Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kazakhstan's Election to the UN Human Rights Council


I apologize for the delay in posts, as it has been a busy semester. I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is a little over a week away! Given Kazakhstan's election to the United Nations Human Rights Council, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some comments.

Kazakhstan’s election to the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council is the newest development in the country’s multi-vector foreign policy.

Kazakhstan was one of 18 countries elected to the council to begin their two-year term on January 1, 2013. Other countries elected to the Human Rights Council include Argentina, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Estonia, Ethiopia, Gabon, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Montenegro, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Venezuela. 

Upon the announcement of Kazakhstan’s election to the 47-member council, Altay Abibullayev, Spokesperson of Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry, issued the following statement:

We are extremely honored by the appointment and see it as international acknowledgement that we have been improving our human rights record and as an incentive for us to continue to make even more progress. Kazakhstan is an aspiring democracy that lives under the rule of law and takes media freedoms seriously. Erroneous comments only make it more difficult for Kazakhstan to continue to make progress on all of these fronts and should be rejected and ignored by right-thinking people around the world.

Kazakhstan’s stated foreign policy is that the country has no permanent enemies and pursues alliances with every country. In this spirit, the U.N. Human Rights Council is the newest of international organizations in which Kazakhstan participates. In that spirit, Kazakhstan chaired the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in 2011. Kazakhstan is also hopes to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) within the year.

Serving on the Human Rights Council is a chance to prove the country’s steadfast commitment to upholding human rights. Kazakhstan’s election to the body is significant for several reasons, as this is one of the first instances in the country’s twenty-one year history of independence in which it has been elected to an international body with the stated purpose of defending the God-given human rights of every man, woman and child around the world. In this respect, during its two-year term, Kazakhstan has ample opportunity to leave its mark on the global human rights regime. Furthermore, just as Kazakhstan’s election to the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010 demonstrated its ability to build coalitions and forge global relationships, the country’s election to the U.N. Human Rights Council illustrates its leadership in the U.N. system.

Finally, despite the criticism of Kazakhstan’s election to the Human Rights Council, this is a key opportunity for Kazakhstan’s policymakers to prove the naysayers wrong. No country has a perfect human rights record. But by assuming this position, Kazakhstan is signaling its commitment to improve the condition of human rights domestically and around the world. I truly hope that Kazakhstan's policymakers embrace the honor and privilege of sitting on the Council. 

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