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Democratization for Azerbaijan

           In 1992, Azerbaijani citizens rejected the Soviet past to elect a new pro-democratic national government led by President Abulfaz Elchibey. Despite facing a debilitating war over Nagorno-Karabakh, the parliament instituted some of the most sweeping reforms among post-Soviet countries. In 1994, however, the Soviet-era leader Haidar Aliyev, backed by Russia, overthrew the democratic government and instituted a harsh dictatorship, which survives to this day as a family dynasty under Aliyev's son, Ilham.

          IDEE began programs to support the return of democracy to Azerbaijan starting in 1995. IDEE helped establish a Center for Pluralism — the Inam Foundation  — and supported its publications, training, and and civil society  development programs. Over ten years, the Inam Foundation published more than 100 titles in its democracy and civil society series; organized more than 50 training seminars; published an Azeri-language version of theCenters for Pluralism Newsletter; published a successor magazine NGO Sektor starting in 2002; and carried out numerous other progrms to foster citizen and electoral participation. In addition, IDEE, with the help of Inam, provided ongoing support to the civic programs of numerous pro-democracy NGOs, including the D. Aliyeva Society for the Protection of Women's Rights, the Azerbaijan National Democratic Foundation, the Center for Political Research "Democrat," the Institute of Peace and Democracy, and the Support Center for Democratic Elections, among several other organizations. These also became CfP Partners and, along with Inam, participated in CfP Network meetings and various cross-border programs. IDEE, with Inam, also conducted a support grant program from 1998-2002 that provided material and technical assistance to more than 50 NGOs and civil society projects and independent media. Through these programs, IDEE offered the possibility for a wide range of initiatives to emerge and, in many cases, to survive the ongoing attack of the Aliyev government and to continue their struggle for democracy.

          One of the main cross-border programs organized by IDEE was the Women in the Caucasus Program, from 1999-2002, which fostered greater citizen participation in community life among women and promoted conflict resolution and reconciliation through in-country and cross-border forums led by women NGO leaders from each of the region's three countries. The D. Aliyeva Society was the principal partner for this program in Azerbaijan. 

          From 1998 to 2002, IDEE supported broad civic campaigns encouraging voter participation and the development of democratic political parties. These civic campaigns allowed independent NGOs to organize education campaigns, voter monitoring, and public service advertisements. In October 2003, IDEE supported the SOS '03 Election League and, with the support of IREX and the State Department, coordinated an Observer Mission to the Azerbaijan Elections that included 188 observers from Central and Eastern Europe and formed part of the  OSCE/ODIHR Mission. IDEE's team, however, organized as a separate mission within the framework of the OSCE, and publicly disagreed with the OSCE Mission's  judgement that elections had improved, reporting widespread electoral fraud and unfair practicies in a votum separatum.

          IDEE maintains ongoing relationships with its partners on the ground and regularly posts news and items on Azerbaijan on its home page that highlight the situation of human rights, media rights, and other democracy-related issues, including from the Inam Foundation, the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety, the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Azerbaijan, and other independent organizations. Several appeals have been sent to the more than 50 organizations in the Centers for Pluralism Network.

IDEE supported broad civic campaigns encouraging voter participation in 1999, 2002, and 2003,
including this poster designed and distributed by the Inam Center for Pluralism.


For more information on these programs, please contact Eric Chenoweth or Irena Lasota at [email protected]


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