ASTANA – In an interview with this newspaper, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Rapil Zhoshybayev addressed a number of topics, including the process to create a permanent structure to oversee Kazakhstan’s development assistance to foreign countries, provisionally called KazAID, the Kazakhstan Agency for International Development.
Recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Kazakhstan Stephen Tull talked about activities on the establishment of a system of official development assistance (ODA) in Kazakhstan. How would you comment on this?
Indeed, today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with relevant state bodies and our international partners, the main of which being UNDP, are working on this matter.
The initial step was the development of a concept of efforts of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the sphere of official development assistance, which is a comprehensive strategic vision of the development of national policy in the field of financial, technical and other assistance to foreign countries.
Since its approval by the head of the state in April 2013, activities focused on the implementation of the main provisions of this concept document have been conducted. A roadmap which provides a list of specific measures aimed at creating a national system of ODA was developed and is being implemented.
Because of the freshness of this field for our young state, first of all, we were faced with the need for the legal definition of the category of ODA and legislative regulation of the respective relations.
To this end, we have developed a draft law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On official development assistance,” which is currently in the process of parliamentary approval. Later this month, according to the bills scheduled for 2014, we are preparing to work with our parliamentarians to finalise this law. I am confident that we will gain their understanding because of the importance of this issue in the context of the complex challenges facing our country in the framework of Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy.
The participation of authoritative international partners such as UNDP has allowed us to ensure the best global practices at all stages of the preparation of the draft law.
Why should Kazakhstan take care of the countries in the region and the world as a whole?
Of course, at first glance it may seem that ODA aimed exclusively at promoting other countries diverts resources away from pressing domestic problems.
International experience shows, however, that ODA is an effective mechanism for improving the stability and prosperity in the region and the whole world. In fact, it is another tool to create favourable external conditions for the development of the country. That is why many countries formed national systems of ODA in the past century.
The presence of the national system of international development assistance is one of the essential attributes of the states which seek to become among the most-developed countries of the world. With economic development and growth of the international prestige of the country, the responsibility of Kazakhstan for ensuring international and regional security and stability increases.
Moreover, the system of ODA will provide the creation of favourable external conditions for the successful implementation of Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy and achievement of a high living standard for the population of Kazakhstan.
The establishment of a national system of ODA will be a clear example of the formation of a new phase in the development of Kazakhstan as an established state, as well as demonstrate the country’s maturity and responsibility for regional and global sustainable development, peace and stability. No country can develop in isolation and not depend on external conditions.
It is no coincidence President Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the opening plenary session of the 7th Astana Economic Forum on May 23, said, “It is impossible to live in harmony and prosperity in a globalised world when there are serious problems in the world, especially in the neighbouring countries. The fire of their conflicts can come to any country. … Kazakhstan entered the top five fastest-growing countries over the past decade and a half. We adopted the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy and now are implementing serious actions on comprehensive modernisation. We aim to become one of the 30 most-developed countries in the world. And we intend to achieve these goals in a tight integration with our neighbours. We care about what is happening in our region. Growth due to separation from our neighbours, due to their ‘sinking’ into chaos and disorder, ultimately makes us weaker in the region and the world as a whole.”
As an ordinary citizen, I’m interested in the costs of official development assistance. What is your point of view?
Kazakhstan has already been providing ODA for the last 10 years in the framework of international agreements and treaties. According to UNDP statistics in the context of development assistance, which statistically includes humanitarian assistance, Kazakhstan ranks first among the Central Asian states, having allocated more than $100 million for ODA during the last 10 years.
Another matter is that this work was often carried out unsystematically in the framework of one-off initiatives. Now we are raising it to a completely new level.
All ODA will be provided in accordance with the Foreign Policy Concept of Kazakhstan. There is a proposal to legislate the main objectives, missions, principles and sectoral priorities of ODA, differentiate competences between governmental bodies and establish a special organisation under the MFA, which will work as an operator in the field of ODA with a working title of KazAID.
Moreover, KazAID will not become a charitable organisation providing funds at the disposal of foreign governments. KazAID will provide carefully-planned, targeted support to projects which are able to contribute effectively to the development of regional economy, safety and people’s well-being. We will cooperate with foreign states and regional organisations to choose the most attractive projects, as well as collaborate with Kazakhstan’s companies and NGOs to apply their experience and knowledge.
KazAID’s activity and funded projects will be closely evaluated on a regular basis to ensure achievement of the objectives of the programme and verifying efficient and rational use of funds.
In general, we don’t plan to increase the existing cost side in the near future. First of all, we are tasked to gather ODA carried out by various governmental bodies under one roof in order to maximize the benefits of our projects and guarantee the effective use of funds. This will be adjusted under the unfavourable conditions budget of ODA, but all of it in the future.
We know that Kazakhstan provides humanitarian assistance in the form of essential commodities, food, clothing, etc. What kind of assistance will be provided within the framework of ODA?
For the 20 years of its independence, Kazakhstan has accumulated extensive experience in the field of reforms; for instance, the principle of a one-stop shop implemented in the framework of citizen service centres. Also let’s recall how we received passports 15 years ago. Sometimes people had to start queuing at six in the morning, while nowadays the procedure of getting an identity card is very simple. We have enough similar examples concerning e-government, the tax system, education and health care, support of small- and medium-sized enterprises, investment and so on. We have experience to share and this experience will be demanded.