ALMATY -- The United States and Kazakhstan increasingly are teaming up help neighbouring countries in need and promote human rights.
Most recently, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Kazakhstan Agency for International Development (KazAID) agreed to increase their co-operation on development assistance.
In a document signed on June 24, the two sides, represented by KazAID board chairman Dastan Yeleukenov and USAID regional mission director Christopher Edwards, agreed to extend their partnership in a number of areas, said the US embassy in a statement.
They pledged to promote democratic principles and protect human rights, expand economic prosperity, ensure social stability, improve health and well-being, and eradicate poverty in Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Commenting on the newly inked agreement, observers in the region noted that the provision of assistance development to neighboring countries will help these countries maintain their security and stability.
The combined expertise, programmes and resources of USAID and KazAID will support governments, civil society and the private sector in partner countries to achieve their own development objectives, said the US embassy in Nur-Sultan.
The goal is to build their capacity to achieve high-quality and sustainable development outcomes in Central Asia and Afghanistan, it said in a statement.
The two organizations agreed to co-operate for the first time on January 12, one month after the Kazakh government established KazAID.
On that occasion, USAID representative Javier Piedra conferred in Nur-Sultan with KazAID co-ordinator Rapil Zhoshybaev on prospects for co-operation in international development and humanitarian assistance, the US embassy said in a statement at the time.
The two also explored future strategic opportunities for collaboration.
Kazakhstan has made the transition from being a recipient of USAID assistance, in 1992, to being an international donor, Piedra noted. In partnership with the United States, it now assists other Central Asian countries in their development.
Maintaining regional security
Through its Foreign Ministry, Kazakhstan will issue international grants and favourable loans, build new facilities in priority sectors, create joint foundations, provide technical assistance and make voluntary contributions to international organisations.
USAID served as a model for the creation of KazAID, say observers.
Development assistance helps neighboring countries maintain their security and stability, said Albina Muratbekova, an Almaty-based researcher at the Eurasian Research Institute.
It also enhances the donor country's positive image, she said.
Kazakhstan has provided humanitarian aid to other Central Asian countries on a regular basis, she noted, adding that KazAID will systematise this practice.
"We hope KazAID will increase transparency for the public, and that we will be able to see official statistics on Kazakhstan's humanitarian activities," she said, noting that KazAID's founding will help regional socioeconomic and educational development.
Post-Soviet economic revival
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Kazakhstan -- like other post-Soviet countries -- found itself in a difficult economic situation, with many business and enterprises in decline.
In 1992, USAID began to assist with the implementation of projects to develop the real estate and capital markets, develop and enact legislation, and create a securities market.
In 2006, the Kazakh government began co-financing USAID programmes that are mainly focused on small and medium enterprise (SME) development, economic reforms and regional trade.
The projects also help address issues such as limited media activity and tepid public participation in the country's governance, as well as the expensive and inefficient healthcare system -- a legacy of the Soviet era.
USAID also partners with the Kazakh government to promote democratic policy reforms and, in the country's health sector, improve treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus infection and more recently, COVID-19.
An emerging regional leader
Independent Kazakhstan pulled its economy out of the doldrums mainly by establishing and developing its energy industry, in partnership with US and European companies.
In the 2000s, as it gained economic strength, the country began to emerge as a regional leader.
According to its Foreign Ministry, Kazakhstan has allocated more than $542 million to foreign countries to support development over the past 20 years.
In so doing it has transformed itself "from a recipient of assistance to an international donor partnering with donor countries to help other Central Asian countries and Afghanistan", the ministry said.
It has allocated money to support regional and global security, the socioeconomic development of partner countries, the well-being of its citizens and environmental remedies.
One of Kazakhstan's priority tasks is to support not only national, but also regional security, said Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies military analyst Georgy Dubovtsev.
"Above all, this means countering the threats of terrorism and extremism, which are relevant for Central Asia, especially in light of the growing tensions in Afghanistan," Dubovtsev said.