Helping Armenian partners to push back against burdensome reporting requirements
At the end of 2018 the Armenian government proposed a draft to amend the Law on Public Organizations and increase reporting requirements of all public organizations even if they do not receive public funds from central or local government budgets. The draft amendments propose that organizations would have to reveal the amount of all financial and non-financial income by names, residency and legal status of all sources that are coming from legal entities. This information would then be made public on a government website. As for physical persons donating to CSOs, the government would also collect their names, addresses and passport data. There is a similar initiative to amend the Law on Foundations to require them to disclose the data on donors, too.
How does ECNL help local partners?
Last year ECNL submitted formal written comments to the State Revenue Commission on the draft Law and warned that the proposed amendments are problematic because they violate the privacy of CSOs and their donors and discriminate CSOs compared to business and other entities. ECNL expressed concerns that the draft may affect giving from legal entities but also individuals who may wish to remain anonymous.
In addition, ECNL just released a comparative research looking at reporting practices that could be helpful for CSOs in the ongoing debate. The paper compares relevant practices in countries with similar background to Armenia such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine but also provides the key international standards related to CSO reporting. Local partners will use findings from this paper to strengthen their arguments against the burdensome reporting requirements to be introduced in Armenia.
As a next step, ECNL supported a public discussion of the proposed amendments and provides assistance to the established working group in drafting improved proposals in line with international standards.
Some key issues that ECNL raised in its analysis:
- Right to privacy. CSOs may be required to publish their financial reports but there is no requirement for public identification of all donors/donation recipients individually. All reporting should be subject to a duty to respect the rights of donors, beneficiaries and staff, as well as the right to protect legitimate business confidentiality.
- Concrete threat. There is a need for clear evidence of a concrete threat that is addressed with heightened reporting – based on specific evidence and risk assessment. In addition, the proposed measures should clearly help solve the identified problems and threats.
- Reasonable requirements. Reporting requirements should be reasonable for both a large, professional organization, and for a small, voluntary association.
- Sectoral equity. CSOs should not be subject to heavier reporting requirements because of the origin of their funding or compared to commercial entities, unless there are objective grounds for that.
- Difference between reporting and publicity. There is clear distinction between “reporting obligations” and “public disclosure obligations”. Public disclosure requirements cannot be justified on the ground of ensuring national security and prevention of disorder and crime.
For more details, read the paper here: