By Leman Mammadova
Azerbaijan's efforts in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were hailed in New York in the framework of the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development, organized at the UN headquarters.
The SDGs are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, that include 17 goals to address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.
Azerbaijan is a country committed to the obligations assumed to achieve the SDGs until 2030. The country has already submitted its two voluntary reports in this regard.
Ali Ahmadov, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, Chair of the National Coordination Council for Sustainable Development, spoke at the UN General Assembly at a high-level meeting held on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Cairo Conference on Population and Development.
Stressing the importance of the Cairo Conference, organized in 1994, he noted that the welfare of people is at the center of the initiatives undertaken by the conference.
Ahmadov noted that within the framework of the social reforms implemented in Azerbaijan, comprehensive measures are being taken aimed at raising the standard of living, ensuring human rights and equalities, including the availability of social services.
He stressed that over the past 15 years the population increased by 1.6 million people and reached 10 million. “Over the past period the social infrastructure has significantly been improved, hundreds of schools, medical institutions and other social facilities have been built.”
He also noted that the country attaches special importance to youth and gender policies. “Targeted policies are being implemented, aimed at increasing the employment of young people and women, including their role in public and political life.”
Ahmadov further stressed that as a result of the aggressive policy of Armenia, 20 percent of Azerbaijani lands were occupied, more than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons, resolutions of the UN Security Council adopted on the conflict have not yet been implemented.
Ahmadov has also addressed the ministerial segment of the UN High-Level Political Forum held under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
He gave detailed information about the socio-economic reforms carried out in Azerbaijan, including the provision of inclusive education of equal quality, sustainable growth of the economy, full and effective employment, support for ensuring decent work, improvement of the social situation of the vulnerable part of the population according to the principle “no one is lagging behind”.
“National Coordination Council established in Azerbaijan to effectively coordinate the implementation of the SDGs in the country, various public hearings are held to continue the process of integration into the SDGs and to involve all interested parties in this process,” he said.
Speaking about the main difficulties in achieving the SDGs in the country, Ahmadov once again informed the international community about the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
As part of the visit, Ahmadov met with Robert Piper, Advisor to the Secretary-General of the UN Development Coordination Office.
Ahmadov highlighted the successful development of cooperation of Azerbaijan with various UN specialized structures, reported on the implementation of a number of successful projects within the framework of this cooperation.
He further emphasized that the country’s accession to the UN SDGs initiative opens a new page in cooperation with this organization. “Azerbaijan will be at the forefront in achieving the SDGs. To this end, all action plans, strategies and government programs in the country are aligned with the SDGs.”
Referring to the refugees and IDPs, he underlined that the state is taking measures to ensure their employment, simplify their access to social services, and improve their financial well-being.
Robert Piper, in turn, praised the socio-economic reforms implemented in Azerbaijan and hailed the country's efforts to achieve the SDGs.
“In a short time, significant work has been done on the implementation of the SDGs in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan became the first country in the region and the CIS to present Voluntary National Report for the second time at the UN High-Level Political Forum. All this is an example of a country's positive approach to achieving the SDGs.”
He noted the importance of engaging all the interested parties in the process, and stressed the significance of public-private sector partnership in this regard.
He further pointed to the possibility of implementing pilot projects in Azerbaijan in this area, describing the country as the most successful in the region in achieving the SDGs jointly with the UN, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Referring to Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Piper said UN is always ready to support Azerbaijan for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.
He also stressed the possibility of implementing joint projects with the Azerbaijani government to integrate IDPs into the labor market and increase their employment.
At the meeting with Hala Helmy El-Said, Egyptian Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Reforms, Ahmadov stressed the possibility of further expansion of bilateral cooperation on SDGs, population growth and population planning.
El-Said, in turn, suggested expanding cooperation with Egypt in achieving the SDGs, adding that she intends to visit the country to get acquainted with the activities of the ASAN and DOST centers, created for the effective provision of state and social services to the population in Azerbaijan.
Ahmadov met with Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Assistant Administrator and Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (RBEC).
The parties discussed the ways of expanding Azerbaijan-UNDP cooperation, and increasing the efficiency of the jointly implemented projects.
Ahmadov noted the crucial importance of the jointly implemented projects with the UNDP.
Achim Steiner praised the reforms carried out in all areas in Azerbaijan and the country’s efforts in implementing SDGs.
Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, in turn, affirmed the UN’s readiness to support Azerbaijan in the projects aimed at achieving SDGs.
Ahmadov also held meetings with Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norwegian Minister of International Development and Ze`ev Elkin, Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection, to discuss prospects for developing relations.
At the meeting with the Norwegian Minister, discussions were held on the prospects for the development of relations between the countries, including cooperation in the use of alternative and renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency. A high level of preparation of the second Voluntary National Report of Azerbaijan on Sustainable Development was also highlighted.
At the meeting with the Israeli Minister, the development of Israel-Azerbaijan relations was noted. Ze`ev Elkin pointed to the ongoing cooperation between two countries in the field of education, health and other areas.
He went on to add that Israel is keen to cooperate with Azerbaijan in the field of rational use of water and water resources, noting that he intends to visit the country in this connection.
Currently, Azerbaijan is one of the first countries in the region and in the CIS, and in general one of 14 countries in the world that submitted the second report. Azerbaijan presented its first voluntary national report to the UN in July 2017.
In accordance with the UN Resolution dated September 25, 2015, as many as 17 goals and 169 targets for sustainable development for the period 2016–2030 have been defined.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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