Details added (first version posted at 14:40)
Baku, Azerbaijan, April 28
By Seymur Aliyev - Trend:
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev attended the opening ceremony of the II Global Shared Societies Forum held in Azerbaijani capital of Baku on April 28.
The Azerbaijani president welcomed the event participants and expressed the hope that the days they would spend in Azerbaijan will remain in their memories for a long time.
"We have new guests, who visit Azerbaijan for the first time. I hope you will have good impressions about our country, our history, and culture," President Aliyev said.
President Aliyev in particular welcomed former heads of states and governments, adding that their participation in this event shows the importance of the forum.
"Also I would like to express my gratitude to the Club de Madrid, a good partner for our country. Our cooperation was established several years ago and it is very fruitful and very active. Also I am particularly happy that Nizami Ganjavi International Center, which is a relatively young institution, in a very short period of time, has already transformed into an influential international institution, which together with Club de Madrid organizes this important forum," President Aliyev stressed.
The Azerbaijani president expressed his gratitude to the supporters of Nizami Ganjavi International Center.
"The center has a name of a great Azerbaijani poet, who is a symbol of wisdom and talent of Azerbaijani people," President Aliyev underscored.
The Azerbaijani president also said the agenda of the forum is very broad.
"Of course, today and tomorrow during the sessions there will be important statements about what has happened before and what should be done in the future to provide equal opportunities and decent living standards for everybody," President Aliyev added. "Shared society is a society where every member feels in comfort, lives in dignity, has a job, and is sure about the future of his/her children."
The Azerbaijani president went on to add that Azerbaijan is a young and independent country, and although it is only 22 years of independence, it has experienced different times in this short historic period.
He went on to add that in the beginning, Azerbaijan suffered a lot of difficulties, political, economic problems, and now Azerbaijan has one of the fastest developing economies in the world. This transformation was just in front of our eyes.
"And we are glad that we were part of this process, and actively participated in transforming Azerbaijan into a modern state," President Aliyev stressed.
"Our nation has a great history, traditions, culture, but as a young and independent country we had a period of independence in the beginning of the 20th century. That was too short - only for two years. After the collapse of the Russian empire, and the Bolshevik revolution, there was a slogan, saying 'factories to workers, land to farmers, and freedom to all the people of the Russian empire'. But none of these promises were realized in reality," President Aliyev said. "Therefore in two years our freedom was taken away and Azerbaijan became part of another country again. Of course, that is part of our life, and our history. Therefore, people who live in post-Soviet area, I think value their independence, their independent choice, their right to be free, to have their own state, and to be proud of their state."
The president added that the short period of independence shows that despite all the difficulties, economic and political crisis, and civil war in the beginning of 1990s, Azerbaijan managed to overcome those difficulties and to plan its future so that today the country thinks about how to increase the living standards and how to become even stronger.
"One of the main reasons for such a transformation and main prerequisites for that was of course the policy of reforms, because we had to transform every aspect of our life, we had to learn to be free, to be independent, to have our own state, and to transform from one political system to another, which was not an easy task to do," President Aliyev underscored.
"But that happened, and today we have a very firm foundation for our statehood. We implemented political and economic reforms that modernized country largely. Development of democracy, fundamental freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of media, free internet - these are now all integral parts of our life. Some 22 years ago, one could only dream about that."
President Aliyev went on to add that at the same time Azerbaijan clearly understood that without strong economic foundation its independence will not be full-scale.
"Therefore, political reforms and economic reforms are moving hand by hand. And one of the main reasons for our success was attracting foreign investments. And for the country which now faces the same complications as 20 years ago, this could be a good example of how to transform country and how to provide better life for the citizens. We managed to attract investments and direct them to the sectors of economy, which we needed to develop, and at the same time, which were attractive for investors," the president stressed.
President Aliyev also said Azerbaijan provided good investment climate, worked hard to create even more jobs, even with limited resources the country had some 15 years ago, and it still was moving in the right direction.
"And we clearly understood that for us the way forward, to strengthen our independence, to make it irreversible, we need to be economically free, economically independent and strong. Now I can say that the years of reforms still continue. Azerbaijan can be considered a country with a very clear future. We have been the fastest growing economy in the last 10 years."
The president said the sustainable development for Azerbaijan means planning for the future.
"We have a concept 'Azerbaijan 2020', and this document was adopted as a main guideline for our future. Our financial situation is solid, we have very low level of foreign debt, which is only eight percent of GDP, we can plan more actively to work with international financial institutions," President Aliyev stressed.
The president went on to add that at the same time the development of economy should have been diversified.
"Of course, natural resources, which are oil and gas, were main driving force for our success. But diversification is our top priority, because oil and gas sector does not generate jobs. Therefore, diversification of economy, investments in infrastructure including social infrastructure, providing decent living conditions in far-away regions, bringing broadband internet to every city and building 3,000 schools, 500 hospitals - all that created a new atmosphere in our society."
The president said Azerbaijan first stopped external migration - the migration from Azerbaijan to other countries.
"This was substituted by internal migration - that is from small villages to Baku. And now the target is to do everything to stop this migration as well," the president stressed.
He said the economic development was also backed up by some serious social programs.
"Because we know that sometimes radical economic reforms lead to difficulties for day to day life of the people. Therefore, social agenda of our government has always been top priority," President Aliyev added.
Increasing living standards, creating jobs and reducing unemployment - all of what happened - really shows that it can be done, the president underscored.
"First, we need stability, because without stability none of this is possible. Second, we need very clear domestic policy which is supported by the majority of the population. And we need to deliver results and to fulfil our promises and obligations. We can also refer to such an important element as a responsibility of politicians, those who are in charge. Sometimes in order to get more support or get more votes, some of our colleagues use populist promises and when they are not implemented, then, of course, disappointment happens. But the responsibility of politicians is also very important for themselves, because it increases the level of trust and consolidation of the society," President Aliyev stressed.
Therefore achieving results was Azerbaijan's main goal, and these results can be reflected in economic data and statistics.
"Poverty level now is around five percent, which was 49 percent 10 years ago. Active economic development created very good international situation around Azerbaijan, because the country became exposed, and more people became familiar with Azerbaijan. We now have much more support in international institutions than ever before. One of the indicators of that is strong support in the United Nations, during our election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, with the support of 155 countries," the Azerbaijani president underscored.
He said that means the absolute majority of international community supported Azerbaijan.
"Some countries, which are not very actively involved in bilateral relations with us, have also supported Azerbaijan. And our main agenda as member of the Security Council of the United Nations was to defend the rule of law and justice. It is because these are the two most important elements of today's world and both of them are violated brutally. There is no reaction to this violation, and we ourselves have suffered from that," President Aliyev stressed.
The head of state said there are four UN Security Council resolutions demanding an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan's territories and none of them are implemented.
"The occupation continues, we became the subject of ethnic cleansing, integral historic part of our country - Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts have been occupied for more than 20 years," the Azerbaijani president underscored.
He said such international organizations as the OSCE, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council adopted resolutions and decisions regarding the settlement of this conflict and none of them is implemented.
The president noted that it seems there are no mechanisms to implement them.
"What happened with us in the beginning of the 1990s, we consider as paying the price for being free, for independence. We are absolutely sure that this situation cannot last for long. We will return to our native lands, we will restore our territorial integrity and Azerbaijani people, internally displaced and refugees, which are more than one million, will have the right to live on their own soil, in their own homes, which are now taken by occupants," President Aliyev stressed.
He went on to say that an illegal referendum was held in Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s.
"Before that, one third of Karabakh population, which were ethnic Azerbaijanis, were expelled from there. After that, illegal referendum was held and that is why no country in the world neither recognized this so-called referendum, nor recognizes the so-called 'Nagorno-Karabakh Republic'," President Aliyev stressed. "So, international law, justice and history back our position, but we clearly understand that this is not enough to restore justice and to restore international law. We must be stronger. Unfortunately, we see that force is back on agenda in international relations. And what to do for countries of our region of our size - this is the question that I am sure will be discussed during the forum."
"And there are various scenarios, but one is absolutely clear - you should be the master of your own destiny. You should be stronger, you should work harder to consolidate society around major priorities. For us this priority is restoration of our territorial integrity, strengthening of our independence, and providing better living standards for our people."
He went on to add that all these elements are inter-connected.
"When people see results from the government, when they see improvements in their day to day lives, when they are proud of their country, the society is consolidated and not divided. And the society is consolidated around main objectives, as independence, sovereignty. Of course in our society, as in any other, there are different opinions on how Azerbaijan should develop, what are the shortcomings, what are the achievements. This is normal and we only appreciate broad discussion in our society," the president underscored.
President Aliyev went on to say that this unity strengthens Azerbaijan in international area, allowing the country to speak openly about the problems which the world is facing now.
"Today, Azerbaijan is a country with its own position, which is openly articulated, which is based on justice and international law. But at the same time we need to look 10, 20, 30 years ahead and plan our policy in such a way that our sustainable development continues," the president said.
He went to add that the sustainable development is a top priority for every country.
"Even for most developed countries, they have their own problems. They have economic problems, they have problems with migration, they need additional labor force, but at the same time it leads to certain tensions in the society."
The president said Azerbaijan has different problems, which he considers not as problems, but as the advantage - this is for example the growing, young and dynamic population.
President Aliyev said it means that Azerbaijan's economy should always develop faster than growth of population. Otherwise, one day the country will face difficulties and unemployment.
"Therefore, rapid economic growth, new jobs creation, attracting investments and redirecting funds received from energy operations, to the most important sectors of our economy is how we can achieve sustainable development," the Azerbaijani president underscored.
He added that multiculturalism is one of the important elements of social and political comfort in Azerbaijani society.
"We held several international events, international dialogue of civilizations, international humanitarian forum in order to address this important issue, which I think is now being discussed not so openly in different international institutions, because there are different approaches to this situation. Some people think that it did not work, but I think there are good examples, and probably good examples should be examined in more details not to give room for pessimism," President Aliyev stressed. "Because, there is no other way to live in the new world, if multiculturalism is considered to be bankrupt. Because, otherwise the nations will self-isolate themselves."
The head of state believes that positive examples based on deep traditions in Azerbaijan and other countries should be examined in more details in order to promote more values.
"This is also one of the important elements that I would like to point out," President Aliyev said.
He said to strengthen the positive tendencies in the global politics, it is needed to concentrate on positive experience and try to spread it, because there is no other way of how countries can cooperate in the future.
"I am sure that there will be a lot of interesting discussions at the forum and recommendations to governments with respect to future developments. The advantage of this kind of sessions is that the prominent statesmen, politicians, former heads of states and governments can share their experience, their personal experience, their knowledge, expertise in a very open manner," the president said.
He added that the former politicians are free to elaborate any issues openly to make progress and this is the main goal.
"The forum's main goal is to give recommendations, discuss, and analyse what happened and to see how we can continue to work in peace, live in dignity, and broaden international cooperation," President Aliyev said.