South Africa Opposes OGP Sanction of Azerbaijan

3 May 2016

The South African government has laid out its case for why the Open Government Partnership should not declare Azerbaijan an “inactive” member because of its adverse treatment of civil society organizations.

South Africa also rebuked OGP colleagues for their handling of the matter.

The 37-page  document marked “Confidential” was not included among the documents released in advance of the May 3-4 OGP Steering Committee, but was subsequently made available by the OGP to FreedomInfo.org. A request for the document was initially denied.  FreedomInfo.org filed an appeal under the OGP disclosure policy.

The South African memo describes the findings from a trip made to Azerbaijan March 13-16 by Deputy Minister for Public Service and Administration (DPSA), Ayanda Dlodlo. She is South Africa’s Special Envoy to the OGP. South Africa is the current Government Lead Chair of the OGP.

A resolution to make Azerbaijan an “inactive” member is expected to pass, but South Africa is opposing the sanction and seeking “an amicable resolution,” according to the memo. The matter, scheduled for debate May 4 during a meeting of the Steering Committee in Cape Town, South Africa, arose after three international organizations filed a complaint under OGP “response policy” procedures. They argued that the Azerbaijan has created a hostile environment for civil society and in recent statements contend that not enough change has occurred. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.)

The South African government reports, based on conversations with government officials and civil society organizations, that reforms have occurred such that no sanction is warranted. Statements provided by the Azerbaijan government also argue that no sanction is warranted.

The South African government memo also criticizes the way the OGP handled the matter, saying, “Having engaged with the government of Azerbaijan as the first case under the Response Policy, it is reasonable for Azerbaijan government to conclude that the country was not treated fairly.”

The document continues:

The public statements made in OGP platforms by the members of the Steering Committee on Azerbaijan whilst this process was unfolding further reinforces the perception that the OGP is inconsistent in the application of rules and that the outcome of Azerbaijan case was predetermined.

In reporting on meetings with CSOs during the trip, the document states:

There is a collective acknowledgement between both government and civil society that the suspension of Azerbaijan from participation in the OGP would be counterproductive. Civil society is of the view that their country’s participation in the OGP has provided them with much needed and productive space to engage government and monitor their delivery on obligations they have made under the Partnership.

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