Policymakers should know NGO Law
November 24. KAZINFORM. ASTANA
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) is an international expert organization providing technical assistance on a global basis to facilitate and support the development of civil society and freedom of association through its work with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders. ICNL began its work in Central Asia in 1995. Our guest today is a delegate of the Forth Civil Forum in Kazakhstan Elizabeth Warner, Program Director for Central Asia, ICNL Representative Office in Almaty.
Why are you participating in the Civil Forum? Tell us about your organizations, its mandate and activity in Kazakhstan.
We have been working in Central Asia for over 12 years, and we have always seen Kazakhstan occupying a special place among the Commonwealth of Independent States. ICNL has a representative office in Almaty and affiliate offices in Bishkek, Dushanbe and Ashgabat.
This Civil Forum is the flagship event in Kazakhstan that demonstrates the commitment of the Government to promoting the development of the third sector and also the recognition that a strong civil society is essential to a strong government. Since the first Civic Forum in 2003, we have seen many important developments in the partnership between the Government and civil society-simplified registration laws, the participation of NGOs in policymaking at the national and regional levels, and the beginning of more favorable tax laws that will promote private philanthropy. We work closely with civil society leaders and with the Ministry of Culture and Information, among other units of Government, to improve the laws on social contracting and develop other mechanisms to improve sustainability of the NGO sector.
In Central Asia, ICNL works to improve the legal environment for civil society organizations by supporting efforts to promote the adoption and implementation of effective legislation. ICNL facilitates the development of a regulatory framework for civil society organizations by involving all stakeholders, ensuring they assume ownership of the reform process. ICNL’s position as honest broker provides civil society actors with greater access to government decision-makers, who are keys to implementing such reforms. Results of this process include improved NGO skills in communication, advocacy, and policy dialogue. ICNL’s program in Central Asia is founded by the United States Agency for International Development. ICNL maintains a wealth of comparative information on the laws of more than 170 countries. We also involved in activities to institutionalize an enabling legal and regulatory environment by incorporating NGO law into university curricula, providing consultations and technical assistance to civil society ands government decision-makers, developing and supporting NGO-government partnerships, and inserting NGO law into the agenda of policy institutes and think tanks. Our activities also include: technical legal expertise to NGOs, governments, parliamentarians, and law specialists to promote effective development and implementation of legislation regulating civil society; providing legal information for civil society organizations and other actors through a network of lawyers in each country; development and support of scientific, legal, sociological and other research on issues regulating the activity of NGOs; provision of educational and analytical materials law to lawyers, state officials, judges, parliamentarians and NGO leaders.
How do you see this Civil Forum in light of the forthcoming OSCE chairmanship of Kazakhstan in 2010?
Kazakhstan once again has the opportunity to be a strong leader in the region. The National Human Rights Action Plan promises to improve the legal framework for civil society by recognizing that registration should not be mandatory and the right of all persons to participate in organizations, both formal and informal. There is more work to be done to bring Kazakh laws fully into line with international standards and best practices, particularly by eliminating some discriminatory provisions that impose liability on founders and managers of public associations but not commercial organizations. OSCE Chairmanship allows Kazakhstan to demonstrate its commitment to fundamental democratic values and human rights, as well as to promote the welfare of its people. The Civic Forum, which this year is the largest ever, proves that the partnership between Kazakh society and the Government is deepening. I do believe that as OSCE Chair, Kazakhstan will be able to set the great example for other countries in the region.
On behalf of our young readers, who have just started their professional life, would you like to tell us briefly about your professional career?
I have been working in Kazakhstan since early 2007. I spent many years as an attorney in private practice and have worked throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as the United States. I believe that the great strength of human society lies in our ability to form strong social and intellectual networks, which enables us combine our talents and resources so that the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts. Everywhere I go in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries I am reminded of the incredible history of this region-the architecture, the geography, the diversity of its peoples. I am very happy to be working in Central Asia and particularly to have seen the remarkable progress shown by Kazakhstan in its laws affecting civil society, as well as the dedication and beauty of its people.