A. Keltchewsky:"Regional cooperation and participation of civil society in the process of discussing and addressing environmental concerns — these are two important points that deserve attention"

August 18, 2010 10:24

The Head of the OSCE Centre in Astana, Ambassador Mr. Alexander Keltchewsky speaks about the plans of The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to participate in the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development  in Asia and the Pacific (MCED-6), which will be held from September 27 to October 2, 2010 in Astana.

1. What significance of this Conference sees the OSCE Centre Astana for Kazakhstan?

I do not have all the information on the discussions preceding the decision to hold the Sixth Ministerial Conference in Kazakhstan. As a diplomat I cannot help but notice that the Kazakhstan’s presidency in OSCE is a very fortunate coincidence, although the decision on the Conference was taken five years ago, but on the OSCE Chairmanship in 2007.  Moreover it’s good to remember that Kazakhstan then put forward its candidacy for 2009.

Thus, in 2010 a very productive combination of events and activities took place in Kazakhstan and in the international arena: Kazakhstan's chairmanship in the OSCE and the sixth Ministerial Conference of Environment and Development Asia-Pacific region. We hope that this high-level conference will also enable Kazakhstan to set priorities in the field of environmental policy in the space of the Asia-Pacific region.

2. What, in your opinion, is the importance of the participation of the OSCE Centre (Astana) in the Conference?

Since Kazakhstan is chairing the OSCE, we feel the urgent need to support the Conference. We also believe it’s necessary to use this opportunity to promote those key fundamental principles that govern us in our work. This is, firstly, from an environmental point of view, the elimination of the possibility of all those potential risks that could lead to a deterioration of environmental and social situations, and subsequently destabilize that country (in this case — Kazakhstan), or generally to destabilize the region. There is a potential for cross-border conflicts. This is the first point, which is based on the fact that the OSCE — is first and foremost, the organization for security and stability in Europe. All environmental issues we approach precisely from this point of view — given the potential for conflict, instability, threats to the security of the country or the whole region.

The second important point: the promotion of democracy and political reform in the society in the name of security, stability and mutual understanding between countries.

The OSCE believes that it is impossible to achieve genuine stability or security, if there are no stable democratic institutions, if basic freedoms and human rights are not respected.

Regional cooperation and participation of civil society in the process of discussing and addressing environmental concerns — these are two important points that deserve attention. These moments we would like to emphasize at the moment of preparation for the Conference.

3. What kind of participation is planning to take the OSCE Centre in Astana in the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development  in Asia and the Pacific (MCED-6)?

The Ministry of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Kazakhstan came out with a proposal to co-host with the OSCE Centre in Astana a side-event on Aarhus Centres at the Conference.

The Aarhus Convention has not been perceived yet by the Asian countries, but by example of Kazakhstan we could demonstrate that Kazakhstan has gone much further and has the ability and willingness to share their experiences, namely: the creation of the National Aarhus Centre under the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Aarhus Centre in the Caspian region. At a meeting with the Ministry of Environment Protection of RK, which was held in early June this year, we discussed issues of cooperation, as centres must support, assist and promote each other. This is one of the possible themes of the side-events, which the OSCE Centre plans to hold in the frame of the Conference.

We, from our part, supported a meeting of the ECO-Forum, held 12-13 June 2010 in Almaty, which was associated with the preparation for the Civil Society Forum and the organization of the side-event at the Conference. We see that there are a lot of political processes now, and we are interested in supporting civil society’s participation in these processes.

Since the format of the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Astana-2010 does not fit into the OSCE format, we are not empowered to participate fully in the entire preparatory process. However, the centre is expected to cover costs associated with travel, accommodation and meals of some NGOs that will participate at the conference in Astana.

4. Please be more detailed regarding the topic of the side-event planned by OSCE Centre in Astana in the framework of the Sixth Ministerial Conference.

The side-event is planned to focus on the development of the Aarhus Centres and the Aarhus Convention. Despite the fact that these topics are fairly new to the Pacific countries, the OSCE Centre in Astana may help to demonstrate the achievements of Kazakhstan.

We have a single policy, which goes as a «red line» across all areas of our activities – an involvement of civil society in decision-making process, access to information and justice, which in principle meets the basic provisions of the Aarhus Convention.

I would like to clarify one point.  OSCE is not an expert organization; and this is out difference from other international organizations such as the World Bank or UN agencies. We can bring international expertise, but, above all, we are designed to help ensure transparency of decision-making and, accordingly, involve the public to participate in decision-making process.

The Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC) www.carecnet.org