Nur-Sultan (UNA-OIC) – Kazakhstan is poised to celebrate on July 6 the first president and founding father of the country, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who made a historic decision and announced his resignation as president of Kazakhstan on 19 March 2019, ensuring smooth power transition to his successor Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Kazakhstan’s celebration of Nazarbayev comes as he turns 80 years old on July 8. Nazarbayev spent a great deal of his time serving his people, as he led one of the most important Muslim countries – Kazakhstan – in its movement for independence, which resulted in the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Nazarbayev provided distinct leadership to the largest post-Soviet Central Asian country. As a leader, he was successful in meeting several qualities of charismatic leaders, such as creating values, making sacrifices, and defining goals. As a founding leader of the nation, he accepted the state’s survival as the top priority and met the demands of nation-building.
Nazarbayev was a practitioner of the Kazakh model, in which he successfully made the transition from a socialist economy to a free-market economy model, adapted quickly to the world community, and adopted the motto ‘economy comes first’, to take the realities of post-Soviet Kazakhstan into account.
Since the first days of Kazakhstan independence, the First President, Nazarbayev, designated the support of friendly relations with the Islamic world as one of the main pillars of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy by promoting the ideals, principles, and goals of the Islamic Ummah.
During the era of the Soviet Union, religion was mostly banned in Kazakhstan. Soviet leadership carried out mass arrests and persecution of clergy and religious preachers. Nevertheless, the history of Kazakhstan inextricably linked with Islam for many centuries. Islam has become one of the primary sources of the formation of distinctive spirituality and culture of the Kazakh people. The ancestors of Kazakhs directly involved in the creation of Islamic civilization and engaged in many of its achievements.
After independence, Nazarbayev decided to continue following in the footsteps of his ancestors, to develop spirituality in society by spreading the peaceful nature of Islam. Thus, his support enabled the establishment of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Kazakhstan, new Islamic educational institutions, including higher educational institutions, such as the Khoja Ahmed Yassawi University, as well as the Kazakh-Egyptian University of the Islamic Culture “Nur-Mubarak”, whose trustees include the leadership of Al-Azhar University.
The number of mosques and madrassas has risen sharply in Kazakhstan. The number of mosques increased from 60 in the early 1990s to 2,592 mosques in 2019. These mosques were constructed by Kazakhstan with the assistance of Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, and others.
After Kazakhstan landed on its feet and became part of the Islamic world, Nazarbayev initiated actions to promote the interests of the Islamic Ummah at the global level. The significant efforts carried out within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), where the Kazakh leader announced over 10 global initiatives aimed at the development of all OIC Member States in various areas, including five initiatives that have already been implemented, and the rest are under implementation.
The constructive activity of Kazakhstan received positive feedback during its chairmanship at the 38th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (2011-2012). Kazakhstan conducted more than 40 events. Under the auspices of Kazakhstan’s presidency, the pan-Islamic body changed its name from the Organization of Islamic Conference to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as its logo.
Under the aegis of Kazakhstan, the activities of OIC bodies significantly intensified. Thereby, during the chairmanship of the OIC, Nazarbayev initiated the establishment of the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS), headquartered in the capital Nur-Sultan. The strategic mission of the IOFS is to ensure sustainable food security in the OIC Member States through socio-economic development and systematic promotion of investments related to agriculture, as well as trade, science, and technology.
This initiative received strong support from the OIC Member States. Today, 34 states from 56 members of the OIC have joined the IOFS. During the 2nd Session of the IOFS General Assembly, held in August 2019 in Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud backed this initiative and decided to allocate $2 million in aid to the institutional development of the Organization.
The First President of Kazakhstan also paid great attention to the importance of developing science and technology in Muslim countries. These areas are currently on the agenda since the further progress of humanity depends, in fact, on the competitiveness of countries in this direction.
Nazarbayev believed that the Islamic community requires a climate of peace, modernization, scientific and technological development, and education. In his opinion, it is precisely in the implementation of active trade, investment, technological, social, and educational programs that Islamic solidarity should manifest itself as the main principle of the OIC.
He drew attention to a grave imbalance of development between the OIC countries, noting that GDP per capita between the most and least developed countries differs by more than 100 times. At the same time, he rightly emphasized that the OIC countries control 70 percent of the world’s energy resources, but they only account for 7.5 percent of world GDP and 11 percent of world trade.
In this regard, Kazakhstan, at the initiative of its First President, held the First OIC Summit on Science and Technology in September 2017 in Nur-Sultan. Its purpose was to identify priorities, goals, and objectives for promoting education, science, technology, and innovation in the Muslim world. One of the crucial outcomes of the Summit was the signing of the Astana Declaration and the OIC Action Plan until 2026, which aimed at achieving the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) and strengthening cooperation between Islamic states in the field of science, technology, and education.
Nazarbayev focused on the importance of supporting scholars’ research in Muslim countries. In this regard, he initiated the establishment of the OIC Special Prize for Contribution to the Development of Science and Technology.
The Summit established the basis for shaping the agenda in the field of science and technology, as well as putting into practice the new initiative of the First President of Kazakhstan – to establish the “OIC-15 Dialogue Platform”, uniting 15 leading Muslim countries in the field of science and technology for the further modernization, scientific and technological progress in the Islamic world, including the solution of the most important scientific and economic issues.
Nazarbayev made an essential contribution to the promotion of Islamic finance in the Eurasian area as well. With his support, Islamic banks are actively operating in Kazakhstan, in addition to the activities of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), which are expanding year by year. Also, the “Astana International Financial Center” was established to transform Kazakhstan into a regional hub of Islamic finance.
There are also activities to develop a strategic program – The Islamic Infrastructure Integration, aimed at integrating transport and logistics systems in the OIC space by consolidating special development programs of the IsDB in Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Nazarbayev contributed to the anti-Islamophobia efforts, as well as the efforts to address the association of Islam with terrorism and the lack of unity in the Islamic world.
Expressing his utmost concern about the evolving situation in the Islamic world, the First President of Kazakhstan called for the launch of the historic rapprochement process in the Islamic world in April 2016, during the Istanbul OIC Summit. He appealed to the development of the concept of the “Islamic Rapprochement Initiative” as a political platform for joint work in the future. This initiative was designed as a new paradigm of relations in the Islamic world concerning interstate relations and would further contribute to the resolution of conflicts and disputes.
Realizing that the efforts of the OIC Member States alone would not be enough to strengthen the role of Islam on a global scale, Nazarbayev took an opportunity to promote the true nature of Islam at all global platforms. Thus, beyond the OIC, Kazakhstan is actively promoting the interests of the Ummah in various international organizations, particularly in the framework of the United Nations.
In 2008 the capital of Kazakhstan hosted, for the first time, a conference at the level of Foreign Ministers, under the theme “The Muslim World and the West”. The event brought together more than 60 representatives of governments and international organizations for a dialogue to deepen mutual understanding between the West and the countries of the Islamic Ummah.
Nazarbayev repeatedly rejected associating terrorism with the peaceful essence of Islam and other religions. Consequently, Kazakhstan, under the initiative of President Nazarbayev, and together with Jordan, co-organized the General Assembly’s High-Level Conversation on “Religions for Peace” at the UN headquarters in 2016.
Another contribution of Kazakhstan’s First President was the convening of the international conference “Religions against terrorism” in 2016 in the capital of Kazakhstan. During the meeting, participants made a statement, which called on the international community to join forces in the fight against terrorism and expressed the hope that the constructive dialogue between parliamentarians and religious leaders would find its worthy continuation.
The forum also supported the initiative of Nazarbayev to establish a Global Anti-Terrorism Coalition under the auspices of the United Nations and to adopt a comprehensive UN anti-terrorism document. Furthermore, delegates called on the international community to support the manifesto of the First President of Kazakhstan “The World – XXI Century”, proposing a global strategy for coordinated and responsible actions of countries to destroy the virus of war and conflict.
As a result of Nazarbayev’s efforts to counter terrorism, in 2018, the ceremony of signing the Code of Conduct towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism conducted at the UN headquarters. The development of this document carried out as part of the initiative of the First President of Kazakhstan announced in September 2015 during the 70th session of the UN General Assembly.
On 19 March 2019, Kazakh First President Nursultan Nazarbayev, while at the peak of his popularity, made a historic decision and announced his resignation as the President of Kazakhstan. As the founder of independent Kazakhstan, he viewed his move as an obligation to ensure future peaceful access to power by a new generation of leaders who would continue the ongoing reforms in the country.
In accordance with the Constitution of Kazakhstan, after Nazarbayev’s resignation, the post of president of the country passed to the Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who won the early presidential elections on 9 June 2019, after securing 70.96 percent of the vote. Following his victory as President of Kazakhstan, Tokayev announced the continuity of the strategic course of his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev.