Legal Policy Research Centre has implemented projects due to financial support of diplomatic representative offices accredited in the Republic of Kazakhstan, international and governmental organizations, foreign and Kazakhstani non-governmental public organizations and fonds providing financial aid (grants) in accordance with the list approved by the Republic of Kazakhstan governmental decree No 376 of March 20, 2009.
In 2016, we are implementing the following projects:
"Promoting policy and practice on Business and Human Rights in Kazakhstan" (June 2015 - December 2016)
The project addresses the issue of the impact of business enterprises on human rights in Kazakhstan. There are several concerns relating to business and human rights framework in the country. The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and hazardous substances and wastes during his recent visit to Kazakhstan in March 2015 identified the following issues that need urgent attention: a) lack of consideration to human rights issues in economic and business development policies; b) gap between legislation and practice; c) lack of effective remedy for human rights protection. The report criticized the fragmented governance structure that does not allow for comprehensive monitoring of the impact of businesses on human rights situation in the country.
There have been some measures taken by the government on the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in relation to the process of seeking a membership in the OECD. The President addressed the business community with the task of including CSR in their policies. The first national forum on CSR was organized in 2008. Later in the year the President established the first national award “Paryz” to recognize the best practices of CSR in businesses of Kazakhstan. The government integrated the CSR requirement in the format of General Agreements of the government for 2009-2010 to promote the principles of the UN Global Compact. These measures, however, remained fragmented and did not yield any consistent policy. The issue of CSR gradually moved down from the government agenda and was pushed aside to the businesses for self-regulation.
In 2013 the OECD in its assessment of the responsible business conduct (“RBC”) policies in Kazakhstan came to the following conclusions: 1) lack of coordination among stakeholders and common understanding of what RBC policies should entail; 2) lack of transparency in public administration leading to corruption; 3) gaps in policy coherence in labor relations; 4) lack of proper environment management policy and practices; 5) poor stakeholder engagement.
LPRC has been working on promoting the UN Guiding principles on business and human rights in Kazakhstan since 2012. The issue has become one of the pillars of its program strategy. During the implementation of two consecutive projects, LPRC discovered that there is a complete lack of understanding of the concept of “business and human rights” and its relevance to responsible business conduct standards under the OECD documents.
In 2015, the situation has changed due to the scheduling of the OECD Second Investment Review under the Country Program with Kazakhstan, which has a separate section on RBC. The upcoming assessment prompted the government stakeholders to take urgent actions, such as designate a special person, consolidate all information on RBC issues and seek cooperation with civil society. Moreover, the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs – the largest business association representing the interests of national companies, initiated adoption and promotion of the CSR strategy among businesses. NCE invited LPRC to partner with them in implementing the activities on CSR integration into business practices in the country.
The Project goal is Integrate human rights based approach into the economic and business development policies in Kazakhstan
a) Ensure implementation of corporate social responsibility standards (CSR) into business practices.
b) Promote practices of human rights due diligence among businesses.
c) Provide quantifiable evidence on costs of human rights for businesses.
d) Effectively advocate for the development of the comprehensive government policy on responsible business conduct.
Capacity building of businesses on Corporate Social Responsibility. National Chamber of Entrepreneurs has preliminary adopted the Strategy on Corporate Social Responsibility. It is largely based on the Concept Paper on CSR developed by the Eurasia Foundation in Central Asia (EFCA), with the support of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kazakhstan in 2012 - 2013. The adopted strategy is targeting mainly the responsibilities and activities of the businesses, leaving out the roles of the government and the civil society in promoting CSR practices. LPRC provided commentaries by an international expert on the strategy document with specific recommendations for amendments. It is expected that NCE integrates LPRC recommendations before finalizing and adopting the document. After adoption of the Strategy on CSR, LPRC with the support of the NCE and in partnership with the Ernst & Young (Kazakhstan) is planning to conduct four regional workshops for business companies on how to integrate CSR polices in practice in the regions. The workshops will target large and medium companies and provide step by step instructions on how to meaningfully implement CSR practices to the benefit of companies and communities. The tentative places for conducting workshops are: Almaty, Astana, Atyrau and Usk-Kamenogorsk. LPRC in partnership with E&Y will develop the methodology for the workshops, identify trainers and develop comprehensive information kit for practical use by companies. The workshops shall be held for one full day with 25 participants in each region.
Launching the practice of human rights risk assessments of businesses. Responsible business conduct, inter alia, implies avoiding adverse impacts of business activity and addressing them when they occur. Human rights risk-based due diligence is the tool to avoid and address these impacts. It is a process through which enterprises should identify, prevent and mitigate actual and potential adverse impacts, and account for how these impacts are addressed. Human rights due dilligence (HRDD) is promoted equally by the UN Guidling Principles on B&HR (UNGPs) and the OECD Guidelines on RBC. Kazakhstan companies do have the experience, knowledge and skills to conduct HRDD due to to the general context of lack of awareness of business & human rights framework. LPRC, as part of its previous project, developed sample methodology on human rights due dilligence. In cooperation with the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, LPRC shall conduct pilot assessment of human rights risks of selected companies in Kazakhstan. The pilots will demonstrate to businesses the benefits of identiyfing and addressing risks in advance to avoid potential losses. The pilots will also provide an opportunity to test and improve methodologies of HRDD for further application and development in the country. The companies shall be selected on the voluntary basis to ensure their genuine cooperation. It is expected to select up to two companies for pilot testing during the project. LPRC shall indentify local and internaitonal experts to conduct the due dilligence. It is possible that the reports shall not be public to accomodate the interests of companies. Given that the assessment shall be held for the first, it is likely that the companies insist on confidentiallity. The reports shall be available for the review by project donors on the confidential basis. The sub-actvities shall consist of adapting the methodlogy for the companies to be reivewed, assembling a team of experts, conducting the due dillgience and preparation of the report.
Empirical research on cost of human rights violations for businesses. Monetary expressions of potential risks is a good illustration of importance of risk assessment and prevention measures. Human rights in general is an alien concept for businesses. To bring the idea home to them it is useful to show how much in monetary expressions they can lose if they continue to ignore these issues. The approach of calculating potential costs is equally a persuasive argument for decision makers to move on with the comprehensive policy on RBC. LPRC is proposing to conduct a unique research on the cost of human rights violations in Kazakhstan. The research will target selected oil and gas companies and focus on the most common group of rights impacted by these industries.
Advocacy campaign on RBC. LPRC has been working on the advocacy campaign on business & human rights since 2012. LPRC will organize four focus groups meetings with the stakeholders to discuss opportunities for developing a government strategy on RBC in the form of national action plan. LPRC will use existing advocacy platforms, such as the working group on legislation under the Advisory Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to put this issue on the agenda for promotion in 2015-2016. LPRC will continue the tradition of organizing the Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights to track developments in this area in Kazakhstan and worldwide. The forum promotes information sharing and cooperation among stakeholders and experts from various countries, thus, building an informal network on business and human rights in the region. To ensure sustainability, LPRC will produce three educational webinars on B&HR issues for the business community and civil society.
"Consolidating civil society efforts to promote protection of human rights defenders" (April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2017)
The project is aimed at strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Kazakhstan, where they are most at risk of violation by ensuring effective protection of human rights defenders and civil society representatives that have to work in a hostile environment and in constant fear of persecution or reprisals for their activities. The Project will work to provide support to human rights defenders in cases of legal action, pressure, harassment and persecution in the Republic of Kazakhstan, to strengthen capacity of civil society to prevent and manage risks and to foster political will of the Kazakhstani authorities to fulfill country’s international obligations on ensuring fundamental human rights and freedoms. Specific objectives of the Project is: to provide legal protection/assistance to human rights defenders and their activities in the Republic of Kazakhstan; to inform the general public inside Kazakhstan and international community about the work and role of human rights defenders in promoting democratic freedoms; to facilitate the dialogue between the state structures and the civil society in order to bring national legislation in compliance with international standards; to generate accurate information on implementation of fundamental human rights and freedoms through reports to ICCPR, ICESCR, OSCE.
The idea of the project was supported by the Delegation of the European Union in Kazakhstan, which has provided financial and technical support to the project. The initiators of the project is Legal Policy Research Centre and the Public Association "ECHO ". The total project budget 220 000 euro. The contribution of the EU Delegation in Kazakhstan is 209 000 euro.
Legal support and risk management of human rights defenders. The project is aimed at special education of group of selected advocates on specification of their work in protection of human rights defenders who are involved in criminal/civil/administrative process. The project proposes to conduct one training seminar for 15 practicing lawyers in Almaty. The participants shall be selected from members of Astana, Almaty and regional Bar Associations, where human rights defenders are mostly active. After the results of the training, 10 practicing lawyers shall be selected provide legal consultations and protection / assistance to human rights defenders, with the focus on legal aid provision in individual cases where human rights defenders face legal action in civil proceedings or prosecution in criminal proceedings for their activities or because of their human rights work.
The project will provide technical and advisory support for the mobile group of defense lawyers for representing interests of human rights defenders in situations resulting in threats, risk of or actual persecution for human rights 'defenders' activities. Technical support will be in form of payment of 5 honoraria to advocates on cases connected with protection of human rights defenders in pretrial and trial stages of criminal, civil and administrative process. The support will be provided to cases at any stage of the process (main trial proceedings, appeal / cassation / supervisory proceeding in courts of Kazakhstan). The project will also provide consultations to advocates, who protect human rights defenders on the stage of preparation complaints to the UN Committee on Human Rights. For this purpose, the project will commission 3 national and international experts for providing consultations on preparation of complaints to the UNCHR.
Kazakhstan NGOs has a long practice of conducting financial and project audits of their activities. Audit results, as a rule, do not contain any analysis of potential risks for individuals and organizations connected to their human rights activities. NGOs need to learn how to perform risk assessment and receive qualified advice on how they can be mitigated. To respond to this need, the project will assemble a team of lawyers and experts to conduct risk assessment of the five most active human rights organizations in Kazakhstan. The assessment will produce strategic plan of actions to respond to political, financial, economic, social and technological risks.
Monitor situation with the respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms and threats to activities of human rights defenders in the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Project will prepare monitors that would systematically follow developments on the ground and collect all relevant information related to the situation fundamental human rights and freedoms, relevant threats and risks, with the special focus on human rights defenders. In total, 16 observers will be prepared to conduct data collection in 14 Kazakhstan oblasts, and also in Astana – capital city and in Almaty – the city of republican status.
The monitoring results will form the basis of eight newsletters (information bulletins), which are planned to be distributed each quarter for 2 years of the Project by on-line delivery to stakeholders (religious associations, state officials, decision makers, national and international human rights organizations, diplomatic missions, international organizations and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, etc) and also be placed bulletins in accessible Internet resources. These newsletters shall form the background for 2 Annual reports on situation with human rights defenders in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Reports will be distributed among all stakeholders through Media capability of the Project and advocacy campaign, planned within the Project. The information obtained within the framework of the monitoring will be used in preparation of the alternative reports of the civil society in the context of ICCPR and ICESCR.
Expert analytical activity on observation of fundamental human rights and freedoms in the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Project will commission research on review of international standards regarding selected rights and freedoms, such as peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, access to information, etc, in Kazakhstan. The research will produce the report on assessment of compliance of current regulation of Kazakhstan to its international obligations with recommendations on amending the gaps and contradictions.
Also project is aimed three expert opinions on Human Rights NGOs regulation and practice in Kazakhstan. The research will be dedicated to the issues of main threats existing in the legislation and law enforcement practice in Kazakhstan for human rights NGOs and defenders in performing their activities. The assessment will review laws and regulations on registration, financing, financial reporting, implementing activities, accountability, etc, which may have negative impact on further development of civil society in Kazakhstan. The research will provide comparative analysis of legislative regulations, international standards and positive international practices that may be employed by human rights organizations in Kazakhstan. The analysis will produce recommendations to the government on improving NGO regulation.
In addition the project includes preparation four expert opinions of new draft laws concerning regulation of fundamental rights and freedoms in Kazakhstan. The Ministry of Culture set up working group on developing amendments of national laws regulating activities of NGOs, their interactions with the government and mandatory reporting. In this regard, it is important the NGOs are equipped with resources to provide immediate expert assessment of all legislative amendments regulating activities of foreign and local NGOs. The amendments may include regulation of other civil and political rights. The project shall provide independent assessment of draft laws on NGO related activities regulation of activities of non-governmental organizations and the right to freedom of associations; of peacefully assembly, freedom of expression and access to information and etc.
Kazakhstan NGOs regularly experience various risks in their activities: public criticism from state authorities, imperfection of tax legislation, criminal provisions on liability for leaders of public associations, for interference in the affairs of state, large number of lawsuits regarding protection of honor and dignity of state officials in relation to journalists who write about social and political sensitive topics, control of activities by state bodies and etc. The NGOs are not equipped to perform risk management of their specific projects and activities. The project will produce practical guidelines on risk management specially for human rights NGOs. The guidelines will provide tools to handle standard risks of non commercial sector (technical, economic, social and political) and will propose an algorithm of actions for conducting risk management in organizations.
Advocacy, awareness raising and visibility component. The Project will organize the final Conference on Strengthening Fundamental Rights and Freedoms in the Republic of Kazakhstan” to present all project results. The leading experts of civil society, the representatives of national human rights institutions, state authorities and non-governmental organizations, international organizations and international experts will take part in the discussion. The experts will work out a number of concrete recommendations aimed at furthering effective realization of human rights in the country. As a result of the conference the organizers plan to reach a broad public awareness about fundamental human rights and freedoms; promote effective participation of the civil society in policy-making in the field of human rights protection; facilitate compliance of national legislation to international standards.
During implementation, the Project will organize 2 press-conferences: one interim and one final at the end of each year. The press conferences shall address the project findings, tendencies with compliance to human rights obligations, situation with human rights defenders and main project results. Briefing for representatives of international organizations and diplomatic missions located in Kazakhstan will be held at the end of the project in order to inform the international community about the current situation in Kazakhstan with the fundamental human rights and freedoms, and situation with human rights defenders, as well as on the results of the project and the extent to which Kazakhstan fulfills its international obligations.
The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Legal policy research centre and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.