President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's speech at the Plenary Session of Astana International Forum
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests!
It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Astana International Forum. We are joined by friends and colleagues from every continent and from the worlds of government, diplomacy, business, and academia.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our special guests, the Amir of Qatar, the President of Kyrgyzstan, the Chairwoman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, and other distinguished participants.
We are honored by your personal commitment to come here and join us in what we hope will be a fruitful exchange of views on the current state of global economic affairs and issues of regional cooperation. We believe / this is one way of giving expression to a true sense of international partnership.
As we begin this Forum, let me also extend my sincere appreciations to our strategic partner - the United Nations, and its organizations, including the IMF, UNESCO, UNDP, WTO, ESCAP and other international institutions, as well as our media partner CNN.
The Astana International Forum is a dialogue platform with a mission: First, to candidly review the global situation; Second, to identify the leading challenges and crises that confront us; Third, to tackle those challenges through dialogue in a spirit of mutual cooperation; Fourth, to renew and rebuild a common culture of multilateralism; And Fifth, to amplify voices for peace, progress and solidarity. This Forum explicitly promotes greater engagement at a time / when we need it more than ever – a period of unprecedented geopolitical tension. For it to survive, the global system must work for everyone, promoting peace and prosperity for the many / rather than for the few.
We are witnessing the process of eroding of very foundation of the world order that has been built since the creation of the
United Nations. The UN remains to be the only universal global organization which unites all together. Meanwhile, we will not succeed in tackling these challenges in absence of a comprehensive reform of the Security Council. The voices of Middle Powers in the Council need to be amplified and clearly heard.
A handful of recent ‘new crises’ – from Covid-19 to armed conflicts – threaten our fragile international ecosystem. Yet the roots of this dislocation run deeper into our past.
We are also witnessing the return of earlier divisive ‘bloc’ mentalities unseen for 30 years. The forces of division are not purely geopolitical. They are also motivated by economic undercurrents. Economic policy itself is openly weaponized. These confrontations include sanctions and trade wars, targeted debt policies, reduced access or exclusion from financing, and investment screening.Together these factors are gradually undermining the foundation / upon which rests the global peace and prosperity of recent decades: free trade, global investment, innovation, and fair competition.
This in turn fuels social unrest and division within states and tensions between them. Rising inequality, social divides, widening gaps in culture and values: all these trends have become existential threats. Efforts to reverse this tide are more difficult because of widespread disinformation, which is now becoming even more advanced and dangerous. In parallel, new technologies, from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to biotechnologies, have global implications but are being addressed along narrow, national lines only. Together, these pressures are pushing the globalized world order to a breaking point.
The result is growing mistrust which puts negative impact on functioning of prominent international fora, existing frameworks, security regimes,
and non-proliferation mechanisms. Therefore, we face uncertainty, greater instability and conflict. This in turn prompts greater defence spending on advance weaponry, which ultimately guarantees nothing. The proof: for the first time in a half century, we have faced the prospect of the use of nuclear weapons. All this comes at precisely the moment when we urgently need to be focusing on the existential threat of climate change.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The fundamental point is: just as a combination of geopolitical pressures are pushing us apart, we face a clear, strong imperative to come together, to engage, to collaborate, and to align with one another.
At such a time, the Astana International Forum is one of many possible steps to reverse this trend. Only by meeting together, taking counsel together, being mutually honest about our problems, our concerns and our hopes, can the international community address these issues. Only this way can we shape our shared future, and return to the gradual building of a more stable, equitable, and prosperous world for all.
Kazakhstan has long been a crossroad between East and West, North and South. In many ways, this Forum is consistent with the culture and history of the great Eurasian steppe. We take pride in this heritage. It is from this continuous exchange of goods, cultures and ideas that Kazakhstan’s unique national identity and its particular brand of multilateralism have emerged.
Despite geopolitical upheavals Kazakhstan keeps serving as an economic engine in and for Central Asia. We continue to attract significant foreign investment and provide exceptional conditions to do business in Kazakhstan.
At the same time, we hope for a sense of mutual responsibility from our foreign partners. This is our basic policy. This in turn creates equal rights and opportunities for small and medium enterprises that are very instrumental for economic development of my country. Last year, Kazakhstan’s exports increased by almost 40 percent. While a significant proportion of our GDP still comes from the energy sector, our drive towards diversification is accelerating. We are seeing growth across diverse sectors like automotive, pharmaceuticals, processed metals, and mechanical engineering. We invite all of you who wish to explore new avenues for business and economic partnership with us.
For example, the Middle Corridor or Trans-Caspian International Transport Route – linking China to the European Union – is opening up new possibilities for trade and investment. The Route will cut almost in half / the time it takes / to transport goods via the Indian Ocean.
I would also like to emphasize the key role of Kazakhstan in the Belt and Road initiative, which promotes economic development and intraregional connectivity. We aim to foster physical connection among the nations and people present here today, but also to nurture bonds between our communities as partners and friends. Given all these factors, we can now say that Kazakhstan is a truly global, and most importantly, reliable trade and economic partner.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My country has always worked hard to contribute to international peace and security. We are strong proponents of nuclear disarmament and commitment to NPT. Our country initiated the Astana peace process to address the Syrian crisis. Our capital became a home to the Summits of leaders of world religions. The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia headquartered in Astana has become a visible mechanism to address regional and global challenges.
For example, we have strongly engaged in tackling the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. I want to underscore the necessity to further increase comprehensive assistance to the Afghan people under UN auspices. In this context, it is important to establish in Almaty a UN Regional Center for the Sustainable Development Goals for Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Kazakhstan has worked hard to maintain friendly relations with our global and regional partners. And we are committed to a growing regional cooperation agenda with our brother nations of Central Asia.
Within Kazakhstan, we are making renewed reform efforts to embed principles of justice, rule of law, equality, and fairness. My credo is clearly strong: law and order. This is a solid basis for building «Just and Fair Kazakhstan».
In the very short period of time, we have reformed our institutions, curtailed the powers of the presidency, amended our constitution, reset political and economic systems, fought the corruption. So contemporary Kazakhstan is different from what it was, say, two years ago.
Our path to overhaul the existing system is far from over. We understand that political reforms and investments in human capital can save us from the middle-income trap and make our economy more resilient.
Although meaningful transformation has already taken place, there is still much to be done. But we take courage from understanding that to make a successful journey someone must be ready to overcome plenty of pitfalls. We are ready for it.
Of all the challenges we face, perhaps the most existential is climate change. Central Asia is one of its front lines. Even if we successfully limit global temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius by 2050 – which looks increasingly unlikely – we will experience between 2 and 2.5 Celsius of temperature rise here in Central Asia. This will transform or, more precisely, desertify and dehydrate our local environments. We must be prepared for greater difficulties. We are really concerned about the scarcity of water resources. Droughts and floods in Central Asia will cause damage of 1.3 percent of GDP per annum, while crop yields are expected to decrease by 30 percent, leading to around 5 million internal climate migrants by 2050.Our glacier surface has already decreased by 30 percent.
The two great rivers of our region - the Syr Darya and Amu Darya - will lose an estimated 15 percent by 2050. To prevent environmental disaster in the region, we urge that more resources to be allocated to support the International Fund to Save the Aral Sea. Water and climate change are closely linked. Central Asia is a region where water security can be achieved only through close cooperation and efficiently tailored joint measures. To discuss these and other climate related issues in the region, I propose to establish a project office of the Central Asian countries in Almaty and to hold a Regional Climate Summit in Kazakhstan in 2026 under UN and other international organizations’ auspices.
My country could offer tremendous green economy opportunities and finally emerge as a renewable energy hub. However, time is not on our side. To decarbonize and build green economies at the necessary speed, we need resources and partnerships.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our planet’s climate emergency is the clearest example of our interdependence and shared destiny. Whether we like it or not, we are bound together.
Given that reality, those who figure out how to work together / will succeed, and those who don’t / will fail. Multilateralism, centered in the UN’s principles and values, is not merely the most effective way to address this challenge – it is the only path.
These are the principles, the intellectual roots of the Astana International Forum, a space for dialogue to tackle common challenges and move towards cooperation, development and progress.
I am optimistic that constructive discussions in the next two days can begin to move us towards potential solutions and further collaboration. Let me end with a gentle warning. To foster meaningful conversation and cooperation, open-mindedness, tolerance and compromise are required. I wish positive impact for each of you, and for this Forum. Once again, I thank you for joining us today and I wish you fruitful discussion.