Statement by Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at the 34th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO
Paris, October 18, 2007
Mr Director-General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all I would like to join the previous speakers in congratulating you, Mr President, on your election as President of the General Conference at this session, and wish you success in discharging your important functions.
I have the order to express, at the outset, my government’s appreciation to the World Heritage Committee Member States for the invaluable support they extended to the nomination of the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape to the World Heritage List this year in New Zealand. Azerbaijan supports UNESCO’s activities in the protection of intangible cultural values. The entry into force of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage last year was a significant achievement in this field. It gives me great pleasure to inform you that Azerbaijan is among the countries which ratified the Convention. We would like to stress the importance of the Japanese Funds-in-Trust programme, and to express our appreciation to the Government of Japan for its contribution to this programme, under which the project to safeguard Azerbaijani Mugham, proclaimed a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, was financed.
Today, the modern world faces some troubling trends. Talking about the dialogue among civilizations, we are witnessing that certain issues pertaining to interreligious and inter-ethnic relations are being exacerbated, sometimes artificially. Long-lasting religious and national tolerance is among the most important achievements of my country. Being a multi-ethnic society, Azerbaijan has for centuries been a family made up of many ethnic groups and confessions. Secularity and tolerance are widely regulated in society as norms of everyday life. Enjoying its geographically determined natural role of bridge between civilizations, between East and West, Azerbaijan can serve as an example for the whole world. My country has been making a considerable contribution to the efforts of UNESCO to further develop international peace and tolerance through ethnic diversity and religious tolerance. One of the initiatives was the conference organized jointly by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, led by Ms Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady of Azerbaijan and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and the Rio de Janeiro-based Academy of Latinity in Baku on 21 April 2006. It was dedicated to the dialogue between the West and Islam.
Another initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation was financing the full restoration of an Orthodox church and mosque in Baku as well as a Jewish community museum in Krasnaya Sloboda village in the Quba region of Azerbaijan. We believe that all these activities will make a positive contribution to the mutual understanding among nations, cultures and religions so crucial today. We in Azerbaijan strongly believe in the role of UNESCO as an indispensable centre for partnership in the issues of religions tolerance.
As we all are well aware, the main line of UNESCO’s activities is education, which is fundamental for overcoming many problems. Extensive socio-economic development of Azerbaijan in recent years has created a favourable basis for the realization of large-scale reforms in the field of education. Under the project “New schools for renewing Azerbaijan” implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, more than 200 schools with all the necessary equipment have been built, many of which have been constructed in the most remote villages in rural areas. A number of other important projects on vocational education, the training of teachers and inclusive education are being implemented jointly with UNESCO within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between Azerbaijan and UNESCO. I would like to underline that the education for all (EFA) programme plays an important role in ensuring sustainable development and in eliminating illiteracy and contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Azerbaijan is committed to the principles and aims of the EFA programme, and supports UNESCO’s and Mr Koïchiro Matsuura’s personal endeavours in developing this programme.
I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that my country will host, under the EFA programme, in Baku in July 2008, the Regional Conference for the European and Caucasus Region, supported by the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Ms Mehriban Aliyeva, which is the last in the series of six regional conferences in support of global literacy. Using this opportunity, I invite you all to attend this conference, which will be an additional step towards the realization of this programme.
It is necessary to stress that the Government of Azerbaijan is strongly committed to safeguarding its cultural heritage. Due to its geographic location, Azerbaijan, with its diverse cultural and religious heritage, has contributed extensively to world culture. But, unfortunately, among the most urgent troubles now facing the region is the ongoing Armenia-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a result of the conflict, Azerbaijan has suffered extensive cultural disasters. Numerous historical, cultural and religious monuments and pieces of art have been plundered in the territories of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia. In this regard, Azerbaijan urges UNESCO to follow closely the situation on the ground so as to protect the Asian cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people in the occupied territories from any further destruction, as well as in Armenia in the settlements from which my people were ethnically cleansed during the conflict. The Government of Azerbaijan is looking forward to working closely with UNESCO on this very important and crucial issue.
Thank you very much, Mr President.