Historical overview: Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy was founded on January 5, 2004 and was registered by the Ministry of Justice on May 26, 2006. PAAFE is a non-governmental organization operating fully on the not-profit basis. The organization’s mission is to work to ensure economic freedom and good governance.
After establishment, during the years 2004-2006, the organization took active part at Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan/South Caucasus Pipeline NGO Monitoring/Audit Program of Open Society Foundation. The organization joined the NGO Coalition on Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2005 and was one of the 9 NGOs that founded National Budget Group in 2006. The Chairman of Board of PAAFE was elected as a member of International Committee of NGO Forum on ADB in 2010-2012, and was elected as a coordinator of NGO coalition on EITI.
PAAFE became a member of NGO Forum of ADB in 2008 (with headquarters in Manila), Civil Society Forum of Eastern Partnership Program of European Union (2010) and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders (2010), and SICIVUS (2013). Moreover, from 2009, PAAFE started to take part at Black Sea NGO Forum. PAAFE gained several partners by actively participating at international networks and implemented joint projects. Revenue Watch Institute, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Georgian Foundation for Strategic and İnternational Studies, Ukraine Centre for Economic Research and Policy Consulting, Human Rights Watch, Norwegian Human Rights House Foundation, Poland Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights are among such partner organizations.
Structure: PAAFE functions according to the NGO legislation of Azerbaijan and the Charter registered by Ministry of Justice. The highest decision making body of the organization is General Assembly where all members participate. The General Assembly gathers once in two years and makes discussions on Charter and general line of the organization and elects the Board and chairman of Board for 2 years. The Board consists of 5 members.
The Board meets on a quarterly basis and approves strategic goals, program directions and financial reports of the organization. Except the Chairman, other members of the Board cannot be a member of the Staff, but can serve as a consultant and expert within projects.
The Board submits its report to the General Assembly. Both meetings of GA and the Board are recorded. The current activity of the Board is implemented by Chairman of the Board.
1) Free trade. This program covers problems related to economic freedom, free movement of goods, investments, and people. One of this projects is “Cost of Borders”, and within this project, partners form Ukraine, Georgia conducted a research titled “Free Movement of Commodities, Investment and People in the Black Sea Region“ and held conferences and round tables in 3 countries. Projects within this program are supported by Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation Program of GMF-, Atlas ERF and Fridriech Naumann Foundation.
2) Transparency and accountability. This is one of the biggest programs of the organization. The main directions in this program are issues about transparency and efficiency of budget funds and state investments, also problems related to EITI and OGP, accountability of state. The organization implemented more than 20 project, conducted researches, prepared videos and reports on that direction. Projects within this program were financed by OSIAF (Azerbaijan), Revenue Watch Institute, European Commission, Oxfam GB, Oxfam Novib, US Embassy and Norwegian Embassy.
3) Property rights. PAAFE is the main organization that works in this field. After the oil boom in Azerbaijan, regarding implementation of state projects on city renovation in wide range, property rights of citizens are massively violated. PAAFE approaches to this problem in the aspect of economic freedom. The program covers – monitoring on property rights, preparation of annual case reports, statistics and maps, public awareness, development of skill and abilities, legal aid, court defence, preparation and submission of strategic cases to ECHR, and advocacy campaign at local and international level. At present the organization created separate portal (www.propertyrights.az) – data base. Projects related this program we supported by NED, European Commission, OSI (Budapest) and Embassy of Great Britain.
4) Economic diversification. This program is initiative of Revenue Watch Institute and was implemented in several oil reach countries together with partner organizations. Wide research was conducted within the framework of the program based on the methodology of RWI. At present advocacy campaign related to the program is prepared.
Achievements: Main achievements of the organisation during its functioning can be summarized as follows:
- Long-term active participation at NGO Coalition on EITI, National Budget Group that has good reputation in Azerbaijan, also participation at NGO Forum on ADB and EU Eastern Partnership CSF, Black Sea NGO Forum that function at international level.
- Conducted researches, reports and policy papers, were widely discussed in public discussions and media, and involved interest of members of parliament. This can be seen in several references made to products of PAAFE in media and reports at international level.
- Several ideas of advocacy campaign of the organisation were implemented by the state, for example: improvement of legal framework base of state investment, inclusion of state investment projects to the budget envelop, increase of transparency to some extent in compensation process during demolition of people ‘s houses and lands for state needs and city planning.
The main target groups and decision makers within these activities include civil society members, experts, businesses, young researchers and human right defenders. As part of these monitoring and study efforts, the organization prepares and publishes reports, including policy and position papers, and recommendations to the government, parliamentarians, international organizations and civil society organizations.
TV and radio programs, short video documentaries, and messages targeted at social networks are the most preferred ways of public awareness. For more effective results, advocacy campaigns are carried out with the focus on partnership stakeholder. The main stakeholders that the organization cooperates are members of parliament, international organizations, research centres, ombudsman administration and local and international civil society networks.
The organization extensively uses social networks and more than 20 videos have been posted on YouTube and Facebook page of the organization created for the extensive distribution of messages. Moreover, there is another Facebook page related to one of the activity areas of the organization - Property Rights.