The Democratization Unit of the OSCE Office in Baku monitors developments related to the establishment of pluralistic democracy in Azerbaijan in accordance with OSCE participating State commitments, and co-operates with the Government and civil society on programmes that build institutional and human capacity. Its work addresses media freedom and development, electoral assistance, freedom of assembly, civil society development, freedom of religion, and gender equality.
Media freedom and development
The Unit supports the development of a professional media sector across Azerbaijan and a free and diverse media environment, where public-interest issues form part of the daily media discourse. Thus, the Unit contributes to building the capacity of government representatives, journalists, civil society and the public. Specifically, the Unit co-operates with the Azerbaijani Press Council to advocate for new legislation to decriminalize defamation and libel. Projects include technical training on investigative journalism, online journalism, and social media. The Unit also strives to improve public access to official information by supporting the Information Ombudsman Office.
The Unit promotes political pluralism and the development of a free and fair election environment in accordance with recommendations from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights' election observation missions. The Unit facilitates high-level dialogue and international expertise on election issues such as candidate registration, election complaints, and new legislation for regulating political parties. Support for the professional development of political parties also promotes political pluralism. In addition, the Unit stimulates public participation and greater awareness of democratic principles through discussion seminars, as well as leadership training for young people across Azerbaijan.
The Unit co-operates closely with the State Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Affairs and civil society in promoting the implementation of the 2010 Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence. In addition to organizing awareness-raising activities on this issue across Azerbaijan, the Unit supports exchanges of best practices, training for the staff of newly established shelters, and a nationwide hotline for victims of domestic violence.
Support for civil society
Given that a strong, vibrant civil society is a prerequisite to any authentically democratic system of governance, the Unit’s work has, as one of its core objectives, civil society development. Training and professional-development topics for the current period include international advocacy, the development and submission of reports by local civil society organizations to human rights treaty bodies, and ongoing engagement with other UN and Council of Europe human rights mechanisms.
The Unit promotes government accountability and civic participation in legislative processes, including the development of a Code of Ethics for Members of Parliament (MPs), and improved communication between MPs and constituents.