In an interview with this newspaper, Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Kazakhstan’s Permament Representative at the UN Office in Geneva, discusses the country’s approaches to working with and within the UN Human Rights Council, as well as priorities in the areas of nuclear disarmanent and accessation to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
What are the permanent mission’s responsibilities?
The UN office in Geneva is the second largest bodyof the UN system. The Geneva office serves as the centre of diplomatic meetingson disarmament, human rights, poverty, sustainable development and emergency humanitarian assistance.
About 180 permanent representatives areaccredited to the office. Almost all major international organisations are represented too.
Since 1946, the UN European and then the UN Geneva office wasled by representatives of Poland, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, France, Russia and Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan takes special pride in the fact thatKassym-Jomart Tokayev was deputy secretary-general of the United Nations and the director-general of the UN Office in Geneva from May 2011 until October 2013. He was the first Asian representative to head the UN Office in Geneva.
Kazakhstan’s permanent mission was established bya presidential degree in December 1995 and has had its own building in downtown Geneva since 2006.
How do you see the results of the 28th session of the Human Rights Council and the Conference on Disarmament that took place recently here in Geneva?
Each year, in the beginning of March, leaders from almost every UN member state converge on Geneva for the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Conference on Disarmament.
This year, Kazakhstan was represented byMinister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov. In his speeches, he clearly outlined Kazakhstan’s human rights and disarmament initiatives.
Our country makes targeted and consistent efforts to accede to all major international instruments promoting and protecting human rights. In February, Kazakhstan completed ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was recommended by a number of countries during the second phase of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Kazakhstan diligently submits periodic reports to UN treaty bodies, has been actively involved at the representative level of the organisationand has defended its reports. All of this effort goes to show how seriously our country takes its dealings with the United Nations.
The foreign minister also held bilateral meetings with Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights andMichael Möller, acting director-general of the UNoffice in Geneva andsecretary-general of the Conference on Disarmament.
During his conversation with the high commissioner,the minister expressed his satisfaction with the current level of cooperation with the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He praised the council for its timely response to challenges all over the world.
The foreign ministeralso stated that our country has adopted measures to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens.
Minister Idrissov also invited the Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein to pay an official visit to Kazakhstan.
Recently, Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Peaceful Assembly visited our country. How is Kazakhstan working with the Human Rights Council’s mechanisms and special mandate holders?
I would like to specifically highlightour country’s cooperationwith the special procedures mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council. In 2009, our country issued an open invitation to all special procedures mandate holders and welcomed nine special rapporteurs, including two experts visiting Kazakhstan twice which is a rare exception. Baskut Tuncak, the special rapporteur on toxic and dangerous materials and members of the working group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises will visit before the end of the year. In accordance with the needs of these experts, Kazakhstan is scheduling these visits.
We are interested in further expanding dialogue with the council’s special procedures mandate holders.
The progressseen over the past nine years and the positive dialogue with the Human Rights Council suggests the need to continue improving the working methods of the council and its special procedures.
What are Kazakhstan’s priorities at the Conference on Disarmament?
We consider the Conference on Disarmament the sole permanent multilateral negotiating ground in the field of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
Our President initiated a UN Universal Declaration of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World. Our experts are working with the five nuclear powers, other interested countries and the UN Secretariat to promote the draft declaration.
Another priority for Kazakhstan in the framework of the Conference is to complete the institutionalisation of a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia. Last year, the five nuclear powers signed a protocol to the Semipalatinsk Treaty under which they pledged to the five Central Asian nations that they would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. Currently, two countries have already ratified the protocol. We expect that by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference which begins in late April, the others will also have ratified.
As for the NPT Review Conference, Kazakhstan is actively involved. We regret to note that one of the key decisions of the 2010 NPT Review Conferencehas still not realised – the conference on the establishment of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle Easthas not yet been organised.
Our top priority is nuclear disarmament. This is not only because of our quite recent tragic past, the consequences of which are still being felt, butbecause of a pragmatic view of the future completely free from the deadly weapons.
How would you describe nuclear non-proliferation efforts and their future generally?
Despite the general stagnation in the global disarmament process, I should note the many past achievements. The closure of the Semipalatinsk test siteprompted the closure of other nuclear test sites. Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus’s abandonment of nuclear weaponry helped as did the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. There is also a significant reduction in the number of nuclear weapons in Russia and the United States through the Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms as well as unilateral reductions by the UK and France. The expansion of nuclear weapon free zones around the world also played a major role.
In terms of trying to make forecasts for the future, it’s a thankless job. However, I would still hope that the major world powers are fully aware of their responsibility to the future of humanity and to significantly advance towards a world free of nuclear weapons.
Where is Kazakhstan on the path to WTO accession?
Kazakhstan has been working to join the WTO since 1996. Over the past several years, negotiations have been intensified. The negotiating team, headed by Zhanar Aitzhanova, Minister for Economic Integration, aims to participate in the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Decemberin Nairobi as a full member of the organisation.
Joining the WTO is one of Kazakhstan’s strategic priorities. Kazakhstan should be involved in the processes of regulatinginternational trade.
There is a WTO unit in our Permanent Mission, which is directly involved in negotiationsregarding Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO.
One of the mission’s major tasksis providing the negotiating team with information and analytical support regarding consumer markets and other nations’ agreements with the WTO.
The mission also elaborates on further training of Kazakh specialists on regulating international trade and WTO accession. Cooperationtakes place with the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE, SPECA)and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) for technical assistance projects regarding facilitating trade procedures, trade policy development and human capacity building in foreign trade regulation.