Kazakhstan’s UNSC presidency gives voice to modern security, geopolitical realities

Kazakh citizens are justifiably proud that this month the country is chairing the United Nations Security Council. It is a special moment in our country’s history – another symbol of how far Kazakhstan has come as well as recognition of the growing importance of Central Asia.

The presidency is, of course, taken in turns by UNSC members, but its significance is not just symbolic. It provides the opportunity for a country from outside the ranks of the old, traditional powers to help set the international agenda. Attention can be focused and debate prompted on the global challenges it believes are most critical or over-looked.

These opportunities are, many would argue, perhaps not frequent enough. Our world may have been transformed over the last seven decades, but in some ways the UN as a body has not kept up with these changes. Its structures and, in particular, control of its decision-making levers can still seem to owe more to the world of 1948 than 2018.

It is why Kazakhstan is determined, as it has been since it took its seat on the Security Council a year ago, not to waste this chance to shape the global agenda. The country’s leadership, team at the United Nations and diplomats are working flat out to make progress on its regional and international priorities.

Right at the top of this agenda is to make a start in removing for good the threat of nuclear war. When Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev urged fellow leaders at the UN in 2015 to make their main goal a world free of nuclear weapons, some may have thought that he was over-estimating the danger of catastrophic conflict. Scarcely more than two years later, this complacency has disappeared.

Setting out such big ambitions is always important to galvanise efforts and provide targets. But it must be coupled, as President Nazarbayev has shown many times, with practical steps to achieve them. This is exactly what the high-level UNSC discussions on confidence building measures regarding weapons of mass destruction that Kazakhstan has initiated this week are intended to help identify.

The aim of the discussions is to examine how confidence and trust can be built at a regional and international level. We need to find agreed ways to resolve and prevent conflicts so states no longer feel it is necessary for their security to develop nuclear weapons. In time, too, such successful measures may persuade countries who already have nuclear weapons to reduce their arsenal or follow Kazakhstan’s lead in giving them up altogether.

It is a mark of President Nazarbayev’s own commitment to nuclear disarmament that he is helping lead these discussions himself in the Security Council. His involvement during his busy schedule in the United States will give the talks a real impetus. As the leader of the first country to renounce nuclear weapons voluntarily, he has the personal credentials to persuade fellow UNSC members to think seriously about what needs to happen.

His visit to New York also underlines the importance that Kazakhstan places on the United Nations. Right from Kazakhstan’s first days as an independent country, it has seen a strong UN, respected by all countries, as absolutely essential for global stability, security and prosperity. Twenty-six years later, its critical role is clearer than ever.

As this paper has shown many times on different issues, our world is now so inter-connected and the challenges so complex, no country can overcome them on its own. Only by working together can we hope to find the solutions needed.

But if the UN is to play fully the role in identifying and delivering answers, it must be modernised and strengthened. Giving, for example, a greater role to the General Assembly as well as a better balance between regions in a reformed and expanded UNSC would help ensure solutions, which work for all countries, are identified and trusted.

Encouraging the reforms and agreements which will produce a stronger, better equipped United Nations ready to guide the world successfully through the challenges of the coming decades is another major priority for Kazakhstan. All who want to see a peaceful and prosperous world should be supporting Kazakhstan’s agenda.