PWYP condemns the adoption of laws restricting the freedom of civil society in Azerbaijan

Source: PWYP International
Date: 5 Feb 2022

Publish What You Pay is gravely concerned about the deterioration of civil liberties in Azerbaijan, as the President this week signed a series of amendments restricting the ability of civil society organisations to operate freely. This undermines Azerbaijan’s status as a country compliant to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative – one of the initiative’s key principles is that an implementing country must ensure an environment in which civil society can campaign.

According to Human Rights Watch, these amendments are designed to enhance the control of the government over the activities of civil society and restrict fundamental freedoms¹. From now on civil society organisations are  required to provide an onerous level of information – failure to do so results in fines and/or closure. Civil society organisations fear this law enables the government to arbitrarily punish NGOs and severely restrict their ability to fundraise. A significant number of PWYP members in Azerbaijan are not registered and once these amendments come into force they risk further persecution and potential closure.

Ten years ago Azerbaijan signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. For years, the country was seen as a model EITI country, deriving reputational benefit from its status despite the fact that its numerous reports did not provide enough information to allow for an informed debate. How can a country genuinely implement, let alone be seen as a champion of a transparency initiative when civil society organisations are not free to campaign? When its civil society finds its actions impeded and restricted? Such violation of the liberties and rights of CSOs in Azerbaijan is a major step back from the country’s democratic ambitions and basic EITI requirements.

As member of the EITI International Board and PWYP International Director, Marinke van Riet explained, “With the new EITI standard the space for civil society to operate effectively and independently has been re-affirmed as a core principle. If Azerbaijan wants to remain an EITI implementing country it needs to respect this principle and show progress rather than regress. With the adoption of these laws it risks not meeting the validation criteria and hence being delisted”.

PWYP will continue to support the PWYP-affiliated coalition in Azerbaijan and is contemplating next steps.

London, 5 February 2022


¹ Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental human rights organization known for its accurate fact-finding, impartial reporting, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy, often in partnership with local human rights groups.

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