First Vıce President Mehriban Aliyeva's activity established new stage in Azerbaijan-UNESCO relations

The establishment and development of relations between Azerbaijan and UNESCO

Preservation and development of the rich traditions of Azerbaijani people's national and spiritual values in the modern era in facing serious threats to national and moral values are particularly relevant. According to the geo-strategic position Azerbaijan became one of the most tolerant countries in the world for its different outlook and lifestyle, national and cultural values, religious beliefs, national and ethnic composition. Preserving its culture, values, traditions Azerbaijani people showing greater tolerance of religious diversity striving for modernity and innovation.

In modern times, UNESCO serves for the strengthening peace and security by expanding cooperation among people in educational, scientific and cultural fields. Azerbaijan's relations with UNESCO dates at about the previous years before the admission to the United Nations, being part of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan has been involved in the activities of UNESCO in the 60s of the XX century being part of the Soviet Union. Exhibitions dedicated to “Azerbaijani carpets” (1981), “Azerbaijani manuscripts” (1985) held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, and that depicting “the Architecture of Baku” held later in London, were consecutively arranged under the auspices of UNESCO. During the Soviet era UNESCO provided financial assistance to Azerbaijan in holding “A Language and a City” (1981), and “the Oriental Carpet Art” (1983), conferences. The nationwide leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev greatly contributed to the development of relations between Azerbaijan and UNESCO during the Soviet period.

In 1983, at the First International Symposium dedicated to the “Art of the Oriental Carpet”, in Baku Haydar Aliyev member of Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union met with the Special Adviser to the Director-General of UNESCO Mr. Frederico Mayor. This friendly relation after gaining independence influenced greatly on relation between Azerbaijan and UNESCO, and thus laid the foundation for the success of Azerbaijan in the organization.

The Republic of Azerbaijan after gaining its independence on October 18, 1991, became a member of the United Nations specialized agency UNESCO on 3 July 1992. The development of Azerbaijan's relations with UNESCO started in the second half of 1993, after the return of power to the nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev. Thus, the most important step in the development of Azerbaijan-UNESCO relations was the first official vizit of Heydar Aliyev to the Republic of France in 1993, which lasted from December 19 to 21, meeting the Director-General of UNESCO Federico Mayor.

Meetings of nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev with Director-General Federico Mayor in the development of relations between Azerbaijan and UNESCO was very important. Educational, scientific and cultural spheres of Azerbaijan were discussed in the meetings. On November 18, 1996, the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and UNESCO Director General Federico Mayor signed a memorandum on cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and UNESCO. The Memorandum aimed at rendering support to Azerbaijan in scientific, cultural and other spheres. Moreover, assistance in preservation and restoration of cultural monuments of Azerbaijan were also reflected in the document (MFA). In addition, cooperation with UNESCO according to the international convention on the Means of prohibiting the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property is extremely essential to restoration and preservation of cultural monuments in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

At the same time, signed agreement about Azerbaijan-UNESCO cooperation in educational, scientific, cultural and humanitarian fields was the beginning of a new stage. It is no coincidence that after this for reconstruction of higher education in Azerbaijan in accordance with TACIS and TEMPUS programs two projects were realized. The Great Silk Road TRACECA year was declared in 2000, by UNESCO.

Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev on September 3, 1997, in his letter to the Director-General of UNESCO Federico Mayor endorsed the proposal of Declaration on the Right of People for Peace of UNESCO and brought to the attention of the Director General his support for the declaration project. In addition, it was noted in the letter that the Republic of Azerbaijan as the democratic, legal, secular state would continue its policy for maintaining peace. Haydar Aliyev stated in his letter peaceful policy of Azerbaijan, the country's political stability, civil solidarity achievement, a peaceful solution to the conflict in spite of military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, occupation of 20 percent of our territory, more than 1 million IDP’s, the destruction of cultural resources.

The next action for informing the world community about cultural heritage of Azerbaijan was Heydar Aliyev’s 20 April, 1997 Decree on celebration of the

1300 th anniversary of the “Book of Dede Gorgud”. 1300 th jubilee celebrations of the”Book of Dede Gorgud” were held in Dresden, Moscow, in different cities of Turkey in the framework of UNESCO in 2000. These events ended with a meeting with VI Summit of Heads of Turkic Speaking Counties at the jubilee ceremony.

In 1998, an international conference dedicated to “Great Silk Road” initiated by Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev, was an important contribution to the regional cooperation, the East-West dialogue, integration of Europe and Asia. An international conference with the participation of 32 countries, heads of 9 states, delegations of 13 international organizations was the strategic goal of globalization, which is located on the historic Silk Road peoples and opening dialogue between different cultures and communication. It is no coincidence that a number of international cultural events, music festivals, symposiums and conferences, the tourist routes hosted by our country based on the Silk Road idea, integrative mission of Azerbaijan.

The new phase of relations between Azerbaijan and UNESCO

The protection of cultural and natural heritage of Azerbaijan is one of the main directions of cooperation with UNESCO. In this regard, The Walled City complex of Baku city was inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list in December, 2000. As a result of the earthquake in Azerbaijan, and the damage to a number of architectural monuments to the Walled City complex of Baku at the 27th session of the World Heritage Committee the Walled City complex was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger of UNESCO on July 4, 2003. On June 22- 30, 2009 within the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee , the Walled City complex removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in Seville, Spain. In 2007, within the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee, Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list in New Zealand.

On November 7, 2003, Azerbaijani Mugam inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. On September 28 to October 2, 2009 within the 4th session of the Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of UNESCO in Abu Dhabi city of the United Arab Emirates, international Nowruz holiday officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it should be considered an important event for Azerbaijani culture.

The ancient and rich culture of Azerbaijan turned from national into international level, being a part of world culture. UNESCO being a multilateral organization established mutual cooperation of different countries. As a result of it, the Republic of Azerbaijan builds and expands its ties in the educational, scientific and cultural fields with UNESCO and various countries. Not surprisingly, developing intercultural dialogue and multiculturalism among nations and to support it, is an important part of government’s policy nowadays for the sake of future of all the people.

The First Vıce President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO, President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Mehriban Aliyeva's activity, global projects for the development of science, education and culture established a new stage in relations with UNESCO. It is no coincidence that this influential organization attaches great importance in cooperation with Azerbaijan over recent years and supports a number of projects. The President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva renders great services in the promotion of cultural heritage of Azerbaijan, ensures the protection of it on the national and regional levels. In order to promote the traditional classical music of Azerbaijan around the world Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva initiated the establishment of the International Mugham Center in Baku.

On October 19, 2006 at the Headquarters of UNESCO in Paris, at a event dedicated to the 60th anniversary of UNESCO a Day of Azerbaijan was held under the name of “Azerbaijan: at the intersection of cultures and civilizations” within the framework of the week of “Dialogue among Civilizations”. President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO Mehriban Aliyeva expressed that Azerbaijan is an ancient land characterized by rich cultural heritage and traditions. For centuries Azerbaijan played an important role in holding dialogue among civilizations. Our country is at the crossroads of East and West.Today Azerbaijan is a secular state accepting values of Europe. Religious and ethnic tolerance is a key element of our success, and this is our wealth.

On November 4, 2006 Mrs.Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador of ISESCO for the wide-scale and selfless activity in different spheres, including the dialogue among civilizations, the attention towards the children in need of care, great support to improve their living conditions, as well as the activities carried out in the Islamic world. On November 26, 2006, as a result of these activities, the Director General of ISESCO Abdulaziz bin Othman Altwaijri, presented a diploma of Goodwill Ambassador of ISESCO to Mrs. Merriban Aliyeva for her contribution to the promotion of dialogue among civilizations.

In 2009, Baku was declared the capital of Islamic culture. As the establishment of Silk Road connecting East and West was laid in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan has turned into the center for the art festivals, international, scientific conferences. On 30 July, 2010 in recognition of her selfless activities, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva was consecutively awarded with the Golden Mozart Medal by Director-General Irina Bokova.

The World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue was initiated by Ilham Aliyev the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan to host a conference of ministers responsible for culture on December 2-3, 2008, in Baku with the theme of “Intercultural dialogue as a basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighboring regions”. “Baku Process” initiative is a good example of the Azerbaijani leadership’s attention to the dialogue between cultures and civilizations. Azerbaijan established global intercultural dialogue by inviting a number of Ministers of Culture of Muslim countries. Hosting great international events Azerbaijan plays the role of a "bridge". So, it is very important to highlight the importance of international events such as Intercultural Dialogue and Baku International Humanitarian Forum in the humanitarian field which was held with the support of UNESCO in Azerbaijan. In recent years, UNESCO not only supports Azerbaijan but also participates at the events by a large number of delegation.

Implementing of measures to increase the international prestige of the country, revealing country’s realities to the world community has been a priority in the direction of the Foundation’s activity. In recent years, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has taken successful steps in science sector development strategy, the country's ancient history, natural resources and geopolitical location, maintaining and developing the culture. The Foundation cooperating with UNESCO, ISESCO, other international organizations and foundations supports learning achievements and experience of world science, implementing of it in a wide range of socio-economic area of the republic, developing the relations with the science centers of foregin countries.

Global initiatives of Heydar Aliyev Foundation is introducing Azerbaijan as a tolerant and multicultural in the world. Heydar Aliyev Foundation giving special attention to the mutual enrichment of cultures and civilizations of different nations, to the deepening of the dialogue between the two nations, attaching importance to the preservation of the traditions of tolerance holds the “Address of tolerance – Azerbaijan” project. The religious monuments and sanctuaries have been restored within the framework of the project, the exhibitions are organized in this area. Azerbaijan's position between Eastern and Western cultures, having two of the world's rich cultural heritage increases the importance of cultural diplomacy of our country.

Giving special attention to the preservation of the traditions of tolerance and multiculturalism in Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev Foundation holds the “Address of tolerance – Azerbaijan” project successfully. Under the project, the repair work was carried out of the Orthodox Church, in Baku, with the International Foundation the “Or-Avner” education center was built for Jewish children in the 600-seat Azerbaijan a model of tolerance with the help of Heydar Aliyev Foundation demonstrating its respect for cultural diversity and universal values restores monuments in the park of the Palace of Versailles in Paris, provides assistance for the reconstruction of the Cathedral of St. Mary, dealing with the consequences of an earthquake rebuilds a school for girls in Pakistan, modernizes educational institutions in the Netherlands, Russia, Georgia, Romania, Egypt and in other countries.The multilateral activity of the Russian Representative Office of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation pays special attention to intercultural dialogue, tolerance, multiculturalism too.

In addition, Haydar Aliyev Foundation involves closely in preservation of historic monuments. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation’s activities in the field of culture cover a few major areas: preserving national and moral values and the country’s cultural legacy, restoring historic monuments in the country and in other parts of the world, building new cultural facilities, and introducing Azerbaijani culture to the global community. Successful projects include the opening of the International Mugham Center designed to develop and promote traditional Azerbaijani music, which was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and the establishment of the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Azerbaijan Carpets and Applied Art, and the Gala Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum Complex.

At the same time, The Heydar Aliyev Foundation is an organization, which operates at an international level. The Foundation has offices in the USA, Romania, Russia and Turkey; The Foundation maintains close cooperation with the UN Development Program, UNESCO, ISESCO and other international organizations. The Foundation maintains close cooperation with the UN Development Program, UNESCO, ISESCO, and other international organizations, and is carrying out important programs and projects in foreign countries. Its activities abroad focus around three priorities: promoting Azerbaijan, including raising the international community’s awareness of the truth about the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, restoring and preserving the historical and cultural legacy related to Azerbaijan and its citizens, and fostering humanitarian and social development.

The Heydar Aliyev Foundation implements social projects in foregin countries. It financially assisted Haiti in dealing with the consequences of an earthquake, and Romania in tackling the consequences of a natural disaster. In September 2011, the Foundation provided financial aid as assistance to the French Association for the Victims of Terrorism to help it organize the 7th International Congress for the Victims of Terrorism in Paris. Social projects implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in a number of cities of France, Russia, Hungary, Italy, and Germany contribute to bringing nations together, and the successful integration of cultures. Projects related to the design of parks and the restoration of historical monuments are of moral significance, and becoming a kind of symbol for calling for friendship and peace all over the world.

The Foundation, which places a special emphasis on making the truth about the Armenia Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict known to the world community, has been carrying out commemorative campaigns about Khojaly in prominent cities across the world since 2007. These campaigns feature the presentation of the “Khojaly Genocide” film, photos documenting atrocities committed by Armenians in Khojaly, articles on the Khojaly tragedy issued by leading foreign editions, the “Truth about Garabagh” series, and the “War Against Azerbaijan: Targeting Cultural Heritage” book. In February of 2012, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation initiated the erection of a memorial commemorating the victims of the Srebrenica genocide in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Khojaly genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh. The events dedicated to the genocide carried out by the basis of propaganda of the foundation, on making the truth about the “Khojaly Genocide” known to the world community, spread of it internationally, as well as the continued steps have been taken to give an objective assessment of the genocide.

People of different religions, nations, ethnic minorities live in the Republic of Azerbaijan in peace. All conditions to preserve their customs, traditions, languages have been created by the government of Azerbaiajn. Ethnic minorities have equal cultural rights and right to use the country's cultural heritage. Extended inter-religious dialogue is one of the factors playing an important role in shaping the culture of religious tolerance. The expansion of inter-religious dialogue is very important both theoretical and practical aspects in the present era of globalization.

The Heydar Aliyev Foundation promoting the Azerbaijani culture in the world, operating in a systematic way in a short period of time, contributing cultural diplomacy and intercultural dialogue, holding the multicultural projects which has no analogue in the Caucasus and former Soviet Union make known to the world. For Strengthening of Azerbaijan-UNESCO cooperation the diverse activity of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation plays a key role in the development of our country's international relations. For 13 years, the Foundation initiated and held events to eliminate illiteracy, gender equality, national and cultural diversity, as well as the protection of children's rights, enhancing dialogue among civilizations, ethnic, religious and racial discrimination organized by the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other international organizations in Baku.

In 2015, 70 years have passed since the adoption of the Charter of UNESCO. At the Leaders' Forum of the 38th Session of UNESCO General Conference, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev emphasized that Azerbaijan signed and ratified almost all the conventions and other legal instruments of UNESCO. In 2003, Azerbaijan and UNESCO signed the framework agreement on cooperation in the areas of culture, science, education and communication, which allowed Azerbaijan to become one of the donors of UNESCO. This is our obligation and commitment in front of the least developed countries.

The 7th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations held in Baku on 25-27 April 2016, was a new stage in the promotion of Azerbaijan in the world. Heads of state and government of the member states of the UN, political leaders, partner organizations, international and regional organizations, the private sector, the representatives of arts, media and academies, including donor organizations and foundations, about 2,000 delegates representing 140 countries attended the forum. The Baku Declaration was signed at the end of the event, and it became not only the political history of our country but also an important event in the history of world culture. In addition, the 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations confirmed the tolerance and multicultural values of Azerbaijan once again.

Nowadays, Azerbaijan contributes to the intercultural dialogue, muliticulturalism, as well as with the rich national and cultural values, it is known as a place of understanding. In the foreign policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan according to the adopted norms and principles of UNESCO co-existence of different cultures, religious tolerance and basic human rights, education and copyright, sustainable development in economic and social spheres occupies an important place. This allows to achieve new goals and success in Azerbaijan-UNESCO relations in all the priority areas of the organization.

Aynur Farmanova
The Academy of Public Administration under
the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan,
Ph.D in political science, Senior lecturer

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