Azerbaijan and Sustainable Development Goals
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Your Excellency Mr. Hafiz Pashayev, again for your gracious hosting today’s conference and reception.
It is a great pleasure to join you all today, on behalf of the United Nations System in Azerbaijan to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.
Seventy years ago the world chose the right path, which gave birth to the world’s only truly universal global organization. Mindful of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, the United Nations strengthens its focus on the collective commitment to human rights, global progress and lasting peace, and continues to engage in a comprehensive and wide-reaching agenda under the principles and objectives set forth in the United Nations Charter.
We live in turbulent times – indeed it is hard to remember a time when more crises were simultaneously preoccupying the United Nations, its agencies, and the broader international community. It is distressing that conflicts between nations still continue. The world has still not found the lasting peace and stability the founders of the United Nations had envisaged.
While the United Nations is adapting to an ever-changing global landscape, the spirit and the principles of the Charter will always play the central role of the United Nations in international cooperation, promoting human rights and peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and sustainable development. The timeless values of the Charter remain a firm foundation for shared progress.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Celebration of the UN’s anniversary also provides an opportunity to reflect on many achievements of the Azerbaijan – United Nations partnership and define prospects for further cooperation. Twenty three years ago, on 2 March 1992, Azerbaijan was admitted to membership in the United Nations. The accomplishments are impressive when one remembers that in the initial years of its independence, Azerbaijan faced extreme difficulties, and the consequent tragedy of many refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), that put severe strain on the capacity and finances of the country.
The United Nations established its presence in Azerbaijan in November 1992 when the United Nations Development Programme opened its office. That was followed by UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, OCHA, and UNFPA. Currently, the UN family in Azerbaijan embraces 18 resident and non-resident UN agencies.
The initial mandate and focus of the UN was to provide support to the Government in responding to the humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, particularly by providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons.
With the stability attained in the country, the Government and the United Nations shifted their cooperation to address national development goals, including enhancing economic opportunities and improving living standards, reforming education and health systems, promoting good governance and use of ICT.
Working on a broad range of issues, the United Nations has supported Azerbaijan in solidifying and capitalizing on gains of its independence.
The entry of Azerbaijan into world hydrocarbon markets, as an oil and gas exporter, has endowed the country with substantial income. The UN’s role in Azerbaijan therefore shifted from immediate needs to longer-term socio-economic development. In that regard, UN has focused on strengthening national institutions for economic diversification, capacity development, and boosting the social sector.
The UN partnered with the international development community to support the Government’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals through the design and implementation of Azerbaijan’s first national poverty reduction strategy for 2003-2005.
Building on this, UN supported preparation of the State Programme on Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development for 2008-2015.
As a result of the government funding provided for ambitious programmes in socio-economic areas, Azerbaijan improved its human development rating. Since 2010, Azerbaijan is a member of the “high human development” category and its Human Development Index value for 2013 is 0.747, positioning the country at 76 out of 187 countries and territories.
The country has also made commendable progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. At the same time, Azerbaijan still faces some significant challenges, which are common to several countries across the region—namely, the need to ensure strong and inclusive growth, and to diversify and rebalance the structure of growth and investment. Developing a new diversified non-oil, export-led development model, with an increasing role for private sector and SMEs, is clearly not easy, but even more needed now with the recent sharp decrease in oil prices.
The government has introduced notable institutional reforms. However, market institutions need further strengthening so that they can fulfill their role of facilitating innovation and productivity growth, jobs creation and providing a supportive and investment-friendly business environment.
Azerbaijan, since joining the United Nations, has very well supported the Organization and consistently committed itself to support and adhere to the principles of the UN Charter and international law, representing indispensable foundations for international peace and security, justice and human rights.
Gender equality is a fundamental principle that will continue to guide the government, which supports the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and UN Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security. This year, Azerbaijan reported on the implementation of the CEDAW report.
On the UN Day in 2011, Azerbaijan was elected a non-permanent member to the Security Council for a two-year term (2012-2013). This is one of Azerbaijan’s greatest foreign policy achievements since it declared independence in 1992. It will enable the country to broaden its cooperation with the UN system and other multilateral and bilateral organizations in order to enhance its position and support the multitude of regional and global issues including helping to advance peace and security and sustainable development around the world.
Being a young nation, Azerbaijan is emerging as an increasingly important player in Eurasia, Europe, and the Middle East, with its special focus on humanitarian causes (e.g. contribution to the Ebola Fund), and an interest to cooperate with the United Nations system for boosting sustainable development and peace-keeping operations.
The United Nations system in Azerbaijan works closely with the Government to support fulfilment of the national priorities, policies and strategies. A new UN-Azerbaijan Partnership Framework for 2016-2020, which is expected to be endorsed by the Government soon, will help Azerbaijan build on the successful cooperation and strong commitment to the United Nations’ ideals and principles of dignity and prosperity for all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the UN marks its 70th anniversary this year, UN Member States are launching a new era for sustainable development. Last month, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the UN Special Summit in New York. A new set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will help tackle important human development related challenges and provide the means of creating a more peaceful, inclusive, and sustainable world. This new agenda, replacing the Millennium Development Goals by end 2015, focuses on transformation – a key word for implementation of all the new global agendas – in the way the world lives, works, and does business are needed for building the low carbon, climate resilient, green and inclusive economies and societies of the future. Reducing inequality is identified as a top priority in the SDGs. While many developing countries have, on average, increased their average incomes and converged in GDP per capita towards more advanced economies, inequalities have also grown in many nations, rich or poor. UNDP estimates that seventy per cent of people in developing countries are living in societies, which are less equal now than they were in 1990 – the baseline date for measuring MDG progress.
Gender inequality remains a major challenge, hindering the capacity of nations to unlock the full transformative contribution, which women can make to our world.
Effective and inclusive partnerships will be critical to realizing SDGS. Governments, parliamentarians, business leaders, civil society and others should forge partnerships for positive change under the umbrella of the United Nations.
The SDGs are ambitious, but achievable with determined partnership and effective implementation. The UN System in Azerbaijan stands ready to provide support to the Government for the implementation of the SDGs, in line with national priorities that are articulated in ‘Vision 2020’, particularly in (i) localizing SDGs; (ii) monitoring and implementation processes; (iii) identifying gaps; and (iv) identifying partnerships supporting SDGs. Ladies and Gentlemen, We welcome you to our joint conference, which is the first opportunity to discuss the implementation of SDGs in Azerbaijan.
We are confident that today’s discussions will provide good food for thought and lay a solid foundation for further cooperation with a wide range of partners within the context of the new universal and transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We would like to thank the speakers and look forward to the exchange of opinions and interaction.
We believe that today’s discussion will be useful for reconfirming the UN-Azerbaijan partnership, which has become stronger in recent years.
The UN in Azerbaijan is committed to promote exchange of experiences and best practices with other countries that contribute to social and economic development.
The United Nations stands ready to extend its assistance to the Government in intensifying its efforts to transfer know-how to other countries and help boost their development, in the spirit of South-South cooperation.
As the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated at the High-Level Debate of the General Assembly marking the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, “alongside despair in many corners, there remains great hope in the power of working together. That is the founding spirit of the United Nations – and in this 70th anniversary year, in the face of grave and global challenges, it is the spirit we must summon today.’
The theme of this anniversary year is “Strong UN. Better World”. Our shared duty is to “unite our strength” to serve the people.
Tomorrow, to mark the 70th anniversary, monuments and buildings across the world will be illuminated in UN blue. In Baku, the Heydar Aliyev Centre will be lit in blue, and we would like to warmly thank the Heydar Aliyev Foundation for supporting the global initiative. As we shine a light on this milestone anniversary, let us reaffirm our commitment to a better and brighter future for all.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the government and people of Azerbaijan for the close collaboration over the past 23 years on many key issues faced by a young nation.
We are very happy that the progress of the country has been favourable and many significant issues faced in the early days of independence have been resolved, and that remaining ones will always be solved in the form of peaceful and constructive dialogue.
The United Nations System in Azerbaijan remains committed to provide support to the Government to ensure the success of the new Agenda 2030 to further promote sustainable development in the country.
Let me also to take this opportunity to thank all partners of Azerbaijan for their kind support to the development of this beautiful country and we are looking forward to continue our partnerships and joint efforts.
I wish the people of Azerbaijan a long and healthy life, and peace and prosperity!