This past month, the Chairmanship of the 56 member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization, was assumed by Kazakhstan for the year of 2010. The responsibilities of the Chairmanship include, but are not limited to: Representing the Organization, managing the activities related to conflict prevention, crises, and post-conflict recovery, and coordinating the duties of the OSCE worldwide. The selection of Kazakhstan for the Chair is especially significant for several important reasons.
As an ex- Soviet republic, Kazakhstan has made great inroads from the transition of communist state to full-fledged democracy. While not yet a full-fledged democracy, Kazakhstan has for years been moving in the right direction. As the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence, which occurred on December 16th, 1991, Kazakhstan has made many strides towards becoming an open, more western-leaning democracy, yet they still have much work to do.
I want to acknowledge, however, the progress that Kazakhstan has made, especially in relation to its neighbors. President Nazerbayev’s government continues to push for initiatives instilling confidence in the rule of law and create the infrastructures needed to strengthen the democratic values in the country. While this process has not been straightforward, or without controversy, and understanding that the government has made some questionable decisions recently, Kazakhstan is moving in the right direction. By ensuring further transparency, integrity of elections, the ability of public access to information and media, furthering press and human rights, establishing the freedom of religion Kazakhstan will solidify its place as a leader in the region.
By joining the OSCE, and assuming the chairmanship this year; Kazakhstan’s leadership has proved that their desire to positively contribute to the region. With Chairmanship priorities in the present including such issues as Afghanistan and terrorism, human rights issues, election monitoring, and potential summits, Kazakhstan has a very busy year ahead.
Thus, I would like to welcome my dear friend Foreign Minister and Secretary of State Kanat Saudebayev, who prior to his current roles, was the Kazakhstani Ambassador to the United States for seven years. I look forward to hearing him outline Kazakhstan’s agenda for 2010.