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.
The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan 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.
The role of Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva in the development of Azerbaijan-UNESCO relations
The 25th anniversary of the establishment of the National Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan for UNESCO was marked on February 21, 2019. The National Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan for UNESCO was established on February 21, 1994 following the decree signed by the national leader Heydar Aliyev. According to this decree, the National Commission has started operating under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On September 15, 2005, in accordance with the decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the National Commission continues its activity under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. On the occasion of 25th anniversary of the creation of the National Commission, a number of activities and projects will be implemented in the country and abroad, including the UNESCO Headquarters. The 100th anniversary of Baku State University will be celebrated at the headquarters of the organization in 2019. This year another prestigious event - 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee will be held in Baku. It is expected that about 3000 representatives from more than 200 countries will take part at the session. Special programs are planned within the framework of the session. These are “Young Professionals” and “Monument Managers” forums.
Mrs.Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO, has exceptional services in the development and expansion of Azerbaijan-UNESCO relations. Under the auspices of Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, significant projects have been implemented in the framework of UNESCO, including the protection of cultural heritage, promotion of intercultural dialogue, education development and other areas.
As a result of the exceptional services of Mrs.Mehriban Aliyev, 2 relevant tangible and 13 intangible cultural heritage have been included to the UNESCO Representative List.
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.
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. According to the experts opinion ancient Mugham lived its flourishing period at the time of Eastern Renaissance. Herein, the traditionally defined norms of art and improvisation in the creative process are striking in harmony. Following periods could not at all change the essence and meaning of this art. Nowadays Mugham exists as a spiritual wealth of the past on the other hand, it remains the art of the contemporary world. Only Mugham performers are capable of feeling this mystery by apprehension giving life to this art.
Emphasizing Mugham as a kind of music formed on the rich philosophical and literary ground Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva said: “A performer of Mugham pass this ancient music from generation to generation”. It gives people the opportunity to think about eternal realities and find spiritual comfort. The roots of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the people have always remained the greatest mystery as a creative beginning. No theory is able to convey even the most delicate nuances of this creature as it is. Only Mugham performers are capable of feeling this mystery by apprehension giving life to this art”.
On November 7, 2003, accepted as an integral part of our nation’s fundamental cultural values, the Azerbaijani Mugham was inscribed in the List of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity proclaimed by UNESCO. 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 Vice 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 establishment and activities of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation
Starting its activity since on May 10, 2004, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has been actively participating in building a new society and contributing to the social and economic development of the country, by implementing various projects in spheres such as education, public health, culture, sports, science and technology, environment, and social and other spheres. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation has been established on the grounds of the nation’s wish to express its esteem for the memory of Heydar Aliyev, who entered our history as a builder of an independent state, and the necessity of reflecting his rich moral heritage, underlining the importance for our country of the philosophy of Azerbaijanism and cultivating the national statehood ideas in our children.
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.
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, Heydar 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 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.
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 15 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.
The results of Mehriban Aliyeva's activities in international arena
“The Framework Agreement on cooperation in the fields of education, science, culture and communication between the Republic of Azerbaijan and UNESCO” was signed in 2013, with the initiative and support of the First Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mrs.Mehriban Aliyeva. On November 17, 2015 at the Leaders' Forum of the 38th Session of UNESCO General Conference, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of UNESCO in Paris, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva emphasized global financial crisis in the world, the serious consequences of millions of people faced with racial, ethnic roots, religious discrimination and isolation.
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.
In June 2018, Azerbaijan was elected a member of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is undoubtedly that this is the greatest achievement of our country and the indicator of Azerbaijan's reputation in the international arena, including in UNESCO. This committee is a decision-making body for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage of the peoples of the world and accepting heritage samples on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
On October 25-26, 2018, a plenary session dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the “Baku Process” was held successfully in the framework of the VI Baku International Humanitarian Forum . On November 26 to December 1, 2018, at the 13th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Chovqan a traditional Karabakh horse-riding game has been included to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, in Port Louis, Mauritius. National report submitted by the side of Azerbaijan a file on “Chovqan a traditional Karabakh horse-riding game “ was accepted. The occupation fact of Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 adjacent districts of Azerbaijan by the Armenian armed forces and the consequences of occupation for the heritage of Azerbaijan is shown in the report.
In addition, it is remarkable to note that “Yalli (Kochari, Tenzere), traditional group dances” of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic have been included to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding . Through the joint efforts of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Kazakhstan, “Kitabi-Dede Gorgud” (the book of Dede Gorgud): Epic culture, folk tales and music was included in the Representative List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
At the same time, it is important to note that including Azerbaijan’s four multinational nominations (Novruz Holiday, Lavas, Kamancha (a bowed string instrument), Dada Gorgud)) in the Representative List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage was great event. It should be noted that Armenia, which deals with regional cooperation, has no multinational nomination. On the one hand, it is an indicator of Armenia's isolation in the cultural sphere in the region and on the other hand, the achievements of our country in regional cooperation within the framework of UNESCO. This activity carried out by our country within the framework of UNESCO undoubtedly serves to protect and promote the rich and centuries-old national heritage of our people. From this point of view, the efforts to expose the Armenian lies and cease the allegations of Armenians plays an important role.
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 achieving new goals and success in Azerbaijan-UNESCO relations in all the priority areas of the organization.
At the same time, all this testifies to the fact that Azerbaijan is a valuable partner in the development of intercultural dialogue for UNESCO. In accordance with the foreign policy priorities of Azerbaijan cooperation with UNESCO is very important. The events supported by UNESCO has strengthened the international reputation of Azerbaijan, impacting the historic mission of our country as a place of tolerance and dialogue. As a result, the global platform for intercultural dialogue has been founded.
In recent years, as a result of many-sided activities on September 14, 2009, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the Order of the Grand Commander of the Polish "For Merit" Order of the Republic of Poland for the services to develop friendly relations between Azerbaijan and Poland; on February 15, 2010, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva was honoured with Officer Degree of the ‘Legion of Honour’ Order by a resolution of the President of the Republic of France for her services to France; on July 30, 2010 UNESCO`s Mozart Gold Medal; on June 24, 2011, the Gold Medal of the Crans Montana Forum; and on June 29, 2012, the “Prix de la Fondation” Prize; on April 13, 2012, the “Stars of the Commonwealth” Interstate Prize by the Humanitarian Cooperation Council (HCC) of CIS member states and the Interstate Humanitarian Cooperation Foundation (IHCF) of CIS member countries; on December 27, 2013, the award "Martyr Benazir Bhutto Woman Perfection Prize - 2013" of Pakistan; in May 2014, for the contributions made to dialogue between civilizations, as well as for the services to promotion of the Turkic world in Germany and development of Azerbaijan-Germany relations, awarded an honorary prize of Turkish-German Friendship Federation; in August 2014, the Order of “For Services to Astrakhan Region” and the Honorary Diploma of the State of Kuwait for extensive promotion of cultural heritage of Islam, noble charitable activity in Azerbaijan and abroad, as well as great contribution to education and healthcare; on 11 February 2015, the order of “Hilal-e Pakistan” – the highest state award of Pakistan, on 26 March 2015, a high state award of the Serbian Republic the Sreten Order – for her special services before Serbia in public, cultural and humanitarian fields; on 6 March 2016, Commander’s Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary; on September 22, 2016, for the services to preservation of a cultural heritage of the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tyrnovo, presented the diploma of an honorary citizen of the city, and a badge; on September 22, 2016, for the great contribution to preservation and promotion of Bulgaria’s cultural heritage, and active participation in this work, a diploma of honorary doctor of the Veliko Tyrnovo University named after Saints Cyril and Methodius; on 26 December 2017, the Saint Princess Olga Order of 2nd degree for the support provided to the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as for the care shown towards developing Astrakhan city. In addition, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the title of the most influential woman of 2014, according to the results of a survey conducted jointly by the French Center for Arabic Cultural Heritage and Egyptian 'Nefertiti Media Production' company.
Based on the above mentioned facts and analysis give grounds to assert that Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva has exceptional merits in the development of international cultural ties of Azerbaijan over the past 15 years.
Aynur Farmanova, The Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ph.D in Political Science, Assistant Professor
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