The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Kazakhstan’s steadfast foreign policy approach serves as a beacon for strategic diplomacy in international relations.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) acts as a cornerstone within the expansive Eurasian chessboard, upholding the tenets of liberal institutionalism. This principle within the international relations discourse fosters cooperation and growth amongst rational state actors through global institutional frameworks. The SCO validates this approach by dispensing with hierarchical governance, instead rotating its presidency among member states annually. Such inclusivity empowers Central Asian countries, especially Kazakhstan, to champion its people’s interests even amid regional giants like China and Russia. The SCO’s liberal methodology enhances democratic conflict resolution, fostering accord among its member states.

The SCO is pivotal in spurring economic integration and infrastructural progress among its members. Kazakhstan’s strategic Eurasian position makes the SCO a valuable ally for bolstering its trade, investments, and transit connections. Engaging actively in the SCO, Kazakhstan shapes its agenda, focusing on economic collaboration, security, and connectivity. Its leadership is marked by an acute awareness of the SCO’s diverse interests and a commitment to a stable, cooperative geopolitical environment. Kazakhstan transforms the SCO into a pragmatic, outcome-oriented body that promotes stronger trade and security alliances. Its involvement in initiatives like the SCO Business Council and Development Bank affirms its commitment to the organization’s mission, facilitating economic dialogue and regional development goals.

Kazakhstan is also at the forefront of addressing environmental challenges and advancing digital connectivity within the SCO. Its balanced approach aligns with its sustainable future vision and efforts to mitigate geopolitical divisions between the East and West. The country’s SCO chairmanship has been instrumental in advancing key initiatives, notably the 2025-2027 Program for Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism. Nonetheless, the absence of significant economic projects and financial backing remains an obstacle to the SCO’s advancement. To counteract this, Kazakhstan has suggested capitalizing on the Astana International Financial Centre to boost financial investments in regional projects funded by the SCO, presenting new prospects for economic cooperation.

Kazakhstan’s foreign policy demonstrates that a methodical, strategic approach to international affairs is effective. Predictable, balanced, and peaceful, its diplomacy is central to its influence within the SCO. Its commitment to fostering regional cohesion underscores stability, suggesting that Kazakhstan will persist in this foreign policy direction. This constancy not only elevates Kazakhstan’s international image but also contributes to regional stability and progressive development. The SCO is a reflection of Kazakhstan’s national interest and its contribution to regional prosperity. At the first SCO National Coordination Council gathering in Almaty, there was a clear focus on addressing regional and international issues and promoting organizational growth.

At the SCO Heads of State meeting in July 2023, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev highlighted the goals for Kazakhstan’s presidency, targeting transnational crime and refining frameworks against terrorism, separatism, and extremism for 2025-2027. He emphasized the Afghan crisis as a significant Eurasian concern and discussed strategies for the UN Regional Center for Sustainable Development Goals.

Kazakhstan’s non-proliferation, conflict resolution and energy transition roles propose focusing on peace, security, and sustainable development within its SCO presidency, addressing not just national but also pivotal Central Asian strategic issues. Kazakhstan’s emerging SCO leadership elevates Central Asian and Eurasian concerns to a global stage. It has proposed enhancing cultural and humanitarian cooperation among SCO nations, including projects like the “Spiritual Shrines of the SCO” and the International Science and Practice Seminar on “The Golden Horde and its Legacy” in Turkestan, reflecting its commitment to combating climate change. During its chairmanship, Kazakhstan anticipates significant intergovernmental environmental protection agreements, development programs for protected natural areas and ecotourism, and a memorandum of understanding with the UNEP.

Kazakhstan’s geographical heartland position boosts its influence as the SCO chair, contributing to Central Asian stability and unity. Its central location is advantageous in addressing local issues and fostering cooperation among SCO nations, potentially leading to a more robust and prosperous region. Kazakhstan’s presidency in the SCO is a testament to its growing clout and a meaningful step toward regional stability and integration. Previous summits have navigated geopolitical complexities, yet under Kazakhstan’s guidance, fair agreements on pressing security issues like water security could be within reach. Kazakhstan’s leadership could herald pivotal economic policy breakthroughs, enhancing regional stability and economic unity. Hence, Kazakhstan’s command of the SCO is broadening the organization’s scope.

Theo Casablanca is a blogger who lives in Brasília.