Azerbaijan-UN: development characteristics of 27 year-long cooperation

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Baku, 7 March 2019 –

Azerbaijan celebrates the 27th anniversary of its membership of the United Nations. Experts are unanimously confident that relations between the country and the organization have been developing at a rapid pace since March 2, 1992. Azerbaijan has developed its relationship with the world`s leading organization in all areas since becoming its member. But the country experienced certain problems in these relations in the early years of independence. The then leadership`s political incompetence and provocative actions of certain forces prevented the country from building a sound and fruitful cooperation with the UN. National leader Heydar Aliyev`s return to power marked a turning point in Azerbaijan`s relationship with the organization. It became systematic and fully met Azerbaijan`s independent statehood interests. This article will provide an analysis of the geopolitical aspect of Azerbaijan-UN relationship in this context.

Bretton Woods system and UN: post-1945 controversy

The United Nations is the most influential international intergovernmental organization. There is great abundance of information on its history and objectives. The Charter of the United Nations was signed in June, 1945, in San Francisco, the USA, after months of negotiations between the Soviet and American delegates. It was ratified in October. The United Nations initially had 50 members, dominated by the USSR and the USA. The organization was created by major Allied powers in order to help manage international affairs. But experts unfortunately remain silent on what played a role in certain contradictions within the United Nations. The organization`s membership has now expanded considerably, but this cannot be said of its influence on global politics. There are different reasons, but we would like to highlight only one apparent contradiction that existed when the United Nations was being established.

At the heart of this contradiction was disagreement between the United States and the USSR on how to build a new post-war world. While Washington preferred advancing global economic development through building global peace and reconciliation, Moscow believed in reasonableness of political regulation. This led to the emergence of two global systems: Bretton Woods system and the United Nations.

Bretton Woods (an area within the town of Carroll, New Hampshire, USA) system envisaged a fully negotiated monetary order intended to govern monetary relations among independent states. Bretton Woods Conference took place in 1944. It drew up a project for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. But the USSR refused to sign General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In general, the Soviet Union refused to join any of the aforementioned international organizations. General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was agreed only in 1947. IBRD and IMF were included in the UN system.

So disagreement between the West and the USSR on how to manage the post-war world has existed since the beginning of the process. Moscow did not get involved in economic processes. Although it gave Russia freedom of economic activity on the one hand, on the other, the country was isolated from global economic developments dominated by other superpowers. Having started to deepen since the second half of the 20th century, this disagreement was believed to lead to the fall of one of the two parties. This happened in the late 1990s when the socialist camp collapsed unable to cope with economic difficulties.

These developments had a very serious impact on global geopolitical processes. The fall of a superpower could not have gone without implications for global politics. Dominated by the United States, the West considered the fall of the USSR as their triumph and therefore took an insincere attitude towards the issue of regulation of global politics by international organizations. It was under such complex and volatile circumstances that former Soviet republics, which gained independence in the late 1990s, became members of the United Nations. Azerbaijan was the 181st country to join the organization!

Azerbaijan and UN: the path of cooperation founded by national leader Heydar Aliyev

For a young Muslim country to become a member of the world`s largest international organization under such volatile and complex circumstances was not an easy task. Taking a right stance and defending national interests in the organization, in which superpowers were engaged in a tough competition, demanded will, skills and diplomatic commitment. No Azerbaijani statesman or political leader preceding Heydar Aliyev managed to fulfill this task. Not only Azerbaijan was then unable to defend its rights, but was on the verge of vanishing.

This was caused by incompetence of the then Azerbaijani authorities and Armenia`s attempts to occupy Azerbaijan helped by and under directions of its patrons. The situation was extremely difficult for Azerbaijan until 1993. And it was at that time of hardship that the national leader returned to power by popular demand. Heydar Aliyev`s assuming power helped the country gradually tackle the situation and embark on a systematic and effective policy in all areas of life. One of the national leader`s crucial decisions was building fruitful relations and cooperation with international organizations, particularly the United Nations.

While addressing the United Nations in 1994 and 1995, national leader Heydar Aliyev raised the world community`s awareness of the main principles of Azerbaijan`s independent foreign policy and state building concept. The world found out that a new democratic and peace-loving state was established in the South Caucasus. This had good implications for Azerbaijan-UN relationship. And practice showed that official Baku attaches special importance to these relations and completely fulfills the United Nations Charter.

But as we said earlier disagreement between the superpowers have been a serious impediment to the UN`s defending justice on all matters. In particular, the issue of liberation of Azerbaijan`s lands occupied by Armenia was thrown into confusion. Although the United Nations adopted four resolutions on the Armenian occupation, these resolutions were never fulfilled. This situation continues now as Azerbaijan celebrates the 27th anniversary of its membership of the UN. Although Azerbaijan was cherishing great hopes when it joined the United Nations, the country now feels frustrated at the organization`s inability to ensure the execution of its own resolutions on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This situation is a direct violation of the UN Charter and breach of international law.

The position of members of the UN Security Council obviously played a role in this. Therefore, in his speech at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, national leader Heydar Aliyev urged serious reforms in the organization. The national leader said that geopolitical standards should be applied based on new principles, urging the UN to play a role in this. The UN is the world`s most powerful and influential organization. Particularly, the UN Security Council should increase its role and demonstrate more objectivity. The UN Security Council should play a leading role in building a systematic concept of collective reaction to the cases of violation of international law. The breach of international law poses a serious threat to international peace and security.

National leader Heydar Aliyev attached great importance to building close relationship with the United Nations, which is now yielding fruits. At its 85th plenary session back in 1993, the United Nations adopted a resolution "Emergency international assistance to refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan". National leader Heydar Aliyev`s speech at the 49th session of the UN General Assembly in September, 1994, played a crucial role in drawing the international community`s attention to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We already mentioned the UN Security Council`s four resolutions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At the UN Millennium Summit in September, 2000, national leader Heydar Aliyev once again brought the problem to the forefront of the world community`s attention and highlighted Azerbaijan`s fair position.

Systematic and multifaceted relations: successful programs

This elevated Azerbaijan`s cooperation with the United Nations to a qualitatively new level, paving the way for the country to build fruitful cooperation with the organization`s institutions. Azerbaijan is quite active in the UN`s elective bodies, subcommittees, specialized and other organizations.

Since 1995, Azerbaijan has been elected as a member of many UN commissions and councils, in which it is actively involved. Among them are UNESCO, UNICEF, ECOSOC, Commission on the Status of Women, Human Rights Commission, Executive Council of the UN World Tourism Organization. In addition, Azerbaijan was elected as a member of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, UN Security Council, and United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.

The country also maintains successful cooperation with the specialized and other bodies of the United Nations, including UN Development Programme, High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Children`s Fund, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, World Health Organization.

We already mentioned that Azerbaijan enjoys close cooperation with UNESCO, and now want to highlight peculiarities of this cooperation. Back in 1994, Azerbaijan`s National Commission for UNESCO was established under President Heydar Aliyev`s Order. Given the global importance of education, science and culture, the leadership of Azerbaijan attached great importance to this process. Azerbaijan`s first lady, first Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva has played a special role in developing relationship between the country and UNESCO. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation regularly implements projects covering different areas of the society`s life. Outstanding work has been carried out to promote Azerbaijan`s culture through the United Nations.

Back in 1996, the 500th anniversary of the birth of great Azerbaijani poet and thinker Muhammad Fuzuli was celebrated at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. In 2000, the 1300th anniversary of Kitabi Dede-Gorgud was marked. In general tens of anniversaries were celebrated at the international level under UNESCO Anniversary Celebration Program. In recognition of her contribution to the development of traditional music, literature and poetry, personal commitment to the promotion of musical education and global cultural exchange, Mehriban Aliyeva was named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in September, 2004. In 2010, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded UNESCO Golden Mozart medal. It is Mehriban Aliyeva`s efforts that ensured the inclusion of Azerbaijan`s intangible cultural heritage samples – Icherisheher, Maiden Tower and Shirvanshahs Palace Complex and Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape – in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Azerbaijan`s arts of ashygs, mugham, Novruz holiday, arts of carpet-weaving, craftsmanship and performance arts of tar were inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Traditional horse-riding game Chovqan was inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. In addition, anniversaries of a number of great Azerbaijani scientists, philosophers and culture figures were celebrated at UNESCO. All these bear evidence to Azerbaijan`s high-level cooperation with the United Nations in the fields of science, education and culture. At the same time, President IlhamAliyev`s direct initiatives and efforts ensured rapid development of relations between Azerbaijan and the United Nations in geopolitical, political, security and other areas.

New stage: Ilham Aliyev`s political will and well thought-out cooperation policy

In his remarks at the 58th session of the UN General Assembly in 2003 in the capacity of the prime minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev said the United Nations Security Council is incapable of demonstrating adequate response to challenges of time, explaining this by mutual misunderstanding among member states amid complex international processes. Ilham Aliyev stressed the necessity of reforming the Security Council. In particular, he urged reconsideration of the UN mechanisms and proposed reviewing the veto rights of the permanent members of the Security Council.

A year later Ilham Aliyev addressed the 59th session of the UN General Assembly in the capacity of the President of Azerbaijan (September, 2004). The head of state said the Security Council should be improved to embrace more members, to be more responsible and democratic, its working methods should be transparent, and able to quickly respond to threats, risks and challenges of the 21st century.

In his speech, President Ilham Aliyev drew the international community`s attention to the fact that four resolutions of the UN Security Council on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were not implemented. The head of state said it was crucial that the Security Council ensured the implementation of the resolutions. On October 29, on the Azerbaijani delegation`s initiative, the resolution on "Situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan” was included in the agenda.

As a logical follow-up to these efforts, the resolution was adopted at the UN General Assembly meeting on September 7, 2006, at the 60th session of the 98thplenary meeting of the UN General Assembly, held on March 14, 2008 and at the 86thsession of the 62ndplenary meeting of the UN General Assembly. The document refers to the UN Security Council resolutions and describes the settlement of the Armenians in Azerbaijan`s occupied lands as unacceptable. The document also sharply condemns the Armenians` provocations, destruction and damage to the environment in Azerbaijan`s occupied territories. The resolutions demand immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijan`s occupied territories, and affirm support for Azerbaijan`s sovereignty and territorial integrity. All these were possible thanks to President Ilham Aliyev`s raising the issue directly at the United Nations.

At the same time, peace and security play a special role in Azerbaijan-UN cooperation. The country is actively involved in discussions on peace and security matters held in UN bodies. Baku is making contribution to practical activity under UN mandate. In this context, Azerbaijan`s contribution to the fight against terrorism through the UN should be emphasized. The country maintains close cooperation with the UN Security Council`s Counter-Terrorism Committee, and regularly reports to the organization about the measures to combat terrorism in Azerbaijan.

One of the highlights of Azerbaijan-UN relationship was Azerbaijan`s running for the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for the years 2012-2013. Azerbaijan was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council with 155 votes. President Ilham Aliyev`s chairing a meeting of the Security Council in May, 2012, was one of the landmark events in the history of Azerbaijani diplomacy. It also increased Azerbaijan`s international prestige considerably and won the UN`s great confidence in the country.

As an independent, civil and democratic state committed to cooperation, Azerbaijan is making efforts to contribute to the well-being of humanity through the UN`s political, economic and cultural programs. In this context, Azerbaijan is making efforts to bring geopolitical, political and security aspects to conformity. For example, Azerbaijan is closely involved in the UN`s sustainable development programs.  In this respect, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with their 169 targets, set at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in 2015, should be emphasized. Azerbaijan`s cooperation in this context covers many important development issues, including economic growth, poverty eradication, food security, education, environment, and gender equality. And this cooperation will undoubtedly be long-term.

Azerbaijan-UN cooperation has been developing and strengthening for 27 years, benefiting both the organization and the country. Azerbaijan is already recognized as a country that has its own place, role and independent position in the world`s influential organizations. This process will certainly even accelerate under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev.

Leyla Mammadaliyeva

PhD student at the Institute of Philosophy, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences

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