Human Rights & Disarmament Should Be UN Priority, Kazakh FM Says in Geneva

The international community, with the UN at the forefront, should keep human rights and disarmament at the top of its agenda, while Kazakhstan stands ready to help in every way it can. Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov delivered this message as he spoke at the meetings of the UN Human Rights Council and the Disarmament Conference in Geneva on February 27 and 28.

Thanks to the United Nations work, the world has seen remarkable progress on human rights since its creation over six decades ago, Kazykhanov said speaking at the 19th HRC session on February 27.

“Many hundreds of millions of people live in greater prosperity, security and freedom than ever before, their intrinsic dignity as human beings respected and with the chance to improve the lives of their families and communities,” he said.

Yet there are new challenges such as climate change, increasing energy concerns, water and food shortages, armed conflicts and terrible famines. “This calls for the international community, with the UN at the forefront, to keep human rights at the top of its agenda in a fair and equal manner. Kazakhstan, as a country that has come a long way over its 20 years of independence, stands ready to help in every way it can,” Kazykhanov added.

He said the Council needs to continue improvements in its working methods.  “The selection of candidates for the position of Special Rapporteurs still does not reflect a fair geographical representation... There is room, too, for improved co-ordination between the HRC and other human rights bodies within the UN system,” he said.

Kazykhanov highlighted that Kazakhstan welcomes the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review and has nearly realised 88 percent of the HRC recommendations. He also urged the member states to consider making voluntary contributions to the HRC to strengthen its capacity.

In twenty years, Kazakhstan has achieved considerable success in development. “We are a stable and prosperous country, at peace with ourselves and with our neighbours,” he said, adding that the country is determined to use its influence wherever it can to help find solutions to international problems.

Through Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, over 500 million dollars have been raised to help tackle the devastating famine in Somalia. Kazakhstan has contributed half a million dollars, Kazykhanov said.

“I am pleased to say that last year, at a meeting in Astana, it was decided to establish an OIC Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights,” he noted. “We hope that this body will strengthen the institutional foundations of civil society in the Muslim world and that there can be some fruitful co-operation with the UNHRC.”

Speaking on the situation in Syria, Kazykhanov said the Kazakhstan Government remains convinced “that diplomatic measures for a peaceful settlement there have not been exhausted and that we must step up efforts to prevent any escalation of civil war.”

Speaking at the plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament on February 28, Kazykhanov said that although the year of 2011 was marked by positive trends in the global processes of disarmament and non-proliferation, “the lack of substantive work of the Conference on Disarmament over the past sixteen years continues to cause concern.”

“We believe that this distinguished body should be at the forefront of the disarmament process,” he added.

Kazakhstan considers nuclear disarmament, the negotiations over the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), the provision of negative security assurances, and the prevention of an arms race in outer space to be the four key issues equally critical for the work of the Disarmament Conference. “Each of them is important and requires a collective action. In our view, we should start, as soon as possible, our work on all of them, concurrently,” the Kazakh Foreign Minister said.

Kazakhstan, which has voluntarily relinquished the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal and shut down one of the largest nuclear test sites at Semipalatinsk, remains a staunch supporter of the global process of non-proliferation and nuclear threat reduction.

“Today, it is highly important to overcome the stagnation in the global disarmament process, with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) being its cornerstone,” Kazykhanov said.

He used the floor to once again emphasise the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). “Our country urges all other states that have not yet ratified this important international instrument to speed up the process.” (So far, eight countries, whose ratification is mandatory for the CTBT to enter into force, have yet to do that, including China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States.)

Kazykhanov also reminded about Kazakhstan’s willingness to host an international bank for low-enriched uranium fuel under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In this regard, the country has submitted an application to the IAEA.

“We strongly believe that the establishment of additional reserves of low-enriched uranium, under the auspices of the IAEA, will promote a guaranteed access for all States to nuclear fuel and in no way affect the legitimate and inalienable right of each State Party to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, provided they fully meet the NPT conditions,” Kazykhanov said.

The current year promises to be packed with events in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. The second Global Summit on Nuclear Security will be held in Seoul on March 26-27. In addition, the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the State Parties to the NPT will start its proceedings at the end of April in Vienna.

“All these developments,” Kazykhanov said, “confirm the willingness of States and their leaders to address the issues of disarmament and non-proliferation through joint efforts.”

“We sincerely hope that the Conference on Disarmament will overcome the stalemate for the sake of our common goal - security and peace on the Earth,” he added.