This article looks into the situation of human rights activists in Kazakhstan, the challenges they face and the role of international organisations, in particular the OSCE. The article maintains that in the mid-nineties significant change of policy took place and the 'war on terror' put further challenges on human rights defenders and civil societies. In view of the author the advancement of democracy and human rights in the modern world has had four main adversaries: oil, gas, war on terror and geopolitics. These issues increasingly determine decisions taken at all levels, including those related to the ability of the international community to influence the countries where human rights violations happen frequently. Concerning Central Asia, the governments have ratified a number of international treaties on human rights and have joined the United Nations and the OSCE. However, they have failed to meet the majority of their obligations under the ratified international treaties and faced no major consequences for this failure. Internally there is a host of challenges that civil societies face and the author points to a number of frustrations on their part.