A Tribute to Nurlan Kapparov

I am moved this week to write this open letter of tribute to an exceptional Kazakhstan civil servant, Nurlan Kapparov. The news of his untimely death last week shocked me as well as other expats who had been privileged to work with Mr. Kapparov. I am certain that many in the diplomatic and business community share the sense of loss and mourning felt most deeply by his family and long-time friends.

Nurlan Kapparov

Nurlan Kapparov

I came to know Nurlan as the Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, and admired two things most about his professionalism. First, Minister Kapparov held a progressive and ambitious vision of “the possible” and was evidently driven to do the right things. Second, he was a skilled pragmatist and he pursued objectives with sound judgment, tact, and respect for the views of others.

Minister Kapparov took on the job five months before the June 2012 Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. While the Kazakhstan leadership had by that time aligned the long-term national goals with sustainable development, there were open questions as to how to proceed. Minister Kapparov worked tirelessly within the Government to solidify Kazakhstan’s commitment to green development, which was the key to positioning Kazakhstan in Rio as a regional leader ready to use its own modernization to the benefit of other nations – the Green Bridge. This resulted in the inclusion of Kazakhstan’s Green Bridge initiative in the Rio+20 outcome document.

Stephen Tull

Stephen Tull

After that first success, Minister Kapparov led and facilitated deep research and planning for the national transformation to a green economy. This work supported the President’s Strategy Kazakhstan 2050 as well as the winning application for EXPO 2017. Along the way, Minister Kapparov introduced into the public discourse crucial issues concerning integrated water management, waste management, and climate change. In his later capacity as Chair of Kazatomprom, he continued to explore modernisation with the same verve and openness for which he will be remembered.

I will remember Nurlan Kapparov as a true professional and a gentleman. He took carefully considered risks, and he made a transformative impact on Kazakhstan’s future.

The author is United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kazakhstan.

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