Institutional Context

The Ministry of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Kazakhstan was the central executive agency in charge of environmental protection and was also responsible for implementing multilateral environmental agreements, national environmental policies, monitoring, environmental impact assessments, and enforcement.  In 2013, MEP was reorganized into the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan in accordance with the Decree of the President No 677 signed 29 October 2013: “On Further Improvement of the Public Administration System of the Republic of Kazakhstan”.  With this change, the duties to protect and restore forest and water resources and protected natural areas were transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).  Along with these duties, obligations under the Rio Conventions that previous fell on the Ministry of Agriculture are now the responsibility of the MEWR.

The Ministry’s previous efforts to implement sustainable development strategies were often thwarted by its own limited regulatory capacity over the very resources it was charged to protect and insufficient institutional clout to interact with key institutions (Ospanova, 2014).  One key advantage of the reorganization is that with the water resources governance under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, the Ministry itself is strengthened and has a stronger mandate to develop a more systematic approach to implementation of an integrated water management plan (Ospanova, 2014).

The Sustainable Development Council, comprised of representatives from government, private sector, research institutions and NGOs is among a number of structures and mechanisms to implement the Rio Conventions.  The Council bases its activities on inter-agency cooperation with the aim of catalyzing the integration of economic, social, and environmental policies to achieve sustainable development.  Because this institutional mechanism is already in place, the Sustainable Development Council is expected to be revitalized and its mission strengthened to coordinate inter-agency implementation of the Green Economy Concept (Ospanova, 2014).

The Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning is the central executive authority responsible for cross-sectoral and inter-regional coordination and the formation and implementation of national public policy.  Its mission is to develop a coherent and effective system of state planning, focused on achieving strategic objectives and to implement priority the socio-economic development and to develop trading activities and to develop trading activities.  In 2008, the Ministry explored the possibility of introducing a wider range of environmental and social protection indicators into Kazakhstan’s national accounting practices.  Although the exercise was only a theoretical explanation, it was one of the first national attempts to discuss the possibility of green accounting (Ospanova, 2014).

The Ministry of Industry and New Technologies (formerly Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources) determines policy in numerous sectors of the economy including coal, nuclear and renewable energy use as well as mining, construction and chemical safety among others.  The Ministry also bears the responsibility for development, attraction, introduction and use of technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector (UNDP, 2006, p. 4).

Complex public administration reforms have been implemented since 1997, and improvements are being made to aid efficiency and effectiveness of the government at all levels.  Nonetheless, there is still institutional weakness with regard to the delivery of public services, and efforts to engage the public through social dialogue require further development.  Significant disparities between the objectives of local governments and their capacity to deliver, as well as the underdevelopment of civil society organizations need to be addressed in order to achieve inclusiveness and equitable access (UN, 2009, p. 20)

As of March 2013, there is a draft Law on Local Governance that is designed to strengthen capacities of local communities to monitor local state budget spending, and encourage development of multi-stakeholder public and local community entities that can engage with the local and sub-regional authorities.  By strengthening local governance and community participation, this legislation is an important step towards good governance and accountability at the local and sub-regional scale (Ospanova, 2014, p. 19).

The Ministry of Environmental Protection (now the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources), with the help of the United States and the European Union, established an independent, nonprofit, and nonpolitical Regional Environmental Center in Kazakhstan to support sustainable development and strengthen civil society by promoting public awareness and participation in environmental decision-making among the countries of Central Asia (US State Department, 2014).  Kazakhstan does have other such NGOs and coalitions with an established record on socio-environmental issues.  Success stories include campaigns against radioactive waste disposal and the degradation of the Caspian Sea.  Nonetheless, there is significantly less history of independent civil society participation in the economic arena, particularly with regard to the extractive sector (Ospanova, 2014).

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