Azerbaijan joined the “Open Government Partnership” in 2011 and for 5th of September, 2012 it adopted the first 2012-2015 OGP Action Plan. The Azerbaijan issue became active on 18th of May this year in Washington D.C., where the OGP’s Sub-committee on Criteria and Standards presented the report, where the problematic issues emphasized by the civil society organization in Azerbaijan are considered.
On 2nd of March, civil society organization submitted complaint letter to the OGP for suppression of the civil society organizations in Azerbaijan. The letter was based on the OGP’s Response Policy that aims to “assist a country in question to overcome difficulties and to help re-establish an environment for government and civil society collaboration, safeguard the Open Government Declaration and mitigate reputation risks to OGP”. In the letter, the following organizations – Civicus, Publish What You Pay and Article 19 – stated that the Azerbaijan authority violated the civil activists’ right to join associations, freedom of expression, etc. Freedom of civil society organizations is the cornerstone of the Open Government Deceleration that was shared by Azerbaijan in 2011 by joining OGP.
The authors of the letter presented number of arguments to prove the government’s oppression of the civil society organizations. Precisely, charging for tax nonpayment; Also, by financial and activity control the government agencies try to hinder SCOs activities. In response to this accusation, Azerbaijan presented formal response to OGP steering committee that stated, the image portrayed by the SCOs representatives do not match the reality in the country. In the same response letter, the government explained the changes in the regulations about the SCOs intend to promote more reliability, transparency and accountability which can not be seen as an act of oppression on SCOs.
Under the mandate of Communication Policy, the Sub-committee on Standards and Criteria prepared a report that is based on the researches and interviews with professionals in Azerbaijan domestic affairs. After the analysis of the information, members of the sub-committee gathered on 18th of May and agreed on the text in which they concluded that the complaint letter from the SCOs was convincing enough. This is the first case of using OGP’s Communication Policy. Azerbaijan government was notified about the decision immediately. As for the first step the Steering Committee will take actions according to the Feedback Policy, Azerbaijan government will be offered the technical assistance about the issue voiced in the complaint letter; also OGP will support Azerbaijan to draft action plan to solve this particular problem. If the actions undertaken in the first step are useless then the Committee on Standards and Criteria will pass the further recommendations to improve the situation.