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The New Kazahstan beyond energy opportunities: the Congress of Leaders of World Religions

While the world rediscovers the key importance or Kazahstan on the energy front, there are more things happening in the massive Central Asian republic than meets the eye

By: EBR - Posted: Monday, September 12, 2022

While each person will see and understand what they will from the gathering, it is important to speak about the potential effects that the Congress may bring.
While each person will see and understand what they will from the gathering, it is important to speak about the potential effects that the Congress may bring.

by Radu Magdin*

While the world rediscovers the key importance or Kazahstan on the energy front, there are more things happening in the massive Central Asian republic than meets the eye. The New Kazahstan, as can be seen also from its President’s recent address is back in the game and interested in projecting both stability and ambition, and, in context, to position itself as a hub for leading Congresses and events.

One hundred delegations from 60 countries, representing billions of people, will be meeting this mid-September in Nur-Sultan. This year’s 7th edition of the Congress of Leaders of Religions will even see a personal visit from the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, as well as of other regional and global religions, including of minorities not present on Kazakhstan’s territory.

While this is in line with the Kazakh President’s governance agenda - recoupling state governance, society, culture, religion and way of life - the event in itself and the topics discussed represent a challenge and a reason of bewilderment, considering the effects it could have. After more than two years of Covid, and against the backdrop of global tensions, natural disasters, food and energy shortages, and a push against old structures, Kazakhstan may pull off a very successful Congress about spiritual matters.

We could say that the 7th Congress comes at just the right moment as, just like during the 60s and 70s, the world’s population seems primed for more people centred approaches to governance, economics, and international relations.

While each person will see and understand what they will from the gathering, it is important to speak about the potential effects that the Congress may bring. It is, in a sense, counter-current; it will be controversial for some; and it may be weaponised by others who will take advantage of the moment to speak of their own view about how the world should be ordered.

But the convening power of the event cannot be denied, and it may serve as a factor in the turning towards a more humane turn in how we approach world affairs. The event may even be a catalyst for the setting of new bases of international trade and economic exchanges based on sets of values and spiritual beliefs, in a way other faith-based trade was unable to achieve when globalisation and capitalism were going strong in the the past 30 years.

For Kazakhstan, this will be a way to show the world that it can keep friendships and business relations from multiple sets of values and preferences, and it will strengthen its position as an energy and minerals provider for the world.

While traditionally countries with maritime ports have been prefered for such exports, Kazakhstan is singular in its way, as it can provide these for trading platforms in its proximity with various agendas - some divergent, and some simply seeking autonomy from the traditional global value chains.

It could also be an indicator that it could carry a Central Asian trading platform that would be responsive to the likes of Russia, China, Iran, Europe, the Gulf, and even beyond, all while seeking to encourage its population towards being more entrepreneurial and seeking to more equitably distribute development and profits.

The entrepreneurial bend in the preoccupations of the current administration are yet to take off in a global sense, but the current context may foreshadow a more involved global Kazakh elite, which will be traveling the world offering solutions for the world’s greening needs, rather than seeking investments and technology transfers, as it was the case years ago.

This may just be one of the most original concepts that a country is proposing nowadays as a "third way" - one based on faith and dialogue, morale and spirituality in order to work towards stability - that elusive holy grail that both East and West are striving for.

This central concept of the Congress comes at the same time as a potential snap election in Kazakhstan (this Fall) and with a strong push by the country’s leadership towards more competition in all spheres of activity. It makes for an extremely rich and exciting competition of ideas and contrasting concepts, and it will be incredible to watch these tendencies coming together under a presidential administration and in such a diverse country as Kazakhstan.

*power strategist passionate for Leadership, Communications, Competition & Risk, a member of Forbes Business Councils, he authors the forthcoming book "Global Europe & Global Romania: a Competition and Communications Playbook"

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