Distinguished Co-Chairman Cardin, Co-Chairman Hastings, members of the Commission, and members of Congress, today I am very happy to see, in this room, dignitaries, prominent politicians, and real patriots of America with whom I happened to work during my seven-year tenure as the Republic of Kazakhstan's Ambassador to the United States.
I would like to express my gratitude for this opportunity to address this esteemed Commission, which played a key role in the decision of the United States to support Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Therefore, I decided to deliver my first statement as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office here, at the Helsinki Commission, as I believe in your sincere interest in the success of Kazakhstan’s OSCE Chairmanship. The goal of our chairmanship is to strengthen our common organization to provide greater security and broader cooperation in the vast territory from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
In his video address to the OSCE's Permanent Council in Vienna on January 14, President Nazarbayev presented the strategy and priorities of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship. First of all, we will strictly adhere to OSCE core principles and values. We will work in the interests of all OSCE member states. Kazakhstan views the OSCE support for Kazakhstan’s chairmanship as explicit recognition by the international community of our achievements in the political, social, and economic development of our relatively young country as well as our contribution to regional and global security. At the same time, this decision demonstrates the desire of the OSCE to enhance trust and mutual understanding among countries from west and east of Vienna.
Our paramount objective is to fully strengthen the OSCE, to be instrumental in boosting its effectiveness and ability to appropriately respond to current challenges and threats.
Whether our priorities will be achieved will largely depend on our ability to overcome the crisis of confidence, engendered by divisive lines and vestiges of the Cold War, which remains. In this regard, we hope for the “Corfu Process” to continue, as it has brought to light the common dissatisfaction of all OSCE member states with current state of affairs that exists in the various areas of the organization’s responsibility.
We deem it imperative that the “Corfu Process” includes the humanitarian basket. Kazakhstan considers the OSCE's human dimension an integral and key part of its operations in 2010. We will firmly support the important work of all three OSCE institutions i.e., the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the High Commissioner for National Minorities, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media.
In discussing human rights, it is important to note that such rights are based on fundamental human values, on diversity of cultures and civilizations, which must, no doubt, be respected. We are grateful to our American partners because, in supporting the Kazakh chairmanship, they reconfirmed their resolute commitment to the OSCE's ideals as an organization meant for all of its members, including countries with different and often more complicated cultural and historic experiences. Together with Denmark and ODIHR, we intend to hold a conference in Copenhagen next June that will be devoted to the 20th anniversary of the 1990 Copenhagen Document as the fundamental instrument of the human dimension. The event's agenda will include a review of compliance with the obligation to observe fundamental human rights and freedoms within the OSCE region.
One of the most important events of our chairmanship will be the successful arrangement of the Review of Human Rights Conference in Warsaw to which we are paying special attention.
Given a rather positive experience of achieving inter-ethnic and inter-faith accord in our own country, we intend to make the issues of tolerance and intercultural dialogue within the OSCE space an important priority of our chairmanship.
Indeed, this will be the underlying theme of a high-level OSCE conference on tolerance and non-discrimination to be held in Astana June 29-30. We will work on the event's agenda and the OSCE's preparations for the event in close coordination with the three personal representatives on tolerance, including the esteemed Rabbi Andrew Baker and representative on combating anti-semitism. We expect the United States to support that event.
Further promotion of gender balance is a matter of urgency. In this regard, we intend to hold a meeting on promoting women's participation in public and political life and to co-sponsor an ODIHR program on boosting women's involvement in government.
We will focus on the troubling problem of human trafficking, particularly that of children, which has become a global tragedy and an increasing transnational crime.
Kazakhstan intends to pay special attention to such fundamental freedoms as the freedom of conscience, freedom of media, rule of law, greater independence of the judicial system, and better public access to justice. Given this occasion, I would like to assure you that Kazakhstan, a young democracy with an 18-year history, continues to pursue political modernization at home. Building a strong and democratic society is a conscious choice, and I am in a position to say that we have achieved some impressive successes along this difficult path.
In 2008 and 2009, in line with OSCE recommendations, significant legislative reforms were achieved on the areas of of the media, elections, political parties, and local government. We have adopted and have been successfully implementing a 2009-2012 National Human Rights Action Plan and a 2010-2020 Concept as to the Policy of Law, intended to further liberalize the law of the Republic of Kazakhstan and bring it in line with international standards.
To strengthen the national system for protecting human rights, Kazakhstan adopted laws to ensure equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men, prevent domestic violence, improve the judicial system and forensic operations, take a tougher stand on corruption, provide a social safety net for select individuals and refugees, and address such issues as further improvement of the criminal penitentiary and correctional systems.
In his address to the nation on January 29, President Nazarbayev declared the importance of further reforms to the criminal justice system laws in keeping with high international standards. Therefore, this year the Parliament will introduce a bill to provide strict public and parliament control over the operations and accountability of each and every law enforcement authority.
Thus, Kazakhstan has taken specific steps to implement international standards in its national legislation, in line with the goals and objectives we have identified in the context of our OSCE chairmanship.
Considering that this year elections will occur in 15 participating nations, the Kazakh chairmanship considers it important that the OSCE member states comply with their election monitoring obligations.
With great satisfaction, I would like to note the monitoring process that took place in the first round of elections in Ukraine; we hope that the second round also occurs in accordance with OSCE commitments. In this regard, we highlight the work of ODIHR and the OSCE Parlimentary Assembly, which has been conducted in the spirit of partnership, impartiality, and constructiveness.
Our priority in the economic and environmental dimension will be to promote good governance at border crossings and develop safe and efficient land transportation. We believe this topic is highly important as we emerge from the global recession.
Environmental security is yet another crucial focus in the OSCE's second dimension. We deem it important to focus on the Aral Sea problem, a Central Asian environmental catastrophe that has proven to adversely affect the European states. Addressing the Aral region's problems could serve as a model for solving similar environmental problems within the OSCE’s area of responsibility.
Ladies and gentlemen, Afghanistan occupies a special place on our chairmanship's agenda. Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan has provided support to U.S. and international coalition efforts in the country. However, we strongly believe that achieving the long-term objective of establishing peace and democracy in that country solely through military means would make it difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, it is time to significantly expand humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan.
For many years, Kazakhstan has provided financial support to Afghanistan to build schools, a hospital, and roads and to provide food aid.
As of this year, under an agreement with the Afghan government, Kazakhstan has been implementing a special program that offers the opportunity for 1,000 Afghanis to attend our universities and earn civilian degrees. Despite the fallout from the financial crisis, Astana has allocated US$50 million for this educational program. Kazakhstan as the Chairman-in-Office is going to use social, economic, and humanitarian capabilities of the OSCE that will absolutely correspond with President Obama’s new strategy in Afghanistan.
It is obvious that the Afghan government should start solving the problems of its country. However, their efforts in social and economic rehabilitation and democratic development should be strongly supported by the international community and, first of all, by the member states of the OSCE. This understanding was demonstrated during discussions at the January 28 London Conference on Afghanistan, where I also delivered the vision of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan will continue the OSCE's active endeavors to improve the standard of governance at the borders between the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, to develop cross-border cooperation, and strengthen the capabilities of Afghanistan's national border and police forces. The OSCE has already achieved some concrete results in this area: an OSCE border college has opened in Dushanbe and a customs training center has become operational in Kyrgyzstan. Training Afghani customs, police, and border personnel translates into significant support for the Afghan government. In addition, the OSCE plans to develop new projects to stabilize the situation in the country.
Our country, as a recognized leader of the global nonproliferation process, supports President Obama’s initiatives on nuclear disarmament, adherence to which he reconfirmed in his first State of the Union Address to Congress. As the OSCE Chairman-in-Office we appreciate the U.S.-Russian negotiations on a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START-2).
The real OSCE contribution to the fight against transnational threats and challenges—including terrorism, religious extremism, drug trafficking, and organized crime—will be the Conference on Preventing Terrorism in Astana.
Kazakhstan will try, to the best of its ability, to contribute to the difficult process of resolving the "protracted conflicts," three of which are raging in the post-Soviet space. Bearing in the mind the historical commonality and closeness of Kazakhstan to all the parties of the conflict, as well as the trust and authority enjoyed by President Nazarbayev, we hope to give an imputus to all efforts of our partners involved in this challenging process. Therefore, I am planning to devote attention to this subject during my first trip to South Caucus on February 15.
At the same time, we believe it is crucial to seek ways to prevent the emergence of such conflicts, which eventually lead to human tragedies and humanitarian catastrophes. Therefore, we are going to actively engage the OSCE’s capacity to monitor and identify any possible conflicts.
Ladies and gentlemen, 2010 represents a milestone for the OSCE. This year, it celebrates several anniversaries of great significance to the establishment of the security architecture in Europe. I am referring to the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, the 65th anniversary of the end to the Second World War, the 20th anniversary of the Paris Charter for a New Europe, and the 20th anniversary of the Copenhagen Document. Furthermore, it is the 11th year since the last OSCE summit was held in Istanbul.
Unfortunately, the first decade of the new century has not made our world safer or better. The 9/11 tragedy changed the traditional notion of “enemy” and “war.” International terrorism has become an enemy without an address or nationality. The architecture of the European security has changed. In spite of the many years of international efforts, Afghanistan continues to be the source of international terrorism and a major drug supplier. Not only have the protracted conflicts not been resolved but new conflicts have arisen. We have witnessed and been experiencing circumstances arising from the international financing crisis. Even the most comfortable countries of Europe are facing challenges in promoting tolerance, interethnic, and interreligious accord. All these problems exist in the OSCE area of responsibility—they need collective attention and consideration by the 56 leaders of OSCE member states.
That is why President Nazarbayev called for an OSCE summit in 2010. A specific recommendation concerning the summit is already incorporated into documents of the Athens Ministerial Council and is now supported by the Permanent Council in Vienna. Leaders of France, Italy, Vatican, Turkey, Spain, as well as Russia and other CIS countries, and the current EU President have not only supported the summit but have begun working on its agenda.
Kazakhstan also intends to continue a good tradition established by our predecessor, Greece, and invite the foreign ministers of the OSCE member states to an informal meeting in Almaty next summer. There, they could continue a free exchange of opinions on urgent problems and, ideally, achieve consensus as to approval of the summit's agenda and timeline.
I would like to note that, as a result of the United States’ long absence from high-level OSCE meetings, a certain imbalance has emerged within the organization. Numerous OSCE processes have slowed, and consensus building is becoming an increasingly more challenging task. The OSCE needs proper attention on the part of a key nation that helped lay the organization's foundation. The full engagement of the United States with the OSCE will give the organization a new impetus and set a new tone for talks within its ambit.
I am absolutely certain that the idea of the Summit is in full accord with the noble goals and efforts of the United States to promote comprehensive, indivisible, and strong security and to strengthen trust and cooperation in the OSCE region—from Vancouver to Vladivostok. As the Chairman-in-Office I grasp this opportunity to call upon you, distinguished colleagues, to demonstrate the strategic vision, political will, leadership, and support needed to make the summit of our unique and unparalleled organization a reality in the name of security and prosperity of the people who established the OSCE.
Dear friends, during its 35-year history, the OSCE has created an unparalleled system of collective, comprehensive, and integral security. However, as President Nursultan Nazarbayev has noted, "…the positive historical resources of the OSCE are limited" and "today, it is not permissible to carry on endlessly a practice that involves drawing so-called ‘red lines’ and playing ‘zero-sum games.’” I am quite sure that it is our common task to make the OSCE more effective and stronger in light of new challenges and threats.
In conclusion, I would like, once again, to thank you, distinguished Co-chairman Hastings and all esteemed members of Congress in this room, as well as members and the staff of the U.S. Helsinki Commission for your efforts and support of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship. I would like to offer my profound appreciation for the great interest in the OSCE and its activities as expressed by my counterpart Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was a member of your esteemed Commission.
For my part, I assure you of our complete willingness to continue a close constructive engagement with the Helsinki Commission, the Congress, the administration, as well as other non-governmental entities of the United States with which Kazakhstan has established relations of a true strategic partnership.
Thank you for this opportunity to present Kazakhstan’s vision for and priorities during its OSCE chairmanship. I am pleased to respond to your questions and welcome your comments and suggestions.