Under the slogan "Facing challenges through dialogue," the Astana International Forum opened Thursday morning in the Kazakh capital.
The forum – an upgraded format of the Astana Economic Forum – seeks to tackle questions of economics and finance, sustainability and international development, energy and climate change, and of course geopolitical challenges. Among the reasons for the change in format is an understanding of the link between the fields and increasing overlap between political polarization and the flow of investment. The increasing polarization in the world is also the reason why the Forum is trying to promote multilateralism – multiplayer collaborations – also as part of an effort to reduce tensions around the world.
"Just as a combination of chiopolitical elements pushes us to the sides, the order of the day is to join hands," Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said at the start of the forum. "In an era of unprecedented geopolitical tensions, promoting peace and prosperity is paramount."
Leaders and heads of international organizations participating in the Forum,
Kyrgyzstan's president, Sadir Zhaparov, called for increased regional cooperation and demonstrated how international tensions create a chain of problems. "Rising international tensions increase domestic political tensions, which in turn reduce foreign investment, a reduction that affects production and raises unemployment, which in turn carries with it the danger of radicalization and unrest."
International Monetary Fund Chief Kristalina Georgieva spoke of the potential damage to humanity in fragmentation of the global economy. "Our IMF estimate showed that if world trade were divided into blocs, the price would be 7% of global GDP – equivalent to wiping out the economies of Japan and Germany. If direct international investment starts to pound the political frameworks, we will lose another 2% of global GDP."
International Monetary Fund President Kristalina Georgieva at the Astana International Conference,
Kazakhstan believes that one of the ways to achieve this goal is not only by expanding cooperation but also by making them more equitable. In other words, Astana seeks to strengthen the voice of the medium-sized countries in order to reduce the hegemony of the superpowers and thus reduce tensions.
Astana International Forum in Kazakhstan, Photo: David Baron
One of the most prominent ways to do this is through economic cooperation and international investment. For Kazakhstan itself, this is a key issue, and among its other goals, the forum aims to attract international capital. For this to happen, the Kazakh leadership has repeatedly emphasized improvements in building democratic institutions, increasing transparency and fighting corruption. "My credo is law and order," Tokayev said in his speech in Astana. "This is the stable foundation for a just and fair construction of Kazakhstan. We reformed our institutions in a very short period of time, limited the powers of the presidency and fought corruption (referring to the referendum that limited the president's term to one term, albeit 7 years, and reforming the structure of parliament; D.B.). Today's Kazakhstan is different than it was a few years ago."
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