This week the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative international board determined that the situation for civil society in Azerbaijan is unacceptable. As a result, the EITI board called for an early validation to begin on 1 January 2015. The board will consider the results at its next meeting, in February.
Azerbaijan would need to make significant improvements with respect to civil society space, such as ensuring the ability of civil society to access funding, organize events, and speak freely about the EITI process and natural resource governance concerns without fear or threat of harassment.
The board decision follows a September EITI mission to Baku which gathered views on the ability for civil society to participate in the EITI as well as the broader environment affecting civil society. The mission took place following concerns expressed at previous board meetings and in other fora about the deteriorating environment for civil society organizations in Azerbaijan which includes severe constraints on their ability to participate in the EITI.
Azerbaijan now has a significant opportunity. By removing constraints on civil society engagement and improving the context for open public debate, they can preserve the EITI process that the country began a decade ago.