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CICA – a bastion of peace and security in Asia

October 5 this year marks the 30th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s initiative to convene the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). This initiative, proclaimed in 1992, has become one of the most notable and successful foreign policy actions in the history of our country. Through its implementation, Kazakhstan has cemented in the international community its reputation as a state firmly committed to peace, security and cooperation for the common good.

The success of the initiative, in my view, was not by chance or a happy coincidence. It was predetermined by a precise, impeccably verified reading of the geopolitical situation and its prospects by the Kazakhstani leadership.

It is known that the idea of creating an international organization for security and cooperation in Asia was hatched back in the days of the Soviet Union, but then it was not developed. The main obstacle to its implementation was the heterogeneous political and economic composition, diverse interests and sometimes deep contradictions among Asian countries, which led to their unpreparedness to solve them by political and diplomatic methods.  The overt rivalry between Moscow and Washington for influence in this part of the world also played a role. As a result, Asia at that time was not yet mature enough to cooperate within the framework of a single continental organization.

On the cusp of the 1990s, the world changed dramatically. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the formation of new independent states, the paradigm of antagonism between the socialist and capitalist camps gave way to ideas of cooperation, and tensions between major Asian countries eased. All this made it possible to revive the idea of an Asian “OSCE,” which was proposed by Kazakhstan in the person of CICA.

It should be noted that the way to convene the Meeting was not easy. It took several years of hard diplomatic work to bring the initiative of the Head of State to the stage of practical implementation. The RK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its foreign agencies worked tirelessly with their foreign counterparts to convey to them the goal and objectives of the planned meeting and to explain Kazakhstan’s position on this initiative. Throughout 1994-2002, a number of meetings of the Ad Hoc Working Group, the Committee of Senior Officials, and meetings at the level of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs were held, before the I CICA Summit was finally held in June 2002. A huge contribution to the success of Kazakhstan’s endeavor at that stage was made by both domestic diplomats (K. Tokayev, V. Gizzatov, B. Nurgaliyev, K. Abuseitov, and others) and ambassadors of Asian countries and representatives of international organizations accredited in Kazakhstan. Thanks to their meticulous coordinated work two statutory documents were formed – the Almaty Declaration of Principles (accepted at the CICA summit in September 1999) and the Catalogue of Confidence-Building Measures (accepted at the CICA summit in October 2004), as well as organizational preparation for the 1st Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. The Almaty Act adopted at that historic forum defined the general issues of security and cooperation between states, sources of international threat, and formulated confidence-building measures, which should guide the CICA participating states in their activities.

Today, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia has become a powerful dialogue platform, which by its parameters and importance can well be recognized as a leading instrument of pan-Asian policy. CICA members are 27 countries of the continent, 8 more countries, including non-Asian Belarus, the United States, Ukraine, and five international organizations (UN, International Organization for Migration, OSCE, the League of Arab States, the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States) are observers. In addition, CICA partners are 5 more organizations – ECO, SCO, SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. Sixty percent of the world’s population and about 40% of the global GDP are concentrated here in terms of purchasing power parity.

The principles of relations among the CICA member states fully correlate with the UN Charter and international law. As such, the Almaty Act of CICA enshrines: sovereign equality and respect for sovereign rights; peaceful settlement of conflicts; economic, social and cultural cooperation; non-interference in the internal affairs of states; non-use of force or threat of force; territorial integrity of states; disarmament and arms control; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

 The Almaty Act recognizes the implementation of confidence-building measures as the main instrument for achieving CICA goals. It is noteworthy that, because of the complexity of relations on the Asian continent, the Catalogue of Confidence-Building Measures and the measures listed therein are of a recommendatory nature and can be applied selectively by CICA members.

At the same time, work on the Catalogue is continuing. The updated Catalogue of Confidence-Building Measures, which is expected to be adopted at this year’s Summit, covers new priority areas of cooperation, such as epidemiological security, public health and pharmaceuticals, information technology, and counter-terrorism.

In all, CICA covers five security baskets: the politico-military dimension, the fight against new challenges and threats, the economic dimension, the environmental dimension and the human dimension. This is even more than in the OSCE, where there are only three baskets: the politico-military, the environmental-economic and the human dimensions.

Thus, we can state with good reason that the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia is not a formal formation, but a real working institution of international politics.

At the same time, the urgency of today’s global problems that threaten to turn into a comprehensive crisis of civilization is creating more and more reasons for concern. Therefore, an urgent requirement of the day is the creation of conditions for uniting efforts to ensure universal security, stability and sustainable development, including on the Asian continent, which, according to the words of President Tokayev, in the current strategic situation “is turning into the main field of geopolitical battle”.

That is why the proposal of the Kazakhstani side to transform CICA into a full-fledged international organization is so topical. Speaking last October before the CICA Ministerial Council, the head of state pointed out that CICA already has all the necessary elements of an international organization, including fundamental documents, governing and working bodies, an operating budget and a permanent secretariat.

“The proposed transformation will emphasize Asia’s new role in global affairs. The move would also reaffirm member states’ commitment to a truly common, indivisible and comprehensive security architecture on the largest continent,” he said.

The transformation of CICA into the Organization for Security and Development (OSD) is expected to be one of the key issues at the Sixth Summit of the Conference on 12-13 October this year. In case the participants of the forum support the Kazakh proposal, the Summit will become one of the largest events of world politics this year, equal in importance to the transformation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe into the OSCE in 1995.

With the creation of the OSCE, the continent, for the first time in its history, will have a full-fledged international organization whose decisions will be legally binding and not only recommendatory. Overall, this will pave the way for a truly capable configuration of Asian security, co-operation and shared prosperity.

Yerbulat Seilekhanov,

Chief Research fellow at the representative office of KazISS under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan