Ghulam Isaczai: UN has profound interest in speedy peaceful resolution of Karabakh conflict (INTERVIEW)

Politics Materials 23 October 2017 08:00 (UTC +04:00)
Mr. Ghulam M. Isaczai, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Azerbaijan, talks to Trend on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of establishment of UN-Azerbaijan relations
Ghulam Isaczai: UN has profound interest in speedy peaceful resolution of Karabakh conflict (INTERVIEW)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 23

By Leman Zeynalova – Trend:

Mr. Ghulam M. Isaczai, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Azerbaijan, talks to Trend on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of establishment of UN-Azerbaijan relations.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of relations between Azerbaijan and United Nations. How do you assess this 25-year long cooperation?

2017 is a very special year for UN-Azerbaijan relations in that we are concurrently celebrating the 25th anniversaries of Azerbaijan’s membership of the United Nations as well as United Nations’ presence in Azerbaijan. These celebrations provide an opportunity to reflect on the many achievements of Azerbaijan-UN partnership and define prospects for further cooperation.

I would like to categorize these relations in three periods of our 25-year history.

Firstly, in the initial years of Azerbaijan’s independence, UN’s assistance was primarily focused on the immediate needs of refugees and internally displaced persons affected by the conflict in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The UN supported the government efforts in providing the affected population with emergency food, shelter, and health, education and water and sanitation services. I believe our role was crucial in averting a major humanitarian disaster in early years of the conflict.

Secondly, when Azerbaijan regained some sense of stability, the United Nations shifted its focus from humanitarian assistance to post conflict rehabilitation improving the livelihood of displaced persons and providing infrastructure support. Two vivid examples of this support centered on funding and building the capacity of the Azerbaijan Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (ARRA, established in 1997) and Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA, established in 1998), both of which continue to operate successfully to date.

Thirdly, following the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, the UN system focused its attention on supporting Azerbaijan’s long-term development plans and strategies, including the development and implementation of two state programs on poverty reduction.

The UN system contributed to Azerbaijan’s achieving many of the MDGs, including reduction of poverty from 49% to 5%, almost 100% enrolment in all levels of education and major progress in women empowerment. In addition, the number of death among children under the age of 5 per 1,000 live births has fallen to 12.8 from 28, maternal and infant mortality has been reduced significantly, the struggle against infectious diseases has been strengthened, and malaria has been fully prevented.

Moreover, in a relatively short timeframe, Azerbaijan has transformed itself from a transition economy into an upper middle-income country with a high human development index. This progress has made Azerbaijan an assertive and important international and regional player.

These are just some outcomes of our partnership. It is evident that after 25 years of a very fruitful cooperation, we have in place a solid foundation over which we can build a better future for all Azerbaijanis.

To mark this important milestone, we have prepared a book, which illustrates our close cooperation and partnership in the past 25 years. The book is available on our website.

Despite years-long efforts of international organizations, including the UN, the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unresolved. What input could the UN introduce to push off the lingering conflict from the dead point?

The UN has a profound interest in the speedy peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to help the sides achieve progress in this regard.

In his October 16 statement, the UN secretary general welcomed the summit held in Geneva, Switzerland, between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. He was encouraged by the presidents’ agreement to take measures to intensify the negotiation process and to take additional steps to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact.

The secretary general encouraged the sides to build on the positive momentum created by this summit to reach a peaceful negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

It should also be noted that on the margins of the recent UN General Assembly session in New York, the secretary general met separately with presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and exchanged views on the recent developments related to the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. He also underlined UN's continued support for the ongoing peace efforts.

The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijan’s occupied lands. However, Armenia hasn’t fulfilled those resolutions so far. Which mechanisms should UN apply to achieve fulfillment of the resolutions?

Throughout the conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the United Nations, including the secretary general, have been fully supportive of the important ongoing efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group to reduce tensions and to achieve a peaceful and lasting negotiated settlement of the conflict.

In his February 21 remarks to the UN Security Council open debate on Conflicts in Europe, held on February 21, 2017, the UN secretary general noted that “direct challenge to national sovereignty and territorial integrity are reminders that we must collectively work to preserve and strengthen a rules-based international order in order to maintain peace and security, in accordance with the Charter.” To that end, the UN supports the full adherence to all provisions of the UN Charter, as well as the implementation by member states of all UN Security Council resolutions.

How do you evaluate Azerbaijan’s efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?

On September 25, 2015, 193 UN Member States, including Azerbaijan, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This identified 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 196 targets to be achieved by 2030. Today, 18 United Nations resident and non-resident agencies continue to work in close partnership with the government and support Azerbaijan's efforts to achieve these 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Azerbaijan’s political commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda has been demonstrated at the highest level when the president of Azerbaijan signed a decree creating the National Coordination Council for Sustainable Development on October 6, 2016. The main aim of the Council is to coordinate the efforts of the government and other national actors in the nationalization, mainstreaming and monitoring of the SDGs. Ever since its establishment, the Council has been closely collaborating with the United Nations agencies on the adoption and nationalization of the SDGs availing itself of the vast of array of knowledge, experience and expertise available within the United Nations system.

In July 2017, Azerbaijan was among 43 countries to report its progress towards achieving the SDGs as part of the Voluntary National Review to the High-Level Political Forum at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

As part of its commitment to global goals and agreements, Azerbaijan has also taken a major step in signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change along with 173 other countries. The United Nations stands ready to support Azerbaijan’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

In January 2017, UN and Azerbaijan created three working groups for the implementation of the United Nations-Azerbaijan Partnership Framework (UNAPF). Could you please update us on the implementation of the document?

The UNAPF is the fourth cooperation document signed between the United Nations agencies and the government, which marks a transition from assistance-based to a partnership-based cooperation. The framework was guided by the country’s development aspirations as set out in ‘Azerbaijan - 2020: The Vision of the Future’ as well as the SDGs. It was developed following consultations with a number of development partners, including the civil society.

It outlines the UN's support in three strategic and interlinked priority areas: promoting sustainable and inclusive economic development underpinned by increased diversification and decent work; strengthening institutional capacities and effective public and social services; and improving environmental management and resilience to hazards and disasters.

To achieve these goals, the UN in close coordination with the Ministry of Economy and other government institutions established three UNAPF results groups in May. They developed three joint work plans for 2017, which included specific actions and resources required to achieve broad UNAPF strategic outcomes.

How do you assess Azerbaijan’s contribution to the development of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue in the world?

In recent years, Azerbaijan has hosted a number of high-profile events in close cooperation with the UN to demonstrate its commitment to promoting intercultural dialogue and religious tolerance among nations and raising the profile of the country.

Azerbaijan hosted the 7th UN Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum in Baku in 2016 and the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in 2017 with the theme “Advancing Intercultural Dialogue: New Avenues for Human Security, Peace and Sustainable Development”, in cooperation with UN agencies and the Council of Europe. These were the latest events in a series of conferences organized as part of the “Baku Process” which was initiated in 2008 with the aim of building mutual understanding, respect and tolerance among peoples and cultures of the world.

Azerbaijan is a dynamically developing country that is building a modern secular state, based on strong cultural traditions. The tolerance of Azerbaijan’s people, the political leadership of President Ilham Aliyev have combined to foster an environment where people of various religions and ethnicities have lived together in mutual respect and harmony for national development.

Azerbaijan’s experience is an example of a country moving forward to substantive progress through inclusion and an excellent model to reach the three major pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, human rights, and development.