December 04, 2000
«A TARGETED AND IMPARTIAL APPROACH MUST BE THE CHARACTERISTIC STYLE OF THE OSCE»
From the Address of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the
Republic of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov at the
8th Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vienna
on November 27, 2000.
The main task for our ministerial meeting is to give an analytical thought to the progress achieved since 1975, since the signing of the Helsinki Final Act and establishing our Organization. Today's anniversary comes at the break of the Millennium and should inspire us to a philosophical comprehension of all that we have accomplished.
Undoubtedly new times are highlighted by the fact that security and stability in the world can not be ensured any more only by military means. Today all nations face new political, economic and environmental challenges. It is quite good that a favorable political environment develops and surrounds our common search to resolve complex issues of contemporary world.
However, the world has not become a more secure place to live and we witness the growth of new threats to security against which existing instruments of the world community often turn to be inefficient. The task of combating new threats and challenges is two-fold. First, we must determine openly and impartially the forces interested in the existence and growth of these threats. Second, we have to ensure that the responsibility to combat new threats is really shared by all nations. There are no countries which won't be touched by new threats, therefore all countries must contribute to combating them.
In early nineties when the first building blocks have been laid down in the foundation of the multipolar world, the OSCE has significantly backed up its political authority and has contributed greatly to the strengthening of security on the continent. Remarkably, together with its own evolution the Organization started to realize more clearly Central Asia as an integral part of the OSCE space in all dimensions.
Today I would have been more than happy to affirm that evolutionary processes within the framework of the Organization completely meet the demands and our vision of development of Kazakhstan. However, I am compelled to note that the OSCE at its anniversary has not yet utilized fully its potential as a regional structure to support comprehensive security in its area and is still seeking for its place and role in the overall system of international security. We agree with some views that this Organization has started focusing excessive attention on the humanitarian dimension without due respect for other aspects of security. What bothers us here is not so much the fact that such a clear bias exists. We ourselves actively favour a strengthening of the Organization's work in this dimension because we clearly realize that there can be no lasting stability and security without stable democratic development. What bothers us is that the OSCE's approach in this sphere is becoming more and more selective and prejudiced. What this suggests to us is a policy of a double standard. Within the Organization as a whole we perceive a kind of a group of countries which appear to be infallible from the standpoint of democratic development and another group of nations which are constantly falling under suspicion. One wonders, therefore: Is this really a just and fair application in practice of the principle of equality and equal rights among OSCE participating States? Does not this perhaps reflect the fact that none of us have yet been able to free ourselves from the spell of old stereotypes, or does it perhaps suggest that we are falling prey to new ones? If there really is such a tendency, it should be a source of concern to all of us. After all, would this not lead to the tracing of new dividing lines against a background of tiresome and to some extent unviable criteria? Are we really being objective when we unhesitatingly refer to "generally recognized standards", paying no attention at all to multiplicity of cultures or to the historical, ethnic and confessional aspects of development? This is not just a technical problem, what we are talking about here is the very substance of intrastate and interstate relationships, which are directly bound up with questions of security. In the bustle of the daily work of the OSCE and its institutions in the human dimension, the militarypolitical, economic and ecological aspects of security pale into relative insignificance. Why should the processes of globalization and the challenges it brings with it fall outside the active review of the OSCE? In this context I would like to talk on the role and functions of the basic instruments of the OSCE in the field of the humanitarian dimension Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFM).
Our country especially highly appreciates the activity of the OSCE on harmonization of interethnic relations. It is a great pleasure for me to announce that Mr. Van der Stoel, High Commissioner on National Minorities, has been awarded the "Dostyk" (Friendship) Order by our country for his services in strengthening interethnic relations.
With regard to two other institutions I would like to mention that we fully respect their high authority. However, I find it necessary to share with you Kazakhstan's evaluation of their activity.
We have very attentively listened to the critical remarks of the ODIHR with regard to the preparation and holding of elections in Kazakhstan last year and expressed readiness to work together on the improvement of the election mechanism. In this regard in September, 2000 there was held the first of a series of round tables called "Improving legislation on elections in the light of recommendations stipulated in the final report on elections to Parliament in the Republic of Kazakhstan". Participants of the round table represented political parties, public organizations, international and local observers, parliamentarians, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and ODIHR of the OSCE. The series of round tables will continue in January, May and September 2001, and will be devoted to the issues of facilitation of transparency of elections, the work of media during elections, penalties for violation of the Election Law, etc. In Kazakhstan in cooperation with this institution six projects are being implemented directed to the creation of more favorable conditions for the establishment of civil society. In this regard there has been significant progress, which together with the readiness for comprehensive cooperation on the part of both Kazakhstan authorities, political parties and NGOs to continue the work in this direction, certifies gradual and irreversible development of democratic processes in Kazakhstan. However, on the part of the ODIHR we have not heard any public, positive evaluations. There come only critical remarks which do not facilitate strengthening confidence between, as we wanted to believe, partners in the dialogue. The mentor tone of some statements of the ODIHR and the obvious lack of unbiased and unprejudiced approaches, to our view, undermines the spirit of cooperation and confidence which has been carefully developed from the early '90s. I confess that in this situation it is very difficult to talk about conceptual and in-depth measures in the field of the humanitarian dimension, including public education and cultivation of democratic traditions in our country. We have always believed and continue to believe that democracy is an evolutionary process, a continuing process of selfimprovement. There is no such thing as an ideal democracy which is perfect, once and for all. We are all moving towards this ideal. Life itself demonstrates the correctness of this thesis. Recent events in one of the OSCE's participating States have clearly shown that there is no limit to improvement. Then there was our experience with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Unfortunately this experience has not all been positive. The use of unchecked and unreliable information. reliance on doubtful sources of information and lack of confidence in official sources all these reflect an approach which damages the authority of the OSCE and its relations with participating States. We feel that this relatively new OSCE institution has not interpreted its role in an altogether correct way. Along with constructive criticism there must be real work on the development of free media. The growth of professionalism and tolerance must be a common concern for all of us; what we want is not permissiveness but a keen sense of responsibility for social development in the media, particularly in newly emerging democracies. We do not want to paint the situation in Kazakhstan in "rosy" colours, for we know that we are only at the beginning of a long path in constructing a stable and economically prosperous society, a free and democratic society in our country. Even so, we are not happy when someone "piles it on thick" and presents a distorted picture of the situation in our land. We want your support and we want you to see what is important, to concern yourselves with the essence of the events taking place in our countries. Next year we shall be celebrating the tenth anniversary of our independence. This is not a long time if we measure it on the historical scale, but we have succeeded in doing the most important thing of all, namely to avoid squandering our historic chance to lay the foundations for a free, sovereign, economically prosperous Kazakhstan. Only within nine years after gaining independence we have carried out significant political and economic changes. Kazakhstan is a young state and our legislation and practice first of all are directed to preservation of unity and consent in our multiethnic society as well as sustainable and undiluted development of values of democracy and liberal economy. Our adherence to democracy and market reforms is irrevocable this is our conscious choice. Two years ago we drew up a wide-ranging program for the democratization of society, and this is being consistently implemented. On October 24, 2000 President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his address to the nation again stated the adherence of our country to democratic values and urged Parliament to expeditiously adopt new laws in three important fields relating to facilitation of jobs, social protection of the population, reforms in the judicial system, and local self-government. In this context I would like to underline the consistency of the policy of Kazakhstan in the OSCE which has defined as a priority of regional development, the solution of issues related to economic reforms and environment rehabilitation. Democratic processes in this regard are an inalienable part of our reforms but not in that interpretation which some try to impose on us. Comprehension by the OSCE of the real essence of the processes taking place in Kazakhstan and in the whole region is the key to intensified co-operation between Kazakhstan and the OSCE. New threats have burgeoned in our region and represent a real challenge for stability and security in the whole OSCE area. It is no secret that many of these threats come from Afghanistan, and are not, in our view, to be attributed to any specific group but to the long years of instability, devastation and endless tragedy in this long-suffering country. We need to take preventive action before the metastasis of the Afghan war becomes irreversible. The OSCE must not remain watching on the sidelines, for the simple reason that there is a potential threat hanging over its participating States. We are convinced that Afghan problem can be successfully solved only through a comprehensive approach. The existing mechanism and individual isolated measures to deal with the situation in Afghanistan, as we can see, have no long-term effect. This means that another policy is needed. The world community, the United Nations and such an important political body as the OSCE must show all Afghans, in Afghanistan and abroad, that there is a clear and real prospect for social and economic revival and guaranteed peaceful development for Afghanistan. A real stimulus is needed for all Afghans - only then will it be possible to speak of real prospects for peace. It is against this background that the President of Kazakhstan has proposed a special session of the United Nations Security Council on Afghanistan. We consider that this format will allow a serious, integrated approach. The presidents of four Central Asian Republics have supported this proposal in Tashkent, Dushanbe and Bishkek during their meetings this year. We hope that the OSCE and the participating States will also support this initiative. Twenty five years is quite a long period of time. We all remember the somewhat difficult birth of our Organization. The world was a different one then and there was another system of priorities. The OSCE, however, has successfully passed all the tests. Today, we can correctly speak of the renewal of the Organization. This renewal should take the form of an increase in pragmatism and the development of practical approaches by the OSCE to the solution of all problems on the basis of a broad consensus. A targeted and impartial approach must be the characteristic style of the OSCE. There is potential for this. Our critical assessment of some aspects of the activities of the Organization is prompted precisely by this - our conviction that the OSCE is capable of full realization of its great potential. In this we see a guarantee of successful increasing of the effectiveness and authority of our Organization. In this task, we are sincere partners of the OSCE.
News from the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Contact person: Aibek Nurbalin
Tel.: (202) 232- 5488 Ext. 115
Fax: (202) 232- 5845