The economy of Azerbaijan still incur difficulties due to the unsettled Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as a result of which, more than one million Azerbaijani citizens became refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The problems with housing, food, health, education, employment of these persons fall on the Government. In the past four years, AZN 700mln has been spend on improvement of the socio-economic opportunities of the refugees and IDPs. Some AZN 370mln of this amount was covered by the government. Since 2001 the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAR) allocated AZN 378mln for refugees and IDPs. The amount of the funds in this regard increases due to increase of the GDP in the Country. The Government released the refugees and IDPs from taxes, they get education free of charge, thousands of families have been provided with house. Approved by the President of Azerbaijan on 1 July 2004, there is a special State program on improvement of living conditions and employment for the refugees and IDPs. Finally a program has been devised for return of the refugees to their native lands.
Nevertheless, according to the report of the UN Secretary General's representative for refugees and IDPs, Walter Colin, which was devised as a result of his recent visit to Azerbaijan, more than 63% of the refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan reside in poverty. Many of them reside in tents or trains in bad conditions.
The program on improvement of living conditions and employment for the refugees and IDPs for the next five years envisage three directions - improvement of living conditions, rise of their employment and co-operation with the international organizations. According o the initial assessments, the program totals AZN 1bln ($1.25bln).
The new program envisages constructing new 15,000 houses, new schools and hospitals. The new program contains plans to determine the future economic structure of the occupied Azerbaijani regions to prepare the program 'Great return'. All international organizations and governments provided responses to the initial version of the program. Currently Azerbaijan's State Committee for Work with Refugees and IDPs devises the closing variant of the document.
The approved program envisages works on improvement of the infrastructure in the settlements of the refugees and IDPs, privilege credits for the refugees and IDPs engaged in entrepreneurship activities and farmer economy, establishment of small enterprises, attraction of donor-countries international and local humanitarian organizations, creation of new jobs for the refugees and IDPs.
How is housing problem settled
Government's 2008 plans to improve living conditions for the refugees and IDPs include removing the IDPs to new settlements from the current Finnish settlements located in various regions of the country. Currently nearly 25,000 IDPs reside in 15 Finnish settlements.
At the second stage, the government intends to remove the IDPs residing in military units and secondary schools. Some 11,000 refugees reside at schools and 6,000 in military units.
In addition, the Government intends to provide houses to 300,000 IDPs who currently reside in flanks of roads and pastures. Their removal will take nearly three or four years.
However, the Government does not intend to built new houses for IDPs residing in dormitories in Baku because the Government implies to repair them.
In addition, attention will be made to people whose houses have been illegally appropriated by the refugees. The President of Azerbaijan imposed tasks to relevant government bodies to settle this problem. Such cases exist mainly in Baku and Sumgayt. The Head of the State Committee for Work with Refugees and IDPs, Ali Hasanov, said that it is already high time to restore the rights of people whose houses were appropriated by the IDPs. The decision on this issue will be made after completion of the investigation.
The former President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, signed a decree in 1995 which imposed a ban on evicting IDPs from the appropriated houses until their returning to their native lands. Hundreds of citizens tried to protect their rights in the court instances, but no results were obtained. Even most of them appealed to the European Court on Human Rights which satisfied their demand and made the government liable to compensate the damages.
In 2007 the process of liquidating tent camps of refugees and IDPs was completed. Thus, generally 12 tens camps were liquidated.
According to data provided by the State Committee on Land and Cartography, in recent years, 23,000 ha lands have been allocated for the construction of settlements for the IDPs.
How is food problem resolved
In 2008 the Government of Azerbaijan plans to increase expenses on the food for IDPs. Currently the food payment for IDPs per capita makes up AZN 9. Last year, the Public budget allocated AZN 67mln to cover food expenses of IDPs.
This year, the Government of Azerbaijan assumes to resolve all tasks to fully provide refugees and IDPs with foods. For many years, this mission has been carried out by the World Food Organization (WFO) and Norwegian Refugee Council. In 2008 these humanitarian organization will cease their activities in Azerbaijan. The reason is that the foreign donors consider that now the Government of Azerbaijan does not need international humanitarian aid to the refugees and IDPs. Due to the economic growth in Azerbaijan and removal of the tension with the refugees and IDPs, the donor countries decrease the amount of donation to Azerbaijan.
Thus, at the beginning of its activities in Azerbaijan in 1994, the WFO rendered food aid to 0.5mln IDPs. However, afterwards significant part of the refugees removed to cities where they gained large job opportunities, and thus, the number of refugees receiving aid decreased. Currently the world food aid is provided to 75,000 IDPs residing in five regions of Azerbaijan.
The current project of the UN World Food Program in Azerbaijan which covers the period from mid 2006 to mid 2008 totals $15.6mln. The Government of Azerbaijan allocated $3.4mln for the project. It is a good indicator that gradually the Government of Azerbaijan gradually assume the responsibility to render food aid to the IDPs.
World Bank Project
Currently 72 international and humanitarian organizations function in Azerbaijan. In addition, several humanitarian organizations of Austria and the USA appealed to Azerbaijan Government to begin activity in the Country.
Unlike other international organizations, the World Bank carries out a project on improvement of social conditions of the IDPs (IDP EDSP). In 2008 this project will be expanded, and as additional finance, the bank will allocate $15mln. The Government of Azerbaijan will allocate $5mln for the project. The WB credit will be allocated at the expense of International Development Association.
Additional credit resources will be directed towards financing micro-projects of the IDPs. The micro-projects will be carried out with regards to infrastructure, service sector, electricity and water supply, etc.