Educating Future Civic Space Advocates in Central Asia

In spring 2020, Toraighyrov University in Kazakhstan launched a course to equip a new generation of lawyers with much-needed training in civil society law.

This course, and several others in the region, are being formed with the help of ICNL as part of our strategy to address civic space issues in Central Asia. In the fall of 2019, we organized the International Workshop on Teaching Nonprofit Law, which drew on our experiences working with universities worldwide. The two-day workshop held in Kazakhstan, hosted international experts and over 60 participants from Central Asia. Attendees discussed the future of civic space in the region and the importance of forming nonprofit law courses to protect civil society in their communities.

Elida Nogoibaeva the Dean of the Law Faculty at American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Kyrgyzstan, highlighted that these courses help ensure that local civil society organizations can act as important “checks and balances in democracies and are able to hold [state officials] accountable,” adding that “without them, we cannot build the rule of law.”

With ICNL’s continued support, nine universities have expressed interest in establishing nonprofit law courses. In Kazakhstan, in addition to Toraighyrov University’s course, Zhetysu State University introduced its Master of Laws program in September 2020. In Uzbekistan, Tashkent State University of Law intends to launch its first course in the 2020-21 academic year.

The region “needs specialists in this area who can use their experience to enhance civil society legislation so that people [can] join together and improve their lives,” said AUCA Noncommercial Law Associate Professor Victoriia Shutii.

Many graduates of these programs go on to work in civil society or the public sector where they can build a stronger and more sustainable local civil society. “By building a strong civil society organization course in our curriculum, we can help improve our individuals, our communities, and our government,” said Nogoibaeva.

“A deeper recognition of the legal aspects of nonprofit work is badly needed in Kazakhstan. In January 2020, we started teaching nonprofit law as an elective course. Students responded positively, noting its importance and usefulness. We also started working on teaching guides, using a wide variety of ICNL materials. I would like to thank ICNL for its important contribution in developing these programs.”

Meiram Begentayev, acting rector at Toraighyrov University, Kazakhstan

This story is from our 2019-2020 Annual Report. Each story in the report shows how our partners across the world help protect and, where possible, expand civic space.