OGP Body Recommends Declaring Azerbaijan Inactive

9 March 2016

Azerbaijan should be declared an “inactive” member of the Open Government Partnership, an OGP subcommittee has recommended.

Such a designation would be the first time the OGP has disciplined a member for not adhering to OGP principles. The recommendation will be taken up by the OGP Steering Committee May 3-4, according to the minutes of the Criteria and Standards Subcommittee’s Feb. 23-24 meeting posted on the OGP website.

The Azerbaijan government is making it “difficult if not impossible” for nongovernmental organizations to operate, the subcommittee concluded, its findings described in an annex to the minutes.

“Such constraints are evident in the laws on grants, non-governmental organizations, and registration of legal entities and state registry, and the Code on Administrative Offenses; the freezing of bank accounts of some NGOs promoting open government; and the incarceration of NGO activists and journalists promoting open government,” the minutes state. NGOs filed their complaint about Azerbaijan in early March of 2015, triggering the OGP’s “response policy.”

The response policy, which some critics have called too slow, is being reviewed, the minutes note, without providing details of recommendations presented at the meeting.

Complaints About Hungary Under Review

Similar NGO complaints that the Hungarian government is restricting civil society remain under consideration.

The preparation of an evaluation document is continuing, the minutes indicate. The complaints about Hungary were lodged in July 2015. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

The evaluation will be sent to the groups who filed the complaint and to the government in mid-March, according to the minutes.

Turkey’s Status Questionable

The subcommittee also discussed the status of five countries that missed deadlines to prepare national action plans, the key document through which the 69 OGP member countries make their commitments to open government.

Of the five, only Turkey still seems to be an uncertain member, but the subcommittee prescribed diplomatic outreach.

Four countries – Australia, Kenya, Malawi and Montenegro – all made pledges to prepare action plans in the coming months. Their promises are described in the minutes.

Turkey has failed to produce action plans in 2014 and 2015 and the government has not assigned a lead ministry or official point of contact, the minutes say.

Still, subcommittee agreed to ask the OGP co-chairs and other Steering Committee members “to invest political and diplomatic capacity to make a final outreach to Turkey to reengage in OGP prior to the Ministerial level Steering Committee meeting in South Africa on May 3-4th, 2016.”

If no response is received before the Steering Committee meeting, the subcommittee decided, it would then make a recommendation that Turkey be considered inactive.

Consultation Guidelines Discussed

The subcommittee received “a series of broad recommendations on how civil society participation requirements could be updated,” the minutes state, and agreed to discuss the topic again in May.

The recommendations have not been released. The minutes describe them generally:

This would include changes to the rules that encourage high-quality dialogues with robust, open and inclusive participation, and providing feedback and seriously considering inclusion of proposals from civil society organizations.

“The subcommittee decided that there should be a review of the existing consultation guidelines – and a decision taken by the Steering Committee on updating them – in time to inform the development of action plans in 2017,” according to the minutes.

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