According to the Chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan, illegal migration, climate change, drugs and human trafficking represent today the main threats to humanity
© EPA/LUKAS LEHMANN
The United Nations should remain a credible and indispensable universal organization that enhances its central role in international affairs. This opinion was expressed by the Chairman of the Senate (the upper house of the parliament) of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his interview to TASS. From 2011 to 2013, he was Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Personal Representative of the UN Secretary General, the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament.
- Mr. Tokayev, how did you react to your appointment to a position at the UN? What were your thoughts when you assumed new responsibilities?
- My appointment to a high position at the United Nations in March 2011 came as a surprise for the international community since it was the first time in the UN history when a representative of Asia was put at the head of UNOG. The Office at Geneva, the second largest United Nations office site (second to the United Nations Headquarters in New York), is a global center of international affairs. I viewed my appointment as a recognition of the international prestige of my country and, of course, its President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Therefore, I assumed my new functions with a sense of great responsibility and appreciation for the confidence in me.
- What was the most memorable moment during your work at the UN?
- The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon entrusted me with a mandate to strengthen the role of UNOG as a major "hub" of multilateral diplomacy. Geneva is, indeed, a unique place for meetings and negotiations on the most challenging issues of our time. There are 30 international organizations and many non-governmental entities dealing with international affairs. The task was to leverage that advantage to achieve priority goals of the UN: strengthen peace and security, develop international cooperation, promote sustainable development and protect human rights.
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For two and a half years, I was involved in a large number of important events since UNOG provides political, administrative, protocol, conference and information support to some 10,000 international events each year. One of the most significant events, in my opinion, took place on 30 June 2012 when "Geneva-1", the first international conference on Syria, was held there. It adopted Final Communiqué drafted by the Action Group for Syria, which laid the legal ground for a possible settlement of the Syrian crisis. One should note the decisive contribution by Russia to that agreement, which remains, up to this moment, the only institutional arrangement on Syria, largely thanks to an indisputable role played by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov.
Consultations and negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme, which took place in 2013 in Geneva, represented another major development. They resulted in a truly historic agreement, which became a starting point for further talks on that issue.
I recall with warmth the opening of a multifunctional conference room "Kazakhstan" at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, a gift of our people to the community of nations.
In other words, I had the opportunity to take part in numerous international events, each of which was interesting and important. That is the specificity of Geneva as a global center of international diplomacy.
- What UN resolution was the most memorable for you?
- I would mention the UN General Assembly resolution 67/56 of 3 December 2012, entitled "Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations", which established an open-ended working group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons. That document was a significant boost for the Conference on Disarmament, whose work in recent years had been deadlocked. As the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, I also initiated the establishment of an informal working group to prepare a programme of work of the forum, a key document of the Conference produced each year, containing topics for discussion in the area of disarmament. Since the Conference has failed, for many years now, to adopt such a document, it cannot proceed to finalize critically important multilateral disarmament agreements, in particular the fissile material cutoff treaty.
I also had the opportunity to represent the United Nations at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit as a member of the delegation led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
In broader terms, the UN GA resolution 46/224 of 2 March 1992 on the admission of our country to the membership of the Organization is a historic document for Kazakhstan.
A number of resolutions, which were extremely important for Kazakhstan, dealt with nuclear-free themes, among them the resolution 52/169M of 1997 on the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan affected by nuclear tests. In 2009, the UN General Assembly, upon the initiative of Kazakhstan, unanimously adopted the resolution 64/35 that declared 29 August (the day of closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing site in 1991) as the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
- What is your position regarding sanctions policy, which is currently pursued in the relations between countries?
- Application of international sanctions is the exclusive prerogative of the UN Security Council. In fact, it is about legitimate enforcement action taken against the violator of international law. A textbook example "of sanctions in action" is the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 1192 (1998) demanding from Libya to ensure the appearance in the Netherlands for the trial by court of the two persons charged with the bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988. You might remember that compliance with UN demands by the Libyan authorities opened the way to the lifting of the sanctions.
As for the current sanctions confrontation between the West and Russia, it is a totally different situation, which goes beyond the UN. It has an extremely negative effect on the political and economic situation in the world, considering that it somehow involves almost all the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Kazakhstan stands against the sanctions diplomacy that affects countries and nations that have nothing to do with the global conflict. We believe that the central role of the UN in international affairs should be strengthened.
- What, in your opinion, are the main challenges facing the United Nations today?
- When we mention the United Nations, we mean the civilized world community. As the "best invention of mankind in the twentieth century", the Organization should continue to be a common platform for the joint solution of urgent problems facing the world.
If we talk about specific challenges, then the community of nations has to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. It is a matter of vital importance.
Another challenge is of a complex nature – it is a menacing scale of transnational threats. It is clear that you cannot control all the processes of globalization; however, the humanity somehow has to address its negative effects. I refer to major imbalances in the development of different countries, the scale of illegal migration, climate change, pollution of transboundary water basins, air and soil, pandemics, cybercrime, drug trafficking, human trafficking.
We see today the consolidation of dangerous violent extremist organizations, which also requires close attention. I refer to the criminal group called "Islamic State" and other terrorist groups using Islam as a cover. The UN should consolidate the efforts of all States in the fight against that evil.
The culture of global peace, the moral values of the new generation, the principles of intercivilizational co-existence – all these issues also have to be clearly understood and dealt with jointly by all members of the community of nations. The community of nations is quite capable of addressing these and other complex issues and in this respect the potential of the Charter of the United Nations is far from being fully tapped. The UN must remain a credible and indispensable universal organization.
At the same time, the UN will have to quickly adapt to political, economic and technological realities. Coordination among all international organizations is also needed to avoid duplication of efforts. The organization must get rid of multilayered bureaucracy and simplify and speed up its decision-making process, which affects so many people.
I like the proposal by the Group of Elders, made up by Kofi Annan, Martti Ahtisaari, and Gro Harlem Brundtland, regarding the selection of the UN Secretary-General. Indeed, in the future we should not be tied by the principle of regional origin of candidates and to elect the Secretary-General mainly based on competencies and credibility.
In this regard, I would like to commend the current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose high mobility and efficiency help him address acute and dangerous situations around the world. He is a fair leader and just a good man, and therefore is well respected in the international community, particularly in Kazakhstan. There is no doubt that his political legacy as the UN Secretary-General will be positive because he does a lot to promote mutual understanding and cooperation among States on sensitive issues of climate change, sustainable development, reducing the number of hungry people.