January has been a busy month for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the permanent mission to the United Nations and for its diplomats. That is all because our country for the first time took the presidency of the United Nations Security Council. Over the course of a month, within the walls of the building on 405 East 42nd Street in New York City, about thirty meetings, briefings and consultations were held under Kazakhstan’s presidency. This paper presents a short resume of Kazakhstan’s presidency for the UN Security Council.
Africa and the Middle East
In January 2018, the Council held a number of meetings addressing major crises in the Middle East. On the first formal meeting on its agenda were the protests in Iran, which took place in December 2017, and a concern of appropriateness of raising human rights’ issue in the Council, which evoked different reactions among the Members. While the US representative Mrs. Haley among other European Members pointed out that “freedom and human dignity cannot be separated from peace and security”, the Bolivian delegation, for example, stressed that “the undisguised attempts by some delegations to push for meetings on issues that do not pose a threat to international peace and security … risk the Security Council being instrumentalized for political ends”. By the same token, Kuwait’s representative Mr. Alotaibi appealed to the UN Charter in order to call upon other delegations to “respect for the sovereignty of States, non-interference in their internal affairs”. As far as Kazakhstan goes, Mr. Umarov underscored that Iran’s recent event pronouncedly belong to “a domestic issue that does not fall under the mandate of the Security Council since it does not represent a threat to international peace and security”.
Peacekeeping operations in various African countries such as the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) or the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) help conflict-prone or torn countries to create necessary conditions for sustainable peace. In relation to the agenda on the African countries, the Security Council adopted one resolution and issued two official statements: the situation in the Central African Republic (S/RES/2399 (2018)), peace consolidation in West Africa (S/PRST/2018/3) and reports of the Secretary-General on the Sudan and South Sudan (S/PRST/2018/4). The discussed subjects had a variety of concerns including but not limited to the ongoing clashes between armed groups in CAP, maintenance of the provisions of the Conakry Accords and its complete implementation in Guinea-Bissau, or demanding all parties to meet sustainable solutions for Darfur’s 2.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Afghanistan and Central Asia
Kazakhstan among other matters initiated discussions dedicated to Afghanistan. For almost two decades, the landlocked country was immersed in a fractured nature of the conflict and has been a source of concern among the Central Asian states. Instability in the northern part of the country from the security perspective is becoming increasingly worrisome for its immediate neighbors such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Within the dearth of empirical data since 2010, one of the main achievements of Kazakhstan was the Security Council mission to Afghanistan that took place in the period from 12 to 15 February. The Delegation has met more than 120 representatives of the government and non-governmental sector and gathered the first-hand information regarding country’s needs, interests, and priorities. Both the Security Council and the Afghan side have expressed a necessity not only to expand greater regional cooperation but also have noted the importance of providing development assistance and ensuring coherence among the United Nations organizations operating on the Afghan soil. The issue of active expansion of women’s rights in Afghanistan, which was discussed with the First lady and representatives of women’s non-governmental organizations, has not bypassed negotiations at the meeting table.
In the context of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan of specific interest is the ministerial debate on building a regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia, which took place on January 19. Kazakhstan, in turn, offered an interestingly revisionist account of strengthening a security and development link (see S/PV.8162). Even though it might be more complicated than it seems to the eye, expanding investment opportunities for trade, infrastructure, energy exchanges, market solutions and connectivity is what should be accepted as a new paradigm. Namely, taking into account the human capital and promise of Afghanistan, the palatable concept of the interconnectedness of security and development matters for combatting terrorism, violence, and illicit drug trafficking, according to Kazakhstan’s side, this can become a promising example of the so-called model zone of peace, cooperation, and security.
Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
It is worth mentioning that Kazakhstan in recent years has put forward a number of initiatives aimed at promoting the goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In particular, Kazakhstan gave up its 4th nuclear arsenal in the world at the end of the Soviet era, proposed to develop a treaty on universal horizontal and vertical non-proliferation and launched the ATOM (Abolish testing – our mission) project.
Photo credit: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58440#.WoEmh62B2SM
On the ground of the Council, the high-level thematic briefing was held on January 18 and was chaired by President Nazarbayev. The issue of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was raised. First and foremost, Kazakhstan proposed to complicate the withdrawal process from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) including imposing limited sanctions and other coercive measures if necessary. Moreover, Astana took a step for superseding an approach and encouraged the so-called “Nuclear five countries” to provide security guarantee for North Korea making it as an important condition for returning Pyongyang at the meeting table. What is more to the point, Kazakhstan is ready to accept mediation role and provide its platform for future negotiations. President noted that one of the long-sighted and effective measures to stop a proliferation of WMD is the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones. “That was accomplished in Central Asia, and I hope that the nuclear Powers will recognize that step and ensure our protection. It is important to pursue efforts to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.” – concluded Nazarbayev. As a reference, in 2006 the foreign ministers of all Central Asian countries signed a Treaty establishing the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. One can’t fail to agree that Kazakhstan’s trade-off approach can be an illustrative example for Korean crisis settlement.
Photo credit: https://astanatimes.com/2017/12/kazakhstan-set-to-assume-unsc-presidency-jan-1/
Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian country elected to the UN SC. Summing up the performance during its presidency, it must be highlighted that the members of the Council highly appreciated the contribution of the Kazakh side to the international peace and security issues. The thematic issues raised in the Council conditionally involved the following: Africa and the Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. With the limited nature of the veto power given to five permanent members, Kazakhstan still has a leeway to make a name for itself and gain valuable diplomatic experience. Taking into account the multi-vector nature of the Kazakhstani foreign policy it is in the interest of the country to make every possible effort for strengthening relations and avoid serious disagreements with all Council members while maintaining on the ground the neutral foreign policy.
Prepared by Madina Bizhanova