This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
(Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,
I am delighted to welcome you here. My special thanks go to the Human Rights Commission and in particular to Chairman Kuanysh Sultanov and Secretary Tastemir Abishev for your ongoing cooperation with us. I would like to specially thank Deputy Akim Saken Kanybekov and Akimat staff for your valuable support for this event. I would also like to thank the OSCE Centre and the International Organisation for Migration for your engagement on human rights issues in Kazakhstan. Finally thanks to all of you who are here today: members of the civil service, civil society, international organisations and academic experts. I thank all of you who have come here this morning to be a part of this event and to share your opinions.
The UK sees Kazakhstan as one of some 25 “Emerging Powers” in the world, with whom we seek a deeper relationship on a strategic level. And we have demonstrated that commitment to a strategic relationship through the visit of the Prime Minister to Kazakhstan in June and July and the visits to the UK last week of the Minister of Defence, Mr Dzhaksybekov, and Deputy Prime Minister Issekeshev. Indeed DPM Issekeshev signed a Memorandum on the establishment of an Inter-Governmental Commission which will give political oversight to our work on trade and investment; energy; and education, science and culture.
Over the past years we have been working with Kazakhstan in various areas and we believe that our cooperation on strengthening the human rights framework and promotion of good governance is important. The British Embassy is delighted to continue our cooperation with the National Human Rights Commission, which started in 2007. We therefore much welcome the adoption of legislation on the National Preventive Mechanism. This is a tangible indication of the Kazakh Government’s commitment to improve the treatment of those in prisons. We are funding a number of other projects on prison reform and NPM. Likewise we support projects on strengthening the freedom of religion and mass media.
We greatly appreciate Kazakhstan’s efforts towards encouraging harmony and religious accord in the Eurasian region and beyond. We also appreciate the challenges faced by Kazakhstan and by the rest of us by 21st century technology, the ease of world-wide migration, and sources of conflict. They all come together to pose difficult questions to policy makers in all countries. My Government remains convinced that the answers always lie in encouraging and supporting the fullest possible respect for the Freedom of Religion and Belief. I’m delighted that my Government has, this year, launched a project in collaboration with others including the Agency for Religious Affairs, state prosecutors and youth groups in order to help raise awareness of standards in this area. We therefore urge the Government of Kazakhstan to use the opportunity provided by Kazakhstan’s Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in 2014 in order to develop further the work already underway to address existing challenges. Work remains to be done if we are to avoid the possibility of driving people underground and into the hands of extremists.
I am also happy to announce that as we sit here today there is another event supported by the Embassy taking place in this building. That event focuses on freedom of religion and belief. It is co-organised by the Akimat of South Kazakhstan and the Agency for Religious Affairs. The discussion is on the coverage of religious issues in the mass media. We are very happy that there are two events on human rights issues happening in Shymkent today that we have supported.
I would also like to highlight another challenge faced, worldwide, which is the role of Business in respecting individual rights. The UK recently published its own action plan on Business and Human Rights. The stronger the thread of safeguards running through society that are good for human rights – be they democratic freedoms, good governance, the rule of law, property rights, civil society – the better are the conditions for long-term, private sector led, market growth. This is good for jobs, good for development, and good for the country. The EU has called on all other member states to develop plans by end 2013. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage Kazakhstan to join this initiative and consider the possibility of a similar action plan here. We would be delighted to work with our partners in Kazakhstan so that together we can encourage the private sector to play its part.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kazakhstan, like most countries around the world, is particularly focussed on its economic and social development. The partnership between Business and Human Rights can form an important and helpful component on this and I would like to offer a couple of examples of Business and Human Rights initiatives: The first is that the international community is trying to encourage a partnership on the ‘Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights’. These are a set of principles that guide oil, gas, and mining companies on how to use their security personnel in a manner that respects human rights. Countries can also sign up to the Voluntary Principles and use the principles to guide their use of security forces when dealing with the sub-surface industries. The Voluntary Principles were established by the United Kingdom and the United States in 2000 and now includes membership from some of the world’s biggest mining and energy firms. Civil society partners such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Alert, and Oxfam are also participants. We are encouraging our Kazakh colleagues to consider the benefits of this process. Two British companies - BG and Shell - are implementing Voluntary Principles worldwide and in their operations in Kazakhstan.
The second initiative is the UN Global Compact. Two of its ten principles focus on human rights. Principle 1 says that ‘Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights’. Principle 2 says that ‘Businesses should make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses’. Many global and UK companies have already signed up to the Global Compact. There are ten Kazakh businesses and three business associations currently signed up to the Global Compact. We would encourage even more companies to sign up.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank once again all those who have been involved in compiling this Report for all their hard work and willingness to improve human rights in Kazakhstan. Let me wish you every success in making the lives of the people of this country better.
See here photos from Kazakhstan’s Human Rights Report 2012 Launch