Vladimir Socor: Kazakhstan elected to the United Nations' Human Rights Council

On November 12 in New York, Kazakhstan was elected to the United Nations' Human Rights Council (Kazinform, November 12). This election acknowledges Kazakhstan's successful consolidation of a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional population into an inclusive society of citizens. Barely two decades old, the state of the Kazakhs is built on the concept of a civic nation in which ethnic, religious, and cultural identities coalesce around the common Kazakhstani citizenship. Beyond simple tolerance, Kazakhstan respects and encourages the expression of those identities as a matter of individual civic rights and personal freedoms.
Kazakhstan's elevation to the UN Human Rights Council reflects world awareness of Kazakhstan's advances in those respects and its growing power of example. In the UN General Assembly's vote, 183 out of the 193 UN member states supported Kazakhstan's candidacy in secret-ballot voting.
The election of states to the Human Rights Council and some other UN bodies is based on world geography and political deal-making. Thus, many elected states do not deserve their elevation on their own merits. Kazakhstan, however, has made it on the basis of recognized performance. Sitting next to undeserving states on the Council cannot reflect poorly on Kazakhstan (if anything, it reflects poorly on the situation with human rights in most of the world).
Against a global backdrop where ethnic and religious militantism, tribe and sect, tear apart scores of unconsolidated states, while others suppress those identities, Kazakhstan sets the rare example of a Muslim-majority state on a secular path of development, taking pride in its rich diversity, and conceiving of itself as a messenger between continents and cultures. Wide-open to European influences, Kazakhstan became in 2010 the first Asian and first Muslim-majority country to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) with the member states' unanimous consent.
Kazakhstan's government regards its membership of the UN Human Rights Council "not solely as a badge of honor. We see it...as an opportunity to lead from within the Council as well as by example at home" (Kazinform, November 12).
Personal and civil rights are precursors to the evolutionary development of democratic political systems. The 2012 parliamentary elections have introduced party pluralism in the Majlis. It is up to the Kazakhstanis, attuned to their own country's specific circumstances, to determine
the scope and pace of that evolutionary process.
--- Vladimir Socor
Senior Fellow
Jamestown Foundation