Security Council Tackles Problems Ranging from Terrorism and Extremism to Environment
By Vladimir Osipov
ASTANA – “Security Council activities are multifaceted and involve a variety of issues, from the prevention of terrorism and extremism to environmental challenges and threats,” Deputy Secretary of the Security Council and Head of the Secretariat of the Security Council of the Presidential Administration Korpesh Dzhanburchin said in an interview with the Astana Times. He discussed how the work of the Security Council, a body coordinating activities of various government ministries and agencies, on these and other areas is developing.
What are some of the immediate priorities in your work these days?
Due to a number of objective and subjective reasons, a decrease of discipline and professional-level among military personnel has occurred in the Border Guard Service, which led to serious disturbances in the organisation of the service. This resulted in cases of corruption, high-profile events related to hazing, a betrayal of the interests of the service and other high-profile crimes.
In the last few years the Border Guard Service has come under scrutiny for a number of serious incidents, including the mass murder of a unit at the Arkankergen post, the abandonment of the Airyk-ters outposts by a group of servicemen and a criminal investigation into bribery in the Batys (West) regional command.
Acknowledging the decline of the force, President Nursultan Nazarbayev commissioned large-scale reform in the Border Guard Service during his December 14, 2012, address to the nation. One of its most important elements is extra certification of servicemen.
In accordance with the Presidential Decree of March 22, 2013, certification of all personnel of the Border Guard Service must be completed before the end of this year. This decree covers many thousands of military personnel, excluding those who are serving on the draft. A three-tier system of assessment committees has been formed for this purpose. The Higher Attestation Commission, led by Assistant to the President and Secretary of the Security Council Kairat Kozhamzharov, will hold tests for executive personnel. Further certification for the central office of the Border Guard Service, regional offices and their departments will be held by assessment committees of the National Security Committee and the Border Guard Service commissions.
I would like to note that the Security Council, the Government and the National Security Committee are tasked this year with preparing a special integrated plan for the development of the Border Guard Service and the development of the state border in the medium term. We believe the certification will in many ways be a turning point in the reform of the Border Guard Service as one of the important components of the national security system.
Our goal is to ensure that competent leaders head the Border Guard Service and its subsidiaries and for border protection to be entrusted to those of unblemished professional and civic reputation and confirmed loyalty to the oath they take to protect the service and the interests of the state. This work is under constant control of the Secretariat of the Security Council.
Today, religious extremism and terrorism are among the most pressing issues for Kazakhstan. What is the status of these problems? Have you managed to reduce the threat?
Unfortunately, over the past few years, Kazakhstan has felt the manifestations of radical extremism and terrorism. Terrorist ideologues are working around the world and finding followers. Therefore, Kazakhstan has the same problems that other countries do with these issues. We will not hide the fact that dozens of our citizens are members of international terrorist organisations abroad.
Another pressing issue is the merger of the radical religious movements’ followers with the criminal underworld. This problem is particularly acute in the penal system. Now, the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in cooperation with other government agencies is taking steps to resolve these issues.
I believe that, despite the evidence of omissions, the state has been able to react quickly to the evolving threat and take steps to resolve the problems. Ways to counter extremism and terrorism have become a subject of discussion for the President and the Security Council. A number of integrated solutions aimed at improving the efficiency of relevant government agencies have been adopted. In particular, additional funds to increase staff and provide the necessary weapons and special tools have been allocated for the security agencies.
Given that terrorism and extremism usually focuses on religious grounds, the government adopted a series of measures to restore control in this sensitive area. In October 2011, a new law was passed governing the sphere of religion, which eliminated a whole layer of problems and blind spots that accumulated over the years of independence. This law, which takes into account best international practices, allows for clear regulation of the activities of religious associations and the structuring of the religious field in the country.
Experts and academia are involved in research on extremism and terrorism. Consultations and the exchange of experience between public bodies aimed at ensuring that those agencies master the specific counter measures against religious extremism and terrorism are ongoing. A special government agency, the Agency for Religious Affairs, was created to monitor and regulate processes in the sphere of religion.
International experience as well as our own confirms that the problems of extremism and terrorism cannot be solved only by force. Therefore, prevention, advocacy and counter-propaganda work has come to the fore.
The export of terrorism and extremism, drug trafficking: this is just a small list of risks associated with Afghanistan. How do you assess the prospects for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Afghanistan in 2014? Will this lead to an aggravation of the current instability and affect security in Central Asia?
I would like to point out that Afghanistan in the public opinion continues to be associated with a global hotbed of evil, from which comes the threat of terrorism and extremism and a never-ending flow of drugs. However, in my opinion, the problem of the “Afghan threat” for Central Asia in general and for Kazakhstan in particular is somewhat exaggerated. The current situation in Afghanistan is very different from what it was in 2001 when, after events of September 11, international coalition forces entered the country.
It should be recognised that with the assistance of the West, particularly the United States, more or less stable, working state institutions, a national army and security forces were created there. The mechanism of political succession was introduced and a number of successful election campaigns were held. The population has become accustomed to normal civilian life. Matters of internal development, economic growth and welfare of the people have come to the fore.
Of course, the situation is far from idyllic. This can be seen by the continuing attacks on international coalition troops and armed clashes between warring parties. Meanwhile, the nature of such action speaks of its inner focus in the first place. Internal opposition to political forces in Afghanistan, who have different views on the political reconstruction of the country, is evident. In these circumstances, to talk about any serious threats from some radical Afghan forces to destabilise Central Asia is, I think, premature.
On the other hand, the media have actively promoted the image of Afghanistan as a source of all kinds of threats. Their interpretations come from the field of geopolitics. I won’t go into this but works by various geopolitical specialists are easy to find.
Nevertheless, even if the worst comes to pass, I can reassure you that we have built a multi-level and multi-dimensional system of regional security. Work is organised within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). A few days ago, the south Kazakhstan region held the Kazygurt anti-terror joint military exercises conducted with troops from SCO member nations. It designed a situation intended to predict the scene in 2014 after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
What are the priority areas of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the CSTO in the military sphere now?
Kazakhstan attaches great importance to developing cooperation within the CSTO. Cooperation in the military sphere is a priority. For example, at the initiative of President Nazarbayev, military issues were a key theme at the Collective Security Council session on December 19, 2012. As a result, the organisation approved the main direction for further development of the military component of the CSTO up to 2020.
I also want to note that Kazakhstan identified the development of a collective defence of Central Asian airspace as one of the priorities of its presidency of the CSTO in 2012. The first step in this direction was the agreement signed this January by the Ministers of Defence of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation on a united regional air defence system. The agreement does not preclude the possibility of uniting other countries in the region.
It should be noted that military cooperation within the CSTO does not end there. Therefore, Kazakhstan will continue its efforts to develop military and military-technical cooperation within the CSTO in order to ensure peace and stability in the region.
One of the most pressing security issues is the regulation of cross-border rivers. Is Kazakhstan able to negotiate with our neighbours? What measures should be taken for the fair allocation of water?
Kazakhstan is among the states that have limited water resources and is experiencing increasing scarcity. The problem becomes acute in connection with the receipt of nearly half the volume of river flows from neighbouring countries: China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
The basis of international cooperation with China in the field of water relations is the agreement between the governments of Kazakhstan and the Peoples Republic of China on cooperation in the use and protection of transboundary rivers. A joint committee on the use and protection of transboundary rivers has been created and is functioning. Recently, the parties agreed to proceed in 2015 with the development and approval of a draft agreement on water sharing in transboundary rivers between Kazakhstan and China. This issue was discussed at a meeting of President Nazarbayev with the leadership of China and received understanding and support.
A somewhat different situation exists in the Syr Darya basin. Kyrgyzstan, lacking fuel resources, switched its irrigation regime, instead accumulating summer water flow for subsequent power generation in the winter. As a result, the irrigated lands of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan began to experience increasing scarcity of water in the summer. At the same time, Kazakhstan increased its inflow of water in the winter, and artificial winter floods have created serious problems. To manage these issues, we have a project to increase the capacity of the Syr Darya and the timely construction of the Koksaray flood counter-regulator that provides storage of clean water in autumn and winter.
In Central Asia, water relations are governed by agreements that are executed by the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination of Central Asia and its executive bodies, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Basin Water Associations.
Overall, some progress has been achieved: the formation of the legal framework is in progress, institutional mechanisms of cooperation between the countries have been created, international programmes aimed at improving the environmental and socioeconomic situation in the region have been implemented. However, some issues still need to be addressed. Cooperation with Russia on transboundary rivers is one issue developing very successfully.
How would you characterise the problem of solid waste management in Kazakhstan?
Amid the social, economic and environmental issues that currently exist, recycling and the disposal of solid waste has a special place. The absence of plants and technologies for solid waste recycling has led to a constant increase in its volume, which is accumulating in landfills and dumps.
At present, the country has accumulated nearly 100 million tons of solid waste, and per year it produces about 4-5 million tons. In total, the country has 4,587 waste storage locations, and 3,927 of them do not comply with environmental and health standards and requirements. Only 603 landfills (13 percent) have been granted environmental emissions and are relatively consistent with building and sanitary standards.
Typical violations include insufficient insulation of landfills in large cities (with the exception of Astana), which causes soil and groundwater contamination, as well as a lack of quality monitoring of landfill gas, a lack of monitoring of ground water quality and a lack of measures aimed at the prevention of air pollution from landfill gas emissions. Every year the country recycles and processes only about 5 percent of the volume of its solid waste. And this volume is mainly created by small businesses.
In 2011, the Environmental Code introduced rules aimed at the development of environmentally friendly production and emissions reduction. In order to reduce the volume of created and accumulated waste, the Environmental Code of 2013 considers the development of a waste management programme.
Under the current law, indicators are included as part of conditions of environmental management. Failure to meet those conditions means natural resource users are subject to administrative liability up to the cancellation of their permits.
Currently, in order to implement the president’s instructions in the framework of modernising housing and communal services for the years 2012-2020, work is being done to ensure solid waste management meets international standards. At present, the work on justifying investments in 15 cities in the country is coming to an end.
At the end of 2012, the Altyn-TET waste-processing complex, a Spanish project, began work in Astana. The processing capacity, as designed, is 250,000-300,000 tons per year. I think the output of the enterprise at its full capacity will solve a number of environmental problems in the capital.