Category Archives: Latest News

11th Almaty Civil Society Forum 

Almaty, Kazakhstan, 12 November 2018

The one-day Forum was attended by over 300 persons from Government, Parliament, Business, the Scientific Community, and Civil Society. The meeting was organized to discuss strategic areas of development of civil society institutions, their role in the socio-economic development of the country, recommendations and proposals on the national programs and plans, including those in Almaty. This event include a discussion on the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the regional level.

The format of the Civic Forum is an interactive platform focused on the development and strengthening of interaction between government bodies and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and further building the partnership.

The representatives of Government, Parliament, NGOs, mass media, researchers and activists made statements and propositions on future development of relations and cooperation between Government and NGOs.
Ms. Aliya Galimova – head of Committee of Civil Society of Ministry of Social Development of Kazakhstan, noted in particular:
“ … the Government of Kazakhstan provided ample support to civil society by funding NGOs, providing facilities, and administrative support. These efforts made it possible for civil society to participate in policy-making, implementing projects, and evaluation. However, she added that there were challenges confronting the Government, which mainly derived from costs and benefits, and which left gaps in its social development programmes, like sustaining the dependency of groups with special needs.

Different types of actors were involved in social work, said Ms. Galimova. The Ministry of Social Development relied on Public Social Councils, for example, which were staffed by an experienced and well-trained personnel, acting as the mechanism of aligning and synergizing activities with civil society and business sectors.

The interaction between the development sector and science and research was also strong but confronted some challenges. The challenges stemmed from the interaction between micro-motivations and the macro-level vision of development.

While there was growth in the partnerships between the Social Councils and public institutions, continued Government financial support was needed to increase the alliance of NGOs, business, and Government. In 2017, the tri-partite alliance received 100,000,000 KZT.

The Ministry also encouraged volunteerism by the corporate sector, which would participate in the upcoming high-level Astana National Civil Society Forum to be held from 27 to 28 November 2018, which is expected to be attended by the Head of the State.

The Government considered the role of civil society important, which is signaled by the state’s by not only support to civil society but also involving its main actors in legislation reforms, like giving the Civil alliance of Kazakhstan the responsibility for leading the reform process to improve the democratic quality of local governance and decision-making (more than 5,000 NGOs are registered in Almaty).

UNESCO Almaty Office
Ms. Krista Pikkat, the Head of UNESCO in Almaty, represented the UNCT at the Forum. In her speech, she underlined the key advantages of non-governmental organizations in terms of national activism, such as their cooperation with the Government of Kazakhstan, cooperation with the United Nations, flexibility and dynamism, quick response and action, and ultimately independence. She also said the Public Councils played an important role in supervising government performance in Parliament debate.

For example, to meet step 99 of the National Strategy of Kazakhstan to bring about systemic reforms to the entire society, a civil society working group in Parliament prepared a draft law on public councils with a view to increase their numbers to promote the discussions on regional development plans, budgets, evaluation, and achievement targets, all of which will have a positive impact on the right and freedoms of citizens in the country.

Mr. Yevgeniy Zhovtis, Director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights, focused on some controversial issues related to the role of NGOs in the country. Despite the overall support of the Government, Mr. Zhovtis lamented the delay in registration of new NGOs compared to registering a new business.

He added that common expressions of disapproval and criticisms of the activities of NGOs were based on misperceptions. Leveling accusations with terminology like “extremists” or “radical entities” were not constructive. Further, he added that raising the “accountability” standards for NGOs such that they became tantamount to a punishing stick was unfair especially when the practice was compared to the business sector – less reporting, less taxation, less regulation.

He then moved to the need to educate the citizenry on civil social life and opening spaces for interaction between NGOs and scientific research in all spheres.

Side session
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Germany)
A major issue for civil society activism on behalf of the public in Germany today, which Kazakhstan can learn from, was the long-standing struggle between the needs of the public for choice, the public service sector and private investors.
For instance, Civil Society spoke for those segments of society that have little confidence in state schools/hospitals and want a “little religion or excellence” in their children’s education, elderly care, or vocational training for persons living with disabilities, and as such, they tried to advance their interests.

However, although NGOs could provide useful aid and support to social groups, they could also lock them in “sustainable dependency” as they saw them as “customers” to be maintained.

Some of the conclusions of the discussions:
• There was a clear understanding that Civil Society services are key and complementary to (but not a substitute) for government responsibilities.
• It is important for Civil Society groups to stay independent but integral to Government to grow confidence in their ability to attract support from the Government and private sector.
• Civil Society can be more effective with public recognition, financial support, and Government commitment to their many causes.
• Civil Society actors must also remain connected to the global community of governance, like the United Nations, and the international system in general.
• The Government of Kazakhstan can advance it development objectives and activities with the support of Civil Society.

The organizing group of the Forum is to finalize the outcomes of the discussions and recommendations for further development of cooperation, which will be sent to the Astana National Civil Society Forum 




5 November 2018

Tsunamis are rare but devastating.  I saw this first-hand during my recent visit to Sulawesi, Indonesia, shortly after the earthquake and tsunami of 1 October.  More than 2,000 people died and thousands more were harmed or displaced.

As well as struggling to deal with the losses and trauma, the people of Sulawesi will need to recover from the economic losses caused by this disaster.  Reducing economic losses is a key target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and is vital for eradicating extreme poverty.

Over the past two decades, tsunamis have accounted for almost 10 per cent of economic losses from disasters, setting back development gains, especially in countries that border the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

World Tsunami Awareness Day is an opportunity to emphasize again the importance of disaster prevention and preparedness, including early warning, public education, science to better understand and predict tsunamis, and development that takes account of risk in seismic zones and exposed coastal areas.

World Cities Day

On October 30, in connection with the World Cities Day, the MDP/Global Classroom Program organized an open lecture for students and teachers of the al-Farabi Kazakh National University. The event, held in coordination with UNIC Kazakhstan, focused on several areas: partnership between universities and state for sustainable development of cities and communities (relevant to SDG 11); forming the vision of “smart cities”, current and future tendencies in application of ICT in making cities more dynamic and resident-friendly (SDG 15); technological and social innovation in sustainable development, including social integration, cultural diversity, and culture of innovations among students (SDG 4 & SDG 9).

As the example of the most modern and environment-friendly approach in construction in large cities, the new building of the United Nations in Almaty has been mentioned. The Almaty UN building meets the high level international safety and comfort standards and UN requirements; the building is located in Almaty business area, within walking distance to the botanical garden, the Atakent exhibition center, parks and public gardens, close to main transport corridors; ensuring convenient access for public and private transport.

The top management of the al-Farabi University, heads of faculties and departments, representatives of United Nations made presentations and entered into lively dialogue with the students.

The co-organizers of the event were: Ban Ki-moon Institute of Sustainable Development; UN Academic Impact; Model UN New Silk Road; etc.

Almaty received the highest award in the “Future of Cities”

Today, October 31, is World Cities Day. The city is a unique phenomenon, the creation of a person, the place of his birth, residence, study, work, and creativity. Urban development will be important for building our future.

The city of Almaty is making great efforts to strengthen environmental sustainability and to counter the increase in the risk of natural disasters and man-made disasters. Much attention is also paid to the implementation of the principle of sustainability in city development projects.

At the “Smart city” forum, which took place in Europe in September, Almaty received the highest award in the “Future of Cities” nomination for a comprehensive reform of the transport system.

This year, 50 best world practices and innovative projects for the development of “Smart Cities” were announced for the competition, among which Almaty took the first place.

In 2017, Almaty ranked second among the countries of South-Eastern Europe for the project “Open Almaty”.

The “Smart city” forum has been held since 2011. Its goal is to strengthen the cooperation of cities in Europe and Asia for joint digital transformation in the “Smart Cities”. Over the years, winners of the competition became Vienna (Austria), Belgrade (Serbia), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Ankara (Turkey), Podgorica (Montenegro), Budapest (Hungary), Tirana (Albania).

Transport reform in Almaty has been implemented since 2015. The Competition Committee noted a systematic approach to its implementation on a number of criteria: the diversity and availability of public transport, the use of digital technologies to ensure the transparency of public transport revenues, the participation of experts, citizens and businesses in the implementation of the reform, including through PPP mechanisms, and an emphasis on improving ecology.

The production of Falcon Euro Bus electric buses is one of many steps towards improving the environment. The construction of two metro stations continues. By 2021, the commissioning of two additional stations will link the city center with the suburbs.

To date, a 21 km long cycle corridor has been formed. The length of the bicycle tracks is 68 km. On average, 15 thousand Almaty-users of “Almaty Bike” – drive about 5 thousand kilometers every day.

Formation of approaches to the implementation of transport reform, the city authorities are working with leading international experts, including UNDP on the Sustainable Transport project.

According to the forecasts of experts, the number of people using public transport in Almaty by 2033 should increase by 4 times, the number of pedestrians and cyclists – by 3 times. The number of personal vehicles will remain at the current level – less than 600 thousand cars.

Additional information on the competition in Ljubljana is available at the link:

Ceremony of presenting the new UN building in Almaty

A very important event for the United Nations in Kazakhstan, for the city of Almaty, and for Republic of Kazakhstan took place on 23 October.

Mr. Bauyrzhan Baybek – Mayor of Almaty,  Mr. Ashikbayev – Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Arystanbekova – First Kazakhstan Permanent Representative to the UN, and high-ranking representatives of United Nations attended this ceremony of presenting the building to the future tenants.

The representatives of Government, Almaty Akimat, United Nations took a tour of the premises, and noted the significance of the project and its importance for the cooperation and development for both Kazakhstan and the United Nations.

Mayor of Almaty Mr. B.Baybek noted in his speech:

We studied construction of regional offices in Europe, Istanbul, Bangkok; we are confident that the Almaty UN building meets the high level international safety and comfort standards and UN requirements; the building is in Almaty business district, within walking distance to the botanical garden, the Atakent exhibition center, parks and public gardens; close to main transport corridors; ensuring convenient access for public and private transport. The Kazakh proverb says, “a prosperous dwelling ensures peaceful life.” We believe that the work of UN agencies in this new office will be comfortable and will contribute to our efficient cooperation for benefit of sustainable development and prosperity of our city, country and region.

Vice Minister Ashikbayev said:

Opening of the new building has significance not only for the city and Kazakhstan but for the entire Central Asia region.  New reality has formed in Central Asia. Our shared goal is creating in our part of the world and beyond a model zone of peace, security, trust, development and cooperation. On the other hand, cross border threats and challenges require a new paradigm in addressing them; therefore, transit from country specific to regional strategy is necessary. This was the overarching rationale behind the proposal to establish a UN hub for multilateral diplomacy with specific focus on SDGs implementation here in Almaty – our southern capital – that was put forward by his excellency the first president of RK Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev.

My president’s initiative on establishing UN regional hub in Almaty is consistent with UNGA resolution on repositioning of the UN development system inspired by UN SG Mr. Antonio Guterres.

The building is fully equipped, with all facilities that meet all UN standards including ecofurniture, fitness, parking, and spacious offices and security requirements.

Mr. Vitalie Vremis speaking on behalf of UNDP in Kazakhstan thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Akimat for this generous support of the Government of Kazakhstan to the UN system. He noted that this is yet another sign of a strong partnership between the UN and Kazakhstan – a relationship that lasts already more than a quarter of a century. “A team of 20 agencies located in Astana and Almaty, we work hand in hand with our national partners to achieve the country’s development objectives including the SDGs. We also promote cooperation with and within the UN at regional and global level. Now that the renovations are coming to an end, the UN agencies here in Almaty are looking forward to be able to move to the new building once all the formalities are completed. We are confident that with such upgraded conditions for work as in the current building, we will become more effective in elevating our already excellent cooperation to yet another, higher level.”




31 October 2018

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the New Urban Agenda together provide a roadmap for a more sustainable and resilient world.  How our cities develop will have significant implications for realizing the future we want.

This year’s World Cities Day focuses on resilience and sustainability.  Every week, 1.4 million people move to cities.  Such rapid urbanization can strain local capacities, contributing to increased risk from natural and human made disasters.  But hazards do not need to become disasters.  The answer is to build resilience — to storms, floods, earthquakes, fires, pandemics and economic crises.

Cities around the world are already acting to increase resilience and sustainability.  Bangkok has built vast underground water storage facilities to cope with increased flood risk and save water for drier periods.  In Quito, the local government has reclaimed or protected more than 200,000 hectares of land to boost flood protection, reduce erosion and safeguard the city’s freshwater supply and biodiversity.  And in Johannesburg, the city is involving residents in efforts to improve public spaces so they can be safely used for recreation, sports, community events and services such as free medical care.

On World Cities Day, let us be inspired by these examples.  Let us work together to build sustainable and resilient cities that provide safety and opportunities for all.





2 November 2018

In just over a decade, more than a thousand journalists have been killed while carrying out their indispensable work. Nine out of ten cases are unresolved, with no one held accountable.

Female journalists are often at greater risk of being targeted not only for their reporting but also because of their gender, including through the threat of sexual violence.

This year alone, at least 88 journalists have been killed.

Many thousands more have been attacked, harassed, detained or imprisoned on spurious charges, without due process.

This is outrageous. This should not become the new normal.

When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.

I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity.

I call on Governments and the international community to protect journalists and create the conditions they need to do their work.

On this day, I pay tribute to journalists who do their jobs every day despite intimidation and threats. Their work – and that of their fallen colleagues — reminds us that truth never dies. Neither must our commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Reporting is not a crime.

Together, let us stand up for journalists, for truth and for justice.

Snow leopards are expected to lose two thirds of their habitat by 2070

Today is International snow leopard day.

Snow leopards are expected to lose two thirds of their habitat by 2070

Snow leopards are one of the most emblematic species of the Central Asian mountains.

Yet their habitats are under unprecedented pressure due to climate change and related drivers such as land-use change and habitat degradation, shift, fragmentation or loss, as well as increased human-wildlife conflict.

Rising temperatures are forcing livestock such as goats and yak calves to move further uphill to graze, thereby encroaching on snow leopard territory. Glaciers that support snow leopards are also retreating.

As a result, two thirds of the habitats of this majestic species are expected to be lost by 2070. In some countries, the figure rises to up to 80%.

In response, new work led by UN Environment aims to stem the effects of climate change on mountain species in Central Asia and other regions.

The Vanishing Treasures project, funded by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, aims to improve and share solutions for wildlife management that takes climate change into account. These solutions will follow an ecosystem-based approach and may include creating movement corridors for species and restoring fauna. Sustainable land use practices that reduce pressure on species will furthermore be promoted.

Read more on our new ‘Vanishing Treasures’ work here and learn more about the effects of climate change on Central Asian mountains and policy solutions here.