One of the main strands of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy in the humanitarian sphere is the international protection of the rights of our people who suffered from Armenia’s military aggression. The resolution on missing persons, which is put forward every two years at the sessions of the UN General Assembly and unanimously adopted by the UN members, is one of our important initiatives towards this goal. Given that thousands of people went missing from the Azerbaijan side as a result of the conflict, our country considers it important to keep this problem in the spotlight of the international community. The resolution calls on states to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law, to take urgent measures to determine the fate of missing persons, to take effective preventive measures in this area, and to be especially sensitive to the problem of missing children during interstate armed conflicts.
Another step in this area is the adoption by the UN members of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), entitled “Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts”, the main author of which is our country. The resolution condemns the torture, hostage-taking, killing and trafficking of women and children during the conflict, and calls for appropriate preventive measures.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is one of the key organisations with which we cooperate in the protection of our citizens affected by the Armenian aggression, especially in clarifying the fate of missing persons. Since 2008, the ICRC has been working to collect ante-mortem data on persons missing during the conflict. Since 2014, a project to collect DNA samples from family members of missing persons has been implemented. The organisation also implements projects to provide psychological support to the families of missing people. The ICRC acts as a neutral mediator in the exchange of prisoners and hostages or detainees in conflict situations, as well as assisting in improving the water supply and supporting households in war-affected communities. In addition, raising awareness of international humanitarian law among the military, journalists and students is one of the ICRC’s activity areas.
ICRC representatives visit prisons to improve the detention conditions of persons deprived of their liberty in accordance with recognized detention standards. The ICRC’s joint project with the Ministry of Justice on tuberculosis (TB) treatment in prisons has been one of the best in the world.
Azerbaijan also has fruitful cooperation with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Federation, one of the main components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation. The Federation, which has been operating in Azerbaijan since 1993, has provided IDPs and refugees with food and non-food items, and helped meet the medical, educational, infrastructure, sanitary and water needs of IDP camps. During the visit of the Secretary General of the Federation to our country in 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation was signed by and between the organisation and the Government of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society. It was agreed to cooperate in disaster risk management, capacity building of the national society, health, strengthening the Red Cross and Red Crescent networks and dissemination of the fundamental principles of the Movement. Currently, the Federation supports the efforts of the Azerbaijani government to support the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Armenian aggression, and helps build on capacity of the Azerbaijani Red Crescent Society.
Given that the people most affected by the Armenian aggression are IDPs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan is constantly working to protect their rights at the international level, and the issue of their voluntary, safe and dignified return to the liberated territories is always on the agenda. Documents of many international organisations state the right of Azerbaijani IDPs to return to their homes voluntarily and safely. At the same time, the work done by the Azerbaijani Government to address the social challenges of one million Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) has been recognised by international organisations as exemplary. After the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from Armenian occupation in 2020, work is underway to clear the area of mines and restore infrastructure to ensure the safe and voluntary return of IDPs to their homes.
For many years, the Republic of Azerbaijan has cooperated with various international organisations, in particular the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to address the social problems of IDPs. The UNHCR, which has been operating in Azerbaijan since 1992, has supported the efforts of the Government of Azerbaijan to improve the living conditions of IDPs and increase their living standards through income-generating activities. In addition to providing assistance and protection to IDPs, refugees, stateless persons and asylum seekers, UNHCR has also helped the Government of Azerbaijan establish a national asylum system, improve legislation on refugee status and statelessness, and in fulfilling the obligations arising from the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Azerbaijan has been a member of the UNHCR Executive Committee since 2012.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is one of the organisations cooperating in solving the social problems of IDPs. The project “Integrated development of agriculture in IDP settlements in Azerbaijan through the revitalisation of kahriz water systems” implemented by the International Organisation for Migration with the financial support of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is one of the main projects implemented by international organisations in this field.
It should be noted that Azerbaijan closely cooperates with the IOM, the European Union and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) to implement a number of projects aimed at improving border control and migration management. The IOM is also one of Azerbaijan’s key international partners in building capacity to combat human trafficking. Cooperation with the European Union in the field of migration is aimed at implementing the Joint Declaration on Displacement Partnership, as well as agreements on simplified visa regime and readmission of persons residing without permission, signed between the Organisation and Azerbaijan. With the financial support of the European Union, ICMPD is implementing the second phase of the “Support to the Implementation of the Migration Partnership with Azerbaijan (MOBILAZE)” project.
Azerbaijan also cooperates with European and Asian countries in the area of migration as part of the Almaty, Budapest and Prague processes.
Given the importance of education in the development of our society, cooperation with various international organisations, especially the European Union, is one of the important areas of international cooperation in the humanitarian sphere. Through the Education for Employment in Azerbaijan programme, the European Union promotes the improvement of vocational and higher education in our country. With the support of the European Union for vocational education reform, a number of projects are being implemented in the regions in this area. In addition, cooperation continues under the Erasmus+ programme, and our country uses the EU tools TAIEX and Twinning.
In the field of education, Azerbaijan also cooperates with UNESCO, ETF, UNECE, CoE, ECO Educational Institute and other organisations.
Azerbaijan contributes globally to inclusive and quality education, which is the fourth goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 4), and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all, and provides grants for young people from the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to study in Azerbaijani universities.
The introduction of Azerbaijan’s traditions of multiculturalism to the world and the promotion of dialogue between cultures and religions also occupy an important place in Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. Launched in 2008 at the initiative of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan to promote dialogue and cooperation between peoples and cultures, the Baku Process contributes to the development of dialogue between civilisations and religions through numerous international events and projects, and this is reflected in the UN Secretary-General’s report entitled “Promoting a culture of peace, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and cooperation for the benefit of the world”. The 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilisations, which was hosted in Baku in April 2016, is one of the successes of this process. The World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and the International Humanitarian Forum both have a special place among the international events held in Baku in this field.
One of the main strands of our foreign policy in this area is to convey to the world community the truth about the destroyed cultural and religious monuments in our liberated territories.
In the field of culture, Azerbaijan benefits from the European Union’s Twinning programme, and also cooperates with UNESCO, ISESCO, CoE, UNAOC, ECO Cultural Institute and other organisations.
In the humanitarian field, it cooperates with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO).
International cooperation in the social sphere is mainly aimed at developing relations with ILO, CoE, EU, OIC, UNICEF, UNFPA and others.
Azerbaijan has been a full member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since May 1992 and has acceded to its 58 Conventions. Cooperation between our country and the organisation is carried out in 3 main areas: improving the system of social dialogue; support for institutional reforms; implementation of practical cooperation measures. Cooperation with the ILO is of great importance for our country in terms of developing labour legislation based on international experience, improving and regulating the labour market, creating safe working conditions and strengthening social protection and expanding employment opportunities. Active technical support was provided by the ILO in the development of the new Employment Strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2017-2030).
The Republic of Azerbaijan has been elected a member of the ILO Governing Body for 2017-2020.
One of the international organisations with which Azerbaijan cooperates is the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF. The organisation has been operating in our country since 1993. Cooperation with UNICEF is carried out as part of the current country programme. This programme aims to support our country in the implementation of the basic rights of the child enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the various child development strategies of Azerbaijan, including the integration of children with disabilities into society and inclusive education. For many years, UNICEF has been working to replace the Soviet-era orphanage system with a new child care system (de-institutionalisation), develop juvenile justice, expand the scope of preschool education, maternal and infant health, and more, and supported the efforts of the Government of Azerbaijan in these areas. The organisation is one of Azerbaijan’s key partners in educating children about the dangers of landmines in the territories liberated from Armenian occupation.
Azerbaijan has been cooperating closely with the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, since 1994. This cooperation covers three areas in accordance with UNFPA’s current country programmes: sexual and reproductive health, population dynamics, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. Along with UNFPA, Azerbaijan cooperates with the Council of Europe, the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, and other institutions in promoting gender equality and preventing domestic violence.
Relationships with the World Health Organisation (WHO) are of particular importance in cooperation in the field of health, which is an important part of international cooperation in the social sphere. Cooperation with the World Health Organisation, which has been operating in our country since 1994, has been built in many directions such as combating infectious and vaccine-preventable diseases, immunisation, application of international health regulations, etc. The participation of the WHO Director-General in the International Conference Health Reforms in the Context of Sustainable Development Goals and the signing of a joint statement by the WHO and the Government of Azerbaijan in July 2018 has had a positive impact on the development of our relations with the Organisation. Azerbaijan has provided $ 10 million to WHO to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. At the invitation of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President Ilham Aliyev addressed the 74th session of the World Health Assembly on the 31st of May 2021. This is an indicator of the further development of Azerbaijan-WHO relations and the importance attached to cooperation.
At the initiative of the Republic of Azerbaijan, a special session of the UN General Assembly dedicated to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was held in December 2020.
Azerbaijan is one of the key countries in the effort to achieve equal and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines. On the 23rd of March 2021, at the 46th meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, at the initiative of Azerbaijan, as the chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, a resolution was adopted entitled “Ensuring equal, affordable, timely and universal access to COVID-19 vaccines.” The resolution draws attention to the negative effects of the unfair and unequal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, which is one of the main obstacles to the complete elimination of the pandemic and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The resolution also called for a fair distribution of vaccines among all countries.