Kyrgyzstan Adopts Progressive NGO Laws

16 November 1999

In October, Kyrgyz president Askar Akaev signed a long-awaited bill on nongovernmental activities, which creates a series of provisions to alter the legal and regulatory environment for NGOs and nonprofits. Passage of the law comes after two years of collaboration between NGO lawmakers, government officials and international organizations.

Over the course of the two years, the law gained considerable attention. The initiative began in 1998 with an official working group of deputies who combined competing NGO law initiatives into a single draft NGO law. This was done with assistance from the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and local attorney, Mirgul Smanilieva (President of the Kyrgyzstan Lawyers Association). After a base draft was create, the drafters also sought the input of local NGOs and assistance from international organizations.

Although the collective effort on this particular draft was unprecedented, the history of the draft was not free of controversy. Many human rights organizations criticized the draft for not providing distinct advantages to NGOs. Meanwhile, the government was seemingly concerned with the potential for political factions to use the new law to subvert the separate laws governing political movements -- a growing concern to Kyrgyz authorities. Despite these adversities, the draft law was continually modified by its drafters into an acceptable form and eventually passed by Parliament and President.

The law establishes more concrete criteria for the creation of nonprofit organizations. In this respect, this new law potentially strengthens the status of all non-commercial organizations, and establishes their clear distinction from commercial organizations. The new NGO law also clearly defines the organizational-legal forms of NGOs (including associations, foundations and institutions). The effectiveness of the new law will largely depend on its implementation, yet the document itself is one of the most progressive of its kind in the FSU.

The Republic has also passed the law, "On Charities and Philanthropic Activity" which attempts to define charitable activities for preferred treatment under the laws. Although the law provides a definition, the Tax Code lacks comparable benefits. In 2000, ICNL plans to address possible changes to the Tax Code, so that charitable organizations can utilize the new charity law as it was meant to be