President Nazarbayev delivers speech at University of Cambridge

Honored guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends!

At the outset, I would like to express my profound gratitude to Professor Saxena and his colleagues for their hospitality and for giving me the opportunity to speak here today; at a university with a history that stretches back 800 years.  

It is a privilege for me to be visiting one of the leading universities in the world where Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Niels Bohr, John Keynes and many other prominent figures and Nobel Prize winners once studied. 

The University of Cambridge has maintained its position as the world’s leading center for science and education over the past eight centuries, and continues to make an invaluable contribution to the development of all humankind.

Today, I would like to share my view of the problems facing the modern world, as well as Kazakhstan’s role on the international stage and our country’s development prospects.


The turn of the 20th century represented a time of extensive and profound change across the vast, geostrategic territory of Eurasia.  Over a short period of time, we witnessed global changes on an unprecedented scale; earlier, they would have taken centuries to unfold. New, independent countries appeared on the political map of the world. 

Kazakhstan celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence in December last year.  This period has been the ultimate test of endurance for our young country.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we inherited nothing but systemic financial crisis, a non-competitive economy and an ineffective government system.  The standard of living was very low.  By 1992, 40% of the population was living below the poverty line and inflation was almost 2000%.  We had to create a new type of state ‘from scratch’:  implement new reforms, change the economic system from a centrally planned economy to a free market and introduce democracy instead of totalitarianism. 

Taking into account the instability of the surrounding region, our priority is to keep a strong state and to maintain the security of our country.  That is why we always concentrate on carrying out gradual reforms, where economic liberalization is of prime importance, followed by political liberalization. 

Unfortunately, the notion of democracy all too often suffers from a biased interpretation in post-Soviet countries; it is seen as an opportunity to be beyond the law.  This, in turn, has triggered internal conflict and interethnic clashes. A lack of political culture and previous experience has engendered disrespect towards state institutions and a movement towards violence – this is a slippery slope for any country.

To see the effects, one need only look at the mass violence in Osh, the conflicts in Andizhan which have claimed the lives of hundreds of people, as well as the events in Zhanaozen where, under the instigation of extremists, a labor disagreement gave rise to havoc on the streets. 

The world has recently faced a number of serious threats, namely, religious extremism and terrorism, and we are no exception. 

It is vital for us to maintain the same pace of development without sacrificing our main value – stability, which is the bedrock for progress in our state and society and is a vital ingredient in resolving the considerable challenges posed by modernization.

At the same time, we are doing everything in our power to improve the state management system.  For example, as part of our effort to modernize our law enforcement system, we are conducting a special evaluation of all officials in the field, which will lead to the replacement of 30% of executive-grade officials.  By choosing the model of a presidential republic, we have managed to steer our country away from post-Soviet economic and political chaos.

In the past few years, Kazakhstan has made significant steps towards the development of a democratic system.  The parliamentary elections that took place on January 15 mark an important step in the political modernization of Kazakhstan.  The results of the elections mean that  Kazakhstan now has a multi-party parliamentary structure.

We have been the first CIS country to succeed so quickly in making the transition from a totalitarian state to a free market economy.  Since our independence, our GDP per capita has increased 16-fold from $700 to $12,000.  From 1999 to 2007, GDP growth in Kazakhstan was on average 10% per year.  According to experts’ estimates, Kazakhstan ranks third among the 25 most dynamic economies of the past decade.  Our country has accumulated more than 80% of all foreign direct investments in Central Asia.  The world’s leading investors and business representatives from Europe, Asia and America have come to our country.  According to the World Bank, Kazakhstan is in the leading group of countries with a favorable investment climate. 

The transfer to our new capital and its construction in just ten years have played an important role in establishing Kazakhstan’s independence.  Nowadays, Astana is the pride of our people.  Here you will find unique buildings constructed by the British architect Norman Foster, as well as other world famous architects. 

Kazakhstan has successfully managed to overcome all the difficulties and crises of the past two decades. We coped with the global financial crisis and are now on a stable trajectory for sustainable growth.

In 2011 GDP growth stood at 7.5%.  We plan to ensure a yearly annual growth of 7% up to 2016.  We have successfully fought inflation and reduced unemployment in Kazakhstan to 5.3%.  A sensible fiscal policy has allowed us to accumulate substantial financial capacity in the form of a specially created National Fund.  At present, the National Bank reserves and the National Fund assets amount to a total of nearly $85 billion, or more than 40% of GDP. 

Kazakhstan has some of the largest reserves of natural resources, which include not only oil and gas, but also a wealth of all valuable metals - our main assets.  Moreover, we are building a new economy.  We have set the task of diversifying Kazakhstan’s economy and  reducing our dependence on raw materials’ exports, as well as  creating a modern industrial framework and a self-developing innovative system. 

The Program of Forced Industrial and Innovative Development was launched in the midst of crisis, and has achieved significant results over two-and-a-half years.  We have created an industrial roadmap to provide continuous support to all industrial projects.  It contains 706 innovative projects which amount to more than $76 billion.  Over 400,000 new work places will be created.  As a result, goods that have previously never been manufactured in Kazakhstan, will begin to be produced. 

The results of the Program can already be seen in macroeconomic statistics.  In two years the manufacturing’s share of GDP has grown to 11.4%.  During this period, the volume of non-energy material export has increased from $12 billion to $22.2 billion.  We intend to build on these successful results. 

Our main aim is to increase our share of non-energy material exports to 45%, to double the labor capacity in refining industries, and quadruple it in agriculture by 2020.  We are setting our sights on an innovative and knowledge based economy.  We have managed to increase our output of innovative products by 66%. Gross domestic expenditure on research and development has increased by 30%. Our spending on scientific research is growing steadily.

Our country is one of the first post-Soviet states to have become a member of the European Higher Education Area.  In 2010, Kazakhstan joined the European Cultural Convention and the Bologna process.  We set up a special program for study abroad called Bolashak.  Since 1993 over 8,000 young Kazakhstani students have been funded by the government to study abroad and be educated in some of the best universities of the world.  Most of them are already working for their country in leading sectors of the economy. 

One of the most popular destinations for our students is the UK.  Over 4,000 students in total have received higher education in British universities.  The Kazakh-British Technical University, opened in Almaty in 2001, plays an important role in nurturing and building Kazakhstan’s scientific and technical elite. 

The Nazarbayev University in Astana has become a priority project in our higher education policy.  We are doing our utmost to make sure that this university is ranked amongst the leading universities of the world.  Just like your university, it is run independently.  A special law to ensure this has been introduced, and some of the top professors of foreign universities have been invited to work there. The University is actively collaborating with Cambridge University on educational programs.  The co-operation  between the Kazakh company "Kazatomprom" and the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, is an example of this   

We are ready to expand our cooperation with Cambridge University, particularly in the field of new technologies, renewable energy and ecology.  In this regard, I would like to announce that we have started work on creating the Central Asian Innovation Fund through the joint efforts of Kazakhstan and the Cambridge Innovation Platform.  The Fund will undoubtedly play an important role in developing the innovative potential of our region.

No less important is the establishment of the Al-Farabi Scholarship, named after our great scholar, which will enable talented young people to engage in research in our region with the support of Cambridge University.  I am sure that it will be another contribution to our co-operation.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Kazakhstan is located in the heart of Eurasia; at the intersection of European and Asian civilizations.  We are fully aware of the heavy responsibility we bear for maintaining peace and stability in this complex and diverse region.

Since its first day of independence Kazakhstan has been making a significant contribution to strengthening international security.  Closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, where more than 500 tests were conducted, has been the most important decision in our country's history.  Kazakhstan voluntarily gave up the world's fourth largest arsenal of nuclear missiles and signed a treaty to establish the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.  On Kazakhstan’s initiative, the UN created the International Day against Nuclear Tests.

We have made a number of important proposals in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation during international nuclear security summits in Washington and Seoul, as well as at the UN.  At the last session of the UN General Assembly I proposed adopting a universal declaration on a nuclear-weapon-free world.

We have been playing an active role in all international efforts geared towards resolving the problems in Afghanistan.  Kazakhstan is a key transit route for ISAF cargo, and is providing economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.  Kazakhstan is also actively trying to engage the potential of regional organizations and forums.

Twenty years ago at the UN, I put forward the initiative to create the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. Today, this Conference brings together 24 states which cover  over 90% of Asian territory and represent half of the world's total population. 

In 2010 we successfully concluded our Chairmanship of the OSCE, giving this authoritative organization a new impetus.  Conducting the first OSCE Summit of the 21st century and adopting the Astana Declaration were landmark political events for Kazakhstan in the past decade.  The strategic aim of creating a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian Security Community - a seamless addition to the global security system - was put forward in Astana.  

Last year, Kazakhstan chaired the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  This has developed into an important actor in international politics and exerts a major influence on the geopolitical situation around the world.  This year we are chairing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Our Chairmanship is focusing on the situation in Libya, Syria, Palestine; as well as on overcoming the humanitarian disaster in Somalia and establishing dialogue between the Muslim world and the West.

Kazakhstan has set up a number of strategic partnerships with the major world powers - Russia, China and the United States.  Cooperation with the European Union is one of our priority aims.  Our trade flow with the EU has exceeded $50 billion.  Kazakhstan is the only country in the region to have successfully implemented the state program "Path  to Europe".  We are currently holding talks on signing a new agreement on partnership and enhanced cooperation with the EU. 

The UK is one of Kazakhstan’s key partners within the European Union.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic links between our countries.  During these years we have laid strong foundations for cooperation and set up a solid legal framework.  

British businesses are well represented in Kazakhstan’s economy – we have more than 500 joint ventures.  The total volume of British investments in Kazakhstan since independence exceeds $20 billion.  The UK ranks third after the US and the Netherlands by volume of direct investments into the economy of Kazakhstan.  Last year, our trade flow exceeded $2 billion. A number of successful energy projects have been set up.  BG is participating in the Karachaganak project that focuses on one of the world’s largest deposits of raw hydrocarbons.  Shell – another flagship of the British industry – is taking part in delivering the North Caspian project.  Another successful venture in the transport sector is underway with BAE Systems; to develop a national carrier – Air Astana. 

Modern Kazakhstan is aiming to become the largest business, transit and logistic hub of the Central Asia; a bridge between Europe and Asia.  We have built the “Eastern Gates” – the Khorgos International Centre of Boundary Cooperation - on our border with China.  In west Kazakhstan projects are underway to expand the Caspian seaport of Aktau.  With the creation of the Customs Union between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, our customs border now reaches Brest and the Baltic Sea in the west, and the Pacific Ocean in the east. This united economic space encompasses 170 million people and has a total GDP of about $2 trillion.

By 2015, the 2,700 km stretch of the “Western Europe – Western China Highway” will be nearing completion.  This will reduce the delivery time of goods from China to Europe by a factor of 3.5 compared to using conventional sea routes. 

We are building more than 1200 km of new railway lines that will connect central Kazakhstan with western regions.  Succeeding in the project to build a railway line across Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran will allow for the fast and viable transit of goods to the Persian Gulf and back.  By 2020 the volume of goods transit flows through Kazakhstan should double and increase to 50 million tonnes per year. 

All these developments present important new opportunities for trade and transcontinental transportation through the territory of Kazakhstan.  In fact, we would like to open up our region to the outside world, to set up transport links not only from east to west, but also from north to south.  This is our main mission. 

I am sure that Eurasia, united by economic interests, will be able to become a building block for a renewed model of the global economy.  At present the Eurasian continent produces more than 50% of global goods.  Over two thirds of the world population inhabit this continent, which hosts a wealth of natural resources. In the coming decades the importance of Eurasia will only grow.  However, fragmentation in the Eurasian continent does not allow us to harness the capacity for regional cooperation effectively, thereby reducing the ability of national economies to face global dangers.  I am certain that if the countries of the vast Eurasian continent overcame the barriers between them (in particular political ones), this would have a global repercussions.  It would have a positive effect on economic development and social welfare not only in Eurasia but also across the whole of the post-crisis world. The advantages for everyone are obvious. 

Kazakhstan has become an established centre for interfaith and intercultural dialogue.  Citizens of over 130 nationalities, belonging to 46 religious denominations live in our country.  During our independence, we have managed to create our own model for preserving and strengthening inter-ethnic harmony.  We have created a unique tool for inter-ethnic dialogue - the Assembly of Nations of Kazakhstan - which has evolved from an advisory body into a constitutional one.  It was our country’s initiative to create and host the four Congresses of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It would be no exaggeration to say that mankind has literally come to the next milestone in its history. The global financial crisis of 2008 - 2009 has come to represent the final watershed between an outdated and new format for the future. 

We are going through a period of global change that  will have a significant impact on many aspects of social life.  At the same time, many developed countries are still struggling with the devastating impact of the global financial crisis.  The economic crisis has evolved into a very serious social crisis, leading to an increase in unemployment.   The problems still inherent to Europe have had a devastating effect on countries outside the EU. They have been a major obstacle to confidence and growth all round.

The severity of the crisis, its rapid spread, and the consequences suffered by the global economy called for a rapid transition from the G8 to the G20.  The decision to broaden dialogue is an important step, but this is not enough.  Four years since the first emergency meeting of the G20, it has become evident that we need to attract more people to find solutions.  Last year I proposed creating the G-Global group as an addition to the G-20 mechanism to develop an international economic policy and to find global anti-crisis solutions.  Today, the G-Global is an international virtual platform of the Astana Economic Forum, created on my initiative by the “Eurasian Economic Club of Scientists Association”. 

At present, the G-Global consists of more than 10,000 participants from more than 150 countries around the world.  This initiative has already received support from 14 Nobel Prize winners, the Bretton Woods Committee, the Club de Madrid, the European Commission, as well as from representatives of international organizations, and business and scientific communities.  We were glad to see such widespread support of our G-Global initiative from political, scientific and business circles.

Finding a solution to the complex problems that we are facing requires the participation of as many experts as possible. And Cambridge University could play an important role in this process. 

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I love my country and work hard to help it overcome the heavy burden of its recent past.  I was in f power when, for the first time in its history, Kazakhstan took significant steps to increase living standards and improve the welfare and wellbeing of its people.  This was the first time that a government was being created, as were institutions, a market economy and a foundation for democracy. 

I took the decision to turn away from nuclear weapons and actively participated in the global process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. 

I am proud of the support we provide to the international community in withdrawing from Afghanistan and we will continue to provide this support, thereby remaining a stable partner for Coalition Forces.

Being located between two giants – Russia to the west and China to the east – we have managed to keep friendly relations with both. At the same time we have always been reliable partners with the US, UK and other countries in Europe and Asia.

I am glad of our religious tolerance – a highly-prized quality which allows people of different faiths to practice their beliefs freely. 

These are the results of progress and openness which Kazakhstan can be extremely proud of.  Still, Kazakhstan has a long way to go.  It must devote energy and efforts to addressing democracy and human rights.

I understand and hear what our critics are saying about us.  But we would like judgment to be passed with a sense of proportion and by objectively evaluating the achievements of my country.  Give us some credit for the huge progressive changes that have taken place.  We have achieved them in only 20 years.  Try to put yourselves in our shoes.

Your graduate, Isaac Newton, insisted that “When studying science, examples are more important than rules”. 

Twenty years ago Kazakhstan did not exist as a state on the map, although we’ve always been there, of course.  We were a colony of the Russian Empire and then part of USSR.  We had had no experience of liberalization whatsoever. So please try to understand that it is impossible and indeed unwise to try to get to the same stage that your countries are in, by taking one big leap. We are going step by step.   Step by step.  There is a fitting English saying: “Where is a will there is a way”.

We will be conducting reform programs across a broad range of areas. These include reforms to strengthen the legal system, promote decentralization, develop civil society, tackle corruption and improve the business environment. All these reforms require time and must be conducted with the greatest care to maintain stability.  This is not to keep power in politicians’ hands, but so that we can safeguard the hard-earned achievements of our people. 

Ladies and gentlemen!

Knowledge does not only govern progress directly, but, even more importantly, unites people from different countries, nationalities and faiths.  Another uniting factor among our peoples is their ability to keep traditions alive.  There is a saying that “An Englishman will even carry a tea kettle to the top of the highest mountain”.  Well, Kazakhs never go to bed without drinking tea.  We are also united by the fact that English people and Kazakhs prefer to drink their tea with milk.

I am hoping for stronger cooperation between your university and our country. 

Thank you for your attention.  I am ready to answer any of your questions.

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