Friday, 28 June 2013

Kazakhstan Goes G-Global

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by Sergei Gretsky (the 06/26/2013 issue of the CACI Analyst)

In recent years, Kazakhstan has taken a number of steps to raise its international profile and firmly plant its flag on the world stage. The first success was scored when the country became Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 and hosted the OSCE Summit in December of that year. The next accomplishment was hosting the 7th Asian Winter Games in January-February 2011. Earlier this year Astana successfully outbid Liege (Belgium) to become the venue of Expo 2017. The Astana Economic Forum and its G-Global online platform, however, may turn out to be Kazakhstan’s most significant imprint on global politics and economics.

The Astana Economic Forum (AEF) was inaugurated in 2008 by the Eurasian Club of Economists. On May 22-24, 2013, it met for the sixth time. Its 12,000 registered participants included thirty-five acting and former presidents, prime ministers, and ministers, ten Nobel Laureates in economics, and forty heads of international organizations and corporations. They came from 132 countries to discuss issues related to sustainable economic growth, financial stability, social policy, clean energy, competitiveness of countries and regions, and innovation. The forum adopted the Astana declaration, which outlined an international anti-crisis plan. The 7th meeting of the AEF was not only about political and expert dialogues and discussions. It was also a platform for business interaction and cooperation. About 80 agreements and MOU worth US$ 2.7 billion were signed.

What makes the AEF stand out from similar fora is the launch of its G-Global web portal in January 2012. The idea to create the portal belongs to President Nazarbayev and was a reflection of his earlier statements on the root causes of the 2007-2009 global financial and economic crisis and his ideas for overhauling the international financial system. These ideas, which found support among participants of the AEF meetings, centered on the notion that post-crisis development and stability of the global economy require global participation in the decision-making process. As the Kazakhstani president stated, “radical changes in the world economic system are impossible without moving from the Washington to the global consensus.” Nazarbayev stated it was time to cast away what he termed “geopolitical snobbery” and create a “new system of global management of interests of both developed and developing countries.” Speaking at this year’s Forum, Robert Mundell, Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, echoed Nazarbayev’s ideas when he said that “the G-20 and G-8 lack the mechanisms for tackling sensitive problems and producing effective proposals for dealing with the crisis. At the same time 90 percent of the countries in the world have no voice in these forums.”

Consequently, the G-Global web portal was conceived as an interactive platform that by fostering dialogue among international economists would become a hub of ideas on how to deal with global economic crises and offer scenarios for sustainable global economic development. The timeliness of launching G-Global was underscored by Nazarbayev’s and other participants’ acknowledgement that the 2007-2009 crisis was not over, particularly in Europe, and the fact that solutions proposed by the usual set of international institutions have not succeeded. That is why this year the first International Anti-crisis Conference was held in conjunction with the AEF. The idea behind the Conference was to explore alternative ideas for ending the current crisis.

Since its inception a year ago, three million people from 160 countries have already visited the portal. Fourteen Nobel Laureates in economics are among its participants. The portal serves as a focal point for accumulating recommendations of its users as well as the participants of the AEFs, which once distilled would be presented to the participants of the G20 summit that will be held in Russia in September as well as to G-8, the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN.

The first such set of recommendations was presented in 2012 and was highly praised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who said that they would be taken into account and reflected in the agenda of the discussions with the G20 leaders in Mexico. This year, the recommendations focus on efficient management of the global economy, elimination of trade barriers set by the developed economies, food security, and the development of clean energy.

The latter is of particular interest and importance for Kazakhstan. After winning the bid for hosting Expo 2017 Kazakhstan announced its plans to turn its capital into a fully “green” city and to power the exhibition exclusively by alternative sources of energy. The first stage will be the building of a pilot “green” district in the Kazakhstani capital. Astana may thus become the first “green” city in the world.

Though Astana Economic Forum is still developing its identity, it has already been hailed as an important institution. John Nash, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, stated that in “terms of significance, the Astana Economic Forum is perhaps comparable to the meetings in Davos. Bringing together world-leading experts in economics, Kazakhstan has once again become an effective platform for dialogue.” While it may be a stretch to put the AEF on the same footing as Davos, it would certainly not be a stretch to call it the Davos of the developing world. By launching the Astana Economic Forum Kazakhstan has become one of the leading champions of the right of developing countries to an equal say in shaping the rules of the global economy and its management. In so doing, Astana has well positioned itself to become an important player in world politics and the global economy.

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