Kyrgyz Republic

Last updated: 9 April 2021

Coronavirus Response

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a tremendous social and economic challenge for Kyrgyzstan. The emergency and other measures introduced in Kyrgyzstan led to the obstruction of work of lawyers and media, intimidation of social media users for spreading allegedly false info about the pandemic, attacks on women’s rights marchers, and other restrictive measures. During the pandemic, volunteer groups saved countless citizens’ lives when the national healthcare system collapsed. For additional details, see ICNL’s COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker entry for Kyrgyz Republic.

Update

  1. As a result of mass rallies following the disputed and eventually annulled parliamentary elections in October 2020, the government was ousted, and President Sooronbai Jeenbekov was prompted to resign. A new presidential election was scheduled for January 10, while the scheduling of a rerun of parliamentary elections remains on hold due to upcoming constitutional reform.
  2. On September 4, the MoJ launched a new public discussion portal. A governmental decree obligates executive bodies to discuss their legal initiatives through the portal. Earlier, the MoJ developed amendments to the Law on Normative Legal Acts to obligate the use of the portal by all government bodies for public consultations on their legal initiatives. On July 25, the parliament approved the MoJ’s amendments in the first reading. Improving the online public consultation mechanisms and creating the portal is one of Kyrgyzstan’s commitments under its OGP National Action Plan. The initiative has the potential to enhance public discussion of legislative initiatives, strengthen citizen participation in lawmaking, and ensure government accountability for making laws and regulations accessible to the public.

Introduction

The civil society sector in the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the strongest in Central Asia. CSO representatives are engaged with the government at the national and local levels through numerous consultative public councils at the state ministries and agencies. There are currently over 18,732 CSOs registered in the country, although only around 5,700 are operational. They work in a wide range of areas, including human rights, support to vulnerable groups, culture and art, health, protection of the environment, youth and sport, and education and advocacy.

CSOs are registered as Noncommercial Organizations (NCOs) under a civil law structure that has its roots in the Soviet system, though many laws have been modernized since the late 1990s. The most popular legal forms are public associations, foundations, institutions, associations of legal entities, and community-based organizations. Although the basic concept of freedom of association is respected and registration of CSOs is quick and easy, the sustainability of the sector remains a deep concern because of diminishing foreign funding and the lack of local financial sources. Currently, the majority of Kyrgyz CSOs rely entirely on funding from foreign sources, and still there are several efforts to place restrictions on foreign assistance.

In 2013, there were also efforts to limit civil society space, including the introduction of the draft Law on Money Laundering, which would provide for new reporting requirements for CSOs; the draft Law on Unregistered CSOs, which would prohibit unregistered CSOs; and the draft Law on Treason, which would allow for the designation of any person working with a foreigner as a traitor. Moreover, in 2014, a group of parliamentarians proposed the draft Law on Foreign Agents, which was similar to the Russian “Foreign Agents” Law and would have imposed additional requirements on groups that receive foreign funding, including requiring them to register as “foreign agents.” However, on May 12, 2016, the proposed law was rejected due to CSOs’ strong advocacy efforts, with 46 members of Parliament voting for the bill and 65 voting against it.

Most recently, in January 2020, MPs introduced several new draft initiatives that would worsen the regulation of CSOs, including amendments to noncommercial legislation that would require CSOs using assistance provided free of charge (grants, state social contracts, donations, other material resources) to publish annual reports on revenues and expenditures on the MoJ website. In June, the parliament adopted the draft amendments in two readings. The initiative was later withdrawn from the agenda of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Issues. On June 30, the current session of the parliament ended, and MPs were in summer recess from July 1 until September 1. Due to scheduled parliamentary elections and the following political crisis, the draft law was not considered.

In a positive development for civil society, in May 2014, Kyrgyzstan adopted a Law on Public Councils of the State Bodies, which guarantees the establishment of citizen advisory bodies in all government agencies and greatly improves the mechanisms for their operation and the selection of their members. Since 2014, public councils have helped improve civic participation and oversight of state bodies. In 2017, the country joined the Open Government Partnership and developed an ambitious National Action Plan (NAP). The NAP features commitments related to transparency, participatory lawmaking, participatory budgeting and auditing, freedom of information, and civic space. On October 20, 2020, Bishkek City joined the OGP Local Initiative. The city became one of the 56 new OGP local members selected out of 112 applications jointly submitted by governments and non-governmental stakeholders.

Civil society is heavily engaged in processes to reduce terrorist financing risks in the noncommercial sector as part of compliance with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations. In September 2018, the FATF Eurasian Group (EAG) approved the Executive Summary and the Mutual Evaluation Report of the Kyrgyz Republic as part of the second round of EAG mutual evaluations in May 2018. Despite Kyrgyzstan passing the FATF quality and consistency procedures, Kyrgyzstan was overall rated non-compliant with Recommendation 8, which covers non-commercial organizations (NCOs), in the final FATF EAG report on the 2017 mutual evaluation. According to the report, this is due to the government’s lack of engagement with the NCO sector in combating terrorist financing; lack of a system of oversight, monitoring, and sanctions to prevent terrorist financing in the NCO sector; and lack of regular review of the NCO sector for terrorist financing risks. In response, the SFIS, the government body in charge of reporting on compliance with FATF recommendations under the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan (OGP NAP), created a CSO-government working group to develop a methodology for conducting risk assessments of the CSO sector of Kyrgyzstan. The working group developed a draft methodology for assessing risks in the CSO sector and helping guide the process for conducting CSO sector terrorist financing risk assessments. Kyrgyzstan’s effort to fully engage civil society in developing the risk assessment methodology was recognized as good practice in the FATF’s new risk assessment guidance released in July 2019.

As part of improving CSO financial sustainability while improving the quality of social services in the country, in 2017 the government enacted a new Law on State Social Procurement, which provides three forms of social contracting: (i) social procurement, (ii) financing of public benefit projects of CSOs, and (iii) social vouchers. In 2018, the available government funding for social contracts awarded to CSOs has grown, reaching 38 million KG SOMs (around $600,000 USD). In the same year, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the State Agency on Youth Affairs, Physical Culture and Sports, and the Ministry of Healthcare started implementing social contracting in accordance with the newly adopted law. In 2019, the Ministry of Education and Science started implementing social contracting, and the Law on State Social Procurement was amended to include probation into the spheres in which social contracting can be implemented.

Philanthropy, another important source of funding for CSOs, is almost non-existent in the country due to economic conditions and poor implementation of tax legislation, which does provide incentives to encourage donations. According to the law on charitable organizations, CSOs have the right to carry out economic activities (selling goods and services), but the resulting income is taxable unless the CSO qualifies as a charitable organization, a status almost impossible to maintain because of operational restrictions. Therefore, CSOs developed a draft of the new Law on Charitable Organizations that would eliminate many shortcomings in the existing regulations to enable charitable organizations to operate sustainably. CSOs plan to work with the MPs to promote the draft law once the new parliament is elected.

Organizational Forms Non-Governmental Organizations Social Organizations
Registration Body Ministry of Justice Community-based Organizations
Approximate Number 18,732 (about 6,000 operational) There is no statistical data
Barriers to Entry No legal barriers Ten founding members required.
Barriers to Activities A charitable organization is forbidden to conduct economic activities unless the activities “correspond” to its statutory goals No legal barriers.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy Pressure on media groups critical of the government is growing. Under Article 82-2 of the Code on Violations, law enforcement bodies can legally summon for questioning and impose fines for disseminating false information about threats to citizens’ lives and health even if the person disseminating information did not know the information was inaccurate. Pressure on media groups critical of the government is growing. Under Article 82-2 of the Code on Violations, law enforcement bodies can legally summon for questioning and impose fines for disseminating false information about threats to citizens’ lives and health even if the person disseminating information did not know the information was inaccurate.
Barriers to International Contact No legal barriers No legal barriers
Barriers to Resources Stigmatization of human rights defenders who receive foreign funding Stigmatization of human rights defenders who receive foreign funding
Barriers to Assembly Prohibitions on blocking roads or traffic and on assemblies near certain public institutions. Prohibitions on blocking roads or traffic and on assemblies near certain public institutions.
Population 6,018,789 (July 2021 est.)
Capital Bishkek
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 67.7 Female: 76.2 (2020 est.)
Literacy Rate 99.6%
Religious Groups Muslim 90% (majority Sunni), Christian 7% (Russian Orthodox 3%), other 3% (includes Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i) (2017 est.)
Ethnic Groups Kyrgyz 73.5%, Uzbek 14.7%, Russian 5.5%, Dungan 1.1%, other 5.2% (includes Uyghur, Tajik, Turk, Kazakh, Tatar, Ukrainian, Korean, German) (2019 est.)
GDP per capita $3,700 (2017 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2021.

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 122 (2019) 1 – 182
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 87 (2020) 1 – 128
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 33 (2019) 100 – 0
Transparency International 126 (2019) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Partly Free
Overall Rating: 38
Political Rights: 11
Civil Liberties: 27 (2020)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
100 – 1
40 – 1
60 – 1
Fund for Peace: Fragile States Index 74 (2020) 178 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1994
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 1994
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1994
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention (ILO) Yes 1992
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1997
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1997
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Yes 2002
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) Yes 2003
International Covenant on Refugee Status Yes 1996
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2019
Regional Treaties
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms No
Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the
CSCE
No

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

On December 11, 2016, a referendum was held on introducing Amendments to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic of June 27, 2010. One provision (Article 6, paragraph 3, part 2), which stated that “Norms of international treaties on human rights have a direct effect and priority over norms of other international treaties,” did not pass the referendum. A number of other Amendments were reviewed:

  • Article 4, para 2.Political parties, trade unions and other public associations can be created by individuals based on free will and common interests for enjoyment and protection of one’s own rights and liberties, meeting political, economic, social, labor, cultural and other interests.
  • Article 6. para 1.The Constitution possesses supreme legal power and its norms have direct application in the Kyrgyz Republic. para 2. Constitutional laws, laws and other normative and legal acts are adopted in compliance with the Constitution. para 3. International treaties recognized by the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as generally recognized principles and norms of international law are an integral part of the legal system of the Kyrgyz Republic [removed on December 11, 2016: Norms of international treaties on human rights have a direct effect and priority over norms of other international treaties]. para 4. Official publication of laws and other normative legal acts is mandatory to become effective.
  • Article 20, para. 1.Laws revoking or derogating human and citizen’s rights and liberties shall not be adopted in the Kyrgyz Republic. 2. The rights and freedoms of the person and the citizen can be limited by the Constitution and laws for the purposes of ensuring national security, public order, protection of health and morality of the population, and protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons. Imposed restrictions shall be proportionate to indicated purposes.
  • Article 34. para. 1Every person has a right to freedom of peaceful assemblies. No one may be forced to participate in these activities. 2 Everyone has the right to submit a notification form to the state bodies on plans to conduct peaceful assembly. Nobody can prohibit or restrict peaceful assembly. The state bodies may not refuse to provide technical support (fire, police, and emergency services) to organizers of peaceful assembly even if the organizers fail to notify the state bodies or the content, form or term for submission of notification form is not correct. para. 3 Organizers of and participants at peaceful assembly are not responsible for not notifying the state bodies, or for non-compliance with form of notification, content and time of submission.
  • Article 35.Every person has a right to freedom of association.

The current Constitution of Kyrgyz Republic was adopted by referendum on June 27, 2010.

Several provisions relate to civic freedoms:

  • Article 4, para 2.Political parties, trade unions and other public associations can be created by individuals based on free will and common interests for enjoyment and protection of one’s own rights and liberties, meeting political, economic, social, labor, cultural and other interests.
  • Article 6. para 1.The Constitution possesses supreme legal power and its norms have direct application in the Kyrgyz Republic. para 2. Constitutional laws, laws and other normative and legal acts are adopted in compliance with the Constitution. para 3. International treaties recognized by the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as generally recognized principles and norms of international law are an integral part of the legal system of the Kyrgyz Republic. Norms of international treaties on human rights have a direct effect and priority over norms of other international treaties. para 4. Official publication of laws and other normative legal acts is mandatory to become effective.
  • Article 20, para. 1.Laws revoking or derogating human and citizen’s rights and liberties shall not be adopted in the Kyrgyz Republic. 2. The rights and freedoms of the person and the citizen can be limited by the Constitution and laws for the purposes of ensuring national security, public order, protection of health and morality of the population, and protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons. Imposed restrictions shall be proportionate to indicated purposes.
  • Article 34. para. 1Every person has a right to freedom of peaceful assemblies. No one may be forced to participate in these activities. 2 Everyone has the right to submit a notification form to the state bodies on plans to conduct peaceful assembly. Nobody can prohibit or restrict peaceful assembly. The state bodies may not refuse to provide technical support (fire, police, and emergency services) to organizers of peaceful assembly even if the organizers fail to notify the state bodies or the content, form or term for submission of notification form is not correct. para. 3 Organizers of and participants at peaceful assembly are not responsible for not notifying the state bodies, or for non-compliance with form of notification, content and time of submission.
  • Article 35.Every person has a right to freedom of association.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

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

  1. Amendments to the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan (by referendum held on December 11, 2016);
  2. The Civil Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, Part 1 (May 8, 1996, with latest amendments on August 1, 2020);
  3. The Civil Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, Part 2 (January 5, 1998, with latest amendments on April 19, 2019);
  4. The Tax Code of the Kyrgyz Republic (October 17, 2008, with latest amendments on August 22, 2020);
  5. The Labor Code of the Kyrgyz Republic (October 4, 2004, with latest amendments on December 31, 2019);
  6. The Law of Kyrgyz Republic “On Noncommercial Organizations” (October 15, 1999, with latest amendments on April 23, 2016);
  7. The Law of Kyrgyz Republic “On Partnership of Owners of Residential and Non-Residential Premises of Apartment Buildings” (July 9, 2013, with latest amendments on December 12, 2017);
  8. The Law “On Registration of Legal Entities, Branches” (Representative Offices) (February 20, 2009, with latest amendments on December 16, 2016);
  9. The Law “On Political Parties” (June 12, 1999);
  10. The Law “On Freedom of Religion and Religious Organizations” (December 31, 2008, with latest amendments on December 21, 2019);
  11. The Law “On Trade Unions” (October 16, 1998, with latest amendments on August 4, 2004);
  12. The Law “On Associations (Union) of Water Users and Unions of Associations of Water Users” (March 15, 2002, with latest amendments on March 30, 2013);
  13. The Law “On Association of Employers” (May 22, 2004);
  14. The Law “On Jamaats (Communities) and Their Associations” (February 21, 2005, with latest amendments on July 18, 2014);
  15. The Law “On Cooperatives” (June 11, 2004, with latest amendments on July 26, 2018);
  16. The Law “On Local Self-Governance” (July 15, 2011, with latest amendments on August 8, 2019);
  17. The Law “On Philanthropy and Charitable Activity” (November 6, 1999, with latest amendments on May 10, 2017) (Russian);
  18. The Law of Kyrgyz Republic “On Peaceful Assemblies” (May 23, 2012);
  19. The Law of Kyrgyz Republic “On Public Councils of State Bodies” (May 24, 2014) (Russian);
  20. The Law “On State Social Procurement” (April 27, 2017, with latest amendments on April 24, 2019).
  21. The Regulation on the order of conduct of public benefit projects competition for the implementation of SSP (December 15, 2017);
  22. The Order of providing social services though social vouchers (December 15, 2017);
  23. The Order of control, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of public benefit projects within SSP (December 15, 2017);
  24. The Regulation on the web-portal on State Grants for financing Pubic Benefit Projects (December 15, 2017);
  25. The Law on Countering Financing of Terrorist Activities and Legalization (Laundering) of Criminal Incomes (August 6, 2018, with latest amendments on August 21, 2020).

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

  1. On February 6, 2020, a member of Kyrgyzstan’s Zhogorku Kenesh (parliament) initiated a draft law on Proposing Amendments to the Law on Noncommercial Organizations and the Law on Registration of Legal Entities. Many Kyrgyz CSOs expressed concern about this draft law because it introduces a requirement for CSOs to submit a new annual report to the MoJ on revenues and expenditures, which duplicates existing reporting and may be burdensome for many CSOs. Specific requirements will be established in implementing regulations. Adoption of the draft law will worsen the regulatory environment for CSOs in Kyrgyzstan. According to local experts, it also does not resolve any existing issues and is largely duplicative of provisions in existing laws. An analysis of the draft law was shared with all interested stakeholders on January 8, 2020, and a leading local CSO created a coalition of CSOs and developed an action plan for preventing the draft law’s adoption. On March 4, 2020, the draft law passed the first reading in the parliament. On May 22, the Parliamentary Committee on Social Issues held a public hearing on the draft law, despite CSOs’ requests to postpone the hearing or conduct it online due to the COVID-19 situation. Notably, CSOs supporting the draft law were invited to attend, while most CSOs opposing the draft law were excluded. In June, the parliament adopted the draft amendments in two readings. The initiative was later withdrawn from the agenda of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Issues. On June 30, the current session of the parliament ended, and MPs were in summer recess from July 1 until September 1. Due to scheduled parliamentary elections and the following political crisis, the draft law was not considered.
  2. The draft Law on the Manipulation of Information, which would impose internet censorship and violate the freedom of expression, was adopted in three reading in June. However, the president declined to sign the draft law and returned it to MPs for revision. The status of the initiative remains unclear following the annulled parliamentary elections in October 2020 and the resignation of President Jeenbekov.
  3. On February 17, 2020, an MP proposed amendments to AML/CFT legislation that would include noncommercial organizations into the list of “non-financial category,” requiring them to implement numerous articles of the Law on AML/CFT, including provisions on additional reporting to the SFIS on cash transactions. The draft law was not registered in parliament.
  4. Draft amendments to the Tax Code were published on parliament’s website for public discussion on January 17, 2020. If adopted in their current form, the draft amendments would prohibit international organizations or organizations implementing international projects from signing service agreements with certain types of contractors operating on the basis of “voluntary patents.” The draft law was not registered for parliament’s consideration.
  5. The MoJ developed amendments to the Law on Normative Legal Acts to obligate the use of the new public discussion portal by all government bodies for public consultations on their legal initiatives. On July 25, the parliament approved the MoJ’s amendments in the first reading. Improving the online public consultation mechanisms and creating the portal is one of Kyrgyzstan’s commitments under its OGP National Action Plan. The initiative has the potential to enhance public discussion of legislative initiatives, strengthen citizen participation in lawmaking, and ensure government accountability for making laws and regulations accessible to the public. Currently, there are two sets of draft amendments to the Law on Normative Legal Acts, both of which aim to improve public discussion of legislative initiatives. It is not clear which of the two draft laws (or both) will be resubmitted in the parliament after the rescheduled parliamentary elections, but it is likely that some version of the draft law will be proposed.
  6. The draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Public Councils of State Bodies was published on parliament’s website for public discussions. The draft law contains provisions aimed at significantly improving the activities of public councils, such as prolonging the service of members of public councils to four years; introducing an annual self-evaluation and other evaluation mechanisms for members of public councils, which would exclude the passive members of the public councils; and moving the deadline for reports from December 31 to the end of January of the following year. After being registered with parliament in April 2018, the draft law remains pending parliament’s consideration.

Organizational Forms

The Kyrgyz Republic recognizes at least 16 distinct organizational forms for noncommercial organizations, including public associations, foundations, institutions, non-profit cooperatives, and community based organizations. The Civil Code and the Law on Noncommercial Organizations (NCO Law) establish the primary NCO legal framework. Article 2 of the NCO Law defines an NCO as “a voluntary, self-sustained organization created by individuals and (or) legal entities on the basis of community of interests for implementing spiritual and other non-material needs in the interests of its members and (or) the whole society, where the deriving a profit is not a major objective, and the obtained profit is not distributed among members, founders and employees.”

The five most common types of NCOs which can be recognized as CSOs are the following:

(1) A Public Association is a voluntary association of individuals, united by their common interest in meeting spiritual or other non-material needs. A public association is a membership organization, and its highest governing body is the general meeting of members, which in turn creates the executive body (governing board, directorate, etc.) of the organization. The potential area of activity of a public association is very broad: it may include such things as environmental protection, social support of the disabled, education, addressing national issues (for example, through community organizations), culture and art, etc.

(2) A Foundation is a non-membership organization, established by individuals and/or legal entities that make voluntary contributions to the organization, which pursues social, charitable, cultural, educational or other public benefit goals. A foundation may also be created by a last will and testament. A foundation’s characteristics contrast with those of a public association in that a foundation has no membership and the basis for its creation is the voluntary donation of property transferred by its founders for the pursuit of certain goals.

(3) An Institution is an organization created by an owner for carrying out managerial, social and cultural, educational or other functions of a noncommercial character and financed fully or partially by its owner. An institution may be the most appropriate organizational and legal form for NCOs such as hospitals, clinics, kindergartens, schools, universities, and museums.

(4) An Association or Union of Legal Entities is an organization created in order to coordinate the activities of its member organizations, as well as to represent and protect their common interests.

(5) A Community Based Organization is a local community-level organization, representing a voluntary association of members of a local community, residing on the territory of one street, block or other territorial formation of the village or city, for joint resolution of problems of local importance.

Public Benefit Status

According to the Tax Code, a “charitable organization” is a “noncommercial organization (а) created and carrying out charitable activity in compliance with the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic on noncommercial organizations and charitable activity; (b) not participating in the activity on production and/or sale of excise goods and gambling business; (c) not participating in the support of political parties or election campaigns.”

Although the tax benefits to charitable organizations and their donors are significant, еthere are no organizations in the Kyrgyz Republic that qualify for them. One reason for this can be found in Article 9 of the Charity Law, which requires that a charitable organization spend 98% of its income for charitable purposes and not more than 2% of its income for general overhead expenses. Most organizations find this provision to be unworkable and therefore do not attempt to qualify as charitable organizations even if they are otherwise eligible. Another difficulty lies in Article 7 of the Charity Law, which permits a charitable organization to carry out economic activity only to the extent the activity is directed for achievement of the goals for which it was created and corresponds to these goals. The meaning of this provision is untested in the law and the resulting uncertainty as to its scope inhibits charitable organizations from conducting any economic activity at all. By way of contrast, Article 12 of the Law on Noncommercial Organizations permits NCOs to carry out any economic activity so long as it does not contradict the goals and tasks of the organization.

Barriers to Entry

There are no legal barriers to entry. In contrast to the laws of many other countries in the region, NCOs can exist as unregistered organizations. Without legal entity status, however, such organizations will not be able to engage in certain activities in their own name, such as opening a bank account, ordering a seal, and filing a lawsuit. Registration is quick and easy under the “single window” system and generally takes 10 days.

There is no restriction on who can serve as a founder. Founders of an NCO may include any legal entity, foreigner or citizen, or other individuals. Three founders are required to register a public association. There is no minimum amount of assets required to register an NCO.

The procedure for registration consists of 3 steps: (1) drafting incorporation documents and formation of governing bodies; (2) registration under the “single window” system at the Ministry of Justice, which notifies tax authorities, statistical bodies and other government agencies of the registration and obtains the necessary registration numbers for the applicant; (3) opening a bank account and ordering a stamp (which are optional but necessary if the organization intends to conduct significant activities in its own name). After the application for registration is submitted, the Ministry checks the incorporation documents for compliance with the requirements of the Civil Code, the Law on Registration of Legal Entities, Branch (Representative) Offices and other laws regulating NCOs. After 10 days, if the application is not rejected, the Ministry issues a Certificate of State Registration, and the NCO is officially registered in Ministry of Justice, Tax Service and Social Fund.

Generally, the Law on Registration of Legal Entities, Branch (Representative) Offices requires the following documents to be submitted with the application: (1) charter; (2) minutes of meeting of founders; (3) the list of members of governing bodies; and (4) the list of founders. The registration fee is approximately 235 KGS (less than $4). The Ministry can deny registration if the information provided is incorrect or contradicts applicable law, but the applicant has the right to appeal a denial to the Ministry or a court.

Community-based organizations must seek registration with the Local Self-Governmental Bodies and consist of no fewer than 10 founding members (Articles 5(3) and 6(1) of the Law on Jamaats (Communities) and Their Associations).

Barriers to Operational Activity

There are some legal barriers to the operational activity. An NCO may conduct any activity not forbidden in its charter, except that charitable organizations and public associations are forbidden to conduct economic activities unless the activity corresponds to its statutory goals. The government has no right to interfere with the internal self-governance of an NCO, and the law does not require advance approval for project activity. Reporting requirements for NCOs are generally the same as for other legal entities (some additional rules requiring public disclosure are applicable to charitable organizations), and NCOs have the same rights and obligations as other legal entities with respect to inspections and audits conducted by government agencies. However, the situation may change if the draft law on Amendments to the Law on Noncommercial Organizations is adopted, as it introduces a requirement for NCOs to submit a new annual report on revenues and expenditures and may be burdensome for many NCOs (specific requirements are to be established in implementing regulations).

NCOs are subject to dissolution in case of conducting an activity that violates the law (such as engaging in activity without a license where a license is required).

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

The international non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders (RWF) assesses the situation with freedom of speech and media freedom in 180 countries and annually publishes the results of its World Press Freedom Index. In 2020, the Kyrgyz Republic ranked 82nd in the global rating of press freedom. RWF reports that “the pluralism of the Kyrgyz media is exceptional in Central Asia but the polarization of Kyrgyz society is reflected both within the media themselves and in the environment for journalists.”

On April 3, 2020, the parliament urgently adopted amendments to the Code on Violations. In particular, under its Article 82-2, law enforcement bodies now can legally summon for questioning and impose fines for the dissemination of false information about threats to the life and health of citizens. The article’s vague language can lead to arbitrary enforcement and risks restricting freedom of expression.

Barriers to International Contact

No legal barriers.

Barriers to Resources

Nearly all CSOs in Kyrgyzstan depend on funding from international grants. Draft “foreign agent” laws have been proposed in recent years and subsequently withdrawn due to strong CSO advocacy campaigns.

On May 27, 2017, the new Law on State Social Contracting (SSC) entered into force, and in December 2017, the Government of Kyrgyzstan approved four secondary legal acts on SSC to support its implementation. These legal acts address (1) competitions for public benefit projects, (2) social vouchers, (3) monitoring and evaluation of SSC projects, and (4) the web-portal on state grants.

Notably, in 2014-2017, social procurement programs were allocated only an average of 22.5 million Kyrgyz Soms ($330,000) each year. In 2019, the total amount exceeded 42 million Kyrgyz Soms. The SSC Law and the secondary legal acts on SSC establish a more transparent and competitive mechanism for the use of state budget funds to support CSOs and to deliver quality social services to the people of Kyrgyzstan.

Barriers to Assembly

There is a ban on conducting gatherings and peaceful assemblies closer than 100 meters from elementary and high schools, hospitals and properties of the penal system.

UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) UPR (May 3, 2010)
UPR (January 21, 2015)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs

Kyrgyzstan

U.S. State Department 2017 Human Rights Reports: Kyrgyzstan
Fragile States Index Report Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 2016
ACT Alliance How to Protect and Expand an Enabling Environment in Kyrgyzstan 2013
Human Rights Watch HRW Report 2017
International Federation for Human Rights Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Annual Report 2009 – Kyrgyzstan

IMF Country Reports Kyrgyz Republic and the IMF
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Library Kyrgyzstan

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.

News Items

Bishkek is now part of the OGP Local partnership (October 2020) (Russian)
Bishkek City Hall has joined the OGP Local initiative (Open Local Government Partnership). The city passed a two-stage competition, as a result of which 56 cities from all over the world were selected. The victory of the city of Bishkek in this competition was based on the practice already adopted by the capital of interacting with citizens to ensure the transparency of its activities.

Kyrgyzstanis will be able to discuss draft laws on a unified portal (August 2020) (Russian)
The MoJ launched a new public discussion portal. A governmental decree obligates executive bodies to discuss their normative legal initiatives through the portal. The portal provides for clear mechanisms by which civil society can submit comments to the initiators of draft normative legal acts.

Kyrgyzstan: Volunteers play heroic role in battle against COVID-19 (July 2019)
Earlier this month, football player and entrepreneur Aidana Otorbayeva took to Facebook to offer a helping hand to the doctors on the front line of Kyrgyzstan’s battle with coronavirus. “I am not a doctor,” she wrote. “But! I am ready to volunteer. To help medical personnel, run errands for them, take them food … to at least somehow ease their work.” She then appealed to the public to do their bit too. Her volunteer group, called Soobsha, now has around 35 members daily assisting doctors, making deliveries of medical materials, providing food, and manning drop-in health centers. In some cases, they are even transporting patients to hospital or delivering medicine to the homes of sick people.

Kyrgyzstan: Law “On Manipulating Information” must be vetoed (July 2020)
ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned about the recent adoption of the Law “on Manipulating Information” (the Law) as it imposes a strict control over the information on the Internet, in particular social media, in Kyrgyzstan. ARTICLE 19 calls on the President, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, to veto the Law. We also call on the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic to uphold freedom of expression both online and offline.

Kyrgyzstan: Draft bill threatens to drive NGOs against the wall (May 2020)
Parliament in Kyrgyzstan on May 22 resumed formal scrutiny of a draft law that experts believe is designed to hobble the work of independent civic activists. And with coronavirus-related restrictions on their side, the legislature’s largely government-loyal members were able to hear discussions at the public forum with almost no interventions from the very kinds of nongovernmental groups the law would hurt. The bill would oblige NGOs to engage in more exhaustive reporting on their finances than is currently required, draining the often-small organizations of their already depleted human and financial resources. If the law is adopted in its current form, a government portal will be created to store all the information provided by NGOs.

A Power Grab in Kyrgyzstan (May 2020)
Over the past four months, the government of Kyrgyzstan has made repeated attempts to impose new restrictions on non-governmental organizations. Now with the coronavirus pandemic dominating global headlines, one of these initiatives is being rammed through parliament in an attempt to permanently change the country’s civil society landscape. A proposed new law currently before the country’s parliament would introduce new reporting requirements on nongovernmental organizations, and would give the government a wide margin of discretion for determining these reporting conditions.

UN in Kyrgyzstan: Adoption of amendments to the law on NGOs will undermine Kyrgyzstan’s reputation as a democracy (Russian) (May 2020)
The UN Office in Kyrgyzstan sent a note to the country’s parliament. The international organization is concerned that on May 22, MPs will consider amendments to the law on NGOs, which would require NGOs to conduct additional reporting.

President offers olive branch to civil society (July 2018)
Kyrgyzstan’s President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has surprised many in the country by hosting a gathering of civil society’s leading lights to discuss pressing problems. If notes that came out of the closed doors meeting are anything to go by, they gave him a rather long list. Key issues raised according to notes posted on Twitter included judicial, police and penitentiary reform, ecological problems in Bishkek, radicalization and state orphanages.

Kyrgyzstan is leader in Central Asia for civil society development (December 2017)
Kyrgyzstan is the leader in its region and beyond for the development of civil society, Temporary Charge d’Affaires of the US in Kyrgyzstan Alan Meltzer said at the annual conference on assessing the interaction of public councils and state authorities. In his speech, the Charge d’Affaires of the US in Kyrgyzstan stressed that the public councils were created for close cooperation between the state and civil sector in order to make the work of the government more efficient and transparent.

Kyrgyz Government intends to pay special attention to civil society development (December 2017)
The Government of Kyrgyzstan intends to pay special attention to the development of civil society institutions, Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov said at the opening of the annual conference on assessing the interaction of public councils and state authorities.

President of Kyrgyzstan attacks human rights defenders and NGOs (April 2017) (Russian)
Kyrgyzstan is threatened by various NGOs financed from abroad, Kyrgyz President Atambayev said. He called on protecting the information security of the state and from foreign influence. “We need to protect the uniqueness and identity of our people,” he said, delivering a speech at the 5th meeting of the National Council for Sustainable Development on April 3. Atambaev said that “some figures” hide behind the guise of human rights defenders, oppositionists or NGO representatives who work with money received from abroad, “imposing on people alien values.”

Growing Pressure on Media Groups (March 2017)
Kyrgyzstan’s General Prosecutor has brought a series of cases against two prominent local media outlets that have been critical of the government, Human Rights Watch said. “Kyrgyzstan’s authorities should understand the role of independent media and what it means to respect freedom of expression and drop these lawsuits,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Kyrgyzstan has a dynamic media landscape, which should be allowed to flourish, and laws that allow these kinds of prosecutions should be repealed.”

Termination of Bilateral Agreement with USA (August 2015) (Russian)
On July 27, 2015, the President of Kyrgyzstan supported the termination of a bilateral agreement with the USA and stated that there are “foreign agents… amongst CSOs in Kyrgyzstan” that “shake” the political stability in the country.

Kyrgyzstan’s UPR: A Missed Opportunity (January 2015)
The review of Kyrgyzstan’s human rights record by the United Nations, which took place in the framework of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), largely failed to address key issues, challenges and patterns of human rights violations in the country. Given the international community’s lack of attention to the situation in the country in other fora, the UPR of Kyrgyzstan is a missed opportunity.

Concerns over Draft Law (August 2013)
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), expresses concern regarding the draft law on Introducing Changes and Amendments into some Legislative Acts of the Kyrgyz Republic, and in particular regarding a provision in Part 2 of Article 3 of the draft law, which would result in the incorporation of an Article 395-2 to the Code on Administrative Liability.

Open Letter to the authorities (May 2013)
We are writing to you to express our concern regarding Article 12 of the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on “Fighting against the Legalization (Laundering) of Criminal Proceeds and the Financing of Terrorist or Extremist Activities”. In April 2013, a restrictive Article 12, titled “Preventive measures for [Non-Commercial Organisations] NCOs”, was incorporated in the bill. If adopted, this Article would violate a number of international and regional standards related to freedom of association and result in additional burdens for the Kyrgyz civil society.

Kyrgyzstan to amend extremist and electronic correspondence laws (April 2013)
The Ministry of Internal Affairs is advocating changes in the law to impose liability for extremism online. The ministry would like to amend two laws: the law on fighting extremism and the law on electronic and mail correspondence. However, oftentimes information is hosted outside of Kyrgyz servers, and it is impossible to bring to court people who are spreading extremist materials through social networks from outside the country.

Nookat Idrisov: The destiny of NGO sector will depend on Prime-minister’s decision if the bill on Foreign Gratuitous Aid will be adopted

A new law on foreign funding of NCOs is not needed, Daniar Terbishaliev, parliamentarian

Experts on the role of civil society to get political stability in Kyrgyzstan

The Public Councils at the state bodies annually reported on their activity

The foregoing information was collected by ICNL and the ICNL, LLC Legal Advisor based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.