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Maxim Kaznacheyev. The influence of NGOs on the increase of civic engagement in Kazakhstan

One of the most important directions of state policy in Kazakhstan is providing favorable conditions for development of civil society institutes. The question of state cooperation with nongovernmental organizations is becoming more and more important in the context of the current political events in the country. 

Today in Kazakhstan there is a necessary balance of factors and conditions for formation of professional non-governmental sector.This conclusion is based on the following facts:

  • the number of non-profit organizations in the country exceeds 35 thousand;
  • implementation of the state social order into practice;
  • the launch of dialogue platforms for cooperation with the civil sector;
  • work on institutional development of civil society institutes.

Within the framework of enhancing the role of non-profit organizations in adoption of the state decisions and influence on public opinion since declaration of independence of Kazakhstan the following regulatory legal acts were adopted: Law on public associations, 1996;

  • Law on non-profit organizations, 2001;
  • Law on non-profit organizations, 2002;
  • The concept of the NGO state support, 2002;
  • The program of the NGO state support, 2003-2005;
  • Law on the state social order, 2005;
  • The concept about civil sector development, 2005;
  • The draft of the Concept of civil society development for 2005-2015, 2005;
  • The concept of development of civil society in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2006-2011, 2006.

But the current status of civil sector shows that the institutional prerequisites are not enough for effective functioning of civil society. The Kazakhstan NGOs are still not full participants of political processes in the country. The theoretical understanding of non-governmental organizations’ influence on democratic processes doesn’t make an adequate reflection in practice. Functioning conditions of NGO sector demand further improvement in practice both by the state and by  organizations themselves.

The increase of efficiency in NGO activities should be based on studying and defining the factors that influence the development of both regional NGOs, and of those that are located in large cities.

Thus, the successful development of the sector is interfered by a number of problems that require constructive discussion and development of jointly adopted decisions.

The main problem knots in the development of the third sector in Kazakhstan:

  • separation and weak communication of NGOs with population;
  • low level of public awareness about NGO work;
  • poor coverage in mass media;
  • wide sector representation in cities but small one in rural areas;
  • insufficient recognition and mistrust by society and public authorities about the third sector role and its opportunities;
  • poor legal literacy of NGO chiefs;
  • imperfection of the legislative base;
  • insufficient development of volunteer traditions in Kazakhstan;
  • short term existence of NGO institutes (lack of constant and long-term financing sources);
  • absence of an effective feedback mechanism between the state institutes and NGOs;
  • aid decrease for NGOs from the donor organizations.

Thus, based on the existing problems, the main objectives of NGOs should be:

  • provision of interrelation between the state and the society
  • detection of the social groups’ needs
  • development of effective mechanisms of the state feedback
  • lobbying of socially important projects;
  • active promotion of citizens’ initiatives with the involvement of mass media;
  • tendency to the self-organization development (involvement of the inner resources, professional development of NGO chiefs);
  • interaction with state authorities in the social protection of the population.

System implementation of the assigned tasks must find recognition in the society for which a system for solving social problems through NGOs is required:

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Response System on social processes and problems has to be flexible, focused on the maximum benefit for society. Account of pluralism of opinions, rationality in the decision-making, selectivity and transparency of all levels of the power, and financial statement can become the main step that would increase the level of public confidence in both the authorities and non-governmental sector.

The process of NGO activity coordination demands serious organizational and institutional strengthening of Kazakhstan non-governmental sector. Problem solving requires not only the adoption of the appropriate measures at the level of state authorities and departments, but also the expansion of target work with society.

 

Organization measures:

  • To set the conditions for growth of citizens’ initiative in rural areas (stimulation of financing rural NGOs for donor organizations).
  • To conduct public hearings on the regular basis on the most important problems of society with participation of all three sides (representatives of state authorities, civil sector and society) with active assistance of mass media.
  • To conduct constant monitoring and researches of the NGO activity for the purpose of objective assessment to the functioning organizations based on the following criteria:
  1. the level of financial transparency and accountability to society;
  2. the level of public usefulness and efficiency of non-governmental sector projects;
  3. the level of populations’ trust in a particular NGO;
  4. implementation of projects in practice and the assessment of the existing projects by the population.
  • To implement a system of external assessment and monitoring of the social programs’ effectiveness by the public through mass surveys, online voting, etc.

 

Institutional measures

  • To create an expert group for the legal examination of the legislation to improve it in order to eliminate the possibilities of ambiguity in a standard legal status of NGOs.
  • To provide civil sector with information, consulting, methodical support, which requires training and raising the competence of state employees in terms of cooperation and interaction with NGOs.
  • To coordinate cooperation between the authorities of all levels and non-governmental organizations.
  • To actualize and to actively promote the concept of “social partnership” that assumes establishment of interaction mechanisms between institutes of the power and society to solve public problems.
  • To create a base for further improvement and step by step development of the new concept of work with NGOs taking into account the current state of civil sector.

Therefore the increase of the work effectiveness in specialized structures is needed – first of all the NGO united alliance, the NGO National information resource center, and also the Civil forum are designed to become the engine for building civil society by accumulating information about the NGO activity and its development problems. The institutes should contribute to the promotion of the traditions of open discussion and criticism removal, initiatives support, both to NGOs, and the state, that will become a positive experience in the advance and development of institutes of civil society and the democratic form of government.

Non-governmental organizations should become the key factor of the development of civil society in Kazakhstan. Fundamentals of the formal institutes of democracy in the country in general are defined; today active promotion of civil society development with the participation of NGOs is required.

 

Maxim Kaznacheyev