CSO recommendations accepted in revised draft amendments to the Law on Public Organizations in Armenia

Authorities have drafted the amendments to the legislation on civil society organisations’ (CSO) reporting requirements based on recommendations from the sector.

The Law on Public Organisations (adopted in December 2016) introduced annual reporting requirements for organisations using public resources. In October 2018, the State Revenue Committee of Armenia (SRC) developed draft amendments to the law requiring all public organisations to report on an annual basis, in the same way as foundations do. In addition, the draft amendments included a requirement to disclose the names of all donors, as well as names of members, persons included in the governing bodies, staff and volunteers in case they have used organisational resources. Amendments to the law on foundations also proposed to include the requirement of reporting on donors. Authorities justified the amendments by the need to improve CSO transparency and provide possibility for better oversight of their activities and possible abuses.

Many CSOs criticised the draft and considered the proposed requirements as an unreasonable burden. After a number of discussions, the SRC decided to set up a working group with relevant governmental agencies and CSOs to finalise the draft. The group had several meetings from March to June 2019. As a consequence, on August 30, 2019, a new draft of amendments to the law was posted online for a 15-day public discussion.

According to the new draft, the requirements to disclose personal information on donors and beneficiaries were dismissed, while reporting items were reduced to general information on implemented projects, total annual income and expenses. The current amendment still plans to expand the reporting requirement to all public organisations, which might improve their transparency and equalise the reporting requirements between public organisations and foundations.

Draft amendments to the Law on Foundations have also been published: these no longer include any requirement on disclosing donor information, but facilitate the reporting procedure for foundations. Formerly, foundations have been publishing the reports online on paid basis, while the proposed amendments will allow them to publish reports free of charge on a special reporting platform.

Involvement of CSOs in the development of updated drafts was an example of a successful state-CSO cooperation experience. Transparency International Anticorruption Center had an active role in discussions of draft amendments and preparation of proposals, with significant involvement and assistance from ECNL. A comparative research by ECNL covering related international standards and existing reporting practices in European countries, followed by a public discussion organised in Yerevan, helped to strengthen the arguments against the burdensome reporting requirements. As a result, the amendments were revised to correspond to international standards and not to create significant burden for public organisations.