Statement by Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the High Level Plenary Meeting on Millennium Development Goals
New-York, September 22-24, 2010
At the outset, I would like to join the previous speakers and to express my deep gratitude to the Secretary-General of the United Nations H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon for so well organized High Level Plenary Meeting. I am confident that this meeting will be an important step forward to the implementation of MDGs by 2015.
The Millennium Development Goals constitute the agenda of the global cooperation of all UN Member States in the twenty-first century. The MDGs comprise in itself universal human dimensions and values, serving for the whole humanity. The achievement of MDGs promises us the provision of well-being, harmony, international peace, security and stability all over the world. Today still having 5 years of deadline ahead of us for the achievement of MDGs, we have to acknowledge and reaffirm our commitment to a closer and less politicized cooperation on the very issue at the national and international levels.
We welcome the UN Secretary General’s Report on "Keeping the promise: a forward-looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015", which reviews the successes, best practices and lessons learned, obstacles and gaps, challenges and opportunities, leading to concrete strategies for action in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
In spite of the continuing military occupation by the neighbouring Republic of Armenia of about 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan and, as a consequence, the presence of almost one million refugees and forcibly displaced persons in the country, the Government of Azerbaijan reiterates its strong commitment to fully and effectively implement the MDGs by 2015.
We have completed the Progress Report on the implementation of the MDGs in 2010 and let me briefly share Azerbaijan’s perspectives and experience in achieving the MDGs.
Azerbaijan has experienced unprecedented economic growth over the past five years. On average the economy grew at 20 percent annualized pace, being one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Azerbaijan has significant increases in revenue from oil production, meaning that it will have the resources to finance much of the public investment needed in order for the country to achieve the MDGs by 2015. Available financial resources have provided ample opportunities to fund policy measures aimed at poverty reduction and achievement of other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Government's primary goal is to spend available funds in the most efficient and transparent way for the good of the present and future generations.
MDG 1: Reducing poverty and extreme poverty
Azerbaijan has demonstrated the political will and has implemented a number of consecutive steps to eradicate the poverty. This was clearly stated in its first State Program for Poverty Reduction and Economic Development (SPPRED)/MDG report, and is reflected in the new State Program for Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development (2008-2015). The main objectives of the aforementioned State Program include, inter alia, ensuring sustainable economic development, significantly decreasing the number of poor, protecting the vulnerable groups, improving the living conditions of refugees and IDPs, improving and providing equal access for all to the health and education services, ensuring sustainable management of the environment, supporting the gender equality etc. To this end, by successful implementation of the Program, we managed to reduce poverty rate from 29.3 in 2005 to 11 percent in 2010.
The Government continues its efforts to use oil revenues prudently, to develop the non-oil sector through an improved investment and business environment, and to ensure a more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth – throughout the regions, and all sections of the population. The state policy promotes measures on strengthening social and economic welfare of population, encouraging stronger private sector, increasing economic opportunities and improving quality of jobs, providing equal access to social protection and social services.
We give high priority to the elimination of unemployment. In this regard, the Government has launched the State Program on the Implementation of Employment Strategy and reduced the unemployment rate form 7.06 percent in 2005 to 6,0 percent in 2009.
MDG 2: Achieving universal primary education
The relevant reforms on improving the quality of school education have been launched. Education reform strategy for the term of 2003-2013, supported by the World Bank, mainly focuses on reforming general compulsory education. Within this framework a new program on pre-school education has been adopted. 2009 has been declared the "Year of Children" in Azerbaijan that coincided with the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The relevant Action Plan was adopted to address special needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable children, and envisage particular efforts aimed at the promotion of child's rights and encouragement of their talent.
MDG 3: Gender Equality and Empowerment
The consistent measures, such as the adoption and realization of the National Action Plan on Woman Affairs, Presidential Decree on the Realization of Woman Policy, the establishment of the State Committee on Family, Woman and Child Affairs and many others, laid the firm legal and institutional foundation for the achievement of gender equality, provision of secondary and higher education for women, equality in salaries and wide involvement of women to the decision making process. There have been increase in women's representation in the parliament and government bodies.
MDGs 4 and 5: Child and Maternal Mortality
Sustainable progress in this regard will depend on reduction in income poverty, and further improvements in the access and quality of health services through Primary Health Care Reform. Azerbaijan is committed to reduce child and maternal mortality by half by 2015 and has taken consistent measures to this end. The State Programs on the Protection of Health of Mothers and Children, the National Strategy on Reproductive Health, the State Program on Social and Economic Development of the Regions for 2004-2008 were adopted and child mortality rate decreased to 3.1% in the last 5 years.
Among all the MDGs, Goal 5 on improving maternal health, with its related targets on reducing the maternal mortality ration up to three quarters by 2015 and achieving the universal access to reproductive health, requires additional efforts. The full realization of this goal in practice demands due financial resources and technical assistance, which many developing countries could hardly afford. In this regard, we refer to the OHCHR report on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, which acknowledges that donor countries have a responsibility to provide international cooperation and assistance to the developing and LDC to of maternal and infant mortality rate.
MDG 6: HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Azerbaijan has managed so far to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and succeeded in improving the prevention and cure of TB. The national response to HIV/AIDS has also been considerably strengthened over the past years with a major reorganization of the National AIDS Centre.
MDG 7: Environmental Sustainability
We have to work on reversing the loss of area covered by forest, and to ensure that environmental concerns are taken into account at all levels of policymaking. While it is on track for supply of improved drinking water for urban areas, progress is still slow in rural areas. Efforts are required to ensure that the quality of piped water meets international health standards, and regular supply is ensured through utility reforms and public investment in infrastructure.
MDG 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
Azerbaijan is determined to contribute to the realization of the development goals agreed within the United Nations and fosters global cooperation in all spheres, paying particular attention to addressing the special needs and vulnerabilities of the developing and least developed countries.
We have successfully launched and implemented several regional infrastructure projects that made a significant contribution to the development of some neighboring countries. Taking into consideration that the ICT is considered as an important instrument in fostering economic growth and competitiveness and in contributing to poverty eradication and social inclusion, the Government of Azerbaijan has put forward the initiative to jointly build and manage the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway, which is expected to facilitate supplying the countries of the region with internet, telecommunication systems, e-information resources and e-economies.
At the conclusion, I would like to express my hope that this High Level Plenary meeting will significantly contribute to mobilizing the efforts of all Member States in achieving the United Nations Development agenda and creating a better future for all.