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Not many know that Kazakhstan has been providing aid to other countries for the last two decades. A few years ago, the country adopted a law on official development assistance (ODA) and has subsequently launched two pilot projects with the international partners. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Foreign Economic Policy Department Director Olzhas Issabekov talked about those projects, as well as the establishment of the country’s ODA system.

“The first project under Kazakhstan’s ODA system was done in April 2017. It was focused on Central Asian countries and the agricultural sector. We implemented the project in partnership with Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation. The essence of the project was that Kazakh experts in the field of agriculture, in partnership with Israeli experts, transferred practical knowledge and skills to representatives of Central Asian countries working in agriculture. In fact, these were two-week seminars in Almaty and Akmola regions on the site of successful demonstration farms, where methods and subtleties, for example, of drip irrigation, were visually presented,” he said.

Israel is one of the world leaders in the use of drip irrigation, which is why it was one of the partners of the project, he added.

The second project, focused on Afghan women, is currently being executed. The first part is complete, while the second is planned for late March – early April.

“The agreement on the project was reached at the highest political level in 2015 during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Astana, following which a joint statement was issued with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. One of the points of this statement is an agreement on the implementation of a pilot project under the Kazakhstan ODA system in partnership with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),” said Issabekov.

The project aims to increase the economic potential of Afghan women. As technical assistance, it involves the transfer of knowledge and experience.

The project is co-financed by UNDP and JICA. Kazakhstan is contributing experts in the relevant fields who provide their knowledge and skills.

A group of Afghan citizens, mainly women involved in public administration and NGOs, came to Kazakhstan last July for the first part of the project. The training centred on state management and reform as well as the interaction between state and non-state sectors.

The second section is related to health care of mothers and children, he said. The Afghan group will again fly to the Kazakh capital for classes.

Issabekov thanked Nazarbayev University, one of the main partners for the project. A large number of seminars and training were held on its campus.

“The project is unique. It is aimed at supporting an important country for us – Afghanistan; on the other hand, thanks to the partnership with UNDP and JICA, our experts enrich their knowledge and practical experience in the course of its implementation,” he explained. “From the point of view of relations with Afghanistan, this project fits into the framework of the luggage of Kazakhstan-Afghanistan cooperation in the field of assistance and sustainable development, which already exists.”

These two projects were implemented in the framework of the fledgling ODA mechanism in Kazakhstan.

Yet, at first, Kazakhstan had little experience in the ODA concept.

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan became an independent country, located in a region which, unfortunately, was facing issues requiring attention not only of these countries but also its neighbors. Kazakhstan initially positioned itself as a responsible player and participant in the regional processes… Therefore, it is important to say that since the first days of independence, Kazakhstan has been providing necessary assistance,” said Issabekov.

Prior to adopting its ODA system, Kazakhstan has already provided about $450 million in aid during 20 years. A large proportion was for humanitarian projects.

“But we must admit that for a young independent state, providing assistance has become a new direction. Therefore, unfortunately,  we cannot say that it was always properly coordinated, that it was always possible to monitor the effective use of the resources and some other material benefits allocated by our country to those countries to which this assistance was addressed. All this led to understanding by the leadership of the country that since such an activity is conducted by Kazakhstan, it is time to put it on a systematic basis, as many countries in the world do, where this sphere is very structured and all processes are regulated,” he added.

The first step was approving the Concept in the sphere of ODA, which was adopted by a presidential decree in 2013.

“The concept is a kind of algorithm, a roadmap for how we move, what actions need to be taken for Kazakhstan to have its own national system for official development assistance. One of the most important points of this document was the creation and adoption of the necessary legal and regulatory framework – the law,” said Issabekov.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs started from scratch, as Kazakhstan had no similar legislative acts. The law was preceded by painstaking work to study the legislation of other donor countries. The developers combed through the experience of European, American and Asian countries, adapting the concepts to Kazakh realities to create the law.

“And still, despite the fact that the law was signed in 2014, we receive positive feedback from foreign experts on the quality of our law. Its main advantage is its flexibility; that is, it can be used and applied in various circumstances. The world is changing; nothing stands still,” said Issabekov.

The presidential decree of the main directions of the state policy in the sphere of ODA up to 2020 followed the legislation.

“For a specific period of time, the document sets guidelines for us practically in all areas that should be worked out when carrying out activities in the field of ODA. More precisely, it defines geography and sectors and sets benchmarks in the sources of financing, as well as the partners with whom we can work,” he added.

Throughout the world, ODA is considered one of the most effective instruments of foreign policy and is largely tied to its priorities and tasks. In Kazakhstan, the main state policy directions are synchronized with the Concept of foreign policy and new state policy directions updated every four-five years.

Kazakhstan’s ODA policy states various criteria should be applied when determining geography and partner countries. The first condition is the level of relations between Kazakhstan and the country in question and its need for external development assistance. The most important criterion is the willingness of the country to specifically cooperate with Kazakhstan on aid issues.

“Therefore, at the moment we have identified for ourselves the countries of Central Asia plus Afghanistan as geographic priorities,” said Issabekov, adding that the document also mentions Transcaucasia, Asia and Latin America.

“We are actively working to create a national operator in the ODA field under the Foreign Ministry, which is envisaged by the Concept in the field of ODA,” Issabekov said. “This is the most common formula in the world. ODA activities are closely connected with foreign policy. So, the activities of such agencies should be clearly coordinated with the foreign policy department,”

“The establishment of the Agency for the promotion of international development KazAID is a necessary and key element of the national system of official development assistance. This will solve a number of important daily tasks, in particular, relating to the inventory, systematization, management,  and coordination of ODA that was provided to partner countries in previous years and which will be provided by our country in the future,” he added.

According to the diplomat, the absence of a national operator in the sphere of ODA reduces the effectiveness of work in this area, and the country does not receive in due measure political, economic and image ‘dividends.’


Photo  Zhazira  Dyussembekova , The Astana  Times



Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, today (Thursday, 15 June 2017), in Thessaloniki, at the third trilateral summit, signed joint statements for the continued strengthening of relations.



The formal establishment of relations was predicated on the already strong links between the peoples of our two ancient cultures, going back centuries to the Jewish merchants who plied the trade routes to Mumbai, Kochi and the other port cities of India.


25 years ago today, on the 29th of January 1992, the Foreign Ministers of Israel and India signed the agreement to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The formal establishment of relations was predicated on the already strong links between the peoples of our two ancient cultures, going back centuries to the Jewish merchants who plied the trade routes to Mumbai, Kochi and the other port cities of India. Today, close to one hundred thousand Israelis boast Indian descent and are just one of the many valuable links between the two countries.

In 2003, PM Ariel Sharon visited India. During that visit "The Delhi Statement on Friendship and Cooperation between India and Israel" was signed. This important document led to the upgrading of the relationship between the two countries in various issues, including high-tech, agriculture, water, health, education, defense, smart-cities, research, and of course diplomacy. 

The relationship was given a further boost during the visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to Israel (October 2015) and the reciprocal visit of President Reuven Rivlin to India (December 2016).

Today, the Government of Israel is in the process of finalizing an initiative which will promote and fund programs that will ensure the continued enhancement and expansion of our mutual cooperation. The Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are promoting joint business ventures, agricultural programs, tourism, and other joint projects. The Foreign Ministry will also be spearheading a special program to bring young Indian leaders to Israel, from multiple fields of interest, in order to learn what Israel has to offer and to realise the potential for cooperation and collaboration.


Photo Indian President Pranab Mukherjee welcomed in Israel, October 2015. Archive photo: Avi Dodi.






President Reuven Rivlin this afternoon (Tuesday), met at his residence with a delegation of the heads of Israeli diplomatic missions to North America.

“We are going through significant changes with everything that relates to our relationship with the US,” began Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Director General Liora Herzl, who spoke of the current period as being one of many opportunities, but also not without its challenges.



UNRWA has often remained silent while Hamas endangers the lives of Palestinians, including refugees, and commits war crimes by using civilian areas to target Israeli citizens. UNRWA spokespeople are quick to make accusations against Israel, but go out of their way to avoid mentioning Hamas.


I wish I could just describe all the ways Israel cooperates with UNRWA, and end it there. I wish I could sit here today and join in with the other speakers to simply thank UNRWA for all the humanitarian work it does, and leave it at that.


However, as the saying goes, "face reality as it is, not as you wish it to be". In reality, UNRWA has a political agenda which casts a long shadow over its humanitarian agenda.


Make no mistake, since UNRWA was established 65 years ago, Israel has supported its important humanitarian mission, and continues to do so today. During this time, UNRWA and Israel have worked hand-in-hand to coordinate hundreds of projects that provide essential services for the Palestinian people. We also recognize UNRWA's important contribution to the welfare of Palestinian refugees.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

When UNRWA was established, their mandate included hundreds of thousands of refugees. Today, UNRWA asserts responsibility for over 5 million refugees. How did the number of refugees increase so dramatically when the purpose of a UN agency is to decrease it?


In 1950, the UN established the High Commissioner for Refugees to assist men, women, and children in dire situations around the world. That agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives and provide a brighter future for the next generation.


According to the UNHCR, you lose your refugee status if you become a citizen of another country. But in the Palestinian case, this restriction does not apply. UNRWA - and UNRWA alone - allows refugees to pass their refugee status to their children and now grandchildren.


If we were to apply UNHCR's standards to count the number of Palestinian refugees worldwide, the figure drops significantly. But the Palestinian refugees aren't counted using the UNHCR standards; they are counted using UNRWA's double standards.


If this politicization of the refugee issue was not enough, recently, UNRWA left no doubt about how deep its "political mission" goes. UNRWA's spokesperson clearly stated that one of UNRWA's goals is to validate the Palestinian narrative. I repeat - to validate the Palestinian narrative. Is 'validating' the Palestinian narrative within UNRWA's mandate? Is this what funding for humanitarian assistance is intended for?


It is no secret that the terrorist group Hamas, the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip, often obstructs humanitarian efforts. The fact that the Commissioner General did not mention today the responsibility Hamas bears for the situation in Gaza - does the Palestinians no favors.


UNRWA has often remained silent while Hamas endangers the lives of Palestinians, including refugees, and commits war crimes by using civilian areas to target Israeli citizens. UNRWA spokespeople are quick to make accusations against Israel, but go out of their way to avoid mentioning Hamas.


UNWRA had over 10,000 employees in Gaza - most of them Palestinian but also many internationals. Where were they when Hamas stockpiled thousands of rockets, many of them in close vicinity to UNWRA facilities. It seems that while they are quick to condemn Israel, when it comes to reporting on Hamas, UNWRA's employees become blind, deaf, and mute.


While Hamas stockpiled rockets in UNRWA schools in order to launch them at Israel from nearby, the UNRWA press statement only managed to condemn, quote, "group or groups responsible". Well, the group responsible has a name - Hamas. And it is an internationally recognized terrorist organization.


While Hamas is doing everything to obstruct reconstruction, Israel is doing everything it can to cooperate with UNRWA to help meet the humanitarian challenges in Gaza. Every day, hundreds of trucks carrying goods enter Gaza from Israel passing through Kerem Shalom crossing which is operating 24/7, at full capacity. In the past year, Israel has provided Gaza with millions of tons of equipment, materials and supplies to assist with reconstruction.


These are facts which we have not heard much of today.

UNRWA's interference with the political process is beyond the scope of its legitimate activities, and endangers the fulfillment of its mandate. Throughout last summer we witnessed UNWRA officials act as judge, jury, and executioner. They reported facts as they saw fit, assigned guilt, and predetermined what the outcome of the process needs to be. Such interferences only deepens the conflicts and distances us from peace.


For instance, UNRWA's recent massive media campaigns are fully in sync with the Palestinian political agenda, and serve no humanitarian purpose. Just listen to Hanan Ashrawi'sAnsari speech today and the usage of the word "justice", which UNRWA is now doing. Take out UNWRA's logo, it could well be an official Palestinian campaign.


UNRWA is also using its educational system to validate the Palestinian narrative, to fuel false promises, and to give credence to dangerous myths. From an early age, Palestinian children are taught that the only solution to their plight is the so-called "Claim of Return". Many UNRWA facilities are decorated with keys, symbolizing this claim of return. Young children are taught that these keys will one day open doors for them - but in truth these keys have them locked in a distorted reality.


The "claim of return", make no mistake, is a euphemism for the destruction of the State of Israel. This "claim" is the real obstacle to the two-state solution, to which Israel and so many of us in this room are fully committed. The only way to achieve peace is through direct negotiations.


The Middle East today is in a state of turmoil. Regimes are unstable, terrorist groups seize and hold territory, and the people suffer the consequences. Palestinian refugees in these countries are caught in the chaos.


In Syria, they face death and displacement from a bloody war. In Lebanon, refugee populations from Syria are denied a place to seek shelter from the ongoing violence. The existing Palestinian populations in Lebanon have for generations been segregated, and isolated from the rest of the Lebanese society.


In light of the real needs of the refugees, it is troubling that UNRWA would focus its resources on political campaigns, even as it cuts humanitarian assistance. Such campaigns only serve to support the Palestinian political agenda, and distance us from achieving peace.


Many of the Arab representatives expressed their so-called concern about situation of the Palestinian refugees. These Arab countries speak today about their suffering. However, when these governments had the opportunity to improve the lives of these refugees, they cynically exploited them for political purposes. Arab governments and the Arab League intentionally continue to sustain the problem of the Palestinian refugees by refusing to give them their basic rights.


Scan the list of UNRWA's top donors, and you will discover that in 2014 nine out of ten of them are western countries. Apparently, when it comes to helping Palestinian refugees, Arab countries can't find their wallets. Not only did the Arab states create and maintain the refugee problem, they expect others to pay for it.


An example of the hypocrisy by Arab states was evident today hearing the Saudi representative attack Israeli actions while Saudi forces are actively and indiscriminately attacking civilians, children's schools and hospitals. Mr. Ambassador, you can't buy your country out of this one so easily.


Mr. Commissioner General,

Even the good intentions are replaced by narrow political interests. In order to achieve the peaceful future we all hope for in the region, UNRWA must choose the right path. It must choose people over politics, neutrality over bias, and truth over propaganda. Only this path can solve the refugee problem rather than perpetuating it.


Thank you.

Ambassador David Roet
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