Humanitarian and Social Issues
Multilateral cooperation in the Humanitarian and Social Fields
One of the main priorities of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy in humanitarian field is to take all necessary measures in order to ensure the international protection of rights of our nationals who have been suffering from Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan for a long period. For this purpose, the government of Azerbaijan cooperates with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other organizations.
One of the most important initiatives in our foreign policy in this direction is the adoption of the Resolutions on “Missing persons” by the United Nations (UN) Member countries, which is proposed by the Republic of Azerbaijan in the UN General Assembly sessions every two years. Keeping the international focus on issue of missing persons is important for the government of Azerbaijan as 3888 Azerbaijani individuals have been missing till now due to the conflict. By emphasizing the different aspects of the problem of missing persons at the time of inter-state conflicts, these Resolutions call the states to fulfill the obligations deriving from international humanitarian law, take urgent measures for the purpose of determining the fate of missing people, undertake efficient preventive steps in this area, address the problem of missing children with particular sensitivity and carry out other necessary works.
Another important activity conducted in this area is the adoption of the Resolutions of UN Commission on the Status of Women on “Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts” by the UN Member states, which has been initiated by Azerbaijani government. In these resolutions, torturing, captivating, killing and trafficking women and children during conflicts are condemned and conduct of corresponding preventive acts is demanded.
As the main victims of Armenian aggression are internally displaced people (IDPs), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan (MFA) carries out constant work for protection of their rights. Voluntary, safe, and dignified return of IDPs to their homes is raised by the Ministry in all meetings with relevant international partners and at all international events on this topic. IDPs’ right to return to their homes has been affirmed in the resolutions of UN, European Union, Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Organization for Islamic Cooperation. One the most recent documents on this issue, is the Resolution and Recommendation on “Humanitarian needs and rights of internally displaced people in Europe” which was adopted in Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in 2018. The Resolution states that according to the international legal documents, deportation of the population of occupied territories to another place and settlement of the population of the occupier in these territories are considered as war crimes and the Recommendation advises the Council of Europe Committee of Ministries to implement the Article 46.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights against the states which do not follow the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights about the IDPs.
The Republic of Azerbaijan also cooperates with Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of Norwegian Refugee Council in order to improve the data on IDPs, to determine and solve their problems, as well as to draw attention of the international community to the activities conducted by the government of Azerbaijan for the settlement of IDPs’ social and welfare problems. Moreover, currently, the works done in the framework of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) project on “Integrated rural development of agriculture for IDP communities in Azerbaijan through the restoration of kahriz water systems“ with the financial support of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are one of the most significant projects led by international organizations in our country.
Another major priority of the MFA is to liberate our nationals who have been taken hostage by Armenians. For the purpose of getting attention of the world’s community on illegal acts of Armenia, the letters have been addressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Secretary-General of the UN, the President of ICRC, Secretary-General of the OSCE, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights; the press releases have been issued by the MFA and our Embassies; diplomatic notes have been sent by our Embassies to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the countries where they are accredited, as well as foreign mass media have been informed. In addition, the letter addressed to the UN Secretary-General by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UN was published as a UN General Assembly and Security Council document № A/72/940-S/2018/738. The issue of mutual liberation of the persons imprisoned as a result of the conflict is constantly raised by the MFA in the meetings with the high officials of the international organizations and relevant states. The conditions of our compatriots who are kept in captivity are regularly discussed at the meetings with the ICRC who plays a role of neutral intermediary in this issue.
International cooperation in migration sector is another priority of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy in humanitarian field. The activities in this sphere are formed in the following ways: 1) expansion of cooperation with international organizations dealing with regulation of migration processes, especially with IOM; 2) monitoring the implementation of the agreements signed between Republic of Azerbaijan and European Union (EU) on visa facilitation and readmission of the persons living without permission; 3) implementation of the Joint Declaration on Mobility Partnership signed between EU and Republic of Azerbaijan; 4) developing opportunities of the country for the management of migration processes and benefiting from both technical and consultative support of international organizations in this sector; 5) ensuring the participation of our country in discussions on the regulation of migration both in global and regional level.
It is worth to mention that some projects on border management and migration processes are implementing with the financial support of EU, and beside IOM and EU, Republic of Azerbaijan also has close cooperation with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development in this area.
One of the most recent international initiatives in the sphere of migration was the adoption at the end of 2018 by the UN General Assembly Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and Global Compact on Refugees. Our country supported both documents adopted by vote.
Azerbaijan also cooperates with the European and Asian countries in the sphere of migration within the Almaty, Budapest and Prague processes.
As a member of the Executive Board of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees our country has close partnership with this organization. For a long period of time our partnership was mainly focused on humanitarian projects and social assistance projects for the people internally displaced as a result of the conflict. Nowadays, the UNHCR’s activities in our country are mostly directed to the support of asylum seekers and refugees from other countries in Azerbaijan. In the framework of the Quality Asylum Initiative for Eastern Europe and South Caucasus implemented by the UNHCR the measures have been taken to align the national asylum legislation with the international standards.
Taking into account the importance of education in the development of the society, cooperation in the mentioned field constitutes one of the main directions of our humanitarian cooperation with international organizations, in particular with European Union (EU). EU is continuing to support modernization of higher and vocational education in our country within the project on “Support to the Higher Education System in Azerbaijan”. As the result of the support to vocational education by EU, the pilot projects have been initiated in the regions of the country. Moreover, cooperation is being continued within the Erasmus+ Program and Azerbaijan is benefiting from TAIEX and Twinning Instruments of EU, as well.
Promotion of the multiculturalism traditions of Azerbaijan and the dialogue between cultures and religions play an important role in the foreign policy of our country. “Baku Process”, which started in 2008 on the initiative of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, is contributing to the development of strong and real dialogue between civilizations and religions through various international events and projects. This fact was reflected in the report of the UN’s Secretary General 72/488 on “Promotion of a culture of peace, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace”. The UN Alliance of Civilizations’ 7th Global Forum held in Baku in April 2016 was one of the success events of the process. Among the large scale international actions in this field are the World Intercultural Dialogue Forums and the International Humanitarian Forums.
The relations with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Civil Defence Organization (ICDO) play an important role in humanitarian partnerships.
International cooperation in social sphere is based on the development of relations with international and regional organizations acting in this sphere, especially the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and etc.
Azerbaijan became a member of the ILO in May of 1992 and joined its 58 conventions. The main directions in the cooperation with the ILO are the improvement of social dialogue system, support for institutional reforms and taking of practical measures.
The cooperation with the ILO has a great importance for our country in terms of preparation of labour legislation norms, improvement of labour market, creation of safe labour conditions, strengthening of social protection, offering more employment opportunities based on international practice. The ILO provided active technical support in preparation of the Employment Strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2017-2030).
In 2016 State Program on Decent Work for 2017-2020 was signed between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the ILO and determined the legal framework of cooperation.
The Republic of Azerbaijan is a member of the ILO’s Governing Body for 2016-2020.
As a sign of the importance of the international cooperation in social sphere Azerbaijan has become the author of the significant initiatives in this sphere. In order to support solution of employment problems, reduction of poverty, sustainable social welfare and decent work in developing countries the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan proposed creation of the Labour Center of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Baku in 2013. The Charter of the Center was adopted in 2016. The Center will start to function after the document is signed by 10 OIC member states.
UNICEF is one of the important organizations Azerbaijan cooperates with. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting the implementation of the UNICEF Country Program for Azerbaijan for the period 2016-2020 within its competences. This Program implies to support the country in fulfillment of the child rights enshrined in the UN Child Rights Convention and provisions related to children in different development strategies of Azerbaijan, as well as in integration of disabled children to the society and in inclusive education reform.
Azerbaijan closely cooperates with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This cooperation includes three directions within the Country Program for Azerbaijan for the period 2016-2020: sexual and reproductive health; population dynamics; gender equality and women’ empowerment.
International cooperation in the field of health is one of the main social cooperation directions and in this respect, relations with World Health Organization (WHO) are considered of particular importance. Participation of the newly appointed General Director of the WHO T.A.Ghebreyesus in the Conference titled “Health Reforms within the Context of Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals” within his visit to Azerbaijan in 2018 and signature of Joint Declaration by WHO and Azerbaijan contributed to the development of our bilateral cooperation with the organization.
The country has built efficient cooperation in the field of health with Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which has headquarters in Geneva. The Fund has been financing different projects on combat against AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria in our country since 2005.