Ashgabat, 12 December 2012 (nCa) — Turkmenistan hosted Tuesday an international conference on neutrality and preventive diplomacy.
It was timed to coincide with the 17th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s attainment of the status of a permanently neutral country and the 5th anniversary of establishment of the UN Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia, based in Ashgabat.
The theme of the conference was: Neutrality and Preventive Diplomacy – Foundation for Peace and Security
President Berdymuhamedov addressed and moderated the plenary session. The other speakers were:
- UN assistant secretary general for political affairs – Jeffri Feltman
- Secretary General of OSCE – Lamberto Zannier
- Secretary General of CIS – Sergei Lebedev
- Secretary General of ECO – Dr. Shamil Aleskerov
- Secretary General of SCO – Dr. Muratbek Imanaliev
- Head of UNRCCA in Ashgabat – Miroslav Jenca
The oft-used diplomatic phrase – they had same or similar views on all maters of mutual interest – was true to the core in this case.
The issues uppermost in everyone’s mind and speech were:
- Situation in Afghanistan
- Drug trafficking
- Terrorism, extremism
- Trans-border crime
- Shared resources
- Peace and stability
- Brittle economies
- Joint mechanisms for preventive diplomacy
These are definitely the issues burning out there in the open. We may ask, just rhetorically, what is the change in the status of these issues BFOERE and AFTER this conference?
If it is difficult to answer this question, then the next logical question is: What was the objective of this conference?
Obviously, it was a great occasion. The UNRCCA (UN Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia) has completed five years of its highly fruitful existence. Even if some conflict situations such as shared water resources in Central Asia have not been resolved fully, the temperature has been decreased sufficiently to conduct talks in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
Turkmenistan has completed 17 years as the only permanently neutral country officially recognized by the United Nations. The track record of Turkmenistan during these years has been impressive. The settled peace in Tajikistan, the sincere efforts for peace in Afghanistan, the wide ranging initiatives for global energy security, the concerted drive for disarmament, the creation of trade, transit and transportation corridors, the landmark policies to deal with climate change and environmental protection, the drive to explore alternative energies, the timely adjustments in the foreign policy to accommodate wider stability and prosperity, are all ample proof of the success of a neutral Turkmenistan.
It was quite in order that the world should gather and laud the accomplishments of UNRCCA and Turkmenistan. Nevertheless, the real test is: how much of talk gets translated into action.
By changing the colour of the cow, we expect it to give more and better milk. Also, we welcome diversity as long as everyone dresses in a black suit and grey tie.
Here are the basic flaws that prevent the conferences and events such as the one that took place in Ashgabat yesterday from moving from talk to action, from theory to practice:
- We allow only those people on the negotiation table who dress, talk, think and act like us.
- We determine the outcome before the start of the dialogue; the dialogue for us is the process of convincing or coercing others to our point of view.
- We look at ground realities only from the prism fashioned for us by some power countries or groups of countries.
- We are perpetually in a conflict-of-interest mindset: we do something in Syria but don’t allow others to do the same thing in Afghanistan, we tinker with Iran but react in virtuous indignation if it tinkers back, we love peace but we finance war, we worry about climate change but veto any resolutions about climate change, we resent China’s economic might and we expect China to bankroll our economies, we bring aid but covet influence.
- We try to enforce peace by waging war whereas peace is actually the absence of war.
- We try to impose democracy by crushing the will of the people.
- In the guise of protection of human rights, we commit the biggest violations of human rights, including the most basic right to life.
As I have tried to point out earlier, most of the mechanisms with fancy acronyms actually amount to nothing but internal dialogue. We are talking to our own clones, our own rudimentary carbon copies. We try to claim diversity by painting the same icon on all sides of a cube.
Can the man in mucky, baggy trousers and long shirt, sporting a haphazardly fashioned turban on the head and smelling of sweat and dust, and the woman in Versace business suit wearing Caro’s Poivre fragrance, sit on the same negotiation table?
If they cannot, the whole exercise of creating and maintaining all of these supercilious organizations is pointless.
If this whole world is a single body, the different parts of this body are working at cross purposes.
When OSCE does something that is counter to the interests of SCO, it pits some of the members of both the organizations against themselves.
When the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council emit conflicting signals, it is not the United Nations; it is more like Divided Nations.
When ECO comes up with a good proposal and CIS does not respond, it does not contribute to the economic prosperity of the members of these two organizations, several of who are common to both the organizations.
This returns us back to the same question: What was the objective of this conference?
The purpose in part was to try to find if the other regional organizations can learn something from the successes of UNRCCA and Turkmenistan. The second part of the conference actually focused on this. Promotion and practice of preventive diplomacy were the predominant topics during the second half of this conference.
The overall lesson seems that neutrality is arguably a viable option for the whole of Central Asia. Each country must develop its own model of neutrality but the UN must act as United Nations for a while and ponder on a way to granting the status of neutrality to the entire Central Asian region.
The status of neutrality is not in conflict with the need for self defence. In fact, if constructed properly, a flexible model of neutrality can be put together to serve as an umbrella under which the peace can thrive and the economies can grow.