Friday, December 18, 2009

KAZAKHSTAN, HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE OSCE: A COMMENT



"United States Government (USG) assistance to Kazakhstan supports the development of a stable, secure, democratic, and prosperous country that retains freedom of action on the international stage; embraces free market competition and the rule of law; efficiently develops its vast energy resources in a way that contributes to U.S. energy security; and enhances its role as a respected regional leader. USG assistance also seeks to advance democratic reforms that will improve opportunities for Kazakhstan’s citizens to participate openly and effectively in civic life; economic reforms that will attract and sustain foreign investment; and improvements to health systems to combat infectious diseases that could threaten stability and prosperity. Finally, USG assistance works to advance common security interests in bolstering Central Asian sovereignty and independence, fighting terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and stemming narcotics and human trafficking.....

Helped strengthen and develop the U.S. security relationship with this vital partner in Central Asia. The Republic of Kazakhstan has directly supported the U.S.-led global anti-terrorist coalition in Iraq by providing military engineer units that have safely disposed of over four million pieces of ordnance".


American State Department, "FY 2008 Foreign Operations Appropriated Assistance," in www.state.gov


"The OSCE remains one of the top three key European institutions with which the United States engages, alongside the EU and NATO. While NATO and EU enlargement have perhaps enjoyed more prominence in recent years, the OSCE nonetheless remains an essential venue for dialogue, cooperation and democracy promotion precisely with those countries that are not yet members of, or do not intend to become, members of these two other organizations. The OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security offers a vehicle for engagement across the political-military, economic, and human rights dimensions. That it is a process, and that such a process takes time, does not lessen its important or the necessity for sustained U.S. engagement.

The Helsinki Final Act says that promoting democracy and respect for human rights is fundamental to achieving sustainable security in Europe and Eurasia. It links security among states to respect for human rights within states. OSCE’s core values are among the reasons this organization has a central role to play in advancing President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s foreign policy strategy.

Indeed, the remarkable success of the Organization during many of the past 35 years is proof of what the participating States can achieve when we implement commitments based on shared values and objectives. Improvements in the lives of our citizens in the OSCE area are the result of hard work, conviction and persistence, and I would like to thank the Helsinki Commission members and staff for partnering with us in this endeavor. Our cooperation is only increasing. I especially appreciate the institutional knowledge and abiding dedication to human rights that the Helsinki Commission team brings to our joint efforts.

The OSCE’s record on the promotion of democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms, together with its efforts in building civil society is second to none. The OSCE’s multidimensional approach to security is directly relevant to the transnational issues we face as we work together to build a democratic, prosperous, and secure Trans-Atlantic community. Decades ago the CSCE spoke up for the rights of Soviet dissidents who could not find a voice for themselves. Today ODIHR supports those in OSCE participating States who wish to promote democracy and entrench human rights and the rule of law. Much remains to be done".


American Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon, "U. S. Foreign Policy and the OSCE: Shared Core Values," 28 October 2009, in
www.state.gov.


Kazakhstan will celebrate the New Year by fulfilling a cherished ambition: on January 1 it assumes the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. But an OSCE Ministerial Council meeting, held in Athens December 1-2, offered a stark reminder that doubts remain over Kazakhstan’s suitability for the job, due to its controversial record on political and democratic freedoms....

Rights advocates say the legal changes have failed to alter the political status quo ahead of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship, pointing to the amended election law as a case in point. The new version rules out a one-party parliament in the future by exempting the party that comes second in an election from clearing the mandated 7 percent barrier for legislative representation. That hurdle proved too high for other parties to clear in the last election (declared flawed by the OSCE’s own observers), when only Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party received enough support to enter parliament.

At present, the next parliamentary poll is scheduled in Kazakhstan for 2012. Persistent rumors of a snap election under the new rules never materialized, thus leaving Kazakhstan poised to assume the OSCE chairmanship with a one-party parliament.

Kazakhstan’s democratic record came under further fire during the run-up to the chairmanship over a proposal to exempt Nazarbayev not just from term limits but from elections altogether. The idea of an OSCE chairman country with a president-for-life raised eyebrows in Western democracies, but it remains on the table. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].


Joanna Lillis, "Kazakhstan: has Astana met its OSCE Pledges?" 3 December 2009 in www.eurasianet.org


The contradictions between the American Assistant Secretary of State's statements concerning the OSCE 'Democratic mission,' and the endorsement of the regime in Astana's assumption of the chairmanship of the self-same organization are so wide and so obvious that one is a bit hesitant to bludgeon the topic unnecessarily (for a good analysis of this entire episode see: Alex Nice, "Values Clash,", in The World Today, December 2009, pp. 25-27). What one can say is the following though: that by first bringing into the 'Euro-Atlantic' community, such stereotypical 'Asiatic Despotic', regimes (in the Karl Wittfogel sense) like Kazakhstan into the OSCE, then by agreeing to have the regime in Astana as Chairman, puts paid, one should think to any idea or concept in keeping with the OSCE's original, Helsinki Act ethos. Which one may indeed endorse as a necessary agreement to the realities of the geopolitical situation in Eurasia. But, is it? To my mind, the less that the USA and its allies have to do with Central Asia, the better. The quixotic idea that the West, should actively intervene (diplomatically, politically, economically) in this area of the world, seems dubious in the extreme. For the following reasons: a) such intervention merely irritates and annoys the Russian government, which regards Central Asia as being in its potential 'sphere of influence'. Whether or not Moskva can fulfill this role is another matter of course. Some like myself are afraid that the real problem here is that Moskva is no longer able (in the words of Herbert von Bismarck) 'to wield the sledgehammer'; b) that there are in fact no valid or real strategic interests for either the Americans or the West to concern themselves with in Central Asia. That the constantly trumpeted struggle for energy resources in this area fails to note that Russia and the authoritarian regimes in the region, all have good reasons to ship energy resources to those markets in Europe which require them. Whether the shipment company or indeed the means of transmission (Nabucco anyone?), is controlled by say Russia or for that matter Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia, or lies underneath the Baltic Sea, is quite irrelevant. The larger and more important point is that the oil and gas must indeed be shipped out of the region in order for someone to profit from the same (on this see, Katinka Barysch article on Gazprom's uncertain future, as a gas supplier for Europe: "Gazprom's Uncertain Outlook," 18 December 2009, in www.cer.org.uk). Ideally, if this was done by pluralistic and democratic governments, so much the better. Unfortunately in the case of Kazakhstan and its confreres in Central Asia, this is a complete non possumus. Let us stop pretending otherwise. And, stop making excuses for mis-characterizing these fundamentally, backward, Oriental Despotic regimes. Much less getting involved with them in the OSCE or anyplace else.

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