Kazakhstan: UN Expert Says Draft Law Threatens the Existence of Civil Society, Including Women’s Organizations
Thursday, October 15, 2015 9:35 PM

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the following the news release on October 15, 2015:

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, today warned that Kazakhstan’s Bill amending the Law on Non-profit organizations “may not only compromise the independence of associations, but challenge their very existence.”

The draft law establishes an operator with the right to allocate both governmental and non-governmental grants, including grants from international organizations, diplomatic missions or international not-for-profit organizations, to non-governmental organizations.

“The possibility for a centralized Government’s operator to distribute all grants irrespective of sources, be it public or private funds, enables the authorities to arbitrarily limit resources and to control the entire not-for-profit sector,” Mr. Kiai cautioned. “By controlling the sources of funds, the draft law would limit associations’ functional autonomy and put their independence and existence at serious risk.”

“Access to financial resources is an integral and vital part of the right to freedom of association,” the expert underscored.

The new legislative amendments were adopted by the Senate on 8 October 2015. The text would now be with the Lower House of the Parliament for its final consideration and it may be adopted any time from now.

The draft law also bars associations receiving governmental grants from using more than 10 percent of their funding for administrative expenditures. “Other countries have adopted such laws in recent years and we now know, from experience, that this has had a devastating impact on civil society organizations,” the UN expert noted. “Many were forced to stop their activities. . . . By preventing associations to decide freely on their activities, such limitation questions the very meaning of freedom of association and, as experience shows, endangers the very existence of associations,” he said.

“The role of civil society in a country with significant democratic and economic development aspirations is crucial to achieve ambitious goals. A meaningful engagement with civil society is essential to ensure diverse voices are included in decision making process,” he added.

See the Special Rapporteur’s report on Kazakhstan (A/HRC/29/25/ Add.2): http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=189

See full text of news release at: New draft law threatens the independence and existence of NGOs in Kazakhstan, warns UN rights expert, U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights News Release (October 15, 2015).