Adela Raz. Strengthening Interaction between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan

Adela RAZ,

Deputy Foreign Minister

of the Islamic Republic

of Afghanistan

Strengthening Interaction between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan

Central Asia has gone through tremendous socio-economic changes over the last two and a-half decades and assumed a new role in the international realm. It has turned into the hub of economic integration in the Eurasian region, which is home to some of the world's rapidly growing economies. Located at the heart of the Eurasian super-continent and encircled by rapidly growing China and India, Central Asia is seemingly a potential transit hub for trade and capital flows beyond the Eurasian region.

Among them, however, the economic development in Kazakhstan presents the success story of Central Asia. With a GDP of roughly $160 billion, Kazakhstan's economy is larger than all of the Central Asian countries put together (World Bank, 2018) /1/. A well-educated workforce coupled with a pro-business government and an investment-friendly legal framework makes Kazakhstan one of the most attractive countries in Central Asia for internal and external investors. This demonstrates the stability of political institutions in the country, which is one of the important factors in assessment of investment attractiveness.

Along with other countries in the region, Kazakhstan has always sought to play a constructive role in fostering international peace and security. Moreover, its constructive engagement in the stabilisation of post-2001 Afghanistan is an example in point. Since 2001, Kazakhstan has channeled more than $20 million in foodstuffs to Afghanistan and has spent $50 million for Afghan students to pursue their higher education in Kazakh universities.

Having long-standing historic and cultural ties, the relationship between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan is strong and has great potential to further deepen and develop in different areas. For instance, trade and economic cooperation is steadily expanding between the two countries and currently, trade value between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan stands at $600 million, up from $400 million in 2015 (The Kabul Times, 2018) /2/. Meanwhile, in August, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to ease trade between the two countries. Besides strong bilateral ties between the two countries, Kazakhstan is an important regional partner country for Afghanistan, including under the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) and the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process (HoA-IP).

By assuming the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Kazakhstan organised a visit of the Council's delegation to Afghanistan in January. The aim of this visit was to reaffirm the continuation of the international community's support for Afghanistan and to provide an opportunity for independent assessment of the efforts of the Afghan government and the effectiveness of the international community's support for establishing sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Kazakhstan initiated a ministerial debate in the UNSC with the participation of a high-level delegation from the Central Asian countries, Afghanistan, the United States and some of the European countries to explore opportunities for enhancing regional economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries.

At the regional level and under a new approach, the Government of Kazakhstan convened the Regional Conference on Empowering Women in Afghanistan on Sept. 5 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The Conference was attended by high-level delegations from Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asian countries and China and representatives of the United Nations and the European Union (EU), as well as civil society organisations and the private sector.

The Conference considered key thematic issues about women's empowerment, such as Sustainable Economic Growth through Women's Economic Empowerment, Women's Economic Empowerment through Regional Cooperation and the Role of Education and New Knowledge in Empowering Women in Afghanistan. While appreciating the efforts of the government of Afghanistan to improve the situation for Afghan women and girls, the participants discussed the challenges that hinder the full participation of women in society and the economy and focused on the policy measures and strategies to effectively address these challenges.

On the sideline of the Conference, two separate memorandums of understanding were signed between the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs and the Association of Business Women of Kazakhstan in order to enhance cooperation and to further expand trade between the two countries. Another significant outcome of the Conference was the launch of a new EU-funded initiative through which Afghan women will be educated and provided with vocational and technical training at universities in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The Conference concluded with the adoption of the Astana Declaration on Empowering Women in Afghanistan, which highlights the importance of women's economic empowerment including women's entrepreneurship development and the need to work for their full inclusion in education and the workforce, as well as their full political participation, particularly in the peace process. As Afghanistan has recently adopted women-friendly policies and programmes, the Astana Conference on women was a very timely and relevant initiative for the alignment of international support behind these policies and programmes.

This has been a unique initiative by Kazakhstan in bringing women from our region to speak about our shared challenges and opportunities, as well as learning from the experience of each other. Afghanistan in the last few years has progressed tremendously in empowering women by putting great attention on areas such as economic empowerment, women's technical capacity building and women in peace. Despite challenges, women in Afghanistan have strong and active civil society engagement and have been an effective and strong voice for change. This is an outstanding achievement that can be shared with women in Central Asia and vice versa, learning from the technical skill sets of women in the region.

Afghanistan puts great importance in further expanding relationships with countries in Central Asia. Similarly, analyzing the relationship between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan shows that both countries are moving towards constructive interaction. In addition, there is a strong political will by the leadership of the two countries to enhance cooperation in different areas, especially improving economic cooperation. Both countries should strive to effectively make use of the existing momentum to further develop trade and economic cooperation that will help them improve their economic welfare in the long run.

List of References:

1. World Bank national accounts data. Retrieved from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?locations=KZ.

2. The Kabul Times (August 6, 2018). Trade between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan to increase. Retrieved from https://thekabultimes.gov.af/2018/08/06/trade-between-afghanistan-kazakhstan-to-increase/.



Created at : 21.12.2018, 11:40, Updated at : 21.12.2018, 11:40