Some NGOs try to change Azerbaijan's constitutional system through donor funding (UPDATE)

details added (first version posted at 14:58)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 19

Trend:

Not all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have transparent activity in Azerbaijan, head of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration's Department for Work with Law Enforcement Agencies Fuad Alasgarov said in an interview with 'Azerbaijan' newspaper.

"I would like to cite some facts," he said. "National and International Research Center" public association has received about 358,000 AZN upon nine grant agreements within several years. In accordance with the legislation, the grant agreements must be submitted to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice for registration. However, the above-mentioned organization has registered only two of nine grants."

"The Institute for Peace and Democracy can be cited as another example," he said. "The head of this organization Leyla Yunus has withdrawn huge funds in various currencies from the account of the "Azerbaijani women for peace and democracy in the Caucasus" non-governmental organization", while not being its founder. She used the withdrawn funds for her own purposes for five years."

He said that the measures on ensuring the transparency must cover not only the public sector but also the civil society institutions.

"Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on "Measures improving rendering the e-services to the non-governmental organizations" on November 20, 2013," he said. "Its goal is to improve rendering the e-services to NGOs and to simplify their activity and relations with various state organizations. The decree also envisages the creation of the e-information system "Individual e-window" to render the services to NGOs."

He said that there are also other violations in this sphere.

"According to the available information, some donors allocate the funds to the non-governmental organizations in cash," he said. "Thus, these funds are not registered as grants. In these cases, the NGOs do not pay taxes from the received assets."

Alasgarov said that the experience of Azerbaijan and a number of neighboring countries shows that while receiving grants from the donors, some NGOs, after receiving grants, use it not for development of civil society, but forced change of the country's constitutional system.

"In some cases, foreign donors are funding some organizations deliberately," he said. "They drive them to illegal activity that roughly violates the laws, stability in the country. We can conclude that some foreign organizations are charged with organizing the anti-state activity of some individuals and organizations by allocating them funds, rather than developing of the civil society institutions."

He said that as a result of amending some legislative acts regulating the activity of NGOs in Azerbaijan on December 17, 2013, some shortcomings were eliminated in legal acts in this area.

"One of important issues is the registration of NGOs' grants in the Ministry of Justice," he said.

"A non-governmental organization can not carry out banking or any other transactions without registering the received grant in the Ministry of Justice," Alasgarov said.

"Individual e-window" system is ready," he said. "It has been recently presented with the participation of non-governmental organizations."

Alasgarov regretted that the branches and representative offices of the foreign countries' NGOs operating in Azerbaijan in some cases violate the legislation.

He said the following organizations have allocated funds for NGOs over the last several years: the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) - 2.8 million AZN (1 AZN = $1.27470) worth of funds on 83 grant agreements; US National Democratic Institute (NDİ) - around 500,000 AZN on 12 grant agreements; International Research & Exchanges Board (İREX) - about 900,000 AZN on 35 grant agreements; European Endowment for Democracy (EED) - some 300,000 AZN on various agreements; Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation (Liechtenstein) - 7.6 million AZN on 625 grant agreements.

He added that however, the major part of these grant agreements, for example, the agreement on financing of NIDA youth movement in Azerbaijan by the US National Democratic Institute (NDİ), haven't been registered.

"It is known that in 2013 this movement held illegal events in Baku, where the NDI staff also participated," he said.

Alasqarov said the investigation revealed that during these actions the members of the youth movement planned organizing mass unrests, and explosives and large amounts of money were found on a number of activists and seized.

"Another organization, the European Endowment for Democracy, the sole purpose of which is to damage Azerbaijan's authority, allocated about 300,000 AZN for the Meydan TV channel that called for holding illegal actions on air," he said.

"We believe that such activities are unacceptable," Aleskerov added.

He said that demanding further strengthening of democracy and simultaneously accustoming the civil society institutions to anti-constitutional methods of struggle is not only a political duplicity, but it also undermines the foundations of the civil society concept.

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