OGP Declares Azerbaijan Membership ‘Inactive’

4 May 2016

The Open Government Partnership Steering Committee has voted 16-3 (with three abstentions) to make Azerbaijan an “inactive” member, agreeing with complaints that the government has created an environment inhospitable to civil society activity.

An OGP press release said the Steering Committee May 4 “resolved that Azerbaijan will be regretfully designated as inactive in OGP,  due to unresolved constraints on the operating environment for Non-Governmental Organizations.”

It is the first time that the Steering Committee has taken such an action and also the first time for a recorded vote by a body that has operated by consensus. The 22-person Steering Committee is equally divided between representatives of civil society and governments. Meetings are closed, with minutes released after several weeks. The voting was done by anonymous paper ballot and details of the vote were not provided. The lead government co-chair, South Africa, was known to oppose the designation. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)  “The names of Steering Committee members who would like their votes known will be shared in the Steering Committee notes,” an OGP official told FreedomInfo.org.

In another matter, the Steering Committee also decided against declaring Turkey “inactive,” according to an OGP staff member. Turkey last week promised to embrace the OGP process with “full enthusiasm,” as it did a year ago, following several years of inactivity and missed deadlines. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Azerbaijan Resolution Passed

The action on Azerbaijan is described in a resolution approved by the Steering Committee

“The government of Azerbaijan will have a maximum of one year to address the concerns raised by civil society organizations,” according to the press release about the decision. The OGP “response policy” envisions working with an inactive member to encourage re-engagement. Three international NGOs in March 2015 raised concerns about Azerbaijan, triggering the OGP evaluation. The OGP Criteria and Standards Subcommittee determined that the complaints were valid.

Azerbaijan “will be ineligible to vote in OGP elections and will only be able to attend OGP events as an observer for learning purposes,” according to the statement. “It will continue to receive Steering Committee and  Support Unit assistance, including from OGP Working Groups, multilateral partners and peer exchange visits.”

“If at any point during the year the Criteria and Standards subcommittee determines that the government of Azerbaijan has sufficiently addressed the original concerns, it may  recommend to the full Steering Committee that Azerbaijan be returned to active status,” according to the press release, which links to some, but not all, of the materials submitted to the Steering Committee.

One other complaint is pending under the response policy, concerning Hungary, but the evaluation is not completed.

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