Astana’s EXPO 2017 Campaign Peaks as Crucial Vote Draws Near

ASTANA – On November 22, the International Bureau of Expositions (BIE) in Paris will decide whether or not to award EXPO 2017 to Astana.

A vote by the BIE’s 156 member states will determine which of the two candidate cities – Liege in Belgium or Astana – will win the honour.

The decision is important for Kazakhstan’s standing within the global community and also for the forces of sustainability and ecological and environmental responsibility around the world. By choosing the theme of Future Energy, Kazakhstan has demonstrated its commitment to building an economy based on sustainable energy policies and to promote international alternative energy solutions through its proposed Green Bridge Partnership.

The proposed Future Energy theme for EXPO 2017 sets very high hopes for the vision of energy independence. By supporting Kazakhstan’s bid, every single individual in the country and around the world adds a little more momentum to an event that can reshape our world. Everywhere around the globe, from ministerial meetings in Geneva and Milan to motor rallies in the Caribbean, supporters of Astana’s bid hope that every extra little push before the final vote could tip the scales for a tomorrow with clean energy.

Minister of Environmental Protection Nurlan Kapparov, and Foreign Ministry Executive Secretary Rapil Zhoshybayev, the national coordinator of the Expo 2017 project, have travelled far and wide for a series of bilateral meetings with officials from BIE member states. Across Africa and Latin America, they have discussed cooperation plans within the framework of the event and proposals for joint schemes to develop the energy and environmental sectors of those countries.

“The Future Energy theme selected by Kazakhstan reflects our commitment to the green economy and the development of international cooperation in the field of sustainable energy,” Kapparov told BIE members in a recent speech in France.

To secure further support for Astana’s EXPO bid, officials are crossing the world seeking to gain further allies. Minister for Economic Integration Zhanar Aitzhanova and Aidar Kazybaev, the chairman of the Committee on Trade of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, flew to Geneva in October to promote Astana’s bid with United Nations Ambassadors and the UN Permanent Representatives of Finland, Norway, Mauritius and Uruguay. Kazybaev also paid an official three-day visit to Bangkok from October 2 to October 4 to promote the EXPO bid.

“Today, the world needs new, environmentally safe pathways for development. Kazakhstan has already set its course towards a green’ economy. We consider that a discussion about future energy is one of the most universal discussions of our time, which is precisely why we have chosen a central theme for EXPO 2017 that concerns millions of people,” Minister Aitzhanova said.

Kazakhstan has been a member of the BIE since 1997 and has already participated in four world EXPOs.

EXPOs are becoming increasingly specialized in focusing on problems emerging over the global horizon. EXPO 2015, to be held in Milan, Italy will have the theme Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life. Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade Madina Abylkasymova joined representatives from more than 100 countries at an International Participants Meeting, or plenary planning session, in Milan from September 10-12 to prepare for that exposition.

If Astana wins its bid to host EXPO 2017, the city will showcase the latest global developments in the energy sector and will become a hub for developing new alternative energy initiatives across Central Asia.

A million Euros ($1.277.4 million) have already been allocated for the candidacy campaign budget alone. However, more than a thousand times that amount, $1.5 billion dollars of equipment and 113 hectares of land (almost 10,000 square feet) in Astana city, has also been set aside if the bid is approved. The designated area for EXPO 2017 is a site located in the southeast part of Astana. It is designed to be easily accessible for the estimated influx of five million visitors and the site has a road network which connects it to the downtown area and to highway lanes that link it to the city’s administrative and transport centers, including Astana International Airport, Railway Terminal and City Hall.

One of the main goals of the Astana –EXPO 2017 project is to expand global cooperation with industrialized and developing countries. Particular attention is focused on the Southern Hemisphere and on constructive engagement with as many countries as possible.

Dmitry Petrukhin, the president of Kazakhstan’s Geographic Society and of the Bikers’ Association of Kazakhstan, has embarked on a tour of the Caribbean to promote Astana’s EXPO bid. Cuba, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda have already acknowledged the gesture and pledged their support.

Known as Kazakhstan’s goodwill ambassador, Petrukhin previously organized a car and motorcycle tour across 40 countries of Asia and the Middle East from 2008 to 2011 to promote the 2011 Winter Asian Games. His team’s planned EXPO international tour was temporarily delayed by Hurricane Sandy. However, even that crisis proved helpful in the end. It revived international concern about the impact of global climate change on the human population and about the human environmental impact on climate. The hurricane reminded the global public of the uncontrollable forces of nature and inspired a new urgency in developing alternative energy sectors. Now Petrukhin’s biker group’s tour will continue to spread the Future Energy message right up to the BIE’s November 22 deadline.

Astana’s EXPO bid received another international morale boost on October 18 when the Kazakh film documentary Astana Expo 2017: The Great Expectation of Kazakhstan won the second prize Silver Dolphin Award in the Corporate Films category of the prestigious, international, annual Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards. The film was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.

According to a survey conducted by the Kazakhstan business newspaper Vlast on November 9, 40 percent of the BIE’s member states have already publicly expressed their support for Astana’s EXPO bid. Vlast said 63 governments can be counted on for their confirmed support. In September, Foreign Ministry Executive Secretary Zhoshybayev said 83 countries had expressed support, including more than 40 of them in written memorandums and notes.

Former Prime Minister Karim Massimov has acknowledged that the European Union will likely back the candidacy of Liege. However, individual politicians in the West have assured Kazakhstan Astana’s bid will also be considered very seriously. Poland’s Economic Minister Valdemar Pavlyak, Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Manuel Chavez Gonzalez have all publicly supported Astana’s candidacy.

Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working with every relevant country on an individual and bilateral basis to promote the Astana EXPO candidacy, so the list of supporting countries is continually rising. New diplomatic relations have been established with countries such as Grenada.

Asian and Islamic nations have been particularly strong in their support for Astana’s EXPO bid. Some 45 of the 57 member-states of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) came out early in favour of it. Delegates from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have said they want the EXPO to be held in Astana and to serve as the meeting place of all world leaders in the energy sector.

None of the 12 nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS countries) has ever hosted an EXPO in its territory. The other four Central Asian nations and Kazakhstan’s customs union partner nations of Russia and Belarus have also promised to support the Astana bid.

The Russian city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains is bidding to host EXPO 2020 and would like to be able to study Astana’s experience in hosting EXPO 2017.

Japan is developing its strategic interests in Kazakhstan and is also backing the bid. So is South Korea, which recently held its own EXPO in Yesou. Turkey, which has traditionally been friendly to Kazakhstan, backs the bid and so does a new friend, the nation of Vietnam.

Kazakhstan’s ambassador to France Nurlan Danenov, said recently that in the closing days before the November 22 vote, efforts to confirm or increase support for Astana’s bid had taken place around the world in Paris, Geneva, London, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, New Delhi, Tokyo, Pretoria, Istanbul and Washington DC. “We’ve done a lot of work together. This allowed us to come closer, to get to know each other better and to expand our circle of friends and partners,” the ambassador said.

A delegation of Kazakhstan government officials recently met with BIE Secretary General Vicente Losertales in Paris. It is almost time for the crucial decision.

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