Washington, D.C, June 29, 2017 – The Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership today resolved that Azerbaijan will maintain its inactive status in OGP, due to unresolved constraints on the operating environment for Non-Governmental Organizations.
The response policy was triggered in March 2015 when concerns were raised by three civil society organizations – Publish What You Pay, Civicus and Article 19 – about difficulties faced by civil society in Azerbaijan. After carrying out an exhaustive review process, the OGP Criteria and Standards subcommittee found that the concerns were valid. Following this process, Azerbaijan was designated inactive on May 4, 2016.
After a year of inactivity, the Steering Committee recognizes and appreciates recent positive steps taken by the Government of Azerbaijan, particularly in addressing OGP process concerns. These steps include setting up a consultation process to develop the 2016-2018 National Action Plan (NAP), establishing a multi-stakeholder OGP forum, and creating a “one stop shop” for grant registration. However, the core issues of concern raised in the original letter, validated by OGP’s Criteria and Standards subcommittee, remain unresolved. While some improvements have been made, there are still substantial challenges in the overall operating environment for civil society.
OGP’s 22-member Steering Committee – composed in equal parts of government and civil society representatives – made the decision this week at its working-level meeting in Washington, D.C. A vote was taken with 19 members in favour, one against and two abstaining.
The government of Azerbaijan will have a second one-year period to address the concerns raised by civil society organizations. The Steering Committee further mandated the Criteria and Standards Subcommittee, in consultation with civil society and government, to develop an updated set of requirements to improve the unresolved issues by September 15, 2017. The requirements will be drafted in consultation with the Government of Azerbaijan, local civil society, and external experts, and the 12-month inactivity extension period will begin once these requirements have been developed.
Azerbaijan will maintain its inactive status, which means it will be ineligible to vote in OGP elections and will only be allowed to attend OGP events as an observer for learning purposes. Azerbaijan will continue to receive Steering Committee and Support Unit assistance, including from OGP Working Groups, multilateral partners and peer exchange visits.
If at any point during the inactivity period the Criteria and Standards subcommittee determines that the government of Azerbaijan has sufficiently addressed the original concerns, it may recommend to the full Steering Committee that Azerbaijan return to its active status in the Partnership.