ARTICLE 19 welcomes the report, adopted by the Steering Committee of the Open Governance Partnership (OGP) on 18th May, acknowledging the inability of civil society in Azerbaijan to actively participate in and influence Azerbaijan’s OGP action plan, deeming this to affect Azerbaijan’s participation in the OGP.
Further to the report, the OPG steering committee will engage with the Government of Azerbaijan to support the country to meet its commitments, as a member of the OGP, to promote open governance through the implementation of a national action plan, in partnership with civil society in the country.
Since early 2014, the government of Azerbaijan has orchestrated a ruthless crackdown on civil society, resulting in the imprisonment on trumped-up charges of dozens of civil society and media actors. In parallel, the government has deployed legal threats and persecution against a number of other CSOs, forcing them to stop activities or flee the country.
“The OGP’s acknowledgment of the dire situation facing Azerbaijani civil society is an important step in exerting pressure on the government of Azerbaijan to cease its persecution of civil society. It is absolutely clear that Azerbaijan cannot fulfil its commitments to promoting open governance, while locking up the very civil society who should be supporting reform”, said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
The report was precipitated by a joint letter from ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS and Publish What You Pay, sent to the OGP steering committee on March 2nd, expressing concerns about the campaign against civil society in Azerbaijan. The report, which was unanimously agreed by the subcommittee on May 18th, finds the concerns outlined in the letter to be credible, deeming them to be relevant to the Azerbaijani Government’s participation in OGP.
The OGP Steering Committee will now engage with the Government of Azerbaijan, offering technical support to address the lack of civic space in the country, and inviting the government to establish a work plan to address the situation. If these actions fail to have an impact, or the situation regarding civic space does not improve within the next three months, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee will recommend further actions to the full OGP Steering Committee.
“This is the first submission under the OGP policy on Upholding the Values and Principles of the OGP, to address concerns about civic space in OGP countries. If the OGP is to remain effective and credible, it is essential that appropriate steps are taken to address Azerbaijan’s flagrant disregard of its commitments, and ensure that civil society leaders, currently imprisoned on false charges, are released and can participate fully in shaping and implementing the OGP national action plan”, said David Banisar, Senior Legal Counsel at ARTICLE 19.
To read the full report adopted by the OGP Steering Committee, click here.