June 23. 2024. 8:43

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Kazakhstan’s Journey from Aid Recipient to Donor: How Kazakhstan’s Development Assistance Contributes to Regional Security

In an era where global challenges such as climate change, pandemics, and economic crises know no borders, the imperative for international cooperation has never been greater – writes Arken Arystanov, Chairman of KazAID. The interconnectedness of our world dictates that a crisis in one country can ripple across its neighbours and even the globe. This reality is at the heart of the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which underscores the necessity of partnership in development cooperation. As the Chairman of KazAid, I am proud to say that Kazakhstan, since its transition from an aid recipient to a donor nation, has been at the forefront of embracing this global principle.

Economic growth leading to development assistance

Since our independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has experienced remarkable economic growth, with a GDP that now surpasses our regional neighbours. The Kazakh government is optimistic about economic development in 2024, forecasting a minimum of 5.3% growth. In the past year, Kazakhstan demonstrated resilience by adapting to new conditions and achieving a robust economic growth of 5.1%. This economic success, which spans the past three decades, has enabled us to contribute to global efforts through official development assistance (ODA). Our focus has been on key areas such as poverty reduction, environmental protection, and socio-economic development. We have committed approximately 40 million dollars annually in ODA, amounting to over 600 million dollars in the past two decades. This contribution, including support to international organizations and humanitarian aid, is a testament to Kazakhstan’s dedication not only to aid recipient countries but also to strengthening our international relations and economic partnerships.

Our state policy in ODA is marked by clear sectoral and geographical priorities, with a special emphasis on bilateral cooperation, especially in the Central Asian region. We have implemented major projects in countries like the Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Beyond our borders, Kazakhstan has expanded its international development assistance through active participation in United Nations projects, contributing to diverse fields such as environmental conservation, health, women’s rights, and combating drug trafficking.

Global cooperation and best practice

The guiding principles of our national strategy for ODA — transparency, accountability, and effectiveness — are pillars that ensure our aid is both impactful and respectful. We coordinate our decisions on aid provision and utilization with international standards, aiming for measurable results while considering the political and economic implications for both Kazakhstan and our partner countries.


Our adherence to international norms and principles is unwavering. We align with frameworks such as the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the Accra Agenda for Action, and the Busan Outcome Document, ensuring our ODA policy is not only in sync with global standards but also with Kazakhstan’s national interests and legal frameworks. We firmly believe in respecting the sovereignty and legal systems of our partner countries, thereby ensuring our assistance is both welcomed and effective.

I am proud that Kazakhstan’s role in ODA has been recognized by prominent international bodies like the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), where we have held the status of an “invitee” to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) since 2015. This recognition reflects our commitment to global development initiatives and our growing influence in the region. Our partnerships with the UN Development Program, key donors, and international development institutions align with Kazakhstan’s foreign policy, economic development priorities, and commitment to international principles, especially the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopted in 2015, these goals strive for sustainable global development across economic, social, and environmental dimensions and build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We also signed a memorandum of understanding with 9 international co-operation agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Azerbaijan International Development Agency (AIDA) and many others to increase cooperation on development assistance that fosters social, political, and economic stability and security in Central Asia.

Enhancing the efficiency of ODA

Our ODA efforts extend to establishing regional platforms that address critical issues such as the water-energy nexus, environmental challenges, and human resource development. These initiatives contribute to regional stability by ensuring food and environmental security, which are pivotal in the realm of international development cooperation.

Prior to 2013, Kazakhstan’s international assistance was fragmented, lacking a centralized approach. This necessitated the establishment of a legal framework for our ODA and led to the creation of KazAID under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. KazAID was tasked to systematize and regulate ODA activities, ensuring efficiency and alignment with our foreign policy objectives.

Today, we see the fruits of this restructuring. I can say with confidence that KazAID enhances bilateral cooperation and regional security in Central Asia. Our focus extends to crisis response, conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and fostering strong political and economic relations. We are actively involved in developing research, technological, and educational platforms, contributing significantly to our domestic economy and international partnerships.

Outcomes of Kazakhstan’s assistance

The significance of our ODA extends beyond traditional aid. It is about building capacities, sharing knowledge, and transferring technology. For instance, the unified Central Asian Higher Education Space initiative, enhancing inter-university exchanges, is a testament to our commitment to education and development. Moreover, our role in South-South Cooperation (SSC) through triangular partnerships with various national and international development agencies marks a new era of cooperation, leveraging our strengths in trade, digitalization, transit-transport ties, and cultural exchanges.

Joint projects in digital economy sectors like artificial intelligence and e-commerce are crucial. For example, the establishment of the ESCAP Digital Solutions Centre could foster regional competitiveness and bridge digital divides.

Kazakhstan is also advancing digital equality and access to education in the region, while also fostering cultural and humanitarian cooperation. A prime example of this is the creation of programs such as “Dostyk (Frienship): Diplomacy,” which aims to strengthen cooperation between the foreign ministries of Central Asian countries. Another initiative, “Dostyk (Frienship): Digitalisation,” seeks to enhance the efficiency of public administration in collaboration with the Directorate of Technical Cooperation under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore. Additionally, the “Avicenna: Health Care” program supports academic mobility and promotes regional cooperation in medical education in Central Asia. Furthermore, in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding and cooperation in the field of e-Government system transfers, a formal handover of the e-Government software “eGOV” under the KazAID brand to Tajikistan took place as a technical grant. The success of these digitalisation projects has sparked interest not only from neighbouring countries but also from nations on the African continent.

I am pleased to say that Kazakhstan is poised to strengthen its role in SSC, supported by bilateral agreements, regional treaties, and participation in various regional formats such as Eurasian Economic Union, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures, and partnerships with countries like India, China, and Japan.

In addition, to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of our ODA, we have focused on developing a financial framework that includes administrative costs, educational grants, voluntary contributions, and technical projects. It’s notable that our administrative costs, constituting less than 1% of our ODA, are counted as a country’s contribution.

KazAID’s activities since its inception have shown a dedicated effort to not only provide aid but also to ensure its effective utilization in sectoral spheres ranging from technical assistance and educational grants to joint projects with government ministries. These efforts are crucial in areas like entrepreneurship, women’s rights, digital governance, medical education, and water resource management, benefiting Kazakhstan and our neighbors as well.

Ultimately, Kazakhstan’s approach to ODA reflects our understanding that today’s global challenges require collective action. Our efforts in ODA are a strategic tool in promoting sustainable development and contributing to a stable and prosperous region, as well as an interconnected world. Our approach, rooted in strategic partnerships, respect for sovereignty, and a focus on sustainable development, positions us not just as a donor, but as a key player in shaping a more secure future for our region and beyond. By investing in the stability and development of neighboring countries, we aim to create a buffer against potential conflicts and crises that can have far-reaching impacts. Our ODA initiatives are tailored to address the unique challenges faced by our region, such as economic inequality, environmental issues, and political instability. Through capacity building, infrastructure development, and fostering economic interdependence, we strive to build a foundation for lasting peace and prosperity.

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