Over the last few years, international relations have been going through a difficult period and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), which unites 26 countries, found itself at the crossroads of key global trends, largely determining the future development vector in not only Asia but also in the world.
Ten years ago, on June 17, 2006 during the second CICA Summit, was the first time when the document folders of heads of delegations had an official CICA symbol. And it was also the first time when the staff of the Secretariat, which had not yet been formally constituted, and consisted of only a few persons, took part in organising the meeting.
Let us recall, in 1992, the initiative of the CICA laid a foundation of new security awareness based on mutual trust and cooperation. This contributed to the fact that bilateral relations were upgraded to a new level of equal partnership. A model of regional cooperation was proposed, introducing the priority of security indivisibility, initiative in collaboration, mutually-beneficial cooperation between small and large countries and the interests of the nations’ sustainable development were put at the forefront. This has become an important contribution to the creation of new international relations.
In recent years, politicians and experts increasingly and frequently emphasise the huge potential of the CICA, which precisely equals cooperation of countries distinguished by population, religion, culture, economic development, political order, etc. This potential has been realised for 24 years for the sake of prosperity of every distant corner of the Asian continent. CICA has been established as the platform for strengthening mutual understanding, dialogue, trust and equal partnership between the member states and has become one of the biggest parties of the modern system of international relations, contributing to the maintenance of security and stability in the region. And the region is not small – from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, the Indian Ocean up to the northern seas.
As citizens of CICA countries, it’s important to know what is being done to ensure regional security and stability and the defence of peace in our land, the joint development of national economies, cultures and our common future.
In late April of this year, Beijing hosted the 5th meeting of CICA Ministers of Foreign Affairs (for the first time outside of Kazakhstan). The purpose of this meeting, as well as other high-level meetings of our forum, was not only exchanging views on pressing national and global issues between the delegations of the member countries, observers and guests. China, in its turn as chairman of CICA since 2014, gave a detailed report for the activity over the last years and presented its vision of the work in the next two years. As far as we know, the Chinese chairmanship’s second term begins after the ministerial meeting.
Among the general goals and objectives for the trade and economic cooperation of the CICA, the priority is given to cooperative efforts in the promotion of small and medium entrepreneurship, trade, investment, infrastructure and transport corridors, telecommunications, science and so on. The 21st century with its introduction of innovative technologies offers advantages for the implementation of tasks in these areas.
CICA member states make their best efforts for the development of the economic potential of the region. The entire world knows that 30 percent to 70 percent of the economically-active population of our countries is employed in small businesses. It produces up to 30 percent of the gross domestic product and by 2020 this share could more than double. Therefore, during the fourth CICA Summit in May 2014 in Shanghai, it was decided to establish the Business Council of the CICA. The main task of the business council is to promote the development and expansion of economic cooperation in the sphere of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the establishment of direct contacts and dialogue between the representatives of business organisations and public authorities of the CICA member countries and their involvement in the all-round cooperation. China, as CICA chairman, contributes to establishing mutually-beneficial partnerships between enterprises and SMEs in the countries of the region. Here CICA takes a different approach – there is no creation of financial institutions, funds or banks, but the establishment of connections and the provision of support for manufacturers. And this approach seems correct to us, especially against the background of a prolonged global economic crisis caused by the collapse of financial institutions.
Russia, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Turkey coordinators and co-coordinators of the CICA confidence-building measures in the field of development of small and medium-sized businesses as well as the CICA Secretariat participated in the council constitution and establishment. The constitutive meeting of the Business Council of the CICA was held in November 2015, which marked the official start of work. At the same time China hosted the 4th CICA business forum with participation of more than 200 representatives of governments, financial institutions and business enterprises from eighteen member states. China’s initiative “One Belt One Road,” which has been promoted in recent years, fits perfectly, finds support and will be implemented by the CICA. The importance of these actions was recognised by the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde. In Astana at the end of May, she admitted that this initiative reflects the need for such integration for successful regional development.
Each country and all international organisations starting from United Nations declare their activities for the prosperity of future generations. The Chinese chairmanship’s achievement within the CICA was the launch of the Youth Council (YC), after the Chinese Youth Federation meeting in Beijing in August 2015. Representatives of 24 member states of the CICA and the CICA Secretariat took part in the preparation for the establishment of the council.
The YC is faced with formidable tasks. It is not only for conducting festive events, festivals and gatherings, but also for the research and development of national youth policies based on realities. As I noted in 2014, youth cooperation is not just a part of public diplomacy and an important component of bilateral relations, it is a real and recognised resource development.
At the first stage of work, YC is planning to establish an exchange of information between national youth organisations and cooperation in the field of employment of young professionals and entrepreneurs, as well as development of youth volunteering. In July, Bishkek will host the second conference of the CICA Youth Council, where, we hope, certain decisions will be made. Among others, the main focus will be on preventing the radicalisation of young people, which is now one of the most important issues in the world. We are considering the possibility of the organisation of the arts festival for students of the CICA member states to promote friendly communication among our youth.
Over the years of CICA’s existence, the need for exploiting the potential of the so-called “second track” has been repeatedly discussed. The term “second track” implies the involvement of think tanks, academic circles and independent experts. In May 2015, China, as the chairman, held the first conference of the non-governmental forum with the aim of establishing a network of civil dialogue among the CICA member states, the promotion of the concept of security and the increasing influence of the forum and the development of regional safety management. The conference, Asia in the Next Decade – Security and Development, included six roundtables on topical issues such as non-traditional security, financial security, the construction of the one belt, one road programme, energy security, a scientific development and production centre and also the media’s role in Asian security. The forum was attended by the former political leaders and almost 400 leading experts, scholars, representatives of the media elite and public organisations from 37 member states and observers of the CICA, as well as a number of countries from outside the region.
Additionally, the Shanghai Institute of International Studies organised five expert forums in March and September 2014, May and December 2015 and April 2016. Well-known experts and scholars from many Asian countries discussed a wide range of issues of regional security and development, the strengthening of dialogue and cooperation and the functions and development of the CICA.
The value of such events is not in the level and number of participants, but in the need of the widespread activation of the expert community and the exchange of views in the understanding of the processes leading to global problems. The chairman, the member states and the secretariat find the discussions informative and instructive and the conclusions are subsequently taken into account in the development of strategies and specific action plans in various areas of CICA activity. In 2017, the Chinese Chairmanship plans to organise a second meeting of the NGO forum, as well as regularly conduct forums of analytical institutions of CICA countries.
It should be noted that political and security cooperation successfully continues within the CICA. More and more countries are convinced that as a result of the further deepening of relations of good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation can effectively protect their own interests, thus realising the goal of the joint development and prosperity.
Active work is continuing on the development of the Plan of Action for the implementation of the CICA UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy, which includes the negotiations between the CICA member states, as well as takes into account the experience and achievements of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee. During 2015-2016, Kazakhstan held a seminar and lecture for the military experts, diplomats and military attaches of the CICA member states on the development of military-political dimension and organised a visit of the participants to a number of military facilities.
In August 2015, Thailand organised a training course on drug treatment and rehabilitation for the officers of the CICA member states. China, in cooperation with the coordinating and co-coordinating countries, will actively implement documents on cooperation, including the action plan for the implementation of confidence-building measures in the military-political dimension during the period 2015-2018 and also the action plan for cooperation among CICA member states in combating illicit drugs for the period 2016-2018.
In the upcoming period, China plans to invite member states and CICA observers to take part in the first cultural exhibition of the Silk Road, which will take place in September 2016, the third international art festival of the Silk Road countries, film festival and so forth to promote the relationship and cooperation between the human dimension of the CICA member states.
Country coordinators and co-coordinators and all the members of the CICA under the leadership of the Chinese Chairmanship will develop and implement confidence-building measures for the implementation of action plans in all dimensions for the period 2016-2018 to achieve their goals. Sessions of the specialised agencies are held on a regular basis during which short-term objectives are considered, so that the activities of CICA are not periodic, but constant and pre-arranged. These meetings are held in different countries at their request. Six meetings were held from mid-2014 to 2016, including one meeting in Egypt. China will hold the fifth summit of the CICA in 2018 in consultation with the incoming chairmanship. We are also considering the possibility of holding an informal meeting of CICA foreign ministers on the sidelines the 72th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2017.
The number of member states of CICA is growing and external relationships are strengthening. Bangladesh and Qatar have joined the family of the CICA and immediately got involved in the activities, making constructive suggestions. Belarus got the status of observer. Memoranda of understanding between the secretariats of the CICA and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the CICA Secretariat and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) were signed.
Member states continue to explore ways to improve the legal and institutional base for the development of the CICA, focusing on strengthening the capacity and effectiveness of cooperation, taking into account the official draft of the concept on creation of the Organisation for Security and Development in Asia, represented by Kazakhstan at the end of 2015.
As mentioned above, Almaty hosted the second summit of heads of state and government of the CICA member states on June 17, 2006. The world’s media actively covered the event and discussed the summit declaration, bilateral meetings, etc. However, the signing of the agreement creating the CICA Secretariat was sparingly mentioned. It is the administrative and technical body established to provide support to member states in their activities.
The establishment of the secretariat marked a significant stage of institutionalization of the CICA and the new stage of development. During these 10 years, the secretariat has been maintaining close contact with the chairmanship, assisting countries in organising events, providing information and support for workflow, creating databases, supporting the website and so on.
The executive director of the secretariat is in close contact with ministerial officials and authorities from relevant departments of the states’ parties as well as regional and international organisations, exchanging views on international and regional situations and discussing several issues of cooperation in the implementation of the CICA CBMs, at the later stage as well as development forum, etc. For example, in the last two years the executive director took part in more than 30 events such as conducting the parallel bilateral meetings, contributing to the promotion of the goals and objectives of the CICA and increasing the value and image of the forum.
In this work, he was assisted by highly-qualified staff such as CICA diplomatic personnel. The administrative staff delivers benefit by ensuring timely information processing and making it available to the recipients. Sometimes the work is going on till very late and I would like to commend the responsibility and professionalism of the staff.
The CICA Secretariat is in close coordination with the UN Secretariat, UNODC, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, as well as other international organisations such as the SCO, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Economic Cooperation Organisation, Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, the Turkic Council and Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking Countries (TURKPA), and also participates in several meetings organised by these institutions.
In the third quarter of 2016, the CICA Secretariat will finalize the move to a renovated building in Astana provided by Kazakhstan. In order to ensure effective and comfortable performance for the CICA staff, the Chinese Chairmanship has provided furniture and equipment for the new premises.
I want to wish all my colleagues every success in achieving the goals of the international forum – the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.
The author is Executive Director of the CICA Secretariat.