Last updated: 24 July 2021


On August 27, 2020, President Tokayev signed the new Concept on Civil society Development until 2025. The Concept has the potential to improve the regulation of CSOs through positive reforms and new mechanisms to increase involvement of civil society in the discussion of legislative initiatives. The Action Plan for the implementation of the Concept (the Action Plan) from 2020-2025 was adopted on December 29, 2020. However, the Action Plan lacks many of civil society’s key recommendations, such as tax reforms to strengthen CSOs’ sustainability and develop incentives for charity, the elimination of burdensome foreign funding reporting requirements, and the abolishment of territorial restrictions for public associations, among others.


Civil society in Kazakhstan has steadily become more diverse, visible, and robust since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Civil society organizations (CSOs) established during the early 1990s were inspired by the rapid process of reform and were primarily concerned with human rights issues and the “democracy agenda.” By 1997, the number of CSOs had reached 1,600, due primarily to significant financial support from international funding agencies, including from the United States and Western Europe. Growth continued to accelerate in the 2000s, and according to figures from the Ministry of Justice in 2013, there are now over 38,000 independent CSOs in the country engaged in a wide range of activities, from mutual benefit organizations such as homeowners’ associations, to organizations promoting human rights, protecting the interests of vulnerable groups, engaging in the delivery of social services, and supporting environmental causes. Recent years have seen the development of formal arrangements for CSO–Government cooperation, as well as the rise of organizations engaged in service provision and meeting social development challenges.

In July 2006, the government adopted the Concept of Civil Society Development for 2006-2011 to provide a comprehensive framework for the development of CSOs and their equal partnership with the state and business sector. As a result of this Concept, various governmental agencies at the national and local levels have become more open to consulting with CSOs and involving them in working groups and public councils. The Concept expired at the end of 2011 and a new strategic document for CSO-Government cooperation, the National Action Plan on Development of Interaction between the Government and CSOs for 2016-2020, was adopted on December 28, 2015.  According to this document, the government will focus on development of public councils as well as mechanisms of cooperation with civil society. Unfortunately, however, the National Action Plan for 2016-2020 has also raised concern among CSOs, as it calls for further review of legislation that regulates the activities and reporting of foreign CSOs operating in Kazakhstan. In November 2018, CAK presented a new Concept of Civil Society Development for 2019-2025, which was drafted on basis of proposals from local CSOs collected during a series of public discussions.

The available government funding for social contracts awarded to CSOs has also grown dramatically in recent years, reaching $38 million in 2017. New amendments to the social contracting law and implementing regulations that improve the transparency of the process and the selection criteria for vendors went into effect in 2012, 2015 and 2018. The amendments also open the door to longer-term financing programs and require all government agencies awarding social contracts to establish councils for cooperation with CSOs. Since 2001, the government has hosted seven high-profile biannual civic forums. These forums serve as a dialogue platform, where hundreds of CSOs from throughout Kazakhstan and representatives of national and local governmental bodies discuss current issues and develop specific recommendations for civil society development and CSO-Government cooperation.

The government considered several legal measures in 2015 that increased control over CSOs’ receipt of donations. It approved and released the Rules for Providing Information by CSOs in December 2015. The Rules imposed vast information requirements upon all CSOs, including the submission of sensitive data on employees. The regulation was, however, subsequently revised following advocacy efforts by CSOs. On July 26, 2016, Kazakhstan adopted a so-called Law on Payments that introduced new reporting requirements in the Tax Code for organizations (including CSOs) and individuals regarding the receipt and expenditure of foreign funds and/or assets. An organization or an individual that falls within the scope of this provision must provide a notification to the tax authorities, as well as information on the receipt and expenditure of funds and/or other assets received from foreign sources to the tax authorities. In addition, they must label all publications produced with support from foreign funds as funded from foreign sources. Kazakh legislation provides for severe administrative penalties for non-compliance with these new requirements.

Despite these restrictive initiatives, the government continues to increase funding allocations to CSOs in the form of state social contracts and state grants. Starting in 2017, the government has issued state awards to CSOs for their contribution to resolving social problems via successful implementation of state social contracts. The Ministry of Social Development, an authorized body for interaction with CSOs in Kazakhstan, is currently focusing on optimizing a CSO database, which includes over 4,600 CSOs. It also seeks further improvements to the legislation on state social contracting and public councils.

Organizational Forms Institutions; public associations; foundations; consumer cooperatives; religious associations; Associations of individual entrepreneurs and/or gal entities in a form of association (union).
Registration Body Ministry of Justice
Barriers to Entry Unregistered public associations are prohibited. Foreign citizens and stateless persons cannot form public associations.

A minimum of 10 citizens required to form public associations

Barriers to Activities Excessive penalties for minor violations
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy None
Barriers to International Contact None
Barriers to Resources None
Barriers to Assembly Five working day advance permission requirement; spontaneous assemblies not allowed; local authorities have broad power to restrict the locations of assemblies.

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Population 19,245,793 (July 2021 est.)
Capital Nur-Sultan
Type of Government Republic; Centralized Presidential Rule
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 66.86 years Female: 76.8 years (2020 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 99.8% Female: 99.8% (2015 est.)
Religious Groups Muslim 70.2%, Christian 26.2% (mainly Russian Orthodox), other 0.2%, atheist 2.8%, unspecified 0.5% (2009 est.)
Ethnic Groups Kazakh (Qazaq) 68%, Russian 19.3%, Uzbek 3.2%, Ukrainian 1.5%, Uighur 1.5%, Tatar 1.1%, German 1%, other 4.4% (2019 est.)
GDP per capita 26.6% of GDP (2019 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 51 (2020) 1 – 189
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 62 (2020) 1 – 128
Transparency International 94 (2020) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Not free
Political Rights: 5
Civil Liberties: 18 (2021)
1 – 40
1 – 60
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 117 (2020) 178 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 2006
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 2009
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 2006
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1998
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1998
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (OP-CEDAW) Yes 2001
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1994
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) No
Convention on the Rights of Persons with No Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2015
Regional Treaties
Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe Yes 1992

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of Kazakhstan was adopted on August 30, 1995, and amended several times, most recently on March 23, 2019.

Relevant provisions include:

  • Article 4. The Constitution shall have the highest juridical force and direct effect on the entire territory of the Republic. International treaties ratified by the Republic shall have priority over its laws. The procedure and conditions for the operation of international treaties on the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan, to which Kazakhstan is a party, are determined by the legislation of the Republic.
  • Article 5. Public associations shall be equal before the law. Unlawful interference of the state in the affairs of public associations and of public associations in the affairs of the state, imposing the functions of state bodies on public associations shall not be permitted. Formation and functioning of public associations pursuing the goals or actions directed toward a violent change of the constitutional system, violation of the integrity of the Republic, undermining the security of the state, inciting social, racial, national, religious, class and tribal enmity, as well as formation of unauthorized paramilitary units shall be prohibited.
  • Article 14.No one shall be subject to any discrimination for reasons of origin, social rank, property status, occupation, sex, race, nationality, language, religious views, convictions, place of residence or any other circumstances.
  • Article 18.State bodies, public associations, officials, and the mass media must provide every citizen with the possibility to obtain access to documents, decisions and other sources of information concerning his rights and interests.
  • Article 20.The freedom of speech and creative activities shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be prohibited. Everyone shall have the right to freely receive and disseminate information by any means not prohibited by law. The list of items constituting state secrets of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall be determined by law. Propaganda of or agitation for the forcible change of the constitutional system, violation of the integrity of the Republic, undermining of state security, and advocating war, social, racial, national, religious, class and clannish superiority as well as the worship of cruelty and violence shall not be allowed.
  • Article 22.Everyone shall have the right to freedom of conscience. The right to freedom of conscience must not specify or limit universal human and civil rights and responsibilities before the state.
  • Article 23.Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall have the right to freedom of forming associations. The activities of public associations shall be regulated by law. The military, employees of national security, law-enforcement bodies and judges must abstain from membership in political parties, trade unions, and actions in support of any political party.
  • Article 32.Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, hold meetings, rallies and demonstrations, street processions and pickets. The use of this right may be restricted by law in the interests of state security, public order, protection of health, rights and freedoms of other persons.
  • Article 33.Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall have the right to participate in the government of the state’s affairs directly and through their representatives, to address personally as well as to direct individual and collective appeals to state bodies and local self-governance bodies.
  • Article 39. Rights and freedoms of an individual and citizen may be limited only by laws and only to the extent necessary for protection of the constitutional system, defense of the public order, human rights and freedoms, health and morality of the population.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

  1. The Civil Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Part 1 (December 27, 1994);
  2. The Tax Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (December 25, 2017);
  3. The Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan(May 15, 2007);
  4. Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (July 3, 2014);
  5. The Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Administrative Offences(July 5, 2014);
  6. The Law “On Public Associations”(May 31, 1996);
  7. The Law “On Noncommercial Organizations”(January 16, 2001);
  8. The Law “On Registration of Legal Entities and Record-Keeping Registration of Branches and Representative Offices”(April 17, 1995);
  9. The Law “On Professional Unions”(April 9, 1993);
  10. The Law “On Religious Activity and Religious Associations”(October 11, 2011);
  11. The Law “On Procedure for Organizing and Conducting of Peaceful Assemblies in the Republic of Kazakhstan” (May 25, 2020)
  12. The Law “On State Social Contracting, Grants and Awards for Nongovernmental Organizations in the RK”(April 12, 2005);
  13. Law “On State Procurements”(December 4, 2015);
  14. Law “On Special Social Services”(December 29, 2008);
  15. Law on Rural Agricultural Cooperatives (October 29, 2015);
  16. Law “On Consumer Cooperatives”(May 8, 2001);
  17. Law “On Housing Relations”(April 16, 1997);
  18. Law “On Joint Stock Companies”(May 13, 2003);
  19. Law “On State Youth Policy”(February 9, 2015);
  20. Law “On Social Protection of Disabled Persons in the Republic of Kazakhstan”(April 13, 2005);
  21. Ecological Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (January 9, 2007);
  22. Law “On Banks and Banking Activities”(August 31, 1995);
  23. Law “On Tourist Activities”(June 13, 2001);
  24. Law “On Protection of Consumers’ Rights” (May 4, 2010);
  25. Law “On Notarial System”(July 14, 1997);
  26. Law “On Advocatory Activities and Legal Assistance”(July 5, 2018);
  27. Law “On Auditing Activities”(November 20, 1998);
  28. Law “On Appraising Activities”(January 10, 2018);
  29. Entrepreneurial Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (October 29, 2015);
  30. Rules for the provision of the public service “Issuance of a certificate of registration (re-registration) of legal entities, of record registration (re-registration) of their branches and representative offices” (Appendix 6 to the order of the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan (May 29, 2020)
  31. Law on Public Councils(November 2, 2015)
  32. Law on Access to Information(November 16, 2015)
  33. Law on Charity(November 16, 2015)
  34. Law on Payments and Payment Systems (July 26, 2016)
  35. Order No.241 of the Ministry of Finance dated from February 20, 2018 on Approval of the Rules, Form and Terms to Submit Notification to the State Income Authorities about the Receipt of Funds and (or) other Assets from Foreign States, International and Foreign Organizations, Foreigners, and Stateless Persons.
  36. Order No. 242 of the Ministry of Finance dated from February 20, 2018 on Approval of the Rules, Form and Terms to Submit Reporting to the State Income Authorities about the Receipt and the Expenditure of Funds and (or) other Assets from Foreign States, International and Foreign Organizations, Foreigners, and Stateless Persons.
  37. Order No. 240 of the Ministry of Finance dated from February 20, 2018 on Approval of the Rules on Maintaining a Database on Entities-Recipients of Funds and (or) other Assets, their Donors and Other Information, on Inclusion and Exclusion from the Database.
  38. Law on Volunteering (December 30, 2016).
  39. Law on Introduction of Amendments to Some Legislative Acts on Issues of Countering Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Law on AML/CFT) (May 13, 2020)
  40. Law on Procedure of Organization and Conducting Peaceful Assemblies (May 25, 2020)
  41. Law on Legal Acts (April 6, 2016)

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

1. Since 2018, the government has worked on a concept for new amendments to the Law on Non-commercial Organizations (draft NCO Law). The concept proposes a package of amendments affecting various areas of CSO regulation, such as unifying terminology regarding CSOs, simplifying the registration and liquidation processes for CSOs, and providing tax benefits for CSOs and donors. There was no significant progress in developing the draft law in 2019-2020, but the government plans to resume work on this initiative in 2021.

2. The government developed amendments to draft legislation on charity and volunteering activity and later incorporated changes to social contracting legislation (the “draft law”). The draft law was submitted for public discussion on the Open Legal Acts web-portal on April 16, 2021. The main goal of this draft law is to increase the number of incentives (except for tax incentives) for people to engage in volunteering and charity. The amendments also include the regulation of electronic charity through crowdfunding platforms and online donations.  In September 2021, the government plans to submit the draft law to the parliament.

3. The government started developing a new Law on Public Control in October 2020. The purpose of the initiative is to improve the accountability of state bodies and the state-affiliated sector to the public. CSOs supported the overall idea of developing the law but stressed the need for a deliberate approach and adequate public discussion. The first draft was progressive and included basic principles and guarantees for public control activities. However, in January 2021, the draft law was completely rewritten without consulting CSOs and presented during the subsequent public hearings. After significant criticism, the draft law was again rewritten and improved. The government plans to submit the draft law to the parliament later in 2021.

4. On March 26, 2021, the Digital Lifestyle Concept (DigitEL) (2021 – 2025) was published on the Open Legal Acts portal. The Concept is a broad strategic document that defines the vision for the development of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry and the digital sphere throughout the country. Among the priorities are artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G technology. The Concept envisions comprehensive digitalization of all aspects of a citizen’s life, such as through online health passports that will contain all information about a person’s health from birth. Despite the potentially significant impact on all citizens, there has been no broad or open discussion of the initiative with the public. The Open Legal Acts portal is not known or used by a majority of Kazakhstani people. The public discussion was finished on April 9, 2021and further steps will be taken on the Concept later in 2021.

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

The Civil Code (CC) of Kazakhstan defines a non-commercial organization (NCO) as a legal entity that does not seek to produce income and that does not distribute earned net income to its participants. The CC recognizes a large number of organizational forms of NCOs: institutions, public associations, foundations, consumer cooperatives, religious associations, associations of individual entrepreneurs, and associations of legal entities. NCOs can also be created in other forms pursuant to separate laws, such as notary chambers, bar associations, chambers of commerce and industry, professional auditing organizations, cooperatives of apartment owners, and chambers of appraisers.

All legal entities created on the territory of Kazakhstan, regardless of the purpose of their creation, type and nature of activities, participants, or members, must register with the Ministry of Justice.

The most popular forms of NCOs are as follows:

  1. An organization created and financed by its founder for the performance of managerial, social, cultural or any other functions of non-commercial nature (Article 105 of CC).
  2. Public associations. Political parties, professional unions and other associations of citizens created on a voluntary basis for the attainment of common goals which do not contradict legislation (Article 106 of CC). The Law on Public Associations (PA Law) further categorizes public associations by territorial status. National public associations are associations that have subordinate structures (branches and representative offices) on the territories of more than a half of the regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Regional public associations are associations with subordinate structures (branches and representative offices) on the territories of less than half of the regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Local public associations are associations operating within the borders of one region of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Article 7 of PA Law).
  3. Foundations. A non-commercial organization without membership, which is founded by citizens and/or legal entities on the basis of their voluntary property contributions, and which pursues social, charity, cultural, educational, and any other publicly useful purposes (Article 107 of CC).
  4. Consumer cooperatives. A voluntary association of citizens on the basis of membership, formed for the satisfaction of their financial and other needs by means of pooling the property contributions of the individual members (Article 108 of CC).
  5. Religious associations. A voluntary association of citizens who unite in accordance with the procedure stipulated in legislative acts, on the basis of their common interests for satisfying their spiritual needs (Article 109 of CC).
  6. Associations of individual entrepreneurs and/or legal entities in a form of association (union). An association of either individual entrepreneurs or legal entities formed for the purpose of coordinating their entrepreneurial activity, as well as for representing and protection of their common interest (unions) (Article 110 of CC).

According to the Ministry of Information and Public Development’s website, in April 2021 there were 22,344 registered CSOs, including  16,426 active CSOs.

Public Benefit Status

On November 16, 2015, the President signed the Law on Charity, which for the first time established regulations on charitable activities in Kazakhstan. Before its adoption, Kazakh law did not use the term “charity” or “charitable organization.” Most charitable organizations were registered as public associations or foundations and therefore were regulated as NCOs.

The new law defines “charity” as “socially useful activities based on the rendering of charitable aid and the satisfaction of human needs carried out on a voluntary and free of charge basis or on preferential terms in the form of philanthropic, sponsorship and patronage activities.”

The Law further defines each of the forms of charity:

1) “charitable aid – property provided by the benefactor on a gratuitous basis in order to assist the recipient in improving a financial and/or material situation:
in the form of social support to the individual; or
in the form of sponsorship aid;
to a noncommercial organization with the purpose to support its statutory activities; and
to an organization that carries out activities in the social sphere determined in accordance with the Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan ‘On Taxes and other Mandatory Payments to the Budget’ (the Tax Code);”

2) “sponsorship – the activity of the sponsor on rendering charitable aid on the terms of popularizing the sponsor’s name in accordance with this Law, the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and international treaties of the Republic of Kazakhstan;”

3) “patronage activity – the activity of the patron on rendering charitable aid on the basis of goodwill in the development of science, education, culture, art, sportsmanship, preservation of the historical and ethnocultural heritage of society and the state in accordance with this Law, the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and international treaties of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”

The Law defines “charitable organization” as a “noncommercial organization created for the purpose of charity in accordance with this Law, laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and international treaties of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” Under this definition, a charitable organization is not a new legal form of NCO that can be registered, but rather an informal status, as the Law does not provide any clarity regarding the process of acquiring status as a “charitable organization.” In order to be considered as a charitable organization, an NCO must meet the requirements set by the Law. In particular, the Law sets specific requirements for the charter of charitable organizations and states that the supreme governing body of a charitable organization must be its guardian council (board of trustees). This is not compatible with any existing form of NCO, whose governing body is either a general meeting of members (for public associations and associations of legal entities) or a general meeting of founders or one founder (for foundations and institutions). Therefore, none of the existing NCOs would qualify as a charitable organization in accordance with this Law until they make appropriate changes in their structure and founding documents.

Moreover, the Law established additional reporting requirements for charitable organizations to receive foreign funding. For example, they must annually publish a report in the mass media on the usage of funds received from international organizations, foreigners, and stateless persons for the purpose of charity. The Law also established a reporting requirement for the branches and representative offices of foreign charitable organizations, which must annually publish an activity report in the mass media, including the information on founders (participants), the structure of property, sources of income, and direction of spending the money in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Tax Code contains a definition of “charitable aid” and provides some benefits for donors and beneficiaries. Charitable aid is defined as property provided on a gratuitous basis:
• in the form of sponsorship aid;
• to individuals for the purpose of rendering social support;
• to noncommercial organizations for the purpose of implementing their charter objectives;
• to organizations engaged in the social sphere for the purpose of implementing activities, specified in paragraph 2 of Article 290 of the Code (see below); or
• to organizations engaged in the social sphere for the purpose of implementing activities, specified in paragraph 3 of Article 290 of the Code.

Article 289(2) of the Tax Code provides that NCOs are exempt from taxation of income received “under contract for the implementation of state social contracting, in the form of … grants, entry and membership fees, … charitable and sponsorship aid, gratuitously transferred property, subsidies, and donations.” An NCO must account for such income separately from taxable income.

The Tax Code also defines a specific category of organizations, so-called “Social Sphere Organizations” (SSOs), which can be formed either as commercial or noncommercial organizations.

There are two categories of SSOs (Article 290):
• Organizations (regardless of legal form) deriving no less than 90% of their gross annual income from providing services or conducting activities in enumerated fields, which are basically limited to healthcare, childcare and education, science, sports, culture, library services, and social welfare of children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities; and

  • public associations of disabled people and organizations, established by public associations of disabled people meeting the following criteria:
    – at least 51% of the employees of the organization must qualify as having a disability; and
    – wages paid to the employees with disabilities must comprise no less than 51% of the organization’s overall payroll (this number is further reduced to 35% for specialized organizations employing hearing-, speech-, or vision-impaired workers).

SSOs are broadly exempt under Article 290 from corporate tax on income received on a gratuitous basis, passive (investment) income (except when taxed at the source under other rules), and income earned from entrepreneurial activities, provided that the SSO’s entire income is used for the performance of exempt activities.

For donations made to NCOs (including but not limited to SSOs), corporate donors can deduct the cost of the donated money and other property up to 4% of their taxable income. There are no tax incentives for individual donors.

Public Participation

The Constitution states that “Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan have the right to participate in the management of state affairs directly and through their representatives, to apply personally, and also to send individual and collective appeals to state bodies and local self-government bodies” (Article 33).

Laws and legal measures relevant to public participation include but are not limited to the following:

  • Environmental Code;
  • Code on Public Health and the Health Care System;
  • Law on Access to Information;
  • Law on Procedure for Considering Applications of Individuals and Legal Entities;
  • Law on Public Councils;
  • Law on Public Services;
  • Law on Protection of Consumer Rights;
  • Law on Legal Acts;
  • Law on Local Government and Self-Government;
  • Presidential Decree on the Establishment of the Position of the Commissioner for Human Rights;
  • Presidential Decree on the Establishment of the Institution of the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child in the Republic of Kazakhstan;
  • Order of the Minister of Information and Communications No. 22 on approval of the rules for posting and public discussion of draft concepts of draft laws and draft laws and regulations on the Internet portal “Open legal acts”; and
  • Regulations of the Senate and Mazhilis.

Some of the several institutions that promote public participation include public councils under state bodies; meetings of the local community; consultative and advisory bodies under the President and the Government; the National Coordination Council for Health Protection and its regional coordination councils; the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs (“Atameken”); public monitoring commissions; and ombudsmen for human rights and children’s rights and business.

Examples of public participation mechanisms include public examination, public hearings, public monitoring of government bodies, citizen appeals, and access to information on the activities of state bodies.

Legislation governing public participation is available in open online sources and on websites of state bodies or registries of legal acts. The government routinely makes efforts to publicize online state services and online databases, thereby enhancing interactions between the state and its citizens. Civil society activists and other individuals actively engaged on issues of public concern are generally aware of relevant public participation mechanisms. For example, environmental organizations actively use the mechanisms provided for in the Environmental Code.

Barriers to Entry

The creation and operation of unregistered public associations is prohibited, and the members of illegal informal associations are subject to administrative and criminal liability.

At least 10 Kazakh citizens are required to form a public association.  Foreign citizens and stateless persons may not be founders of public associations, although they can be members of public associations (other than political parties) if this is specified in the charter of the association.  Citizens aged 16 or older may be members of youth public associations affiliated with political parties.  The age requirements for members of other youth and children’s public associations is specified by their charters or regulations (Article 11 of the PA Law).

All NCOs must be registered with the Ministry of Justice based on the Law on State Registration of Legal Entities and Record-Registration of Branches and Representative Offices. NCO applicants are required to pay a registration fee, which is determined by the Tax Code. Currently, the fee is approximately USD 45. For associations of youth or people with disabilities, the registration fee is reduced to USD 14.

Registration of NCOs is relatively straightforward and usually takes about 10 working days.  To register a public association, an application must be submitted within two months from the date of its formation, which must be accompanied by the charter, the minutes of the founding meeting that adopted the charter, information about the organization’s founders, documents confirming the status and legal address of the organization, and proof of payment of the appropriate registration fee.  In case of refusal to register a public association, or any other organization, the registration body must provide a written rejection that explains the reason for refusal.

The PA Law (Article 7) categorizes public associations by territorial status as local, regional, and national public associations.  Regional public associations must have branches in at least 2 oblasts of Kazakhstan, and national public associations must have branches in at least 8 oblasts, including the cities of Astana and Almaty.

Barriers to Operational Activity

As mentioned above, in accordance with Article 7 of the PA Law, public associations are categorized by territorial status. Though the Law does not explicitly restrict an organization’s activity to coincide with its territorial status, in practice, associations that do not so limit their activities are under threat of violating Article 489 of the Administrative Code, which penalizes any minor deviation from the charter objectives or any violation of Kazakh legislation. Since this Article’s sanctions are potentially serious (ranging from written notification to a 6-month suspension of activities), many public associations prefer to operate within the region where they are registered.

In addition, the Administrative Code, which came into effect on January 1, 2015, contains provisions that provide administrative penalties for leaders or members of a public association that carry out activities outside of the goals and tasks defined by its charter.

In December 2015, the government adopted a number of regulations, including the Rules for Providing Information by NCOs on their Activities and Formation of the NCO Database. The Rules imposed significant new information requirements on all NCOs, including the submission of sensitive data on employees. Due to successful advocacy efforts, the Rules were subsequently clarified and improved. On March 9, 2016, the Ministry of Culture and Sports (MCS) released a new version of the Rules, but the original reporting deadline for submission of sensitive data (March 31, 2016) did not change. At least 1,800 reports were received before the March 31 deadline. While not all NCOs submitted data as required, non-compliant NCOs were not penalized.

Barriers to Speech/Advocacy

There is no legal barrier limiting the ability of NCOs to engage in advocacy or public policy activities.  All forms of public associations may participate in advocacy and lobbying activities. According to Article 19 of the PA Law, public associations have the right to engage in the following activities in order to achieve their statutory goals, subject to compliance with applicable laws:

  • disseminate information about their activities;
  • represent and protect the rights and lawful interests of their members in courts and other state bodies;
  • establish mass media outlets;
  • hold meetings, protests, demonstrations, marches, and pickets;
  • perform publishing activities;
  • join international non-commercial non-governmental associations; and
  • exercise other powers, not contrary to the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

According to the Law on Elections, public associations can actively participate in organizing and conducting elections, as well as become observers of elections for compliance with the legislation.  Religious associations and international NGOs are expressly prohibited from using their assets to support political parties, movements, and campaigns.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no significant legal barriers to international communication and contact.

Barriers to Resources

  • Foreign Funding

There have not historically been legal barriers to foreign funding that apply to NCOs. However, a new Law on Payments was passed on July 26, 2016 that introduces new requirements for organizations and individuals to report on the receipt and expenditure of foreign funds or assets. The new law also includes a requirement to label all publications produced with support from foreign funds as funded from foreign sources, as well as administrative penalties for non-compliance with these new requirements.

  • Domestic Funding

An NCO may engage in entrepreneurial activities to the extent that it corresponds with its statutory goals.  Income from the entrepreneurial activities of NCOs may not be distributed among members or participants of NCOs (Article 33 of the NCO Law). Except in the case of SSOs, income from entrepreneurial activity is subject to taxation in the same manner as for a commercial organization.

Barriers to Assembly

In accordance with the Constitution, citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan have the right to assemble peacefully and without weapons and to hold meetings, demonstrations, marches, and pickets. This right can be restricted in the interests of national security, public order, and protection of the health, rights, and freedoms of other people (Article 32 of the Constitution). Assemblies are regulated by the Law on the Procedure of Organization and Conducting Peaceful Assemblies in the Republic of Kazakhstan (the Law), which was adopted on May 25, 2020. Activities such as conducting demonstrations, movements, rallies, meetings, and pickets are viewed as a form of assembly covered by the Law. Spontaneous actions conducted without obtaining a permit from a local executive body are not permitted and must be terminated upon the local executive body’s demand. The Law proposes two procedures for organizing peaceful assemblies: 1) notification for pickets, rallies and meetings; and 2) coordination for demonstrations and movements.

Peaceful assemblies (except for pickets) can be organized only in “specialized” places identified by local representative bodies. Pickets can be conducted in any “non-forbidden” place; however they can include only one person and cannot last more than two hours a day. In order to conduct a picket, rally, or meeting, a notification must be filed with the local authorities no later than five days prior to the scheduled date. To hold a demonstration or movement, the organizer must submit an application for coordination (permit) to the local authorities no later than 10 days prior to the scheduled date. Only citizens of Kazakhstan older than 18 years and local legal entities can organize and participate in peaceful assemblies. The application must include extensive list of information comprised of 13 items, including the goal, form, name of the organizer, specialized place for conducting the assembly, beginning and ending times, approximate number of participants, information on the establishment of structures, and source of funding. The local executive body must issue its decision within three days for notification and within seven days for coordination. In case of notification, the absence of an answer from local authorities within three days can be considered as consent for conducting an assembly. Local authorities have the right to refuse consent for an assembly or propose alternative place or route. The Law contains ten reasons for refusal, including several insignificant technical reasons, such as submission of incomplete or inaccurate information, and violation of terms for submission notification or application for coordination.

Overall, both the procedures of notification and coordination represent a pre-approval procedure for peaceful assemblies, as local authorities have the right to refuse authorization for assemblies or propose an alternative place or route for the assembly. In both cases, organizers must wait for response from local authorities before holding an assembly. Regardless of the terms “notification” or “coordination,” the law requires the de facto mandatory approval of all assemblies by the local authorities.

The Law states that “the right to freedom of peaceful assembly may not be restricted, with the exception of cases established by this Law in the interests of state security, public order, health, protection of the rights and freedoms of others” (Para 2, Article 2). It also states that “upon introduction of a state of emergency, martial law, or the legal regime of an anti-terrorist operation for the period of their operation, peaceful assemblies may be prohibited or limited in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan ‘On the state of emergency,’ ‘On the state of war,’ and “‘On countering terrorism’” (Para 4, Article 2).

Assembly organizers have multiple responsibilities under the Law. Some of these are burdensome to implement and broadly defined, such as “require participants in peaceful assemblies to observe public order and the rules for their conduct, as well as to prevent violation of the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan” or “create conditions for the safety of participants in peaceful assemblies during their conduct, ensure the safety of buildings, structures, small architectural forms, green spaces, as well as other property.” Organizers are also required to conduct the assembly in accordance with the aims specified in the application, within the specified periods, in the specified place, and to keep public order. Violations can lead to a fine of up to seventy times the monthly rated index or administrative arrest up to 25 days, for legal entities – up to 150 times the monthly rated index [1] (Article 488 of the Code on Administrative Offenses).

Lastly, on March 28, 2020, the State Commission approved a decision to strengthen the quarantine regime in the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty. Citizens were restricted from leaving home, with the exception of leaving for food, medicine, and employment. The order closed crowded places, including parks, squares, pedestrian streets, promenades, and playgrounds. Meetings on the streets and in other public places by groups of more than three people (with the exception of family members) were prohibited. Less than two weeks before this decision, a State of Emergency decree was declared for thirty days on account of the coronavirus pandemic. It suspended public events, closed the border, and introduced quarantine measures with the participation of relevant military departments.

[1] The monthly rated index is an indicator used in Kazakhstan for calculating pensions, grants, and other social payments and for the application of penalties and calculation of taxes and other payments. The index grows slightly every year, and in 2021it is equal to 2,917 Kazakhstani tenge, which is approximately $7.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Seventh session Geneva,12 February 2010
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs


U.S. State Department Background Note: Kazakhstan
Failed States Index Reports Foreign Policy Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports Kazakhstan and the IMF
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Library Kazakhstan

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Kazakh human rights and media public organizations face unjustified and disproportionate fines and suspension of activities (January 2021)
The fines and suspension of the NGO activities contradict the priorities of the development of civil society announced by the state and damage international reputation of Kazakhstan. Echo and International Legal Initiative organizations have been fined 400 MCI (1,166,800 KZT) each and their activities have been suspended for 3 months. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law was fined 800 MCI (2,333,600 KZT) with a suspension of activities for 3 months. Another organization Erkindik Qanaty was fined 100 MCI (277 800 KZT). Thus, the total amount of fines for only 4 non-governmental organizations amounted to almost 5 million tenge. In the near future, this amount for all organizations can reach tens of millions tenge.

Public control will be regulated by law – Balayeva (September 2020)
Minister of Information and Public Development of Kazakhstan, Aida Balayeva addressed the meeting of the Presidential youth candidate pool members. “For the effective implementation of the President’s state of the nation Address, the state and society must act together. The most important are the first steps: communicating the main aspects of the Address to the public and clearly planning measures for its fulfillment. In 10 days, a large number of meetings, round tables and conferences on the Address were held throughout the country. More than 5 000 articles were published in the media, “Aida Balayeva told the meeting.

President signs off on contentious rally law (May 2020)
The law arrived on President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s table last week following some light legislative ping-pong in the parliament and became statute after it was signed on May 25. Among the most trumpeted provisions of the new rules is one ostensibly requiring organizers of a rally to provide only advance warning of their intentions, rather than requesting permission.

Amendments on issues of AML/CFT were introduced to the Majilis (September 2019) (Russian)
Today in the Majilis, the Ministry of Finance presented to the deputies the draft law “On Amendments and Additions to Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the Issues of Combating  Laundering of Criminally Obtained Incomes and the Financing of Terrorism. Vice-Minister Kanat Baedilov noted that Kazakhstan, like other countries, must combat the laundering of proceeds from crime, the financing of terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Draft law on charity and donorship developed by the Ministry of Social Development (November 2018) (Russian)
The Ministry of Public Development on the instruction of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan is developing a draft law on charity and donorship. This was announced by the Minister of Public Development Darkhan Kaletayev during the VIIIth Civil Forum of Kazakhstan, which is being held in Astana.

Ministry of Social Development established in Kazakhstan (June 2018)
Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the Law on measures for the further enhancement of the public administration system of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the press service of Akorda reports. In paragraph 1 the line “The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society of the Republic of Kazakhstan;” shall be reworded as follows: “The Ministry of Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan;”.

Government approves the draft of the new Tax Code (January 2018)
On December 25, 2017, Kazakhstan adopted a new Tax Code (the New Tax Code) and certain tax-related amendments to a number of laws (the Tax Amendments). Most provisions of the New Tax Code and the Tax Amendments took effect on January 1, 2018.

Government approves the draft of the new Tax Code (September 2017)
Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov reported that under the new Tax Code the thinking on taxation has been changed, which will be aimed at protecting good faith taxpayers, stimulating different sectors of the economy and simplifying administration processes. According to the new Code all uncertainties and inaccuracies will be interpreted in favor of taxpayers.

Kazakhstan develops new rules for issuing grants to NGOs (July 2017)
Within the framework of implementing the fourth direction “Identity and Unity” of the Plan of the Nation “100 concrete steps”, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society is working to improve the legislation regulating the activities of non-governmental organizations. In order to implement the 87 step, in 2016 a bill “On Amendments to Legislative Acts Regarding Activities of Non-Profit Organizations” was developed. It provides for the norms of mandatory participation of citizens in the formation and evaluation of state social orders.

Code of Ethics for Kazakhstan NGOs to be adopted soon (December 2016)
The Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan is working on creation of the Code of Ethics for non-governmental organizations (NGO), according to President of the Alliance Nurlan Yerimbetov who spoke in the press conference today, Kazinform” reports. “If we adopt it [the Code of Ethics], it will be a mandatory requirement for all NGO to comply with it. This document should consider all the aspects of our sphere. It should help avoid any provocative issues. We want everyone to learn how to behave in the right way”, – Nurlan Yerimbetov said.

Why Kazakhstan created the Ministry for Religious and Civil Society Affairs (November 2016)
It is an unfortunate reality that extremism and terrorism have become global threats affecting all corners of the world. There has been a fivefold increase in deaths from terrorism since September 11, 2001, with religious extremism overtaking national separatism as the main driver of attacks. It is why stamping out religious extremism has to be at the top of the global agenda. But the threat from this warped ideology has not stopped within Iraq’s and Syria’s borders. Countries as far flung and different as the United States, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Afghanistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Mali, Nigeria, along with many others, have been hit by radical Islamist extremists in the last year. Kazakhstan sadly also joined this list when extremists struck in Aktobe in June. It is for these reasons, as well as for the need to further develop our civil society as a key partner and ensure youth is properly included in our country’s progress, that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has established the Ministry for Religious and Civil Society Affairs.

Kazakhstan introduces tax control over foreign funding (August 2016)
From now on, NGOs that received foreign funding will have to provide complete tax reports. Otherwise they will have to pay an administrative fine. In general, nearly 14,500 non-governmental organizations are registered in the country. Some of them receive funds for legal protection, public opinion study, collection and distribution of information from abroad. This category is subject to mandatory requirement. All the information will be placed on the website of the State Revenue Committee is in open access.

CSO Database Formation (March 2016) (Russian)
During the execution of the “National Plan,” a hundred concrete steps for the implementation of the five institutional reforms have been featured in the legislation regulating the activities of non-governmental organizations in Kazakhstan. To enhance the transparency and accessibility of information to the public on the activities of non-governmental organizations, an NGO Database has begun to form in 2016, which will become a public information resource.

CSO Activists Petition against New Legislation (October 2015) (Russian)
A group of CSO activists expressed their significant concern over the implications of new CSO legislation adopted by Parliament in September 2015. Among their concerns include the potential monopolization of grant funding by a single non-commercial “Operator,” and the reduction of CSOs’ sphere of activity. The same group of CSOs signed a petition addressing President Nazarbayev, arguing that he should veto the legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Opinion on the Draft Law on Access to Information (May 2015)
In April 2015, the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan requested the OSCE to provide legal expertise on the draft Law on Access to Information. OSCE/ODIHR has issued Opinions on previous drafts of this legislation in 2010 and in 2012. In its latest Opinion, ODIHR notes that the new draft law constitutes an improvement to earlier draft versions and incorporates a number of ODIHR’s previous recommendations. At the same time, there is a need to ensure that no information is categorically excluded from being accessed, and that at the same time, all necessary grounds for limitation of access to information are included.

UN Special Rapporteur urges Kazakhstan to boost right of peaceful assembly (January 2015)
Returning from an official visit to Kazakhstan, Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said that the Kazakh Government had developed a tendency to focus on restrictions rather than human rights themselves, adding that this had resulted in a situation where rights were treated as privileges to be granted at the discretion of State authorities. Among the more pressing rights issues facing the country, Mr. Kiai pointed out that the Government’s regulation of peaceful assemblies had become increasingly becoming problematic as all peaceful assemblies now required the go-ahead from local authorities and, even then, were limited to specific, government-designated sites.

“Kazakh CSOs Should Not be Sponsored by Foreign Donors” (September 2014) (Russian)
On September 16, 2014, the head of the organization called Civil Alliance, Mr. Nurlan Yerimbetov, proposed the adoption of new mechanisms for controlling CSO funding, including grants and awards. He emphasized the need to eliminate foreign funding to Kazakh CSOs.

CSOs Hold Press Conference on Draft Law (February 2014)

Religious institutions have to report for foreign money (November 2012)

Kazakhstan Elected Member of UN Human Rights Council (November 2012)