23 projects worth 12 billion tenge (US$31.6 million).

In 2017-2019, our health care system concluded 11 PPP contracts, which provided for reconstruction of the premises of Pavlodar City Hospital No. 1 with the installation of a computed tomography scanner for 202.5 million tenge (US$534,316). CT scanners have been also installed at the Sultanov Regional Hospital (240 million tenge (US$633,264)) and the Aksu City Hospital (270 million tenge (US$712,422)). Another CT scanner has been installed as part of a PPP at the Ekibastuz City Hospital. The project’s budget is 199 million tenge (US$525,000). The premises have also been reconstructed here, and the actual amount of the costs of the private partner amounted to 166.8 million tenge (US$440,118).

Rural outpatient clinics in the villages of Pavlodar and Kenzhekol have referred for a PPP trust management without an option to buy them out. Private partners purchased medical equipment and a car in the village of Pavlodar in the amount of 14.5 million tenge (US$38,259). Meanwhile, in the village of Kenzhekol, they carried out maintenance works in the amount of 3.5 million tenge (US$9,235) and purchased medical equipment in the amount of 21.3 million tenge (US$56,202).

In the field of education, six PPP projects have been concluded to open private kindergartens, the amount of investments is more than 1 billion tenge (US$2.6 million). The project provides for the placement of the state educational order in private kindergartens for five years. The total coverage will be about 881 children.

There are two PPP projects in the energy sector. One of them is to upgrade and operate street lighting in Ekibastuz in the amount of 746.3 million tenge (US$1.9 million). The private partner is Gorelektroset. This PPP contract was concluded for seven years in the period up to 2024. As a result, 3,498 pieces of LED lamps and 61 automated outdoor lighting control cabinets have been purchased and installed. The city will also replace the uninsulated wire with self-supporting insulated wire 82.2 km long. As part of this project, we achieved 50 percent savings in electricity consumption, compared to the same period last year.

The second project is to upgrade and operate street lighting in Pavlodar in the amount of more than 1.7 billion tenge (US$4.5 million). The private partner is Altocom Asia LLP. The PPP contract was concluded for six years in the period up to 2023. The upgrade has been completed, procedures for transferring to communal ownership are underway. As a result, 12,483 LED lamps and 70 outdoor lighting control cabinets have been purchased and installed, and a hardware and software system for controlling street lighting has been introduced.

What work is being done to attract tourists? How many tourists visited the region in 2018?

Being one of the most promising economic sectors, tourism is getting more and more developed not only globally, but also in Kazakhstan. The Pavlodar Region is abundant with attractions. The number of tourists grows every year; therefore, we are actively developing tourism. During the first nine months of the last year, we had 113,664 tourists, which is 3.5 percent more than in the same period in 2017 (109,790 people).

The Bayanaul resort being included in the top 10 tourist destinations of the Touristisation map of Kazakhstan was the hallmark of 2018. The 2019-2025 National Programme for the Development of Inbound and Domestic tourism was drafted. Together with the international consulting company McKinsey, the akimat (administration) of the Pavlodar Region participated in the development of a master plan for the resort.

In order to increase the tourist potential and create a comfortable environment for visiting guests, substantial efforts have been taken in recent years to develop the infrastructure in the amount of about 23 billion tenge (US$60.6 million), including 19.4 billion tenge (US$51.1 million) of budget funds invested in the construction of the necessary transport and engineering infrastructure. Private investors ensured the construction of such facilities as a ski resort, an airfield for small aircraft and modern holiday villages.

It is worth noting that major effort has been put into health and medical tourism. In order to develop health tourism in the region, we are working to improve the infrastructure of salt lakes.

An investor seriously landscaped the area of the Maraldy resort: they built a cafe with a dome for 500 seats, expanded the lake beach, and additionally built a large pier, where cafe is based during summertime. Furthermore, an ethnic aul consisting of five yurts has been opened and three log houses for 10 people have been built for the convenience of holidaymakers.

The region has created a map of sacred places of the Irtysh area. As part of the special project Sacred Geography of Kazakhstan, the map of sacred places included 41 sites in the Pavlodar Region, and seven of them became part of the national map of sacred places. These are the Konyr Aulie cave, the grave of Zhassybay Batyr, the Akkelin facility and the Mashkhur Zhussup Kopeyev Mausoleum in the Bayanaul Region, the Akkol-Zhayylma settlement and the Issabek Ishaan Hazrat Mausoleum in Ekibastuz, and the restored Sultanbet Sultan’s headquarters in Pavlodar.

The Pavlodar Region took the implementation of the special project Tugan Zher seriously. There are several notable projects in this area. The first is the opening of a volunteer centre. Our region initiated many volunteer projects. This is proved by the number of volunteers organising and conducting sports competitions, charity marathons, programmes supporting children with intractable diseases, projects implemented in orphanages and oncology departments. It is the first volunteer centre opened in Kazakhstan. Sponsors financed the renovation of a 105-square-metre house by construction teams of Zhassyl El. Currently, the volunteer centre includes nine organisations.

The second project is the ethnic festival Uly Dala Eli. The festival has already become the hallmark of the region. Over 100 yurts and about 70,000  participants ensure the magnitude of the event. Last year the festival was held on Aug. 3-5.

Another project, Ertіs Promenade, was implemented on the famous Pavlodar embankment, a favourite place of all people living in Pavlodar. In 2018, we built an amphitheatre on the lower embankment of the city that last summer became the venue for various cultural events, including concerts of popular groups and performers from Kazakhstan and other countries.

Could you tell us what is being done to improve the transport system in the Pavlodar Region?

First, in order to upgrade the fleet of Bus Depot No. 1 LLP the akimat of Pavlodar plans to purchase 20 new buses and 10 electric buses worth about 2.3 billion tenge (US$6 million). The oblast (region) centre continues to modernise the tram fleet: since last year, 14 new comfortable cars have been operating in the city, and another 13 new trams are expected to be delivered before the end of this year.

Moreover, in 2019, Pavlodar and Aksu are starting phasing-in the electronic ticketing system across all public transport routes. The Moscow group of companies BPC became the operator in Pavlodar, and BF Group Inc, LLP in Aksu.

The go2bus-pvl.kz website that tracks the movement of buses and trams online has been developed and launched for the convenience of public transport passengers. To ensure transport digitisation, we have developed the SMART BUS system that controls the quality of services within the national routes, the traffic plan and the timetable. Today, GPS trackers are installed in 221 buses out of 283.

With regard to passenger traffic, the direct flight Novosibirsk-Pavlodar-Novosibirsk was introduced for the period from June 2 to Oct. 23. This flight will be operated by the Russian airline S7 Airlines using the EMBRAER-170 aircraft with a capacity of 78 passengers. The Almaty-Pavlodar-Almaty flight of the FlyArystan low-coaster is launched in May.

Alongside this, we are finalising the construction of an airfield in the village of Bayanaul to develop small aircraft and make the Bayanaul National Park more attractive. To meet the needs of the population in air travel both within and outside the region, we are working on opening the Pavlodar-Bayanaul-Pavlodar flight. The Civil Aviation Committee of the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development of Kazakhstan also considers providing national subsidies for the Astana-Bayanaul-Astana and Karaganda-Bayanaul-Karaganda flights.

As for roads, 11.5 billion tenge (US$30.3 million) were allocated for repairing local roads in 2019, including 7.5 billion tenge (US$19.7 million) from the national budget and 4 billion tenge (US$10.5 million) from the local budget. It is planned to repair 221 km of roads. 40.5 billion tenge (US$106.8 million) were allocated for national roads in 2019.



Revolution of Choice – The Astana Times

Three decades, roughly a generation, after the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia emerged from the collapse of Communism and embarked on the path to market economy and democracy, the region is now in the middle of a new and different kind of revolution. It is what I would call a revolution of choice.

Photo credit: kazakhstan.unfpa.org.

Choice happens when people can make decisions about their lives. It begins with the most fundamental questions: Who do I want to be with? Do I want children? How many? What work do I want to do? What education do I need? What balance do I want between family and private life, and work or other aspirations?

Where people can make these decisions freely, they thrive. Choice is empowering. And we see choice blossoming everywhere in the region, as women and men, boys and girls, use the opportunities our changing world provides to shape their lives and pursue their futures.

But not everyone benefits equally. In fact, large parts of society are still excluded from the revolution of choice.

Take Maria, from Moldova. Maria was 16 when she became pregnant for the first time. She didn’t know anything about contraception or the risks of an early pregnancy.

“I had never discussed such things with my mother. I was ashamed,” Maria told us. “Our biology teacher was ashamed, too, I think, so she skipped these topics.”

Maria dropped out of school, even though she had been among the best pupils in her class. Today, at age 22, she has three daughters. The family is barely making ends meet.

Maria’s story is far from unique. Like Maria, millions of boys and girls never learn at school or within their families how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and how to have respectful, equal relationships. They are left alone with the potentially life-shattering consequences: early child-bearing, often putting an end to their education and leading to a life in poverty and violence.

Millions of women are trapped in unequal or abusive relationships. They are not allowed to make decisions about their bodies, health or fertility, and live in constant fear of violence. Disturbingly, one in three women in our region has experienced some form of physical or sexual violence, often from a partner, a new UNFPA-supported survey found.

These are not just statistics. Every girl dropping out of school, every woman being beaten and confined to the house means another life at serious risk of not reaching its potential.

As modern societies, we cannot afford to waste the potential and talents of millions of people facing exclusion and discrimination: women and young people, people with disabilities, migrants, minorities, older persons and other groups pushed to the margins. This is not just a moral imperative. It goes to the heart of a country’s ability to steer towards long-term stability and prosperity.

The good news is there are signs of change everywhere. Parents are beginning to see the value of giving their children what they need to make healthy and safe choices, even if this involves uncomfortable subjects like sexuality. Many young people are coming forward and actively engage in shaping their future and that of their countries. More and more men understand that traditional gender roles not only harm women, but also diminish their own experiences as partners and fathers. People recognize that differences – be it in gender, age or physical ability – do not affect the value and dignity inherent in all human life.

These transformations add up to a powerful groundswell of change. They bring us closer to realizing the vision formulated 25 years ago, at the ground-breaking International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which firmly placed the rights and choices of the individual at the heart of the international development agenda and stressed that empowering women and girls is key for the well-being of individuals, families, nations and our world.

Today, as we mark the ICPD’s 25th anniversary and launch this year’s State of World Population report, “Unfinished Business: The Pursuit of Rights and Choices for All,” we call on governments, civil society, the private sector and individuals to join the revolution of choice. We must all do our part to make choice a reality for everyone – through laws and policies, and through our own behaviours and attitudes.

A few steps can go a long way. Offering healthy lifestyle education in all schools, for example. Enacting zero-tolerance policies towards violence against women and having a system in place to support survivors. Ensuring better childcare, parental leave and flexible work arrangements so that no parent has to choose between children and career.

Investing in policies that expand people’s choices and leave no one behind strengthens what scientists call “human capital”, the combined skills, knowledge and experiences of a country’s population. This is essential for economic performance. And it puts countries in a strong position to deal with the consequences of demographic change such as low birth rates and ageing populations.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has 50 years of experience in helping countries introduce such policies and advising on what has worked elsewhere. We stand ready to assist the countries in the region to unleash the full power of choice.

Because choice is not only a right every person is entitled to. It is an essential ingredient for shaping our common future.

The author is the Director of UNFPA’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.



Renaming capital an appropriate way to honour Kazakhstan’s founding president

On March 23, new  President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree and a law approving an amendment to Constitution renaming Astana to Nur-Sultan. A bill to rename Astana was approved on March 20 by the Parliament of Kazakhstan. Astana Maslikhat (City Assembly) approved renaming the capital city too.

“I consider it is necessary to immortalise the name of our great contemporary, the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Our capital must be named after Nursultan Nazarbayev. I want to remind you that this proposal was already expressed by the parliamentarians in the declaration adopted November 23, 2016 on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Independence of Kazakhstan,” President Tokayev announced March 20 at a joint session of the houses of Parliament.

Renaming Astana in honour of the First President Nursultan Nazarbayev has its patterns and historical sequence. As an example, I’m referring to the history of the leading democracy of our time. In July 1790, the U.S. Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of the nation’s capital on the Potomac River. In September 1791, commissioners overseeing the new capital’s construction named the city in honour of the first President of the United States, George Washington, during the period of his rule. George Washington has been called the Father of his Country for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.

Of course, it will take some time for people to get used to the new name of the Kazakh capital as it was with Astana, or Akmola earlier. I believe it is the right way to show how grateful we are to our Father of the Nation and that we strongly believe in the bright future of our motherland.


The author is a master student of Institute of Diplomacy at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Kazakhstan.



The world must seek peace in turbulent times

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was among the first politicians of the international level to have brought the new global challenges of our time to the notice of humankind and mainstreamed the agenda of peace and nuclear non-proliferation worldwide.

As Nazarbayev wrote in his manifesto, “The World. The 21st Century,” humanity hoped that the 21st century would herald a new era of global cooperation. This, however, may turn out to be a mirage.

Our world is once again in danger and the risks cannot be underestimated. The threat is a deadly war on a global scale. Our civilisation, by scholars’ estimates, has survived more than 15,000 wars, approximately three every year. Hundreds of millions of people have died, cities and countries have been destroyed, cultures and civilisations have vanished.

At the dawn of the 21st century, stunning scientific discoveries are being made, and new technologies are being invented. Humankind is entering a qualitatively new stage of its development. The world is at the verge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Many horrific diseases are being successfully eradicated. But the virus of war continues to poison the international situation. It drives the military-industrial complex, which in some countries has become the most powerful sector of the economy. It may even in the future infect the development of artificial intelligence. Militarism has deeply penetrated our minds and behaviour.

There are more than one billion small firearms in the hands of people. Thousands of civilians die every day from their use. We cannot exclude the risk that this military threat could become a tragic reality on a global scale. We can see the signs of such a terrible outcome.

In international relations, the risk of conflict has increased. Conflict has engulfed the historic battlegrounds of the two World Wars – Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is not fulfilling its purpose. Nuclear weapons and the technology that produces them have spread all over the world due to the double standards of the large powers. It may be just a matter of time before they fall into the hands of terrorists.

International terrorism has gained a more sinister character. It has moved from isolated acts in individual countries to a large-scale terrorist aggression across Europe, Asia and Africa.

The exodus of millions of refugees, the destruction of sites and historic monuments has become an everyday reality.

Economic sanctions and trade wars are commonplace. Our planet is now on the edge of a new Cold War, which could have devastating consequences for all humankind. This threatens the achievements of the last four decades.

As a result of successful negotiations of the second half of the 20th century, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia have been reduced substantially. Five nuclear powers have announced and kept a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.

The threat of destruction of the planet was significantly reduced. The process of forming regional security systems has accelerated. A unique and comprehensive security structure – the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe – was created on principles of mutual trust. Coordinated action between world powers and UN peacekeeping operations saw many conflicts ended.

However, today we are witnessing the erosion of these international security achievements.

“In the 21st century humanity must take decisive steps towards demilitarisation. We will not get another chance. If this objective is not achieved, our planet will end as a graveyard of radioactive materials. Our planet is unique. We have no other home,” Nazarbayev noted.


The author is an analyst with Liter newspaper.