Kazakhstan plans to adopt a new law on Non-Governmental Organizations which seeks to expand and improve the funding of NGOs from the state budget and raise standards and professionalism across the sector. We see this as an important and essential process if we are to strengthen the role of the “Third Sector” in public services in Kazakhstan.
So far, the institutional development of Kazakhstani NGOs has largely been driven by grants from international organizations and foreign states. The new draft law, developed by the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan, introduces a host of new measures to support the development of the NGO sector, including grants from the state budget.
Currently, NGOs have only two main sources of funding: foreign grants and state funding for very narrow remits through the law “on state orders”. Money allocated through the state order cannot be used on a NGO’s development or for the procurement of equipment and training of staff. The funding system was designed in this way to avoid any perception of NGOs as profit-making entities and to avoid the inappropriate use of budget funds. But it has also hindered the institutional development of the Kazakhstani NGO sector.
Grants are a well-established mechanism in the NGO world and many Kazakhstani NGOs already receive them from foreign donors. However, the draft law also envisages the introduction of an entirely new concept of the state “award”, which are separate funds dedicated to developing NGOs skills, capacity and abilities.
The use of the term “award” makes it possible under Kazakhstani legislation to provide NGOs with non-repayable public funds (similar to the “Daryn” or “Paryz” awards) for their institutional development.
The authors of the new draft law believe the awards will be particularly effective in assisting NGOs in their development and in the early stages of project implementation, when NGOs often have limited access to money.
I would stress that the process of award allocation envisaged in the draft law will be fully transparent.
Firstly, the nomination of a non-governmental organization for an award will be made by the Coordinating Council for Cooperation with NGOs under the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Every nomination will be assessed by an expert commission established under the respective agency. The assessment process will take into consideration the NGO’s contribution to social issues, its public profile and the opinions of public organizations and councils working with non-governmental organizations at all levels.
Second, awards to non-governmental organizations are to be given not by individual state agencies, but by the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
Awards to non-governmental organizations cannot be distributed among the members of non-governmental organizations and must be spent in accordance with their statutory objectives.
That means that, from an accountant’s point of view, profit (for example, in the form of equipment) may be evident, but these sources, indeed, are used in the public interest, not for private gain.
Awards to non-governmental organizations may be used for charitable purposes, material and technical facilities and the training of non-governmental organization staff – the institutional development of NGOs.
And when it comes to expanding state funding of the NGO sector, it is critical to consider how we as a government can better promote its development and raise professional standards. We need to find ways to ensure public money is well spent and not wasted on the pet projects of enthusiasts.
Today there are more than 27 000 NGOs registered and more than half of them are “omnivorous”, i.e. they have no specific goal or activity and believe they can carry out any activity. This is not a sign of a professional or well-developed NGO sector.
In contrast, in most developed countries, NGOs have developed sector-specific skills in order to provide public services and play their role as the “Third Sector”. For example, grants to NGOs operating in the healthcare sector are often restricted to those with special certificates or licenses.
The involvement of certified and professional organizations and their representatives in expert groups and the procurement process has raised the standard of NGOs operating in the “Third Sector” in foreign countries. The market has developed to a point where NGOs that have not evolved the training or skills in a specialist area fail to attract state and public support.
The advanced development of the NGO sector in foreign countries has enabled NGOs to play a practical role in solving specific economic and social problems. The new draft legislation aims to achieve this in Kazakhstan and usher in a new era of third sector involvement in government services.
Under the draft law, foreign donors also have the opportunity to provide funds to the operator to organize grant financing of Kazakhstan’s NGO, opening up a new level of cooperation between international donors and the NGO sector.
H.E. Kairat Abusseitov
Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway