The bill on non-governmental organizations was drafted and published in 2014. The concerns and controversial provisions voiced by the NGOs, however, resulted in initiating a series of public discussions at the Armenian Justice Ministry since December, 2013.
Heriknaz Tigranyan, legal expert at the Transparency International Anti Corruption Center, said the amended bill enabled NGOs to venture into entrepreneurship which is, in general, a positive step.
“But the bill proposed by the Justice Ministry determines the entrepreneurship must comply with the statutory objectives and aims. The given definition limits the scope of possible activities. In addition, it may lead to administrative sanctions for NGOs up to compulsory liquidation if three cases of incompliance with statute are identified within a year,” Tigranyan said and added they have proposed to the Ministry to change the provision and agreed upon the change.
Mikayel Hovhannisyan, project manager at the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, believes the bill on non-governmental organizations enables the Government with rather decisive leverages to monitor NGOs.
“Now the discussions mainly focus on removing these leverages. In general, it embraces financial sustainability of NGOs, reporting, involvement of volunteers and appearance in court. The legislative aspect does need improvement but, on the other hand, how is it done?” Hovhannisyan said.
The NGO representatives point out the willingness and openness of the Justice Ministry to new proposals whereas there is no guarantee the bill will not be drastically changed at the National Assembly.
The leading principle should be the maximum liberalization of NGO activities, Davit Amiryan, deputy director for Programs at the Open Society Foundations – Armenia, said.
“Unfortunately, the current variant of the bill limits the philosophy of liberalization. The executive body intends to participate in the activities of NGOs and meetings, as well as demand necessary documents,” said Amiryan.
The panelists spoke on the statutory audit of NGOs and restrictions regarding their presentation at the court. “The statutory audit is a financial burden for NGOs. The lowest level is defined the audit for NGOs with an annual turnover of 10 million drams. Upon our request the level was changed to NGOs with 50 million drams which are funded by the state or local budgets while other NGOs may carry out audits at their own discretion,” Tigranyan said.
“The draft bill defines NGOs may appear in court as a party within a specified scope of fields: nature protection and protection of cultural values. We believe this restriction must be removed,” Amiryan added.
The NGO representatives noted the Justice Ministry has primarily agreed upon amending several provisions and definitions and they will wait for a revised bill which will include their proposals as well.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator