Kazakhstan’s role as a leader in Central Asia and, indeed, the entire world gained another dimension this summer as the ambitious but peace-seeking nation was elected to a non-permanent position on the powerful United Nations Security Council for 2017-2018 .
The U.N.’s 193 member countries selected Kazakhstan over Thailand for the prestigious international post in June after a spirited campaign by both nations.
“The election campaign was very competitive, and took many years of hard work, and we feel privileged to be a UNSC member,” Karat Umarov, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United States, told EdgeKz.
Also elected to non-permanent positions on the world body’s Security Council were Bolivia, Ethiopia and Sweden. Each of the four nation’s terms are for two years, beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. Italy and the Netherlands had to split the other seat’s two year term after no country was able to secure enough votes to win outright.
Kazakhstan became a member state of the United Nations in 1992, just three months after gaining independence from the Soviet Union. It has been an active and engaged participant in the activities of the U.N. ever since.
The Security Council is the United Nation’s primary instrument for ensuring international peace and security, with all U.N. member states expected to comply with its decisions related to conflict resolution, including the use of force. The Security Council has 15 members, including five permanent. The five permanent member – each with veto power – are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other current non-permanent members are Japan, Egypt, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay.
The Council’s 10 non-permanent seats are allocated according to a rotation pattern set by the U.N. General Assembly in 1963 to ensure the body receives proportional representation from around the globe. The Security Council is responsible for determining the existence of a threat against peace and to respond to an act of aggression.
Ariel Cohen, an international affairs analyst and a former senior researcher at the respected Heritage Foundation in Washington, said Kazakhstan’s selection to a non-permanent position on the Security Council is further recognition of its growing international clout.
“It is significant because Kazakhstan demonstrates its ability to punch above its weight,” in international affairs, Cohen said. “It does it very consistently.”
Cohen pointed out that Kazakhstan hosted the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010 and a year later, was appointed to the chairmanship of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In 2015, the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development signed a two-year agreement with Kazakhstan during which time Kazakhstan will use the organization’s resources to fine-tune and improve its own economic structures.
Cohen also said Kazakhstan has earned international respect through its long-standing and consistent work in the realm of nuclear non-proliferation.
“Kazakhstan has also pushed forward the agenda of tolerance,” Cohen said. “I think being a non-permanent member of the Security Council, with this pattern of Kazakhstan’s’ international engagement and diplomacy, is very much along the lines of (Kazakh) President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s policy of multi-vector diplomacy.”
“It secures Kazakhstan’s place in the world beyond just the immediate Russia-China-Central Asia environment,” Cohen added.
As a regional leader and global partner in matters of energy security, and a valuable contributor to international peacekeeping missions, Kazakhstan presented its bid for the U.N. position as one that would bring its unique experience and expertise to bear on some of the pressing challenges currently facing the UNSC. The Central Asian nation based its bid on four central pillars: food security, water security, energy security and nuclear security.
In an address to the Kazakh people after the U.N. Security Council position was assured, Nazarbayev called the development an “historic achievement.” He also explained why Kazakhstan is well-positioned to make important contributions during the two-year appointment.
“This is not only our country’s success but that of the entire sub region of Central Asia, which had never been represented in the body responsible for international peace and security,” Nazarbayev said. “Kazakhstan was elected a member of the UN Security Council for the next two years. It will be a difficult period in international relations and it can be seen nowadays. In addition to long-standing conflicts, the world has faced an unprecedented scale of new security threats. We will make a significant contribution to finding solutions to global problems. Stability and security in the world – that’s what we want for all our citizens.”
In a way, Kazakhstan’s selection to the U.N. post is particularly fitting. After all, as home to over 130 different nationalities and ethnic groups, Kazakhstan is nothing less than a microcosm of the United Nations itself. Kazakhstan’s election to the non-permanent Security Council position required two rounds of voting. In the first round, Kazakhstan got 113 votes and Thailand received 77. In the second round, Kazakhstan got 138 votes, when the required number for win was 129.
“Kazakhstan has always been a positive force for global peace, nuclear security and economic development since its early days of independence,” Umarov said. “For Kazakhstan to be a member at the UNSC, means to be able to further advance ideals of peace, prosperity and climate change on the global arena and represent Central Asia as a whole.”
Cohen said Kazakhstan’s economic sophistication is one of the key reasons why it continues to win plaudits and prestigious positions on the international stage.
“In terms of economic development and GDP per capita, it is the leader in Central Asia,” Cohen said. “It has a bigger economy than the remaining four countries of post-Soviet Central Asia combined, including much more populous Uzbekistan.”
“It has real industry, real agriculture and its developing an Astana International Financial Center,” Cohen added. “They are doing a lot of things their neighbors don’t, including educating all the kids in English from the first grade on.”
Cohen said the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council had a familiarity with Kazakhstan which also likely helped its bid for a non-permanent post.
“I think the permanent five members feel comfortable with Kazakhstan,” Cohen said, “China, Russia and the U.S. for starters were comfortable, but Kazakhstan is also a big partner of the Europeans. It exports a lot of oil and gas and other raw materials to Europe and it imports a lot of technology.”
Umarov said the inclusion of Kazakhstan and other countries new to the Security Council helps keep it dynamic and relevant to an ever-changing world.
“The world needs new voices and fresh ideas from the regions that are key to global issues,” he said. “As a relatively young country, which has achieved notable results in strengthening its independence and running its multi-vector foreign policy, Kazakhstan has a lot to offer to the U.N. Security Council.”
“Kazakhstan’s positive role in paving the way for talks on Iran’s nuclear program, keeping stability in Central Asia and contribution to conflict management in Eurasia show that its voice of reason can make a difference,” the ambassador added. “Also, it maintains strategic partnerships with the U.S., Russia, China, the EU and good relations with all other nations around the world, which will help building bridges and closing the gaps in positions on many critical issues. Kazakhstan is an open-minded and peace-loving country, and can facilitate dialogues and assist mutual understanding.”
Cohen also said the U.N. appointment is part of a longstanding strategy by Kazakhstan to build its international reputation through diligence and efforts in the quest for harmonious relations with its neighbors and the world.
“Kazakhstan wants to have for themselves the best of all worlds and you cannot blame them for that,” he said.