Azerbaijan, Baku, June 8 / Trend , E.Ostapenko/
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek spoke with Trend European Desk in an exclusive interview.
Trend : How do you estimate the result of your visit to Kazakhstan? How can you assess the situation with Russian, Uigurs, Uzbeks and other representatives of national minorities in Kazakhstan these days?
Knut Vollebaek: I had a very constructive visit 25 -28 May and discussed a range of issues with the Kazakh leadership. In particular we looked into questions of multilingualism, mother tongue and state language teaching and questions concerning the effective participation of national minorities in public life.
Apart from meetings with the State Secretary and a number of Ministers I also discussed with the Head of the Language Committee and the Deputy Chairman as well as representatives of the Assembly of People in Kazakhstan.
We agreed that on a number of issues that I brought up, we would continue the dialogue in the autumn when I intend to go back to Kazakhstan. I plan to visit the south of the country where a large number of Uzbek and Uigur minorities live and where my office has carried out some pilot projects.
Q: In terms of respect for human rights and national minority rights do you think that Kazakhstan is ready to preside next year in the OSCE , one of the main principles of which is respect for human rights?
A: As you know in the OSCE all participating States have the chance to become Chairman of the organisation, and rightly so, as each state has one vote and all decisions are taken by consensus. All OSCE participating States have signed up to the commitments and standards of the Organisation and all states have pledged to respect those commitments.
There are difficult issues in all states. The perfect democracy in which human rights are never violated does not exist. Democracies need effective instruments which can tackle human rights abuse.
I have the impression that Kazakhstan is preparing very thoroughly for the challenge of the Chairmanship which is not an easy task. I myself chaired the Organisation in 1999 as Norway's Foreign Minister. Throughout the year a host of challenges - often unforeseen - comes up. I am convinced Kazakhstan together with all the other pS will try hard to find solutions to those problems.
Q: What positive contribution could Kazakhstan make as chairman of the OSCE in strengthening international and intercultural dialogue? What areas should Kazakhstan still work at?
A: In my opinion Kazakhstan has good chances to build a successful multi-ethnic state in the region. The authorities and people are very much aware of the complexity of those issues and they devote a lot of attention to minority matter unlike many other countries.
I think Kazakhstan has tried a number of innovative approaches, like multilingualism, the Assembly of People and searching for ways in which minorities could be represented in the policy making.
Of course many of those attempts have to be evaluated after some time and improvements should be made. This is very important as minority issues are not static but they evolve with time.
I think the country will greatly contribute to discussions in the OSCE family about issues that concern integration and tolerance which are of utmost importance not only for Kazakhstan but for the whole world.
Kazakhstan can still improve some legislation and should reassure minorities that no changes will be implemented over night. For example I read in the press that there is a lot of anxiety concerning changes in names of places.
In my talks with the authorities I was assured that there was a moratorium on these changes and that the leadership is very much aware of the sensitivity of this topic, so they would not precede with this and if there should be changes in the future they will only do them in consultation with the population.
I have shown several examples of countries where two different place names exist side by side depending on the two communities who live in a certain place. This could be a creative solution. I try in my work to find a tailor made solution to challenges that might exist in a given context.
In my opinion 2010 will be a fascinating year and it will be very interesting to follow the decisions and deliberations that Kazakhstan will bring to our Organisation to solidifying and fostering OSCE principles.