The art of representing 131 ethnic groups
We speak to Yerlan Alimbayev, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva
1 Jun 2022

Please tell us briefly about your career, why you joined the diplomatic service, and how you were appointed to your current position as Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN?

Prior to my appointment in Geneva, I had been serving as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, covering bilateral cooperation with European countries. Before that I was Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to India from 2019 to 2021.

I have held a number of posts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Minister-Counselor at Kazakhstan’s Mission in Geneva, then Ambassador-at-large and National Coordinator for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. I started my diplomatic career in 1997. I have degrees from the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations and Al-Farabi Kazakh State University.

What are the main priorities of your mission in 2022?

2022 is the first year of Kazakhstan’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). It is a big responsibility for us and we try to contribute to the work of the Council on the basis of our national priorities. Given the current political climate, the activities of the HRC are in the spotlight. In this context, we see our role as promoters of a balanced and constructive approach to finding compromise solutions on many challenging human rights issues. Kazakhstan is a well-known champion of disarmament, and in this capacity we continue to work actively on nuclear disarmament and a ban on nuclear testing. Another priority is the consistent implementation of President Tokayev’s initiative to create an International Agency on Biological Safety.

Preventing future pandemics is at the core of our cooperation with the WHO. Following the visit of President Tokayev to Geneva in November 2021 and his statement at the WHO Assembly, we work with the organization to strengthen primary health care, promote the certification of QazVac COVID vaccine, and ensure a strong and effective role of the WHO in global efforts to prevent and fight future pandemics.

Another main priority for Kazakhstan is chairing the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of WTO scheduled for June 12-15 in Geneva. For Kazakhstan, chairing and co-hosting such an important event is a great honor and responsibility. As an active supporter of the multilateral trading system, demonstrated by our WTO accession commitments and applied trade policy, my country is interested in achieving meaningful results at MC12 and making a constructive contribution to the discussions on all outstanding issues of the WTO negotiating agenda.

With 131 ethnic groups in the same country, how do you achieve harmony?

Over the last 30 years, the government has always put the unity of the people, their prosperity and harmony, and the security and stability of our citizens first.

President Tokayev has repeatedly underlined that the state policy and the nation’s new identity should be built on the principles of Kazakhstani patriotism, based on trust and interaction between the state and citizens, the principle of civil equality, the unifying role of the state language, and the principle of ‘Unity in Diversity.’

One effective mechanism for preventing the politicization of the ethnic issue is the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. The six World Congresses of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions held in Kazakhstan over the past 19 years have decisively affirmed the viability of the idea of mutual respect and constructive cooperation of leaders of different cultures, religions and societies. Moreover, we abide by our international obligations and are determined to further strengthen our cooperation with the international human rights treaty bodies.

In which cities can the country highlight cultural development?

Great effort is invested in restoring and protecting the historical cities that highlight cultural development in Kazakhstan. One such example is Turkestan – a spiritual capital of the entire Turkic world. This is evidenced by the summit in Turkestan last year. In terms of cultural potential, Nur-Sultan and Almaty also have leading positions. Modern Almaty remains the historical and cultural center of southern Kazakhstan, with an industrial infrastructure and attractive tourist options, while the capital Nur-Sultan is the business, cultural and scientific center of Eurasia, attracting students, entrepreneurs, and tourists from all over the region.

What was the impact of Dostoyevsky on the local culture?

Dostoyevsky is among the prominent names not only of Russian but also of world literature, including Kazakhstan. He had a huge influence on Kazakh literature and the upbringing of the younger generation of Kazakh writers and intellectuals during the 19th century. Dostoyevsky’s memorial home museum in Semey became one of the country’s 100 most important sites.

While living in Kazakhstan, he became friends with the famous Kazakh enlightener and geographer, Shokan Walikhanov. The issues that Dostoevsky and Walikhanov discussed at that time are still relevant today, and excite our current generation. Moreover, it was undoubtedly Kazakhstan that inspired Dostoyevsky to write the famous final lines of his novel “Crime and Punishment.” 

* Julián Ginzo is a member of the Editorial Board of UN Today.
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