NUR-SULTAN – This has been a most unusual year for all. Kazakhstan as well as the other nations have experienced one of the most challenging periods with the pandemic outbreak. Its consequences affected not only the lives of individuals, but the entire universe.
Remarkably, the world community learnt that every person’s actions matter. This year was all about people. Medical workers, police officers, volunteers and activists – all those who sacrificed their lives to keep the nations safe.
With this tribute, the editorial team of The Astana Times is sincerely thankful to all the frontline workers who are protecting and saving our lives and remember those we have lost this year.
We also want to share the major events of 2020 in Kazakhstan that have been highlighted in our news feed.
The Year of the Volunteer
At the end of 2019, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared 2020 as the Year of the Volunteer. As a result, the Biz Birgemiz (We Are Together) Fund’s front office was opened and the online volunteer platform Qazvolunteer.kz was launched to make volunteering more accessible for the youth. Currently, a law “On charity” is being developed. Volunteer activities will be registered as work experience and volunteering will provide some advantages for university and college admissions.
Charity and volunteering especially played a major role during the pandemic outbreak bringing many enthusiasts, who supported doctors and workers on the frontline, into the spotlight nationwide.
Tokayev said that the pandemic turned charity and volunteering into a nationwide effort leading to it becoming a “social norm” at a meeting with national volunteering organizations in October.
State of emergency. Government response to the COVID-19
Due to the timely response to the COVID-19, Kazakhstan managed to keep the epidemiological situation under control.
A state of emergency was introduced in Kazakhstan on March 16 after the first confirmed coronavirus cases were registered. A lockdown regime was extended through May 11.
At the same time, Tokayev instructed the government to implement measures to address the economic consequences left in COVID-19’s wake. In this light, approximately 4.5 million people received financial assistance and more than one million people received basic products and nearly two million citizens got their loans postponed. The government also allocated financing for employment initiatives.
Second-tier banks postponed the maturity of loan collection to entrepreneurs and individuals for three months. Tax rates were reduced for more than 700,000 companies and entrepreneurs.
This May, Kazakhstan took a new step towards democratization with the adoption of the law “On the procedure for organizing and holding peaceful assemblies in Kazakhstan” and an accompanying law on the organization and holding of peaceful assemblies.
The law complies with Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the principles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in which the most important outlined principle is the freedom of expression.
Kazakhstan also adopted the Amendments to the Constitutional Law, Elections and the Law on Political Parties to further develop Kazakhstan’s multi-party system.
The process of establishment and registration of political parties was significantly facilitated. The laws also provide additional opportunities for the youth and for women with a mandatory 30 percent quotas in election party lists.
In August, the Senate (an upper chamber of the Kazakh Parliament) elections were held. Seventeen deputies from the nation’s 14 regions and cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Shymkent were elected out of 46 candidates that were competing for the seats.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Kazakh Constitution which is observed on Aug. 30. “The Constitution of Kazakhstan includes the centuries-old experience and wisdom of the Kazakh people, combined with the advanced achievements in international legal thought,” said President Tokayev at the Aug. 27 online international conference.
Annually, the Day of the Constitution is widely celebrated across the country. But this year all the events were held virtually to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
Following his commitment to structural reforms, President Tokayev outlined seven areas with the focus on economic recovery in the state-of-the-nation address in September. The country’s new economic course is based on seven major principles – the fair distribution of wealth and duties, the leading role of private entrepreneurship, fair competition, the opening of markets for a new generation of entrepreneurs, growth of productivity, the increase of complexity and operability of the economy, human capital development, investments in a new form of education, a green economy and environmental protection and well-reasoned decisions by the state with greater accountability to the public.
Kazakhstan is also expected to implement reforms in its civil service. The nation will cut the civil service by 10 percent in 2020 and by 15 percent the next year.
In terms of its environmental policy, the country will double penalties for environmental damage caused by citizens and businesses. A new code has been adopted by the Parliament and will be submitted to the President.
The beginning of the new year will mark the Majilis (lower house of Parliament) elections that will be held Jan. 10. The list of five political parties includes the Nur Otan party, People’s Party of Kazakhstan, Auyl (Village in Kazakh) national democratic party, Ak Zhol (White Way) party and Adal (Faithful) party.
According to the preliminary estimates of the Central Election Commission, more than 11 million Kazakh people will take part in the elections.
Kazakhstan continued to implement its multi-vector, pragmatic and proactive foreign policy in 2020. One of the main events was the adoption of the Concept of Foreign Policy of Kazakhstan for 2020-2030. The country’s priorities in economic diplomacy are of special interest in this document.
Despite the pandemic outbreak, Kazakhstan remained committed to its humanitarian activities. At the beginning of the epidemic in February, Kazakhstan provided humanitarian aid to China. Also, Kazakhstan dispatched humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Kazakh Armed Forces have also continued their activities as part of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions. Since 2007, 35 Kazakh military officers, including four women, have participated in the United Nations missions in Nepal, Côte d’Ivoire, Western Sahara and Lebanon.
Kazakhstan’s fourth peacekeeping group will join the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to patrol a 16-kilometer section of the Lebanese-Israeli border in February of 2021.
This August, 29 military medical workers and four translators from the Kazakh Armed Forces provided medical assistance to victims of the Beirut blast.
In May, the Kazakh President delivered remarks on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC) that Kazakhstan chairs for the 2020-2021 term at the UN virtual high-level meeting. He called on the global community to “gear up their effort to address the growing external debt of developing countries, debt relief, enhancing food security, and transition to green and modern agrotechnology, among other measures.”
Kazakhstan’s role “in championing the cause to ban nuclear test explosions and indeed all other nuclear explosions” was recognized by President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Tijjani Muhammad Bande at the 74th Session of the UNGA on Aug. 26. The event was held to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests which is observed globally on Aug. 29.
President Tokayev spoke about Kazakhstan’s activities on the international arena at a high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the UN on Sept.22.
“Over the last three decades, Kazakhstan has participated in the endeavors of every major UN body – including the Security Council – in the pursuit of a range of priorities including conflict resolution, non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, combatting terrorism, interfaith and interethnic dialogue, as well as promoting the interests of Land Locked Developing Countries,” said Tokayev.
In December, Kazakh diplomat Kairat Abdrakhmanov was appointed the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This is one of the key positions at the OSCE assigned to identify and address situations in regard to tensions involving national minorities, which could give rise to a conflict between OSCE member states.
Cultural and sporting events
This year, Kazakhstan honored the 175th anniversary of the poet, composer and philosopher Abai Kunanbayev and the 1150th anniversary of the great scientist and philosopher Abu Nasr Al-Farabi. Due to the restrictions, most of the planned events took place online.
Nur-Sultan hosted Kazakhstan’s first ATP 250 Astana Open Tennis tournament with the total prize of $275,000 in November. The qualification games featured 32 participants in the draw being seeded. Australian tennis player John Millman, the fourth seed, won his first-ever ATP title in singles.
The soaring vocals of young Kazakh singer Karakat Bashanova, 12, “gave goosebumps” to millions of viewers at the 2020 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Her stunning performance of the “Forever” song dedicated to her deceased father brought her to second place at the competition.
Earlier, one American talent reviewer featured a story about Kazakh singers Dimash Kudaibergen and Danelya Tuleshova and first Kazakh Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) female fighter Mariya Agapova, who stunned U.S. audiences with their performances. “The names of Kudaibergen and Tuleshova usually go viral when mentioned in an article and Kazakhstan is particularly proud of Agapova who basically paved the way for Kazakh female fighters at the UFC,” it says.
Pavlodar native DJ Imanbek Zeikenov’s remix of Saint Jhn’s “Roses” conquered all the world’s best dance charts. He has been nominated at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards for his remix this year.
Kazakhstan’s most beloved athlete Gennadiy GGG Golovkin enjoyed his win over Polish fighter Kamil Sheremeta in late December in Florida. This was one of the most anticipated boxing events for his fans as Golovkin has managed to defend his title 21 times.