ASTANA – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivered a powerful address on Sept. 19 at the General Debate of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, highlighting the urgent importance of strengthening international law and undertaking comprehensive reforms within the UN Security Council, as stated by the presidential press service.
In his address, President Tokayev stressed the growing threat to global peace and security, which he described as stemming from the simultaneous erosion of the fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter.
He emphasized that the world was facing multifaceted challenges, including conflicts and lack of dialogue, all of which demanded a renewed commitment to the principles and values upon which the UN was founded. The most destructive challenge, he noted, is the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.
He pointed out the need for reform in the Security Council, with its five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, and veto powers. Supporters of the reform have long been calling for better representation in the 15-member council.
“We will not succeed in tackling these challenges without a comprehensive reform of the Security Council. It is an urgent need of our time that meets the interests of the vast majority of humanity,” said President Tokayev, underlining the importance of amplifying the voices of middle powers and all developing countries.
He emphasized that the Security Council, which “appears unable to move beyond deadlock,” should become more representative, giving chances to other countries, including Kazakhstan, to play a greater role in maintaining peace and security.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brought up similar calls for reform.
Kazakhstan’s pivotal role
“In brief, Kazakhstan is a peace-loving nation that pursues its own national interest while continuously searching for peaceful solutions to pending international issues,” said Tokayev.
One of the prominent initiatives is the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), a multilateral forum aimed at promoting peace, stability, and cooperation in the Asian region. It was established in 1992 and currently includes 28 member states.
The transformation of CICA into a full-fledged organization, the process that kicked off at the sixth CICA summit in Astana in October, can contribute to “continental mediation and peace-making.”
As the chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Kazakhstan put forward the Initiative of World Unity for a Just Peace and Harmony. Tokayev invited world leaders to join the initiative, which includes three key areas – a new security paradigm, a fair economic environment, and a clean planet.
“Open dialogue between the Global South and the Global North is its central pillar,” he said.
As the country which witnessed almost 460 nuclear tests under the Soviet Union and voluntarily renounced the fourth largest inherited nuclear arsenal, Kazakhstan reaffirms its “continuous commitment” to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
“Only mutual trust and cooperation between nuclear powers – on the path to a world free of nuclear weapons – can produce global stability. (…) We support the development of new mechanisms in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. A strategic plan for the complete renunciation of nuclear weapons by 2045 could well be the most significant contribution to global security of this generation of leaders,” he said.
However, the pursuit of peace extends beyond disarmament and formal agreements. Interreligious and interfaith dialogue are crucial in nurturing a culture of peace.
Tokayev expressed concern over the recent instances of deep disrespect shown towards sacred texts. “Such barbaric acts against Islam or any other religions cannot be accepted as expressions of freedom, free speech and democracy. All holy books, including the Quran, deserve legal protection against vandalism,” he noted.
Tokayev called on the UN Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly to launch the process of establishing an International Agency for Biological Safety, an initiative he first proposed in his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2020, a year when the world was struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The special multilateral body is expected to be based on the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and accountable to the UN Security Council.
President Tokayev also reiterated Kazakhstan’s initiative to establish a UN Regional Center for SDGs for Central Asia and Afghanistan in Almaty. Speaking about the growing importance of Central Asia as a “cohesive and independent” part of the international community, he emphasized the regional agenda also includes Afghanistan, which should become a stable, prosperous state and a trustworthy trade partner.
The world needs a better global food security system. Tokayev brought up data indicating that nearly 10% of the world’s population faced hunger last year.
“We must boost voluntary information exchange on food security, including volumes of production, and the export and import of food products. In concert, we must enable the transparent tracking of funding from the international community in response to food crises,” said Tokayev.
He suggested Kazakhstan can act as a regional food supply hub, saying the nation has all the required resources, infrastructure and logistics in place for these purposes. The country is one of the world’s largest producers of wheat and barley, among other grains.
“Kazakhstan is already a reliable link for nearly 80% of overland transit traffic between Asia and Europe. The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route – the so-called Middle Corridor – can significantly strengthen East-West engagement. This route could increase the pace of trade between critical markets, cutting by almost half the amount of time required to transport goods via the maritime route,” he said.
Climate change efforts lack proper funding
Tokayev proposed to launch the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) in Kazakhstan to ensure equitable funding to address climate change in developing economies.
JETPs are country-led partnerships between developed and developing countries that aim to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy in a way that is fair and inclusive. They are designed to support developing countries in retiring coal-fired power plants, developing renewable energy, and creating new economic opportunities for workers and communities affected by the transition.
“A gradual, sustainable, and socially responsible shift away from coal would be a big bonus for global climate change goals. Kazakhstan’s initiative to open the Project Office for Central Asia on Climate Change and Green Energy in Almaty can lead on these issues,” said Tokayev.
JETPs were first announced at COP26 in Glasgow, when South Africa was promised $8.5 billion in financing by France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
The Regional Climate Summit, which Kazakhstan will host in 2026 under UN auspices, will spotlight these challenges and more.
Next year, Kazakhstan will also assume the chairmanship of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, a joint initiative of Central Asian states that commenced in 1993. Tokayev and his counterparts met in Dushanbe on Sept. 15, two days before his visit to New York, to discuss the prospects for enhancing regional cooperation within IFAS.
“We will continue efforts to prevent further degradation of the environment and its impact on livelihoods around what was once the fourth largest lake on the planet,” he added.