Azerbaijan suspension extended; Bosnia and Herzegovina and Trinidad and Tobago designated inactive in OGP
The OGP Steering Committee convened in Washington D.C., on 5-6 December 2018 for an in-person working-level meeting. Among the items in the agenda were the Response Policy case concerning the government of Azerbaijan, and the Procedural Review cases of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Trinidad and Tobago.
Response Policy Case concerning the government of Azerbaijan
The Response Policy aims to maintain OGP’s credibility – and safeguard its long-term future – by helping to ensure that all Participating Countries uphold OGP values and principles, as expressed in the Open Government Declaration, and OGP’s Articles of Governance. The Response Policy case concerning the government of Azerbaijan was triggered in March 2015 when three civil society organizations (CSOs) raised concerns pertaining to the operating environment for civil society in Azerbaijan. Though an exhaustive review, the concerns were found to have merit. Following this process, Azerbaijan was designated inactive on May 4, 2016.
After a year, the Steering Committee reviewed progress made by the government and recognized that while there were improvements, particularly related to the OGP process, there remained considerable challenges to the operating environment for civil society. Therefore, in June 28, 2017, the Steering Committee resolved to extend Azerbaijan’s inactivity status for one additional year and mandated the Criteria and Standards (C&S) Subcommittee to develop a series of updated recommendations for the government to address with the aim to improve the unresolved constraints on the operating space for CSO, particularly on CSO funding and registration.
Over the past six months, the C&S consulted with the government of Azerbaijan and a wide array of actors to assess the actions that the government has done to date in order to address the updated recommendations.
The OGP Steering Committee recognized the positive steps taken by the Government of Azerbaijan. However, the core issues raised in the original Response Policy letter of concern filed by civil society organizations in 2015 remain unresolved. The evidence assessed by OGP and third party experts shows that, although there have been sporadic improvements in the operating environment of civil society during the last 12 months, the government of Azerbaijan has not made systematic changes or reforms that would thoroughly address the updated C&S recommendations. However, it is also worth noting that all local stakeholders, including government and civil society within and outside of the OGP Forum, concurred that despite the challenges faced by NGOs, there is value in the continued engagement and space for dialogue that the OGP forum in Azerbaijan creates. For these reasons, the OGP Steering Committee decided, by consensus, to extend the suspended status of Azerbaijan for a full action plan cycle pending the timely completion of specific milestones (see full resolution text here). Failure to achieve said milestones would automatically result in the finalization of the Response Policy review, making Azerbaijan’s suspension from OGP permanent.
Procedural Review Decisions
A country’s participation in OGP may be reviewed by the Criteria and Standards Subcommittee if it acts contrary to OGP process. For countries that act contrary to process for three consecutive action plan cycles, as is the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Trinidad and Tobago, the C&S will automatically recommend for such country to be designated as inactive in OGP.
The OGP Steering Committee decided, by consensus, that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Trinidad and Tobago, will regretfully be designated as inactive in OGP for a one-year period due to having acted contrary to OGP process by failing to deliver an action plan for three consecutive action plan cycles. The Steering Committee acknowledged the continued efforts by both governments and civil society to remain engaged in OGP and agreed to offer all necessary support for all stakeholders to remain engaged in OGP. Inactivity status will be immediately ended upon the submission of an OGP Action Plan. See full resolution text for Bosnia and Herzegovina and for Trinidad and Tobago.