On June 9, 2009, the Parliament of Azerbaijan adopted the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan On Voluntary Activities, which entered into force on July 29, 2009. Primarily a declaration of the government’s support of volunteerism, the new law is considered an improvement in the regulatory environment for volunteers in Azerbaijan.
Specifically, it states that the unpaid work of volunteers is not illegal. The present Labor Code of Azerbaijan prohibits paying workers less than the established minimal salary, and under this prohibition, volunteers can be considered “workers.” Even though the government has not been enforcing this prohibition against non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteers, both groups were concerned that they might be subjected to the government’s harassment if the government decided to impose the prohibition. This new law clearly states that the unpaid work of volunteers is both legal and supported by the state, and requires the government to bring other legislation, including the Labor Code, in compliance with the new Law on Voluntary Activities.
This law was initiated by the Not-For-Profit Law Coalition established within the Civil Society Project, whose members drafted, and advocated for, adoption of the law for over two years. ICNL has been assisting both the Coalition and Parliament, and is pleased with the substantial improvement of the text of the adopted law compared to its original version in 2007. The adoption of this law is a positive development, not only because it improves the regulatory environment for NGOs and volunteers, but also because it demonstrates that Azerbaijani NGOs can successfully advocate on policy and legislative issues.
However, Azerbaijani legislation still contains a number of issues which might hinder voluntary activities; for example, compensation of some volunteers expenses is subject to income tax. ICNL will continue to provide technical assistance, in order to improve the legislation on volunteers and NGOs.