Mr. Ilham Aliyev is the current President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. He is the son of Heydar Aliyev, who served as the third President of Azerbaijan, from October 1993 to October 2003.
Mr. Heydar Aliyev, the father, recognized as the national leader, established in Azerbaijan a regime that has brought stability to the country. His son has been leading the country on the path of his father.
At the opening of the 5th World Forum Intercultural Dialogue that took place on 2-3 May 2019, Mr. Ilham Aliyev delivered a message to which the ears of the world should be tuned.
The World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue began in 2011; it is an initiative to organize and hold talks in cultural dialogue, based on Azerbaijan’s history, geography and understanding that to make a safer world Azerbaijan needs to be very active in promoting this issue. The Forum’s purpose is to build a dialogue into action against discrimination, inequality, and violent conflict.
In his Forum’s opening speech, Mr. Aliyev introduced to the world the contribution Azerbaijan makes to make the world a better place all around.
Here is what Mr. Ilham Aliyev told an auditorium filled with delegates from 100 countries: Azerbaijan, the bridge connecting East and West.
Azerbaijan is about dialogue, not hostility
The Forum hosted leading organizations, the world religions, and ethnic group representatives. They all came together in joint efforts and activities to contribute to the dialogue on traditions and cultures, and an even broader dimension of work could be applied, which the Forum allows being developed.
Azerbaijan is a land where, for centuries, representation of ethnic and religious groups created religious tolerance; it is a peaceful place with representatives of different nationalities.
Azerbaijan’s history and its geography attest that only in the spirit of mutual respect the country can achieve success. Today, the country’s rapid development, among others, is based on this heritage culture. It is driven by solidarity along which all representatives of Azerbaijan’s society are validated.
Historical monuments around the country demonstrate that representatives of different religions lived productively in Azerbaijan. Along with the country’s ancient history, you find ancient mosques and the Caucuses’ ancient churches. Azerbaijan’s society’s cultural diversity, based the country’s historical heritage, demonstrates today that intercultural dialogue is the only way as to how to bring countries closer; how to establish more bridges between representatives of different religions and civilizations.
For Azerbaijan, multiculturalism and interculturalism* are the way the nation lives. Though the terms are relatively new, multiculturalism/interculturalism have been residing in Azerbaijan’s atmosphere for centuries.
With the year 2016 declared by Azerbaijan to be the multiculturalism year, it demonstrated that the country wants to attract the attention of the world to this important idea.
The year 2017 was declared by Azerbaijan to be the Islamic solidarity year, a symbolic step to demonstrate the country’s historical heritage, roots, and openness to the world. Mr. Aliyev thinks that if these tendencies prevail globally, it will make the world safer, more predictable and more peaceful.
For Azerbaijan, multiculturalism is the most important element in the country’s policy. The international multiculturalism center was created and established in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and along with the center’s activities, the country promotes these values and demonstrating that multiculturalism holds a great future. “This Forum and numerous other events, organized along this agenda in Azerbaijan as well as other parts of the world, really show that we are all trying to promote the value of multiculturalism,” emphasized Mr. Aliyev.
The World Forum on Multiculturalism Dialogue is one of the most important international events for Azerbaijan and also globally. During the past few years the country held numerous other international events, such as the Religious Leaders Forum, Traditional Baku Humanitarian Forum, 7 times the Baku Global Forum, an important platform to address political developments and cultural dialogue issues, all of which are a vehicle to attract the attention of the world’s community to important issues that are the concern of most people.
Mr. Aliyev is sure that discussions at the Forum will not only reveal the problems and allow speakers to express the abuse but also will contribute to strengthening the partnership, solidarity, and cooperation and as a result, will build more bridges between cultures.
Last year Azerbaijan celebrated the Baku Process 10th Anniversary, launched in 2008. This is also an initiative Azerbaijan is proud to host. From its inception, this event became popular and received global attention. It was the first time Azerbaijan gathered ministers of culture from the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and representatives from more than 100 countries; all got together in Baku to discuss the prospects of cooperation.
Today the Baku Process is one of the most important instrumental dialogues between Europe and the rest of the world.
Azerbaijan is one of the few countries, a member of the OIC and the European institutes and thus it is playing its natural positive role in the establishment of the context and providing the opportunities for a dialogue; “and dialogue is what we need; dialogue in issues related to culture, inter-religions’ relations, dialogue on all issues, political agenda, economic cooperation, security issues. And the name of the Forum is Dialogue, which is what Azerbaijan presents to the world and what gets very broad international support. Today, the Baku Process is an initiative supported by the United Nations Organization (UN), and other leading international organizations and I therefore see Baku Process having a great future,” explains Mr. Aliyev.
Such is the World Forum on International Dialogue, which attracts the attention of the international community to a dialogue on culture issues and elaborates on new ideas and approaches. For those who make decisions in different countries and the international organizations, Mr. Aliyev sees the Forum to be a very positive platform to make the right decisions.
Since the country is located between Asia and Europe, since its geography influenced its history and its past, present and future’s development, Azerbaijan, in this respect, inside and outside the country, conducts its policy based on mutual understanding, cooperation and building bridges.
“The future we are building is well calculated and bright,” projects Mr. Aliyev.
Azerbaijan is celebrating 27 years of independence. Thought the country is relatively new, it already has modern infrastructure and it plays an important role in building political, economic and cultural practical points of view regarding connectivity and transportation to bridge Europe and Asia. Transformed into a modern developing country, Azerbaijan has a very clear vision for the future.
The Armenia occupation of Azerbaijan’s lands
One of the main problems Azerbaijan has faced for many years and is still facing is the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s land.
For more than 25 years Armenia continues to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven other districts, all are Azerbaijan’s historical land. This is an egregious violation of international law. The people of Azerbaijan were subjected to ethnic cleansing, and brutal massacre and more than one million Azeri people became homeless refugees, the result of Armenian aggression and occupation.
Twice, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sent a fact-finding mission to the occupied territories and their reports clearly show that Azerbaijan’s historical and religious heritage monuments were destroyed.
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted four resolutions that demand Armenia’s immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the occupied territories. However, these resolutions remain on paper only. This is a clear indication that “sometimes” UNSC resolutions are not implemented for so many years and there is no mechanism of implementation. And as such, Azerbaijan’s lands are still under illegal occupation.
Concerning the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, numerous international organizations, like the Organization Islamic Cooperation (OIC), The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and others adopted a similar resolutions’ decisions. Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is recognized by the whole world and must be fully restored and based on international laws, relevant to the UN Charter and UNSC resolutions the conflict must be finally resolved.
Azerbaijan’s foreign policy
Despite this huge problem that bears humanitarian capacity, Azerbaijan managed to transform into a modern country with an effective foreign and economic policy which allow improving the living standards of its people.
“When it comes to foreign policy, for many countries Azerbaijan is a valuable partner,” claims Mr. Aliyev.
As a member of OIC and with close ties and strategic partnership to the European Union (EU), the Baku Process – a global strategy for intercultural dialogue – is Azerbaijan’s contribution to the establishment of bridges between Europe and the Moslem world. “In other words, Azerbaijan foreign policy agenda is based on cooperation, on strengthening partnerships and mutual benefits. Such foreign policy allows our country to implement very important energy and transportation projects. Because without good cooperation with different partner-countries it is impossible to implement these projects,” Mr. Aliyev validates.
Connectivity is of vital importance. Azerbaijan is situated on the ancient Silk Road, and thus it is a transit country. It participates in transportation projects while looking at these projects to make a positive change in the region, to create a broader format for international cooperation.
Without cooperation with its immediate neighbors and other partners, it is impossible to become a successful transit country and for many countries to benefit from this position. It is, therefore, Azerbaijan’s policy to achieve its goals which are to make countries stronger through cooperation and mutual understanding and shared values.
In the last decade, the country’s economic development was supported by energy projects. By diversifying network of pipelines, together with Azerbaijan’s neighbors and partners, it managed to connect the Caspian Sea with the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, and thus providing security for the country and its neighbors and other countries in the world.
Today, Azerbaijan is acting on the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor. This is the new phase of the project while it is already making it possible for several countries to get together and take advantage and benefit from it.
In the last 15 years, Azerbaijan’s economic development was the fastest in the world. The government implemented critical reforms allowing vast improvement of the country’s business climate. These reforms attract investments, and according to the world banks’ latest assessment, the country offers a very friendly business climate to foreign investments.
At present Azerbaijan is working on reducing its rather low foreign debts, standing at about 19% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio. For some time, the Azerbaijani government is working on issues related to the diversification of the country’s economy and the eradication of unemployment.
As for energy security, Azerbaijan has always tried to find the proper balance between producers, transiting and consumers to have a win-win situation. Otherwise, it will not work.
“A country must always be ready to extend support to its partners when they need it and expect reciprocation,” Mr. Aliyev states.
Azerbaijan is also an active participant in an extended transportation network, from north to south, from east to west. Transportation lines already cross the country, but essential geographical elements are a prerequisite. Therefore, investing mainly in transportation infrastructure, highways, and railroad network, ports, and airports provide ample opportunities.
The country’s development transformed into an increase in living standards, and today its population’s poverty level stands at 5-6%. Unemployment, social inequality, and illiteracy are some of the causes for radicalization and extremism, which Azerbaijan works hard to avoid.
Radicalization and extremism
Azerbaijan is an active partner in the fight against terrorism, radicalization, and extremism. It helps promote to the world the values of Islamic civilization; it had organized numerous exhibitions, presentations and cultural events in different parts of the world, to demonstrate Azerbaijan’s culture.
In summation ..
“The Forum is a remarkable event in which Azerbaijan’s partners, partnering organizations, intellectuals, politicians, public figures, representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs’), representatives of the media and scientists participate,” Mr. Aliyev concludes his Forum’s opening speech in which he presented his country to the world.
Based on the World Forum Intercultural Dialogue’s results, the Forum’s recommendations help to make the future of countries and the world more stable, secure and stable.”
* Intercultural is something that occurs between people of different cultures, including different religious groups or people of different national origins.