Posts

Water Competition and Efficiency in Kazakhstan
Former Soviet-controlled Kazakhstan has come a long way since the end of the Cold War. Despite becoming a more stable nation in the Middle East compared to its neighbors, it still struggles with water distribution and quality to this day. This article shall discuss these chief problems through water competition and efficiency in Kazakhstan.

Competition with China

As far as competition goes, Kazakhstan has a major problem in the form of China. Kazakhstan relies heavily on the Ili River for a good portion of its water supply and both countries connect to this valuable river. At the end of the day, China receives a larger share of the river than Kazakhstan. This is partly because the Ili River begins in China, and that China has 15.7 billion cubic meters of water flow into its borders every year. On the flip side, Kazakhstan only gets around half of that with 8.4 billion cubic meters. China states that it should have a larger share due to it being larger than Kazakhstan and the fact that Kazakhstan exploited the water profusely in the 1960s. In fact, Kazakhstan still does today at a rate of 42.7 percent which is over the 40 percent limit range.

Efficiency in Water Distribution

Kazakhstan has noted that it needs to exploit these waters due to its inability to give its population enough water or water that meets sanitary standards. This is partly due to the lack of efficient water distribution to people in certain parts of Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, Central Kazakhstan only receives 3 percent of the country’s water.

Another problem is that the government has been treating its water as an unlimited resource while it is becoming clear that it is very scarce. This lead to poor management of this water while leading the citizens into believing that the problem is not as dire as it seems.

Sanitation in Kazakhstan

Another issue that Kazakhstan has is that most of its drinking water is unsafe to ingest. Due to the aforementioned poor distribution and supply of the water within the country, the amount of clean water sits at only 30 percent. A key cause of poor distribution is that the water often stops in pipes, which allows it to collect bacteria and disease. These interruptions in water flow can occur 14 days a month and last as long as 12 hours. The fact that the pipes that flow this drinking water are also in the same trenches as sewer pipes, causing cross-contamination and a possible epidemic does not help matters. This only further highlights why water competition and efficiency in Kazakhstan is so important.

Course of Action

Kazakhstan is looking to revamp its water system by not just fixing its own, but also by importing water from outside sources, namely other neighboring countries. The government is also receiving support from the E.U.; it is helping to create policies that can help Kazakhstan better preserve its water for drinking and agricultural needs. The E.U. is also going so far as to provide new technology to better equip the country in preserving this water. This is not surprising since the E.U. also provided $1.5 billion to help with water management from 2010 to 2013. With all of this support, the government of Kazakhstan is hoping to increase its people’s access to clean, sustainable drinking water by 2030.

In this article about water competition and efficiency in Kazakhstan, it is clear that the country is in a rough patch to competition outside of its borders, as well as its poor management of the water it possesses. With the proper restructuring of its water system and outside help, the country should be able to improve this issue. With the E.U.’s continued help and allocated funds and resources to fix the contamination and distribution problems, Kazakhstan should be able to see a great increase in clean water.

Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

developmental aid around the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was once a large saltwater lake located in Central Asia. With Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south, both countries bordered the body of water. Fishing communities in the countries prospered for years, yet a decisive change in the 1960s led to the demise of these towns. The two countries experienced drastically different outcomes, all due to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

Causes of the Aral Sea’s Water Loss

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union decided to redirect the water in the Aral Sea for agriculture, predominately for cotton. Previously, the sea was replenished by the water that rivers returned, making it a reliable source of income for neighboring fisheries. Over the past four decades, the sea has retreated about 93 miles, losing a surface area the size of Maryland. With salinity levels continuing to rise to more than seven times the normal amount, a once plentiful resource has run dry.

As the sea dried up, so did jobs. A reported 60,000 jobs disappeared in direct relation to Aral fishery shutdowns. Dust storms that swelled within the barren seabed contained various chemicals from the agriculture in the surrounding areas and caused irrevocable harm to citizens. Diseases related to poor air quality were rampant. Even the food produced in the area contained hazards for consumers, which forced thousands from their homes. Those that chose not to leave, despite the water and air pollution, were left living in poverty.

Intervention in Kazakhstan Improves the Lives and Livelihoods of Residents

In 2005, the World Bank intervened with a plan for developmental aid around the Aral Sea and partnered with the Kazakh government to install a dam. The plan cost $86 million and was designed to improve irrigation along the rivers and restore the sea. The dam primarily prevented water in the northern regions from flowing south. Additional measures to improve irrigation along the Syr Darya River made sure enough water flowed back into the North Aral Sea. Previously, as much as 40 percent of water was lost due to poor irrigation.

In 2006, the Kok-Aral Dam was constructed and saw quick success. As the surface area of the sea expanded, fish stocks were reintroduced. The replenishment of local resources meant that the economy, once built on fishing, could flourish and grow to its previous grandeur. The water and air quality also improved, meaning that residents no longer needed to move away from the area.

In 2006, the ports handled around 2,000 tons of fish and houses in the area were no longer empty; about 17 homes were occupied as opposed to eight. As the local fish diet improved, so did the ability to grow vegetables. The changes to the ecosystem led to more rainfall and fewer sandstorms. Life was reintroduced to the region.

Uzbekistan’s Focus on Cotton Deprives the Fishing Industry

A very different story played out in neighboring Uzbekistan, where government leaders are still insistent that cotton production is their “white gold”. The country ranks 12th in highest value of cotton exported in 2017. The enterprise brings in around $850.4 million and accounts for 1.6 percent of total exported cotton.

However, similar health risks and impoverishment are seen in areas previously home to fisheries. Many people migrated to agricultural regions to make a living farming and picking cotton. Conditions around cotton production in Uzbekistan remain questionable, with allegations of forced labor becoming rampant.

The Effects of Developmental Aid Around the Aral Sea on Poverty

Although both countries experienced high levels of poverty at the height of the Aral Sea’s reduction, the current state of poverty in the two countries is quite different. In 2005, 31.6 percent of the country lived in poverty in Kazakhstan, while in 2016, only 2.6 percent of the population lived in poverty. This reduction is directly related to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

In Uzbekistan, the decline is much slower. From 2012 to 2016, poverty decreased from 15 percent to 12.3 percent. This progress is promising, yet slow compared to its neighbors. When the World Bank asked the Uzbek government if it wished to participate in developmental aid around the Aral Sea, like that in Kazakhstan, it declined.

The Future of Development in Central Asia

In partnership with World Bank, the Kazakh government provides an example of successful developmental aid around the Aral Sea. Currently, the World Bank is working with the Uzbek government to implement projects around horticulture. As new enterprises are explored, such as oil drilling in the south Aral Sea by Uzbekistan, avenues to combat poverty will vary. For Kazakhstan, working to reinvigorate a previously plentiful resource was the key to poverty alleviation.

This triumph in poverty reduction provides a hopeful message to those wanting to see a drastic drop in poverty through developmental aid.

– Taylor Jennings
Photo: Google

Hunger in KazakhstanSince 1990, Kazakhstan has maintained an undernourishment rate of less than 5 percent of its total population. Kazakhstan is also a key grain producer and helps neighboring countries maintain food security. Yet even with the country’s aid to neighboring territories, hunger in Kazakhstan itself remains an ongoing issue.

Kazakhstan’s food security highly depends on agricultural production. However, some of the country’s agricultural products have a weak competitive position due to “technological backwardness.” This is because Kazakhstan’s agricultural production operates under outdated standards that began in 1928. Consequently, the country’s agricultural system is being evaluated for technological improvements.

In 2015, Kazakhstan’s State Static Commission revealed 628,000 tons of imported fruits. However, the number pales in the face of their goal to produce at least a million tons annually. The shortage is especially problematic for Kazakhstani consumers, who have high demands for fruit imports. Fruit and other food shortages could contribute to rising hunger in Kazakhstan.

Mexico plans to aid Kazakhstan in food import shortages. In May 2017, Andrian Yelemesov (Mexico’s Ambassador for Kazakhstan) heard about Mexican entrepreneurs’ interests in supplying Kazakhstan with more vegetables and fruits. The entrepreneurs also plan to purchase Kazakhstan’s grain and invest in the country’s mining industry.

Yelemesov also mentioned the idea to form a group of “friends of Kazakhstan” that would include Mexican and Russian investors. If formed, the group will develop a “road map” for Kazakhstan that will include a list of goods and interests, shipping routes, and the costs of goods. Mexican entrepreneurs also visited Astana to meet with Kazakhstan’s ministries and study the country’s prices of goods.

Kazakhstan could also receive awards for helping other countries. Because Kazakhstan supplies diesel locomotives and other goods to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan plans to provide Kazakhstan with agricultural products, food products and industrial goods. More than 20 Azerbaijani entrepreneurs presented fruits and vegetables, canned food and tea products to Kazakhstan in April 2017.

Kazakhstan’s food inflation rates will also need more control. The country had a food inflation rate of 16.2 percent in August 2016 (much lower than 31.5 percent in June 2008). However, Kazakhstan’s food inflation dropped to 9.1 percent in November 2016 and 8.5 percent in July 2017. More Kazakhstanis could avoid hunger if food inflation rates continue to drop.

Hunger in Kazakhstan could be controlled if more countries and entities provide food imports. Mexico improving Kazakhstan’s fruit supply may motivate other countries to follow in helping decrease Kazakhstan hunger. Inflation rates will also need to be monitored, providing more Kazakhstanis with the opportunity to afford food for their families.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Kazakhstan_Poverty_Rate

As the recent host of Expo 2017, Kazakhstan continues to show positive potential for economic development, a concept once thought to be as foreign as independence. Despite its relatively new presence in the global market, the Kazakhstan poverty rate has consistently been improving.

Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country of around 17 million people, is familiar with economic strife. In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan gained independence from the communist regime. However, independence came with the cost of creating a new system of government, a new economic foundation, and a post-Soviet culture. As a result, the Kazakhstan poverty rate became a severe problem during the transition.

After the Soviet Union’s loss of control over the land, those who had once worked for the Soviets were now without employment. Many others saw opportunities for employment due to the country’s need for leadership and government work, like social services. It was those in agrarian communities that suffered the most during this transition, because they did not have access to the benefits and employment opportunities in the more urbanized regions. The Kazakhstan poverty rate was unstable as the country began establishing its own presence in the international community.

Fortunately for the Kazakhstanis, the tensions of the post-Soviet period did not last. Since the early 1990s, Kazakhstan has been and is continuing to experience notable economic growth, with much of the success being credited to the mineral and oil-rich areas of the country. In the last few decades, the majority of years have seen increased economic activity and consistent rises in the national GDP (gross domestic product). According to some analysts, the poverty rate was cut in half during the late 1990s and early 2000s and the national GDP saw upwards of 500 percent growth.

However, it is equally important to note that while economically the country is experiencing numerically positive transformations as a whole, the rich-poor gap is a real problem, leading to millions of Kazakhstanis still making less than half of those in the capital city, Astana. In 1996, the World Bank estimated a third of Kazakhstanis to have lived on less than the subsistence minimum, or a working minimum wage.

As of 2017, the World Bank is projecting an accelerated economic growth pattern in light of higher oil prices and an increase in production. It is expected that the country will see about a 3 percent growth per year in the over the next three years as the oil industry continues to recover from recent recessions. Now, the Asian Development Bank estimates that only 2.7 percent of Kazakhstanis are living below the national poverty line, one of the lowest rates in Central and West Asia.

Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev and other Kazakh leadership are aware of the current state of poverty and its loosening grasp on Kazakhstan. Since breaking from the Soviets, President Nazarbayev’s concentration has been on stabilizing the country’s economy and composing it in a way that allows future growth to come naturally. Legislation has aided Nazarbayev’s vision by cutting taxes and relaxing trade restrictions to spark international interests.

According to a recent U.N. Development Programme report, unemployment and low income remain the primary causes of poverty in Kazakhstan. The World Bank has reported in the last year that one of the least utilized, but most promising, economic activity generators lies where the most impoverished lie, too – the agricultural industry. It is estimated that about 15 percent of Kazakhstan remains unused arable land. The benefits of engaging this natural resource would directly address the issues of unemployment and would also aid in diversifying the country’s economy. Even though the Siberian climate remains unpredictable and potentially harsh, the agricultural industry still outpaces the rest of the economy.

Other industries, such as tourism, are currently being fostered. Astana and other oil-rich cities are attracting intense focus for urban development. In addition to recently hosting Expo 2017 in September, the cities’ development has been primarily about turning the sparsely populated country into a hotspot for tourists in that area of the world. For example, the Khan Shatyr shopping center was built with an enclosed beach on the property, so users can enjoy the amenity even during the infamous Siberian winter months.

With a perspective considering both the past Soviet control and the hope for a future of market-savvy presence, Kazakhstan is taking steps towards eradicating poverty within its borders. Since gaining independence, the country’s leadership has consistently made strides toward utilizing its available resources as a means to make progress for all Kazakhstanis. As the oil industry continues to grow, and as Kazakhstan earns its place on the map of energy producers, it is likely that poverty’s grasp will continue to loosen.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Google

STEM Programs in KazakhstanRobot battles, solar trackers and a laser that shoots for the moon — these are the inventions of western Kazakhstan’s youngest engineers. As part of their experience with the Zangar Initiative, which runs several STEM programs in Kazakhstan, these students combined the math and science they learn in school with the technological skills and hands-on experience that the initiative provides. The results seem almost like science fiction.

The results seem almost like science fiction. Although supported by Chevron and the International Youth Foundation, the community propels the initiative. The young people and their families chose the name “Zanger,” which is Kazakh for “mighty.”
The participating students are taught to use the engineering design process, a step-by-step guide for how to turn a brilliant idea into a concrete model. The process gives students a straightforward way to address a problem. They also learn skills like C programming and 3D design, which are not in the school curriculum, and have access to high-tech equipment.

The teens who participate in the STEM Capstone after-school clubs learn more than just technical skills. They often work in groups and learn both teamwork and stress management. One of the key tasks of a teammate, besides helping with design, is to steer his or her fellow engineers away from the temptation to give up should the early prototypes fail.

Perseverance is always rewarded. Many of these students go on to win regional and even national competitions. One student who created a laser designed to beam Helium-3, a potential clean energy source, from the moon to the earth, received a scholarship to the university of her choice in Kazakhstan.

The students of these STEM programs in Kazakhstan gain confidence in themselves and have high motivation to continue learning. Many of them gain the courage to become entrepreneurs. The program also opens their eyes to the needs of the community, inspiring service work and volunteering.

In December 2016, the city of Atyrau hosted its first STEM and English fair, featuring games and activities provided by the Zangar Initiative. Government officials hope that STEM programs in Kazakhstan will inspire a new generation of scientists and entrepreneurs, promoting economic and technological development within the country.

Emilia Otte


Since the turn of the millennium, Kazakhstan has made tremendous strides in reducing hunger and is now classified as a low-priority nation according to the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI). The GHI ranks countries based on a 100-point scale, taking into account the proportion of the population undernourished, and malnutrition among children and adults. According to the GHI, hunger in Kazakhstan is decreasing, having gone from a moderate level in 2008 with a score of 10.7, to a score of 7.8 in 2016.

In the heart of the central Asian region, Kazakhstan is the economic giant of the area. With a population of 18 million, it generates 60 percent of the region’s GDP. Its sustained economic growth in the last 20 years has helped lift millions out of extreme poverty, and in turn decreased starvation and malnutrition rates.

In addition to its economic growth, reducing hunger in Kazakhstan has been a concentrated effort in the last decade in the country. In 2007, as a partner of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) program, Kazakhstan aimed to cut the proportion of people who have no access to balanced nutrition in half. This goal focused on solving nutrition deficiencies in children and women of reproductive age, including “hidden hunger,” defined as a lack of vitamins such as zinc and iron in the diet. Tackling malnutrition and famine in Kazakhstan continues to be one of the country’s top goals.

Since taking on this goal in 2007, Kazakhstan has reduced the percentage of the population that is undernourished from 3.5 percent to 2.5 percent.  It has also decreased the prevalence of stunted growth in children less than five years old from 18 percent to 13 percent. A comprehensive government program which strives to provide balanced nutrition for children under five to prevent malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies is the primary method of the reduction of hunger in the region. These measures may also be a contributing factor to why mortality rates under five continue to drop in Kazakhstan, reaching as low as 1.4 percent in 2016.

Hunger in Kazakhstan remains a problem due to the persistence of rural poverty, even though the country has seen significant progress in its fight against hunger. Rural poverty’s continued presence is due to a lack of development in farming areas in Kazakhstan, where across the country children account for 34.5 percent of those in poverty. Kazakhstan’s MDG initiatives aim to bring these numbers down and combat both poverty and hunger at once.

Kazakhstan is just one example of the many countries that continue to rise out of poverty and improve health and living conditions. In areas such as Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, continuing the efforts to stifle hunger and malnutrition is vital to achieving the GHI’s goal of zero hunger by 2030.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr


The water quality in Kazakhstan is poor, despite the nation’s access to other natural resources. Unsanitary conditions in water supply systems contribute to poor quality, which leads to a rise in illnesses including gastroenteritis and hepatitis.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) adviser Zhanar Sagimbayeva stated, “The population [often] use[s] water which doesn’t meet bacteriological standards. This is related to bad conditions of our water infrastructure. It has a direct effect on the health of the population.”

Furthermore, the situation is worse for those living in rural Kazakhstan. As the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) stated, “Many villagers use surface water and groundwater of poor quality.” However, urban regions in Kazakhstan are also not free from water pollution.

Water availability is unevenly distributed throughout the nation. According to a U.N. report, only three percent of Kazakhstan’s water was available to those living in the central region in 2004.

Even more concerning, is the country’s access to water as a whole. A report by Anatoly Ryabtsev, the Chairman of the Committee on Water Resources in Kazakhstan, wrote that “Kazakhstan is one of the most water-scarce countries on the Eurasian continent.”

It is unsurprising then that approximately half of Kazakhstan’s available water passes through its neighbors, according to the UNDP. Controlling the quality of water would involve regional negotiations in addition to stronger sanitation policies.

Ryabtsev warns that if provisions are not put into effect soon, Kazakhstan will face dire consequences. Not only will disease continue, but the economic and social development of the nation will be hindered.

Fortunately, the government of Kazakhstan has taken initiatives to improve the nation’s water system. Most recently, the Development Strategy of Kazakhstan up to 2030 was finalized. This establishes the government’s commitment to better water quality and conservation.

Assuming the government of Kazakhstan follows through on its strategy, the water quality in Kazakhstan is likely to improve in the near future.

Gigi DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Kazakhstan
In the early 1990s Kazakhstan gained autonomy from the Soviet Union, but was faced with a steeply deteriorating economy and increasing poverty rate. Over the course of the following two decades, however, the nation’s government has worked with international organizations to successfully reduce poverty in Kazakhstan to acceptable levels.

Experts claim that Kazakhstan’s poor economic performance and high poverty rates during the 90’s was due to the country’s sudden declaration of independence. Kazakhstan simply did not have the infrastructure or stable government needed to smoothly transition into self-governance.

The fledgling country was forced to confront these structural and political problems while dealing with a poverty rate so high that one third of their population lived on less than two dollars a day.

Though it began in a less-than-ideal circumstance, Kazakhstan made a rapid turn-around. In less than a decade, the poverty rate declined from a 30 percent peak in 2001 to a low of 1.1 percent in 2009. Though the poverty rate has since risen by a number of percentage points, it experienced less major fluctuations. New institutions are also currently being created to eradicate its causes.

The methods used by the Kazakhstani government to eliminate poverty within the country were simple but effective. During the country’s greatest time of need, leaders made the influential decision to adhere to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), which aim to reduce poverty. The country committed to decreasing poverty in the long-run, and created a program that lasted for over a decade.

Another key factor that helped reduce poverty in Kazakhstan was the heavy involvement of international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Between 2002 and 2007, the UNDP organized a dozen major projects in an effort to bring down poverty rates throughout the nation.

Kazakhstan has shown unwavering dedication to United Nations (UN) improvement programs and policies, especially those that focus on social and economic development. Together with the UN, Kazakhstan has engaged in MDG Plus—a program that extends the Millennium Development Goals. The nation will concentrate specifically on increasing sustainable development and gender equality. They will additionally work to reduce unemployment and poverty.

Economic experts have recently become concerned about Kazakhstan’s high dependency on oil—73 percent of exports from the country come from petroleum products. This fact, combined with falling oil prices, has led authorities to predict that Kazakhstan will register its first annual GDP loss in almost two decades. This is likely to negatively impact poverty and slow the process of social development.

The IMF created a brief report after its regional director, Masood Ahmed, visited various senior officials in Kazakhstan. Ahmed commented on the hard work that the government was putting in, and their determination to make their fiscal plans succeed. Though faced with a recent impediment, Kazakhstani politicians were determined to find new ways to stimulate the economy by selling petroleum.

This speed bump is frustrating, but not debilitating. Poverty in Kazakhstan has decreased and is still decreasing. Furthermore, experts claim that by 2020 the country will experience vast improvements in many social development factors. Kazakhstan’s past and present economic growth illustrates how committed individuals will always find ways to make progress happen.

Preston Rust

Photo: Pixabay

Low Malnutrition Kazakhastan
Nutritional status is a reflection of overall health. When there is access to sufficient food and low exposure to repeated illness, proper nutritional basics can be achieved and growth potentials for children can be reached. In terms of growth, malnutrition in Kazakhstan is quite the success story.

When focusing on malnourished children, the most fragile victims, it is evident that Kazakhstan has higher numbers than other neighboring countries. In Kazakhstan, four percent of children under the age of 5 are moderately underweight, and only 0.8 percent are classified as severely underweight.

Some children, however, are not reaching their growth potential. The age group that contained the highest number of growth stunts was the 12 to 18-month-old age group with 16.6 percent of children not reaching their potential. Even though this is the highest figure of the negative-oriented data, it is still comparatively okay.

Why is Kazakhstan doing well? Kazakhstan takes food security very seriously, which is probably a main factor. It is one of the world’s top producers of grain and flour, and it is also active in creating humanitarian aid programs for people in need. KazAID is one of the programs that Kazakhstan provides.

With its fundamental success in providing citizens with nutrition, Kazakhstan seeks to spread the well-being of its country to other countries in need using KazAID. Approval from major organizations, like the UNDP, has allowed KazAID to start providing assistance to other countries in the area.

– Erik Nelson

Sources: Kazakhstan UNSC, Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs, UNICEF, UNDP
Photo: SciELO Public Health

education in kazakhstan
In 2011, the Kazakhstani government requested technical assistance to improve the nation’s educational system. In response, the World Bank Group launched the Joint Economic Research Program, or JERP, in order to enhance the quality of  education in Kazakhstan with particular regards to Kazakhstan’s secondary education student assessment system.

Kazakhstan’s educational system has seen improvements in recent years, including rapid expansion of access to preschool education, nearly universal secondary education completion and improved technical, vocational and higher education.

According to UNICEF and the World Bank, Kazakhstani youth literacy rates currently stand around 99.8 percent, gross primary school enrollment stands at over 100 percent and gross secondary school enrollment stands at around 97 percent.

Improving Education in Kazakhstan

Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement, particularly in terms of preparing Kazakhstani students for the labor market. In particular, gross tertiary school enrollment rates (post-secondary or university education rates expressed as a percentage of the population that completed secondary school in the past five years) stood at 45 percent in 2012. In contrast, U.S. gross tertiary enrollment rates stood at 94 percent for the same year.

Upon launching JERP in 2011, the World Bank provided “research and advisory support” to the Kazakhstani government during the educational reform process.

Specifically, the World Bank analyzed Kazakhstan’s results on educational assessments and provided recommendations for improvements; new benchmarks for student assessments, school autonomy and accountability and teacher policies; and hosted capacity-building seminars.

Recently, the Kazakhstani government requested a new extension of the assistance program, with a focus on implementing the policy recommendations that emerged from the first phase. The second phase, which will continue through 2017, will focus on improving school and teacher/principal evaluations.

Katrina Beedy

Sources: UNICEF, The World Bank 1, The World Bank 2
Photo: Flickr