Azerbaijan is making an important contribution to intercultural dialogue, as President Ilham Aliyev is personally committed to the strengthening and promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue in Azerbaijan, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova said in an exclusive interview with Trend.
“First, I would like to say that our organization enjoys an excellent relationship with the Republic of Azerbaijan and I cannot but express my satisfaction with the numerous projects and activities that have been jointly implemented over recent years,” she said.
“On behalf of UNESCO and in my own name, I wish to acknowledge the important role that His Excellency Mr Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, plays in the strengthening of the relationship between your country and our organization,” said Bokova. “In this regard, let me emphasize his commitment towards the projects and activities which are in line with our organization’s mandate.”
“At UNESCO, we are convinced that education is a human right for all throughout life and that access must be matched by quality,” she said.
In this regard, UNESCO director general highlighted the importance of the reforms that have been undertaken in Azerbaijan in the fields of basic and higher education.
“I know that the development of the educational system of Azerbaijan is the highest priority on the agenda of President Aliyev and I welcome his initiative to prepare the Development Concept entitled “Azerbaijan – 2020: Look into the Future”, which is focused on providing quality basic and higher education to young children and adults,” added Bokova.
She pointed out that in today’s interconnected world, culture's power to transform societies has never been more clear.
Its diverse manifestations – from historical monuments and museums to traditional practices and contemporary art forms – enrich our everyday lives in countless ways, added the UNESCO director general.
In this regard, it’s worth noting the importance of the state program 2014-2020 of Azerbaijan aiming to protect and restore the country’s cultural heritage, according to Bokova.
Important work has also been accomplished in Azerbaijan under President Aliyev’s leadership in the fields of Communication and High Technologies, she said.
“As you well know, our organization continues to promote Open Access to Scientific Information, Open Educational Resources, Free and Open Source Software, an Open Training Platform as well as Open and Distance Learning,” added UNESCO director general.
“I welcome the recent establishment in Azerbaijan of the Data Center, which is based on cloud technologies and fully meets modern international standards,” she said. “This first Data Center in the region, which is already operational, accelerates the development of the ICT sector in Azerbaijan and the integration of information systems of the country into the global information space, in creating conditions for innovative work in the various fields including public and private sectors.”
Bokova also touched upon Azerbaijan’s contribution to ensuring the inter-cultural and inter-civilizational dialogue.
“In our increasingly diverse societies, it is essential to ensure harmonious interaction among people and groups with plural, varied and dynamic cultural identities, as well as their willingness to live together,” she said. “Policies for the inclusion and participation of all citizens are guarantees of social cohesion, the vitality of civil society and peace.”
UNESCO director general pointed out that Azerbaijan is making an important contribution to intercultural dialogue, as President Aliyev is personally committed to the strengthening and promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue in Azerbaijan.
“In this regard, I acknowledge once again the significance of the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, also known as the ‘Baku Process’,” added Bokova.
She noted that since its initiation in 2008, the Baku Forum has become a global platform for an exchange and discussion on major contemporary challenges in our globalized and more and more diverse societies.
“Our organization is proud to co-organize this Forum with the government of Azerbaijan, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the World Tourism Organization, the Council of Europe, as well as the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,” said UNESCO director general.
She expressed satisfaction that this Forum showcased the objectives of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), for which UNESCO is the lead agency within the United Nations system.
“I was honored to attend the 3rd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku on 18 and 19 May 2015, which sought to reaffirm the imperative need to consolidate and intensify dialogue among peoples from different cultures, religions or beliefs, in order to create, at the national, regional and global levels, an environment conducive to respect for cultural diversity, human rights and mutual understanding,” said Bokova.
“I know that the priorities on which the Baku Process is fueled, are shared and promoted by President Aliyev, and I wish to renew my gratitude for the forthcoming 4th Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, to be held in Baku in May 2017,” she added.
UNESCO director general also pointed out the contribution of President Aliyev in the future of the country’s youth, as well as the intellectual, innovative and sports development of the nation.
Bokova noted that UNESCO is the United Nations agency mandated to promote sport and physical education through concerted, collaborative and participatory action to support the well-rounded development of every individual.
“At UNESCO, we are convinced that sport is a recognized instrument for promoting peace, as it disregards both geographical borders and social status. It also plays a significant role as a driver of social integration and economic development,” she added.
Bokova said she commends President Aliyev’s dedication to upholding sport as a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and networks, and to promote peace, solidarity, tolerance and justice.
His efforts to ensure that sport and physical education form an integral part of national and development strategies of Azerbaijan are creditable too, added UNESCO director general.
“Let me congratulate also President Aliyev for his personal commitment to the country hosting two major events on the world sport agenda, such as the First European Games in 2015, as well as the Islamic Solidarity Games to be held in Baku in May 2017,” she said. “I seize this opportunity to salute him on his recent re-election as President of Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee.”
Bokova pointed out that UNESCO has been highly appreciative of the work of Mehriban Aliyeva, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
“I thank her for her support to the numerous projects and activities in the various fields, such as girls and women’s education, protection and promotion of the tangible and intangible cultural heritage, support to the major sport events in Azerbaijan, organization of the major cultural events in Azerbaijan and far beyond its borders,” she said. “Let me also pay special tribute to Mehriban Aliyeva for her very active support to the various events and activities, which are organized at UNESCO Headquarters.”
“In the end, I would like to present seasonal greetings to His Excellency Mr Ilham Aliyev, to Ms Mehriban Aliyeva and to all people of Azerbaijan with best wishes for prosperity,” said Bokova.
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