Yaşama Dair Foundation published the report, “Monitoring CSOs’ Applications to Right to Petition” with the support of Etkiniz.
Below you can read the executive summary of the report, originally published in Turkish:
Monitoring CSOs Applications to Right to Petition aims to assess, in the framework of human rights monitoring indicators, applications by civil society organisations to the Committee of Petitions, Human Rights Inquiry Committee (İHİK) and the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men (KEFEK), which are authorised bodies within the legislative to receive petitions following the transfer to the new system of government in Turkey. This will allow measurement of CSOs’ participation in parliamentary work, results obtained, and whether there are violations or negligence of rights at the legislative body level regarding the right to petition and will raise awareness for the more active use of the right to petition.
The report was prepared as part of Sivil Sayfalar’s Project on CSOs’ Active Participation in the Legislative Process realised with Etkiniz support (YADA Foundation) and in cooperation with the Yaşama Dair Vakıf (YADA Foundation) and covers three organisations authorised to receive petitions within the legislative organ following the transfer to the new system of government in Turkey. The report evaluates applications to the Committee on Petitions, Human Rights Inquiry Committee (İHİK) and the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men (KEFEK) in the framework of human rights monitoring indicators.
The study report covers the field study carried out between May and July 2020 using the qualitative method including in-depth interviews, archive surveys and analysis. The study consists of a survey of the present regulations and practices regarding the participation of CSOs in legislative processes between June 25th 2018 and June 30th 2020, examination of the relevant databases, in-depth interviews with experts working in commissions pertaining to the right to petition and in the field and relevant CSO professionals. Previous studies on the use of the right to petition to the GNAT by civil society actors were examined, a literature survey was carried out and secondary sources were accessed. Furthermore, interviews were carried out with CSOs which directly applied for their right to petition to the three committees and their experiences were featured in the report.
Obstacles to active participation were examined by formulating human rights indicators and proposals were listed. The active use of the right to petition, which is categorised as a right to political application, can influence and transform decisions; moreover, the ability to convey applications to the legislative organ and have them feature on the agenda itself forms an important criterion of the democratic quality of the system. In other words, CSOs’ participation in decision-making mechanisms through the right to petition is an important indicator of the inclusiveness and accountability of a democratic system.
The study shows that the right to petition, which has narrowed down or expanded from time to time in line with the openness of the democratic system in Turkey to demands, has remained at a low level during the first two years of the Presidential Government System, as it did under the Parliamentary System.
Findings of the study confirm that the right to petition is not used actively. Among the factors resulting in CSOs not actively participating in the right to petition are some structural problems such as the lack of information of some CSOs regarding the right to petition and political application and the low number of CSOs that have an advocacy strategy allowing for launching a petition and following-up the outcome. In addition to awareness factors, the main obstacle to civilian participation is observed to be the influence of the present political polarisation on the civil society field. CSOs have been found to not use the right to petition due to the lower influence of parliamentary commissions under the new system, pre-judgments that their applications will not be finalised and sometimes due to their political perspectives.
Study findings and expert evaluations indicate that the capacity of the political climate to meet democratic demands and the coordinated and cooperative action of all actors are influential in the more active use of the right to petition. Recommendations for the more active use of the right to petition by civil society actors and for the right to political application to yield expected results are as follows:
- Revisions to the application methods and databases of bodies authorised to receive applications in a manner which enables human rights monitoring in order to correctly analyse applications to the right to petition, responses and trends under the Presidential Government System;
- Reorganisation of the petition application systems in a way which enables the petition applications regarding disadvantaged groups to be disaggregated from the database for recording and analyses;
- Increased cooperation and coordination among rights bodies;
- CSO follow-up of and pressure for the implementation of work run by competent bodies for the active use of the right to petition, despite all problems;
- A display of effort on both sides for the establishment of a constructive relationship based on trust and understanding between civil society and the public sector;
- Increased cooperation and dialogue between civil society and the public sector for the active use of the right to petition by CSOs,
- Civil society actors developing more effective advocacy strategies to present more and better prepared petitions to the legislative assembly;
- Various work on raising information and awareness on rights remedies to increase the use of the right to petition by civil society and therefore increased civil participation in democracy to be run by both public bodies and CSOs,
- CSOs closely following up the work of public bodies, increased awareness that sound knowledge of the legislation and close contact work with public officials will facilitate the advocacy demands and processes of CSOs;
- Civil actors developing advocacy strategies that are compatible with the rights remedies under the new government system, launching petition applications; even in instances where their efforts to participate in and offer opinions to relevant Committees prove fruitless, and keeping up democratic constitutional and human rights follow-up of decision making organs;
- CSOs in the same field coming together to run awareness raising and increased civilian participation efforts with broader participation;
- Holding meetings on the importance of the right to petition that ensures the participation of all parties, awareness raising work on the importance of the right to petition and its influence on and significance for decision-making mechanisms.