The United States and Central Asia: Partners for the 21st Century

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Nazarbayev University
Astana, Kazakhstan
November 2, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: (In Kazakh.) (Applause.) I’m working at it, folks. (Laughter.)

Thank you very, very much, President Katsu. Thank you. As all of you know, President Katsu had a very long and very distinguished career at the World Bank, and I was not at all surprised to learn that he had been working very hard to create economic opportunities for the next generation now of Central Asian leaders. So he is a mentor and a friend to many of you, and you’re lucky to have his hands-on, skilled effort at managing this university – the Nazarbayev University – which is a model here in Kazakhstan and will be, undoubtedly, all across the region.

I’m very grateful to Prime Minister Massimov. Thank you, sir, for being here and spending time. We’ve met twice today already, and I appreciate very much that an elected politician is willing to sit through the speech of a non-elected politician, so – (laughter) – I’m a recovering politician, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank Foreign Minister Idrissov, who I know is traveling, for his very warm welcome, and I thank you all for your strong leadership and the vision that you are offering Kazakhstan.

Five years ago, President Nazarbayev put forward a very bold vision, and he talked about offering students a first-class education not just to keep pace, but to set the pace in a very rapidly changing world.

This global university is helping to fulfill that vision. And you have, I understand, partnerships with the United States, Great Britain, Singapore; you have an outstanding faculty that includes, I am proud to say, many Americans. Your students, I know, are smart, full of energy, and eager to make a very positive difference in the world. And so I am really pleased to be here today to talk about the United States, Kazakhstan, and all of Central Asia – and in fact, really some larger issues that bind us together and, frankly, on a more global basis, even, than just the region.

Twenty-five years ago, the people in Central Asia were cut off from the world. I talked about this today in my luncheon with the president about what it was like to make that transition. And today, many of you now study in the best universities and colleges in America, in Kazakhstan and elsewhere. Kazakhstani boxer Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin – (applause) – he has shown in his individual way that people from this region can transform possibilities for today and for tomorrow.

And this matters, because in recent decades, we have all learned challenges in one place can have an impact – maybe not immediately always, but ultimately – in many other places. And certainly, the United States of America is aware that security and stability in Central Asia is an important building block for global security. Your neighborhood includes, obviously, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, and China – that’s your neighborhood. And you sit at the connection of some of the most significant foreign policy and security challenges anywhere on the planet.

But America’s stake in Central Asia, I want to emphasize to you, extends far beyond security. This is, after all, the region where globalization truly began. For centuries, your countries – long before we even existed as a country, you were an integral part of a vital economic artery that stretched from Istanbul to Shanghai, and you provided opportunities for trade, for transport, for travel between and across civilizations. You helped to define those civilizations, and those defined – those civilizations have defined all of us today. And today what we want to see is not a struggle between China and Russia and the United States in a zero-sum game. What we want to see is a Central Asia that claims its place as an engine of growth at the heart of a modern and dynamic Asia. And when we invest in each other, all our societies benefit.

Now, of course, we have learned over time that both stability and prosperity are closely linked to good governance – governance that is powered by participatory, accountable institutions and guided by the rule of law.

We know and we have learned – sometimes the hard way – that holding elections, as important as they are, is just one element of real democracy. And this is a lesson we have learned in the United States over more than 200 years. Elections matter little if they are not free and fair, with all political parties competing on a level playing field. And promises contained in constitutions and laws – they don’t amount to much unless those promises are actually kept. That’s why accountable governance is also measured by the independence of a judiciary; by the health of the civil society; by the ability of every individual to enjoy basic freedoms of thought, speech, and religion, and to engage in political expression of political views.

Now, no democracy is perfect, and obviously, we know that through our own experience. We see it every day. It’s a continuing journey. It’s why we think of democracy not as a final destination but as an endless pursuit. Every country, including the United States, has room to improve.

Now, obviously, the future of Kazakhstan and this region will be determined and should be determined by the people who live here, not by the United States or any other country. But we want to partner with you how, where, and when we can. And we know that there is a strong platform that you have built on which we can now build together.

A Kazakh proverb teaches that nothing is as remote as yesterday and nothing is as close as tomorrow. In other words, the future is coming whether you’re ready for it or not. So we’d better do everything that we can, all of us, to take every moment to prepare ourselves. And particularly in this new world that we live today, where everybody is connected 24/7; where even in the poorest places people have smartphones which gives them access to ideas, to products, to people, to aspirations – and that changes politics everywhere.

I am convinced that together, we are well positioned to take on three of the toughest challenges of our era.

Consider first our economic partnership. Today there are millions of young people who are ambitious – some of them you sitting here – aspiring, linked by technology, eager to share in this globalized world. But many of these people – not you, but many of them – lack any real chance to do so. And this creates a race between opportunity and frustration, and believe me, my friends, that is a race that we cannot afford to lose. That is the challenge: hundreds of millions of young people in many countries where governance is a challenge, failed and failing states. And it is in all of our interests to worry about what will happen.

Today, a nation’s interests and the wellbeing of its people are advanced not just by troops, but also by entrepreneurs and business groups; by the companies that they build; by the workers that they employ, the students that they can train, and the prosperity that they create that can be shared by everybody up and down the economic food chain.

That’s why I say all the time – and I’ve said it since the day I was nominated to be Secretary of State – that economic policy is foreign policy and foreign policy is economic policy. They are two sides of the same coin in this modern globalized world. Here in Central Asia you are not only blessed with a rich array of natural resources, you’re also blessed with human resources. Your citizens are young and entrepreneurial. Half the population in your country is under the age of 30. To deliver on the aspirations of this new generation, we want to help Central Asia build a solid basis for prosperity by integrating it into a global rules-based system. And that’s why we have supported Kazakhstan’s successful effort to join the World Trade Organization, and it’s why we are promoting connections across the region to what we call our New Silk Road Initiative, which will link Central and South Asia in four key areas: energy, trade and transit, customs and border operations, and connecting businesses and people.

Let me be clear. Economic integration is not and should not be a zero-sum game. To succeed does not mean that somebody has to lose and somebody has to gain at the expense of the person who lost. From the north to the south, we can support trade. From the east to the west, we can do this. We can link Eurasia with markets in Europe and China and Russia. And the world will do better if we do that. And the United States fully encourages Central Asian nations to develop the broadest range of partners that you can.

Ultimately, for Central Asia to reap the benefits of shared prosperity, you’ve got to make some choices. You have to make choices between the political and economic practices of the past versus the possibilities and realities of the future. And the vision that I have heard from President Nazarbayev, about 100 steps and five different sectors, is a very important vision but it has to be translated and implemented. Will you tolerate corruption in any country, or promote rules that unleash opportunity for all? Will you build relatively closed societies where public debate is discouraged and new ideas are shunned aside, or will you create open societies where innovation and experimentation are the order of the day? Will you continue to rely so heavily on fossil fuels, or promote a diversity to move to more sustainable energy resources of the 21st century and help to produce the jobs that will come with that transition?

These are themes that United States officials raise constantly in our conversations with all of our counterparts in this region and around the world. We emphasize the value of practices that will attract more foreign direct investment, promote trade both within and beyond the region, and make it easier for local businesses to open their doors and to grow.

Let me tell you, I know this from experience: Money moves where money has confidence that it can make a return on the investment. Money wants confidence, and people who have it, who want to invest, want to know that the rules will work for them and protect them and that they’re able to get a return on that investment. So we’ve been very frank in promoting investment by United States companies here. And that’s because, as a rule, when American firms invest here, they don’t just do well, they also do good.

This afternoon I visited a locomotive manufacturing plant here in Astana, which represents a partnership between General Electric and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy. And I can tell you the locomotives that it produces set a standard for fuel efficiency and high performance. We want to see more partnerships just like that. How exciting it was to see a place where in 2006 it was a dream, an idea, and by 2012 almost 100 locomotives were transitioning to countries all around here and here in Kazakhstan.

And by the way, I want you to know I’m proud of the way that American companies operate. U.S. companies tend to hire and train local employees. They invest in clean energy and other practices that lessen the negative impact on local environments. And under our laws, it is absolutely illegal for U.S. citizens to engage in corrupt practices abroad anywhere. And we enforce that law.

We want our economic partnership to bring these strengths to your countries. Just as we have reached out in the Pacific to conclude an agreement on trade that involves Pacific nations and results in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP, which is 40 percent of global GDP. It raises the standards of doing business. It raises the protections for workers. It raises the standards for the environment. And all those countries have agreed to live by that, and everyone will be better for trying to race to the top, not to the bottom.

Doing business to high standards, my friends, is frankly part of America’s brand. It’s what the best firms stand for: responsible investment, transparency, accountability, honesty, and a close match between promise and performance. And it’s how we build the reservoir of trust between our country and the business community and the community of Central American – of Central Asian countries. And that’s why, frankly, American companies are not afraid of competition. We welcome competition and we’re not afraid of a level playing field. We want one.

Now, this brings me to the second challenge. It’s actually linked to business and not even lightly – in a big way, because the business opportunities of the second challenge are gigantic. Biggest market we’ve ever had in the history of human beings. And the challenge that I want to talk about starts with a question: How are we going to respond to the greatest environmental challenge in history, and to our responsibility to preserve this planet?

When I first began working on the climate change issue was back in the 1980s. We had trouble getting the results that we wanted even then because the big industrial nations and the big developed ones – developing ones were in a completely different place as to when, what, and how they should respond or what needed to be done. A lot of people believed that curbing greenhouse gas emissions was going to bring their economy to a screeching halt; that if you have to do something about climate change, it meant a choice between climate change and your economy. No.

A lot of people also believed just what they wanted to believe. They believed that climate change was something for a future generation to worry about, not their own. But now, because of the mounting science and the realities that are staring us in the face, people realized that none of those objections that were made to stop things from happening 20 and 30 years ago – none of them ever added up. And they began to understand – and we’re seeing this on a global (inaudible) – we need to act.

Just look around the world. In 2013, South Africa experienced the worst drought they have seen in 30 years, and Brazilians saw the worst drought that they’ve seen in half a century. In Sao Paolo, residents have to tap their basement floors in search of fresh water. In my own country, some predict now that by the end of the century the kind of severe floods likely to hit New York City only once every 500 years will now occur every 25 years. And in Alaska, our glaciers, where the President just visited to underscore this problem, are melting at twice the rate that they were melting between 1950 and the year 2000. And Central Asia is not immune to these challenges. This region is home to eight major river basins. And today, a full third of the water flowing through those basins comes from glaciers that are already rapidly shrinking because of global warming. You only have to look at the dwindling – the water from the Tien Shan and from the Pamir Mountains to realize that the danger is not some abstract theory; it’s happening today right now.

Climate change is also making the steppe hotter and dryer, just as demand for water is increasing. And that is a recipe for conflict. And we know that tensions over scarce resources could easily escalate. Just in this trip, I’ve been talking with the five countries of the region in Central Asia, and everyone has talked to me about water and the challenge of water for countries downstream. Higher temperatures in the mountains are now seeing the thawing of permafrost, and the resulting landslides and mud flows are destroying homes – now, today – destroying land, infrastructure, and communities across the region.

What’s more, the historic floods that we have seen in some areas are only matched by historic droughts in other areas. The recent floods in Almaty and the mudflows in Tajikistan last July are just a few of the tragic incidents among many that should compel us to take notice of what is happening around us before it’s too late. We need to think ahead and realize that the strongest economies will be built on the power sources of the future, not the past. And many of the clean energy technologies that will help ignite whole new industries are far cheaper, more readily available, and better performing than they were even 10 years ago. And we can use them to help curb climate change even as they generate jobs.

Now, make no mistake – the solution to this problem is not some mystery; it’s staring all of us right now. It’s called energy policy, and it costs a little more in some places to put it into place, but let me tell you something – it costs a lot more not to. Just look at the billions being spent to make up for the damages being done and for the losses that are coming at us all around this planet.

So how do we realize the full potential of this economic opportunity? And I want to speak to it particularly because I know Kazakhstan is a country that has oil and gas. I understand that. It doesn’t mean you have to stop it altogether. We’ll be using oil and gas for years to come, but we can use it in ways that measure responsibility and are balanced with our shifting to a sustainable economy so that everybody’s economy profits. To begin this journey, we need leaders – political leaders – with the courage to set us on the right path. And I’m proud to serve a president who has accepted that challenge. Today, thanks to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the United States is well on our way to meeting our international commitments to cut greenhouse gasses by 2020, and we’re also investing in cleaner alternatives.

Since President Obama took office, the – and by the way, we are the world’s largest gas and oil producer today because of the independence that we gain though fracking and through our national gas exploration and technology. So we do the same thing others do, but we’re shifting. The United States has upped our wind energy production more than threefold and we’ve increased our solar energy more than tenfold. We’ve also become smarter about the way that we use energy in our homes and in our businesses. And I can’t emphasize this enough: No single country – not the United States, no country – can solve the challenge of climate change all by ourselves. If every single American worker biked to work tomorrow, carpooled to school, used only solar panels to power their homes; if every person in American planted a dozen trees at the same time; if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, guess what? That still wouldn’t be enough.

The developing world is coming on fast with old-fashioned practices that are beginning to make up for the difference of what developed countries are beginning to produce. The same thing would be true if China or India just came down to zero emissions. If either was the only country to act, we’d still have the same problem. We all want to grow our economies, but we can’t grow them at the expense of our survival in the long run. That is not sustainability. And sustainability is something that we all need to adopt not just in words but in actions.

So when I say we need a global solution, I mean it, because anything less simply won’t work. That’s a matter of science. Just as certain as we know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, or any other scientific fact, we know beyond any doubt now the science on climate change is clear.

Now, in Central Asia there are several steps that we could take together without delay. First, four out of five Central Asian nations have committed already to strong post-2020 mitigation plans, and I’m hopeful after my conversation these – and you’re one of them, and we thank you for that – that you have a plan, you’re going to join in this effort. And I hope that we’ll have all five on board within the next weeks. And that will increase the chance of a strong and ambitious global agreement when representatives from across the world convene in Paris just a month from now.

Second, we can encourage governments, businesses, and consumers to rely less on costly fuels, and particularly subsidies. The oil and gas industry accounts for more than half of all the exports in foreign direct investment in Kazakhstan. That means that you have an opportunity right now to use the resources of the 20th century to fuel the innovation in clean energy technologies of the 21st century. Here at Nazarbayev University, you’ve installed high-efficiency solar panels to power research for your science laboratories, and we’re forging ahead on projects like CASA-1000 to create a regional electricity market from Central to South Asia. These are the things that matter.

Third, we can work to improve water management and promote energy-efficient wastewater technology. And today I am pleased to announce that we will be a partner in the World Bank’s Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Program for the Aral Sea Basin which will promote greater dialogue and exchange of information among all five Central Asian countries. And we’re also announcing a new program called Smart Waters which will support long-term river basin planning in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Finally, we can bring the private and the public sectors together with leading academic institutions like this one to make the most of innovative technology so that we can take what the entrepreneurs are developing on a daily basis around the world so that our economies can grow green and clean together in support of President Nazarbayev’s vision.

We also need to remember, though, something else. In our era – this era – economic and security issues overlap. We can’t lead on one and lag on the other, and nowhere is that more true than in the fight – the third issue I want to talk about for a moment – the fight against international terrorist organizations. This is a challenge that we need to meet together just like the others. And I believe it is the defining test of our generation.

Here in Central Asia, many of you, or perhaps your parents, saw firsthand the difficult history that led to decades of conflict in Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaida. As leaders across this region have said to me, they do not want to see that happen again, and nor do we. That is why President Obama has announced that the United States will retain 5,500 troops beyond 2016 in order to give the new government of national unity the support it needs to implement reforms and defend its population against violent extremists that seek to impose their will. President Obama’s decision will help President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah to achieve an Afghanistan that is stable and peaceful, and we appreciate enormously, Mr. Prime Minister, the support of Kazakhstan and other countries across the region in that effort.

We’re also determined to defend against another challenge, and that is the human catastrophe that is now unfolding in Iraq and Syria. For many people in Central Asia today, this conflict may feel mostly distant, though I know there are fighters from the region who have gone there, and to some people I’ve even heard it described as something sort of over there. But the problem, of course, is that no nation can fully shield itself from the threats posed by the deadly combination of technology and terror.

And exhibit A is the terrorist organization known as ISIL or Daesh. Daesh has successfully recruited Central Asians both in their home countries and those living abroad. We know this. We also know that Daesh has attracted fighters from dozens of countries, including the United States, to its cause using the internet and social media. That is why President Obama has taken the lead in building a 65-member coalition to take on Daesh, and we are working every single day to engage states, civic organizations, NGOs, faith-based religious organizations, all in the fight against violent extremism.

Now, we have a strategy in place that has degraded Daesh’s leadership, it has weakened Daesh in key areas, and we are moving forward as well with each of our lines of effort as we have defined them at the heart of the coalition’s work to shrink Daesh’s territory, to cut its funding, to curb its recruiting, and to expose the extraordinary gap between what it claims to be and what it actually is. The breakdown of regional order coupled with Daesh’s ability to manipulate social media has enabled it to attract recruits and occupy some territory, yes. But this does not mean it will succeed in the long run. Leaders of Daesh claim to be creating a pure Islamic state. But the reality is that their values are not Islamic and their state is a fiction. And they have nothing real to offer anybody except destruction and a compelling notion that everybody must live and act the way they want them to, and even to kill those who decide they have a different idea about life. They kill people for who they are. They kill people for their religion. They kill people for their background. They force women into slavery, and they institutionalize rape as a matter of life, somehow an expression of God’s will if it occurs to non-Muslims.

Daesh is doomed to fail, but it has the ability to inflict immense suffering along the way – yes. And that is why we must hasten its decline, and believe me, we are engaged in that effort and that is why President Obama has raised our effort in that endeavor. Right here in Kazakhstan, we are countering Daesh’s message of hate and the government here works hard at that. You hosted a regional conference on countering violent extremism in June, and we are working together to share information and strengthen your border patrols and security. In Kyrgyzstan, we’re engaging with religious leaders and local communities in volatile areas, and we are promoting language and vocational training for students in madrasas. In Tajikistan, we are addressing the drivers of radicalization by increasing economic opportunities and improving food security in areas vulnerable to extremism. And we’re also working to train and equip border guards and prevent any travel by foreign terrorist fighters across the Tajik-Afghan border. In Turkmenistan, we are supporting OSCE efforts to train border management officers and enhancing their capacity to counter unconventional threats. And in Uzbekistan, we share the view of many about the need for a global effort to rebut the propaganda and lies that are spread by terrorist groups. And we are working with our Arab partners and other partners in the Mideast and in North Africa and elsewhere against Boko Haram and al-Shabaab and others in order to carry that message.

The bottom line is that good people everywhere are coming together and taking a stand, and we will not be intimidated by terrorists. We will not be divided by people who stand for everything that we oppose, and we will not allow our future to be shaped by the forces of ignorance and hate. And this means that our strategy must have the support of religious authorities, educators, and citizens who discredit hateful doctrines and help to build stronger and more resilient communities. And the more united and proud of their institutions the citizens of a country are, the more effective they will be in resisting and fighting back against the agents of terror.

This is the connection, the vital place where human rights and security meet. Make no mistake: The world community must confront and defeat terrorist groups, and military action is regrettably an essential part of doing so. But at the same time, we have to understand that the terrorist presence doesn’t give authorities a license to use violence indiscriminately. We can’t rescue a village from Daesh or Boko Haram by destroying it. And terrorism is not a legitimate excuse to lock up political opponents, diminish the rights of civil society, or pin a false label on activists who are engaged in peaceful dissent. Practices of this type are not only unjust, but they are in the end counterproductive. They play directly into the hands of terrorists. And when the pathways to nonviolent change are closed, the road to extremism becomes more inviting. And given all the suffering that we have witnessed in recent years, that is simply not acceptable.

Instead, we need to come together to build the right kind of future, with gradually increasing prosperity, a firm commitment to environmental health, and a determination to keep people everywhere working together to do it safe and secure.

Today, I believe we can look ahead with confidence, despite what you see in some places. The world is changing so fast. A whole generation of people will be born AIDS-free for the first time in history. We stopped Ebola. People predicted a million people would die by last Christmas, but nations came together and we stopped it. Now those three nations are Ebola-free. All across the world you can see diseases being cured, people being given greater health – life expectancy is longer. So we need to be reminded from the lessons of reality and the lessons of the past.

Just yesterday, I traveled to the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand. I saw firsthand where the old caravans used to traverse the mountains and steppe, bringing goods, people, and ideas across the region. I also heard a remarkable story. In the early 15th century, King Henry III of Castile sent Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, and he sent him to Tamerlane as ambassador. Now, Clavijo’s journey took him through Constantinople, Trebizond, and then inland across northern Iran and into Central Asia, to Samarkand, where he was received by Tamerlane. And Clavijo’s account of that city paints an extraordinary portrait of a whole way of life a long time ago. He describes a crossroads of culture, art, commerce and ideas; a place where you could find exotic silks, manufactured goods, and gold, and blue glass and porcelain; a place where you could find Turks, Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Greek, Armenian, Christians, Catholics, Japhetites, Nestorians. We think the United Nations was created in New York 70 years ago. No, it was in Samarkand hundreds of years before that.

And today, we are all neighbors with more in common than could possibly or should possibly separate us. We have a duty to engage with each other, openly and honestly. And here in Astana, you have answered that call by hosting a congress of the leaders of the world and traditional religions, but obviously, there’s more we can do.

The good news is that I see that for all of the challenges, the – all of the differences that we see, each major religion of the world and each great philosophy of life shares with everybody a universal sense of values – a moral truth based on the dignity of all human beings. Think about it. For instance, Gandhi called the world’s religions – all of them – beautiful flowers from the same garden. Every religion embraces a form of the Golden Rule and the supreme importance of charity, compassion, and hope for human improvement.

The Bible tells us that when Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is greatest?”, he replied, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your mind and all your soul. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In other words, everything was reduced just to those two fundamental concepts.

The Talmud says that in Roman times, a non-believer approached the famous rabbi Hillel, and challenged him to teach the meaning of the Torah while standing on one leg. Holding up one foot, Hillel replied, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to another. That is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary.” How similar.

The Prophet Mohammed said, “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

Now, this is the example that we have to set for the rest of the world, for the whole world. What’s called the Golden Rule is simple enough in concept, but applying it is the greatest challenge of life. The extraordinary history of Central Asia is an inspiration to anybody that if you organize your energies and your lives around these principles today, then dramatic transformations are possible. And how you transform, who benefits, what you become, and opportunities – you guarantee will determine actually how the history of this era is ultimately going to be written.

Every single one of you has the incredible opportunity to change lives for the better and define the future of your nations. And I have every confidence that working together, we will all rise to this challenge. And I am promising you today that in that effort, you will have the enduring friendship and support of the United States.

Thank you once again for your hospitality, your warm welcome. (In Kazakh.) Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Secretary Kerry, many thanks for an uplifting speech. At a certain point you scared me, but I think you got to an uplifting end, so thank you very much. (Laughter.) Secretary Kerry has graciously agreed to take a couple of questions, as I had indicated. And just to break the ice, I have proposed to one of our students to start us off.


QUESTION: Thank you very much for this opportunity. My name is Diaz Argonvigov (ph) (inaudible) school of medicine. So I’ve got a formal question. Central Asia is known as one of the least introverted regions in the world. And one of the pillars of U.S. Central Asia policy has long been the promotion of regional connectivity. And some experts argue that for this policy to succeed, it needs the further financial commitment from the United States. So my question is: Are there any plans to increase U.S. support for Central Asia’s economic development and its integration in a wider regional trade infrastructure? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you for the question, and good luck in medical school. My daughter is a physician and been through it, and I know it’s tough. It’s hard – but worth it, worth it when you get out.

QUESTION: Our school is actually working with University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in cooperation – it’s quite tough.

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s a great, great school. (Laughter.)

So let me just challenge one part of your question, and I’ll answer the second part. Yes, we want to do more. I’ve talked to the prime minister about it and the president about it. I can’t – I’m not going to come here and make a false promise and tell you how much more or what we’re going to be able to do. But I know that Japan – Prime Minister Abe was here, and he made a comment about a certain amount of money he wants to commit and invest in the future. South Korea likewise is talking about it. China wants to and will put additional funds in.

So it occurs to me that there’s an opportunity here for us to partner. We talked with China when we had President Xi in Washington. A conversation that I began a year ago – or two years ago, actually, when I had the State Councilor of China Yang Jiechi came to Boston. And he ate dinner at my home and we talked about this, and we started to explore how China and the United States might cooperate more on developing policy on infrastructure and other kinds of things. So I think we will be more engaged in helping to do things. Now, we have the Millennium Challenge Corporation which is engaged, we have the Ex-Im Bank, we have OPIC – Overseas Private Investment Corporation. So we have lots of ways of being engaged and working with other institutions. Also, for instance, we’re – the president’s ex-place of work, the World Bank and so forth. So there’s much we can do.

But let me talk about what we ought to be doing for a minute. Because when I was at lunch today with the president – and I don’t think I’m telling anything out of school – he talked to me about how – and he was there through the transition. Of course – and so he was very – more than familiar; he was working under the umbrella of the Soviet Union and Soviet practice and five-year plans and so forth, and very frustrated to some degree by it. And he articulated how – all the roads and all the planning and everything went one direction, towards Moscow. And so there’s this disconnect now, and all the countries since independence 24 years now have been struggling to make up for the fact that they didn’t really have their own economies. They didn’t have their own capacities. That’s where we also have to build.

It’s not just money; it’s breaking down the borders that are separating you, facilitating the movement of goods. What you’re doing building the railroad is a critical component of that. There needs to be more effort, obviously, to create that connectivity, because that will spring up its own level of investment, open up a larger market, excite people to invest. And so it helps to answer the question for a country, where are they going to put the money now? What are they going to do?

Now, obviously, there’s a lot of infrastructure that needs to built. And infrastructure can be built, my friends, not just with government money. If the government – and I talked to the president about this. I wish we were doing our own infrastructure bank in the United States. We should be. We have our own infrastructure we should be redeveloping, and we could put a lot of people to work doing that. Although we’re lucky right now, we have unemployment under 5 percent. But there’s a lot we could do. But you can attract sovereign funds from various countries that are looking for a steady return on investment. And big projects, whether they’re transportation projects or water projects or energy projects, create revenue stream, because you’re creating a product that you’re selling to your citizens. So you therefore have a good revenue stream and energy will be a constant revenue stream.

We’re going to go from whatever it is we are now by 7 billion people, up to 9 billion people – six point something to 9 billion people in the next three, four years. That’s why I say to you the biggest market the world has ever seen is the energy market. And if you start to focus on it with the right choices, then you become a global leader, you’re creating jobs; the creation of that new infrastructure and so forth becomes sustainable. And that’s the way people need to think more in the days.

So yes, we hope to do more to help to be a catalyst in that. But we also need to see you do more to facilitate movement of people, of goods, of capital, and begin to break down the barriers between your countries. Because some of the connectivity challenges between your countries are the fact that not every country wants to move in the same direction, and so you got to kind of work to get over that hurdle, too. Okay? (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Who wants to be next? I see a hand there in the middle. Yes, the lady in black.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Inkara Kushna (ph); I am junior student with political science, international relations major. So I am interested in international organizations, mainly United Nations. And as you may know, Kazakhstan has presented its candidacy for the UN Security Council, Asia Pacific nonmember – nonpermanent membership. Would United States support our candidacy? (Laughter and applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the easy answer that would get a lot of applause would be, “Of course, I’d be happy to do that.” (Laughter.) But I can’t do that because our vote is actually a secret vote and we always keep it that way. But we work with the countries, and the countries will know what we’re doing. And we encourage strong candidacies, and Kazakhstan’s candidacy is a strong candidacy. And we certainly – but we have to wait and see sort of how or where that develops. But we’re very encouraging of what Kazakhstan has been doing. It has become a very significant global partner for peacekeeping. It has become a significant partner with its KazAID concept. It’s helping other nations with any number of different things – helped us with Ebola. We’re grateful for that.

So those are the kinds of things that make it a strong candidate. And we’ll have to see where we are when the time comes. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: I see a very eager person up there. Yes. (Inaudible) get the microphone.

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Shuvas (ph).

SECRETARY KERRY: Move it a little bit away.

QUESTION: First of all I want to thank you, Mr. Kerry, for coming here and giving us your very productive lecture in the walls of Nazarbayev University. My question is: What can you personally advise for like 19-years-old student, how to expect like student life and how to success? (Laughter and applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, my best advice to you is: Don’t sleep through class. (Laughter and applause.) Actually, the first advice is go to class, then don’t sleep through it. (Laughter.) I think if you want to be a success – and I know you all do, or you’re all motivated; I understand that – open your minds as much as you can and ask a lot of questions. Push, push the limits. Don’t – just because the teacher tells you some idea doesn’t make that absolutely inviolable. Test it. Push it. And learn critical thinking. Learn how to really think about things. I was privileged to go to a great university, but I don’t think I fully learned how to think until I finished law school. And it’s a – I’m not sure I know today. I hope I do. But you have to work at it.

So that’s my greatest advice to you. And also, don’t get stuck in one niche. We had a – the woman who asked the question before was a political science major. I was a political science major. But if I went back to college today I’d probably study a combination of comparative literature, comparative religion – a much broader kind of array of things than I did. That’s what you learn from life. But I’d say to you now, try to spread your wings. I know sometimes if you’re in a medical track you don’t have any choice; you’ve got to do what you have to do to get into medical school. But nevertheless, broaden the experience as much as you can and keep your mind open, but also have some fun. It’s a good part of it. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary Kerry for graciously entertaining these questions. Let’s give Secretary Kerry one more big hand. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you for being here. Thank you.