The 75th-anniversary of the United Nations. Сonsolidation of the voices of  Central Asian countries on global level

The 75th-anniversary of the United Nations. Сonsolidation of the voices of Central Asian countries on global level

The 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly is taking place in truly exceptional conditions this year. The milestone anniversary of the global organization coincidedwith the global pandemic which is transforming the world in unseen ways.National governments and international organizations alike must update their long-term visions and strategies to take into account the new realities of the world.

The United Nations was created with two main goals in mind. Firstly, it was meant to be a “general international organization” to maintain and strengthen internationalpeace and security. Secondly, the United Nations sought to achieve international cooperation in the solutionof international economic and social problems faced bythe international societyof states.Beyond these goals, world peoples aspired to see in the UN an embodiment of the international community. German international lawyer Bruno Vassbender famously said that the Charter of the United Nations had a vocation to become ‘the Constitution of International Community’. Over the decades of its existence, the United Nations effectively become a truly global organization representing both the international society of states and the international community of world peoples. As stated in the  Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the United Nations, adopted by world leaders on 21st September 2020, ‘ there is no other global organization with the legitimacy, conveningpower and normative impact of the United Nations. No other global organizationgives hope to so many people for a better world and can deliver the future we want’.

At the same time, the United Nations is operating in an international system that is facing unprecedentedchallenges today. The world is marked by instability and conflict, growing inequalities, rising populism, and, most importantly, by the global pandemic of COVID-19 which aggravates existing problems and creates new tensions on states, societies, and multilateralinstitutions.A Pew Research Center survey of 14,276 people across 14 countries conducted in summer 2020 finds that the United Nations is more credited for championing human rights and peace butless for dealing effectively with international issues or caring about the needs of ordinary people. In the same survey, overriding the majority of survey participants believe thatcountries around the world should act as part of a global community that works together to solve problems.According to poll data of Gallup, only 43% of participants find that the UN is doing a good job while 54% think that the UN is doing a poor job in trying to solve the problems it has had to face. The fact of the United Nations scoring less in effectively dealing with international issues while the support for international cooperation creates high expectations from the United Nations. Hence, the 75th-anniversary session of the UN General Assembly is built on a composite agenda that reflects both the need to reinvigorate commitment in multilateral cooperation with the UN at the center and the urgency to come up with working solutions to the most pressing needs of member states and their populations. The main topic of the UN General debate is reflective of this agenda: “The Future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateral action."In addition to the annual General Debate, the following high-level events are organized:Commemoration of the 75th-anniversary of the UN, Biodiversity Summit, 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing+25), and a high-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.In this context, the United Nations must do more to maintain and develop its status of‘the main platform for multilateralism and cooperation on a rules-based international system’ as described by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.Voices of countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are acquiring more importance from this perspective. The global platform of the UN must make more place for the needs, aspirations, and visions of peoples of Central Asia. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan both need the involvement of the UN and other multilateral institutions for the development and prosperity of their countries but also, they have substantial contributions to offer to carry further the UN and international system towards shared aspirations of humankind. Speeches of presidents Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Shavkat Mirziyoyev within the 75th General Assembly calls for closer attention as they provide essential information about expectations of our countries from multilateralism and the vision our countries offer to the world.  President Tokayev has celebrated the historic decision taken in 1945 to create the United Nations which has launched an 'era of really active and broad international cooperation'. For him, the history of the UN represents a 'period of intense collective efforts and rich learning: from decolonization to development, from child protection to climate change, from health to human rights, from peacekeeping to peacemaking'. In his speech, President Tokayev unequivocally stated ‘a clearstatement of commitment of Kazakhstan to the UN mission and Charter, and to the shared aspiration of building a more peaceful, just and prosperous world'.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan is also scheduled to speak this week at the UN General Debate. This speech is also important in several ways. Firstly, Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s foreign policy openinghas created a more favorable environment for regional and multilateral action to address international issues relevant to countries of Central Asia. The main foreign policy goal of Uzbekistan in this era is described by Minister of Foreign Affairs AbdulazizKomilov in the following terms: ‘Foreign policy priority is to pursue an open and constructive policy towards its closest neighbors, solving the problems of Central Asia based on equality, mutual consideration of interests and search for reasonable compromises. All these efforts should be aimed at turning Central Asia into a region of stability, security, and prosperity’. This foreign policy opening coupled with real-life implementations gives more weight and yields more attention to the forthcoming speech. Secondly, Thirdly, Shavkat Mirziyoyev is expected to make his UN speech in the Uzbek language. This will be forthe first time in the history of the UN that the head of state of Uzbekistan will profess a speech in the national language. This announcement has already created huge enthusiasm among Uzbek society. Thirdly, and more importantly for Kazakhstan and Central Asia, agendas proposed by Presidents  Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Shavkat Mirziyoyev from the platform of the United Nations contribute to the consolidation of Central Asian perspective on international order and the United Nations.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s speech is necessarily analyzed through the prism of recent accomplishments of his administration in terms of politics of openness, economic development, and political reforms initiated since his election as the head of state of Uzbekistan. This includes Uzbekistan’s foreign policy opening and fulfillment of its obligations under international law. National and international public opinions highlight the process of emergence of new Uzbekistan as a result of a set of reforms aimed at the political and economic modernization of the country. The results of these reforms appear on many fronts. Uzbekistan has increasingly focused on promoting balanced gender politics which led to a two-fold increase in the number of women MPs while women are increasingly occupying top leadership positions in the government, academia, and diplomatic community. Uzbekistan is actively trying to improve its human rights record which is an important indicator for national and international audiences. Uzbekistan has adopted a National Human Rights Strategy in June 2020 which aims, among others, the unconditional execution of national action plans (“roadmaps”) aimed at implementing the recommendations of international organizations on the protection of human rights. Uzbekistan has also started to award citizenship to individuals without citizenship living in Uzbekistan. Fifty thousand citizenships attributed to this category of population in 2020 alone makes an unprecedented record in the history of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is also engaged in improving and liberalizing national legislation related to religious freedom and a new modification of the ‘Law on freedom of faith and religious organizations’ is recently announced as part of these efforts. Fighting poverty is the central focus of most social and economic measures in the country today.

Uzbekistan is also engaged in a fundamentally new model of foreign policy and international action. The priority direction of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy is declared asthe Central Asian region. This priority direction translates into practice both in supporting positive initiatives launched by Kazakhstan and other countries of the region as well as proposing new ideas and projects to promote economic development, prosperity, and stability in the region. Uzbekistan has thus supported the candidacy of Kazakhstan to non-permanent membership at the UN Security Council in the recent past, it has expressly appreciated the contribution of Kazakhstan to promote the non-proliferation agenda, and it has also unequivocally expressed the importance of bilateral relations with Kazakhstan. This opening was met with positive reactions from Kazakhstan. The idea of organizing regular consultative meetings of the head of state of Central Asian countries was fully supported by Kazakhstan’s leadership. Uzbekistan’s vision of promoting Central Asian regional cooperation by developing transport infrastructure linkages is similarly shared by the Kazakh side.The designation of Central Asia as a priority region in the foreign policy of Uzbekistan has also led to a substantial increase in intra-regional trade which increased almost five-fold in the past four years. This kind of concrete measures which are part of the Central Asian direction of Uzbekistan foreign policy is contributing to strengthening good neighborliness, mutual trust, friendship, and respect in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan’s international initiatives are also of great importance for the Central Asian region. In particular, tworecent examples highlight the relevance and importance of Uzbekistan’s initiatives for the stability and socio-economic development of our region. The first example of Uzbekistan’s international initiatives is the reinvigorated contribution of Uzbekistan to solving the long-lasting problem of instability in Afghanistan. On one hand, Uzbekistan adopts the policy of comprehensive assistance in Afghanistan’s integration into a regional trade, economic, transport, communication aid energy links. On the other hand, Uzbekistan has increased its efforts to foster dialogue between conflicting parties of the Afghan conflict and to mediate mutually agreed solutions. According to observers, Uzbekistan’s contribution to the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan concluded in February 2020 in the city of Doha, Qatar was important.The second example of global initiatives articulated by Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s administration is the topic of youth rights. Samarkand Forum on Human Rights was organized in August 2020 to discuss the topic of rights of youth in the world. This Forum is the continuation of efforts to finalize the initiative of adopting an international convention on the rights of youth within the UN system, launched by President Mirziyoyev during the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in 2017. The recent situation in the world, caused by global pandemic risks to wipe out recent efforts of the global community in promoting and protecting the well-being of young populations. A recent survey with participants from 112 countries conducted by the International Labor Organization on the impact of COVID-19 on young people asserts that the global pandemic had a systematic, deep, and disproportionate impact on youth. Young women, younger youth, and youth in lower-income countries are among the most vulnerable categories impacted by disruptions of the pandemic. According to Oxfam, the world youth has suffered dramatic consequences of the global pandemic: 1,54 billion youth are out of school, 1in 4 young people face conflict and violence on top of the pandemic, and hunger and unemployment increasing worldwide. In this context, the voice of Uzbekistan to expressly identify youth problems on the global level and to adopt an international convention merits close attention from the world community.

As mentioned by Uzbekistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, a new atmosphere of political trust and mutual rapprochement between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is laying a solid foundation for addressing bilateral, regional, and international issues constructively and effectively. This will surely lead to consolidation of the voice of Central Asia at the global level. 

Ikboljon Qoraboyev (PhD in International Law, University of Toulouse, France)

Associate Professor of International Relations at M. Narikbayev KAZGUU University, Kazakhstan/Associate Research Fellow of the United Nations University Institute for Comparative Regional Integration Studies, Belgium



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