Jordan’s King Abdullah II a Worthy First Recipient of the Nazarbayev Prize

It’s an unfortunate reality that the Middle East is currently facing many challenges and crises.

The Syrian conflict has led to unimaginable tragedy in cities like Aleppo, where civilians are facing daily attack. Although it has been weakened in recent months, the so-called Islamic State continues to control substantial territory and is wreaking havoc throughout the region and beyond. Defeating these abhorrent terrorists has become more difficult due to the unfortunate deterioration of relations between the United States and Russia. It is easy to feel that this dire situation is hopeless. But we must remember that there are many individuals and states that continue to work tirelessly to promote global and regional security and an end to the suffering and destruction of the Middle East.

To honour such people, President Nursultan Nazarbayev made a decision to establish the international award for contributions to nuclear disarmament and security. On Oct. 10, Kazakhstan’s head of state decided to award King Abdullah II of Jordan with the first Nazarbayev Prize for a Nuclear Weapon Free World and Global Security.

There are obvious reasons for why King Abdullah deserves this recognition. His contributions include his policy of sheltering more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Jordan and his ambition to turn the Middle East into a zone of peace, including through the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region. Jordan has also been active in the fight against the IS.  Since 2014, Jordanian Air Forces have been bombing IS positions in Syria. Jordan continues to be a lead Arab partner and active participant in Western-led coalition airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State.

Jordan has also actively promoted international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ensure nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes. In 2014, the country accomplished two major achievements in this area: the ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) and the establishment of a Counter Nuclear Smuggling Team.

In a region that has become synonymous with turbulence, Jordan has been an anchor of stability that has continued to pursue good and constructive relations with all its neighbours, including with Israel. This alone demonstrates why Jordan and its leader deserve Kazakhstan’s prize.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons for why President Nazarbayev decided to establish this initiative. Kazakhstan has become one of the global leaders in nuclear weapons non-proliferation after shutting down the Soviet Union’s test site near Semipalatinsk in 1991 and renouncing the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. The country has continued with its efforts to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world. Earlier this year, Kazakhstan celebrated the 25th anniversary of the shutdown by inviting more than 200 international participants to commemorate the UN International Day against Nuclear Tests on Aug. 29 at an international conference in Astana, titled Building a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World. Kazakhstan also played an integral role in the establishment of the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and, in 2015, the government of Kazakhstan signed a host country agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a low-enriched uranium bank in the country to provide the world with a guaranteed supply of the fuel for civic nuclear energy.

King Abdullah II of Jordan will be presented with the prize, which comes with a $1 million cash award on Nov. 16 in Astana during a gala ceremony. Jordan should feel proud of its accomplishments and its peaceful ambitions for the Middle East. As Kazakhstan has demonstrated, a country does not need to be a superpower to have a major positive influence. Jordan serves as a role model for all the other states in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan should continue with its own efforts to promote global peace and security. Kazakhstan will be able to have an even greater influence on the global agenda when it formally joins the UN Security Council in January 2017 as a non-permanent member. Kazakhstan will be able to use this position to promote nuclear non-proliferation and global security. Despite the current global challenges and threats, we must keep faith and continue to believe that one day we can achieve world peace and prosperity.