Article of TURKPA Secretary General Jandos Asanov dedicated to the 25th anniversary of restoration of independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan has an important place within the community of nations as well as among the Turkic-speaking countries. Throughout many centuries it has been at the crossroads of cultures and civilisations, which is vividly reflected in the culture and language of Azerbaijanis. The country’s history saw many events and upheavals of regional and global scale. And it has been a quarter century since the nation restored its independence.
Azerbaijan is a modern Turkic-speaking country that embraces values common to the humanity, while preserving its rich historic and cultural heritage. It is a country where multiculturalism and tolerance is a way of life.
In the last twenty five years since the restoration of independence there have been turmoil in the country due to the military conflict in Karabakh and stemming from it human tragedy and tremendous hardships, as well as spectacular achievements in the social and economic development of the nation.
Baku – the pearl of the Caspian – cherishes its past and its newly built exquisite and elegant architecture sets its eye towards the future.
The international community recognises Azerbaijan as a reliable and predictable partner that has achieved a lot in its development. The fact that the 7th Global Forum of the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilisations is being held in Baku on 25-27 April, 2016 is a vivid evidence of respect the country enjoys throughout the world. This event is taking place in the year which was declared by President Ilham Aliyev as the year of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan.
By the way, respect and tolerance to other cultures and religions is a value that has deep roots among the Turkic-speaking peoples. Residing in a vast geographic area they profess Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Shamanism including various branches of these religions, their cultures are diverse due to their geographic distribution and close interaction with other communities and also their appearance has features of diverse human races.
The exquisitely and impeccably organised First European Games, held in Baku in 2015, was a spectacular sports and cultural event that made a huge contribution towards the promotion of values of mutual understanding and respect among various communities worldwide. This sports show also gave an opportunity to present in its full colours the rich culture of Azerbaijan that is part of common Turkic legacy.
By the way, Sheki, town located in the north-west of the country and famed for its old historic architecture, handicraft and cuisine, is the cultural capital of the Turkic world in 2016.
Well-being and prosperity of each citizen and family is a priority for the government of the country. The state has achieved its goal of securing the food security of the country and it has yielded a lot of positive results in the diversification of the
economy that is evidenced with the ever growing quantity and quality of locally manufactured goods.
The government has tried its best in tackling the social issues. The level of poverty has dropped to 5%, while salaries and pensions have been substantially increased. 1 500 000 jobs have been created in Azerbaijan over the last twelve years, of which, one million is permanent. The population has reached 9.7 million. Over the past 10 years the development of social infrastructure has been impressive: more than 400 clinics, 2,700 schools and about 50 sport facilities, including multi-functional ones, were built or fully renovated.
Long-term strategic goals of the government of Azerbaijan are reflected in the Development Concept “Azerbaijan-2020: the vision for the future”. The concept sets out further objectives and priority goals at the time when country is entering a new phase in its development. As it is noted in the concept, against the backdrop of current global economic crisis Azerbaijan is gradually reaching economic diversification and has substantially dropped its dependence on the oil sector. “For Azerbaijan the post oil period already started” (from the speech of President Aliyev at the 4th Global Baku Forum held on 10-11 March 2016 in Baku). The government’s steps of towards post-oil era have proven efficient and yielded tangible results. President Ilham Aliyev in his article “Forming a common strategy” published in the special edition on the last G20 Summit held in 2015 in Turkey, points out the following aspect: “The economy’s traditional sectors saw an overhaul, and new areas such as tourism, space and defence industries, information/communication technologies and others were established. Azerbaijan has joined the ranks of the space states by launching its own two satellites.”
What were the latest economic achievements? Azerbaijan’s gross domestic product (GDP) has grown 3.4 times; the volume of the non-oil sector and industrial production has tripled, and the share of the non-oil sector of the economy has kept increasing in the past 12 years, reaching 70% based on the first eight months of 2015. Since 2003 Azerbaijan’s economy has attracted some $200 billion of investments. In recent years the Azerbaijani government has attached great importance to local production, allocating funds to both public and private sectors. An important role is assigned to the economic reforms, which aim at improving the business environment in the country and ensuring the transparency of the economy and financial sector. Growth in the agricultural sector – this area has also been given special attention in recent years – has accounted for 6.6 per cent. The World Economic Forum ranks Azerbaijan at 40th in the world for competitiveness.
As it is well known, Azerbaijan plays a significant role in the global energy security and is actively engaged in carrying out trans-national energy projects. The country has been involved in the implementation of mega projects such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipelines thus playing a substantial role in ensuring the global energy security.
The geographic location of Azerbaijan reveals its vast transport and transit potential that is also conditioned by the fact that country constitutes an inseparable part of the age old Great Silk Road. Transformation of Azerbaijan into one of the regional transport and logistics hubs has become reality and made the country central to both the East-West and North-South transport corridors. The Baku International Sea Port, commissioned in 2014, the modern international airway system, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, to be operational in the foreseeable future, and development of Baku-Aktau ferry line has attained new contents in transport sector, like Silk railroad, Silk marine road, Silk energy road, Silk fiber-optic road, Silk Road of cultures, etc.
Contribution of Azerbaijan to the development of relationships among fraternal Turkic countries has been immense. Azerbaijan’s valuable comprehensive support in this regard has given impetus to institutionalization of rapidly growing cooperation between nations that have common roots. Recently in Baku the Turkic Culture and Heritage Foundation was established on the initiative of President Ilham Aliyev with a view to promote Turkic culture, art and historical values in the world.
It is not by coincidence that TURKPA Secretariat, which started its activities in 2010, is located in Baku. The first Turkic-speaking republic in history, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, was born here in 1918. Albeit short-lived, the ADR has left a lasting legacy in the Turkic world.
While talking of the achievements of the country in the last twenty five years it is difficult to bypass the thorny Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic-speaking Countries (TurkPA) has always called for the peaceful resolution of this protracted conflict, while respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognised borders. Resolution of the conflict opens prospects for a long-term stability, prosperity and close interaction of all the countries in the region.
Latest achievements of the Republic of Azerbaijan have been possible, apart from balanced, predictable and sound policies of the government, due to the dedication and commitment of the people of Azerbaijan to the cause of making their motherland a prosperous modern state with vibrant economy. The country has so far hugely invested into the science, education and upbringing of the youth and there is no doubt that advanced scientific and technological potential as well as skilled human resources will ensure bright horizons for Azerbaijan that is located at the meeting point of cultures and civilisations.