TBY talks to Gular Ahmadova, Deputy of the Azerbaijan National Assembly from the 2nd Khatai District, on children’s rights, EU relations, and hosting international events.
TBY What are the most significant achievements Azerbaijan has made over the last decade in children’s rights?
GULAR AHMADOVA My first appearance to talk about such issues was in 1994, when I was invited to the National Assembly as a child expert. It was difficult to raise awareness about children’s rights in Azerbaijan, for everybody included children under the global human rights label. However, things have changed and I am extremely pleased with what we have achieved over the years. We have raised awareness of the need to promote children’s rights in our country and fight for them, because they are our future. We have improved living conditions as well as worked to support children with disabilities. It was very important for us to also work on the psychological issues experienced by mothers, a field in which we have been very successful too. We have also improved children’s literacy and nutrition across the country. Those were very tough times and I remember spending weeks away from home, just travelling and trying to support communities in regional Azerbaijan. It has been a long but successful road.
How would you evaluate the role young Azerbaijanis are playing in the development of the country?
In Azerbaijan, the youth represent 50% of the population, and the government is implementing successful policies to encourage young students to follow their studies abroad, as well as addressing the employment and housing issues that affect this community. The government is very committed to supporting the youth in every sphere, because we know of their importance to the country’s future. It is vital to help young people broaden their educational qualifications, as well as ease the path toward employment and entering the housing market. They are our present, but most importantly, our future, and the Republic of Azerbaijan relies on them and their skills to drive growth in the country. Today, the Azerbaijani youth is powerful, educated, and has a strong intellectual potential and bright future ahead.
How would you assess the human rights situation in Azerbaijan?
One of the most important achievements in this field was the establishment of our constitution in 1995 by our great leader, Heydar Aliyev, in which there is included a chapter on basic human citizens’ rights and freedoms. Full membership at the UN in 1992 and our integration into the Council of Europe in 2001 have also contributed to the continued development of human rights in Azerbaijan, which has attached a lot of importance to international cooperation with different organizations in the field of human rights and their protection. Our country has extensively and closely collaborated with the OSCE, with which we signed a mutual Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 1998. Such close cooperation has lasted for many years and has been focused on the implementation of democratic, educational, and human rights reforms.
What are your views on the increasing interest of the EU in developing ties with Azerbaijan, as proved by Baroness Catherine Ashton’s visit to the country?
Azerbaijan’s cooperation with the EU is one of the key elements within our foreign affairs policies. We have implemented important projects to develop the economy, transport infrastructure, democratic reforms, and human rights. Over the years we have strengthened such ties, especially since Ashton has held her position. Thanks to such work and close cooperation we have successfully raised awareness of Azerbaijan’s development. Ashton’s visit to Azerbaijan in 2011 and the coming of different EU commissioners to Azerbaijan show that our country is an important partner for Europe and efforts will be continued in this direction.
How important are events such as Eurovision and the FIFA Women’s World Cup on the path toward development?
Azerbaijan is gearing up toward hosting one of the most important events in its history, an event that will be watched worldwide. New buildings, concert complexes, and hotels are being built in connection with Eurovision 2012. In this regard, I want to praise the magnificent work that our First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, is doing. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of tourists will be a challenge, but at the same time will form a great tool for the promotion of Azerbaijan; we will be exposed to the whole world. Everybody will become acquainted with Azerbaijan’s ancient history and rich cultural heritage.
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