Baku, Azerbaijan, May 5
Despite heavy economic burden because of a million of refugees, especially in the early 1990s, Azerbaijan managed to mobilize and build a strong country, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at the opening of the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku.
"Today Azerbaijan is a politically and economically stable country. Azerbaijan is a very respected member of the international community. And I can name many facts to demonstrate it. Only one, I think, will be enough. Several years ago, 155 countries voted for Azerbaijan to be elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. So this support of absolute majority of countries of the world demonstrates that Azerbaijan has a very good international reputation," he said.
The president went on to add that Azerbaijan is a very active member of the Islamic Cooperation Organization.
"At the same time, with nine member-countries of the European Union Azerbaijan signed or adopted documents on strategic partnership. This is a role we are playing in the region, and we managed to transform our geographical location into important infrastructure facilities," said the president.
"Today, transportation projects which we initiated connecting Asia with Europe by railroad, generate already a lot of profit, at the same time create very important links between countries," he said.
"At the same time, Azerbaijan is the initiator of huge energy projects. One of them, which is being implemented now, is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe, worth $40 billion of investments. The Southern Gas Corridor will connect seven countries at the first stage and will provide energy diversification and energy security for many countries of our region, of Central Europe and Southern Europe," noted the president.
"So, this is a project of energy security, energy diversification and cooperation, because all the countries involved in our energy and transportation project will become natural partners, and will be mutually interdependent," Ilham Aliyev.
He noted that interdependency is one of the important factors for economic cooperation and for mutual respect.
"So, transportation and energy projects which were initiated by Azerbaijan, of course, serve the course of development and prosperity, at the same time, it is our investment in international cooperation and intercultural dialogue," President Aliyev said.
He then said that Azerbaijan's economic performance was also very impressive.
"For the last thirteen years, our economy, GDP grew more than three times. We managed to reduce unemployment down to 5 percent, poverty level to less than 6 percent. We have a very low level of foreign debt - only 20 percent of our GDP and our reserves are five times bigger than our foreign debt," he said.
"So it is a really very impressive economic performance, which is by the way, highly appreciated by international institutions," the president said, adding that the Davos World Economic Forum ranks Azerbaijan’s economy #37, in terms of competitiveness.
"And another assessment of Davos Economic Forum with respect to development of developing countries is that Azerbaijan is sharing the first and second places. All this is a big asset which was created in the years of independence," the President said.
He went on to say that the country largely invests in education.
"Today, the level of literacy in Azerbaijan is close to 100 percent. More than 3,000 schools were built in our country during the last decade. Investments in education, as we all know very well, is investment in the future," he noted.
"At the same time, it is investment in stability and security, because, radicalism, extremism, fundamentalism is generated mainly by illiteracy, lack of education when young generation is brainwashed and is directed to commit terrible acts of terror," he said.
He underlined that illiteracy, poverty, social inequality and injustice are the main sources of radicalism.
"In order to eradicate radicalism, we need to address these fundamental reasons which generate it. At the same time, we need to promote the values of interculturalism, so that people clearly see the benefits of peaceful coexistence, of living side-by-side. And here we also come to a very important issue of responsibility: responsibility of politicians who, in order sometimes to gain more votes from the radicals, change their programs to be more nationalistic," he said.
The president also noted the responsibility of NGOs, some of which deliberately provoke tensions based on religious and ethnic roots, and the responsibility of media outlets.
"What we see on international media is migrant crisis, wars, devastations, clashes, religious and ethnic conflicts. But there are a lot of positive examples and we also need to demonstrate them. I think one of the goals of and importance to this forum is that we are addressing this issue, we are uniting our efforts," said Azerbaijan's president.
"All the delegates and participants of the forum I am sure came here with one agenda: how to strengthen and promote the values of the intercultural dialogue," he said. "I am sure that the results of the forum will be successful and we will implement all the decisions of the forum. I once again would like to thank you for being with us and wish the forum success."