Astana International Financial Centre Set to Become Beating Heart of Banking in Central Asia

The Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) hosted three important events last week. The first was the meeting of it’s Management Council, chaired by Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The second was the AIFC Law Conference 2020 and the third was Astana Finance Days 2020, held for the first time entirely online.

Although there was much discussion of high finance, geo-politics and legal convolution, what touched me most were the glimpses of humanity, compassion and understanding.

President Tokayev is reported to have made it clear to the AIFC that its resources should be used for the recovery of Kazakhstan’s economy, noting that AIFC wasn’t initially meant to do that, but ‘it is high time to change the situation’. This citizen-centric approach was echoed by panellists looking at the future of law as part of the AIFC Law Conference, with Professor Zou of Oxford University, Professor Lee from Exeter University and Dr Palombo, the founder of all agreeing that law and justice must serve the citizen, not the other way around.

How refreshing that financiers and lawyers are beginning to realise their job is to serve and support society. And it was that theme that I pursued in my address at the end of the Astana Finance Days event.

I spoke of a different future. Not one of debt, prosecutions and contracts, but rather one designed to make society fairer and citizens richer: One full of hope and opportunity for the next generation. In the address, I said:

The future is about the community. 

The future is about the citizen.

The future is about fairness for all. 

The future of society is one in which the law helps all, not the few.

Where justice is accessible to everyone, not just the rich and powerful. 

Where the 95 percent of citizens denied justice around the world, and 85 percent who can’t afford a lawyer, demand a new legal order: One which puts the citizen at its heart, and in which lawyers and judges remember their duty to serve the public, not the other way around.

And that future, a future of fairness, will be one in which technology fills today’s justice chasm. Where the citizen receives legal advice at no or low cost. Where AI based predictive tools can both help people solve their problems, and help them avoid problems in the first place. Where AI based judges, which are already operating with greater accuracy that human judges, help to clear backlogs and delays.

And so a citizen centric, technology powered legal system will empower the people; delivering fast, efficient and fair justice to all in society.

And it is that world we in the AIFC LawTech Advisory Council are developing.

Using technology to put the citizen first.

Using technology to empower all. 

Using technology to improve the lives of the people of Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the world.

And as the AIFC is the first international financial centre in the world to focus on this, so Kazakhstan can lead the world in delivering a fairer world, in which all have access to, and the protection of the law.

In these bleak times, with the world economy on hold, with many countries locked down physically and metaphorically, it is a relief that leaders such as Kazakhstan’s President are pushing for a fairer, more inclusive and just society. That they are directing their financiers to do more for the men and women most in need, and that lawyers are remembering that their duty is to justice, fairness and compassion.

If there are any silver linings from the current global pandemic, a more just and equal world would be a good start.

Author is Mark Beer, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and Co-Founder of Seven Pillars Law (7Pillars).

Nur-Sultan based Seven Pillars Law  is Kazakhstan’s first decentralised law firm. It was established to support companies doing business in, with or through Kazakhstan and the AIFC. The firm is named after the Zheti Zhargy, the seven foundational pillars of the Kazakh legal system introduced in the 17th Century by Khan Tauke (1680 – 1718), a ruler of the Kazakh Khanate (State).

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