Kazakhstan FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Kazakhstan

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 19 September 2018

Update: On September 13, 2018, the Ministry of Public Development (MPD) published two newly adopted regulations on state social contracting (SSC). They were: 1) Rules on the Formation, Monitoring of Implementation, and Assessment of the Effectiveness of SSC; and 2) The Standard on SSC. The Rules include several progressive provisions that were recommended by CSOs, such as the requirement for state bodies to conduct thorough analysis of social problems before formulating topics for SSC. They therefore represent a positive result of CSO-government cooperation in developing more participatory and transparent procedures of SSC. The Standard has also received praise from CSOs because it introduces uniform and realistic requirements and simplified standards for the quality of services that must be rendered by CSOs when state bodies implement SSC.

Introduction

Civil society in Kazakhstan has steadily become more diverse, visible, and robust since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Civil society organizations (CSOs) established during the early 1990s were inspired by the rapid process of reform and were primarily concerned with human rights issues and the “democracy agenda.” By 1997, the number of CSOs had reached 1,600 due primarily to significant financial support from international funding agencies, including from the United States and Western Europe. Growth continued to accelerate in the 2000s, and according to figures obtained from the Ministry of Justice in 2013, there are now over 38,000 independent CSOs in the country engaged in a wide range of activities, from mutual benefit organizations such as homeowners’ associations, to organizations promoting human rights, protecting the interests of vulnerable groups, engaging in the delivery of social services, and supporting environmental causes. Recent years have seen the development of formal arrangements for CSO–Government cooperation, as well as the rise of organizations engaged in service provision and meeting social development challenges.

In July 2006, the government adopted the Concept of Civil Society Development for 2006-2011 to provide a comprehensive framework for the development of CSOs and their equal partnership with the state and business sector. As a result of this Concept, various governmental agencies at the national and local levels have become more open to consulting with CSOs and involving them in working groups and public councils. The Concept expired at the end of 2011 and a new strategic document for CSO-Government cooperation was adopted on December 28, 2015; it is called the National Action Plan on Development of Interaction between the Government and CSOs for 2016-2020.  According to this document, the government will focus on development of public councils as well as mechanisms of cooperation with civil society. Unfortunately, however, the National Action Plan for 2016-2020 has also raised concern among CSOs, as it calls for further review of legislation that regulates the activities and reporting of foreign CSOs operating in Kazakhstan. In June 2018, the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan initiated the development of a new Concept of Civil Society Development, which will be drafted on basis of proposals from local CSOs collected during a series of public discussions.

The available government funding for social contracts awarded to CSOs has also grown dramatically in recent years, reaching $38 million in 2017. New amendments to the social contracting law and implementing regulations went into effect in 2012, 2015 and 2018 that improve the transparency of the process and the selection criteria for vendors. The amendments also open the door to longer-term financing programs and require all government agencies awarding social contracts to establish councils for cooperation with CSOs. Since 2001, the government has hosted seven high-profile biannual civic forums. These forums serve as a dialogue platform, where hundreds of CSOs from throughout Kazakhstan and representatives of national and local governmental bodies discuss current issues and develop specific recommendations for civil society development and CSO-Government cooperation.

The government considered several legal measures in 2015 that increased control over the receipt of donations by CSOs. One such regulation – Rules for Providing Information by CSOs – was approved and released in December 2015. It imposed vast information requirements upon all CSOs, including the submission of sensitive data on employees. The regulation was, however, subsequently revised following advocacy efforts by CSOs. On July 26, 2016, Kazakhstan adopted a so-called Law on Payments that introduced new reporting requirements in the Tax Code for organizations (including CSOs) and individuals regarding the receipt and expenditure of foreign funds and/or assets. An organization or an individual that falls within the scope of the above-mentioned provision must provide a notification to the tax authorities, as well as information on the receipt and expenditure of funds and (or) other assets received from foreign sources to the tax authorities. In addition, they must label all publications produced with support from foreign funds as funded from foreign sources. Kazakh legislation provides for severe administrative penalties for non-compliance with these new requirements.

Despite these restrictive initiatives, the government continues to increase funding allocations to CSOs in the form of state social contracts and state grants. Starting from 2017, the government has issued state awards to CSOs for their contribution to resolving social problems via successful implementation of state social contracts. The Ministry of Social Development, an authorized body for interaction with CSOs in Kazakhstan, currently focuses on optimizing a CSO database, which currently includes 4,624 CSOs. It also seeks further improvements to the legislation on state social contracting and public councils.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Institutions; public associations; foundations; consumer cooperatives; religious associations; Associations of individual entrepreneurs and/or gal entities in a form of association (union).
Registration Body Ministry of Justice
Barriers to Entry Unregistered public associations are prohibited. Foreign citizens and stateless persons cannot form public associations.

A minimum of 10 citizens required to form public associations
Barriers to Activities Excessive penalties for minor violations
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy None
Barriers to International Contact None
Barriers to Resources None
Barriers to Assembly 10-day advance permission requirement; spontaneous assemblies not allowed; local authorities have broad power to restrict the locations of assemblies.

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Key Indicators

Population 18,556,698 (July 2017 est.)
Capital Astana
Type of Government Republic; Centralized Presidential Rule
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 65.6 years Female: 75.7 years (2016 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 99.8% Female: 99.8% (2015 est.)
Religious Groups Muslim 70.2%, Christian 26.2% (mainly Russian Orthodox), other 0.2%, atheist 2.8%, unspecified 0.5% (2009 est.)
Ethnic Groups Kazakh (Qazaq) 63.1%, Russian 23.7%, Uzbek 2.9%, Ukrainian 2.1%, Uighur 1.4%, Tatar 1.3%, German 1.1%, other 4.4% (2009 est.)
GDP per capita $25,100 (2016 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2017.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 56 (2016) 1 – 188
World Bank Rule of Law Index 15 (2016) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 13 (2016) 100 – 0
World Justice Rule of Law Index 73 (2016) 1-113
Transparency International 131 (2017) 1 – 168
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 5 (2018)
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 117 (2018) 177 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 2006
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 2009
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 2006
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No  
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1998
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1998
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (OP-CEDAW) Yes 2001
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1994
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) No  
Convention on the Rights of Persons with No Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2015
Regional Treaties
Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe Yes 1992

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of Kazakhstan was adopted on August 30, 1995, and amended several times, most recently on February 2, 2011.

Relevant provisions include:

  • Article 4. The Constitution shall have the highest juridical force and direct effect on the entire territory of the Republic. International treaties ratified by the Republic shall have priority over its laws and be directly implemented except in cases when the application of an international treaty shall require the promulgation of a law.
  • Article 5. Public associations shall be equal before the law.  Unlawful interference of the state in the affairs of public associations and of public associations in the affairs of the state, imposing the functions of state bodies on public associations shall not be permitted.  Formation and functioning of public associations pursuing the goals or actions directed toward a violent change of the constitutional system, violation of the integrity of the Republic, undermining the security of the state, inciting social, racial, national, religious, class and tribal enmity, as well as formation of unauthorized paramilitary units shall be prohibited.
  • Article 14. No one shall be subject to any discrimination for reasons of origin, social rank, property status, occupation, sex, race, nationality, language, religious views, convictions, place of residence or any other circumstances. 
  • Article 18. State bodies, public associations, officials, and the mass media must provide every citizen with the possibility to obtain access to documents, decisions and other sources of information concerning his rights and interests. 
  • Article 20. The freedom of speech and creative activities shall be guaranteed.  Censorship shall be prohibited.

    Everyone shall have the right to freely receive and disseminate information by any means not prohibited by law. The list of items constituting state secrets of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall be determined by law.

    Propaganda of or agitation for the forcible change of the constitutional system, violation of the integrity of the Republic, undermining of state security, and advocating war, social, racial, national, religious, class and clannish superiority as well as the worship of cruelty and violence shall not be allowed. 
  • Article 22. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of conscience.  The right to freedom of conscience must not specify or limit universal human and civil rights and responsibilities before the state
  • Article 23. Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall have the right to freedom of forming associations. The activities of public associations shall be regulated by law.

    The military, employees of national security, law-enforcement bodies and judges must abstain from membership in political parties, trade unions, and actions in support of any political party.
  • Article 32. Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, hold meetings, rallies and demonstrations, street processions and pickets.  The use of this right may be restricted by law in the interests of state security, public order, protection of health, rights and freedoms of other persons. 
  • Article 33. Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall have the right to participate in the government of the state's affairs directly and through their representatives, to address personally as well as to direct individual and collective appeals to state bodies and local self-governance bodies. 
  • Article 39. Rights and freedoms of an individual and citizen may be limited only by laws and only to the extent necessary for protection of the constitutional system, defense of the public order, human rights and freedoms, health and morality of the population.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

  1. The Civil Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Part 1 (December 27, 1994, as amended July 21, 2018);
  2. The Tax Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (December 25, 2017, as amended July 21, 2018);
  3. The Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (May 15, 2007, as amended July 21, 2018);
  4. Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (July 3, 2014, as amended July 12, 2018);
  5. The Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Administrative Offences (July 5, 2014, as amended July 22, 2018);
  6. The Law “On Public Associations”(May 31, 1996, as amended May 24, 2018);
  7. The Law “On Noncommercial Organizations”(January 16, 2001, as amended July 5, 2018);
  8. The Law “On Registration of Legal Entities and Record-Keeping Registration of Branches and Representative Offices”(April 17, 1995, as amended December 25, 2017);
  9. The Law “On Professional Unions”(April 9, 1993, as amended July 11, 2017);
  10. The Law “On Religious Activity and Religious Associations”(October 11, 2011, as amended December 22, 2016);
  11. The Law “On Procedure of Organization and Conducting of Peaceful Gatherings, Meetings, Processions, Pickets and Demonstrations”(March 17, 1995, as amended December 20, 2004);
  12. Law “On State Social Contracting” (April 12, 2015, as amended of June 13, 2018);
  13. Law “On State Procurements” (July 21, 2007, as amended July 2, 2018);
  14. Law “On Special Social Services”(December 29, 2008, as amended July 2, 2018);
  15. Law on Rural Agricultural Cooperatives (October 29, 2015);
  16. Law “On Consumer Cooperatives”(May 8, 2001, as amended October 29, 2015);
  17. Law “On Housing Relations”(April 16, 1997, as amended July 12, 2018);
  18. Law “On Joint Stock Companies” (May 13, 2003, as amended July 15, 2018);
  19. Law “On State Youth Policy”(July 7, 2004, as amended June 13, 2018);
  20. Law “On Social Protection of Disabled Persons in the Republic of Kazakhstan” (April 13, 2005, as amended July 2, 2018);
  21. Ecological Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (January 9, 2007, as amended June 29, 2018);
  22. Law “On Banks and Banking Activities” (August 31, 1995, as amended July 4, 2018);
  23. Law “On Tourist Activities” (June 13, 2001, as amended May 24, 2018);
  24. Law “On Protection of Consumers’ Rights” (May 4, 2010, as amended June 13. 2018);
  25. Law “On Notarial System”(July 14, 1997, as amended July 5, 2018);
  26. Law “On Advocatory Activities and Legal Assistance” (July 5, 2018);
  27. Law “On Auditing Activities”(November 20, 1998, as amended July 2, 2018);
  28. Law “On Appraising Activities” (November 30, 2000, as amended May 24, 2018);
  29. Entrepreneurial Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (October 29, 2015, as amended July 21, 2018);
  30. Instruction on State Registration of Legal Entities and Record-Keeping Registration of Branches and Representative Offices (April 12, 2007, as amended April 5, 2018).
  31. Law on Public Councils (November 2, 2015, as amended May 4, 2018)
  32. Law on Access to Information (November 16, 2015, as amended December 28, 2016)
  33. Law on Charity (November 16, 2015, as amended July 2, 2018)
  34. Law on Payments and Payment Systems (July 26, 2016, as amended July 4, 2018)
  35. Order No.241 of the Ministry of Finance dated from February 20, 2018 on Approval of the Rules, Form and Terms to Submit Notification to the State Income Authorities about the Receipt of Funds and (or) other Assets from Foreign States, International and Foreign Organizations, Foreigners, and Stateless Persons.
  36. Order No. 242 of the Ministry of Finance dated from February 20, 2018 on Approval of the Rules, Form and Terms to Submit Reporting to the State Income Authorities about the Receipt and the Expenditure of Funds and (or) other Assets from Foreign States, International and Foreign Organizations, Foreigners, and Stateless Persons.
  37. Order No. 240 of the Ministry of Finance dated from February 20, 2018 on Approval of the Rules on Maintaining a Database on Entities-Recipients of Funds and (or) other Assets, their Donors and Other Information, on Inclusion and Exclusion from the Database.
  38. Law on Volunteering (December 30, 2016, as amended of July 11, 2017).

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

There is one CSO-related initiatives being considered currently by the Parliament.

1. In early August 2018, the Ministry of Public Development (MPD) publicized the Concept of the draft Law on Introduction of Amendments to Some Legislative Acts on Issues of Public Councils (draft amendments to the Law on Public Councils) and the actual draft amendments. The MPD noted that the working group developed the Concept and the draft amendments based on recommendations from public councils, CSOs, independent experts, and international organizations. The desired outcomes are to improve the procedure of selection and rotation of members of public councils, expand the rights of members of public councils, and increase the share of civil society representatives in the structure of public councils. It is expected that the draft law will be introduced to the Parliament by the end of 2018.

2. In June 2018, the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan initiated the development of a new Concept of Civil Society Development, which will be drafted on basis of proposals from local CSOs collected during a series of public discussions.

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

The Civil Code of Kazakhstan defines a non-commercial organization (NCO) as a legal entity which does not seek to produce income and which does not distribute earned net income to its participants.  The Civil Code (CC) recognizes a large number of organizational forms of NCOs: institutions, public associations, foundations, consumer cooperatives, religious associations, associations of individual entrepreneurs, and associations of legal entities.  NCOs can also be created in other forms pursuant to separate laws, such as notary chambers, bar associations, chambers of commerce and industry, professional auditing organizations, cooperatives of apartment owners, chambers of appraisers etc.

All legal entities created on the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan, regardless of the purpose of their creation, type and nature of activities, participants or members, are obliged to register with the Ministry of Justice.

The most popular forms of NCOs are as follows:

  1. Institutions.  An organization created and financed by its founder for the performance of managerial, social, cultural or any other functions of non-commercial nature (Article 105 of CC).
  2. Public associations.  Political parties, professional unions and other associations of citizens created on a voluntary basis for the attainment of common goals which do not contradict legislation (Article 106 of CC). The Law on Public Associations (PA Law) further categorizes public associations by territorial status. National public associations are associations that have subordinate structures (branches and representative offices) on the territories of more than a half of the regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan.  Regional public associations are associations with subordinate structures (branches and representative offices) on the territories of less than half of the regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan.  Local public associations are associations operating within the borders of one region of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Article 7 of PA Law).
  3. Foundations.  A non-commercial organization without membership, which is founded by citizens and/or legal entities on the basis of their voluntary property contributions, and which pursues social, charity, cultural, educational, and any other publicly useful purposes (Article 107 of CC).
  4. Consumer cooperatives.  A voluntary association of citizens on the basis of membership, formed for the satisfaction of their financial and other needs by means of pooling the property contributions of the individual members (Article 108 of CC).
  5. Religious associations.  A voluntary association of citizens who unite in accordance with the procedure stipulated in legislative acts, on the basis of their common interests for satisfying their spiritual needs (Article 109 of CC).
  6. Associations of individual entrepreneurs and/or legal entities in a form of association (union). An association of either individual entrepreneurs or legal entities formed for the purpose of coordinating their entrepreneurial activity, as well as for representing and protection of their common interest (unions) (Article 110 of CC).

According to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as of July 2011, the number of NCOs amounted to the following:

  1. Private institutions – 4,621;
  2. Public associations – 8,134;
  3. Foundations – 4,831;
  4. Religious associations – 1,331;
  5. Associations (unions) of legal entities – 1,288;
  6. Consumer cooperatives – 5,252;
  7. Non-commercial joint-stock companies – 843; and
  8. Other organizations – 10,515.

Public Benefit Status

On November 16, 2015, the President signed the Law on Charity, which for the first time established the regulation of charitable activities in Kazakhstan. Before its adoption, Kazakh law did not make use of the term “charity” or “charitable organization.”  Most charitable organizations were therefore registered as public associations or foundations and therefore were regulated as NCOs.

The new law defines "charity" as “socially useful activities based on the rendering of charitable aid and satisfaction of human needs, carried out on a voluntary and free of charge basis or on preferential terms in the form of philanthropic, sponsorship and patronage activities.”

The Law further defines each of the forms of charity as the following:

1)    “charitable aid - property provided by the benefactor on a gratuitous basis in order to assist the recipient in improving a financial and/or material situation:
in the form of social support to the individual; or
in the form of sponsorship aid;
to a noncommercial organization with the purpose to support its statutory activities;
to an organization that carries out activities in the social sphere determined in accordance with the Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan "On Taxes and other Mandatory Payments to the Budget" (the Tax Code);”

2)    “sponsorship – the activity of the sponsor on rendering charitable aid on the terms of popularizing the sponsor's name in accordance with this Law, the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and international treaties of the Republic of Kazakhstan;”

3)    “patronage activity - the activity of the patron on rendering charitable aid on the basis of goodwill in the development of science, education, culture, art, sportsmanship, preservation of the historical and ethnocultural heritage of society and the state in accordance with this Law, the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and international treaties of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”

The Law defines “charitable organization” as a “noncommercial organization created for the purpose of charity in accordance with this Law, laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and international treaties of the Republic of Kazakhstan”. It follows from this definition that a charitable organization is not a new legal form of NCO, in which they can register, but rather an informal status because the Law does not provide any clarity regarding the process of acquiring such status. In order to be considered as a charitable organization, an NCO must meet the requirements set by the Law. In particular, the Law sets specific requirements for the charter of charitable organizations and states that the supreme governing body of charitable organization must be the guardian council (board of trustees), which is not compatible with any existing form of NCO where the supreme governing body is either through a general meeting of members (for public associations and associations of legal entities) or a general meeting of founders or one founder (for foundations and institutions). Therefore, none of the existing NCOs would qualify as a charitable organization in accordance with this Law until they make appropriate changes in their structure and founding documents.

Moreover, the Law established additional reporting requirements for charitable organizations to receive foreign funding. For exampe, they must annually publish a report in the mass media on the usage of funds received from international organizations, foreigners and stateless persons for the purpose of charity. The Law also established a reporting requirement for the branches and representative offices of foreign charitable organizations, which have to annually publish an activity report in the mass media, including the information on founders (participants), the structure of property, sources of income and direction of spending the money in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Tax Code contains a definition of “charitable aid” and provides some benefits for donors and beneficiaries.  Charitable aid is defined as property provided on a gratuitous basis:
•    in the form of sponsorship aid;
•    to individuals for the purpose of rendering social support;
•    to noncommercial organizations for the purpose of implementing their charter objectives;
•    to organizations engaged in the social sphere for the purpose of implementing activities, specified in paragraph 2 of Article 290 of the Code (see below);
•    to organizations engaged in the social sphere for the purpose of implementing activities, specified in paragraph 3 of Article 290 of the Code.

Article 289(2) of the Tax Code provides that NCOs are exempt from taxation of income received “under contract for the implementation of state social contracting, in the form of … grants, entry and membership fees, … charitable and sponsorship aid, gratuitously transferred property, subsidies, and donations.” An NCO must account for such income separately from taxable income.

The Tax Code also defines a specific category of organizations, so-called “Social Sphere Organizations” (SSOs), which can be formed either as commercial or noncommercial organizations.

There are two categories of SSOs (Article 290):
•    Organizations (regardless of legal form) deriving no less than 90% of their gross annual income from the provision of services or conduct of activities in enumerated fields, which are basically limited to healthcare, childcare and education, science, sports, culture, library services, and social welfare of children, the elderly, and disabled persons; and
•    Organizations (also regardless of legal form) meeting the following criteria:
-    at least 51% of the employees of the organization must qualify as disabled; and
-     wages paid to the disabled employees must comprise no less than 51% of the organization’s overall payroll (this number is further reduced to 35% for specialized organizations employing hearing-, speech-, or vision-impaired workers).

SSOs are broadly exempt under Article 290 from corporate tax on income received on a gratuitous basis, passive (investment) income (except when taxed at the source under other rules), and income earned from entrepreneurial activities, provided that the SSO’s entire income is used for the performance of exempt activities.

For donations made to NCOs (including but not limited to SSOs), corporate donors can deduct the cost of the donated money and other property up to 4% of their taxable income.  There are no tax incentives for individual donors.

Barriers to Entry

The creation and operation of unregistered public associations is prohibited; the members of such illegal informal associations are subject to administrative and criminal liability. 

A minimum number of 10 citizens of Kazakhstan are required in order to form a public association.  Foreign citizens and stateless persons may not be founders of public associations, although they can be members of public associations (other than political parties) if such membership is specified by the charter of the association.  Citizens aged 16 or older may be members of youth public associations affiliated with political parties.  The age requirements for members of other youth and children’s public associations is specified by their charters or regulations (Article 11 of the PA Law).

All NCOs must be registered with the Ministry of Justice based on the Law on State Registration of Legal Entities and Record-Registration of Branches and Representative Offices.  NCO applicants are required to pay a registration fee, which is determined by the Tax Code.  Currently, the fee amounts to approximately USD 70. For associations of youth or disabled people the registration fee is reduced to USD 20. 

Registration of NCOs is relatively straightforward and usually takes about 10 days.  In order to register a public association, an application must be submitted within two months from the date of its formation, which must be accompanied by the charter, the minutes of the founding meeting that adopted the charter, information about the organization’s founders, documents confirming the status and legal address of the organization, and proof of payment of the appropriate registration fee.  In case of refusal to register a public association, or any other organization, the registration body should provide a written rejection, which explains the reason for refusal.

The PA Law (Article 7) categorizes public associations by territorial status as local, regional and national public associations.  In order to register a regional public association it is required to have branches in at least 2 oblasts of Kazakhstan, while for national public associations branches must be located in at least 8 oblasts, including the cities of Astana and Almaty.

Barriers to Operational Activity

As mentioned above, in accordance with Article 7 of the PA Law, public associations are categorized by territorial status.  Though the Law does not explicitly restrict an organization’s activity to coincide with its territorial status, in practice, associations that do not so limit their activities are under threat of violating Article 374 of the Administrative Code, which penalizes any minor deviation from the charter objectives or any violation of Kazakh legislation.  Since the sanctions envisioned by this Article are potentially serious (ranging from written notification to a 6-month suspension of activities), many public associations prefer to operate within the region where they are registered. 

In addition, the Administrative Code, which came into effect on January 1, 2015, contains provisions that provide administrative penalties for leaders or members of a public association that carried out activities outside of the goals and tasks defined by its charter.

In December 2015, the government adopted a number of regulations, including the Rules for Providing Information by NCOs on their Activities and Formation of the NCO Database. The Rules imposed significant new information requirements upon all NCOs, including the submission of sensitive data on employees. Due to successful advocacy efforts, the Rules were subsequently clarified and improved. On March 9, 2016, the Ministry of Culture and Sports (MCS) released a new version of the Rules, although the original reporting deadline for submission of sensitive data (i.e., March 31, 2016) remained the same as before. At least 1,800 reports were received before the March 31 deadline. While not all NCOs submitted data as required, non-compliant NCOs were not penalized for failure to meet the reporting deadline.

Barriers to Speech/Advocacy

There is no legal barrier limiting the ability of NCOs to engage in advocacy or public policy activities.  All forms of public associations may participate in advocacy and lobbying activities. 
According to Article 19 of the PA Law, public associations have the right to engage in the following activities in order to achieve their statutory goals, subject to compliance with applicable laws:

  • disseminate information about their activities;
  • represent and protect the rights and lawful interests of their members in courts and other state bodies;
  • establish mass media outlets;
  • hold meetings, protests, demonstrations, marches, and pickets;
  • perform publishing activities;
  • join international non-commercial non-governmental associations; and
  • exercise other powers, not contrary to the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

According to the Law on Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan, public associations can actively participate in organizing and conducting elections, as well as become observers of elections for compliance with the legislation.  Religious associations and international NGOs are expressly prohibited from using their assets to support political parties, movements, and campaigns.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no significant legal barriers to international communication and contact.  

However, on December 28, 2015, the Government adopted a new National Action Plan on NGO-Government Cooperation for 2016-2020. NGOs learned about the existence of the document only in January 2016, and the development of the document was not transparent or inclusive. There are severlal provisions in the document that raise concern, such as an activity that implies further review of legislation that regulates the activities and reporting of foreign CSOs operating in Kazakhstan. The Vice Minister of the MCS has indicated that there is no specific plan to adopt new legislation affecting foreign CSOs, but such a decision on further steps will be made following analysis of Kazakh legislation.

Barriers to Resources

  • Foreign Funding

There have not historically been legal barriers to foreign funding that apply to NCOs. However, a new law was passed on July 26, 2016, that introduces new requirements for organizations and individuals to report on the receipt and expenditure of foreign funds or assets (the Law on Payments). The new law also includes a requirement to label all publications produced with support from foreign funds as funded from foreign sources, as well as administrative penalties for non-compliance with these new requirements.

  • Domestic Funding

An NCO may engage in entrepreneurial activities to the extent that it corresponds with its statutory goals.  Income from the entrepreneurial activities of NCOs may not be distributed among members or participants of NCOs (Article 33 of the NCO Law). Except in the case of SSOs, income from entrepreneurial activity is subject to taxation in the same manner as for a commercial organization.

Barriers to Assembly

In accordance with the Constitution, citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan have the right to assemble peacefully and without weapons, hold meetings, demonstrations, marches and pickets. The application of this right can be restricted in the interests of national security, public order, protection of health, right and freedoms of other people (Article 32 of the Constitution). The legal regulation of the freedom of peaceful assembly is contained in the Law of March 17, 1995 “On the Procedure for the Organization and Conducting of Peaceful Assemblies, Meetings, Processions, Pickets and Demonstrations in the Republic of Kazakhstan,” as amended on December 20, 2004 (further referred to as “the Law”).  Activities such as conducting hunger strikes in public places, erecting yurts (traditional Kazakh houses), tents and other constructions can also be viewed as a form of assembly covered by the Law (Art. 1). Spontaneous actions conducted without obtaining a permit from a local executive body are not permitted and must be terminated upon demand by the local executive body.

In order to hold an assembly, an application must be filed no later than 10 days prior to the scheduled date.  Article 2 of the Law provides that the application must be made by representatives of work collectives, public associations or individual groups of citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan who are more than 18 years of age. In other words, the Law does not recognize the right of a single individual to submit an application.  The application must specify the following information: the goal, form, and place of conducting the activity or routes of movement; the beginning and ending times; approximate number of participants; names of authorized persons or organizers, persons responsible for public order, place of their residence and work or study.  The date of filing is calculated from the day of its registration. The local executive body must issue its decision not later than 5 days prior to the day of the assembly as specified in the application.

Blanket prohibitions against mass activities apply to several locations, including railways, water and air transport sites; and in the vicinity of organizations responsible for ensuring defense, national safety, and public services, such as public transport, water and electricity supply, heating and other energy carriers, and establishments of public health and education (Article 7 of the Law).

Furthermore, Article 10 of the Law permits local representative bodies to impose additional regulations on the procedure for conducting assemblies. In accordance with this Article local executive bodies have designated places where assemblies may occur. For example, in the capital Astana only two locations have been designated, and in Almaty only one place, which is in the outskirts of the city. UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai, returned from an official visit to Kazakhstan in January 2015 and, among other pressing rights concerns, pointed out that all peaceful assemblies require approval from local authorities and, even then, were limited to specific, government-designated sites.

Organizers of an assembly are responsible for filing the necessary application and also for compliance with the lawful requirements of the local executive body (Article 8). Organizers are also obliged to conduct the assembly in accordance with the aims specified in the application, within the specified periods and in the specified place and also to keep public order. A violation can lead to a fine of up to twenty times the monthly rated index (Article 373, Par. 1 of the Code on Administrative Offences).[1] Organizers and participants also bear criminal responsibility in the case of violation of the rights and lawful interests of citizens and organizations (with punishment ranging from high fines to imprisonment for a period up to one year).  The police can also apply administrative detention to organizers and participants.

Chapter 27 of the Civil Procedural Code stipulates the procedure for appealing decisions and actions of government officials to a court.

[1] The monthly rated index is an indicator used in Kazakhstan for calculating pensions, grants and other social payments, and also for the application of penalties and calculation of taxes and other payments. The index grows slightly every year, and in 2013 it is equal to 1,731 tenge, which is approximately $11.50.

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Reports

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports

Seventh session Geneva,12 February 2010

Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs

Kazakhstan

U.S. State Department Background Note: Kazakhstan
Failed States Index Reports Foreign Policy Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports Kazakhstan and the IMF
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Library Kazakhstan

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Ministry of Social Development established in Kazakhstan (June 2018)
Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the Law on measures for the further enhancement of the public administration system of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the press service of Akorda reports. In paragraph 1 the line "The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society of the Republic of Kazakhstan;" shall be reworded as follows: "The Ministry of Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan;".

Government approves the draft of the new Tax Code (January 2018)
On December 25, 2017, Kazakhstan adopted a new Tax Code (the New Tax Code) and certain tax-related amendments to a number of laws (the Tax Amendments). Most provisions of the New Tax Code and the Tax Amendments took effect on January 1, 2018.

Government approves the draft of the new Tax Code (September 2017)
Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov reported that under the new Tax Code the thinking on taxation has been changed, which will be aimed at protecting good faith taxpayers, stimulating different sectors of the economy and simplifying administration processes. According to the new Code all uncertainties and inaccuracies will be interpreted in favor of taxpayers.

Kazakhstan develops new rules for issuing grants to NGOs (July 2017)
Within the framework of implementing the fourth direction "Identity and Unity" of the Plan of the Nation "100 concrete steps", the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society is working to improve the legislation regulating the activities of non-governmental organizations. In order to implement the 87 step, in 2016 a bill "On Amendments to Legislative Acts Regarding Activities of Non-Profit Organizations" was developed. It provides for the norms of mandatory participation of citizens in the formation and evaluation of state social orders.

Code of Ethics for Kazakhstan NGOs to be adopted soon (December 2016)
The Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan is working on creation of the Code of Ethics for non-governmental organizations (NGO), according to President of the Alliance Nurlan Yerimbetov who spoke in the press conference today, Kazinform" reports. "If we adopt it [the Code of Ethics], it will be a mandatory requirement for all NGO to comply with it. This document should consider all the aspects of our sphere. It should help avoid any provocative issues. We want everyone to learn how to behave in the right way", - Nurlan Yerimbetov said.

Why Kazakhstan created the Ministry for Religious and Civil Society Affairs (November 2016)
It is an unfortunate reality that extremism and terrorism have become global threats affecting all corners of the world. There has been a fivefold increase in deaths from terrorism since September 11, 2001, with religious extremism overtaking national separatism as the main driver of attacks. It is why stamping out religious extremism has to be at the top of the global agenda. But the threat from this warped ideology has not stopped within Iraq’s and Syria’s borders. Countries as far flung and different as the United States, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Afghanistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Mali, Nigeria, along with many others, have been hit by radical Islamist extremists in the last year. Kazakhstan sadly also joined this list when extremists struck in Aktobe in June. It is for these reasons, as well as for the need to further develop our civil society as a key partner and ensure youth is properly included in our country’s progress, that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has established the Ministry for Religious and Civil Society Affairs.

Kazakhstan introduces tax control over foreign funding (August 2016)
From now on, NGOs that received foreign funding will have to provide complete tax reports. Otherwise they will have to pay an administrative fine. In general, nearly 14,500 non-governmental organizations are registered in the country. Some of them receive funds for legal protection, public opinion study, collection and distribution of information from abroad. This category is subject to mandatory requirement. All the information will be placed on the website of the State Revenue Committee is in open access.

CSO Database Formation (March 2016) (Russian)
During the execution of the "National Plan," a hundred concrete steps for the implementation of the five institutional reforms have been featured in the legislation regulating the activities of non-governmental organizations in Kazakhstan. To enhance the transparency and accessibility of information to the public on the activities of non-governmental organizations, an NGO Database has begun to form in 2016, which will become a public information resource.

CSO Activists Petition against New Legislation (October 2015) (Russian)
A group of CSO activists expressed their significant concern over the implications of new CSO legislation adopted by Parliament in September 2015. Among their concerns include the potential monopolization of grant funding by a single non-commercial “Operator,” and the reduction of CSOs’ sphere of activity. The same group of CSOs signed a petition addressing President Nazarbayev, arguing that he should veto the legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Opinion on the Draft Law on Access to Information (May 2015)
In April 2015, the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan requested the OSCE to provide legal expertise on the draft Law on Access to Information. OSCE/ODIHR has issued Opinions on previous drafts of this legislation in 2010 and in 2012. In its latest Opinion, ODIHR notes that the new draft law constitutes an improvement to earlier draft versions and incorporates a number of ODIHR's previous recommendations. At the same time, there is a need to ensure that no information is categorically excluded from being accessed, and that at the same time, all necessary grounds for limitation of access to information are included.

UN Special Rapporteur urges Kazakhstan to boost right of peaceful assembly (January 2015)
Returning from an official visit to Kazakhstan, Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said that the Kazakh Government had developed a tendency to focus on restrictions rather than human rights themselves, adding that this had resulted in a situation where rights were treated as privileges to be granted at the discretion of State authorities. Among the more pressing rights issues facing the country, Mr. Kiai pointed out that the Government's regulation of peaceful assemblies had become increasingly becoming problematic as all peaceful assemblies now required the go-ahead from local authorities and, even then, were limited to specific, government-designated sites.

"Kazakh CSOs Should Not be Sponsored by Foreign Donors" (September 2014) (Russian)
On September 16, 2014, the head of the organization called Civil Alliance, Mr. Nurlan Yerimbetov, proposed the adoption of new mechanisms for controlling CSO funding, including grants and awards. He emphasized the need to eliminate foreign funding to Kazakh CSOs.

CSOs Hold Press Conference on Draft Law (February 2014)

Religious institutions have to report for foreign money (November 2012)

Kazakhstan Elected Member of UN Human Rights Council November 2012)

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