Baku. Anakhanum Hidayatova – APA. Interview with OSCE Project Co - ordinator in Baku
- Mr. Chahtahtinsky how do you estimate bilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan and OSCE?
- Azerbaijan has been a participating state in our organization since 1992. The OSCE Office in Baku started its operation in 1999 and from the beginning of this year it continues its work as the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku. We are satisfied with the resumption of cooperation between Azerbaijan and OSCE. As we have now a new mandate, we are putting lots of efforts to bring a new quality of relations and dialogue. I have been received by the President Ilham Aliyev and the Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov. I had very fruitful meetings with ministers, heads of state committees, parliamentarians and representatives of civil society organizations and universities. This is part of my mandate and during the meetings I discussed our future co-operation and projects.
- There is an opinion that after the change of mandate the OSCE mission in Azerbaijan has become more passive than before. How would you comment it?
- We devoted first half of the year to transformation of the OSCE Office into the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku and to the establishment of the new mission. In the second half of the year we started implementing our projects. One project, which is very important, is dedicated to the combatting trafficking in human beings. It is a cross-dimensional activity. As you know, human trafficking is a transnational threat and the countries should work together in order to get tangible results. We are trying to support the efforts by the Azerbaijani government in this field. Azerbaijan wants to enhance its activities in combatting this negative phenomenon that exists all across the OSCE area. Therefore, OSCE works closely with the government of Azerbaijan and civil society organizations for successful implementation of the project.
Another project is related to the good governance. My office supports the efforts of the Azerbaijan’s government to promote good governance and the full elimination of petty corruption in the provision of public services. As we all know, we need to overcome soviet legacy in this respect. At the request of the government of Azerbaijan, we assist the country in strengthening the capacity of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations to ensure that the public services provided at ASAN Service Centres are of satisfactory quality standards and delivered in a safe, transparent and efficient manner.
We also have a project on prevention of domestic violence. This is certainly not a problem that is specific to Azerbaijan, but it exists here as well. The good news is that the government of Azerbaijan has adopted a Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence and is willing to take serious measures in this field. Our mission works with the State Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Affairs to analyze domestic legislation, establish a domestic violence databank, increase the capacity and skills of legal professionals, police and social workers to adequately respond to cases, as well as to raise public awareness on gender equality and domestic violence. We will also support local civil society organizations in maintaining a centre for victims of domestic violence, running a hotline service, and providing legal and psychological consultations for victims.
One more project that we are working now is about tolerance and non – discrimination. More specifically we are going to organize an international conference promoting religious tolerance. It is going to take place in mid-November, here in Baku. It will be organized by the OSCE in coordination with the Caucasus Muslim Board, government of Azerbaijan and civil society organizations. We also plan to invite the OSCE special representatives. This conference will have three objectives. The first objective is to inform the participants about the historical traditions of religious tolerance in Azerbaijan. The situation is very good here, especially if we compare it with the situation in other countries of this region and the Middle East. You have a very good record of the religious tolerance. There is a very good coexistence in Azerbaijan of Christian communities, both orthodox and catholic, with Muslim majority. Azerbaijan is a secular country and people are able to practice their religion. This should be known to others. Ä°n some places there are some wrong islamophobic stereotypes about Azerbaijan. Lots of people think that with Azerbaijan being a predominantly Muslim country women probably do not enjoy full equality of rights and are compelled to wear the scarf. They don’t know that women in Azerbaijan got voting right in 1918, even earlier than in Western European countries: in France, it happened only in 1945! The second objective is to discuss all challenges to religious tolerance across the OSCE area and beyond, as there are many worrying developments. Maybe Azerbaijan can make a contribution to promote religious tolerance internationally. The last objective is to discuss radicalization trends in a globalized world and ways the international community can address this problem.
We continue our ongoing consultations with the Azerbaijani authorities concerning other projects activities that we will implement in the future.
- During the OSCE PA plenary session this summer in Baku, the parliamentarians adopted a declaration, which urged “the government of Azerbaijan to once again let the OSCE open an office in Baku, and to upgrade the mandate of the Project Co-ordinator in Baku.” What is your opinion on this proposal?
- I believe that the question regarding the mandate of the OSCE presence in Baku was solved more than a year ago. OSCE has a mission in Baku, it is called the Project Coordinator in Baku and it is open and working. I am not aware of any initiative by any of the participating States to change the current mandate. I do not think it is useful to reopen this issue and in my view, the current mandate is just as good as the previous one. We are focusing now on our core business: doing projects, working with the government and with civil society organizations in all three OSCE dimensions.
- What should OSCE do to be more effective?
In comparison with NATO or European Union, Council of Europe, the OSCE is younger organization. Next year we will celebrate 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act. The OSCE Dublin Ministerial Council initiated the "Helsinki +40 Process" - an inclusive effort by all participating States to provide strong and continuous political impetus to advancing work towards a security community, and further strengthening co-operation in the OSCE on the way towards 2015. The Helsinki +40 process started with an orientation debate aimed at assessing threats and challenges in the OSCE area, the Organization’s place in the modern security architecture, and potential areas where its role could be strengthened to keep up with the security challenges of the 21st century. As OSCE, we want to do more to get better results by fostering military transparency, enhancing OSCE capacities in addressing transnational threats, striving for tangible progress towards the settlement of protracted conflicts in a peaceful and negotiated manner, enhancing the strategic orientation of the economic and environmental dimension, strengthening the human dimension and so on.
- OSCE is also dealing with the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and so far the efforts have not been successful.
As you know, it is the OSCE Minsk Group that is mediating between Armenia and Azerbaijan, trying to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This issue is clearly out of the mandate of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku. I can only express my hope that this conflict will be settled soon by peaceful means and in accordance with international norms and principles.