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Support for civil society and the Media

  


Azerbaijan besides moving forward in the economic field especially in the last 10 years and including in the rank of the developed countries of the world, had gained a lot of progress towards the establishment of a civil society, too. In view of fact that one of the factors characterizing the strong state is a strong civil society, Azerbaijan has given special attention to the development of this sector, formed exact mechanisms for state support of civil society organizations, the mass media in support of specific mechanisms established by the government, the National Action Program to improve protection of human rights was adopted, the financing of political parties from the state budget for legislative reforms were carried out.

State Support to NGO-s
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The most important step to support the development of civil society in Azerbaijan is to reduce dependence one of the key elements, non-governmental organizations on foreign donors and to form the basis for a mechanism for the conversion of the government to main donor of these organizations. Thus, until the last few years the NGOs operating in Azerbaijan could get financial support from international organizations and foundations only from foreign donors to implement their own initiatives. Partnership between the state and NGOs did not improve that much. Dependent of NGOs on foreign donors have led to some concern from the perspective of the national security. 

Finally, after extensive public consultations, studying the international experience in this field in Azerbaijan as in many developed European countries, the issue of the establishment of a mechanism for the state-NGO partnerships has been resolved. Increase of the economic power of Azerbaijan had created the opportunity for financing of the projects proposed by NGOs, the most useful initiatives on various aspects of social and public life, by the state. On July 27, 2007 in accordance with the order of the President, The Concept of State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations was approved; the concept established the basic principles for the start of a new phase of the development of the NGO sector in the country. In connection with conception after discussion in the public sector, by the decree of President dated December 13, 2007, the Council of State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations under the President of the Republic was established and the Council’s Regulation was approved. Then, through transparent elections held between representatives of NGOs, members of the Council of State Support to NGOs was formed and the mechanism formed for state support to NGO-s was implemented in April of 2008.

Funds allocated from the state budget to support NGOs
The objectives of state support to non-governmental organizations is the formation of a new model of relations, the modernization of civil society institutions, increase of civil initiatives, to promote the work of NGOs in the field of protection of national interests, their involvement in the solution of social problems, financing of program and projects which are important for the development of the state and society. Increasing the amount of funds allocated from the state budget to the Board annually serves on the state\'s long-term strategy for the development of civil society. Thus, in 2009, the funds allocated from state budget to Council of State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations amounted to 2 million manats, in 2011 this amount was about 2.8 million manats, in 2012 this amount was increased for 1 million more to make 3.8 millions. The increasing of amount every year aimed for more effective participation for development of civil society in the process of forming of the national non-governmental organizations, as well as at strengthening state care to non-governmental organizations.

State Support for Media
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Azerbaijani state taking into account the importance of the role of mass-media in the development of civil society had formed the specific mechanisms in order to achieve development of the area.  President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly stated that its speeches that the support of the activities of a professional and independent media, developed in country is one of the main principles of the state policy. Within this principle in order to provide the freedom of speech, the right of the people to obtain objective information, as well as to ensure the independence of the mass media and for implementing the measures identified by the government in 2008, Relief Fund for Mass Media under the President (KIVDF) has been established. The purpose of the Fund began to function since 2009 is to develop freedom of thought, freedom of speech and information, to support independence of  mass media, to improve the mechanism of aid to editorial boards, to promote  an application of new information and communication technologies in information sector, to strengthen efficient cooperation between the public and the mass media, to use efficiently the potential of the mass media in solution of issues making a priority for state and society  by taking into account the important role of the media in the process of building of civil society in the country.

The important principle of government support policy
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However, one of the main principles of the state policy of support is the protection of the independence of the media, prevention of any interference in their activity. This principle is reflected officially in the Order confirmed by the President on the activities of KIVDF\'s conception.  Since its establishment till 2012 KIVDF had been allotted about 10 million manats  from the state budget. These funds were used to allocate funds for implementation of specific projects booth on direct and competitive basis, to newspapers, news agencies operating in the country. Allotment of these funds helped in equipping of the editorial offices of mass media with  modern technology, improving the working conditions of journalists and giving  support to enhance professionalism. In addition, the Azerbaijani government has taken steps towards improving the social conditions of the mass media, and 5 million was allocated to KIVDF by order of the President for the projecting of the construction of a residential building for journalists. 

Funding of political parties from the state budget
Like in any democratic, pluralistic society, political parties are important social institutions in Azerbaijan. To support development of these institutions is one of the directions of development of a strong state. In order to stimulate the activity of political parties , their participation in elections, and thus to get the development of multi-party democratic system the state support in   establishment of a mechanism for government support in this area has been on the agenda for a long time. Azerbaijan had studied the experience of the developed countries of Europe on the financing of political parties from the state budget, OSCE and other international organizations were closely cooperated with in this field. Finally, for the first time, legislative reforms have been implemented for the financing of political parties from the state budget. As a result of the amendments to the law On political parties of political parties, since 213 in the country financing of political parties from the state budget will be implemented. During the budgeting experience of European countries will be taken into consideration, the funds will be allocated to  political parties depending on number of votes at elections and number of mandates collected at the time of elections. According to amendments to the law, the 10% from the total amount of financial aid is divided among political parties gained at least 3% of valid votes at last elections to Milli Mejlisbut not represented in Parliament in proportion to the number of votes gained. 40% of the budget of the political parties represented in Parliament are divided equally between. The remaining 50% are divided equally among political parties represented in Milli Majlis (National Assembly). It is a positively accepted by Council of Europe and OSCE, to which Azerbaijan is a member.

National Action Plan on Human Rights
The Azerbaijani government strengthens the protection of human rights and freedoms under the policy framework to enable the development of civil society in country. To this end, in December 2011 the National Action Programme was approved by the President to increase the effectiveness of the protection of human rights and freedoms. National Action Programme is a comprehensive, long-term document providing the protection of human rights, the legislative, the judicial system, improving the legal and regulatory framework reforms. National Action Programme has a conceptual, ranged character and should be viewed within a context of the tasks to be pursued under Azerbaijan 2020: vision development strategy. This document confirms that the protection of human rights is one of the priorities of the policy conducted by the President of Azerbaijan. The adoption of the National Action Plan assessed as important step towards the protection of human rights within the framework of the Nearest Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership initiative in partnership with the European Union, as well as by the OSCE. 

Thus, the policy towards support of civil society, media and political parties serves for implementation of the strategic line chosen by country president on transformation of country into a modern and democratic country with progressive social policy, developed economy in the region and strengthened position of Azerbaijan. 



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