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International Organizations and Security Issues in Central Asia

29.12.2016
Strengthening geopolitical and geoeconomic mediation structures in Central Asia will require a new and dynamic environment for international cooperation. Importantly, it must come from the states of the region. International organizations should play an important role in this process, although their efforts to maintain a comprehensive security regime in Central Asia admittedly have created more expectations than achievements to date.

Skepticism of the capabilities of regional international organizations and entities to ensure security in Central Asia has remained consistent, and we are unlikely to see any positive change in the near future. There is, however, a growing understanding that international regional organizations should only act within the limit of mandate provided by the governments of the states that are the founders and members of these organizations is gaining momentum.

There are several international organizations in Central Asia, primarily, the UN and its agencies operating in the Central Asian region.

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The experience gained by the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy located in Ashgabat is extremely important. This is the first UN agency designed to implement early warning measures in order to maintain security based on a thorough examination of the situation in particular areas of activity of the states and the region. However, since the region has not yet come into its own as an international space, cooperation in many common development areas remains incoherent and splintered, while the activities of the centre itself have become formalized as a sequence of protocol events.

Speaking about the regional international organizations, we should mention the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

NATO stands apart among international organizations, since it has no Central Asian member countries and there is no bilateral arrangement that gives NATO a mandate to address security issues in Central Asia.

The rationale for Central Asian countries being in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has yet to be clearly articulated in public. Neither countries in Central Asia or in Europe – which in 1975 held the Conference for Security in Europe based on recognition of the outcome of WWII that later transformed into an organization – understand why former Soviet Central Asian republics were suddenly admitted to this European organization. Subsequently, cooperation started getting tripped up in the “third basket” of the OSCE.

Nonetheless, the OSCE is part of Central Asia’s security system. The idea that the security of the OSCE region is inextricably linked to that of neighboring regions is a major element of its security concept. Due to the need to provide assistance to Afghanistan, this idea can also be found in the Astana Declaration.

The main function of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is to ensure the security of the participating countries, and defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity. In this context, the CSTO is one of the most important international organizations, whose goal is to strengthen military security in Central Asia.

The CSTO deserves approval and support in its fight against drug trafficking and organized crime. However, the organization clearly needs an organizational and financial boost, a more universal legal framework, and more vivid demonstration of its capability to guarantee the security of participating states.

Currently, the countries of the Eurasian continent are faced with the historic challenge of forming a long-term co-development process. The capabilities of certain international organizations would be greatly increased by Eurasian countries initiated cooperation projects and programs, in particular, establishing the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s efforts to advance the idea of ​​joint construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

In this context, the CICA will become an increasingly important international construct. The dynamics and strength of economic growth in Asia and the beginning of the economic "engineering" of Eurasia make the CICA important as a major continental forum. However, the gamut of the concepts regarding the development of Asian countries – the diversity of which exceeds any other region of the world – only adds to the scale of complexity.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an international organization that is becoming particularly valuable as the Eurasian engineering begins, and which can become directly incorporated into the process of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and promoting the Eurasian Economic Union either individually or together. The SCO considers cooperation in the sphere of security, primarily fighting international terrorism, one of its most important tasks.

Importantly, security cooperation should be carried out with more active involvement of observer countries and countries partners in the dialogue. Clearly, on the Afghan issue, the partnership with Pakistan, India and Iran is of particular importance.

Afghanistan, which is an observer in the SCO, is actively involved in security related SCO activities. Given the critical importance of the Afghan issue, I believe it is appropriate to consider establishing within the SCO a special committee on cooperation with Afghanistan, which would include member states, as well as observers and dialogue partners.

Of particular importance are the actions of international organizations aimed at fighting terrorists, drug traffickers, arms dealers and human traffickers. Their activities are becoming even more organized and widespread, better financed, etc. Fighting them will require even more broad-based support, solidarity and activity on behalf of the governments and international community.

Forming a new culture of relations and Silk Road diplomacy objectively leads us to the need to harmonize the activities of all international organizations and projects, both economic and political, in order to achieve security, real economic development and prosperity for people living in the countries of Eurasia.

Muratbek Imanaliev is President of the Institute of Public Policy,  Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, former Secretary General of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation).




Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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