EITI Sanctions Azerbaijan; Similar OGP Review Pending

16 April 2015

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has sanctioned the government of Azerbaijan for impeding civil society participation in the EITI process.

Azerbaijan April 15 was downgraded to “candidate” country status by the EITI Board, relying on a Validation report carried out earlier this year, according to the EITI announcement.

A similar complaint has been lodged by civil society organizations concerning Azerbaijan’s status in the Open Government Partnership. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) A new OGP process for such complaints could lead to the government’s OGP membership being declared “inactive.”

The OGP Criteria and Standards committee is scheduled to soon get a report it commissioned on the situation in Azerbaijan and will discuss it  April 21. Once report is filed the committee has 20 working days to decide whether to adopt it and move onto ‘stage 1 interventions’ which are listed in OGP “response policy.”

OGP Steering Committee to Meet

The committee meeting comes a day before the Steering Committee meets in Mexico.

The agenda for the meetings and background papers for the Steering Committee meeting have been posted.

OGP Civil Society Coordinator Paul Maassen prepared a note on the core issues for the Mexico meeting. His text follows:

Next week Mexico will host the first OGP Steering Committee Meeting of 2015. This ministerial level meeting will take place over 3 days. What should you be watching and where can you find the key documentation? The Support Unit will upload the final agenda and supportive documents here. As always you can find my take on the core issues below.

The Criteria & Standards session might be the most interesting part of the agenda this time around. There are three items there worth watching:

    1. The announcement of 5 additional new members of the International Expert Panel of the IRM. They will have a role focused on quality control the first year and take over the steering role in their second when the original batch of IEP members step down. The list of five is very impressive I must say, and they represent a diverse background and track record.
    2. An update on the response policy. This will include sharing with the Steering Committee the agreed procedures of how to practically handle requests for inquiry as well as an update on the first case submitted, that of concerns raised about civil society operations in Azerbaijan.
    3. A proposal – for discussion – clarifying the rules on how to deal with delays in developing new Action Plans. What are the key dates, which actions do they trigger, when does a country become “inactive” and how can it become an active participant again. The proposal describes this for countries not meeting OGP process requirements and for countries that might be listed as inactive as a result of the response policy. It is a pre-decisional document, so not included in the public pack.
    4. An update on several countries, including the ones that received letters at the end of last year for being late with their Action Plans
      The Criteria & Standards session might be the most interesting part of the agenda this time around. There are three items there worth watching:
  • The Peer Learning and Support session will have updates on the Africa Regional Meeting (May 19-21 in Tanzania) and the one in Georgia for European government Points of Contact in early June. A more substantial discussion is to be expected on two topics. First, on a recently completed review of the Working Group model including recommendations to improve. Second, on sharing examples of peer learning and support by Steering Committee members and a discussion on what else can be done.
  • The Summit session will be the kickoff for the 6 months prep leading to the 2015 OGP Global Summit at the end of October. By the end of next week we should have clarity on the exact dates, theme and location. Hopefully we can then also indicate the how and when on registration and call for proposals.
  • On the ministerial day the Support Unit will provide an update on how OGP countries are doing around the world, including what types of support they need. This session will also highlight some preliminary new IRM findings. The rest of the day is spent discussing four important strategic topics and trends:

 a.) research on the impact of open government – outlining priorities for the OGP research agenda.

 b.) public safety and access to justice – discussing how OGP can advance this agenda.

c.) open data – discussing opportunities and challenges for sustainable national open data programs and the International Open Data Charter.

d.) subnational open government innovations – recognizing the importance of local open government reform and discussing how OGP can play a role.

  • The final session will discuss the transition and strengthening of OGP leadership. The transition includes both the rotation of government Steering Committee members later this year as well as the candidates for the government and civil society co-chairs after Mexico and Suneeta Kaimal rotate off. Important to note is that civil society will skip a rotation this year, as last year brough ust 6 new members. The strengthening includes the fleshed out proposal on “OGP ambassadors” that were agreed to last time.

Mexican civil society has added a fourth day after the official Steering Committee ends. It will start with a peer learning side-event with all (civil society) Steering Committee members and speakers from Mexico, the UK and the Philippines. Emphasis will be on understanding how these countries have successfully used the OGP platform to tackle policy issues of great relevance, how to develop commitments around open government at the local level, and to talk about the challenges of collaboration with government – especially in a chairmanship and Summit year. The afternoon will be used to strategize on making the most of the Summit from a civil society perspective.

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