25 years on, CICA remains relevant for regional peace

By Kairat Abdrakhmanov Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2017/10/5 18:12:43

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) has come an incredibly long way since President Nursultan Nazarbayev stood before his fellow world leaders at the 47th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on October 5, 1992 and told them of his proposal. In the 25 years since then, it is fair to say that the initiative has brought about tangible fruits and promising prospects.

Initially, it had just been an idea, conceived of as a solution to the regional instability and uncertainty of those times. New states had formed and new geopolitical interests had emerged, yet the suspicions and distrusts from the Cold War had prevented any previous attempts to unify Asia through a platform for dialogue on security issues.

Through the unfaltering determination of the region and the resolute support of the international community, CICA has blossomed over the last quarter century to become what it is today.

Representing 26 member states, and covering nearly 90 percent of the area and population of Asia, CICA is now an effective platform, capable of fulfilling its objective of nurturing a confident, secure and peaceful regional environment.

A number of factors have contributed to its prominence as an effective platform. The specific codification of its confidence-building measures, for example, has allowed CICA to ensure that there are concrete principles and procedures for member states to respect and adhere to.

The CICA Catalogue of Confidence-Building Measures, for instance, expressly outlines five key areas of cooperation, acknowledging the complexity that security issues have in the modern world. This includes traditional security issues, such as matters concerning military power, but also goes further to acknowledge the role of economic, environmental, human, cultural, humanitarian and civil society cooperation in the realm of regional security.

The Catalogue of Confidence-Building Measures also acknowledges a plurality of security issues in the contemporary world, noting that member states have a joint commitment to battling the illegal trade in drugs, firearms and weapons, as well as a duty to provide mutual assistance in eradicating human trafficking, money laundering and trans-boundary organized crime.

Syria is a particular case in point, albeit the country is not a CICA member. At the core of the Astana Process, held under the invitation of President Nazarbayev, is a development of practical confidence-building measures in politico-military and humanitarian domains. Dialogue and mechanisms ensured by guarantor states (Russia, Turkey and Iran) are aimed at strengthening ceasefire and effective de-escalation zones on the ground so to facilitate future comprehensive political resolutions of this complex conflict in Geneva.

Another key driving factor for CICA's successes is the platform's ability to promote dialogue and reduce animosity in the face of collective regional security issues. 

From the very beginning, the founding members of the Conference agreed that existing discords in the region should not be an obstacle to finding common approaches to the problems concerning security and cooperation in Asia.

During CICA's establishment, for example, the signatories of the principles included states that did not even have established diplomatic relations with each other. To this day, participants have made a bold statement in their support for a platform, which endorses a unifying regional approach to dialogue on security issues. In contributing to this platform whilst setting aside their differences, these states have given CICA legitimacy as a respectable forum with the tenet of diplomacy and dialogue at its very core.  

Impactful leadership is another reason for why we have the privilege of celebrating CICA's successes today.

Within seven years of the idea being proposed by President Nazarbayev at the UN General Assembly, the first CICA Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs was taking place in Almaty, with the involvement of the 15 founding members.

Within a decade, the idea had materialised into the first ever CICA Summit in Kazakhstan in 2002 and the Almaty Act - a constitutive document outlining collective security challenges, confidence building measures, and the basic institutional structure of CICA.

Within 12 years - just under half of the platform's current lifespan - the second meeting of CICA Ministers of Foreign Affairs produced the CICA Catalogue of Confidence-Building Measures and CICA Rules of Procedure, which still guides the operations of the conference today.

This dynamic timeline exemplifies both the determination with which Kazakhstan worked to progress this initiative, as well as the strong need that existed for CICA at its founding.

We have also seen the establishment of institutions such as the CICA Secretariat in Astana (currently headed by Chinese diplomat Gong Jianwei), CICA Youth Council, the CICA Business Council, the CICA Non-Governmental Forum and the CICA Think-Tank Forum, all of which serve to expand CICA's horizon and extend its effectiveness. These new facets reflect the changing geopolitical landscape, whilst allowing audiences such as students, academics and cultural leaders to also be involved in the security dialogue of the region.

President Nazarbayev's initiative has since found strong support from numerous parties, as exemplified by its wide and growing membership spanning from Cairo to Seoul and from Moscow to Phnom Penh, as well as the successive Turkish and the current Chinese chairmanships heralded by highest-level CICA summits in Istanbul 2010 and Shanghai 2014.

As can be expected, such progress in the past has to be matched with a clear and defined vision for the future in order for our ambitions to be met.

When considering CICA, parallels and comparisons with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a pan-European forum created on the basis of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, are inevitable. The CICA has many common elements with the OSCE. However, one must admit that Asia is more complex and diverse in political, civilizational, economic and geographical terms. It is the huge complexity of this part of the world that makes the CICA unique and in demand. In general, we believe that the CICA and the OSCE have great potential for complementarity and close interaction.

Only a few weeks ago, on the sidelines of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, the foreign ministers of CICA congregated at an informal meeting to mark the 25th Anniversary of the forum. Together, the member states celebrated the progress made in establishing a forum that reinforces our commitment to peace and diplomacy, and our faith in dialogue.

Among the celebration, there was also an important underlying discussion of CICA's future. We all acknowledge that there are always lessons to be learned and steps to be taken, which can further advance the efficacy and scope of the platform.

Nevertheless, we can definitely be sure that we are on the right track, pursuing effective multilateral approaches to promote peace, security and stability in Asia.

The author is Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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