Skip Navigation
Armenia

Platform for Submitting Petitions (AM0044)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Armenia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Justice

Support Institution(s): Office of the Prime Minister "Harmonious Development" NGO (upon consent), "Armavir Development Center" NGO

Policy Areas

E-Government, E-petitions, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance

IRM Review

IRM Report: Armenia Transitional Results Report 2018-2020, Armenia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

10. Creation of a unified electronic platform for submitting petitions
Commitment Start and End Date Commitment Start: November 2018
Commitment End: August 2020
Lead implementing agency Ministry of Justice
Person responsible from implementing agency Anna Harutyunyan
Title, Department Chief specialist of the Division for Electronic Justice and Implementation of Innovative Programmes of the Staff of the Ministry of Justice
Email: harutyunyanannag@gmail.com
Phone + 374 10 59 41 59
Other actors involved Other state actors involved Office of the Prime Minister
Civil society, private sector "Harmonious Development" NGO (upon consent), "Armavir Development Center" NGO
Issue subject to regulation As a result of adoption of the Law of the Republic of Armenia "On petitions", each person has the right to submit a letter on matters of public significance, report on shortcomings of activities of state and local self-government bodies and officials, or a proposal on improving the activities of state and local self-government bodies and officials, settlement of issues relating to economic, political, social and other sectors of civil life or improvement of legal regulations in effect. At the same time, by the above-mentioned Law, both the written form and electronic way are separated as a way of submitting petitions. Accordingly, realisation of this constitutionally-enshrined right will be more effective and guaranteed as a result of creation of the unified electronic platform for submitting petitions.

Main objective Ensuring the effective process for submitting petitions, ensuring an open, accountable and transparent process for consideration of petitions, increasing the transparency and accountability of activities of state bodies, improving public administration, promoting the state-private sector cooperation
Brief Description of Commitment A unified electronic platform for submitting petitions will be created
OGP challenge addressed by the commitment Improvement of public confidence, enhancement of public integrity
Relevance to OGP values Creation of the platform will lead to transparency, accountability of activities of state bodies, promotion of participatory democracy and innovation
Ambition Creation of the platform will ensure the transparency and accountability of activities of state bodies
Promotes efforts for implementation of SDG Goals or Targets 16.7: ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels

Verifiable and measurable criteria for performance of commitment
Start:
End:
Ongoing Actions
Study of the international practice and development of a technical task with the state agencies’ and NGOs’ representatives November 2018 January 2019
Platform introduction and trial July 2019 October 2019
Full launch of platform December 2019 August 2020

IRM Midterm Status Summary

10. Platform for Submitting Petitions

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan: [91]

Brief description: A unified electronic platform for submitting petitions will be created.

Milestones

10.1 Study of the international practice and development of a technical task with the state agencies’ and NGOs’ representatives.

10.2 Platform introduction and trial.

10.3 Full launch of platform.

Start Date: November 2018

End Date: August 2020

Context and Objectives

Article 53 of the renewed Armenian Constitution states that everyone shall have the right to submit, either individually or jointly, a petition to state and local self-government bodies and officials. It also states that everyone has the right to receive an appropriate reply within a reasonable time period. [92] Aligned with this article, the law on petitions adopted in 2017, describes the rights of petition applicants, the procedure for filing a petition, and the procedure for registration and publication of a petition. It also describes legitimate reasons for rejecting petitions. [93]

According to the law, both hard copies and electronic channels can be used for submitting petitions. When a public petition is submitted (by using a special application form), if there are no reasons for its rejection, the responsible state body shall publish the petition on the relevant electronic platform. Other persons can join the petition within 30 days of publication. The state body or official that received the petition must provide a response within one month after the signature period. [94]

This commitment aims to develop a unified electronic platform for submitting petitions. The law on petitions does not define the minimum number of signatures to make examination of the petition mandatory. Any petition must be examined and responded to if there are no reasons for rejection. [95] Along with this, the Constitution identifies several possibilities for citizen initiatives, such as:

  • proposing a draft law to the parliament if signed by 50,000 or more citizens having a right to vote, [96]
  • proposing constitutional changes if signed by 150,000 or more citizens having a right to vote, [97] and
  • proposing a referendum initiative by 350,000 or more citizens with a right to vote, in case the draft law proposed by citizens was rejected by the parliament and recognized by the Constitutional Court as compliant with the Constitution. [98]

Thus, the electronic petitions platform will make it easier to start petitions to propose a draft law or initiate a referendum. Many citizen initiatives collect signatures in international petition platforms (such as change.org and gopetition.com). These are usually initiated by human rights or environmental organizations, or political activists. [99] The opportunity to implement similar initiatives on a government-administered platform with mandatory discussion of petitions by relevant state bodies could improve dialogue between citizens and state bodies. It could also provide faster solutions to issues.

This commitment, as well as the law on petitions, does not clearly outline whether citizens joining the petitions need to sign with an electronic signature. If electronic signatures are needed, this will limit the use of the platform, as the vast majority of citizens do not have such a signature. [100] To get an electronic signature, users must acquire an ID card, obtain a smart card reader machine or USIM mobile card, and pay an annual fee of 3,000 AMD—about 6 USD. An electronic signature is also mandatory for using online services provided by state and local self-government bodies—for example, submitting tax reports and getting certificates.

The stakeholders interviewed for this report generally find this commitment important for creating a basis for meaningful public participation and direct democracy. Overall, the potential impact of the commitment is assessed as moderate. It provides a new opportunity for public participation in decision making, with feedback required. It can also fuel legislative initiatives by citizens and even help them to organize a referendum.

Next steps

The commitment could provide additional tools for public participation and direct democracy. The IRM researcher recommends specifying the data needed for joining public petitions (whether electronic signature is needed or not). The government should also allow citizens to join a petition through providing names and passport data (not visible for public). This practice is used for hard-copy collection of signatures. Another civil society organization stakeholder suggested setting a reasonable threshold for signatures that will enable mandatory public discussion on an issue raised by a petition.

[91] Government of the Republic of Armenia, OGP Armenia Action Plan 2018-2020, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Armenia_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.doc.
[92] Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, article 53, 06 December 2015, https://www.president.am/en/constitution-2015/.
[93] RA Law On Petitions, 21 December 2017, https://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=119042.
[94] RA Law On Petitions, 21 December 2017, https://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=119042.
[95] Reasons for rejection include repetitive submission, presenting statements that threaten constitutional order, contain hate speech, and needs settlement by judicial bodies.
[96] Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, 06 December 2015, article 109, https://www.president.am/en/constitution-2015/.
[97] Ibid., article 202.
[98] Ibid., article 204.
[99] See, for example, a petition on preserving Zvartnots airport building at https://bit.ly/2ITfjdv, and “Stop Mining in Amulsar” petition at https://bit.ly/2IXOKnx 
[100] According to the information provided by EKENG cjsc—the company authorized to issue electronic digital signatures in Armenia—about 100,000 citizens of Armenia have digital signatures (electronic communication with EKENG cjsc by IRM researcher, 06 March 2019). This constitutes about 3 percent of the population.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

10. Platform for Submitting Petitions

Aim of the commitment

The commitment aimed to develop a unified electronic platform for submitting petitions. According to the Armenian Constitution, everyone has a right to submit a petition to state and local self-government bodies and officials, and any petition must be examined and responded to if there are no reasons for rejection. The platform of electronic petitions aimed to facilitate the process of submitting petitions and getting supporters as necessary. Such petitions can be used not only to solve specific issues but also to propose draft laws or initiate a referendum.

Did it open government?

Major

The Ministry of Justice conducted a study of the international practice in 2018 and developed the terms of reference for the electronic platform for submitting petitions. The ministry based the terms on the study findings and the provision of the RA Law on Petitions. [23] The Ministry of Justice has developed amendments to the Law on Petitions based on suggestions provided by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. These amendments aim to incorporate the concept and details regarding the electronic platform. The ministry presented the draft amendments for public discussions in July 2020 [24] and the Parliament adopted them on 24 March 2021. [25] Between June and August 2020, the e-Governance Infrastructure Implementation Unit (EKENG CJSC), in coordination with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, piloted the new platform http://e-petition.am/, which has been fully operational since September 2020.

The platform provides an opportunity to present petitions; collect supporters’ signatures, in case the petition is public; and get responses from relevant state institutions. When this report was written, the platform featured five collective and four individual petitions, and six of them had already received responses. Most of the responses presented information on the current regulations of the issue (some with detailed explanation). Responses also mentioned that the issues raised in the petition would be further considered in discussion of relevant legal acts and decisions. For example, in response to the petition calling to set a ban on the free sale of fireworks and pyrotechnical materials, the government provided a list of related legislative acts and mentioned that incorporation of relevant regulations on pyrotechnics sales into these acts was planned.

The citizen initiating the petition chooses whether it and the responses are published. A review of the responses published on the platform shows that the relevant decision makers at state institutions have considered most of the issues raised. The main factor contributing to low usage of the platform might be the requirement to register with an ID card and to provide an electronic signature when submitting a petition. These features are not accessible to the majority of Armenia’s population. [26] Currently, the government is discussing the possibility of replacing these identification mechanisms with more accessible tools. [27] Lack of large public awareness activities, which have been postponed at the moment, also contributes to low usage.

Armenian citizens and civil society organizations often use international petition platforms (such as change.org) to promote their causes. Civil society and the government expect the new e-petition platform to serve as a substitute for these platforms when addressing domestic issues. For this reason—and because feedback from relevant state bodies is mandatory—civil society and government stakeholders found this commitment to be an important step toward strengthening both public participation and direct democracy. [28]

Prior to this commitment, citizens wishing to submit petitions had to collect the required number of signatures by hand and submit the documents to the government as hard copies. The new electronic platform has significantly simplified this process and makes it more feasible to mobilize supporters for petitions, considering the wide possibilities of dissemination via social networks and other electronic channels. Given the opportunities the platform provides citizens—and the potential for its further usage by revising the existing identification schemes—this commitment has led to a major advancement regarding civic participation.

[23] Electronic communication with Anna Harutyunyan (Ministry of Justice), 11 December 2020.
[25] RA Law on Amendments and Supplements to the RA Law ‘On Petitions’, dated 24 March 2021, Armenian Legal Information System, https://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?docid=151235.
[26] According to the information provided to the IRM researcher by EKENG cjsc, approximately 1.2 million citizens of Armenia have ID cards, and about 160,000 of them have ever activated digital signatures (electronic communication with Araks Avetyan, EKENG cjsc, 13 April 2021). For more information, see Open Government Partnership, IRM: Armenia Design Report 2018–2020, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Armenia_Design-Report_2018-2020_EN.pdf
[27] Suren Krmoyan (Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia), interview by IRM researcher, 13 November 2020.
[28] Open Government Partnership, IRM: Armenia Design Report 2018–2020, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Armenia_Design-Report_2018-2020_EN.pdf.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership