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Statement on Government of Azerbaijan's Withdrawal from EITI

  • News from NRGI

  • 14 March 2017

Last week the international board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) took the decision to suspend Azerbaijan because the country lacks an enabling environment for civil society, a violation of the initiative’s requirements on multi-stakeholder engagement and its civil society protocol. Following the suspension, the government of Azerbaijan regrettably withdrew from EITI and requested that Azerbaijan be removed from the list of implementing countries.
Civil society has always played a central role in EITI, and open civic space for public dialogue and effective accountability is a key component of any multi-stakeholder effort. The EITI board took the decision to suspend Azerbaijan—a temporary measure—only after several years of fact-finding, extensive deliberations, and numerous opportunities given to the government to address deficiencies related to civic space.
Azerbaijan has exceled at EITI’s technical reporting requirements for many years. However, in October 2014, concerns about the government’s poor compliance with EITI requirements on the enabling environment for civil society led the EITI board to request that Azerbaijan undertake an “early validation” against the EITI Standard. Following that assessment, in April 2015, Azerbaijan became the first country to be downgraded from “compliant” to “candidate” status in the EITI and remedial actions to address civic space restrictions were issued. Following a second validation, in October 2016, the EITI board found that Azerbaijan had not made satisfactory progress on the EITI Standard’s civil society engagement requirements and concrete corrective actions were again issued. The government failed to fully undertake those actions, resulting in last week’s suspension.
Prior to the government’s withdrawal from the initiative, a third validation was scheduled to take place on 26 July 2017. This constituted another opportunity for the government to improve civic space and enable its EITI process to function as a truly multi-stakeholder initiative, and to achieve EITI’s aim of improving the management of natural resource wealth for the public good.
Even outside of EITI, there is an opportunity for Azerbaijan to implement an enabling legal and practical environment for civil society to operate more freely, which includes enabling civil society organizations’ free access to funding and opening space for public debate. As important, actions such as releasing prisoners who have been unjustly arrested, convicted and incarcerated on false charges—including NRGI advisory council member Ilgar Mammadov—would constitute key steps in the right direction.
NRGI remains committed to continued engagement with stakeholders in Azerbaijan, especially civil society, reformers, and technical experts working on EITI and natural resource governance. Outreach and support to local actors is now more critical than ever.