Azerbaijan Permanently Suspended from Open Government Partnership for Restricting Civic Space 

Sanjay Pradhan

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee has resolved to permanently suspend the Republic of Azerbaijan from the global partnership of 75 countries and 104 local governments working with thousands of civil society organizations to build more open, inclusive, and accountable governments. Azerbaijan will, therefore, no longer be considered an OGP participating country

Mr. Paul Maassen, OGP’s Chief of Country Support, who announced the permanent suspension in a statement, said Azerbaijan joined OGP in 2011 and has delivered three action plans with commitments in areas such as public services, open data, and fiscal transparency among others. 

According to him, in 2015, civil society organizations issued a letter of concern to OGP alleging restrictions to civic space and civil society operations “to the point where it seriously threatens the ability of civil society organizations to engage effectively in the OGP process.” 

Mr. Maassen said through an exhaustive review, the civil society concerns were found to have merit, and following the process, the Steering Committee resolved to temporarily suspend Azerbaijan in 2016, and in June 2017,  resolved to extend the ‘suspended’ status of Azerbaijan for one year given that the core issues that were raised in the 2015 Response Policy letter of concern, and recommendations made by the Steering Committee, remained unaddressed at the time.

He recalled that the following year, in December 2018, the Steering Committee noted that while there had been sporadic improvements in the operating environment of civil society in the preceding 12 months, the government of Azerbaijan had not made systematic changes or reforms that would thoroughly address the recommendations that were made.

The Steering Committee therefore resolved to extend Azerbaijan’s suspended status for a full action plan cycle and outlined a set of milestones for the government of Azerbaijan to achieve, stipulating that failure to adhere to those milestones would automatically result in the finalization of the Response Policy review, making Azerbaijan’s suspension from OGP permanent.

Mr. Maassen explained that an assessment from OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism in May 2023 showed that the government failed to follow the recommendations set out by OGP or meet the terms of the 2018 resolution.

Consequently, he said, the Steering Committee unanimously agreed to permanently suspend and rescind Azerbaijan’s membership in the Partnership.

Mr. Maassen stated that in order to regain its membership status, Azerbaijan must first meet OGP’s Eligibility Criteria, including passing the Values Check, and receiving approval by the Steering Committee.

Mr. Sanjay Pradhan, OGP’s Chief Executive Officer, said “We are deeply disappointed to see that  Azerbaijan was unable to meet the terms to remain in  Partnership and that conditions for civil society continue to be challenging. Even as Azerbaijan is no longer a member of the Partnership, we stand ready to  support reformers in government and civil society committed to advancing open government principles.”

He added “I encourage these reformers to continue engaging with OGP through peer exchange and learning opportunities to eventually help the country meet the requirements to join the Partnership again”.