CIVIL SOCIETY DEFENCE COMMITTEE STATEMENT

January 27th, 2010
Civil society organizations in Azerbaijan are deeply concerned that application of the latest changes and amendments to the Law “On Grants” and to several Legislative Acts of the Azerbaijan Republic will create serious obstacles for the activity of non-governmental organizations.

According to these changes, it is mandatory to operate only on grant agreements that are registered in the relevant government organ.  This means that permission should be received from the government organ for any grant activity.
Such rules create conditions for bureaucratic arbitrariness and widespread corruption. We believe that it is impossible to relate the permission bans imposed on NGOs with any legitimate public interests. In fact, the application of this law will harm one of the most important public interests – the existence of a powerful civil society, and their professional, active participation in the public life; as well as the protection of human rights and other similar legitimate interests.
Demanding that NGOs submit reports in several forms to the Financial Ministry is cause for concern. Although this measure is aimed at improving their work and transparency within them, it should be taken into account that NGOs do not have opportunities to prepare these reports in such a short period of time. On the other hand, this rule cannot be considered fair because these reports have not been applied yet to the big commercial organs that have larger financial and human resources than the NGOs.
The civil society organizations consider that the application of items forbidding operations on grant agreements which do not have registration should be ceased and annulled. The civil society organizations consider it necessary to postpone the application of rules related to the financial report of NGOs for a year and provide assistance to NGOs in preparing these reports.   
In addition, we declare that we are interested in the strengthening of civil society associations, the discussion of initiatives related to improvement of the transparency and accountability of NGOs, and close cooperation in the implementation of policy in this direction.
We call on all civil society organizations, international organizations operating in the development of democracy in our country and diplomatic missions to support civil society organizations in these processes.
We appeal to the government that we are ready for cooperative work to eliminate problems in this sector.