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Kazakhstan’s Election to Security Council Profoundly Historic

Analysis by Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) – The election of Kazakhstan as a non-permanent member of the Security Council has not come as a surprise to observers who have been witness to bold initiatives that this country in Central Asia has launched for the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world and sustainable development.

Yet the June 28 vote in favour of Kazakhstan, the world's largest landlocked country, is profoundly historic. The Central Asian state bagged 138 votes in the 193-member UN General Assembly – more than the two-thirds majority of the voting member states required to win the seat on the Council.

Thailand, which currently chairs the Group of 77 comprising 134 developing countries including China, and has demonstrated its commitment to “peace and security of all peoples” and sustainable development, obtained 55 votes.

In a media stakeout, Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said Kazakhstan would bring its “perspective to contribute to the work of the Security Council and the UN for the cause of peace and development”.

He said he was happy that “in a fair bid” Kazakhstan had been given “the privilege of taking seat in the Security Council”. He commended Thailand as “a great partner in global and regional affairs” that had conducted “an exemplary campaign”, and added: “We are happy to have more luck on our side.”

Observers attributed the Kazakh win to the success of President Nursultan Nazarbayev – backed by a team of talented diplomats – in maintaining good relations not only with bordering Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, but also with other countries in Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The election of Kazakhstan from the Asia-Pacific Group is significant also because it is the first time that a Central Asian country has been voted as a member of the UN Security Council.

Kazakhstan will serve on the Council for two years beginning January 1, 2017 as one of the 10 non-permanent members along with Sweden, Bolivia and Ethiopia. The newly-elected countries will replace Spain, Malaysia, New Zealand, Angola and Venezuela.

The Security Council has 15 members, including five permanent members, each with the power of veto: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other current non-permanent members are Japan, Egypt, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay.

Together with Japan, Kazakhstan chaired the Ministerial-level Conference on September 29, 2015 in New York for Facilitating the Entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996.

The commitment of Kazakhstan – which became a member of the United Nations in March 1992, nearly three months after gaining Independence from the now defunct Soviet Union – is exemplary.

Soon after independence, the country voluntarily renounced the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. Working closely with Russia, USA, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and many other international partners, Kazakhstan eliminated or removed from its territory all 1,410 nuclear warheads, dismantled the infrastructure of the Semipalatinsk test site, and destroyed or removed hundreds of missiles, bombers, and tactical nuclear warheads.

Not surprisingly, Kazakhstan was chosen to host the IAEA’s Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank: It is a physical reserve of up to 90 metric tons of LEU, sufficient to run a 1,000 MWe light-water reactor. Such a reactor can power a large city for three years. The LEU will be subject to IAEA safeguards.

The establishment and operation of the LEU Bank is fully funded through US $150 million of voluntary contributions from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the United States, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Norway and Kazakhstan.

A significant contribution to the dissemination of information on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons – discussed at conferences in Oslo (March 2013), Nayarit in Mexico (February 2014) and Vienna (December 2014) – comes from The ATOM Project.

The initiative, launched by President Nazarbayev in August 2012, aims to inform to the public around the world about the tragedy of Kazakh people living near the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, as well as other people of the world who have been victims of nuclear testing.

Speaking at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2015, President Nazarbayev in fact encouraged the international community "to make the building of a nuclear-weapon-free world as the main goal of humanity in the 21st century".

Kazakhstan therefore tabled resolution 70/57 on the Universal Declaration for the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, which was supported by the majority of UN Member States and adopted on December 8, 2015.

It outlines the basic principles and objectives of nuclear disarmament, and urges that bold steps be taken, including the adoption of a legally binding international instrument to prohibit and destroy all nuclear weapons as well as to establish a Global Anti-Nuclear Movement aimed at nuclear disarmament.

Kazakhstan has also supported the establishment of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) to advance the process of multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament. The Group has had two sessions in February and May in Geneva, and the third is scheduled for August.

“To us, this entity is not an alternative to the CD (Committee on Disarmament) and UNDC (UN Disarmament Commission). However, the OEWG has the absolute majority of supporters, and its potential cannot be ignored. We call on the nuclear weapons possessing states to participate in this dialogue,” said Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York during the Disarmament Commission’s deliberations in April 2016.

Kazakhstan has also been persistently campaigning for South-South cooperation and for diverting 1.0 percent of national military budgets to a Special United Nations Fund for Sustainable Development.

Kazakhstan strongly believes that peace and development must be the central pillars of a strategic plan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United Nations in 2045 and deliver the vision of a nuclear-weapons-free world by the date, as Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov told the High-level Forum titled Religions for Peace at the UN General Assembly on May 6, 2016.

“I can promise our country, if we are successful in our bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2017-18, will spare no effort to work with the international community to drive progress towards these important goals,” Idrissov announced.

He called for the transformation of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) into a Global Development Council. Along with 54 UN member states elected by the General Assembly, the Council would consist of the heads of all UN Specialized agencies, including the International Monetary Fund.

The Global Development Council, President Nazarbayev has suggested, should be tasked to become a global economic regulator involving projects carried out by this Council to promote economic growth worldwide. This, in his view, would help cutback considerably the risks of global crises and ensure responsible behaviour by the states in maintaining their national economic and social policies.

This, according to him, would help decrease considerably the risks of global crises and ensure responsible behaviour by the states in maintaining their national economic and social policies in the form of a World Anti-Crisis Plan.

President Nazarbayev is of the view that the most pressing and serious global challenges – terrorism, demolition of the states, migration and other negative issues – are the result of the economic crisis, poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. “To tackle this global crisis, we need to start with clear rules for the emission and trade of the world reserve currencies as they do not now meet the criteria of justice, democracy, competitiveness, effectiveness and international control.”

The Kazakh President declared at the UN General Assembly in September 2015: “In the 21st century, our world needs qualitatively new instruments. The UN member states need to combine their efforts to create a new supranational currency, which should be relevant to the targets and tasks of global sustainable development and prosperity.”

An important plank of the new world order suggested by the Kazakh President – for the centenary of the UN in 2045 is a Global Strategic Initiative Plan that would launch a new trend in global development based on fair conditions “where all nations would have equal access to world infrastructure, resources and markets as well as to maintain comprehensive accountability for human development”.

Kazakhstan’s top diplomats have assured that they would avail of their Security Council membership in 2017 and 2018 to advance global peace and development issues, by “closely cooperating with all partners without exception, including members of the Security Council and the UN as a whole”.

The Security Council is not only responsible for determining the existence of a threat against peace and to respond to an act of aggression but also responsible for finding peaceful means to settle a conflict or a dispute between States. In some cases, the Council can resort to sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security. In this, Kazakhstan can definitely play a vital role, also as a non-permanent member. [IDN-InDepthNews – 29 June 2016]

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

Photo: Wide view of the General Assembly Hall while ballots are being collected for the election of new non-permanent members of the Security Council for two-year terms starting on 1 January 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias