STATE DEPARTMENT OUTLINES U.S. AID TO AZERBAIJAN IN 2005 FY

The Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of the U.S. Department of State outlined the U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan during fiscal year 2005 (October 1, 2004-September 30, 2005) on Monday in its website usinfo.state.gov.

In support of Azerbaijan's anticipated increase in energy revenue and its parliamentary elections in 2005, U.S. assistance in Fiscal Year 2005 focuses on ensuring free and fair polling in addition to transparent revenue management of proceeds from the oil and gas industry.

This is consistent with a broader focus on democracy, strengthening of transparent governmental institutions, job creation, and improving security and law enforcement capabilities, the document reads.

The estimated $70.5 million budgeted by U.S. Government agencies for assistance programs in Azerbaijan in Fiscal Year 2005 is allocated roughly as follows based on information available as of the date of this fact sheet:

Democracy Programs - $9.7 million,

Economic and Social Reform - $13.9 million

Security & Law Enforcement - $31.1 million

Humanitarian Assistance - $12.2 million

Cross-Sectoral Initiatives - $3.6 million

Democracy programs in Azerbaijan focus on strengthening the rule of law, improving the electoral process, supporting an independent media, encouraging citizen participation in the political process, and promoting non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

U.S. assistance provides training for legal professionals, strengthens the ability of civil society to combat corruption, promotes legal reform, and improves the curricula in Azerbaijani law schools.

To support free and fair parliamentary elections in November of 2005, U.S. funding is supporting voter education and get-out-the-vote initiatives, international and domestic election observers, non-partisan training for political parties, training for journalists on covering elections, and exit polling.

Small grant-making programs support the work of indigenous NGOs to foster civil society, local government accountability, independent media, anti-corruption, and other initiatives to promote democracy.

Assistance programs also provide funding for training and exchange programs in an effort to reach out to the next generation of Azerbaijan's leaders and give them first-hand experience in the day-to-day functioning of a market-based, democratic system.

Since 1993, the U.S. has funded the travel of over 2,718 Azerbaijani citizens to the United States on academic and professional exchange programs in fields such as management, social service provision, and NGO development.

Private sector development programs aim to encourage growth of small and medium enterprises by making credit available and providing business consulting and training. Particular attention is paid to development of the agricultural sector, which promises a significant positive impact on livelihoods in rural areas.

Assistance to the National Bank focuses on improving supervision and regulatory capacity and introducing international accounting standards.

A program at the Ministry of Finance is working to improve fiscal management and transparency through the design and implementation of an automated treasury system. U.S.

Treasury Department advisors also provide technical assistance to the government on budget policy and tax administration U.S. assistance programs work with the Government of Azerbaijan to develop an independent regulator for the electricity and gas sectors, design tariff schedules, and create a safety net for vulnerable populations.

The U.S. continues to support American exports to and investment in Azerbaijan through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and Export-Import Bank. A U.S. Trade and Development Agency (TDA) advisor assists the government with World Trade Organization (WTO) accession.

TDA grants have also been signed to provide technical assistance to the State Oil Fund in asset management, to the government in developing a tourism strategy, and to restructure the state oil company, SOCAR.

Security, law enforcement, and nonproliferation assistance remains focused on counterterrorism and counternarcotics to strengthen Azerbaijan's capabilities to support Coalition efforts in the Global War on Terrorism, combat related transnational threats, enhance law enforcement, improve military interoperability with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and promote regional stability.

The U.S. Defense Department and the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) assistance programs work with Azerbaijani export control officials, customs, maritime brigade, military, and border guards to improve their ability to fight weapons proliferation and other illicit trafficking.

In addition to communication, inspection, and detection equipment, EXBS supports upgrades to and training on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter donated under the Excess Defense Articles program.

Azerbaijan acceded to the multinational Science and Technology Center in Ukraine in 2003, enabling former Azerbaijani weapons scientists to apply for U.S. grant funding to assist in their transition to non-military employment.

Fiscal Year 2005 funding will enable Azerbaijani research grants that encourage regional cooperation between the Azerbaijan National Science Foundation and sister organizations in Armenia and Georgia. Foreign Military Financing will provide equipment and training.

The International Military Education and Training program sustains interoperability through English language training, enabling Azerbaijani participation in international security and peacekeeping missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. law enforcement assistance programs help enhance training capacity of Azerbaijani law enforcement officers and provide counternarcotics training and equipment. The U.S. also implements a forensics training and laboratory project and a criminal record management system project. U.S.

Department of Justice technical assistance supports criminal justice reforms, the development of counterterrorism and terrorist financing legislation, anti-corruption efforts, development of anti-trafficking in persons (TIP) legislation, and training of police, prosecutors, and NGOs that handle TIP cases. Law enforcement and judicial personnel are trained in modern investigative and prosecutorial procedures.

U.S. humanitarian programs in Azerbaijan are specifically designed to assist internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and other vulnerable populations. Current programs focus on community development, health and economic opportunities, and support services, including training and business development consultations. Other programs include health clinics to serve needy populations.

The approximately $15 million of commodities shipped and distributed to the most needy Azerbaijanis in Fiscal Year 2005 include medicines, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies, emergency shelter items, food, and clothing.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also provides food-aid to Internally Displaced Persons and other vulnerable groups through the World Food Program's relief operations.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided nearly 27,000 metric tons of wheat and 6,000 tons of soybean meal through the Food for Progress program to private volunteer organizations working in Azerbaijan. The U.S. continues its humanitarian demining efforts in Azerbaijan.

The Peace Corps, which began working in Azerbaijan in 2003, has about 50 volunteers who teach English at the secondary level.

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