United Nations Assistant Secretary-General
for Political Affairs
Summing up Kazakhstan's Membership on the UN Security Council
The Diplomatic Herald of Kazakhstan recently with the assistance of the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the UN spoke with Miroslav Jenča, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, to sum up Kazakhstan's membership on the UN Security Council.
-Kazakhstan's membership on the UN Security Council is coming to an end. What do you personally remember about this two-year period?
As the first non-permanent Council member from Central Asia, Kazakhstan played an important role during its tenure on the Security Council on a wide selection of issues ranging from Afghanistan and Syria to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, along with the important role of religious leaders in fostering tolerance across diverse cultures and religions, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As a member of the Council, Kazakhstan was entrusted with the chairpersonship of important subsidiary bodies of the Security Council such as the 1267 (ISIL (Da'esh), Al-Qaida), the 1988 (Taliban) and the Somalia Eritrea Sanctions committees.
As chair of the 1267 and 1988 committees, Kazakhstan conducted important visits to Afghanistan in October 2017, to Malaysia and Singapore in August 2017 and to the Philippines in March 2018. The main goal of these visits was to promote enhanced dialogue and engagement of the national authorities with the Committee and the Monitoring Team, including on the implementation of sanctions measures and on the awareness of the Committee's procedures as well as on the terrorist threat assessment.
One initiative of Kazakhstan that I recall was to introduce, for the first time in the history of the United Nations, a flag installation ceremony for the newly elected countries to the Council for the term 2018-2019. Its symbolism was welcomed by other Council members, who, upon its successful conclusion, suggested to make the ceremony an annual tradition of the Council.
-How do you assess the chairpersonship of Kazakhstan on the UN Security Council in January?
Kazakhstan has made a strong contribution to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Your country held a meeting of the Council in January, which was chaired by President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, during which the Council was briefed by the Secretary-General. The meeting approached the issue from a conflict prevention perspective and resulted in the issuance of a Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2018/1), by which Council members expressed the importance of further advancing conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy tools, practices and efforts and of ensuring their most effective use.
I would also like to commend Kazakhstan's strong commitment to bringing the issue of Afghanistan and the regional Central Asian approach to the forefront on the Security Council's agenda. Under the skillful leadership of Ambassador Kairat Umarov, as President of the Council in January, Kazakhstan organised the first Security Council mission to Afghanistan in over nine years, with a focus on the security-development nexus.
Later in that month, the visit was complemented with a ministerial-level debate chaired by Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov on “Maintenance of international peace and security: Building regional partnerships in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model to link security and development," during which the Secretary-General provided a briefing. The foreign ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan also participated in the meeting, along with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan and the Permanent Representative of Turkmenistan. The meeting led to the issuance of a Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2018/2), by which Council members stressed the importance of advancing regional, interregional and international cooperation to achieve long-term peace, stability and sustainable development in Afghanistan and Central Asia and expressed support for the joint efforts of countries of the region towards the enhancement of a zone of peace, cooperation and prosperity.
- How, in your opinion, are Kazakhstan's efforts to raise awareness in the Security Council of the situation and challenges faced by Central Asia and Afghanistan?
Kazakhstan plays an active role in building greater international understanding of the Central Asian region. Kazakhstan's efforts to address a range of topics in this regard during its Presidency of the Security Council were timely and highly relevant. I mentioned already the Security Council's visit to Afghanistan, which Kazakhstan led. It provided an opportunity for the Council delegation to become better acquainted with the situation on the ground as well as the ongoing regional partnership between Central Asia and Afghanistan. The Kazakh efforts to bring more attention to this aspect of Afghanistan and the region were very welcomed. Kazakhstan and Germany jointly organised an Arria-formula meeting on “Partners for Afghanistan: Linking Security, Development and Peace in the Central Asian Region," which was successful in giving a greater profile to the issue.
I participated in the Arria-formula meeting and I stressed that Central Asia today is more dynamic than ever before. The growing cooperation among all five countries coupled with their renewed commitment to support the people of Afghanistan means that the present moment offers a unique opportunity. The region shares historic and cultural ties based also on its geographical location and history along the old Silk Road. There is great potential for integration and ties across fields of trade, science and culture. The economic complementarity and civilisational proximity between the peoples of Central Asia and Afghanistan can bolster cooperation in the region.
I would like to mention the work of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia as well as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which are fostering greater regional cooperation. They stand ready to provide support as needed in efforts to create greater connectivity between Afghanistan and Central Asia.
- You represent the UN. What in your assessment is the image of Kazakhstan in the UN as an Organisation?
In more than 25 years as a member of the United Nations, Kazakhstan has played a positive role in the United Nations. I appreciate the Government's strong support for the United Nations and its cooperation with the United Nations system, including the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA).
Kazakhstan is also known as one of the world's leaders in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. The United Nations thanks Kazakhstan's contributions including rejecting the possession of nuclear weapons and founding the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
The United Nations greatly appreciates Kazakhstan's positive contribution to international peace and security issues. Kazakhstan is very well-known for its proactive stance in mediation and confidence-building, not only in the region but also on a much broader scale.
We also appreciate Kazakhstan's positive approach to the issues of trans-boundary water management. Kazakhstan has consistently supported dialogue and UNRCCA's efforts towards a mutually acceptable regional agreement. Kazakhstan's success with the Northern Aral Sea is an impressive contribution to international efforts to mitigate the dangerous effects of the desiccation of the Aral Sea.
Kazakhstan is a great advocate for the SDGs and a strong supporter of regional cooperation in a wide range of areas and I would particularly note the valuable cooperation on counter-terrorism. I would like to highlight the Joint Plan of Action for Implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia, adopted under the auspices of the UNRCCA. This document was endorsed by the countries of the region in 2011. It was the first regional plan to implement this important strategy anywhere in the world and has become a model for other regions. We also appreciated Kazakhstan's support for the UN's activities, such as organising the international EXPO 2017 exhibition on the theme of Future Energy, as well as your generous contribution of $2 million for the Africa – Kazakhstan Partnership for the SDGs.
- The civil war in Syria is one of the bloodiest conflicts of the current decade. In this vein, how much did the Astana Process help and justify its mission?
The brutal conflict in Syria has had a devastating toll and challenged the ability of the international community to respond. Ultimately, a truly sustainable solution to the conflict should be a new Syria that can be shared by all: a united, inclusive, democratic and non-sectarian state based on political pluralism and equal citizenship.
The United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is working to convene an inclusive and credible constitutional committee to draft a new constitution, leading to presidential and parliamentary elections under UN supervision, including participation from the diaspora. In order to help advance these political processes, we have urged the parties to agree to a ceasefire and sought to create a calm, neutral and safe environment in Syria.
Kazakhstan, through its support for the Astana Process, has contributed to efforts to de-escalate the situation on the ground and promote confidence-building measures, including on the release of detainees and demining, in the hope that this would contribute positively to progress on the political track in Geneva based on UN Security Council resolution 2254. As we have seen, progress has been challenging and the war waged on combatants continues to challenge these agreements. Humanitarian access has remained elusive for many of the most vulnerable and a military mindset continues to prevail in some quarters. Nonetheless, we are convinced that there can be no military solution. With Idlib, the last remaining Astana de-escalation zone, an agreement between Russia and Turkey was achieved, containing an escalation that threatens three million civilians who have nowhere else to go. We must capitalise on this window of opportunity to progress on the political track.
The risk sometimes, in mediation, is that alternative options in the political track give the parties the option to forum shop. In the case of Astana, we were pleased that the agenda remained focused on the areas agreed by the Special Envoy, in particular de-escalation and confidence building measures.
- Where and how could the accumulated political experience of Kazakhstan be useful after the end of its membership on the UN Security Council?
The efforts by Kazakhstan to focus the Council's attention on the role of preventive diplomacy in Central Asia as the support to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in order to create greater connectivity between Afghanistan and Central Asia are well appreciated. I hope that Kazakhstan will continue its work in this field.
I would also like to praise the efforts of Kazakhstan in leading a critical global conversation about promoting religious tolerance and advancing the universal right to freedom of religion and beliefs. I recall that earlier in April, jointly with the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), Kazakhstan organised an Arria-formula meeting entitled “Religious Leaders for a Safe World," which focused on the significance of fostering tolerance across diverse cultures and religions.
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