International and Regional Activities
For decades, science and technology (S&T) specialists from Kazakhstan have participated in a wide variety of activities at institutions outside the current borders of the country. At the same time, hundreds of foreign specialists have been working for many years in the scientific and educational institutions of the country, on short- and long-term programs. As the government emphasizes recruitment of foreign professors for positions in Kazakhstan and increases support for students traveling abroad for higher education, the extent of international programs will surely expand during the next decade. This international orientation will continue to be an important aspect of Kazakhstan’s progress in improving its technological competitiveness.
During the Soviet era, Kazakhstani organizations participated in activities that were usually approved in Moscow, which meant primarily activities with other states of the former USSR and to a much lesser extent with countries of eastern Europe. Many Kazakhstani specialists received their higher education degrees in Russia, and those that attended the best Russian universities are justifiably proud of the quality of their training. Hundreds of Russian specialists moved to Kazakhstan to lead development of the scientific and educational base of the republic, particularly in areas with relevance to military defense. While some have returned to Russia, many remain. Occasionally, Kazakhstani linkages were developed with counterparts in Europe and the United States, although such relationships were usually sponsored by the Soviet government and were quite limited in scope.
After the USSR splintered into 15 independent states, S&T collaboration between institutions in Kazakhstan and those in Europe and the United States increased significantly. Some continue to grow, while others have reached a
relatively even level of activity. Others have come to an end. Initially there was a serious language barrier to effective collaboration with Western countries, and limitations still exist. But young Kazakhstani specialists are increasingly mastering English, and some have mastered French or German.
Many new S&T linkages are being developed in commercial sectors, particularly with regard to development of oil and gas resources. For example, the petrochemical complexes in the country involve foreign investors and foreign management. Also, a variety of Western information technology companies have become interested in establishing a presence in Kazakhstan, and they are actively pursuing investment opportunities. Their presence is very visible in Almaty.
Some cooperative activities are undertaken pursuant to formal agreements between the government of Kazakhstan and other governments. Some of these agreements are considered “foreign assistance” agreements. Others are “S&T cooperation” agreements that specify areas of common interest. Others are simply open-ended agreements to cooperate in mutually beneficial fields that could involve S&T cooperation. A few agreements call for regional cooperation involving one or more other countries from Central Asia. But much of the international cooperation takes places on an informal basis between specialists and institutions with common scientific or economic interests.
As discussed below, important dimensions of cooperative activities with significant S&T components are programs financed by the international development banks (i.e., World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Asian Development Bank). Also, many United Nations agencies and international scientific organizations have been active. A favorite theme of these organizations is environmental protection, including restoration of the Aral Sea, protecting biodiversity, limiting desertification, and conserving water resources.
In April 2006 the U.S. Department of State reported that international and foreign organizations were contributing more than $1.5 billion to active cooperative projects directed to science, technology, health care, and environmental protection. These projects ranged from small exchange activities costing less than $50,000 to large loans for tens of millions of dollars. Of course, such estimates are far from precise since S&T is often entwined in other activities, and separating the S&T expenditures is not routinely done. Nevertheless, it is clear that many organizations in the country and abroad are involved in a large number of cooperative programs that have direct relevance to the S&T capacity of Kazakhstan.
This chapter briefly discusses a few bilateral and international programs that are particularly important for enhancing the S&T infrastructure of the country. Since Russian and U.S. institutions are the most active foreign partners, a few comments on their activities are presented. Additional international programs and projects involving Kazakhstan are then noted. As to the other Central Asian republics, the ties between some Kazakhstani institutions and their counterparts in neighboring countries have long histories, although financial constraints usu-
ally limit joint research activities at present. Building on this history, additional opportunities for regional cooperation are suggested.
Unfortunately, the committee had only limited information concerning the relationships between S&T organizations in Kazakhstan and counterpart institutions in China. Comments by Kazakhstani specialists to the committee during visits to Almaty and Astana suggested that a wide variety of linkages with China that have S&T dimensions exist.
COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA
As noted, cooperative programs involving Kazakhstan and Russian organizations are extensive. In the highly visible fields of space research and nuclear research, the ties are particularly strong. While Western countries, particularly the United States, have also supported cooperation in these two fields, Russian organizations are usually the collaborators of choice. This collaboration, as well as collaboration in other fields, is based on a variety of considerations, such as the following:
History of sharing sensitive information.
Russian as a common language.
Geographical proximity of the countries to each other.
Relatively easy access by Kazakhstani specialists to Star City (space research) and Dubna (nuclear research) near Moscow.
Relatively easy access by Russian specialists to Baykonur (space research) and Semipalatinsk (nuclear research).
Important educational and professional ties that date back many years.
Kazakhstani reliance on equipment made in Russia.
Russia-Kazakhstan cooperation touches almost all aspects of S&T. Informal inquiries in Moscow and Astana indicate that almost every ministry in the two countries supports bilateral cooperative programs involving some aspect of S&T. All leading research and educational institutions in Kazakhstan have at least informal ties with Russian counterpart institutions. Many institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Academy of Medical Sciences, and Academy of Agricultural Sciences have long carried out joint research activities with counterparts in Kazakhstan. As mentioned in Chapter 3, at present more than 16,000 Kazakhstani students are enrolled in higher education institutions in Russia, with many pursuing studies in technical fields.
COOPERATION WITH THE UNITED STATES
Beginning in 1992, the United States has become the largest investor in the S&T future of Kazakhstan of all countries with the possible exception of Russia.
The largest U.S.-Kazakhstan government programs have been for dismantlement of high-technology facilities that supported the Soviet military program and for conversion of the facilities and associated personnel to peaceful endeavors. These bilateral programs have involved expenditures of tens of millions of dollars by the United States and participation by hundreds of Kazakhstani specialists. A number of programs for nonproliferation of nuclear and biological materials and expertise have been under way for years, and some are currently active.
In addition, the U.S. foreign assistance program has supported cooperation in energy, health care, water management, and environmental protection. One high-profile program involves support of the Eurasian University in Astana in the field of environmental protection. Of course, efforts continue to be directed toward restoration of at least portions of the Aral Sea.
However, S&T-related programs, other than security programs, have occupied but a small portion of the U.S. assistance portfolio, which has expended about $1.3 billion during more than a decade of activity. Far greater emphasis has been given to supporting privatization, market reform, democratic governance, rule of law, development of nongovernmental organizations, and other efforts with very little technical content but in some cases long-term implications for both business and research institutions in Kazakhstan.
As to other U.S. government-funded programs, the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation emphasizes small grants to local researchers and encouragement of U.S.-Kazakhstan partnerships. A U.S. Department of Energy program has helped link U.S. private companies with research institutes. Finally, the Department of Defense’s nonproliferation program is designed to help strengthen local capacity to conduct surveillance of infectious diseases, and the field station in Almaty of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a component of a global network for disease surveillance.
In 2004, 40 percent of foreign direct investment in Kazakhstan was by American companies. Between 1993 and 2005 they had invested more than $6 billion in the country. The companies are concentrated in the oil and gas, business services, telecommunications, and electrical energy sectors. In related activities, bilateral trade exceeded $850 million in 2004, a more than 50 percent increase over 2003.
Private foundations such as the Gates Foundation (HIV/AIDS) and the Soros Open Society (social sciences education) are active in Kazakhstan. A number of other privately funded projects, including projects in the renewable energy and environmental fields, are in place.
In summary, while American S&T achievements are highly respected in Kazakhstan and American universities are the first choice for many students traveling abroad for education in S&T fields, the U.S. government has shown only limited interest in programs for strengthening Kazakhstan’s S&T capabilities, except those with direct security implications. At the same time, American
companies and private organizations recognize the growing importance of working closely with the local S&T community. Thus, they are having positive, though modest, impacts that should benefit the evolution of a stronger S&T infrastructure while also rewarding the companies with profits in the years ahead.
COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS TO ENHANCE S&T CAPABILITIES IN KAZAKHSTAN
This section highlights a few other international programs and projects designed at least in part to enhance the S&T infrastructure of Kazakhstan. Much of the information has been provided by the Department of State’s Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Hub for Central Asia, located at the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, until the fall of 2006. That information has been supplemented by additional information obtained during consultations in Kazakhstan.
The Asian Development Bank has invested more than $500 million in Kazakhstan during the past 15 years, with the following distribution of resources: agriculture and natural resources (28 percent); transport and communications (20 percent); finance (20 percent); education (13 percent); multisector (12 percent); and water supply, sanitation, and waste management (7 percent; see http://www.adb.org/kazakhstan/projects.asp).
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development currently emphasizes enterprise development, infrastructure modernization, and an improved investment climate. Investments since 1991 have exceeded $1.6 billion (see http://www.ebrd.org/country/countrykaza/sign.pdf).
The World Bank has invested more than $2 billion through 24 loans since 1992. Its active portfolio as of July 2006 included the following projects: Uzen Oil Field Rehabilitation, Road Transport Restructuring, Electricity Rehabilitation, North-South Electricity Transmission, Agricultural Post-privatization, Agricultural Competitiveness, Syr-Daria and North Aral Sea, Nura River Clean-up, Forest Protection and Reforestation (see http://www.worldbank.org.kz).
The Islamic Development Bank funds water supply and sanitation projects (see http://www.isdb.org).
The Global Environmental Fund is contributing $37.7 million to activities in the following areas: biodiversity, climate change, ozone-depleting substances, forest protection, dry-lands management, and persistent pollutants (see http://www.gefonline.org/home.cfm).
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is financing an HIV/AIDS program to prevent HIV infection among sex workers and IV drug users and to expand care for those living with HIV (see http://www.theglobalfund.org/).
The International Science and Technology Center (Moscow) funded 60 projects, often at a level of about $100,000 per year for three years, during 2006. The projects cover many areas of science and technology, with considerable emphasis on nuclear and biological topics (see http://www.istc.ru).
The Canadian International Development Agency has provided about $16 million since 1992 to support activities directed in large measure at strengthening technical and vocational education and building small and medium enterprise capacity (see http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/).
The German Society of Technical Cooperation supports S&T projects for implementing the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and to stabilizing the dried-up seabed of the Aral Sea (see http://www.gtz.de/en/welt-weit/).
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency sends experts to Kazakhstan to cooperate on topics such as biological diversity and health and medical challenges, particularly in the Semipalatinsk region (see http://www.jica.go.jp/).
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs support limited efforts in the management of natural resources, health care, and private-sector development (see http://www.swisscoop.uz).
The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development has supported projects in the health care sector and has provided extensive support for water and environmental management efforts (see http://www.dfid.gov.uk/).
The European Union’s Technical Aid to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) Program has provided more than $200 million since 1991 in a wide variety of fields. The related International Association for Promotion of Cooperation with Scientists from the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (INTAS) Program is charged with linking scientific organizations in the country with counterpart institutions in Europe (see http://www.delkaz.cec.eu.int).
The foregoing organizations are among the largest external contributors to Kazakhstani S&T activities that have the potential of supporting economic and social development. Many other external organizations provide smaller levels of technical and financial resources to the effort.
According to Kazakhstani colleagues, in some cases external support was crucial to the survival of S&T institutions during the 1990s when the economy was in shambles. Frequently mentioned in this regard are the programs of the International Science and Technology Center, which has distributed more than $50 million to local scientists since 1995. Since 2000 these programs, as well as other international efforts, have continued to be important in supporting high-quality research, but they are not now as critical for institutional survival as the economy recovers and state programs provide increased funding to the S&T community.
As requested by the National Center for Scientific and Technical Information (NCSTI), the committee focused its primary attention on opportunities for new regional programs, without carrying out detailed assessments of the merits of the currently active international programs. The committee is aware of several important regional programs that involve the participation of Kazakhstani scientific organizations. They include the following:
Regional HIV/AIDS projects sponsored by the World Bank, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the U.S. Agency for International Development, and others are of considerable importance, given predictions that HIV/AIDS could infect 1 million people in Central Asia by 2030. At-risk populations of primary concern are prisoners, prostitutes, and intravenous drug users. In view of the increased trafficking in narcotics and the relative ease of travel in the region, the HIV/AIDS issue clearly deserves continuing attention.
The Caspian Environmental Program coordinates the activities of organizations from the five littoral states (Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan), which collectively address the following issues: decline in fish stocks, particularly from poaching of sturgeon; increased oil pollution; degradation of coastal landscapes and habitats; threats to biodiversity; damage to coastal infrastructures and amenities due to pollution and sea-level rise and fall; threats from introduced species; and decline in general environmental conditions and human health. Coordinated national monitoring programs, exchanges of research data, and joint expeditions are among the many activities that are carried out. Selected institutions located in the five countries have been designated as lead organizations for specific scientific activities of common interest.1
The Aral Sea legacy is the focal point for a large number of regional projects that involve primarily Uzbekistani and Kazakhstani institutions. Sometimes other Central Asian countries that depend on water from the tributaries are involved. Many programs are supported by the Global Environmental Fund. Other external organizations have been involved. This high level of activity will probably continue for the indefinite future.2
Geological Investigations throughout Eurasia. A number of cooperative geological investigations are currently under way involving Chinese, Mongolian, Russian, and Kazakhstani institutes.
Seismic Investigations in Central Asia and Beyond. Several seismic networks are in place to monitor earthquake-related phenomena in the region. Presumably some of the stations were converted from Soviet stations designed to monitor nuclear testing activity. In any event, they are important given the earthquake potential in southern Kazakhstan and elsewhere.
This list of regional programs is a small sampling of the many projects that involve Kazakhstani scientists working on a regional basis.
Against this background of a long tradition of regional collaboration, the committee offers the following suggestions for initiating or expanding regional cooperation that should be of special interest to Kazakhstan:
Management of Water Resources: Regional programs to conserve water resources in the arid areas of Central Asia date back many decades. The Soviet government designated a water research institute in Tashkent to serve as the lead institute for regional cooperation in this field, although the regional activities of the institute have dwindled in importance as Uzbekistan has increasingly looked inward to address development problems. Kazakhstan should not hesitate to assume a new leadership role in water management given its dependence on four rivers flowing south from Russia into the country, its water flows across the border with China, and its shared water resources in the southern part of the country. Perhaps a regional approach will be best defined by an aggregation of bilateral arrangements since the issues vary considerably in different border areas and in the tributaries that flow into these areas.
Disease Surveillance: As discussed in Chapter 3, the U.S. government recently initiated a program in Kazakhstan to upgrade local capabilities to detect, diagnose, and report disease agents and syndromic episodes that threaten human health, with particular attention to zoonotic diseases. Related efforts are under way in Uzbekistan. These networks should significantly improve the capabilities of not only local scientists but also external organizations (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization) to detect promptly disease outbreaks of regional and global importance, such as SARS and avian flu. The committee supports this activity and urges that consideration be given to building on the experiences in Kazakhstan to address related problems and opportunities in Kyrgyzstan.
Medical Education: The medical universities and medical research facilities in Kazahkstan are well developed. As the linkages among education, research, and clinical practice become stronger in the education complexes, the quality of the preparation of health care practitioners, particularly doctors, should increase accordingly. This development should open attractive new opportunities for talented students from other Central Asian countries to attend universities in Kazakhstan.
Educational Complex in Astana: Plans for a new high-technology university in Astana (discussed in Chapter 3) envision a large Western presence in terms of faculty and researchers. A special effort should be made to attract talented students from neighboring countries as well. Since markets in Central Asia for technology-intensive products should be an important component of Kazakhstan’s development plans, attendance at the university by future scientific leaders from these countries should in the long run pay off in terms of ties among colleagues with common interests and with influence in their countries.