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Towards Civil Society: 20 years of the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan

ALMATY, November 2, 2015 – Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan (SFK), a Kazakhstani non-governmental charity organization founded in 1995 by the Open Society Institute, celebrates its 20th anniversary. Throughout these years, the SFK put over $70 million to promote equality, justice, human rights, public finance transparency, and strengthening the civil society.

«These were exciting 20 years. Through dedicated work of our partners, substantial results have been achieved across various fields. We are proud of our collective accomplishments, such as an implementation of palliative care, inclusive education and juvenal justice in Kazakhstan along with the adoption of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and increased budget transparency and accountability», said Anton Artemyev, Chair of the Executive Council of Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan, in his welcoming speech.

«The Foundation’s programs are aimed at making Kazakhstan stronger. The foundation’s strategy is developed and implemented by the local staff, so the Foundation is indeed a Kazakhstani organization», said George Soros, the founder of the Open Society Foundations, who visited Kazakhstan to attend this celebratory event. «I believe that the open society is a stronger society, and wish my Foundation and its partners further success on the way towards open society in Kazakhstan».

In the beginning of this welcoming address, Mr. Leonard Benardo, Regional Director for Eurasia of the Open Society Foundations, conveyed the message from George Soroswho congratulated the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, staff and partners on the anniversary and wished further success on the way towards open society in Kazakhstan.

«During its history, SFK frequently catalyzed successful initiatives which have been supported and later continued by the government and private sector», said Leonard Benardo. «Currently the Foundation also implements ambitious programs which are aimed to help Kazakhstan become a strong, modern and liberal country».

«Our organization has undergone several strategic transformations in its historyOur first programs pursued the goal of helping independent Kazakhstan to overcome difficulties of economic and political transitionIn the beginning of the new century our programs’ portfolio shifted toward good governance projects», said Nargis Kassenova, Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. «Now is difficult times for the open society in the world, and we see our role today in protecting and advancing open society values in Kazakhstan by making them known and shared by people of different walks of life».

To congratulate the Foundation on its 20th anniversary, prominent government officials, including Usen Suleimen, the Ambassador at Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, as well as the representatives of international organizations and civil society partners, experts, journalists and artists, joined the celebration.

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Over 20 years, nearly 2,000 students had studied at leading universities around the globe.  Seventy doctors across various medical specializations attended the professional development program of the Salzburg Global Seminars in Austria. A hundred-and-twenty specialists received training in palliative care. The Foundation supported book releases by contemporary Kazakhstani writers, including Didar Amantai, Talasbek Asemkulov, Aigul Kemelbayeva, Ilya Odegov, Nikolai Verevochkin and Yerbol Zhumagulov.

With the support of the SFK and its civil society partners, in 2005 Kazakhstan joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and in 2013 the EITI International Board designated Kazakhstan as “an EITI compliant.” The SFK began to support local self-governance initiatives in 1996 and since then continues to bolster these efforts as the government of Kazakhstan stepped on the path of decentralization of power.

During these 20 years, with the SFK support there had been established The Center of Modern Art, the House of Volunteers, Education Center “Step by Step,” the National Debate Center, the Language School, the Center for Democracy Education, an online training center “Bilim-Central Asia” (“Knowledge-Central Asia”) that had branch offices in Astana, Karaganda, Shymkent and Aktobe.

In the 1990s, the SFK supported the launch of the first national series “Perekrestok” (The Cross Roads), and in 2014 – the release of short films “Stroiteli” (The Builders) by Adilkhan Yerzhanov, “500 tenge” by Gleb Ponomarev, “Prizrak” (The Ghost) by Eldar Shibanov,  “Derzhi menya za ruku” (Hold My Hand) by Saltanat Murzalinova-Yakovleva.

Today, the SFK works across various thematic areas, such as public finance transparency, media development, human rights, support of youth initiatives, public policy development in Kazakhstan, pretection of human rights for people with mental disabilities, and the promotion of best practices of budget transparency and accountability at the local level.

For further information about our projects please visit www.soros.kz