• KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00226 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00226 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00226 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00226 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00226 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00226 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00226 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00226 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%

Viewing results 7 - 12 of 334

The Priority of Maintaining a United and Stable Afghanistan

The issue of inter-ethnic relations in Afghanistan affects not only the country itself but also its surrounding region. Recent history has placed a heightened importance on the “nation” question in Afghanistan in terms of the country’s political and social stability. Since regaining power in 2021, the de facto Taliban authorities have focused primarily on social policies to respond to the people’s immediate needs as well as on implementing trade and economic cooperation with regional countries to realize the geo-economic potential of the country. To a large degree, they have been successful in these endeavors. The important question now is how the Taliban will work to synthesize various ethnic groups into a society that has a strong identity as a nation while preserving the Pashtun status quo and the legacy of Durrani statehood. Afghanistan in its current state is not ready for a federal structure, and outside actors pushing this now could possibly undermine its stability. On the other hand, the country and the wider region have a long history of diverse ethnic and national groups managing to find a way to coexist and function effectively. As the Afghan people try to overcome humanitarian crises and focus on their economic and social recovery, the Taliban’s strategy will likely continue to be based on the consolidation of ethnic groups around itself and under the umbrella of Islam, supported by measures of assimilation and expansion, as Pashtun rulers did in the country’s history. Understanding the historical role of ethnicity and nationality in Afghanistan So far, no modern regime in Afghanistan has been able to significantly advance the idea of “Afghan nationalism,” reflecting the national unity of the country’s people. Slogans about “one nation” have always been promoted by the capital, but did not necessarily reflect realities on the ground. The latest (2004) republican constitution states in its Article 4 that the Afghan nation consists of “Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Baluchis, Pashais, Nuristans, Aimaks, Arabs, Kyrgyz, Qizilbash, Gujars, Brahuis and other tribes,” and that the word “Afghan” applies to every citizen of Afghanistan. This multinational state has so far shown stability in its ethnic groups, but cannot demonstrate their synthesis into a society with a strong self-identification as the Afghan nation, and the term “Afghan” continues to serve as an exonym, a general name for the inhabitants of the country. After regaining power in 2021, the Taliban worked to stop a bloody civil war that had begun in 1978, but faced a set of problems including the big “national question.” Against the backdrop of demands from the international community to ensure an inclusive government, the idea of federalism is once again being brought up in information spheres, which, according to its few supporters, presents the only way to ensure long-term peace in this diverse country. Discussions about federalism in Afghanistan are not new and are largely connected to events in recent history, primarily the civil war that began in 1978 with the “April Revolution.” That said, there has not been enough technical analysis...

The Middle Corridor: How Kazakhstan is Carving its Niche in Europe-Asia Transport

In the aftermath of the pandemic and amid rising geopolitical tensions and sanctions – leading to the breakdown of traditional shipping and logistics chains – the need to develop new, alternative routes for trade has gained particular importance. One such route is the Middle Corridor, or Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, which has become a priority project for Kazakhstan and its neighbors. In this overview we look at the prospects for this multi-modal transnational route. The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), or Middle Corridor, starts in China, passes through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, before reaching Europe. Last year, more than 2.7 million tons of cargo was transported along the TITR, up 86% on 2022, whilst it is expected to carry 4 million tons this year. Drivers of growth This growth in volumes has been facilitated by the conflict in Ukraine and restrictions on the transport of goods through Russia, which previously represented the main land route connecting East and West. As a result, in 2022 the volume of container traffic via the TITR grew 33% year-on-year. In addition, amid the geopolitical tensions that have effected the safety of traversing the Suez Canal and the Red Sea – the central and shortest trade route between Asia and Europe – many shipping companies have been forced to go around the southern tip of Africa. This has led to an increase of 14-18 days in the delivery time of goods, as well as additional costs. Because of attacks by Houthi rebels, the number of container ships passing through the Suez Canal each week was down 67% year-on-year in 2023, according to the UN. Meanwhile, in the first two months of 2024, trade volumes along the route decreased 43%. According to data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development, last year the cost of transporting goods from Shanghai to European countries by sea roughly tripled. At the same time, shipping goods by rail from inland Chongqing to Europe was a third cheaper than by sea. Experts note that over the past decade, the total cost of transporting goods between China and Europe by rail has fallen 30%. All this opens wide opportunities for the further development of the TITR, which should be taken advantage of by countries along the route. Middle Corridor countries working together Today, to ensure safe and uninterrupted exports, as well as to attract more flows through Kazakhstan and other TITR countries, measures are being taken. Indeed, the route is considered a strategic initiative for the development of the entire region’s transport potential. During a recent visit to Azerbaijan, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that in the future the volume of cargo transported via the TITR should increase to 10 million tons, which is to be facilitated now by both existing demand and technology. At the end of 2022, a roadmap for 2022-27 was signed to eliminate bottlenecks along the route in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey, while to boost the volume of cargo transported by rail a...

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: the EU’s Indecisive Strategy Towards Eurasia

Times of Central Asia Editorial Marking the next chapter in the geopolitical re-balancing competition between Russia and the West, the European Parliament (EP) on 13 March passed a resolution on deepening ties between the EU and Armenia. The document puts forth the possibility of granting Armenia candidate status for EU membership. Shortly after, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister stated that a new cooperation agreement with the EU could be signed by July 2024. The EP’s “Renew Europe” block, at the forefront of some of the harshest motions and resolutions against Central Asian republics in the EU, endorsed this outreach towards Armenia. This comes a few weeks after Armenia froze its participation in the Russian-led military alliance of six post-Soviet states, known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), after citing the Organization’s failure to fulfill its obligations towards Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan. These recent developments should be considered in the wider context of the EU’s eastward outlook, which has not always been evenhanded. Previously, on 17 January 2024, the EP had passed a resolution detailing the EU’s strategy on Central Asia, which recognized that the region is of “strategic interest to the EU in terms of security and connectivity, as well as energy and resource diversification, conflict resolution, and the defense of the multilateral rules-based international order”. European leaders ostensibly want to bring the Caucasus and Central Asia into the Western fold and away from Russia, China and other competing regimes or ideologies. Economic and security considerations may indeed pull European and Eurasian interests closer. Nonetheless, Central Asian states will likely, and understandably, choose to implement a multi-faceted foreign policy to diversify their trade and security alliances as they continue to transact and maintain working relationships with their powerful regional neighbors. Note that Chinese, Russian and other non-Western investment promises in Central Asia outweigh similar engagements from the EU. There remain other potential obstacles to further cooperation. Not surprisingly, the EU seeks to have a degree of “values alignment” before establishing economic and security partnerships in the region, such as strengthened rule of law, human rights, and freedoms. On the other hand, the EU is sometimes perceived as giving conflicting and even insincere messages. Examples with regard to Central Asia include instances where the EU has asked for progress in certain areas, but then failed to acknowledge policy implementation, or even doubled down on its criticisms despite positive steps taken by the targeted country’s leadership. Take, for instance, the discussions in the EU around the violent unrest in Kazakhstan in January 2022. The EU has called on Kazakhstan to investigate the events and to undertake reforms. In the last two years, Kazakhstan’s president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has overseen a batch of ambitious reforms, including enhanced political participation and representation as well as a stronger legal system and improved human rights, which are essentially unprecedented in the region. The progress made, however, does not seem to have materially swayed the EU’s outlook on the country. In terms of the investigations and...

Central Asia Can Help Bring Afghanistan into the International Fold

Afghanistan's situation remains deeply troubling, reflecting a complex history of conflict and political instability that has severely impacted its social and economic fabric. The Soviet Union's invasion 45 years ago, followed by the Taliban's rise to power in 1996 and the U.S. involvement after the September 2001 terrorist attacks linked to Al-Qaeda, and finally the Taliban’s return to leadership in 2021, have all shaped the current crisis. Today, Afghanistan appears no closer to becoming a functioning state capable of contributing positively to the global community. As recent as 2020, nearly half of the country’s population lived below the poverty line. The plight of women and girls continues to be particularly dire as they have been denied secondary education since the Taliban regained power nearly three years ago. An invigorated engagement with the international community would no doubt provide multiple benefits to not only Afghanistan’s own people but also to the larger region. Whether the troubled country remains a zone of conflict or becomes a contributor to a sustainable future will depend on its ability and willingness to eventually integrate into broader regional and global frameworks. A state’s adherence to modern democratic values is often seen as one of the conditions for recognition as a genuine international partner by the global community. These norms are usually associated with Western-oriented ideologies and are therefore difficult for today’s Taliban-led Afghanistan to embrace and implement. There are possible ways to bridge this apparent divide. At a meeting held in Doha on 18-19 February 2024, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reported that he had begun consultations on the appointment of a UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan to “coordinate engagement between Kabul and the international community.” Pakistan, who shares a 2,640-km border with Afghanistan, proposed that the envoy should be a “Muslim, experienced diplomat and from the region”. Pakistan’s candidacy is tarnished, however, by accusations that it provided military support to the Taliban, which Pakistan’s government denies. Turkey, another possibility, is a NATO member that has sustained political and economic ties with Afghanistan. However, its geographical distance makes it less of a stakeholder in the economic and security environments impacted by Afghanistan and as such, it lacks some of the necessary incentives and leverage points needed to influence Afghanistan’s actions.   Central Asia’s unique insights and motivations to help Afghanistan In the same Doha gathering, Guterres also proposed establishing a contact group of states that might include the “P-5 [the United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom] with a group of regional countries and relevant donors” for a more coordinated approach to engaging Afghanistan’s “de facto authorities”. The Central Asian republics making up the “C-5” should certainly be considered among the “regional countries” grouping that Guterres mentioned. Firstly, Central Asia has been affected by economic and security developments in Afghanistan, including narcotics trafficking, as well as by the overflow radical extremism and a resurgence of the militant cause. The region plays critical role today in curtailing the spread of illiberal and violent ideologies and...

Creation of Kazakhstan–Azerbaijan “Supreme Interstate Council” Marks New Era of Cooperation

Diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have developed dynamically since they were first established in August 1992, and have increased over the past 20 years, and grown especially since 2017. Over the last decade, the number of high-level visits in both directions have been rising to the point where they are now regular occurrences at an inter-ministerial level. That said, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s state visit to Baku on March 11–12 represents yet another new phase in the two countries’ strategic partnership with a focus on trade, economic investment, and international cooperation. This new era is marked by the creation of their bilateral Supreme Interstate Council (SIC), a qualitatively recent development that will institutionalize and drive cooperation in new ways. (Readers should note here that the connotation of “Supreme” in this case signifies “high-level” rather than “having sovereign or autonomous power”. This is exactly the difference, respectively, between the Russian-language adjectives vysshii - literally “high-level” or “highest” - and verkhovnyi - the USSR’s Supreme Soviet, its highest legislative body, was verkhovnyi. This is a matter of choice of terms for translation. “Supreme” has been adopted following the usage of the countries concerned in their English-language public discourse, but it should not be misunderstood.) Although the Kazakhstan–Azerbaijan SIC has only just held its first meeting and is not yet fully institutionalized, it would seem from diplomatic indications that its activity is likely to resemble that of the Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) between Turkey and Azerbaijan. This latter forum was created in 2019 to subsume the two countries’ bilateral Strategic Cooperation Council, which was founded in 2010. Cooperation organized by this bilateral SPC broadly covers four issue areas: military-political and security issues, military and military-technical cooperation, humanitarian issues, and economic cooperation. These areas are listed in order of priority, meaning that the SPC and the SIC’s first focus is on cooperation related to military and security issue areas, plus other relevant issues that these may indicate. Nevertheless, cooperation in the humanitarian and economic spheres, which has been ongoing for some time, is sometimes folded into these top-priority areas within the existing consultative structures. The agreements signed at the November 2021 presidential summit between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan had foreseen the formation of a bilateral SIC between them as well. Now that both these parties have ratified their Treaty of Allied Relations, also signed at that time, this SIC’s first meeting is scheduled for August of this year. Following the pattern of what is known about the SIC with Azerbaijan, it will be formally chaired by the two heads of state and organized by their respective foreign ministries. The speakers of their parliaments’ lower houses and representatives of security councils may join in the work as necessary. Thus, security and foreign-policy issues will be the main concern in the first instance. Nevertheless, like the SIC between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the one between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is likely in the medium term to develop organizationally along the lines of the Turkish-Azerbaijani Strategic Cooperation Council, eventual transformation...

Letting Women Lead: Bridging the Finance Gap for Women-Led Businesses

Opinion by Hela Cheikhrouhou, IFC Regional Vice President, Middle East, Central Asia, Türkiye, Afghanistan, and Pakistan I get to meet many courageous women in my work for IFC in Southwest and Central Asia. [1] I’ve witnessed the seemingly insurmountable challenges they encounter every day. I’ve seen the unyielding resolve of rural women in Tattha, Pakistan in the face of climate change-induced severe floods, and the stunting of their children due to a lack of potable water. I’ve heard the heartening stories of female leaders shattering the glass ceiling in Kuwait. I’ve had passionate discussions with women entrepreneurs who are struggling to secure financing in a region where very few formal enterprises are majority owned by women. In Kazakhstan, that proportion is just 23.8 percent. In Jordan, it’s 8.1, in Lebanon, 4.7. Closing the economic gender gap is even more urgent due to the region’s poor performance in the World Bank's Women, Business and Law 2023 score: Nearly half its countries ranked lowest on the index. Their struggles remain largely invisible to the world. But, with entrenched economic challenges and escalating fragility and conflict, we can no longer afford to avert our eyes from the issues faced by half of the global population. The numbers reveal a disturbing gender disparity. In 2022, female labor force participation in the Middle East, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Türkiye (MCT) stood at 26 percent of women at working age, compared to 75 percent for men. This isn’t just a matter of equity—failing to bridge economic gender gaps in these countries casts a dark shadow on the region's annual GDP. The valiant voices I've encountered have shone a light on the key challenges preventing women from thriving in, or even entering the work force: the lack of flexible working arrangements, robust measures to combat harassment, safe transportation, affordable childcare, and better access to a quality education. Showcasing female role models would also help inspire girls and young women to pursue a career. In the entrepreneurial landscape, the uneven playing field makes survival and growth an uphill battle for women-led businesses. The dearth of funding directed towards women entrepreneurs is another key obstacle—a mere 7 percent of private equity and venture capital in emerging markets is invested in women-founded startups. Many factors contribute to women’s limited access to startup capital. One reason is this staggering statistic: only about 15% of all VC 'cheque-writers' are women. This glaring absence of a female perspective in the venture capital space invites unconscious biases. A lack of collateral, due to limitations on women’s access to asset ownership, further exacerbates women entrepreneurs' lack of access to funding. But the challenges go far beyond finance. Social and cultural norms act as significant barriers to women's entrepreneurship. For example, cultural expectations see childcare responsibilities placed mainly on women—preventing them from excelling in the entrepreneurship space. Yet hidden behind these challenges are outsized opportunities. The potential benefits of financing women-led businesses are substantial for both banks and investors. Research consistently shows that a gender-balanced portfolio...

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