Members of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Coalition of Public Unions held a press conference discussing the persistent issues affecting operation of civil society organisation in the EITI processes.
As stated at the press conference, the EITI Coalition has actively participated in the implementation EITI in Azerba
ijan and contributed to this process in cooperation with the government and mining companies within the framework of Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG). However, for over two years civil society organisations participating in the Coalition have been faced with numerous obstacles to their free and effective involvement in EITI processes.. As a result, Azerbaijan lost its full member status in EITI on 15 April 2015. Azerbaijan will only be able to regain its status in the EITI if the government complies with the corrective action set out by the initiative.
In the summer of 2016, EITI sent a second assessment mission to Azerbaijan to evaluate the level of implementation of the action plan and application of EITI standards in the country. The final report produced by the assessment mission was discussed at the EITI International Board’s 35th Meeting in Astana on 25-26 October 2016.
Speaking at the press conference, Gubad Ibadoglu, the coordinator of Azerbaijan’s EITI NGO Coalition who is also representing the Eurasian region in EITI International Board, said after long discussions at the international board meeting a decision was adopted on Azerbaijan. The International Board acknowledged that Azerbaijan had made significant progress in implementation of EITI Standard in 2016, and there had also been progress on a number of individual requirements in comparison to the 2015 Assessment.
“Given the recent improvements, Azerbaijan’s Candidate status was retained. However, Azerbaijan needs to carry out the corrective actions in connection to civil society situation in the country. Failure to implement these corrective actions may result in the suspension of Azerbaijan’s membership in this initiative in accordance with the EITI Standard. The Board has charged the International Secretariat with conducting assessment of Azerbaijan’s progress before the next Board meeting. Based on this assessment and in accordance with the EITI Standard, the Board will make a decision at its next meeting, which will be held in Bogota, Colombiain March 2017. The government of Azerbaijan needs to createenabling legal and operational environment for civil society actors substantially involved inEITI process in accordance with Article 2.2 of Civil Society Protocol. In particular, the requirements such as the need for civil society to obtain an extract every two years confirming their registration, the need for civil society to register grants with the Ministry of Justice, and the need for foreign donors to register individual grants with the authorities and obtain an opinion on the purposefulness of the grant should be eliminated,” Gubad Ibadoglu said.
Ibadoglu added that a third assessment mission would be sent to Azerbaijan on 26 July 2017 to assess the compliance with the EITI standards and other requirements of Civil Society Protocol.
Member of the Council of EITI NGO Coalition Ogtay Gulaliyev said the government, which became more activeon the eve of the EITI Board meeting in Astana and begun – albeit cosmetically – to deal with civil society’s problems. However, this imitation stopped immediately after the meeting was over. “The issue of registration of the organisations, which are members of the Coalition, has been left unanswered. According to our knowledge, only about 10 of the 36 unregistered NGOs that are Coalition members have been registered. State registration of the organisations headed by Coalition’s Council members Akif Gurbanov and Alovsat Sadigli and Coalition members Mahammad Talibli, Samad Hatamov, Asif Yusifli, Fikrat Jafarli, Jamil Hajiyev and others still remains a problem. Instead of the Public Association for Democratic Reforms which I have been chairing for 17 years, the Ministry of Justice has registered in my name the so-called Public Association for Assistance to Development, which does not belong to me and whose name and purpose have been determined by the Ministry itself. While I am working in the field of human rights, this organisation’s purpose it to conduct economic analysis. I have appealed to the Ministry of Justice to either register the Public Association for Democratic Reforms which I have founded and chaired for a long time, or to cancel the registration of the fictitious organisation registered in my name. I do not accept the organisation registered in my name and do not intend to operate with that organisation in any form,” Gulaliyev noted.
Ogtay Gulaliyev also stressed that, although the criminal case against him had been terminated, he was still under an international travel ban and was denied travel documents.
Coalition Council member Akif Gurbanov took the floor next and provided an analysis of the legal framework governing civil society activities. Gurbanov said the President of Azerbaijan signed a decree on 21 October 2016 on the Application of One-Stop Shop Principle in the Procedure of Issuance of Grants by Foreign Donors on the Territory of Azerbaijan Republic. “Although this Decree has recently been hailed as a significant progress towards resolving the problems, unfortunately in reality it cannot have any positive impact on access to foreign donations and registration of agreements on grants provided by foreign donors as it has not been followed by amendments to NGO and grant laws. However, the legislation takes precedence of the Decree,” Gurbanov said.
Referring to the decision of the EITI International Board, Gurbanov said the Azerbaijani government needed to ensure enabling legal and operational environment for civil society before the next meeting.