Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit and Subsequent Developments: The Politics Analyzed

June 5, 2022 will be remembered as a turning point in the history of Kazakhstan. On that day, an overwhelming majority of our people turned out and voted in favor of a series of proposed reforms to the constitution, intended to create a fairer system with greater transparency, accountability and expanded freedoms. The sweeping democratic changes proposed on this referendum day are deeply rooted and systemic. They follow a meaningful process of listening to people and taking their complaints into account.

The problems to be solved are many and varied, affecting all aspects of the social, political and economic culture of Kazakhstan. This long-term reform program is part of the vision of the new Kazakhstan, created by the head of state, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. New Fair Kazakhstan is a country with the human rights, freedoms, competitiveness and opportunities of modern contemporaries of Kazakhstan, combined with the culture and traditions of our Central Asian heritage.

Among the important innovative reforms is Government Decree No. 258, known as the “Monitoring Plan for Human Rights and the Rule of Law”, adopted by the Government of Kazakhstan on April 28, 2022. This proposal includes 27 actions divided into eight sections designed to protect and expand people’s rights, focusing on marginalized and minority groups across Kazakhstan. This is in accordance with Decrees No. 871 and 597 of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, dated April 13 this year, and June 9, 2021, “On new actions of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the field of human rights ‘man “.

The measures in this follow-up plan are unprecedented in Kazakhstan’s 31 years of independence since the end of the Soviet era. They aim to eliminate discrimination against women, to promote equal rights and opportunities for men and women, to protect the rights to freedom of association, the rights of persons with disabilities, victims of trafficking in human beings, migrants, stateless persons and refugees, as well as improving mechanisms for interaction with UN bodies.

End discrimination against women and ensure gender equality

Previous proposals adopted by this government have started the process of combating discrimination against women, for example by removing the list of jobs prohibited for women, thus expanding employment opportunities.

The new plan aims to expand these gains by promoting commitments to gender policy at the local government level and giving women a stronger voice in politics through increased representation in government and advisory roles related to gender. ‘State. It also calls for new mechanisms to prevent violence against women and children and includes a proposal to accede to the International Labor Organization’s Convention on the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the Workplace. of work.

Freedom of association

The plan calls for the inclusion of two new bills to expand the freedoms given to citizen-run organizations. The first of these would expand the rights of citizens to form public associations and organize their activities, thereby reducing state interference in the process. The second would improve legislation and law enforcement regarding trade unions and the resolution of labor disputes. This section of the plan has been drafted with the support and recommendations of the International Labor Organization.

People with Disabilities

This section of the plan envisages a series of proposals to be submitted to the presidential administration by the end of 2022 with proposals for non-financial incentives for companies and organizations in the social and banking sectors and other service providers, to ensure increased opportunities and accessibility. to people with disabilities. Such proposals are not only a moral imperative but, as with many clauses, they also aim to create the circumstances of significant social and economic impact for the individuals themselves as well as for society at large.

Criminal justice and prison reform

This is the largest and most detailed part of the plan, which again builds on the existing reform process to ensure that its benefits are felt in all sections of society, particularly those who are most often neglected, marginalized and abused. Its measures will significantly affect the work of government, the Supreme Court, lawmakers, corrections officers, civil society organizations and the business sector, providing a fundamental and vital overhaul of existing processes.

Much of the work described in this section includes proposals to modernize existing procedures, such as applications for early release due to illness or disability (and updating the list of illnesses that qualify the patient for early release), improving the functionality of the prison system’s centralized database, streamlining the appeal filing process while ensuring full confidentiality and automating the selection process for drafting an list of jurors. Also on the prison system, there are proposals for the construction of 17 modern prison facilities to reduce overcrowding, as well as the renovation and modernization of existing facilities.

This section also includes liberalizing the administration and oversight of human rights organizations, to ensure that they can carry out their work to protect the rights of those they serve without unnecessary interference. and undesirable and the creation of a working group on their protection. With respect to the legislature, specific articles and laws to be amended include provisions on discriminatory policies, administrative arrests and “knowingly spreading false information”.

Finally, there are regulations on torture investigations in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol and on the use of physical force and “special means” by law enforcement, in particular by GP officers.

Victims of human trafficking, migrants, stateless persons and refugees

Kazakhstan’s efforts in recent years to combat the scourge of human trafficking have been recognized in the US government’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report. In the report, it was noted that Kazakhstan is “making significant efforts”, that the country has increased the number of trafficking convictions for a second consecutive year (including of an official accomplice), and that the government has expanded its collaboration with NGOs and international organizations.

As part of these efforts, the plan calls for introducing the Anti-Human Trafficking Bill and adopting the Government Action Plan 2024-2026 on Preventing and Combating Trafficking-Related Crimes. trafficking in human beings. This is based on the findings of the existing action plan and the recommendations provided in a special report by the Commission on Human Rights. Recognizing the global nature of these issues, an article in the plan also calls on the Government of Kazakhstan to propose international treaties to protect the human rights of stateless persons and foreign nationals temporarily residing in Kazakhstan.

Interaction with United Nations bodies

Many of the issues identified when creating this plan can be resolved and reduced by working with international organizations and building on the existing body of research and protocols. In this spirit, the plan calls for the continued implementation of human rights assessment indicators, modeled on the Global Indicators developed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The road to modern democracy

The follow-up plan for human rights and the rule of law is another step in Kazakhstan’s continued journey towards building a better future for its citizens. We have no illusions about the magnitude of the task ahead of us, the road will be long and patience will be required on both sides.

President Tokayev’s most recent national speech launches a new political era for Kazakhstan. Political modernization highlighted by president can give significant impetus to nation-building project “Strong President – Influential Parliament – Responsible Government”. Yet, while the president highlights some pressing issues related to plurality of opinion, freedom of expression, domestic violence and socio-economic development remain to be addressed.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that all of these reforms will lead the country towards a better economic and social future. They will encourage a more motivated and engaged middle class, with better opportunities. They will establish new channels to respond to the voices of our citizens. At a time of regional and global turmoil, where concerns about democratic backsliding are widely felt in many countries, I am convinced that New Kazakhstan is following the opposite path – The road to a new, equitable Kazakhstan.

Further details on the approval of Kazakhstan’s follow-up plan for human rights and the rule of law can be found on the official website. website of the Ministry of Justice

Aubrey L. Morgan