09ASTANA309, KAZAKHSTAN: AMBASSADORS AGREE CIVIL SOCIETY IS WEAK, BUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA309 2009-02-20 09:48 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO7850
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RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0309/01 0510948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 200948Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4682
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1230
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0613
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1319
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0314
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2166
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2494
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0792
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0708
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000309 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  AMBASSADORS AGREE CIVIL SOCIETY IS WEAK, BUT 
COUNTRY AHEAD OF ITS NEIGHBORS ON DEMOCRACY 
 
REF:  (A) ASTANA 0134 
 (B) 08 ASTANA 2577 
 (C) 08 ASTANA 2399 
 (D) 08 ASTANA 2398 
 (E) 08 ASTANA 2256 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  At a recent lunch in honor of visiting Dutch 
Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights Arjan Hamburger, several 
Astana-based Ambassadors exchanged views on Kazakhstan's democratic 
trajectory.  All agreed that the recently adopted Madrid commitments 
legislation, while short of ideal, represents a platform for future 
reform.  Kazakhstan's civil society is still weak, with only a 
handful of "real NGOs" that do not necessarily represent the wide 
range of the population's interests.  Government-supported public 
associations and grass-roots social movements should not be ignored 
as valuable elements of democratic institution-building.  The 
country's progress may be slow, but it is nevertheless far ahead of 
its neighbors, and moving in the right direction.  END SUMMARY. 
 
DUTCH ENVOYS HIGHLIGHTS IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
3.  (SBU) On February 3, the Ambassador  attended a lunch in honor 
of visiting Dutch Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights Arjan 
Hamburger hosted by Dutch Ambassador to Kazakhstan Klaas van der 
Temple.  Other guests at the working lunch were UK Ambassador Paul 
Brummell, Czech Ambassador Bedrich Kopecky, OSCE Ambassador 
Alexandre Keltchewsky, Belgian Ambassador Christian Meerschman, and 
European Commission (EC) Deputy Head of Mission Hubert Petit. 
 
4.  (SBU) Ambassador Hamburger told the participants that the goal 
of his trip was to highlight the importance of human rights in Dutch 
foreign policy.  Before coming to Astana, Hamburger spent several 
days in Almaty, where he met with civil society representatives, 
opposition leaders, members of the Unification Church, and the wife 
of detained "Alma-Ata Info" Editor-in-Chief Ramazan Yesergepov.  He 
asked for the participants' assessments of Kazakhstan's progress 
towards democratization, particularly in light of the 
recently-adopted amendments to the laws on political parties, 
elections, and the media -- i.e., the Madrid commitments 
legislation. 
 
WEAK CIVIL SOCIETY... 
 
5.  (SBU) OSCE Ambassador Keltchewsky reflected positively on the 
Madrid laws, highlighting the participation of the NGO community in 
drafting the laws and noting in particular the "strong dialogue" 
that took place between the government and civil society on the 
media law.  The political party and election laws did not go as far 
as civil society had hoped, he said, but they nevertheless represent 
a solid platform for future dialogue and reform.  Keltchewsky 
lamented the fact that Kazakhstan's civil society remains weak. 
There are only a handful of "real NGOs" functioning in Kazakhstan, 
he said, and there is an open question of how representative they 
are of the population as a whole.  In Keltchewsky's view, the 
international community must work with "civil society as a whole, 
not just the select Western-funded NGOs." 
 
6.  (SBU) The Ambassador stressed that the Madrid laws signify a 
step forward in Kazakhstan's democratization.  He noted that the 
Kazakhstani government remains open to working with the OSCE and the 
international community to further improve their legislation. 
Speaking to Keltchewsky's point on civil society, the Ambassador 
shared his experience of attending a meeting of the Astana 
Editors-in-Chief Club, a government-approved public association that 
includes both opposition and pro-government journalists, where he 
witnessed a lively discussion about the media situation in 
Kazakhstan that encompassed a broad range of opinions (ref A).  The 
Ambassador stressed that such public associations, as well as 
grass-roots social movements that have sprung up in reaction to the 
recent economic crisis, represent a valuable element of democratic 
 
ASTANA 00000309  002 OF 002 
 
 
institution-building, and he encouraged the participants to look 
beyond the standard NGOs for signs of nascent civil society. 
 
... BUT FAR AHEAD OF ITS NEIGHBORS 
 
7.  (SBU) UK's Brummell agreed that Kazakhstan is open to input from 
the international community and quite "sensitive" to its image 
abroad.  While the Madrid laws leave much to be desired, said 
Brummell, we must recognize that democr
atization will be a long 
process, one that will require patience.  "There are limits to what 
we can do on the democratic agenda," he said.  He stressed, however, 
that Kazakhstan is far ahead of its Central Asian neighbors -- 
"There are no political prisoners in Kazakhstan, and the opposition 
print media are flourishing."  Czech Ambassador Kopecky argued that 
a new Western-educated generation is assuming positions of power in 
the government, and they are bound to bring a new outlook, "as long 
as they do not succumb to the temptation of corruption." 
 
8.  (SBU) Dutch Ambassador van der Temple argued that Kazakhstan is 
still behind on civil rights and freedoms, venturing that the title 
of Human Rights Watch's recent report, "The Atmosphere of Quiet 
Repression," is fitting in describing Kazakhstan's political 
environment.  The Ambassador agreed that much work still remained, 
but stressed that Kazakhstan is a post-Soviet society, with little 
historical experience with democracy.  The hope lies with the new 
leaders, he said, the "Bolashak" generation of officials who studied 
in the West and have returned to take positions in the government. 
Van der Temple conceded that Kazakhstan, while it looks somewhat 
bleak in comparison to Europe, is a "shining star" in Central Asia. 
 
 
NGO-GOVERNMENT DIALOGUE 
 
9.  (SBU) The EC's Petit told the group that since December, the EC 
mission has been hosting weekly round-tables between local NGOs and 
various officials to help establish a dialogue between civil society 
and the government.  Petit explained that the meetings are closed to 
the press and observers, so as to build an atmosphere of trust and 
cooperation among the participants.  Petit cautiously appraised the 
venture as a success -- "A dialogue has begun."  The others warmly 
welcomed the EC's initiative. 
 
HOAGLAND

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