• KGS/USD = 0.01134 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09234 0.22%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01134 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09234 0.22%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01134 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09234 0.22%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01134 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09234 0.22%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01134 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09234 0.22%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01134 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09234 0.22%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01134 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09234 0.22%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01134 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09234 0.22%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%

Viewing results 13 - 18 of 337

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...

Religion in the Cities of Kazakhstan – Opinion by Gulmira Ileuova

The research discussed in this article was conducted in July-August 2023 by the Strategy Center for Sociological and Political Studies Public Foundation in collaboration with the office of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Central Asia. A total of 1,604 people were surveyed in six cities. Since the goal of the project was to study atheism and atheistic views, the choice of where to conduct the survey was made based on the latest census data, according to which the following regions/cities had the highest proportions of nonbelievers: Kostanay Region (4.84%), Mangystau Region (4.38%), Almaty (4.32%) and Shymkent (3.65%), versus an average across the whole country of 2.25%. Table 1. Religion of the population of Kazakhstan (%; census data)   Muslim Orthodox Refused to answer Nonbeliever Kazakhstan overall 69.31 17.04 11.01 2.25 In cities 64.45 20.45 11.84 2.81   Of course, the term “nonbeliever” is not necessarily equivalent to the concept of “atheist,” but nevertheless we decided to start with these statistics with the goal of understanding the religious identities of city residents in the given areas and identifying the reasons contributing to the increased share of nonbelievers, including atheists. This study was conducted in cities at three administrative-territorial levels: so-called “cities of republic significance” (Almaty and Shymkent); regional capitals (Kostanay and Aktau); small towns (Rudny and Zhanaozen). The survey in these six cities showed that 72% considered themselves Muslim, 10% Orthodox and 4% atheist (Rudny 5.6%, Almaty 4.7%, Zhanaozen 4.5%, Kostanay 3.0%), while about 1% named other denominations (“protestant movements,” “Baptists,” “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” “New Life”). Twelve percent refused to answer the question, while 1% could not answer. Analyzing the responses to this question by age, we see that there are more atheists in the youngest age group of 18-24 years old at almost 5%, while in this same cohort, as well as in the 31-49 age group there is a higher proportion of Muslims (77% each, versus 65% in the 50+ group). A higher share of people over 50 are Orthodox Christians, while in this oldest group more people also refused to the question (17%). Thus, 87% of city dwellers who took part in the survey reported that they were followers of one religion or another. However, if we use the Dawkins spectrum (of theistic probability) – which we slightly modified for the purposes of this study – we see that among those surveyed only 77% were believers. Overall, only 48% were strong theists, absolutely convinced that God exists. Another 29% were uncertain that God exists but still assume so. Twenty percent classified themselves as agnostics – lacking a clear position on whether God exists or not – while 3% are atheists, strong or uncertain.   Table 2. Which statement best reflects your position? (% of total respondents) Statement Share, % Decided theist (I am convinced that God exists) 47.9 Uncertain theist (I do not know for sure that God exists, but the probability is high, so I believe that he does) 29.4 Agnostic (I do not know whether God exists...

Nurturing Global Partnerships – Opinion by the Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sayasat Nurbek

Kazakhstan, a sprawling and culturally diverse nation nestled in Central Asia, has strategically embraced a multi-vector policy across its foreign relations, economic strategies, and governance. At the heart of this strategy lies Kazakhstan's multi-vector policy in education, a forward-thinking initiative that underscores the nation's commitment to diversification, international collaboration, and educational modernization. International partnerships form a cornerstone of Kazakhstan's educational framework, enriching its academic landscape and fostering innovation. The country has established strategic alliances with prestigious universities, research institutions, and governmental bodies worldwide. Through collaborative endeavors such as joint research ventures, student and faculty exchanges, the implementation of international educational programs, and the establishment of branches of foreign universities within Kazakhstan, the nation endeavors to harness global expertise and best practices to elevate the caliber of its education system.   Multi-Vector Policy in Education Over the past year alone, Kazakhstan has witnessed the opening of eight foreign branches, bringing the total to twelve. The first foreign university established its branch is British De Montfort University. This university opened its doors for its students in 2021, offering educational programs for more than 500 students in such fields as finance, design and business. This branch attracted 16 million US dollars from foreign investors. Noteworthy among these initiatives is Kazakhstan's adoption of a strategic partnership model, which has yielded tangible outcomes. Kozybayev University's collaboration with the University of Arizona in 2022 is a prime example. With 589 students enrolled across ten specialties – spanning pedagogical, biotechnological, and IT domains – this partnership, supported by 1200 full scholarships from the government, signifies a concerted effort to enhance educational opportunities and foster interdisciplinary learning. Similarly, the formation of a consortium in 2022 with renowned German universities, operating under the auspices of the Caspian Engineering and Technology University named after Sh. Yesenov, underscores Kazakhstan's commitment to excellence in engineering education and technological innovation. Offering a diverse array of programs encompassing engineering fields, data management, artificial intelligence, and beyond, this consortium exemplifies Kazakhstan's proactive approach to equipping its citizens with cutting-edge skills and expertise. Established in 2023 at Zhubanov university, the Heriot Watt University branch offers an array of programs in vital fields such as petroleum engineering, electrical power engineering, and computer engineering, boasting an impressive enrollment of 286 students from 13 Kazakhstan regions. The Luban Workshop initiative at Serikbayev University exemplifies Kazakhstan's commitment to advancing its automotive education and training capabilities. This initiative, supported by foreign partners, aims to establish state-of-the-art laboratories specializing in automotive transport. These facilities will serve as a platform for incorporating modern Chinese technological advancements into the curriculum, thereby enhancing the quality of education for future automotive specialists. The project also seeks to foster academic and research collaborations with esteemed Chinese educational institutions, paving the way for the development of dual-degree programs, joint research projects, and other collaborative efforts that will enrich the automotive sector's expertise and innovation. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) has sparked discussions about its potential impact on the workforce and society at large. In response to this...

Exclusive: Breaking Down Kazakhstan’s Claims Against International Oil Consortiums

The total amount of claims brought against the consortiums, North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC) and Karachaganak Petroleum Operating (KPO) is the largest in the history of Kazakhstan. In March 2023, PSA LLP, the authorized state institution overseeing these projects, brought forward claims in international arbitration in relation to Kashagan and Karachaganak for $13.5 billion and $3.0 billion, respectively. In addition, the Atyrau Region environmental regulator filed a claim for $5.1 billion against the NCOC consortium for storing too much sulfur on site, discharging wastewater without treatment, etc. The claims of PSA LLP cover the period 2010-19 and relate to the oil consortiums’ costs for carrying out large projects, as well as tenders and insufficient work completed. The shareholders of NCOC, which is developing the offshore Kashagan Field, include: KMG Kashagan (16.877% stake), Shell Kazakhstan Development (16.807%), Total EP Kazakhstan (16.807%), Agip Caspian Sea (16.807%), ExxonMobil Kazakhstan (16.807%), CNPC Kazakhstan (8.333%) and INPEX North Caspian Sea (7.563%). Their total investments over the period have not been disclosed, but, according to various estimates, exceed $60 billion – meaning the state is currently calling into question about 23% of all costs. The KPO consortium is Shell (29.25%), Eni (29.25%), Chevron (18.0%), Russia’s Lukoil (13.5%) and Kazakhstan’s state-owned KazMunayGas (10.0%). Investments in this oil and gas condensate field are estimated at $27 billion, hence the filed claim is significantly smaller both in absolute terms and as a percentage of costs, standing at about 11%. A production sharing agreement was signed in 1997 for Karachaganak and in 1998 for Kashagan, with the contracts to be in effect for 40 years. In 2022, the sole participant in PSA LLP became Samruk-Kazyna Trust Corporate Fund, part of the state holding National Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna, while Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Energy is currently entrusted to run PSA LLP. NCOC and KPO dominate the industry through control of three fields. Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak are the largest oil and gas fields in Kazakhstan. The country’s oil and gas condensate production in 2023 amounted to 89.9 million tons (about 1.8 million barrels per day), with the share of the “three whales” – as these projects are called – accounting for 67% of oil production: Tengiz with 28.9 million tons, down 1% versus the 2022 level; Kashagan with 18.8 million tons, a 48% increase; Karachaganak with 12.1 million tons, up 7% year-on-year. The stabilization contract for Tengiz was one of the first signed at the dawn of Kazakhstan’s independence in 1993, also for a term of 40 years, meaning it should be the first to expire in 2033. The shareholders of the Tengizchevroil JV are Chevron (50%), ExxonMobil (25%), KazMunayGas (20%) and Lukoil (5%). After completion of its FGP (Future Growth Project), Tengiz should produce about 900,000 barrels per day, a significant figure even by world standards. It is surprising that Kazakhstan has not yet raised or voiced any claims against TCO, even though the FGP budget has swelled from an initial $12 billion to $25 billion – due to the addition...

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