NUR-SULTAN – Almaty hosted the European Union Central Asia Civil Society Forum on Oct. 6 gathering nearly 300 representatives from the government and civil society under the motto “Building Forward Better: engaging for a sustainable post-COVID recovery.”
This is the third such forum. In previous years, it was hosted by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The event was attended by the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Ambassador Terhi Hakala, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Ambassador Eamon Gilmore, Special Representative of the President of Kazakhstan for International Cooperation Erzhan Kazykhan, Kazakh deputies, and NGOs from across the region.
The forum participants discussed the role of civil society in sustainable post-pandemic recovery and building a just, inclusive, and prosperous society, including through the promotion of gender equality and youth empowerment.
Gilmore said all states must adhere to the principle of universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“Today the forum brings together participants from Central Asian countries. We are discussing major issues on the development of civil society. I should say that human rights belong specifically to the people. What we are discussing here is that people should not be disadvantaged by nationality, gender, religion, and many other characteristics. Human rights apply to all human beings equally. That is why we recommend that all states respect non-governmental organizations and that any manifestations by civil society must be accompanied by respect for rights and freedoms,” Gilmore told the media.
The development of civil society is one of the key points in the EU Strategy for Central Asia adopted back in 2019, said Kazykhan.
“Today, Kazakhstan pays great attention to strengthening and expanding the dialogue between state authorities and civil society,” he added.
Kazykhan said that the forum also raised issues related to climate change and the impact of climate change in the Central Asian region. “As you know, this is a very acute problem. An important topic is related to improving the status of women, for instance, female entrepreneurship. I think the forum will make important recommendations, which will then be brought up for discussion at ministerial meetings at the level of the European Union and the governments of Central Asia in the near future,” he said.
As part of their visit, Terhi Hakala and Eamon Gilmore met President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. During the meeting, they discussed the status and prospects of an expanded partnership and cooperation between Kazakhstan and the European Union as well as regional security issues.
Tokayev briefed the EU delegation on political and economic reforms in the country, as well as on measures to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
Eamon Gilmore commended political, trade, and economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and the European Union and emphasized the timeliness and importance of maintaining contacts to strengthen the partnership.
The EU delegation welcomed Kazakhstan’s leadership in the region regarding the situation in Afghanistan, highlighting Tokayev’s decisions to locate the office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in Almaty and provide assistance to Afghan students.
President Tokayev is expected to visit Brussels soon, which, according to Gilmore, will be an important milestone in the development of bilateral relations.