Foreign Policy Blogs

Kazakhstan: Celebrating achievement, asking more

Louise ArbourLouise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, met with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Massimov in order to discuss Kazakhstan's continuing progress on those very rights.  Prime Minister Massimov noted that Kazakhstan has signed and ratified above forty important accords in the human rights sphere including international pacts for civil, political, economical, social, and cultural rights sphere."  In the next paragraph, Kazinform writes that Mr. Massimov further "informed Mrs. Arbour of the political and socioeconomic reforms in Kazakhstan."  This is of course, excellent news, and Mr. Massimov and his government should be proud of these legal milestones.

Karim MassimovAchievements
Kazakhstan has risen to become Central Asia's cultural crossroads and strategic center.  Its good relations with the Russia, China, the U.S. and the European Union have made it strategically important in terms of values and connections, military cooperation, economic enterprise, and regional investment.  Nor has Kazakhstan failed to give back within the region.  On April 26th, President Nazarbaev announced that Kazakhstan would invest USD 100 million in economic aid to Kyrgyzstan, as a move to strengthen the regional economy and regularize water provision throughout Central Asia.  The formation of the Eurasian Development Bank further proves the state's commitment to Central Asia's human security. Kazakhstan proposed and helped found the EADB, further investing 1/3 of the EADB's working capital. 

Not everything that contributes to good world citizenship makes a headline, and not every headline notes good world citizenship that underlies it.  When avian flu came to the Caspian, Kazakhstan mobilized in a year from reactive response to proactive planning, a stance that controls world avian flu incidence.  Kazakhstan's World Bank relationship has been utilized to embark upon the only Central Asia-based initiative meeting the Aral Sea disaster. 

In growing its economy and managing its oil revenues, Kazakhstan has surpassed Russia in its partnership, planning and implementation of growth initiatives for a varied economy.  Unlike many, it has continued to work with, and not against, firms that have invested in their oil reserves. 

Kazakhstan's accomplishments and efforts to create harmony often get taken for granted once they are in place.  Yet each of these achievements represents hours of strategy, labor, and the expense of political capital and funds.  It is small wonder, then, that President Nazarbaev has previously lost his temper in an OSCE meeting, saying in effect that ‘Kazakhstan's values are not precisely the same as those of everyone else in the international community’, or that Prime Minister Massimov should inform Ms. Arbour of Kazakhstan's fidelity to human rights rather than wait to be congratulated for them. 

The big barriers
Sorry, didn't catch that--Often, the unspoken message in all value transfer talks between the developed and developing world suggest that this value transfer be one-way, not an exchange of views or an acknowledgement of time or process.  Those who ‘know best’ are scarcely satisfied, and usually in the grip of immediate threat: for human rights groups, the release or safety of a particular, marginalized person; for climate change advocates, the necessity to act now, because it is already too late; democratization proponents, who believe they have already exemplified every necessary aspect, so why drag one's feet? 

Yet the very importance of the message often requires that a dialogue rather than a diatribe be employed.  Finding what each feels they can afford, or the common value, forms the basis for value transfer on both sides.  Second, an international community full of demands fails to realize that domestic pressures often make and instant full accordance to international regimes impossible. 

Road AheadToward resolution
The human rights steps that a state can identify with self-interest are the ones they are most likely to take.  Kazakhstan's goals include those of OSCE leadership, WTO accession, continued economic growth, and regional stability and trade.  Given those goals, Kazakhstan will take those steps that ensure continued economic viability and attractiveness to investment.  Therefore, the possibly most attractive step toward increased human rights would be rule of law reform.  Strengthening the trustworthiness of the judiciary helps extend citizen trust in government, and increases the sense of security required for people to embark upon new business ventures. Tort law reform in particular means that business disputes may be settled fairly‚ for international companies, An equal fate before lawconsumers with small claims, small domestic business, medium-sized enterprises, and those governed by Kazakhstan's most prestigious impresarios. 

This would include steps taken to "blindfold justice"‚ positing impartiality over obeisance to the loudest, richest, or most fascinating–an imperfect process the world over, and one to which every state needs to pay profound attention.  The second step would be to end vigilante or extrajudicial, individualized  “justice”.  For today and the future, it means attention to the continued unknown whereabouts of journalist Oralgaisha Omarshanova , probably a victim of extrajudicial execution; and the unresolved plight of Mike Seidenfeld, whose trial is still in stasis. 

Omarshanova update: It has now been over 30 days since she has been missing, with no information as to her whereabouts or status.

Seidenfeld update: Due to the quality and quantity of information I have been able to garner, the update on Mr. Seidenfeld's case will occupy several issue-based posts this week.

Photos: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation;  Wikipedia; Palm Beach CC; Alexander Mazarovich; Litigation Videotech