Azerbaijan has an extensive legal framework that provides the basis for active citizen participation in governance. In 2012, the Azerbaijani government initiated several changes to laws towards improving citizen participation. Among them was the draft law “on public (citizen) participation”, initiated by the Council of State Support to NGOs under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan (NGO Council).
In support of advancing these efforts, on November 30, 2012 EWMI’s Socio-Economic Development Activity (SEDA) held the first national conference on “Citizen Participation: International and National Best Practices”. The event was co-organized by EWMI and the NGO Council, and brought together more than 80 representatives of state bodies, NGOs, international and local experts in the field of citizen participation.
Conference participants discussed the draft Law on Citizen Participation, drafted under the leadership of the NGO Council and currently pending parliamentary discussions. National and international experts discussed their experiences related to citizen participation. The NGO Council, representatives of public councils established with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population, and local self- governing bodies shared their first-hand experiences on this issue. The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), a SEDA implementing partner and leading international expert organization on issues of NGO law and citizen participation, provided experience from Europe and the former Soviet Union region, including Russia and Ukraine. ICNL’s local experts presented a comparative analysis of Azerbaijani legislation and recommendations on how to improve it.
“During the past years NGO Council promoted a number of ideas on developing laws on citizen participation, including the draft law on ‘Public Participation’ and we have submitted a number of initiatives to the Parliament for their review and discussion,” said Azay Quliyev, Chairman of the NGO Council. He also noted that “the experts, lawyers and representatives from various civil society organizations with rich experience on citizen participation will foster this issue through their discussions”.
While Azerbaijan’s legislative and policy framework has multiple provisions on citizen participation, participants agreed that Azerbaijani legislation will benefit from further reforms. Both national and international experts provided excellent recommendations on how to further improve the Azerbaijani legislation on citizen participation and how to better implement existing national and international best practices.
At the conclusion of the conference, participants adopted a declaration that stated their support for ongoing citizen participation reforms in Azerbaijan. This included the need to adopt the new law on citizen participation, which would institutionalize and strengthen mechanisms for government consultations with civil society and citizens. The new law also would foster collaboration among NGOs, government and international organizations on citizen participation issues. As a result of the conference, national experts and government officials were inspired to further improve the draft law on citizen participation and to promote further reforms in the area of citizen participation.
“Citizen participation keeps us informed and allows us to contribute to the national agenda on citizen participation that affects our organization. We are therefore glad to support promotion of best practices in this area.” – said Ramiz Behbudov, a representative from Azerbaijani NGO Social Services Initiative.
EWMI’s Socio-Economic Development Activity (SEDA) is co-financed by USAID and the Government of Azerbaijan.