Books on Kazakstan
Update No: 356 -
Astana OSCE summit ahead
Kazakhstan is becoming a major player on
the world stage. We should not forget that
it has 60% of the former Soviet Union's
mineral resources. An almighty cornucopia!
Everybody is eyeing this abundance of
riches – well everybody that counts and
The country has just achieved a cherished
foreign policy goal, securing a commitment
to host an Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit this
autumn. Kazakhstan is serving as the chair
of the OSCE in 2010.
Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kanat
Saudabayev announced the news after a
recent two-day OSCE foreign ministers’
meeting outside Almaty, its former
capital. “We have reached a consensus on
the need to hold an OSCE summit by the end
of the year in Astana (its new capital),”
he told a news conference. The dates of
October 29-30 are being bandied about as
potential summit dates. An early December
timeframe is also possible.
The gathering needs to be endorsed by the
OSCE Permanent Council, but such approval
is widely regarded as a formality.
For much of this year, Astana engaged in a
relentless lobbying campaign to host the
first OSCE summit in 11 years.
Kazakhstani officials’ persistence
ultimately succeeded in persuading member
states who were originally unenthusiastic
– including the United States – to back
A contentious affair
Kazakhstan’s performance as OSCE chair
continues to generate mixed reviews.
Critics contend that holding a summit in
Kazakhstan will send Astana the wrong
message, acting as a tacit reward for its
controversial democratization record.
Opponents also suspect that Kazakhstani
officials may try to exploit the summit to
try to burnish Kazakhstan’s global image,
as well as President Nursultan
Nazarbayev’s personal reputation.
The summit agenda is to include
discussions on a new model for the global
financial system, ethnic and religious
tolerance, conflict resolution, a fresh
OSCE strategy for Afghanistan and measures
to stabilize strife-torn Kyrgyzstan, where
political and ethnic violence have caused
havoc in recent months.
Nazarbayev used the OSCE meeting to
announce a $10-million aid package for
Kyrgyzstan and to urge the international
community to support upcoming donors’
conferences in Bishkek on July 27 and in
Kazakhstan in August.
Leader of the Nation for Life
Nazarbayev, who has been in power for over
two decades, and who can stand for
re-election for life, is accused by
critics of flouting the democratic
principles that the OSCE is mandated to
uphold. And roughly a month before the
OSCE ministers’ mid-July gathering in
Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev gained the title of
Leader of the Nation, along with other
lifetime privileges. Saudabayev’s
description of Nazarbayev at the OSCE
meeting as “a person for whom questions of
security, creativity and cooperation … are
the quintessence of his activity,” merely
heightened suspicions about the host
nation’s summit designs.
For some observers, the Leader of the
Nation bill was the latest reflection of
what they deem a repressive political
environment in the OSCE chair country.
Opposition parties have no representation
in parliament, where all elected seats are
held by the Nur Otan Party, headed by
Showdown of the media
Kazakhstan’s media environment is also
facing scrutiny from rights watchdogs.
Independent newspapers are operating under
pressure, and internet sites carrying
dissenting views are routinely blocked,
media activists assert. The legislature
has also enacted laws that critics say
restricts freedom of the press, and
hampers media outlets from performing a
government watchdog role. On July 19, the
New York-based Committee to Protect
Journalists called for Kazakhstan’s “poor
press freedom record” to be placed on the
OSCE summit agenda.
Administration officials reject such
criticisms, insisting that Kazakhstan is
following its own democratization program,
which they describe as the “Kazakhstani
path” – putting economic reform first and
gradually liberalizing the political
system. Officials also contend that an
OSCE summit is needed to forge new
approaches to contemporary threats and
adapt the organization to changing times.
“We cannot change the past. But we are
obliged to learn lessons from it and
define our common vision of the future,”
Nazarbayev told OSCE ministers. “The OSCE
should show that it was effective not only
during the Cold War era, but that it also
remains an actively developing structure
today, tightly intertwined into the live
fabric of contemporary global politics and