Azerbaijan has been permanently suspended from the Open Government Partnership.
Why is this news important?
What is the Open Government Partnership?
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global partnership of 75 countries and 104 local governments working with thousands of civil society organizations to build more open, inclusive, and accountable governments. Azerbaijan joined the platform in 2011.
What were the relations between OGP and Azerbaijan?
Since its accession in 2011, the government has put forward 3 National Action Plans, the latest of which covers the years 2020-2022. Overall, the goal of this collaboration was to contribute to building a more open, inclusive and accountable government in Azerbaijan. The areas for which the reforms were intended covered a wide range of areas, including public services, open information, participation, and financial transparency. Where did the problems start? In 2015, civil society organizations accused Azerbaijan of restricting the civil society environment and sent an open request for measures to be taken by the OGP. This appeal was related to direct interventions in the activities of civil society in the country and the adoption of restrictive laws on that eve. As a result, Azerbaijan’s membership was temporarily suspended in 2016. S
So what happened next?
After the temporary suspension of the membership, the government appealed to the OGP to restore its membership, but the organisation reiterated the main condition for the restoration of the membership as the restoration of the enabling environment for civil society. OGP stated that the government has completed only one of the 7 recommendations set before it after the temporary suspension of the membership, and that one too – incompletely. Why did the permanent suspension come? The results of the independent evaluation conducted by the OGP in May 2023 were not encouraging for the government – the government deemed failed to implement the recommendations made by the organisation, that is, to restore a enabling environment for civil society. As a result, it was decided to permanently suspend the status of Azerbaijan in the OGP.
What does it mean?
The decision coincides with rising trend of political pressure and smearing campaigns against critics and civil society members in Azerbaijan. Despite the passage of a long time and the adoption of a series of National Action Plans, no systematic steps have been taken to establish an open, inclusive and accountable government; Whereas the steps taken proved to be only cosmetic in nature and not accompanied by real contributions.
Article 54 published “Assessment Paper on the situation of Public Participation in Azerbaijan” in 2023 which analyses the government’s actions and expose deficiencies in the light of the domestical and international obligations of the government in the field of public participation, the obligations before OGP and the implementation of the last National Action Plan.
You can get acquainted with the assessment paper here: https://article54.net/2023/07/17/1039/
We thus reiterate our call on the government to draw conclusions from this decision, to undertake meaningful steps to, alongside other obligations, create favourable environment for civil society organisations to operate without retaliations and pressure. Only in this form is it possible to ensure public’s participation in fair decision-making processes