Experts Outline Security Challenges, Human Capital Development as Forum Wraps Up


Keynote experts of the inaugural Central Asian Security and Cooperation Forum (CAF) spoke to The Astana Times on security challenges, human capital development and outcomes of the forum, as CAF wrapped up on July 14.

Togzhan Kassenova, senior fellow at the International Security, Trade, and Economic Governance (PISCES) Project at the Center for Policy Studies in the United States spoke to The Astana Times about the key security challenges for the Central Asian region.

“Number one, of course, I would have to say is what’s happening in Ukraine right now, all the military action and the subsequent international community’s response. For Central Asian economies, the relationship with Russia is very important but it’s also important to stay in a good, productive relationship with the United States, the European Union and other major economies,” she said.  

“I think the most immediate challenge is how to navigate and how to conduct policy that would prioritize national interests in the context of something that is happening externally to them. I want to say that it’s very heartening because I think Central Asian governments are really trying to act as a united region on that front,” she added.

Due to Afghanistan’s geographic proximity to Central Asia, the situation there will also have a direct impact on the region, according to Kassenova.

“I know people in governments of Central Asia care a lot about what is happening in Afghanistan and what’s happening with the people in Afghanistan. We heard, during the forum, Central Asian governments are trying to do their best in terms of helping their neighbor and making a positive contribution to the improvement of the situation,” she said.

Kassenova said human capital development, especially among the youth, is crucial for Central Asian nations’ future prosperity and should remain a priority for the countries.

“I think both short-term and long-term interest and priority for all Central Asian governments should be for the young generation to have opportunities, to feel that they have access to good education, that they have access to good employment opportunities. It’s education and the sense that they belong, that they’re cared for, they’re heard – that is the foundation of the long-term fundamental security of any nation,” she said.

Kassenova’s remarks were echoed by Aziza Umarova, coordinator of the Results Achievement Department of the Agency for Strategic Reforms under the President of Uzbekistan.

According to Umarova, “capital of mind” will ensure the prosperity of industries and societies and the government of Uzbekistan is already creating conducive environments for the young generation to be competitive worldwide through strategies, like promoting English as the mainstream language.

The collective action of Central Asian states and the exchange of expertise will catalyze that process, said Umarova.

“Because of so many disruptions in the labor markets, in the safety and security issues, as Central Asia we are meant to experiment, look for different options, be out-of-the-box thinkers, and really try to utilize and catch the wave. And if you do it in a smart way, if you think as a region, not about competition, but rather working as one, we will be able to place the Central Asia region as a quite interesting and prominent player in the global arena in specific areas, for example, business process outsourcing,” said Umarova.

Commending Astana’s progress, she said the city had become a beacon for many start-up entrepreneurs.

“You have here in Astana a very good ecosystem for startup development: you have a fantastic Astana hub, you have NURIS [Nazarbayev University Research and Innovation System]. So every country in the region has something to bring to the table. It’s really about playing with it as a part of the mosaic and building together an interesting, resilient, sustainable system that would support the promotion of the digital economies, digital export, and really make sure we are overcoming geographical barriers,” said Umarova.

Hüseyin Bağcı, professor of the Middle East Technical University and director of the Institute of Foreign Policy in Türkiye, said CAF offered a chance for meaningful discussions addressing a wide range of issues from security to economy, social development and technology.

Being a keynote speaker on the first day of the forum, Bağcı spoke about the relation of economy to security.

“There is an interaction between security and economy. You cannot have economic development if you do not have a secure environment. So security comes first,” said Bağcı.

According to him, forums like CAF stand out as a platform for intellectual exercise and intellectual dialogue.

“We create awareness because it’s public diplomacy. For Kazakh public diplomacy it is important to invite people who are projecting intellectual influence in their countries. From this perspective, it is a soft power initiative (…) We exchange ideas, we contribute and also learn, so it is not a one-way ticket, it goes both ways,” he said.

The impact of attracting global experts to analyze and anticipate the future and the opportunities is long-term, according to him.

The Astana Times


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