With reforms on the way, coming decade looks positive for Kazakhstan

The increase in tensions in the Middle East is not just worrying for the region but the whole world. The fervent hope must be that dialogue can bring about a de-escalation of the crisis.

It is not just, of course, events in the Middle East which have shown the vital need for dialogue and collective action. The devastating bush fires in Australia are a terrible reminder of the potential impact of rising temperatures on the world.

As we have said before, no country alone can hope to overcome the threat of climate change as is the case with many other of the most pressing global challenges. It needs all nations to agree and act together if the right solutions are to be agreed upon and put in place.

It is why President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s commitment to continue promoting dialogue and cooperation on the international stage is as critical in this new decade as ever. The trust and good relations Kazakhstan has forged with nations, big and small, gives the country an important role, as has been the case in the past, in bringing countries together.

On the domestic front as well, Kazakhstan’s President is showing the importance he attaches to dialogue with the country’s citizens. The new National Council of Public Trust is just one way that he is delivering on his promise to develop a “Hearing States” that can meet the needs, concerns and ambitions of the Kazakh people. This wider engagement with civic society is seen as key to accelerating the creation of a modern, responsive state – the next stage in the country’s remarkable development.

Nor have we had to wait long to see the action on popular priorities with measures to strengthen the criminal justice system, accelerate political reform and ensure opportunity is extended to all. Tougher penalties have been introduced for sexual and domestic violence to increase protection for women and bring Kazakhstan into line with other developed nations.

Jail sentences for human traffickers have also been increased to underline Kazakhstan’s determination to stamp out this evil trade. Growing public worries over the accidents and injuries caused by drunk driving have also led to stronger prison terms.

But at the same time as toughening jail sentences, including for selling drugs to children, President Tokayev is making the moratorium on the death penalty permanent. He has instructed the government to begin the process of signing the International Treaty on abolishing capital punishment.

We have seen as well an acceleration of political and social reforms. Women and younger people are to make up 30 percent of party candidates to ensure more diverse voices in national and regional politics. Regulations over organising and attending peaceful rallies are being relaxed and made clearer. The membership threshold for registering political parties is being halved while political debate will also be helped by de-criminalising defamation. President Tokayev is acting on his promise to accelerate political reform and pluralism.

There has been action, too, on extending opportunity and increasing support to those who need it most. Along with additional investment to improve health care across the country, new rehabilitation centres to help those with disabilities are being built. Children from low-income families are to receive a guaranteed social package, including free school meals and transportation to and from school. University scholarships are being increased to develop the rich potential of the country’s younger generation.

It is a packed agenda. The new decade promises to be an exciting one for the citizens of Kazakhstan who can look forward to their priorities being met through responsive services and targeted investment. The wider, open dialogue, which is already underway, is critical to finding the right solutions. On the international stage as well, it is dialogue – no matter how difficult the environment or deep the divisions – which is the only way forward to global peace, stability and prosperity.

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