On 18 June 2015, the Joint Meeting of Subgroups under Consultative – Advisory Body “The Dialogue Platform on Human Dimension” (CAB DPHD) attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, took place in Astana. The meeting was devoted to the issues of implementation of the reform “Transparent and Accountable State” – the fifth institutional reform aimed at strengthening of Kazakhstan’s statehood, and issues of the state policy towards the development of civil society.
The meeting was attended by CAB DPHD members and its Subgroups: members of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, representatives from the Constitutional Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, academia, civil society and international organizations, as well as invited experts.
The joint meeting was organized by the Legal Policy Research Center, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (Secretariat of CAB DPHD) and International Legal Initiative with the support of “Soros – Kazakhstan” Foundation.
Work of Subgroups
Part of the discussion was devoted to organizational issues concerning activities of CAB DPHD Subgroups. Members of Subgroups on rule of law and lawmaking process outlined a number of suggestions aimed at further implementation of certain recommendations given by CAB DPHD, international bodies and organizations, cooperation with government agencies and departments in the framework of CAB DPHD activities and discussed possible forms of activities to promote recommendations of CAB DPHD Subgroups.
Participants of the meeting recommended to continue the coordinated policy of promotion the recommendations. In particular, Ambassador at Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan U.Suleymen expressed readiness of Kazakh MFA to facilitate regular meetings of CAB DPHD Subgroups in the MFA RK premises, press release distribution through the press service of the MFA, meetings in various forms using videoconferencing.
Members of Subgroups also indicated the need to continue practice of discussions of draft laws during CAB DPHD meetings, to consider mobile and effective forms of discussions concerning the recommendations of Subgroups with representatives of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, to synchronize the working plan of CAB DPHD with plans on lawmaking process of the Parliament and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan, to initiate newsletters about CAB DPHD activities in order to promote recommendations related to legislative initiatives of Kazakhstan, given by all Subgroups by the results of their work.
Separate sessions of the meeting were devoted to realization of 94th and 99th steps of 100 concrete steps to implement the five institutional reforms proposed by the Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev, through the implementation of open government. In particular, topical issues of the projects of the law “On access to information” and the law “On public control in the Republic of Kazakhstan” were discussed.
Access to information
A. Solovyova, MP – the Co-Chair of the CAB DPHD Working Group presented basic principles and approaches concerning the Draft Law “On Access to Information” to the participants of the meeting. “With the adoption of such law state bodies and other holders of information are obliged to give the maximum possible information about its activities. The scale of information available to the public will be significantly expanded. Procedures for obtaining the information about the activities of state bodies and other holders of information will be simple, easy and available “– said the deputy in her speech.
Invited expert O.Didenko – the lawyer of “Internews Network” Representative Office in Kazakhstan in her speech outlined the issues of promotion of international standards and positive international practice in order to make a Draft Law “On Access to Information”.
“Questions that need to be reflected in the Draft Law “On Access to Information” are still on the agenda. In particular, representatives of civil society have repeatedly highlighted the importance of including principles of three-part test to the law – set of conditions to limit access to information in accordance with international standards, which include testing for harm and the public interest. In addition, we recommend to consider the issue of establishing non-judicial authority of state control over the implementation of the right to access to information. In the states where such laws have been adopted, there are special bodies which have operational and institutional independence, sufficient financial, human and other resources necessary for the effective performance of its functions, and are endowed with adequate powers, including conduction of inspections and considering complaints connected with violations of the right to access to information” – suggested the expert.
Participants of the meeting shared the view that the draft law of RK “On Access to Information” needs to be improved in terms of inclusion of principles and approaches corresponding to international standards and practices of states – members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
A separate session of the meeting was devoted to the issues of public control. The initiative to prepare a Draft Law “On Public Control in the Republic of Kazakhstan” belongs to the political party “Nur Otan”. According to the Anti-Corruption Program of the party for 2015-2020 years, it is assumed to promote a law envisaging the regulation of the processes of public control and ensure citizens its implementation through the fraction in the Mazhilis of the Parliament.
In view of preparation of the draft law’s concept, members of CAB DHPD Subgroup on lawmaking process considered some issues related to the introduction of public control in Kazakhstan.
Y. Zhovtis, – the Co-Chair of the CAB DPHD Working Group, Chair of the Board and an Expert-Consultant of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, presented his conclusions concerning the draft law and noted that in legal sense, for instance, in European countries, the term “public control” is not applied.
“This represents a generalized concept concerning many tools, which promote transparency in formation and execution of state power, participation of society in the management of state affairs. If we talk about transparency in terms of formation of state power and its decision-making, then tools of public control may also include free and fair parliamentary and local elections in conditions of political pluralism; access to civil service; access to information of public interest; transparency in activities of Parliament and local representative bodies; transparency in activities of executive bodies etc. If we talk about public participation in the management of state affairs (decision-making), then in addition to parliamentary and local elections, public control can take different forms: from public councils and consultative- advisory bodies to public hearings and investigations. These tools in various combinations and forms are common to all democratic states. However, it is necessary to stress once again, that public control is not synonymous with inspections and supervision”– said the Co-Chair of the CAB DPHD Working Group.
Participants agreed that the concept of Draft Law “On Public Control” requires public discussion with representatives of civil society and recommended to suggest its drafters a joint work to prepare a new concept of this draft law.
Civil society development
The final session of the meeting was devoted to discussion of the Draft Law “On Amendments and Additions to Some Legal Acts Related to the Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations” and recent legislative initiatives affecting the issues of the non-profit sector’s activities, such as the Draft Law “On Charity” and the Draft Law “On Volunteer Activities”.
Co-coordinator of the CAB DPHD Subgroup on rule of law, President of the Foundation “International Legal Initiative” A.Shormanbayeva highlighted problems of civil society development in the light of the suggestions made by the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the Draft Law “On Amendments and Additions to Some Legal Acts Related to the Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations” and the accompanying draft law. Co-coordinator of the CAB DPHD Subgroup on rule of law noted that all three draft laws – “On Amendments and Additions to Some Legal Acts Related to the Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations”, “On Charity” and “On Volunteer Activities” should be taken as a single package, as they directly and collectively raise the questions of further activity of public organizations.
“According to the statements of law drafters (MCS), this draft law will not raise the questions of regulation of grants given to nonprofit organizations based in the Republic of Kazakhstan by international organizations, foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations. In that regard it is necessary to narrow the scope of the law by regulation of only state grants. In order to better define the scope of the law and exclude cases of duplication of legal regulation, it is necessary to introduce the term “state” before the word “grant” in the text of the law” – noted the expert.