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Azerbaijan’s ‘Baku Process’: Ten Years Of Effective Cultural Diplomacy – OpEd

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The Republic of Azerbaijan is home of one of the earliest Christian communities in the world, the Caucasian Albanian-Apostolic Church in the village of Nic (Gabala Region), the ancient temple of Caucasian Albania in the village of Kish (Shaki Region), the round temple of Caucasian Albania (Shaki Region), Khudavend Monastery Complex (Kalbajar District of Azerbaijan), the Momuna Khatun monument and Noah’s Mausoleum in Nakhchivan.

All of these rare religious and cultural monuments have deeply encouraged the Azerbaijani society and lifestyle to embrace a harmonious dialogue and preserve a combination of traditions and ceremonies of different cultures, ethnicities, civilizations and faiths.

The peculiar treasures, ancient historical sites, geographical position and the ethnic – national composition, make the Republic of Azerbaijan a special place where different cultures and religions can converge, harness an open dialogue and live in harmony. [1] Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire, has built an environment of tolerance, trust and confidence among the principal religious convictions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity; all of these elements of Azerbaijani society are shared throughout the world and the Baku Process plays an indispensable role towards harnessing intercultural dialogue, multiculturalism, spreading peaceful coexistence and prosperity across countries and regions.

Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliev. Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC, Wikimedia Commons.
Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliev. Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC, Wikimedia Commons.

On December 2-3, 2008, the President of Azerbaijan, H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, initiated the “Baku Process,” as an interactive international platform that encourages: a dialogue among different cultures and civilizations; promoting Azerbaijan’s Cultural Diplomacy and harnesses multiculturalism policies that ensure a healthy cultural pluralism.

Furthermore, the strategic location of Azerbaijan, has made the Prophet Noah’s Land to be exposed into the admirable features of European and Islamic Civilizations, making Baku, Nakhchivan, Shaki, Dağlıq Qarabağ [2] and Quba, to become genuine archaeological and ancient commercial routes between the East and the West, and from the North to the South.

Azerbaijan, the Land of Pomegranates, unlike any other country in the Eurasian landmass has preserved cultures of many ethnic groups and has become a candid bridge among civilizations, multiculturalism and religious dialogue.

Under the patronage of H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, “Baku Process” has hosted the following major events:

  • The I World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, held on 7-9 April, 2011; addressing matters pertaining to intercultural dialogue with the participation of 500 representatives from 102 countries from all continents. The main topic of the Forum was: “United through Common Values, Enriched by Cultural Diversity.”
  • The II World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held on May 29 June 01, 2013, addressing ways on: “how to build a global future together”; “how to build a popular support for cultural diversity”; “matters on the New Era of Globalization: Hybridity of cultures in a changing world”; “Supporting Intercultural Actions.” Another important session was focused on: “Tourism as a key driver of mutual understanding and tolerance among cultures.” The main topic of the Forum was: “Living together peacefully in a diverse world”.
  • The III World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held on May 18-19, 2015; reflected topics on human security, the importance of sharing different cultures; understanding that human security must be a fully shared responsibility among community leaders, educators and spiritual leaders. The main topic of the Forum was: “Culture and sustainable development in the post 2015 development agenda.”
  • The IV World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, held on May 5-6, 2017, talked the role of faith, many religions, immigration policies, human security, cultural diplomacy, education, sustainable development and other matters. The main theme of this global Forum was: “Advancing Intercultural Dialogue: New Avenues for Human Security, Peace and Sustainable Development.”
    All of the aforementioned renowned international forums have generated tangible results in the realm of Azerbaijan’s Cultural Diplomacy and strengthened the role of the Government of Azerbaijan in the implementation of its Foreign Policy at the bilateral and multilateral platforms.

A few concrete results are:

  • On November 18th, 2016, Mr. Aslan Aslanov, Director General of Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC), was elected as the new president of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) for a three years term (2016-2019). AZERTAC in cooperation with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation hosted on November 16-18, 2016, the 5th News Agencies World Congress and the 22nd session of the Council of CIS Heads of News Agencies. Furthermore, on this occasion AZERTAC hosted the 16th General Assembly of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA). [3] Mr. Vugar Seyidov, Special Correspondent of AZERTAC in Germany was elected as OANA Secretary General. [4
  • The Government of Azerbaijan has helped inspire a number of regional governments, and international bodies, to pursue an active role towards strengthening their multiculturalism policies and religious dialogue, as well as intensify – and shape – these nations’ respective efforts in reducing religious violence, acts of terrorism and improve regional immigration policies. In this context it is valuable to indicate a few recent events that are held in Europe: the 2nd International Conference on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East,” held in Athens (Greece) on October 30-31, 2017; [5] organization of the 1st Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, held in Athens on April 24-25, 2017; [6] and the establishment of “Ancient Civilizations Forum” or GC10. [7] In September 23rd, 2015, leaders of European governments met in Brussels to try to shape a common action “plan on refugees following months of recriminations and amid a sense of spiraling momentum of which the leaders have lost control.” [8] It is certain that the Republic of Azerbaijan has always harnessed an avant-garde foreign policy that has addressed many global challenges that are deeply affecting Europe, Africa and Asia at the present.

Baku has supported, and become a global player, on all efforts led by the international community right at their inception stage. The Government of President Ilham Aliyev has proactively brought together Nobel prize winners, heads of state and cultural experts to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue — always intertwined with the world’s pressing challenges and obstacles of today and of the future.

Location of Azerbaijan. Source: CIA World Factbook.
Location of Azerbaijan. Source: CIA World Factbook.

The nation of Azerbaijan, with its tolerant attitude and admirable acceptance of other cultures, upholds the special values of intercultural and interreligious dialogue; characteristics that are essential to foster regional peace, economic development and ensure respect for international law.

The “Baku Process” will continue to promote intercultural dialogue between governments and people, strengthen cooperation among many ethnic groups and encourage cultural partnerships among nations living on different continents.

On November 15, 2017, the First Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva presented Azerbaijan’s candidacy, in Paris, to host the World Expo exhibition in 2025. The host of the Paris event described Azerbaijan as the Pearl of the Caucasus, stating that the country has ancient history and rich culture. In her statement the First Vice President of Azerbaijan Dr. Mehriban Aliyeva emphasized: “For two thousand years, the ancient Silk Road passed through modern-day Azerbaijan.

Much like World Expos, it served as an important channel for sharing knowledge and skills. It shaped the history, culture and tolerant outlook of the country. Different ethnic groups and religions have been coexisting in Azerbaijan throughout centuries in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and mutual respect. Ethnic and religious diversity and multiculturalism are not simply our state policy but at the same time our lifestyle. This is our history and our today’s reality. We are a secular, multicultural and multi-faith society. And we are proud of that.”

Positioning Azerbaijan as a potential host country of World Expo exhibition in 2025 is a historic accomplishment of the country’s current government leadership, under the vision of its great National Leader Heydar Aliyev and the current dynamic statecraft of the President of Azerbaijan H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev. The Republic of Azerbaijan, with one of the highest economic growth levels in the world, and a leading nation of major international infrastructure projects, has made the Baku Process an international strategic initiative that has a global leverage and importance in Europe and the rest of the world. [9]

References and Sources:
[1] “Baku International Humanitarian Forum discusses the role of media in inter-civilizational dialogue”; published by Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC) on 30.09.2016.
(https://azertag.az/en/xeber/997325)
[2] https://www.azernews.az/culture/105696.html ; http://www.azerbaijan.az/_Karabakh/_History/history_01_e.html
[3] https://azertag.az/en/xeber/1011824
[4] https://azertag.az/en/xeber/1011824 ; http://nawc.az/node/193
[5] http://www.mfa.gr/en/current-affairs/top-story/speech-of-the-minister-of-foreign-affairs-kotzias-at-the-opening-of-the-proceedings-of-the-2nd-international-conference-on-religious-and-cultural-pluralism-and-peaceful-coexistence-in-the-middle-east-athens-30-31-october-2017.html
http://www.punetejashtme.gov.al/al/zyra-e-shtypit/lajme/zv-ministrja-dralo-mori-pjese-ne-konferencen-e-ii-mbi-pluralizmin-fetar-dhe-kulturor-dhe-bashkekzistencen-paqesore-ne-lindjen-e-mesme
[6] http://www.mfa.gr/en/current-affairs/top-story/press-conference-of-the-1st-ministerial-meeting-of-the-ancient-civilizations-forum.html
http://www.mfa.gr/en/current-affairs/top-story/foreign-minister-kotzias-opening-speech-at-the-ministerial-conference-of-the-ancient-civilizations-forum-zappeion-24-april-2017.html
[7] http://www.mfa.gr/en/foreign-policy-issues/cultural-diplomacy/ancient-civilizations-forum-athens-24-april-2017.html
[8] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/23/divided-european-leaders-meet-to-devise-plan-to-tackle-refugee-crisis
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/24/eu-refugee-summit-in-disarray-as-donald-tusk-warns-greatest-tide-yet-to-come
http://www.mfa.gov.mk/images/stories/MKD-BILTEN/MDB_99%20MNR%20web.pdf
[9] In 2009 Azerbaijan was assessed by the World Bank as a “leading reformer of the world”. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index for 2017-2018 ranked our country as 35th among 137 economies. According to reports of various international organizations: “Taking advantage of its unique geo-strategic location, Azerbaijan has developed itself to become a key player in facilitating the interconnection between Europe and Asia and become one of the major contributors to European energy security. Azerbaijan initiated and implemented several major international infrastructure projects, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline and Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railroad that was inaugurated on October 30th, 2017. This 850 km route is the shortest route linking Europe to Asia.”
https://azertag.az/en/xeber/Bakus_bid_to_host_World_Expo_2025_was_introduced_in_Paris_Azerbaijans_First_Vice_President_Mehriban_Aliyeva_attended_the_event-1111856


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Peter Tase

Peter Tase

Peter Tase is a contributor, freelance journalist and a research scholar of Paraguayan Studies and Latin American Affairs in the United States; he is the founder of Paraguay Economic Forum in Milwaukee, United States. Educated at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and Marquette University, Tase is the author of "Simultaneous Dictionary in Five Languages: Guarani, English, Italian, Albanian and Spanish" and "El Dr. FEDERICO FRANCO y Su Mandato Presidencial en la Historia del Paraguay." Tase has written many articles on Paraguay's current Foreign Policy, Latin American Affairs and MERCOSUR regional trade issues for Eurasia Review and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, D.C.. Peter has appeared on SNT Cerro Cora, Asuncion and appeared in “Tribuna Pública” in TV Publica Paraguay, as well as given interviews for Diario 5 Dias in Paraguay, ABC Color, Ultima Hora, IP Paraguay, Revista PLUS+, Radio Ñandutí, Radio Nacional del Paraguay, www.datamyne.com and Spero News. Tase completed a Congressional Internship in the Office of Congressman Richard Pombo (CA-11), U.S. House of Representatives, and studied U.S. Government and International Affairs at the Les Aspin Center for Government in Washington, D.C.. In 2012 he was an adviser of Foreign Affairs and International trade Issues to the Chairman of the Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry in the National Congress of Paraguay. Peter Tase is fluent in Guarani, Italian, Spanish, Albanian and mainly writes in English and Spanish.

One thought on “Azerbaijan’s ‘Baku Process’: Ten Years Of Effective Cultural Diplomacy – OpEd

  • November 19, 2017 at 9:53 pm
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    Dear Peter Tase, here, you start your article with mentioning that the one of the earliest Christian communities in the world is the Caucasian Albanian-Apostolic Church community and repeat that statement for more than 3 times in your article. Actually, it is only the Armenian Church which is called Apostolic church in the world, and there is nothing related to Albania in Caucasia (Albania is not in Caucasia. If you don’t know, you can look at the world map). So, you are wrong, all these churches are Armenian. If you visited just one of them, you would have found many Armenian inscriptions about their origin on their walls.
    Dear Peter Tase, before writing an argument that Azerbaijan has tolerant attitude and admirable acceptance of other cultures’ values located in their country, I would like you to make a research in Greek, Persian, Arabian, Armenian, and Georgian sources from medieval centuries and find relevant information about the Armenian medieval churches constructed in those areas you stated. You will see that at that time those areas belonged to Armenians and they constructed more than 100 churches and temples from which you were able to state that only 5 exist. So, if you knew that thanks to the actions of Azerbaijan government actions, more than 95 Armenian churches were abolished and only 5 are reserved, will you make the same argument? I don’t think so. It will be very hilarious.
    Have you ever heard about cross-stones? There are considered as one of the architectural masterpieces of Eastern culture. Once they were abundant in the current Azerbaijan states Khojalu and Nakhchivan. In Matenadaran you may find numerous manuscripts about their origin, description, and cultural value. All these cross-stones were broken into parts and used as a building material by the Azerbaijan nation in 1990s. These actions of abolishment of cross-stones continue even right currently by the empowerment of the Azerbaijan authority. We do have facts about the existence of the monument of cross-stones in Khojalu till 1980s. Currently they are just vanished.
    Just by looking on the consensus conducted by the Soviet Union you will understand the Azerbaijan’s authorities’ anti-Armenian actions. According to 1922 consensus in the state of Nakhchivan 90.8 were Armenians. In 1948, 50.4% of the population was Armenians, while the total number of people in the state remained the state, which means that Armenians just quitted their motherland because of the tortures they experienced. According to 1988 consensus, less than 1% of the total population in Nakhchivan was Armenians. Briefly, finally the Azerbaijan government thanks to its actions reached his goals. The Armenians living in the republic of Azerbaijan (mainly in Baku, Aghdam, Getashen) were tortured because of their nationality and forced to abandon their motherland after the collapse of Soviet Union in 1988-1994. During this tension a huge amount of people were killed, and the others were able to escape and come to Armenian and live here. Before this period the Armenian community in Baku had more than 40000 members (data from Azerbaijan government statistics), and after this period no Armenian live there. And dear Peter, you want to talk about the tolerance of the Azerbaijan in your article?
    Yes, it is true, that Ilham Aliyev initiated the “Baku Process,” as an interactive international platform to encourage the dialogue among different cultures and civilizations. He really states that he strives to strengthen the cultural partnership among nations. But these mere statement will never hide this true face, because the facts about his actions talk louder and louder!

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