PWYP statement of support for Azerbaijan’s civil society
23 October 2014
The issue of Azerbaijan was high on the agenda of last week’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) International Board meeting in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, as the government’s repressions place the country’s EITI status in doubt. The civil society constituency on the EITI board was united in calling for Azerbaijan’s suspension from the initiative, as the country no longer abides by one of EITI’s key principles to ensure a free and effective participation by civil society. This was assessed during a recent fact-finding mission.
Publish What You Pay was disappointed that the International Board did not suspend Azerbaijan, as it should have done according to the initiative’s rules. However, we are reassured by the unanimity on the board that serious and immediate steps must be taken by Azerbaijan’s government by January to allow for civil society to follow participate. If such steps are not taken, we fully expect Azerbaijan to be immediately delisted from the initiative at the next EITI board meeting. The EITI will only remain a credible initiative if it holds its members to its principles – otherwise, it risks becoming a PR sticker with little substance.
For the past year, Publish What You Pay has been closely following the situation for civil society in Azerbaijan and confirms that severe restrictions on civil society activity have been placed and that freedom of speech and the right to assembly are being denied. The government is also making it near-impossible for civil society to access foreign funding or fulfil its basic functions with regards to the EITI. This rapidly deteriorating environment for civil society was echoed by the latest report on the freedom of assembly and association of the UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai.
Publish What You Pay once again urges the Government of Azerbaijan to take action, lift restrictions and ensure that civil society have the space to operate freely and effectively, not only as a part of EITI process but also in its role in functioning democracies as a body to hold governments to account. After all the President of Azerbaijan has stated on a number of occasions he considers Azerbaijan a democratic and independent state. The international organizations continue to observe Azerbaijan in order to see the real democratic and independent civil society.
“With all challenges that civil society faces at the moment, and is yet to face in the near future, Publish What You Pay will continue to support civil society in Azerbaijan, especially the PWYP affiliated coalition that suffers from governmental persecution, has been cut off from funding and is unable to realise its work on transparency in extractives”, said Marinke Van Riet, PWYP International Director.