The civil sector is concerned about the actions of the authorities
Bakyt Ibraimov (Osh)
The authorities of Kyrgyzstan continue to put pressure on a number of international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are active in the field of civil society. The international organizations and NGOs that are considered by the authorities to be politicized and receive funding from abroad are subject to verification by the controlling authorities.
The administration of the Bishkek City Social Fund has accused the international organization Freedom House, which has been operating in Kyrgyzstan since 2002, for not paying social taxes, owing the state millions of soms. The city social fund came out of Freedom House from an ad in a newspaper where the organization invited people to work.
“This international organization has not paid taxes since the start of its activities in our country,” said Akylbek Temirkulov, head of the Bishkek City Social Fund Administration. “We decided to check whether this organization has a given organization’s payroll of the insurance premiums - it turned out that it did not appear in it”.
After that, the administration of the Social Fund sent a letter to Freedom House and the USAID Office (United States Agency for International Development) in Kyrgyzstan, who responded that according to an agreement signed in 1993 between the governments of the United States and Kyrgyzstan, the organization under review was exempted from social contributions.
Temirkulov said that there are many such organizations in Kyrgyzstan. “We intend to work with all international structures, embassies,” he said. “In the near future, we intend to officially appeal to the Ministry of Economy and Finance with a request to provide a list of all financial projects of international organizations implemented in Kyrgyzstan.”
Commenting on this situation, the USAID representative in Kyrgyzstan, Clif Braun, in an interview with AKIpress on June 21, 2006, said that at present the documents describing the activities of Freedom House are in the General Prosecutor's Office. “We were also required to have documents explaining USAID’s relations with this organization, but we have a different status than our partners,” Brown concluded.
And now it is possible that the situation with Freedom House may turn into a high-profile legal proceedings if the authorities continue to strengthen control over the activities of so-called politicized NGOs that work in Kyrgyzstan through grants from international institutions and foreign countries. This factor began to increase the distance between the government and the civilian sector.
“In per capita terms, not a single state in Central Asia has as many political parties and NGOs as in Kyrgyzstan,” said the deputy director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies under the country's president, Ph.D., professor Tashmambet Kenensariev. “For example, an organization such as the NDI (National Democratic Institute of the USA) not only monitors the political situation in our country, but also creates a tool to influence and lobby its interests to the detriment of Kyrgyzstan’s national interests.”
According to him, NDI focuses on the development of the institution of politicized NGOs, which then serve as a lever of pressure on the government. “For the first time, the coalition“ For Democracy and Civil Society ”, which was formed in December 1998 from 78 non-governmental organizations of Kyrgyzstan, got into the trap of NDI, says Kenensariev. “For the period from 2001 to the present, the coalition received about $ 800 thousand from international organizations, which is comparable to the budget of a well-functioning enterprise.”
The Ombudsman of the country Tursunbai Bakir uulu tried to raise this problem by initiating amendments to the Law “On Non-Profit Organizations” aimed at filling the gap in the legislation of Kyrgyzstan. According to the Law “On Political Parties”, the activity of foreign political parties or their branches, as well as the financing of political parties by foreign states is prohibited. The ban on the activities of Kyrgyz NGOs, which are funded by various foreign institutions and engaged in political activities in the territory of Kyrgyzstan - is not provided for by law.
In addition, Article 8 of the Constitution states that “the activities of non-profit organizations that are sponsored from abroad and act as political parties, in effect replacing them, are not envisaged”. This initiative was proposed due to the fact that the interests of not all foreign states and international organizations are constructive.
In this regard, the reaction of some NGOs was immediate. The press release of the Citizens Against Corruption Human Rights Center said that the adoption of these initiatives by the country's Ombudsman "could damage the development of civil society, lead Kyrgyzstan to roll back from democratic principles and values, and also worsen relations with international financial institutions."
In addition, its leader Tolekan Ismailova said: “In the event of repetition of any subsequent threats and illegal actions against activists, human rights defenders from the authorities or the Ombudsman’s institution, as well as anti-constitutional initiatives to change the legal framework of non-profit organizations, she intends to court".
At various times, the Minister of Justice, the leadership of the special services and even the Ombudsman opposed NGOs existing on Western funds. The reason for the dislike of the civilian sector, which is actively involved in the political process, was the potential threat to national security that local NGOs that received Western grants could hide. The new episode of the campaign against NGOs, according to some current versions, may be associated with the participation of a number of major human rights organizations in the opposition For Reforms!
According to the Ministry of Justice, there are about 7,000 NGOs registered in the country and 30 international organizations are accredited that implement more than 200 projects. And the statement of the Minister of Justice Marat Kaipov that NGOs that receive foreign funding are subject to verification, has caused an ambiguous reaction in the society.
At that time, the Association of Civil Society Support Centers (ACSSC) issued a statement saying that representatives of the civil sector express their protest and deep concern over the audit of international organizations and NGOs that receive funding from abroad. "In our opinion, this decision is a gross violation of the Law" On Non-Profit Organizations, "the appeal says, according to which the state guarantees non-commercial organizations the conditions for fulfilling their statutory tasks and prohibits interference by government bodies or officials in their activities."