Ladies and Gentlemen,
Tomorrow is exactly 10 years since the UN Secretary General presented a report “Uniting against terrorism: recommendations for a global counter-terrorism strategy”. When we go through it we see a lot of coinciding points with those in the recent “Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism” report. All of them are valid, but since most of them are the same, it means that we have probably lacked a deeper look into the roots of the violent extremism, which is spreading beyond imagination today. Coupled with domestic and regional problems, the processes in Syria, Iraq, Libya are also consequences of foreign involvements in the region in the post 9/11 world. Some international actors definitely had noble goals but wrong strategies, while others surely had right strategies for bad causes.
What we have had as a result is not just the failing states, but also a shattered international system with fundamental norms and principles blatantly violated.We warned about it. We did it for more than two decades. Because we faced it. Only thing we couldn’t foresee was a specific geography, where it will spread.
This month, 21 years ago, U.S. Department of State published “Patterns of Global Terrorism”, where underlined that “Ethnic tensions in regions of the former Soviet Union have spawned acts of terrorism in the Caucasus and the Baltic republics.” It also mentioned that several Armenian intelligence officers apprehended in Moscow were accused of complicity in a series of bombings against the Baku Metro, as well as Azerbaijani trains in Russia and Azerbaijan that killed 45 persons and wounded at least 130.” My country suffered from the metamorphosis and symbiosis of ethnic separatism, foreign intervention, violent extremism and terrorism.
Therefore, I fully agree with the Plan of Action that “Prolonged and unresolved conflicts tend to provide fertile ground for violent extremism, not only because of the suffering and lack of governance resulting from the conflict itself but also because such conflicts allow violent extremist groups to exploit deep-rooted grievances in order to garner support and seize territory and resources and control populations”. That’s why, it didn’t come as a surprise to see the footages of ASALA terrorists in our occupied lands during the recent breach of cease-fire by Armenia.
Had the international community been listening to us then, sticking to universal norms and principles, and taking bold steps to stop violent extremism and all of its manifestations and consequences, we could have been in a much better place today to stumble a domino effect and tackle this phenomenon.
Still, it is never too late and I have some ideas to share for our common strategy.
The counter-terrorism report I mentioned in the beginning, inter alia, stated, “a real strategy is more than simply a list of laudable goals or an observation of the obvious...Only when it guides us in the accomplishment of our goals is a strategy worthy of its name.” There is no better guidance than universally accepted norms and principles. So, my first proposal is to reinforce the norms and principles of international law. It is like the base of a building; if it is not reinforced over time, it starts crippling. That’s why, it is of paramount importance to remind in every opportunity, to insert in every document, and to demand in every case the supremacy of the norms and principles.
Secondly, we should unite and cooperate. UN should be in a lead as the only universal organisation, but all other fora have the role to play. The OIC, for example, during its recent summit in Istanbul reaffirmed its support for the Plan to prevent violent extremism and stressed in this regard Member States’ rejection of extremism, violence, sectarianism and factionalism. The OIC also reaffirmed the importance of addressing the causes of violent extremism in a comprehensive manner. It also underscored the need to adopt a comprehensive Islamic strategy to combat terrorism and extremism. This is the way for other international organisations and formats to act and interact with each other.
In our common efforts, we also need an “out of the box” thinking. Our diplomatic efforts should be substantiated with serious and continuous joint research and cooperation by and between academic institutions, as well as global forums for intellectuals and public authorities. Think tanks in Azerbaijan have extensive expertise and experience in this field and annual global humanitarian, intercultural, youth, gender-related forums in my country are our contributions in countering violent extremism and we are ready to share and discuss collaborations.
Thirdly, Sustainable development should become our priority. Without proper education, socio-economic progress, and gender equality all our efforts are doomed to fail. In Azerbaijan, we figured it out from the first days of our independence. As a result of the State policies, only in last 10 plus years poverty rate is down from almost 50 percent to less than 5 and unemployment rate is also less than 5 percent. Azerbaijan Development Concept 2020 already incorporates most elements of the called-for National action plans to prevent violent extremism. It aims at providing the population with quality health and education services, formation of a modern education system, modernising the social protection system, and further developing gender equality and family development.
We also encourage strategic regional cooperations as a part of sustainable development. Azerbaijan is in the center of the energy and transportation projects, which link the Caspian region with the World. Completion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad in near future, will bring tangible benefits to the much needed development not only in our immediate neighbourhood, but also to Afghanistan. 15 years of security-centric efforts in this country by international community yielded positive results, while reinforcing consensus that without proper development and socio-economic opportunities countering violent extremism there will be unsustainable.
Dear guests of Azerbaijan,
You are in a country, which has historically been known for its tolerance, multicultural society, and secular governance. 2016 is even declared a year of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan by President. There is no better way than to lead by example. In our case, we want to share by example, but not less importantly, also learn from all of you!