Debate Surrounds Allocation of State Grants: Critics Question Chosen Projects

Logo of the Agency for State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations of Azerbaijan

State Support Agency for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from the Azerbaijani government has recently disclosed the outcomes of its 2024 large, medium, and small grant competitions. Winning projects appear to center around Western Azerbaijan.

Dubbed “within the process of return to Western Azerbaijan”, these projects have a total allocation of 311,050 AZN in grant funds. Among them, initiatives like “Truths of Western Azerbaijan,” “Promotion of folklore heritage of Western Azerbaijan,” and “Iravan: historical facts and personalities” have received considerable funds.

The larger grant projects, exceeding 30,000 AZN, have faced scrutiny from social and political circles online. Critics of the grant allocations have raised concerns regarding the prioritization of projects focused on Western Azerbaijan, questioning their relevance and efficacy.

For instance, the “Azerbaijan National Culinary Association Public Union” secured 31,250 AZN for its “West Azerbaijan Sweets” project. In response to criticisms, Tahir Amiraslanov, the association’s head, defended the project’s merit, citing past successes and recognition of similar endeavors.

Similarly, the “Sönmez Masha Cultural Relations Public Union”, awarded 34,900 AZN for its “Shusha as seen from Malaysia” project, faced backlash online. Shahla Naghiyeva, the union’s leader, justified the initiative, emphasizing the significance of showcasing Shusha’s cultural heritage, especially in Muslim-majority countries like Malaysia.

Critics also revolve around these initiatives diverting resources from more pressing societal needs, while others highlight potential political motivations behind the emphasis on projects related to this particular region. Additionally, skepticism surrounds the allocation of large grant sums to projects deemed by some as tangential to immediate social or economic challenges facing the country.

The allocation of grants, totaling 2,587,350 AZN, has been distributed among 413 organizations. Small grants dominate the distribution, with 1,955,050 AZN allocated, followed by medium grants at 502,000 AZN, and major grants amounting to 130,300 AZN in total.

While the State Support Agency’s funding efforts aim to bolster NGO initiatives, the selection of projects and allocation of funds generates debates regarding their relevance and impact within Azerbaijani society.

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