The results from the “Open Government Platform in Action“ Project were presented on 1 August 2017. Held at Holiday Inn Hotel, the event was attended by the members of the Open Government Platform and other NGO representatives, Kamal Jafarov, Head of the Secretariat of the Commission on Combating Corruption, Rahim Rahimov, Head of the Department of Legal Entities and Citizenship Status of the Ministry of Justice, Farasat Gurbanov, Executive Director of the Council on State Support to NGOs under the Auspices of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ayse Aydin, Deputy Head of Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Murad Nasibbayli, Program Officer of Eurasia Partnership Foundation as well as the representatives from the Delegation of the European Union to Azerbaijan, the Embassy of United States of America, the Embassy of France, the Embassy of Switzerland, the Ministry of Taxes, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technology, the Ministry of Health, the State Migration Service, the State Property Committee, the State Oil Fund.
Package of Proposals to be submitted to the Government
Addressing the event with his opening remarks, Alimammad Nuriyev, Coordinator of the Open Government Platform said that the “Open Government Platform in Action” Project was financed by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF). EPF has not only supported the said project, but also financed many other projects related to open government initiatives. By embracing a wide range of activities, all these projects have greatly contributed to the implementation of open government reforms in Azerbaijan.
Briefing the meeting participants on the Open Government Platform, Nuriyev said that it was established last September pursuant to the National Action Plan 2016-2018 for Promoting the Open Government, and has embodied the significant activities since. The Platform acts as a consultative mechanism with the civil society for introducing open government initiatives in Azerbaijan. By facilitating a dialogue between the civil society and the government, the Platform has been offering a useful forum for open debate, interaction and cooperation. Since the Platform’s inception, the cooperation between the civil society and the government has transcended to a higher institutional level. This mechanism provides for the preparation, adoption and implementation of joint decisions. “During this period the Platform has prepared and submitted to the government proposals on the legislation regulating the activity of NGOs, the law on grants, the procedure for obtaining the right to provide grants by foreign donors. These proposals prompted the Cabinet of Ministers to adopt the changes that have eliminated many bureaucratic barriers to the registration of grants, and simplified the registration procedure,” said Nuriyev
Nuriyev added that the Commission on Combating Corruption and other government agencies has been supporting the civil society in the implementation of open government initiatives. “The Council on State Support to NGOs financed 12 projects in this particular direction in 2017. Meantime, open government reforms are one of the priorities on the government’s agenda. The measures undertaken by the government of Azerbaijan have had in common with open government reforms. One of the main duties of civil society is to assist with the successful implementation of these reforms.”
The Platform Coordinator also spoke about a downgrade of Azerbaijan’s status in the Open Government Partnership. According to Nuriyev, a number of local and international organizations strive to suspend Azerbaijan’s membership in the OGP. “However, the efforts of the Azerbaijani civil society together with the measures undertaken by the government thwarted these plans. Azerbaijan continues its activity in the OGP, and many of the recommendations were implemented in the country over the past period. The civil society has been actively working with the government in this regard. Azerbaijan’s inactive status was extended for one more year. The new recommendations are being prepared with the participation of all stakeholders. The Platform will actively work in this direction,” said Nuriyev.
The Platform Coordinator noted that the Open Government Platform focuses its attention on the implementation of the National Action Plan 2016-2018 for Promoting the Open Government. “The civil society was widely engaged in the development of this Plan. 32 measures were included in the Plan based on the civil society proposals. A number of activities were undertaken to monitor and research several aspects of the Plan in the frame of the “Open Government Platform in Action” Project. The Platform members will summarize the project results and then submit them to the government as a single package,” concluded Nuriyev.
Nuriyev expressed his gratitude to the Projec donors – the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, and Sabit Baghirov, Coordinator of the “Open Government Platform in Action” Project.
Kingdom of the Netherlands and EPF to spotlight open government initiatives
Ayse Aydin, Deputy Head of Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Azerbaijan touched upon the efforts to strengthen civil society in Azerbaijan and finance the projects that focus on improving the legislation and furthering open government initiatives. “We started to finance the small grants program a few years ago, and the main goal was to support the projects that strengthen civil society. I am pleased that experts and government representatives were invloved in the projects implemented under the small grants program so far, and that the state agencies had also taken into account expert opinions. I’m glad to be here and I think we’ll continue to finance the small grants program in the coming years,” she concluded.
According to Murad Nasibbayli, Program Manager of Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF), open government initiatives gained prominence in the frame of the Small Grants Program for Promoting Human Rights, Democratization and Good Governance, administered by the EPF Azerbaijan with the financial support of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. “Very good projects were implemented in the area of transparency, accountability and civic participation, and they yielded successful results. Significant work was carried out under the “Open Government Platform in Action” Project. The Eurasia Partnership Foundation will continue its efforts in this direction,” he underlined.
Azerbaijan to prepare recommendations for the OGP
Kamal Jafarov, Head of the Secretariat of the Commission on Combating Corruption, and Coordinator of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the Open Government Partnership noted that Azerbaijan had been an OGP member since 2011. Two national action plans on promoting the open government were adopted during this period. “This shows the political will of the government of Azerbaijan to implement open government reforms. Azerbaijan is interested in taking these measures. The 1st National Action Plan was successfully implemented. The results of the monitoring carried out by the Commission revealed that 86% of the Plan was implemented. The results of monitoring studies conducted by the civil society actors, including Transparency Azerbaijan and “Constitution” Research Foundation imply to 82% of implementation rate. The National Action Plan 2016-2018 on Promoting the Open Government was developed by civil society. 60% of the proposals put forth by civil society were taken into consideration. The CSOs are also expected to actively partake in monitoring the Plan. An electronic monitoring system is currently used to track the implementation of planned actions. This system allows the state agencies to monitor the implementation status and state of the actions thoroughly. It is intended to enable the Platform to access this system. Thus, it will be possible to conduct joint monitoring,” noted Jafarov.
Jafarov highly assessed the involvement of all stakeholders in developing the recommendations for the OGP with regard to Azerbaijan. “The recommendations will be developed by August 15. We invite civil society to get involved in developing these proposals. I call upon civil society to submit proposals to the Open Government Platform. Neither local CSOs nor the government were previously involved in elaborating recommendations. It was impossible to realize some of these proposals,” concluded Jafarov.
18 round tables, more than 500 participants
Sabit Baghirov, President of Entrepreneurship Development Foundation presented the results of the “Open Government Platform in Action” Project. Baghirov said that a package of proposals geared to further a favorable environment for civil society organizations in Azerbaijan was prepared and discussed with all stakeholders in the frame of the Project. A study was conducted to evaluate civic participation in the discussions of draft state budget at the National Assembly (Parliament), and subsequently the proposals were developed and put forward. The public discussions were held with regard to the annual report on the implementation of state budget and public disclosure of the opinion of the Chamber of Accounts to the annual report. An assessment study was conducted to determine the extent of exposure of the annual financial reports of the state-owned legal persons and budget organizations. A public discussion of the financial control measures taken by the Chamber of Accounts was held. The Project also assessed the level of awareness of the municipal employees about the code of ethics, and the scope of measures taken to enhance their professionalism. A public discussion was held to determine the level of transparency, which presently exists in the extractive industry. An assessment study was conducted to identify to what extent the work principles and transparency standards of ASAN Service Centers are employed in the state authorities. One of the Project components was to evaluate the activity of the Appeals Councils, established with the purpose of addressing entrepreneurial challenges and examining complaints of business entities. Four roundtable meetings were held to inform the public about the objective and importance of the economic reforms taken hold under the Strategic Roadmaps. In total, over 520 participants partook in 18 round tables held within the Project framework. A large majority of attendees represented non-governmental organizations that are members and non-members of the Platform, while 29 public officials and 11 representatives from international organizations were in attendance.
Strategic Plan of the Open Government Platform developed
Following the Platform Coordinator, Rana Safaraliyeva, Executive Director of Transparency Azerbaijan took the floor and presented the results of the monitoring study on the use of the guiding work principles and transparency standards of ASAN Service Centers in the state authorities.
Zaur Ibrahimli, Expert of “Constitution” Research Foundation, presented a Strategic Plan 2017-2020 of the Open Government Platform.