On March 2, 2015 three civil society organizations submitted a letter of concern to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) regarding the climate for civil society to operate in Azerbaijan. The letter was filed under the OGP Response Policy, which aims to assist countries wanting to re-establish an environment for government and civil society collaboration, and to safeguard the Open Government Declaration and mitigate reputational risks to OGP. The Government of Azerbaijan is a participant in OGP and has endorsed the Open Government Declaration.
Under the Response Policy the Criteria and Standards subcommittee of the OGP Steering Committee was mandated to conduct a review of the evidence presented in the letter. On May 18, the subcommittee met and agreed to adopt a report which found the concerns expressed in the letter to be relevant to the Government of Azerbaijan’s participation in OGP and to the text of the Open Government Declaration. It also deemed the concerns credible in terms of the evidence presented.
The report included extensive desk research, interviews with experts familiar with the ongoing situation in Azerbaijan, and a formal communication from the Government of Azerbaijan.
Following adoption of the report the following stage 1 actions under the Response Policy will now be undertaken by the OGP Steering Committee:
●Engage in or broker diplomatic outreach with the Government of Azerbaijan at the official and/or political level.
●Offer to broker technical assistance to work on the issues raised in the letter of concern. This includes contacting multilateral partners active in Azerbaijan to help address the issues raised in the concern.
●Invite the Government of Azerbaijan to work with the Criteria and Standards subcommittee in establishing a work plan with regular check-ins and a timeline for Azerbaijan to address the situation.
If these stage 1 actions fail to have the desired impact, or the situation does not improve within three months, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee will recommend further actions to the full OGP Steering Committee.
Today’s decision and the report have been formally communicated to the Government of Azerbaijan and to the three organisations which filed the concern. The report has also been made public on the OGP website.
The Criteria and Standards subcommittee is composed of the Governments of Brazil, Croatia, Tanzania and the United States of America, and civil society leaders Sugeng Bahagijo (INFID), Mukelani Dimba (Open Democracy Advice Centre), Nathaniel Heller (Results for Development) and Warren Krafchik (International Budget Partnership).