Sixth CICA Summit in Astana Marks Turning Point for the Organization
Author: Josephine Freund
Oct 17, 2022
October 13 marked the conclusion of the two-day sixth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit, held in Astana, 30 years after its inception. This conference was hailed “one of the most significant post-pandemic foreign policy events in [Kazakhstan] and on the continent.” Attending the summit were heads of state from Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, Russia, Tajikistan, Türkiye, and Uzbekistan, as well as Belarus as an observer state. Also in attendance were the Emir of Qatar, Vice Presidents of Vietnam and China, and about 50 delegations.
This summit saw the adoption of the Astana Statement, which was a top priority for Kazakhstan’s 2020-2022 chairpersonship of CICA. The Astana Statement adoption is significant because it officially marked the transformation of CICA as an entity: CICA will no longer be simply an occasional head-of-state meeting, but rather an international organization. President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, while announcing Kuwait’s new member status, remarked, “In 1999, there were 15 member states in the conference, and now their number has reached 28. This, in fact, shows that the credibility of the forum in the eyes of the Asian countries and the world community as a whole has increased.” Along with the announcement for Kuwait, Turkmenistan also joined this year as an observer state.
The Statement outlines key areas of cooperation to focus on that would boost regional synergy and success. A key aspect of this is economic collaboration, especially as insufficiencies in the global supply chain come to light, giving Asian countries a chance to fill in certain gaps. Tokayev suggested the aspiration to change the CICA Financial Summit into a permanent platform in which member countries can more effectively engage: “Large financial centers are successfully operating in the CICA area, in Shanghai, Dubai, and Astana. You can fully utilize their potential to solve the identified tasks.”
Further to cooperation in Asia, Tokayev expressed CICA’s commitment to decarbonization and climate issues arising from Asia’s current economy. To this end, he raised the idea for CICA to head a conference akin to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27, in which a CICA Council on Cooperation can be formed for regional environmental issues.
Tokayev’s declaration also outlined two more areas of cooperation that CICA intends to focus on: regional food security and various spheres of education. The declaration stressed the importance of developing a regional food standard as well as green corridors between member states to increase connectivity and trade. In the area of intelligence, his statement mentioned the adoption of a “partnership network of leading universities of CICA member states to exchange developments in IT, nanotechnology, and renewable energy,” to increase regional productivity in economics, security, and the environment.
As highlighted in this year’s Astana Statement, CICA aims to increase productivity and connectivity within its region. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Türkiye expressed his optimism at CICA’s future potential, especially in the spheres of regional connectivity through the Middle Corridor: “We have been expecting the revival of the modern Silk Road that connects Asia and Europe, once again, using multiple modes, transportation corridors. That is why the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), known as the Middle Corridor initiative, is going to be very significant. (…) In order to strengthen international connectivity, we have implemented infrastructure projects worth $100 billion in the last 15 years.”
President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov was among the regional heads of state in attendance that lauded Kazakhstan’s role in developing CICA’s functionality as an institution, and affirmed Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to the cause: “Wide geographical representation, huge combined trade, economic, investment and human potential fully allow CICA to create a community of sustainable development in the Asian space. Kyrgyzstan is ready to take an active part in this creative process and make its own contribution. Together we will be able to achieve a solution to the challenges we face in maintaining peace and security, ensuring the sustainable development of states, including improving the living standards and well-being of our peoples.”
During this conference, Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the organization was extended for another two years. This is a significant development for CICA and for Kazakhstan because it demonstrates the strong leadership role Kazakhstan under Tokayev has taken on the world stage. With Russia’s current war in Ukraine and the energy, economic, security, and supply crises that have arisen from it, Kazakhstan’s renewed chairmanship marks international recognition of the importance of Kazakhstan as a regional and world leader, especially in countering traditional regional power dynamics. Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the CICA summit, remarked, “We call to eliminate all the artificial, illegitimate barriers preventing the restoration of the normal functioning of global chains of supplies, to resolve urgent tasks in the field of food security,” hinting at Russia’s lack of complicity in said crises. It is important to note that Russia is only one member of CICA, not the dominant power of this increasingly significant regional organization.