Kyrgyz Republic

Last updated: 14 December 2022

Update

The most concerning development of 2022 has been the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)’s promotion of the law de-bureaucratization concept. According to the MoJ, the complicated legislative procedures in Kyrgyzstan hinder the government’s ability to carry out reforms. To address this issue, the MoJ decided to introduce de-bureaucratization, which would relegate the Parliament to adopting mostly framework laws while the government develops bylaws to implement laws. The proposed law de-bureaucratization concept could weaken civic engagement in the law-making process and allow the government to circumvent meaningful public consultations. Although it has not yet been enshrined in law, many state bodies have already started implementing the law de-bureaucratization concept.

In addition, on November 2, 2022, the Presidential Administration published a draft of the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Non-commercial Non-Governmental Organizations for public discussion. Many Kyrgyz non-commercial organizations (NCOs) expressed concern over adoption of this Draft Law.  For more details, see the Pending NGO Legislative/Regulatory Initiatives section under Legal Snapshot below.

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 19,358 CSOs registered in the country, although only around 6,452 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 draft law and 65 voting against it.

Within the framework of constitutional reforms in Kyrgyzstan, the parliament adopted and President Japarov signed amendments to the Law on NCOs in 2021. According to the amendments, public associations, foundations, associations of legal entities, and institutions (with the exception of state and municipal institutions) operating with financial and material resources received on a gratuitous basis will have to upload new annual financial reports detailing income and expenditures, including from foreign sources, on the State Tax Service website by April 1. The law tasks the Cabinet of Ministers with determining the form and procedure for meeting the new requirement. On March 22, 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the new financial disclosure form and its submission procedure.

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 (OGP) 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.

Another positive development for civil society is a public discussion portal, which was launched on September 4, 2020. 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 require the use of the portal by all government bodies for public consultations on their legal initiatives. The amendments are pending the parliament’s consideration. 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.

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 (TF); 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 State Financial Intelligence Service (SFIS), the government body in charge of reporting on compliance with FATF recommendations under the Open Government Partnership 2018-2021 National Action Plan (OGP NAP), created a CSO-government working group (WG) to develop a methodology for conducting risk assessments (RAs) 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. From November 2019 to March 2021, the CSO-government WG, headed by the SFIS, conducted Kyrgyzstan’s first RA of the NCO sector for its vulnerability to TF abuse and recommended policy actions to reduce identified risks. On March 12, 2021, the WG sent the report to the SFIS for consideration and submission to the EAG. The EAG is expected to consider Kyrgyzstan’s RA report by November 2022. The WG members hope that the completed RA report will lead the EAG to improve Kyrgyzstan’s rating on compliance with FATF Recommendation 8, which may lower the risk of adoption of new restrictions on CSOs under the pretense of anti-terrorism measures.

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 (SSP), which provides three forms of social contracting: (i) social procurement, (ii) financing of public benefit projects of CSOs, and (iii) social vouchers. In 2021, the available government funding for social contracts awarded to CSOs has grown, reaching 42 million KG SOMs (around $500,000 USD). In 2019, the Law on SSP was amended to include probation into the spheres in which social contracting can be implemented. Currently, the Ministry of Labor, Social Development, and Migration (MLSDM), the State Agency on Youth Affairs, Physical Culture and Sports, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Healthcare implement social contracting in accordance with the Law on SSP. On February 10, 2022, the MLSDM posted the draft of the new Law on SSP, which eliminated almost all civic engagement mechanisms on the public discussion portal. (For more information, please see the Pending NGO Legislative/Regulatory Initiatives section below.)

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.

On January 18, 2022, the President signed the new Tax Code. Most of the provisions of the new Tax Code relating to CSOs were transferred from the previous version of the Tax Code. Among the positive changes are that the new Tax Code reduces the immovable property tax rate for CSOs and property tax exemption for charitable organizations. Some of the negative provisions, however, include the requirement for CSOs to pay and report on the income tax on a monthly basis (instead of quarterly) and the elimination of the sales tax exemption for charitable organizations, among others. In violation of the Constitution, the government enforced the Tax Code retroactively starting January 1, 2022, despite that it was signed into law on January 18, 2022.

Organizational Forms Noncommercial Organizations Community-Based Organizations
Registration Body Ministry of Justice Local self-governments
Approximate Number 19,358 (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 cannot conduct economic activities unless the activities “correspond” to its statutory goals.

New reporting requirements for certain types of NCOs were introduced by the amendments to the Law on NCOs in June 2021.

No legal barriers.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy The 2021 Law on Protection from False Information provides individuals with the right to demand the removal of online content about themselves that they believe to be false. If the website owner who hosts the allegedly false information does not comply within 24 hours, they are at risk of having their site or page suspended for up to two months (or indefinitely if the content is still not removed), and they may also be liable for damages in court. The law fails to strike a balance between the legitimate interest of protecting the rights and reputation of others and the fundamental right to freedom of expression. No legal barrieres
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 (6,071,750) (2022 est.)
Capital Bishkek
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 68.27 Female: 76.71 (2022 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 73.8%, Uzbek 14.8%, Russian 5.1%, Dungan 1.1%, other 5.2% (includes Uyghur, Tajik, Turk, Kazakh, Tatar, Ukrainian, Korean, German) (2021 est.)
GDP per capita $4,700 (2020 est.)

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

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 120 (2020) 1 – 182
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 99 (2021) 1 – 128
Fund for Peace: Fragile States Index 66 (2022) 179 – 1
Transparency International 144 (2021) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free
Overall Rating: 27
Political Rights: 4
Civil Liberties: 23 (2022)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
100 – 1
40 – 1
60 – 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

The current Constitution of Kyrgyz Republic was adopted by referendum on April 11, 2021. Several provisions relate to civic freedoms:

Article 6. The Constitution possesses supreme legal power, and its norms have direct application in the Kyrgyz Republic. Constitutional laws, laws and other normative and legal acts are adopted in compliance with the Constitution. The generally recognized principles and norms of international law, as well as international treaties that have entered into force in accordance with the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic, are an integral part of the legal system of the Kyrgyz Republic. The procedure and conditions for the application of international treaties and generally recognized principles and norms of international law are determined by law. The official publication of laws and other normative legal acts is a prerequisite for their entry into force. A law or other normative legal act establishing new obligations or aggravating liability shall not have retroactive effect.

Article 8. Political parties, trade unions and other public associations can be created in the Kyrgyz Republic to exercise and protect the rights, freedoms and interests of a person and a citizen. Political parties, trade unions and other public associations ensure the transparency of their financial and operating activities.

Article 10. The mass media shall be guaranteed the right to receive information from state and local self-government bodies and disseminate it, and the right to freedom of expression. Censorship is not allowed in the Kyrgyz Republic. The mass media are free and shall carry out their activities in accordance with the law. Information security in the Kyrgyz Republic is ensured by the state. In order to protect the younger generation, activities that contradict moral and ethical values and public conscience of the people of the Kyrgyz Republic may be restricted by law. A list of activities to be restricted and information to be restricted in access and dissemination shall be established by law.

Article 23.Human rights and freedoms are inalienable and belong to everyone from birth. They are recognized as absolute, inalienable and protected by law and court from encroachment on the part of anyone. Human rights and freedoms are among the highest values ​​of the Kyrgyz Republic. They act directly, determine the meaning and content of the activities of all state bodies, local self-government bodies and their officials. Human and civil rights and freedoms may be limited by the Constitution and laws in order to protect national security, public order, health and morality of the population, and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Such restrictions can also be introduced taking into account the specifics of military or other public service. Restrictions must be proportionate to the stated objectives. The government cannot adopt subordinate normative legal acts restricting human and civil rights and freedoms. The law may not establish restrictions on human rights and freedoms for other purposes and to a greater extent than provided for by the Constitution. Human rights and freedoms established by the Constitution are not subject to any restrictions. The guarantees of prohibition established by the Constitution are not subject to any restrictions.

Article 32. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought and opinion. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. No one may be compelled to express or refuse to express their opinion. Propaganda of national, racial, religious hatred, gender and other social superiority, calling for discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited.

Article 33. Everyone shall have the right to freely seek, receive, store, use and disseminate information orally, in writing, or by other means. Everyone shall have the right to familiarize with information about themselves held by national and local governmental bodies, institutions, and organizations. Everyone shall have the right to receive information about the activities of national governmental bodies, local self-government bodies and their officials, legal entities with the participation of the national and local governmental bodies, as well as organizations financed from the state and local budgets. Everyone shall be guaranteed access to information held by national and local governmental bodies and their officials. The procedure for providing information shall be determined by law.

Article 36.Every person has a right to freedom of association.

Article 37. Citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic shall have the right to elect and be elected to national and local governmental bodies, as well as to participate in referenda. Citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic shall have the right to participate in the management of public and state affairs both directly and through their representatives. Citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic shall have equal rights and opportunities when entering the state and municipal service and promotion in the manner prescribed by law. Citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic have the right to participate in the discussion and adoption of laws and decisions of the national and local importance. Everyone shall have the right to appeal to bodies of state power, bodies of local self-government and their officials, who shall be obliged to provide a substantiated response within a period prescribed by law. Citizens shall have the right to participate in the formation of the state and local budgets, as well as to receive information about the funds actually spent from the budget.

Article 39. Every person has a right to freedom of peaceful assemblies. No one can be forced to participate in the assembly. In order to ensure the holding of a peaceful assembly, everyone has the right to submit a notification to state bodies or local self-government bodies. Organizers and participants of peaceful assemblies are not responsible for the lack of notification of a peaceful assembly, failure to comply with the form of notification, its content and deadlines for submission. The organization and procedure for holding peaceful assemblies are determined by law.

Article 44. […] The state encourages voluntary social insurance, the creation of additional forms of social security and charitable activities. […]

Article 55. In the Kyrgyz Republic, fundamental human and civil rights and freedoms are recognized and guaranteed in accordance with universally recognized principles and norms of international law, as well as international treaties that have entered into force in the manner prescribed by law, to which the Kyrgyz Republic is a party.

Article 62. The state guarantees the publication of laws and other normative legal acts concerning human rights, freedoms and obligations, which is a prerequisite for their application. The rights and freedoms set forth in the Constitution are not exhaustive and shall not be construed to deny or diminish other universally recognized human and civil rights and freedoms.

Article 63. Laws restricting freedom of speech, press and media shall be prohibited. Everyone is guaranteed protection of personal data. Access to and receipt of citizens’ personal data is carried out only in cases provided for by law.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

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

  1. The Constitution of Kyrgyzstan (adopted April 11, 2021);
  2. The Civil Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, Part 1 (May 8, 1996, with latest amendments on June 6, 2022);
  3. The Civil Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, Part 2 (January 5, 1998, with latest amendments on September15, 2021);
  4. The Tax Code of the Kyrgyz Republic (adopted January 18, 2022);
  5. The Labor Code of the Kyrgyz Republic (October 4, 2004, with latest amendments on June 6, 2022);
  6. The Code of the Kyrgyz Republic on violations (October 28, 2021, with latest amendments onJune 16, 2022).
  7. The Law on Noncommercial Organizations (October 15, 1999, with latest amendments on June26, 2021);
  8. Decree on Measures to Implement Article 17 of the Law on NCOs(March 22, 2022);
  9. The Law Partnership of Owners of Residential and Non-Residential Premises of Apartment Buildings (July 9, 2013, with latest amendments on December 12, 2017);
  10. The Law on Registration of Legal Entities, Branches(Representative) Offices (February 20, 2009, with latest amendments on December 10, 2021);
  11. The Law on Political Parties(June 12, 1999);
  12. The Law on Freedom of Religion and Religious Organizations (December 31, 2008, with latest amendments on May22, 2021);
  13. The Law on Trade Unions (October 16, 1998, with latest amendments on December16, 2016);
  14. The Law on Associations (Union) of Water Users and Unions of Associations of Water Users(March 15, 2002, with latest amendments on December 10, 2021);
  15. The Law on Association of Employers(May 22, 2004);
  16. The Law on Jamaats (Communities) and their Associations (February 21, 2005, with latest amendments on July 18, 2014);
  17. The Law on Cooperatives(June 11, 2004, with latest amendments on July 26, 2018);
  18. The Law on Local State Administration and Local Self-Government Bodies (October 20, 2021);
  19. The Law on Philanthropy and Charitable Activity(November 6, 1999, with latest amendments on May 10, 2017) (Russian);
  20. The Law of Kyrgyz Republic on Peaceful Assemblies(May 23, 2012);
  21. The Law of Kyrgyz Republic on Public Councils of State Bodies(May 24, 2014) (Russian);
  22. The Law on State Social Procurement(April 27, 2017, with latest amendments on April 24, 2019).
  23. The Regulation on the order of conduct of public benefit projects competition for the implementation of SSP (December 15, 2017);
  24. The Order of providing social services though social vouchers (December 15, 2017);
  25. The Order of control, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of public benefit projects within SSP (December 15, 2017);
  26. The Regulation on the web-portal on State Grants for financing Pubic Benefit Projects (December 15, 2017);
  27. The Law on Countering Financing of Terrorist Activities and Legalization (Laundering) of Criminal Incomes (August 6, 2018, with latest amendments on August 21, 2020).
  28. The Law on Protection from False Information (August 23, 2021).

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

1. In September 2021, the MoJ created a CSO-government working group (WG) to develop amendments to the Law on Access to Information. During the first meeting of the WG, CSOs pointed out the main shortcoming of the current Law: there are no adequate legal remedies against undue restrictions on the right to access information. CSOs recommended developing clear and simple legal mechanisms that would allow citizens to hold civil servants liable for failing to provide timely responses to information requests. They also recommended establishing an independent body to monitor implementation of the law and address citizens’ complaints in a simplified procedure. The WG agreed with the recommendations and included them into the draft law. The draft law is pending the Cabinet of Ministers’ consideration.

2. On December 22, 2021, the parliament adopted the draft amendments to the Law on Public Councils (PCs) of State Bodies, which was developed in 2017 with input from members of PCs in the first reading. The draft amendments focus on addressing gaps in the existing law and improving the overall efficiency of the PC mechanism in Kyrgyzstan and contain some significant new provisions, such as (1) extending the duration of service of PC members to three years; (2) introducing an annual self-evaluation mechanism for PC members, which would allow the exclusion of members who did not actually work during the past year and did not make any contribution to the PCs’ activities; (3) stipulating that PC members can only participate in the tenders and competitions held by a state body as observers; and (4) ensuring the government provides the Coordination Board of PCs with office space and other facilities. Further promotion from the amendments will depend on support from the new parliament.

3. Following the de-bureaucratization process, the Ministry of Labor, and Social Development, and Migration (MLSDM) drafted a new version of the Law on State Social Procurement (SSP) to eliminate almost all civic engagement mechanisms of the effective Law on SSP. According to the MLSDM, civil society involvement in the SSP grants distribution process would be regulated by secondary legal acts. Because the secondary legal acts have a simplified adoption procedure, CSOs are still concerned that the proposed reforms will deteriorate the transparency of the SSP process.

4. On February 24, 2022, the draft Law on Volunteering Activity was posted on the parliamentary website. The draft law regulates volunteering activity and establishes the rights and obligations of volunteers and organizers of events that utilize volunteers. The draft law is pending the parliament’s consideration.

5. On March 2, 2022, the MoJ published the draft Law on Amending the Civil Code and Terminating the Law on State Registration of Legal Entities, Branch (Representatives) Offices for public discussion. The MoJ developed the draft law following the inventory and de-bureaucratization of laws and proposed regulating the registration of legal entities and branches through a Cabinet of Ministers bylaw. The draft law is pending the parliament’s consideration.

6. On March 9, 2022, the MoJ posted the draft 2022-2024 Human Rights Action Plan for public discussion. It was developed for the purpose of timely implementation of international obligations of the Kyrgyz Republic in the field of the protection of human rights and freedoms and was intended to implement the recommendations given by UN human rights treaty bodies and to take into account the commitments undertaken by the Kyrgyz Republic to implement the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. The draft law is pending the Cabinet of Ministers’ consideration.

7. On March 31, 2022, the MoJ published a draft Decree on Registration of Legal Entities, Branch (Representatives) Offices on the public discussion portal. The proposed draft does not include significant changes in the registration procedure, but CSOs nevertheless opposed the measure because it would make it easier for the government make future amendments, which could be negative for CSOs, without public discussions. The draft decree is pending the Cabinet of Ministers’ consideration.

8. The most concerning development of 2022 has been the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)’s promotion of the law de-bureaucratization concept. According to the MoJ, the complicated legislative procedures in Kyrgyzstan hinder the government’s ability to carry out reforms. To address this issue, the MoJ decided to introduce de-bureaucratization, which would relegate the Parliament to adopting mostly framework laws while the government develops bylaws to implement laws. The proposed law de-bureaucratization concept could weaken civic engagement in the law-making process and allow the government to circumvent meaningful public consultations. Although it has not yet been enshrined in law, many state bodies have already started implementing the law de-bureaucratization concept.

9. On November 2, 2022, the Presidential Administration published a draft of the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Non-commercial Non-Governmental Organizations (Draft Law) for public discussion. Many Kyrgyz non-commercial organizations (NCOs) expressed concern over adoption of this Draft Law.  The Draft Law would grant broad rights to government bodies to decide at their own discretion whether to register NCOs and foreign NCOs (FNCOs), to control activities of NCOs and FNCOs, and to suspend their activities or liquidate them.  Among other things, the Draft Law requires the registration of all organizations, creates a longer and more cumbersome registration process, increases NCOs’ reporting requirements and the government’s NCO oversight power, and makes the status of NCOs and FNCOs much more precarious.  If passed in its current form, the Draft Law will have a negative effect on all NCOs, including charities, humanitarian organizations, and social service providers.

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, there 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 407 KGS (about $5). 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 operational activities. Generally, an NCO may conduct any activity not forbidden in its charter. However, charitable organizations and public associations may not 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 activities.

Reporting requirements for NCOs were the same as for other legal entities until June 26, 2021, when the amendments to the Law on NCOs were adopted. The amendments introduced a requirement for all NCOs to publish a new annual financial disclosure report on the State Tax Service (STS) website. On March 22, 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a Decree approving the new CSO financial disclosure form and its submission procedure. According to the Decree, annually by April 1,CSOs are required to publish the completed form for the previous year on the STS website. The approved form includes two sections:

1. Cumulative information:

a) income sources by disaggregation (membership fees, donations, grants from local and foreign sources, amongst others);

b) expenditures by disaggregation (business trips, salaries, procurements, conferences/seminars, expenditures for charter purposes, amongst other expenditures); and

c) movable property and vehicles.

2. Detailed breakdown of sources of income (name, country code, and tax identification number of the income source).

NCOs have the same rights and obligations as other legal entities with respect to inspections and audits conducted by government agencies.

NCOs are subject to dissolution if they conduct an activity that violates the law (such as engaging in an activity without a license where a license is required) or failing to submit reports to the tax authority within one year. These dissolution grounds are applicable to all legal entities, including commercial and noncommercial.

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 2021, the Kyrgyz Republic ranked 79th in the global press freedom rankings. RWF reports that “officials in recent years have been trying to strengthen censorship and to promulgate laws to restrict press freedom. After a fruitless attempt in 2020, President Sadyr Japarov signed a law in 2021 to restrict the dissemination of so-called ‘false information’ – a law that violates the constitution as well as international treaties, and limits press freedom.”

The 2021 Law on Protection from False Information provides individuals with the right to demand the removal of online content about themselves that they believe to be false. If the website owner who hosts the allegedly false information does not comply within 24 hours, they are at risk of having their site or page suspended for up to two months (or indefinitely if the content is still not removed), and they may also be liable for damages in court. The law fails to strike a balance between the legitimate interest of protecting the rights and reputation of others and the fundamental right to 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 Procurement (SSP) entered into force, and in December 2017, the Government of Kyrgyzstan approved four secondary legal acts on SSP to support its implementation. These legal acts address (1) competitions for public benefit projects, (2) social vouchers, (3) monitoring and evaluation of SSP 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 SSP Law and the secondary legal acts on SSP 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. However, if the draft of the new version of the SSP Law is adopted, the SSP process may become opaque and less responsive to the populations needs. For more information about this initiative, please see the Pending NGO Legislative/Regulatory Initiatives section above.

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)
UPR (January 20, 2020)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs

Kyrgyzstan

U.S. State Department 2021 Human Rights Reports: Kyrgyzstan
Fragile States Index Report Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 2022
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
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

New parliamentary regulations: more room to maneuver and less responsibility (June 2022) (Russian)
Six months have passed since the first plenary session of the parliament of the seventh convocation elected under the hybrid system. However, MPs have not yet approved the draft of the new parliamentary regulations.

The Ministry of Justice trained legal services of state bodies on the new methodology for drafting laws (June 2022) (Russian)
The Institute of Lawmaking and Rule of Law of the Ministry of Justice trained employees of the legal services of state bodies and their structural subdivisions involved in the development of normative legal acts on the new de-bureaucratization methodology.

CSOs oppose the draft Regulation on State Small Grants for CSOs (May 2022) (Russian)
More than 40 CSOs published a statement that the authorities were trying to divide the civil society sector into loyal and disloyal organizations, which may lead to discrimination against individual CSOs that criticize the government.

Lawyers are against the reduction of the period of public discussions (May 2022) (Russian)
Lawyers of the Legal Clinic “Adilet” opposed the parliamentary initiative to reduce public discussions of draft normative legal acts to 15 working days.

Kyrgyzstan: Repeal protest ban (March 2022)
“Kyrgyz authorities should immediately repeal restrictions that prohibit any gatherings in front of the Russian Embassy in Bishkek, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should also cancel fines imposed on three human rights defenders detained on March 17, 2022, who were peacefully protesting outside the Russian Embassy.”

Representatives of civil society and government agencies discussed the draft law “On the right to access information” (December 2021) (Russian)
A round table was held in Bishkek to discuss the draft Laws of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the right to access information” and “On amendments to certain legislative acts on the right to access information”.  The event was organized by the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic with the support of the UN System in the Kyrgyz Republic. It was attended by representatives of state bodies, international organizations, civil society and the media.

Reporters Without Borders call on Sadyr Japarov to abolish fake news law (August 2021)
Under the guise of fighting online disinformation, Kyrgyzstan’s president has signed a law allowing the authorities to summarily suppress information at the request of any citizen who says they are being defamed. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement.

Devil in the details of Kyrgyzstan’s new-look constitution (March 2021)
Talk of a new constitution has dominated the news agenda for months in Kyrgyzstan, although few people fully understood what was being proposed.  That changed in the first half of February, when parliament finally unveiled a document that many experts fret will return the country to strongman rule.

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 (May 2020) (Russian)
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)

Kyrgyz Government intends to pay special attention to civil society development (December 2017)

President of Kyrgyzstan attacks human rights defenders and NGOs (April 2017) (Russian)

Growing Pressure on Media Groups (March 2017)

Termination of Bilateral Agreement with USA (August 2015) (Russian)

Kyrgyzstan’s UPR: A Missed Opportunity (January 2015)

Concerns over Draft Law (August 2013)

Open Letter to the authorities (May 2013)

Kyrgyzstan to amend extremist and electronic correspondence laws (April 2013)

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.