Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I commend you on holding this hearing. As you know, I have long been involved with Kazakhstan and was a staunch supporter of Astana’s candidacy to chair the OSCE. I urged the U.S. Government to back Kazakhstan’s bid and was gratified when Washington joined other capitals to make Kazakhstan the first country from among the former Soviet states to lead the OSCE.
Now, I was never blind to the problems with Kazakhstan’s record on democratization and human rights, of course. Over the years I have met with many human rights activists to discuss these issues. I was well aware that OSCE monitors have yet to bless an election in Kazakhstan as free and fair. Nor was I uninformed about longstanding problems with freedom of the media, assembly, association, or corruption, or the difficulties encountered by minority religions, or the one-party parliament or the occasional suspicious death or murder of opposition figures.
But I believe in inclusiveness, as a general principle and as a means of attaining goals. My position was that the OSCE would be worse off if Kazakhstan’s bid was turned down than if a Central Asian country with a less than perfect record became chairman in office. I suppose reasonable people can differ about this. But I stand by my position -- with the acknowledgement that not all my hopes have been validated.
Nevertheless, I also believe that promises are meant to be kept. I was in Madrid in November 2007 and listened to Foreign Minister Tazhin’s speech, in which he made specific pledges of reforms. In fact, Minister Tazhin is in Washington this week and I regret that our schedules did not permit us to discuss in person these issues. Had we met, I would have told him that to judge by the careful conclusion of human rights groups, the reform package introduced late last year does not go far enough. And some drafts, like that on the internet, are more cause for worry than rejoicing.
In only half a year, Kazakhstan will take up its responsibilities as the CIO of the OSCE. That’s not a lot of time. But on the other hand, given the requisite political will in Kazakhstan, it’s more than enough to make the changes that would assuage the concerns of human rights activists and the international community – as well as justify my own faith in the rightness of gambling on the best in people.
I look forward to the testimony of our expert witnesses.