Systematic State – Civil Society Partnership Needs to Continue

Dec 23. MFA

Systematic State - Civil Society Partnership Needs to ContinueStrong civil society is a determining factor in the development of any country. Thus, the establishment of an effective non-governmental sector in Kazakhstan could be considered one of the greatest achievements of the country in its first 20 years. But this also speaks volumes about the need to continue developing partnership between the state and the civil society on a systematic basis.

From the first days of independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has sought to create favourable conditions for the full development of the third sector. As a result, the country now has more than 35,000 non-commercial organisations, including more than 18,000 NGOs. Since 2006, the sector is growing at a rate of 1,000 new organisations a year. Regions with the most active civil society in the country include oblasts such as Almaty (which accounts for 17.9 percent of all organisations), South Kazakhstan (11.25 percent), Karaganda (9.01 percent), Zhambyl (6.73 percent), Kostanay (6.46 percent), and East Kazakhstan (6.19 percent).

NGO activities cover a wide range of areas. Currently, 43.9 percent of NGOs represent youth organizations, 24.5 percent work with children, 21.2 percent are involved in medical care or assistance, 20.4 percent deal with environmental issues, 20.4 percent work with families and women, 20.4 percent are engaged in education, and 16 percent advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.

“Working in the region since 1997, we are witnessing the rapid development of civil society in the country and successful reforms in this sphere,” Vice President of the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law Natalia Bourjaily said at the Fifth Civil Society Forum in Astana in October 2011. She also noted that Kazakhstan has some of the most effective legislation in this field among the post-Soviet countries.

In 2002, the government approved the Concept on State Support for NGOs. A specific programme to implement the Concept was adopted in 2003 and ran until 2005. These were important documents aimed at creating conditions for the sustainable development of the non-governmental sector and enhancing its role in solving social problems. Increasing civil initiatives in the regions was of particular importance. Subsequently, regional programmes to promote state support for NGOs were adopted.

In 2006, Kazakhstan approved the Concept on Civil Society for 2006-2011. The Concept turned into the basic strategic document for elaborating targeted programmes and legislative and normative acts, which were all aimed at further improving the environment for civil institutions and establishing social partnerships between government, business, and NGOs.

As a result, the country held regular Civil Society Forums that have become an effective platform to discuss the interaction between the state and civil society.

Today, it is difficult to imagine the activities of public bodies without the interaction with the non-governmental sector. Widespread involvement of NGOs in drafting laws and programmes and conducting public hearings on major issues of economic and social development has become routine practice today.

In addition, consultative and advisory bodies have been established at all levels of the government. These include the Coordination Council for Cooperation with NGOs under the government. In total, the country has 300 venues for dialogue operating on a permanent basis, such as consultative, advisory bodies and expert and working groups. Twenty such bodies work under the president, 14 under the government, and 144 in regional administrations, as well as in the city administrations of Astana and Almaty.