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sustainable development goals: a snapshot of kazakhstan’s progress

Sustainable Development Goals: A Snapshot of Kazakhstan’s Progress

Author: Samantha Fanger

Jun 29, 2023

Image source: UNDP

In September 2015, leaders from 193 nations assembled at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York and adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), each aimed at tackling issues such as social equality, extreme poverty, and climate change. The implementation of these goals is meant to usher in a “decade of action” between the years 2015 and 2030. The SDG Index serves as a universal measurement of progress in key areas of development. In the last three years, Kazakhstan has managed to move up 12 spots in the SDG Index and is now ranked 66 out of 166 participating countries. 

According to Kazakhstan’s Minister of Economy, Alibek Kuantyrov, “localizing strategic goals is achieved through national projects that combine a trinity of the country’s economic, social, and environmental well-being.” He added that Kazakhstan’s National Development Plan for 2025 is rooted in alignment with the UN’s SDGs and that Kazakhstan is committed to implementing more long-lasting projects. 

Since 2015, Kazakhstan's UN Country Team (UNCT) has worked closely with the government, civil society, and the public sector to bolster development initiatives. In 2016, a mission of UN experts called Mainstreaming Acceleration and Policy Support (MAPS) made their first engagement with the region in Kazakhstan that led to a Parliamentary Statement on SDGs by the Senate. This pioneered the way forward for a “nationally-led and owned SDG coordination architecture,” or, the Coordination Council on SDGs. Operating under the office of the Prime Minister and chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Council has “five inter-sectoral working groups" that were formed around five larger categories of SDGs (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership). 

Kazakhstan, in 2019, submitted its first Voluntary National Review (VNR), which not only reaffirmed its commitment to following the SDG model for progress but has also allowed leaders to pinpoint key areas for improvement. Many of the identified areas for improvement were related to logistics and budgeting. However, the report states that “active work is underway to ensure harmonization of budget planning with SDG.” 

The review also provided insight into what Kazakhstan has done right. In the span of three years, it were able to establish a state planning system to integrate SDGs into development programs and infrastructure projects. In addition, it placed a greater emphasis on environmental protection work—founding the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology, and Geology. According to the review, through the new framework for ecological management of waste, “processing and consumption has been improved.”  Kazakhstan has also played key roles in implementing regional environmental projects such as Blue Peace and a water and energy consortium in Central Asia. Other notable development projects include collaboration with UNICEF and UNDP on mechanisms for national child well-being budgeting, gender equality analysis studies, and regional knowledge-sharing initiatives. 

While Astana has taken on an active role, its continued work towards SDGs has been done in cooperation with other partners, both in the region and beyond it. In a February joint press statement between U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi, the Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of regional and bilateral cooperation when it comes to “promoting economic cooperation, security, as well as sustainable development.” He added that in the C5+1 format, the United States and Central Asian countries participated in talks regarding “cooperation on food security, combating terrorism, energy, environment, as well as other pressing issues.”

Despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, and because of the volatility of Kazakhstan's main economic market—oil and gas—the World Bank projects a 4 percent growth in GDP in 2024. Economic stability, along with integrated cooperation with various sectors and partners, is a key component to continued SDG development. 

While Kazakhstan's progress is notable, it recognizes that there is still work to be done. The country's leadership has indicated their determination to continue on an upward trajectory, as evidenced by the Coordinating Council on SDGs' action plan for 2023 and plans to establish a UN Regional Hub on SDGs in Almaty for Central Asia and Afghanistan. Kazakhstan's resilience in the face of economic challenges and its commitment to integrated cooperation with various sectors and partners will be crucial for sustained SDG development. By striving for continued progress and fostering collaboration at regional and bilateral levels, Kazakhstan is poised to further contribute to economic cooperation, security, and sustainable development, within its own borders and throughout the region. 

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