ASTANA – Cihan Sultanoglu, Regional Director for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Assistant Secretary General, visited Kazakhstan on Oct. 22-25, on the eve of the organisation’s 20 year anniversary of activity in Kazakhstan.
During the visit, Sultanoglu met representatives of Kazakhstan’s government, including Deputy Prime Minister Yerbol Orynbayev and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexey Volkov. Sultanoglu also visited Secondary School No. 9 in Astana, where an energy-efficiency upgrade had been carried out as part of a UNDP project. This upgrade has reduced heating costs by up to 25 percent.
Sultanoglu reported on UNDP activity in each country office. Within each country office, the UNDP resident representatives normally also serve as Resident Coordinators of development activities for the UN system as a whole. Through this coordination, the UNDP seeks to ensure the most effective use of UN and international aid resources.
“Kazakhstan would like to join the club of the 30 most developed countries in the world and has a good vision of how to reach this goal. However, there are still challenges on the way, including rising inequality, the need for innovative development, a green economy and job creation,” she said.
“We work to help to integrate the country into the global economy effectively and ensure that policies and regulatory frameworks are implemented with full respect for the rule of law, and are conducive to sustainable development. Kazakhstan has good experience in a number of areas, such as disaster risk reduction, and we will work with Kazakhstan to share its experience with other countries,” Sultanoglu added.
She said in Kazakhstan, the UNDP works closely with the government to promote energy-efficiency in municipal heating. Together they completed the school upgrade mentioned; they are now building the first energy-efficient house in Karaganda. The UNDP in Kazakhstan has also mapped the wind energy potential in all regions of the country and opened the country for green investment.
In Kazakhstan, the UNDP supports the country’s initiatives on gender issues by sharing expertise and best practices and offering gender equality training. In cooperation with the UNDP, two major laws have been enacted: the Law on Equal Rights and Opportunities for Men and Women and the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Kazakhstan has increased its investment in support of women entrepreneurs up to $20 million a year. As a result, women’s entrepreneurship has been steadily rising: this year, 40 percent of the national GDP consists of women’s contributions, compared to 36.3 percent in 2005.
“One of the most enjoyable parts of my job … is to visit countries, see the results of our projects, and meet the people who benefit from them. Every time I have undertaken a country visit, such as this one to Kazakhstan, I return with fresh ideas and new inspiration. I also engage the governments in dialogue about development priorities and how the UNDP can support them,” Sultanoglu explained.
During her visit, Sultanoglu also participated in the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) conference of ministers.
The CAREC Programme, launched in 2001, is a partnership between 10 countries (the five countries of Central Asian plus Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Mongolia) and six multilateral institutions, including the UNDP. It provides a unique platform of cooperation between Central, South and East Asian countries. Its four priority sectors are transport, trade, energy and trade policy. Through its cooperation with CAREC, the UNDP aligns its work in the region with that of its other development partners, including regional governments, working to make the most efficient use of available resources. The ministers’ meeting provided an opportunity to continue dialogue and take decisions on how to address development priorities and economic integration in the region most effectively.
“Kazakhstan has always served as a good example. From the time of independence, the country has taken a path of intensive development, showing steady economic and social progress, as well as significant growth in GDP. Working in Kazakhstan for 20 years already, we have a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that Kazakhstan possesses. Today, as a country with above-average incomes, Kazakhstan is becoming a regional leader in development, offering its own experience to other countries. The UNDP has supported a number of initiatives in this direction: the Green Bridge Partnership Programme, the regional hub of civil services and others,” Sultanoglu said at a briefing during her visit.
A wide range of issues of cooperation, including Kazakhstan’s proposal to establish a so called UN regional diplomacy centre (hub) in Almaty was discussed within the UN by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov during his visit to New York in late September. Idrissov discussed the establishment of the hub for international organisations as well as a new format for interaction between Kazakhstan and the UNDP at a meeting with UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. The proposals remain under discussion.