Friday, June 3, 2011

Kazakhstan's Involvement in International Organizations

I am eagerly counting down the days until I jet off to the land of the Golden Horde! While planning my trip, I recognized a trend of obvious and consistent participation in international organizations. Kazakhstan, more so than any other Eurasian state, is truly devoted to participating in the international institutional system.

On this blog, I mentioned the possibility of Chief of the National Bank of Kazakhstan Grigory Marchenko to head the IMF. After all, Marchenko does have the support of Russia and the CIS community.  Marchenko's appointment as IMF Chief would signal the end of European leadership of the powerful international institution as well as the emerging influence of Eurasian and developing states.
The debate over IMF succession represents one facet of Kazakhstan's increased participation in international institutions.

One obvious sign of Kazakhstan's participation in international organizations is its hosting of major summits. These meetings are not only valuable photo opportunities, but signal increased cooperation and the willingness of states to engage in rules-based collective action to solve shared problems.  As 2010 Chairman of OSCE, Astana hosted the organization's summit last December. During this month alone, Astana will host two major inter-governmental conferences: on June 15, the summit of the SCO Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and June 28-30, the meeting of the the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). Kazakhstan will then assume the chairmanship of the OIC at the end of the June meeting. Furthermore, World Bank Managing Director Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Isweala just completed a trip to the country, voicing support for the major infrastructure and development initiatives undertaken by the government.

Another recent example of Kazakhstan's genuine commitment to multilateral engagement is the 20th annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Astana on May 20-21.  Participants at the EBRD meeting discussed a variety of issues, from food security to industrial and sustainable development to promoting financial stability. The Government of Kazakhstan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the EBRD to improve drinking water and waste water management in three major cities. Another MoU was signed between the EBRD and the Kazakh National Railway company to promote an energy efficient investment program for the development of the country's national railroad system. Other bilateral agreements promoted infrastructural development, technical assistance in the area of financial transactions and currency stabilization, and economic modernization. Additionally, participants at the EBRD meeting agreed to loans and public-private partnerships that amount to some $45 billion according to Special Issue No.24 News Release by the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Washington D.C. The aforementioned EBRD-Kazakhstan MoUs are comprehensive, detailed and specific projects that represent the government of Kazakhstan's efforts to promote multi-sectored development for all Kazakhs. Working with a multilateral and independent institution like the EBRD promotes accountability and transparency. This is a major policy decision by the Government of Kazakhstan t that should not be underestimated. Bravo, Kazakhstan!

While these meetings are significant, I am excited to see how the MoUs and various agreements materialize in reality. Granted, many of these agreements are long-term projects, but I am still curious to see how Kazakhstan's multilateral involvement actualize on the ground. Do these agreements promote employment opportunities for ordinary Kazakh citizens? Is Kazakh leadership of international institutions a source of national pride? For now, I can only wonder...but hope to gain a deeper understanding of Kazakhstan's global leadership soon.  

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