INTERVIEW: Egypt can be effective bridge of connectivity between Asia, Africa, says CICA executive director

Tarek El-Sonoty, Sunday 27 Jun 2021

Egypt is a unique Afro-Asian country and President El-Sisi plays a special role in solving regional problems in the Middle East and North Africa, Kairat Sarybay tells Ahram newspaper in an interview

CICA Executive Director Kairat Sarybay

The CICA Executive Director said that Egypt could become an effective bridge of connectivity between Asia and Africa, amid growing global interest in Africa and its growing economy. Cairo is a unique Afro-Asian state that plays a key role in important international events, including the UN General Assembly, the China-Africa Forum, Russia-Africa and Japan-Africa summits. Egypt's successful presidency of the African Union, which ended in February 2020, has strengthened the country's international profile.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has a special role to play in fostering collective work to address the regional challenges of the Middle East and North Africa today, he told Ahram newspaper in an interview.  .

Security and stability

AO: The Forum will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2022. What is CICA like today? Do you think that the conference has achieved its goals?

The initiative to convene the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) was put forward by first president of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev at the 47th session of the UN General Assembly on October 5, 1992. On one hand, this initiative was based on a thorough analysis of a number of effective multilateral security systems’ development in various parts of the world. On the other hand, it was a reflection of foresight of global growth of Asia’s role in the 21st century.

The need to coordinate efforts on security and stability of the Asian mega-region and profound confidence in President Nursultan Nazarbayev on the part of political leaders and statesmen made it possible for the Asian countries to support the establishment of the Forum. The Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations between the CICA Member States was adopted in 1999, whereas the Almaty Act, which serves as the Statute of the forum was adopted at the first CICA Summit in 2002. It is no coincidence that the Declaration of the Fifth CICA Summit in Dushanbe expresses deep appreciation to the First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev for his significant contribution to the CICA process as its Founder.

Today, the Forum brings together 27 Asian states that cover more than 90 percent of the continent, from the Pacific to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Urals to the Indian Ocean, home to more than half of the world's population. The CICA Member States account for over 50% of world GDP and generate two-thirds of global economic growth.

The CICA has come a long way from a concept to an effective Forum for implementation of confidence building measures and cooperation towards a common and indivisible security area in Asia.

Strengthening security

AO: There are a number of international organizations in the continent that focus on security and cooperation issues. What is unique about CICA? What are the most important features of this interest and what distinguishes CICA from other international organizations in Asia?

The uniqueness of CICA is in the promotion of common, comprehensive, cooperative, sustainable, indivisible, and equal security. Today it is obvious that we cannot talk about the security of each specific country separately; it is also impossible to separate security issues in each specific dimension. In this regard, adherence to the norms of international law, primarily the UN Charter, the principles of multilateralism and inclusiveness is in demand as never before.

The CICA philosophy is to incrementally expand the areas of interaction, which 27 Member States define by consensus and all the activities within the Forum have a voluntary nature. I believe that this concept significantly distinguishes CICA from other regional structures, where the decisions are mandatory and agenda is often focused on narrower matters or has a smaller geographical coverage.

The Catalogue of Confidence Building Measures, which plays an instrumental role in fulfilling the potential of CICA, identifies areas and specific measures in five dimensions: military-political, economic, environmental, human dimension and new challenges and threats. Through interaction on confidence building measures, the Member States establish cooperation that leads to an increased security levels - the most important condition for development.

In the context of globalization, a well-coordinated system of international structures dealing with various tasks at the sub-regional, regional, and global levels is of key importance. CICA does not compete with anyone under any circumstances - we stand for enhancing synergy between organizations towards achievement of common goals of ensuring security.

7 Arab states

AO: Naturally, the Forum covers 90 percent of the Asian continent; it has a huge diversity of nations, religions, and cultures. What is the role of the Arab world in CICA process?

The diversity of political systems, economies, and cultures of the CICA Member States is an important asset of the Forum. We rely on creativity and innovation to develop new approaches to enhance pan-Asian security that is acceptable to all Member States.

Today, the Forum includes seven Arabic-speaking Member States, including Egypt, which participate in the CICA process from the very beginning in the 90s. Undoubtedly, the representatives of the Arab world significantly enrich the agenda of the Forum – thanks to their support and active participation, CICA strengthens the ties of the Arab world with other sub-regions of Asia.

CICA meets the demand for connectivity in a broad sense. Where else can Cambodia and Bahrain or Jordan and Sri Lanka exchange development experience or interact to fight against the threats?! For Kazakhstan as well as for Russia, it is very important to develop the concept of Greater Eurasia within the CICA framework. The Chinese Chairmanship in 2014-2018 held several CICA events related to the Belt and Road megaproject.

Establishing teamwork

AO: How do you assess the role of Egypt and the President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in supporting the work of the CICA?

I believe that Egypt could become an effective connectivity bridge between Asia and Africa due to the increased global interest in Africa and its growing economy. Cairo is a unique Afro-Asian state that plays a key role in important international events, including the UN General Assembly, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Russia-Africa Summit, and the Tokyo International Conference for African Development. Egypt was a successful Chair of the African Union until February 2020, which strengthened the country’s international profile.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi plays a special role in organizing collective work and addressing the regional challenges of the Middle East and North Africa today.

It is also important to note Egypt’s contribution to the development of interaction between the CICA Member States. For example, Egypt successfully held meetings of the Special Working Group and Senior Officials Committee in sunny Sharm El Sheikh in March 2016. We hope that Cairo will further participate in the development of the CICA process and look forward to the constructive approach of the Egyptian side in preparations to the CICA Ministerial Meeting that is scheduled for autumn 2021 and the Sixth Summit in 2022.

Chairmanship of Kazakhstan

AO: The Chairmanship of the Forum was transferred to Kazakhstan in 2020. What are the priorities of Kazakhstan at this post?

The Chairmanship of Kazakhstan has proposed a rich agenda of its priorities in CICA. Several main clusters have been identified, and first of all, it concerns further institutional development of the Forum.

Thus, the Member States welcomed the initiative to establish the Council of Eminent Persons. We hope that the Regulations of the Council will be approved at the 6th Ministerial Meeting this autumn.

Another initiative of the Chairmanship of Kazakhstan – the creation of a permanent platform for the CICA Think Tanks Forum – has been practically implemented, but it requires a logical conclusion. At a meeting in December last year, the Senior Officials Committee has already decided to run this important platform on regular basis – CICA Track II, and the Special Working Group is working to agree on the relevant draft Regulations.

In addition, Kazakhstan as the Chair initiated the establishment of the CICA Fund to finance joint projects, including the official development assistance or the fight against pandemic consequences.

The Member States supported the very important priority of the Chairmanship - update of the CICA Catalogue of Confidence Building Measures. There is a high probability that the work on this important document will be completed very shortly. We can already say that many new global phenomena will be reflected in the updated Catalogue, including countering threats in the field of information and communication technologies, cooperation in the field of epidemiological safety, gender aspects in the human dimension.

AO: What is your vision of CICA in the future?

Today, CICA is a recognizable and reputable forum, an effective platform for strengthening the pan-Asian security architecture, and its activities are of keen interest in Asia and beyond.

The time has come to launch a gradual transformation of CICA into a full-fledged international organization for regional security. All the necessary conditions have been created for this step, a legal framework has been developed, and its permanent structures are in place.

The growing role of Asian states in the global economy and international affairs makes it necessary to adapt our Forum to new realities, increase the international standing of CICA and strengthen its capacity for a higher degree of interaction to ensure security and development on a continental and global scale.

The Chairmanship of Kazakhstan intends to hold structural discussions at all levels among the Member States on the goals and methods of transformation in order to preserve the unique experience accumulated over 30 years of our development, on the one hand, and to determine the prospects of the pan-Asian security, on the other.

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