Humanitarian and Social Issues
Multilateral cooperation in 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 suffered from Armenia’s military aggression. The adoption of the resolution on “Missing persons” by the United Nations (UN) Member countries, which is proposed by the Republic of Azerbaijan at the UN General Assembly sessions every two years is one of the important initiatives in this direction. Keeping the international focus on the issue of missing persons is important for the Government of Azerbaijan as thousands of Azerbaijanis 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, the resolution calls the states to fulfill the obligations deriving from international humanitarian law, take urgent measures with the aim 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 Resolution of the 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 Azerbaijan. The resolution condemns torturing, captivating, killing and trafficking of women and children during conflicts, and conduct of corresponding preventive acts.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is one of the international organizations in the sphere of the cooperation of protecting people affected by Armenia’s aggression, especially determining the fate of missing persons. The ICRC is present in Azerbaijan since 1992. Since 2008 Azerbaijan has cooperated with the ICRC to collect ante-mortem data on missing persons. Since 2014 the project on collecting DNA samples from family members of missing persons has been implemented. The organization is also realizes projects for physiological support for families of missing persons. The ICRC carries our neutral mediator role for the exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other people detained in connection with the conflict. It also supports the activities for improving water supply and supporting households of people affected by war. Moreover, one of the directions of the activities of the ICRC is increasing awareness about international humanitarian law among military personnel, journalists and students.
ICRC’s representatives carry out visits to detentions centers with the aim to promote internationally accepted standards of detention. The project implemented by the ICRC with the Ministry of Justice was one of the exemplary practices in the world this sphere.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan carries out constant work at the international level for the realization of the rights of the internally displaced people (IDPs), especially their right to voluntary, safe, and dignified return to their homes. The right to voluntary and safe return of Azerbaijani IDPs to their homes was confirmed in documents of many international organizations. Moreover, the works done by the Government of Azerbaijan to solve the social problems of one million people who were forcibly displaced as a result of Armenia’s aggression was appreciated as an exemplary practice by the international organizations. After the liberation of Azerbaijan’s territories from Armenia’s occupation in 2020, cooperation with relevant international partners will be carried out in the direction of demining and restoring the infrastructure of the affected territories in order to provide safe and voluntary return of the IDPs to their homeland.
Azerbaijan has effective cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC). IFRC is the largest humanitarian organization which is a part of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and encompasses 190 national red cross and red crescent societies. Federation has worked in Azerbaijan since 1993 and rendered humanitarian aid to IDPs and refugees, helped to address medical, educational and sanitarian needs in IDP camps. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Federation, the Government of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society during the visit of IFRC’s Secretary-General to Azerbaijan in 2018 which envisages cooperation in the spheres of disaster risk management, capacity development of national society, health, strengthening the Red Cross and Red Crescent network and dissemination of the fundamental principles of the Movement. Currently, the Federation supports the Government efforts to respond to COVID-19 pandemics and assist people suffering from Armenia’s aggression and renders help to enhance the capacities of Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society.
For many years, the Republic of Azerbaijan has cooperated with several international organizations, especially with the Office of the UN High Commissionaire for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR supported the Government’s efforts to improve the living conditions of IDPs and increasing their livelihoods through the income-generating activities. The UNHCR supported Azerbaijan not only in the sphere of assisting the IDPs, refugees, stateless persons and asylum-seekers, but also helped the Government to create the national asylum system, improve its legislation on refugee status determination and elimination of statelessness and implement its obligations under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugee Status and its 1967 Protocol. Since 2012 Azerbaijan has been the member of the UNHCR Executive Board.
One of the organizations which support the efforts of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the sphere of solving social problems of IDPs is the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Currently, the IOM project on “Integrated rural development of agriculture for IDP communities in Azerbaijan through the restoration of kahriz water systems” realized with the financial support of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is one of the most significant projects carried out by the international organizations in our country.
Several projects on border management and migration processes have been implemented with the IOM, EU and International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). The IOM is one of the main international partners of Azerbaijan in the sphere of enhancing capacities to combat against human trafficking. Cooperation with the EU in the sphere of migration sphere is based on the implementation of Joint Declaration on Mobility Partnership and agreements on visa facilitation and readmission of the persons living without permission signed between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the EU. The MOBILAZE (Support to Implementation of the Mobility Partnership with Azerbaijan) project has been implemented by the ICMPD with the financial support of the EU.
Azerbaijan also cooperates with the European and Asian countries in the sphere of migration management within the Almaty, Budapest and Prague processes.
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 the European Union (EU). The EU is continuing to support modernization of higher and vocational education in our country within the project on “Education for employment in Azerbaijan”. As the result of the support to vocational education by the EU, several projects have been implemented in the regions of the country. Moreover, cooperation is continued within the Erasmus+ Program. Azerbaijan is benefiting from TAIEX and Twinning Instruments of the EU in the sphere of education.
Azerbaijan also cooperates with UNESCO, European Training Foundation, UNECE, Council of Europe, Education Institute of ECO and other organizations in education sphere.
Azerbaijan contributes to the implementation of the 4th Sustainable Development Goal on inclusive education and lifelong learning opportunities by providing education grants to the students from Non-Alignment Movement and Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries.
Promotion of the multiculturalism traditions of Azerbaijan and the dialogue between cultures and religions plays 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 dialogue between civilizations and religions through various international events and projects. This fact was reflected in the report of the UN 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 Forum and the International Humanitarian Forum.
Azerbaijan also cooperates with UNESCO, ISESCO, Council of Europe, UN Alliance of Civilizations, Culture Institute of ECO and other organizations in cultural sphere.
The relations with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Civil Defense Organization (ICDO) are part of the international humanitarian cooperation.
Multilateral cooperation in social sphere is based on the development of relations with 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 other international and regional organizations acting in this sphere.
Azerbaijan became a member of the International Labour Organization 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 to the preparation of the Employment Strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2017-2030).
The Republic of Azerbaijan is a member of the ILO’s Governing Body for 2016-2020.
The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is one of the organizations Azerbaijan cooperates with since 1993. This cooperation is based on UNICEF’s current country program for Azerbaijan. The 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 integration of disabled children to the society and inclusive education reform. UNICEF has been a long term partner of the Government of Azerbaijan in replacing soviet-time orphanages with new child care system (de-institutionalization), development of juvenile justice system, enhancement of the scale of pre-school education, mother and infant health and etc. UNICEF is one of the main partners of Azerbaijan on raising awareness among children about mine risks on the areas affected by Armenia’s aggression.
Azerbaijan has cooperated with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) since 1994. This cooperation includes three directions within the current country program for Azerbaijan: sexual and reproductive health; population dynamics; gender equality and women empowerment. Along with the UNFPA, Azerbaijan also cooperates with the Council of Europe, UN Commission on the Status of Women, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and other entities.
International cooperation in the field of health is one of the main directions of multilateral cooperation. Relations with World Health Organization (WHO) are considered of particular importance. The WHO has its office in Azerbaijan since 1994. The main directions of cooperation with the WHO are combat against communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases, immunization, application of International Health Regulations and etc. Participation of the General Director of the WHO in the Conference titled “Health Reforms within the Context of Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals” within his visit to Azerbaijan in 2018 and Joint Declaration signed by the WHO and Azerbaijan contributed to the development of our cooperation with the organization. Azerbaijan allocated 10 million USD to the WHO for the combat against COVID-19 pandemics.
In December 2020, the special session of the UN General Assembly dedicated to the response to the COVID-19 pandemics was held at the initiative of the Republic of Azerbaijan.