Will the ‘Civil Alliance’ Be Transformed?

In the beginning of June, the news broke that President of Almaty Management University Asylbek Kozhakhmetov was elected Head of the ‘Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan’. The public received the news with caution since this union of the legal bodies is the country’s most famous and biggest GONGO, the government-organized non-governmental organization.

At the same time, Asylbek Khzhakhmetov is known in Kazakhstan not only as the owner and the president of a private college but also as a person who, starting from the 1990s, has actively participated in the political life of the republic as an oppositionist, first, in the Republican People’s Party of Kazakhstan, then as the leader of civil movement and political party the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan and later, as the leader of its successor ‘Alga’ party. And even though, later on, he left politics, founded and took over the leadership of ‘Shanyrak’ civil movement, his arrival at the GONGO seems rather curious.

Based on the insider information, Asylbek Kozhakhmetov’s candidacy was lobbied in Akorda by Minister of Religious Affairs and Civil Society Darkhan Kaletayev. And even though Head of Nazarbayev’s Administration Adilbek Dzhaksybekov was against Kozhakhmetov’s appointment, Marat Tazhin’s support as First Deputy of the Head of Nazarbayev’s Administration in charge of the home policy block played the crucial part in making this decision.

We believe that the reason why Akorda took the risk of promoting Asylbek Kozhakhmetov as the head of the biggest NGO in the country is plain and simple — in this sector, there are too many people wanting to be «ceremonial bystanders» and participate in the distributing of the state money but there are very few managers that have the organizational and leadership skills. It’s another matter that, even though the authorities demonstrate the clear interest in collaborating with the NGOs, the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan is destined to remain the GONGO.

To confirm this, we will cite the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society’s press-release of June 5, 2018.

Here are selected paragraphs (text in bold by kz.expert).

«At the regular Governmental session of June 5, 2018, Minister of Religious Affairs and Civil Society Darkhan Kaletayev addressed the major trends of the civil sector development formulated within the framework of the VII Kazakhstan Civil Forum recommendations. He also spoke on the preparations for the VIII Kazakhstan Civil Forum that is to take place in November 2018».

«Regarding the increase of the state support of the non-governmental sector, the Minister spoke about the positive changes in the volume of the state commissioning of social services and the grant NGO financing in the country over the last three years as well as the successful implementation of the Kazakhstan NGO bonus awarding practices». 

«Another block of the recommendations had to do with the issues of improving the stability of the civil sector. Within the framework of this goal, the Minister spoke about the work that had been done on organizing the regional resource centers and on the results of their activities. Such centers are already operating in all the regional centers and in 28 districts of five regions. Apart from that, the Minister announced that, currently, together with the NGOs, the agency is developing a special method to evaluate the NGOs’ input in the socio-economic development of the country.

Concluding his report, Darkhan Kaletayev underscored the necessity of implementing a number of systemic measures to increase the effectiveness of the NGOs’ and state’s collaboration.

Here are some of them — the further qualitative realization of the VII Kazakhstan Civil Forum recommendations; the increase of the efficiency of the resource centers including those in rural areas; the thorough preparation for the VIII Kazakhstan Civil Forum including discussing the topical issues at the regional civil forums as well as providing the venues for the state agencies’ leaders meetings with specific NGOs within the framework of the upcoming event.

President of Almaty Management University Asylbek Kozhakhmetov also spoke at the session. He shared his work experience in the sphere of the non-commercial sector development».

Judging by this press-release, Darkhan Kaletayev is hoping that Asylbek Kozhakhmetov will be able to stir up the ‘Civil Alliance’ activities as well as attract new NGOs as its members including those avoiding tight collaboration with the state agencies.

We believe the effectiveness of Kozhakhmetov’s efforts will depend not so much on him and his activities as on the size of the resources he will receive for the support of the non-governmental sector and on whether the Ministry will be able to «pull» the frozen budget funds out of Bank of Astana.

But this is just our speculation.

To provide you with a fuller picture, we asked the Kazakh experts to assess the ‘Civil Alliance’s activities. Their opinions are quite ambivalent in regard to the efficiency of its operations in the current political environment.

For example, Kazakh human rights activist Amangeldy Shormanbayev said it straight, «in the sphere of the human rights, I don’t remember if they have done anything».

«The presence of NGOs is often perceived as the existence of a civil society in Kazakhstan. But a civil society is a much wider term that includes all those independent of the state — different groups and organizations both official and unofficial. And the state would have been really helpful if it hadn’t interfered with the civil sector’s activities where it shouldn’t», said he.

And independent political science specialist Talgat Ismagambetov explained that the ‘Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan’ had been created to establish a communication channel between the NGOs and the state authorities, it’s its mission. Does this communication channel provide any benefits? He believes that «it does, in regard to getting the Alliance members’ consolidated opinion across to the authorities». But «the authorities, too, may influence the Alliance members».

«In other words, Kazakhstan’s civil sector is currently operating within the framework of the „managed democracy“. And the ‘Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan’ is a part of this system. In theory, its task is to lessen the load carried by the authorities, to collect the resources for increasing the NGO’s influence on the authorities to the point of participating in politicians reshuffling in the halls of power. But this is not going to work in Kazakhstan», concluded Talgat Ismagambetov.

Well, we shall see how Asylbek Kozhakhmetov’s efforts will work out. 


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