By Orkhan Amashov
Azerbaijan is yet again the cynosure of all eyes across the globe. The nation’s capital is currently hosting the VIII Global Baku Forum in which international issues are deliberated on by former heads of state and governments, prominent policymakers, pundits and many other distinguished personages.
Concentration of vitality
Organised by the Nizami Ganjavi Centre and held under the auspices of the Azerbaijani president, the forum is attended by 300 guests from 40 countries. "The World after Covid-19", the title of the event, speaks volumes, as it encapsulates an array of current global concerns centred on the world’s foremost challenge – the pandemic that is yet to be consigned to history.
The VIII Global Baku Forum is a grand platform within the confines of which the fate of humanity is cogitated on by those equipped to influence the future. Notable addresses from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson; Pope Francis; WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; former UK Prime Minister, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and World Health Organisation and Ambassador for Global Health Gordon Brown, together with other illustrious personages, are a testament to Azerbaijan’s worldwide reputation and credentials.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Baku platform is the very place that, thanks to Azerbaijan’s resourcefulness, one may describe as the epicentre of a world-wide debate.
Shaping global agenda
In addition to being an organiser of such a notable event, Azerbaijan is also shaping the agenda and influencing the way in which the global debate is constructed. Some of the subjects to be pondered are the all-encompassing. "New World Economy", "In a New Era: Peace, Security and Human Rights", "Combatting Climate Change and Meeting Global Energy Demand", "Healthcare and Vaccination", "Promoting Food Security" and the "Eastern Partnership and its Opportunities".
Boris Johnson’s address was particularly revealing in terms of the manifestation of Baku’s globally rising fortunes. The British PM described Azerbaijan as a steadfast partner of the UK and made it abundantly clear that the relations between the two nations are now at an all-time zenith. Mr Johnson welcomed Azerbaijan’s growing role in international affairs, in particular, in relation to combating the use of chemical weapons, tackling drug smuggling and Baku’s indispensable role in securing Kabul airport during the recent evacuations.
The British PM has also noted that the forum takes place simultaneously with COP26, and special tribute was paid to Azerbaijan for its emphasis on green energy and determination to increase the proportion of renewable energy generated for internal use. The UK leader also voiced loud support for Azerbaijan’s national demining programme in the liberated territories and the UNDP’s mine action.
Johnson's recognition is particularly interesting in light of London’s attempt to forge new relations with its international partners in the post-Brexit context and the fact that the UK remains the biggest foreign direct investor in the Azerbaijani economy.
The part of President Ilham Aliyev’s speech dealing with Covid-19 entailed two elements. Firstly, the president clearly delineated the vast range of internal measures taken to this effect. As the president said, Azerbaijan was quick to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge faced and robust measures have been taken since the first days of the pandemic. The vaccination programme commenced in January 2021 and, to date, more than 60 per cent of the population above 18 years received both doses. Special emphasis was put on a $2.9 billion programme aimed at easing the social burden caused by Covid-19.
One of the noteworthy moments within the president’s address was his focus on the necessity of carrying out a vaccination policy in such a manner whereby people are not subjected to forceful vaccination, yet the circumstances are conducive to a high take-up. In a world in which ludicrously ostentatious conspiracy theories prey on the minds of many, Azerbaijan is a country in which anti-vaccine campaigns are unheard. And as President Aliyev said, there are not even anti-vaccine trends.
Secondly, the president focused on Azerbaijan’s global initiatives in fighting the pandemic. Azerbaijan launched the initiative in the United Nations Human Rights Council with respect to the equal, universal access and fair distribution of vaccines. Azerbaijan spoke openly about “vaccine nationalism” and the unfair distribution of vaccines on a global scale. Azerbaijan, as a chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, has given financial and humanitarian support to more than 30 countries and provided free doses of vaccine to several countries. The President added that Azerbaijan also made a $10 million donation to the WHO to support poor countries.
Reiteration of Karabakh essentials
The forum presented Azerbaijan with an excellent and formidable opportunity to convey to the world community some of the essential points on how Baku sees the future of peace in the region and what measures are being taken to achieve lasting stability following the Second Karabakh War. It is clear to everyone that the conflict is over, Azerbaijan is victorious and Baku has a clear plan for a lasting and durable peace in the South Caucasus. Armenia has yet to respond, and the quicker Yerevan appreciates the magnanimous offer of Baku, the better its prospects will be.
Armenia’s wanton destruction of the liberated territories and Azerbaijan’s ambitious rebuilding effort were reflected upon. The president also touched upon the legal foundations of the steps taken by Baku during the Second Karabakh War. Azerbaijan acted in line with chapter 51 of the UN Charter by exercising its right for self-defence and undertook a successful and strategic military campaign that implemented the four UN Security Council resolutions demanding the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Baku is increasingly conscious of its growing international prestige and appeal. The capital has hosted seven forums and 42 summits since 2013. The VIII Global Baku Forum is one, albeit grand, episode in a series of global discussions initiated and conducted by Azerbaijan. In the fullness of time, it will seamlessly weave into a web of worldwide policy exchanges, irresistibly reasserting Baku’s growing standing across the world.
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