Central Asia is strategically important to the West because of its neighbours, but not immediately, because it is not a “hot spot” on the world stage. Western governments are ambivalent about the region because of its poor record on human rights and governance. It presents the classic choice: ideology or realpolitik. But Western policy in Central Asia does not have to be one or the other — it can be both. Western nations can engage strongly to support humanist values in Central Asia through quiet and appropriate behind-the-scenes work with government officials who understand and have similar concerns — and they most certainly do exist and can produce results. Western governments need to engage in Central Asia precisely to ensure that it does not become a hot spot and instead becomes, over time, ever more firmly embedded in the community of responsible nations. Strategic engagement by the West is essential, and it will pay off.

CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.