Meeting of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev with representatives of student and youth organisations
Baku, 21 April 2011; Source www.president.az
In his address to participants in the meeting, the president said:
- At the beginning of the month, that is two weeks ago, I signed a decree, ‘The State Programme for Azerbaijani Youth’. The decree tasked the Presidential Administration with preparing a State Programme within two months; that is, a project will be prepared and presented to me. A working group has been formed to prepare the project; it must work hard to produce a complete programme. The programme will cover the years 2011-2015. It should be complete and should allocate specific responsibilities and delineate a detailed schedule for implementation. The programme is not simply an expression of good will, it should produce effective results. At the same time, I repeat, that the problems currently faced by our youth should be spotlighted in the programme, and their solutions identified.
Recent years have seen much work done in this direction and, today, Azerbaijani youth have an active role in the public/political and economic life of the country. The youth are loyal to our governance and are being raised in a spirit of patriotism; this is very important. As for the programme, I think that the first issue to be solved is the problem of employment for youth. A lot has been done recently to tackle unemployment; one hundred thousand jobs have been created and new enterprises have started up. There is, however, still unemployment; this is of concern to us and we have to be even more active in reducing the problem.
The population of our country is increasing, and this is a very positive factor. Last year, the nine millionth citizen was born. This distinguishes us from other countries in the South Caucasus. As our population increases, so does our potential. But a rise in population, of course, also increases the workforce. The economic and political reforms currently being implemented are creating new workplaces, and we are directing our increasing financial resources in this direction. We have achieved much, but we have to do even more to reduce unemployment. I hope that this programme will provide a complete solution to the problem of job supply for youth.
More serious measures also have to be taken to deal with the issue of accommodation for our youth. Last year, in Azerbaijan, work began to provide answers to problems with mortgage loans, but this work is still in its early stages. We should ensure that they have more reasonable preferential terms and a broader scope. This will help to provide good opportunities for young people. This certainly needs to be resolved and, I repeat, there should be concrete proposals to move this forward.
Vocational training for young people is one of the most pressing issues. This is particularly so within the country’s present dynamic of development. Professional training is one of the most serious issues we face. Because of our growing economic potential, newly established industrial enterprises require professional specialists. We know well the experience of developed countries and we see that professional staff are equipped to work in any sphere. It should be this way, too, in our country. The head of a major multinational enterprise, for example, may one day be president of an oil business, then be attracted to an ICT concern and move on to head up a construction company. So in our country, managers should also be equipped to work in any sphere. This is very necessary. At present, there are quite a number of foreigners working in the branches of the major companies in Azerbaijan. We are happy with this, because the country is now part of the global economy and is an open country, open for investment, and we positively welcome such positive contributions. But, of course, we would like new institutions, especially the service, tourism and ICT sectors, to be staffed predominately by local people.
As you know, I visit the regions very often and, at the same time, I take part in the openings of major enterprises in the city of Baku and I see that in many cases the people leading them are foreign citizens. I say again that the policy of Azerbaijan in this case is very open and we applaud the involvement of foreign managers in Azerbaijan. Their activities here and, generally, the involvement of foreign investment in our country have always played, and are still playing, an important role. But, of course, I would very much like local people to work in these positions. I say again, the current level of economic development in the country and our future plans demand this. Because the most up-to-date, cutting-edge technologies must be applied here.
Our country must become a modern state and we are applying very important measures in this direction. Modernism, of course, depends on the correct alignment of state policy and, in addition, the involvement of youth. You are the representatives of the younger generations; the youth of Azerbaijan must be modern, bonded with the Motherland and its people, and loyal to the state. But, at the same time, our youth should be open to every progressive experience. That is why I consider that there must be a particular focus on preparation for the professions in this programme. More work must be done to perfect our technical, professional education. At this stage our main requirement is for professionals in this category, and so we must be more successful in solving the problems we have in education. Measures are being taken. There is progress in both secondary and higher education. But we have not achieved yet the standards we desire and this is precisely why allowances are being provided via the State Oil Company for the education of young people abroad. If our education was at the level required, then we probably would not need to do this. But we must work hard in both directions. First of all, additional steps must be taken to raise the level of education in Azerbaijan and I believe that this is a problem to be solved within the programme, despite it being an educational issue. Education is, primarily, a youth concern and there will be additional initiatives to enable young people to be educated abroad. We understand very well the prospects for future development and we are clear on the way our economy will develop. And the preparation of our youth must be aligned with the general economic development of the country.
Let me repeat that all the problems facing young people must be reflected in this programme. We must not forget physical health. Special attention is being given to health and the conditions are being created for sports participation in every region. Our sportsmen are supported by the state and every facility is provided for their development. We have two aims here. First of all, we must ensure mass participation in sports. This is the first issue. The second issue, of course, is to prepare professional sportsmen to bring sporting glory to our Azerbaijan. Our efforts have already achieved much success. Such success also serves to strengthen feelings of patriotism among our youth and within society as a whole. The rising of the Azerbaijani flag at each prestigious competition gives us a well-deserved feeling of pride and we are uplifted when our sportsmen and national teams return victorious from international arenas.
The issues connected with physical health, I can say, are in the process of resolution. Some additional issues may well need to be added to the programme. A special section must be devoted to military preparation. This is a very important matter for us. We live in circumstances governed by war. Our lands have been invaded. We must be ready at all times to free our lands and reinstate the integrity of our territory. We are trying to solve this problem by diplomatic means. However, our military potential also has a positive influence on the diplomatic negotiations. We have already witnessed this.
My thoughts about the programme, basically, are these. I consider that the objectives must be selected correctly. The most important point is that a fully worked-out plan is reflected in the programme so that this is a concrete programme. Also, I should say that all the programmes accepted in Azerbaijan over recent years have a certain characteristic. None of them have been accepted for the sake of sloganising. This is exactly why the implementation of these programmes is carried through. The regional development programme has been underway since 2004 and there are very good results. Now other programmes, including a programme for the socio-economic development of the settlements of Baku, are being prepared. It is important that this programme was also a concrete one. All the tasks included in this programme must be realistic, so that all its issues can be resolved.
If we remember that the programme will cover 2011-2015, it must be a very compact and concrete programme. This does not mean that these questions will be forgotten after 2015. Of course not! But I believe that this is the most opportune period to define more specific tasks and to see them through. I hope that you will also voice your own thoughts and take an active part, both today and in the preparation of the programme.
Farida MUSAYEVA, a second year student of jurisprudence at the Presidential State Administration Academy, and presidential-grant-aided student who scored the maximum 700 results in the test examination, said, in thanking President Ilham Aliyev for holding such a meeting with young people and for signing the State Programme, ‘The Youth of Azerbaijan, 2011-2015’:
- Today’s meeting is very important for every young person. There was a picture of national leader Heydar Aliyev, who was the graduate of our school, at its entrance. Every time I entered the school I would stop in front of that picture and dream that someday I would also meet the president. Naturally, not every young person gets the chance to meet the president. I worked very hard to achieve this. This was my stimulus. I thank you for that.
Hikmat ISMAYILOV, sixth year student at the Azerbaijan Medical University, referred to the rapid economic development going on in the country and the opening of new work places, spoke of his thoughts about perfecting technical professional education in Azerbaijan, and said:
Mister President, when we compare the opportunities in the labour market to the education being delivered, we notice some disparities. The education provided in technical schools does not meet the demands of modern times. I might say that many technical schools in Azerbaijan have already become outdated. They have not been supplied with new equipment and devices for many years now. This, naturally, has a negative effect on young people’s ability to adjust to modern professions. There are even some professions for which we have to invite specialists from abroad to do the work.
I would like to support my view by giving an example. You have declared 2011 to be ‘The Year of Tourism’ and the very prominent five-star hotels, the sports and holiday centres that are being built, as well as our renovated and repaired historical cultural sites and the holding of various international competitions in Azerbaijan, have brought a stream of tourists to our country. I think that the development of technical and professional education will be of positive assistance in providing a good, high level of service to tourists. I do not want to take up any more of your precious time. I ask you to help in the provision of modern experience in this direction.
President Ilham ALIYEV: Thank you, this is a real necessity. I referred to this in my introduction. Tourism is, as you know, receiving a great deal of attention now. It is true that we must reduce the economy’s dependence on oil and gas. You may have noticed that, lately, there has not been much talk of the work being implemented in the oil and gas sector. This is because everything is fine in that area. I would really like Azerbaijan to be known, not only as an oil-producing country, but also as a modern country with high intellectual potential.
Thus, much specific work is being done to develop sectors other than oil. The development of tourism has special importance here, because we are fortunate enough to have a beautiful country. You could come across few other countries on the world’s map with such beautiful natural features.
We have nine climate zones, a beautiful sea, mountains, rivers and springs. Further, our geographical situation and the stability, socio-political tranquillity and security that reign in Azerbaijan are all important elements in attracting tourists.
Five-star hotels are currently being built in Baku. And these hotels are brand names. Of course, the service must be very high level there. I think that these hotels will open this year and next. Where are we going to find so many staff? Again I say that foreign specialists and service workers will come. That is why the task has been set to create professional schools for tourism, not only in Baku, but also in the regions. Some of the hotels are situated in the regions. Our ski resort is also under construction now.
I believe that this is also a historical event for our country. I believe that our citizens will take advantage of this brilliant opportunity by the end of this year. As for the performance of vocational schools as a whole, the necessary attention has not been given to them in previous years. Perhaps this was because we faced more serious problems. The renovation of dilapidated schools, the construction of new schools – the resources were mostly channelled in those directions. As a result, more than 2,000 new schools have been constructed. The computerisation process in schools is going ahead rapidly.
I think that we have been able to effect revolutionary changes over several years. When we started this programme there was one computer per 1,000 students, now there is one computer for every 20-30 students. Earlier, when I was in the regions, I was interested to know whether there were computers or not. In some cases computers were installed to show me. But when I looked closely, I saw that they did not work. But now there are computer classes in every school, in every region, i.e. in every newly-built school. Now special attention must be given to the work of vocational schools. The Ministry of Education has been assigned concrete tasks. I believe that this issue must be reflected in the programme for youth.
Alyona BANDURINA, fourth year student at the Azerbaijan State Academy of Arts, thanked the head of state on behalf of her teachers and fellow students for the renovation and reconstruction work implemented at the Academy, and continued:
- As a final year student, I am worried about one issue, which still has not been solved. This is the lack of studios for young artists who will serve in the development of the country’s culture. This is the result of the lack of a State Programme. And there is one proposal I would like to make. That is to found a yearly stipend by the President of the Azerbaijan Republic for talented young people who work in culture, science, intellectual contests and other fields. The establishment of such a stipend would distinguish those young people who are distinguished by their high achievements and it would also stimulate youth to even greater accomplishments. Mister President, when the word Azerbaijanism is pronounced in Azerbaijan and abroad, different impressions are generated. We would like to know what impression the concept of Azerbaijanism has on you.
President Ilham ALIYEV: Thank you. First of all, I would like to thank you for speaking the Azerbaijani language so fluently. Because you know that there is no language proscription in our country. You can speak Russian, too, and we can also speak Russian. I consider that Azerbaijan is unique in the world on these questions. But your speaking the Azerbaijani language so fluently is of course a very positive quality. Appropriate tasks have been assigned on the question you raise – about studios. A special location will be selected and conditions will be created for artists and sculptors to work there. I will assign necessary tasks on this issue. Construction work on the Academy of Arts building is still continuing. We will also enlarge the building; it is a beautiful architectural site and every facility will be provided there. As for the stipend, I applaud this initiative. I think that this problem must be resolved within the programme. Talented young people, especially, must be give stipends. We currently give more stipends to the older generations who have played an active role in the life of the country and have contributed so much over many years. I think it would be fair to give stipends to young people. Turning to the ideology of Azerbaijanism, the idea of Azerbaijanism, the great leader Heydar Aliyev stated his thoughts on this many times. The ideology of Azerbaijanism was strengthened in Azerbaijan upon his initiative.
As you know, there were different thoughts and different approaches in the period before that, but this is the path that will lead our country to the future. This is the ideology that brings our country together, bringing together members of all the nationalities and people living in our country. It was precisely Heydar Aliyev’s initiative and work that established the ideology of Azerbaijanism in Azerbaijan and this is now our state’s and nation’s ideology.
Members of all the nationalities and religions live as one family in Azerbaijan and these are not just fine words, but the reality. This also reflects our past and, most importantly, this principle was always in special focus during the period of Azerbaijan’s development as an independent country. It is no accident that the world has begun to understand this and the international events held in Azerbaijan prove this once more.
We have only lived as an independent country for 20 years. 20 years is both a short historical period and, at the same time, it is possible to do many things in that time. I believe that Azerbaijan’s statehood has been firmly established in those 20 years. We ourselves define our destiny as an independent state, and our country has adopted precise positions on all issues and in all directions.
First of all, there are no differences in ideas in our society about the processes happening inside the country and the directions of its future development. We are building a strong country. We are building a country which is modern and, at the same time, which stands on strong national values. Of course, we share universal values and we respect those of Europe. But we have our own values. These are our traditions, our history, our culture and language. We have every right to be proud that we define our own destiny as an independent country. We are in process of building a new state based upon on care for the historical past of Azerbaijan, our culture, our national roots and we must act to ensure that the state stands on firm foundations. Azerbaijan’s geographical position, its geo-political importance, rich natural recourses and increasingly influential profile in the region, of course, become the focus of great attention. I might say that attempts to draw our country to one side or another do not relent. Despite having to struggle continually against such attempts, we try to prove, I believe successfully, that Azerbaijan has its own policy and aims.
We are determined and we build good relations with all countries. We have lived as a colony or a semi-colony for many centuries. Despite our rich history and great culture, we have not lived as an independent nation. But now we have the chance and every opportunity – a strong economy; a developing political system and no disagreement within society on issues of national development; our financial and natural recourses and our geographical position. Azerbaijan has developed, in the true meaning of the word.
We run a completely independent policy and I repeat, our policy has benevolent aims. We want to strengthen our relations with all countries, based on mutual respect and upon the condition of non-interference in one another’s business. Our energy and financial resources alone are not enough to achieve this. Strong social bonding within our statehood is a prerequisite. Respect for the attributes of state, loyalty to the principles of our statehood and raising our youth in a spirit of patriotism are especially significant for a young country.
We are still a young, independent country, even though, as I believe, we have completed the transitional period. The economic indicators and the reality of life support this claim. This is why state ideology must be strong in order to ensure future success in our lives; and this ideology is the ideology of Azerbaijanism. I am very pleased that you asked this question. I believe that these are important issues and we must keep them in mind at all times. They must be considered in the programme.
Rufat AZIZOV, head of the Caspian Engineers Society, a member of the British Institute of Materials, and candidate of chemical sciences, talked about his proposals for the scientific-technological development and preparation of professional staff in the country:
- Current developments in the oil industry, the development of other industrial sectors and, most important, the transformation of Azerbaijan from an oil exporting country into a country which exports knowledge and technology, or a future centre of knowledge and technology. All this means that we have a great need for personnel with up-to-date knowledge and experience as well as technical staff. If we take a look at the Western experience, a triangle of industry, education and science has been created there, they develop in an integrated way and support each other’s needs Firstly, we also need to take this path. The best way to do this – this is also widespread in the West – is to establish professional organizations in scientific-technological areas and to support those organizations which are already active.
In this globalising world education and industrial technologies develop extremely quickly and in order to match this speed and to integrate with the science of the modern world, of course Azerbaijan needs an educational system which is always continuously renewed and enriched with new technologies, new knowledge and fresh experience.
When we talk of innovation in the education system we must start with the renewal of curricula, the upkeep of laboratory equipment, procedures, teaching methods and relations between teachers and students as a whole complex.
I think that direct involvement of our young people who have studied abroad in these tasks and bringing the experience they have gained to education and major industrial establishments could create huge opportunities in this process.
On the other side, we must keep up with the globalising scientific world so that Azerbaijan is transformed into a country which exports technology in the future. If in the future we want to export technology ourselves, we don’t only have to catch up with that global science, but we must go beyond it. And again we need a modern workforce to do this. In order to ensure that these processes are long lasting, then one of Azerbaijan’s main goals must be to bring creative young people into the scientific-technological fields during their school years.
There has been great progress in sports and culture in recent years. Young people have been helped in these areas by various projects. But, unfortunately, little is done in the scientific and technological fields. I mean, there should be no difference between a young person who has won a sports competition and one who is victorious in a science Olympiad or a science competition. They should be valued equally highly.
I would like to make a proposal arising from these issues: state support for the development of professional engineering and scientific-technological institutions; establishing annual awards by the President of the Azerbaijan Republic for development in these fields. I believe that this should be quite a high level award in order to attract young people to scientific-technological research.
President Ilham ALIYEV: Thank you. I believe that your thoughts must be reflected in this programme. It is no secret that it is not the energy resources that define a country’s development, but its intellectual potential. Our goal is to be among those countries which are highly developed in the true meaning of the word. I believe that the support given to the development of industry and science in Azerbaijan during the last few years will bring results in the near future. Industrial centres are being created at this moment.
I gave my thoughts about this a little earlier. I think that three main centres must be created. One should be in Sumqayit. We must transform Sumqayit into an industrial centre. The city of Ganja and the Qaradagh region of Baku are the others. The potential is there in terms of both area and infrastructure. At the same time these industrial centres must be related to the development of the sciences. Our science must develop more rapidly and assist in the tasks facing the country. For example, a big techno-park is being created in Sumqayit. Some 10 modern institutions have already been created. I have given instructions that technical vocational schools should also be attached to the techno-park, so that the process of preparing a workforce is coordinated with industry.
The question of supporting creative young people deserves special attention. We can also consider offering awards in the programme. I believe that young people who are successful in the fields of sports and science must be treated equally in society, too. But the way of the world somehow conditions a different approach; a world championship medallist immediately becomes famous. Success in sports brings immediate fame and wealth, while a talented scientist must live on his books. I mean, this is the global reality. But we must try to remove this discrimination. I believe that a fair solution to this problem is possible here. With the awards, perhaps a youth foundation could be created – I rather think that aid from the state budget should be allocated and the young people must decide for themselves how the aid will be spent. This should apply to the awards too. At the same time, there must be aid for young people to undertake scientific research and to tackle technical issues. I think that we will implement significant measures in these directions. I want to be clear that the successful development of our country dictates that we give more attention to scientific-technological progress. The progress of information-communication technologies carries great weight in this respect, because this field will serve both to strengthen intellectual potential and to bring financial benefits. The ICT sector will play a more effective role in the future of the Azerbaijani economy. As you know, we have begun to create a space industry. We will put an artificial satellite into orbit. We are looking to the future. The future depends on the success of scientific invention.
Currently countries like ours, rich in resources, bring in technology from abroad. This is the easiest way. However, policy must be correctly aligned and the technologies we need have to be purchased. But this cannot continue for very much longer. We must be a part of technological development. That is why the creation of new establishments in the ICT and military industry sectors is going ahead in Azerbaijan. Perhaps creating these establishments takes more time and money. Perhaps it is easier and in some cases cheaper to purchase the technology or equipment from abroad.
But the reason why we establish these technological processes in Azerbaijan is both to raise professional workforces and to embark on the path of scientific-technological development. The same way that investment in the oil sector and oil wells in the past, has served bring investment to the service sector. These issues must find their solutions. I think you should draft a proposal on these issues and we will consider it in the programme.
In his speech, Balakishi QASIMOV, official representative and leader of the “Who? What? Where?” television programme, welcomed the opening of Olympic complexes and various sports centres in all regions of the country as an example of the state’s care for sports. He continued, emphasising the importance of organizing intellectual clubs in our cities and villages:
- Young people could organize intellectual games competitions in those clubs. The clubs could also serve as book clubs in which the youth discuss literary works, share their books with each other and use their spare time. It would be good to organize competitions between villages, regions and cities. And the all-republic final could be broadcast on television. This will create interest among young people in knowledge, science and books. This is one proposal. Other than that, I would like to thank AzTV for promoting intellectual broadcasts and national values to young people and for allocating time to science. It would be good if the state also advised commercial television to allocate time for intellectual broadcasts, promoting national values and books and initiating dialogue about the values that today’s young people need.
And if you permit, Mister President, I have one question. I am sure I am not the only one interested. We know that your work schedule is very tight, that is natural. But I have this question: which channels do you watch and which newspapers and magazines do you read when you have free time?
President Ilham ALIYEV: Thank you, Balakishi, for your question. I’ll try to answer it. First of all, I support the idea of creating intellectual clubs. I think that we should take this initiative. There are, currently, youth clubs in some regions. I have been to Astara recently. A youth club is organized there. There are computers, libraries and different groups. It would be good to hold intellectual events on the basis of those clubs. Let’s hold national championships, too. You have good experience and I really favour this issue. I believe that the private channels must also attend to these issues. I also believe that the more private channels broadcast according to national values which represent the intellectual ability in our country and its youth, the better. In some cases entertainment programmes are preferred. This is probably the demands of time, because more advertisements are shown and a bigger audience is attracted.
But of course television should mainly promote education, intellectual development and our bond to national values. As for my free time, there is really very little. I am busy with work almost day and night. In my free time I try to play sports. Because in the past I used to play sports all the time and today I like to use my time to that end. About television channels, it would not be good for me to name any of them. I mostly work the remote control. Sometimes the programmes are arranged in such a way that the remote control always has to be under my hand. It would be better to say that I am in research.
Gunay DASHDEMIROVA, presidential-grant-aided student of the faculty of International Relations at the Academy of Administration under the President of the Azerbaijan Republic spoke about the problem of Armenia – Azerbaijan and Daghliq Qarabagh, saying:
- As you know, the biggest problem for the Azerbaijan Republic and generally for the people of Azerbaijan is the problem of Daghliq Qarabagh. I believe that not only the president of the Azerbaijan Republic, but also all its citizens and individuals must be engaged in this problem and make their contribution to its resolution.
Mister President, what do you expect from the youth of Azerbaijan – us – in respect of a solution to this problem? What are we supposed to do for Qarabagh?
President Ilham ALIYEV: This is truly our most painful problem. Unfortunately, the whole of Azerbaijan’s independent life has been dogged by this problem. The Armenian separatists raised this issue even before independence and committed crimes against the people of Azerbaijan. These events that happened during the first years of our independence: the anarchy, chaos, the struggle for post and power and the civil war brought this situation about. We try to find a solution to this problem. You know Azerbaijan’s position. This is an issue of principle. Our position is based on both justice and history, and at the same time, on the norms of international law. But unfortunately, the double standards present in the world, discrimination and inconsistent approaches do not allow the issue to be settled.
I have recently stated my thoughts about events in Libya. I asked how it happens that military operations begin within hours UN Security Council’s resolution being adopted. But four resolutions were adopted about our invaded lands eighteen years ago, and the problem is still subject to negotiation.
The Armenian side thinks that independence for Daghliq Qarabagh is the essence of the matter. That will never happen. The reality is that if the Armenian army is removed from the invaded lands, then a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia may be signed. The people who currently live in Daghliq Qarabagh and the Azerbaijanis who will return there will live under conditions of autonomy. I mean, this is the approach adopted in international practice and the solution must be exactly like this. If we look at the Helsinki Final Act which retains its importance for the international community, we will see that the question of nationalities defining their own destinies does not conflict with that of countries’ territorial integrity there. It does not deny it and these problems must be resolved within the frames of territorial integrity. There are autonomies in many countries, including in Europe, and those autonomies receive even more attention, as they say, by the central executive bodies. This is the solution to the problem. The state of Azerbaijan will never – not today, not after ten or even one hundred years agree to independence for Daghliq Qarabagh. This is not even a subject for negotiation. But the Armenian side tries to drag the process out in different ways. For example, some advance in the negotiations is made and then there is a step backwards. They are simply delaying. They think that the Armenian lobby around the world and powers friendly to Armenia in some countries will help them to maintain the current status-quo.
I think that one of the important signs of the past period is that the co-chairing countries have begun to give state that retaining the status-quo is unacceptable. I believe this is a very important issue and the Azerbaijani side has persistently demanded that the status-quo must be changed. This means that the process of removing the invading Armenian powers from our lands has begun. Proposals currently on the negotiating table today can be fully accepted. These proposals protect the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. At the same time, they create opportunities for self-administration by the people who live in Daghliq Qarabagh. I think that this formula must be taken as the basis. If so, the problem must come to a solution.
As for young people’s involvement in the problem, I think that the youth and all sections of our society must all serve the strengthening of our county in their own environment. Whoever has the opportunity must be active in building our case. Armenians worldwide are struggling against us. This is the reality. Perhaps we are one of the few countries which has a well-organized group – and not just in one country, but in various countries –acting against us every day, in order to slander Azerbaijan, in order to ruin the reputation of Azerbaijan and in order to stain Azerbaijan. They have several strategies in their actions because Azerbaijan is enemy number one for the world’s Armenians at the moment. This is the reality.
You know that they have financial resources. In many countries there are politicians who are close to the Armenians and they use these opportunities and the media. The other strategy has a more pragmatic character, even though it is also based on hostility. This lies in the process of proving to the world that Azerbaijan is a non-democratic country, that minorities are under pressure here, their rights are denied and the Armenians of Daghliq Qarabagh will not be able to live within Azerbaijan. If that happens, there will not be any Armenians left here, because the people of Azerbaijan will kill them all.
This thesis is wrong to the core. Because our past history and the current situation show that Azerbaijan is a motherland for representatives of all nationalities. There has never been national or religious discrimination here and it will never happen. I am totally confident about this. Our policy is so strong now that nobody can alter it. The actions being carried out in Azerbaijan, especially events of inter-cultural dialogue strengthen this position even more. That is why we expect young people to be more active. The number of internet users in Azerbaijan now is about 50%. Our youth are very active and modern. Every young person who has the opportunity must contribute to building our case. Our case is based on reality, not on myths or misinformation like that of the Armenians. Truth and justice are on our side.
The state of Armenia today stands on the historical lands of Azerbaijan. This is a historical truth. We know the history very well. Most of the people who lived in the Irevan khanliq were Azerbaijanis. The Zengezur district was also forcibly torn from Azerbaijan in order to split the great Turkish world, and they succeeded. But the time will come when this injustice will be removed. I don’t doubt that we will repair our territorial integrity. There are two ways to do this – militarily or the peaceful way. For now we prefer the way of peace, because we have hopes that the problem will find its solution this way. If the proposals now on the negotiating table are accepted by the Armenian side, then the problem will gradually work towards a solution, stage by stage. Our position has always been that the problem must be solved stage by stage. In this event, when Azerbaijanis return to the currently invaded lands and when we rebuild all the cities there, I believe, that the problem will come to a fair resolution.
But I would also like to say that our position on this issue is unambiguous and firm. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has never been a subject for discussion. There will never be any compromise on this issue. The sooner the Armenian leaders understand this, the better it will be for them, because time is on our side. That is the reality. Even though our citizens are suffering today, there is no comparison between Armenia and Azerbaijan in terms of economic, political and geo-political interests. The huge distance between us, this abyss, is gradually increasing and a country like Azerbaijan which is dynamic and modern, which is developing and which has great military power, is a constant source of danger for Armenia. For us to remove this danger they simply have to leave the lands they invaded and obey the norms of international law.
Shahin SEYIDZADE, who has a master’s degree from the University of Manchester in England in the development of human resources through education, raised the employment problem:
- There are more than 100,000 graduates from secondary schools in Azerbaijan every year and a little over 20,000 of them enter higher educational institutions. 80,000 young people are left on the sidelines. Considering this, we need to tackle the unemployment problem in a different way, apart from opening new workplaces. The young people themselves must also change their approach, I mean that they should understand they can also be entrepreneurs. They can also open new work places and they need this skill.
I have a proposal on this: first of all, special attention must be given to young entrepreneurs in the regions, so that they don’t have to look for work elsewhere, they can create workplaces themselves and a generation of young managers can be developed on this basis.
There is a practice in other countries of incubators in universities giving mini-grants to students –young entrepreneurs – to help them realize an idea or proposal and develop a product. These incubator models are very active and I have a proposal on this for Azerbaijan.
The second issue I would like to touch on is a very painful aspect of our society. The number of divorces in Azerbaijan is increasing every year. During the first quarter of 2011, there were more than 15,000 marriages and 2,016 divorces. The second figure is very high. A lot of work needs to be done on this problem.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. Present your concrete proposals and we will look at them to see what action is possible on them. Of course, the increase in the number of divorces worries us, too. But the right steps must be taken here. Of course, we cannot achieve anything by administrative means. There should be concrete mechanisms for an intensive study of the problem. If there are concrete proposals, we can include them in the programme, too.
I believe that creating business incubators is very important. We will look into them and they must be reflected in the programme. We can consider the question of issuing loans to young entrepreneurs. You know that loans issued by the state play an active role in developing business. Loans amounting to 120-125 million manats are issued every year on favourable terms. Some part of this sum could be reserved for young entrepreneurs. It is true that the question of experience might come up here. Every loan is offered on the basis of a business plan; in order to prepare a plan, of course, some experience is necessary. The people who take out loans have been entrepreneurs for many years. Bearing this in mind, a special sum can be considered within the National Fund for Assistance to Entrepreneurs. These proposals also require a response.
Konul ASLANOVA, a student of the Azerbaijan State Economic University, spoke about the role of young teachers:
- If we consider that education is central to state policy, in my opinion this problem should also be at the centre of attention. It is an undeniable fact that most of the teachers working in universities at the moment have reached the age of retirement and are among those who have difficulty in comprehending the innovations of modern times. And has a direct negative effect on the knowledge, skills and the overall development of the student. A student must master certain skills and habits; besides the theoretical knowledge gained at university, he must be able to apply the knowledge he has gained in practice. He must have competitive ability in the circumstances of the market economy. It is a fact that some of the students who have completed their bachelor’s degree face unemployment. I think that in order to solve this problem it would be good to gradually replace the current staff with younger teachers who have a modern mentality and who can speak foreign languages.
Another alternative is to follow an example from highly developed countries. Teachers in foreign universities are not only citizens of that country, but there are also teachers from other countries. In my opinion it would be useful to apply this experience in Azerbaijan; invite teachers from abroad and benefit from their experience.
President Ilham ALIYEV: This is a very serious matter. Appropriate tasks have been set on this issue. I think that we should consider this further because the studies of our young people abroad are very important. They have gone and are living in other countries, they have independent lives, but education inside the country must also be at such a level that it is not necessary to go abroad. That’s why relevant assignments have been issued to bring foreign teachers to Azerbaijan and this process is gradually getting underway. Of course, the main issue here is the financial one. We must consider this, because a foreign teacher with a high professional level will only go to another country for additional incentives. That’s why the financial issue is, of course, the main one. But we have begun this work. On the question of age, I consider that we must carry out a very careful policy here, because there are some older teachers who give the young people a huge amount of knowledge by sharing their experience. Age should not be the main criterion here. On the other hand, I am absolutely sure that this concerns not only the sphere of education, but every sphere. People who have reached retirement age must retire. Currently, tasks have been assigned to resolve the social problems of retired people. For example, the pension allowance for those who retired before 2006 will be improved. We can apply other incentives so that people who reach retirement age actually retire. The pension they receive should be sufficient. We see this especially in Europe and Asia where people are keen to retire. They think that life starts after that. Because they work all their lives, earn money and raise their children. After they retire, they travel, make trips and start to see that world. But it is the opposite in our case. Nobody wants to retire in our country. Almost everybody wants to work until the end. Thus, the problem that you mentioned arises and work places are not freed up. This should be a continuous process. There must be work places for young staff. Every citizen must know that he must retire when he reaches a certain age, he should not keep a grip on the post and work. The pension supplement must also be sufficient. That is why I have recently given general instructions on this problem; a very serious and precise policy must be conducted on retirement of people who are of age and this process must take a positive direction.
Again, I don’t think that every old teacher is incapable of giving the necessary knowledge. However, today’s world is changing so and the technological progress is so fast; it is very important to learn a foreign language in order to acquire modern knowledge.
Asmar DASHDEMIROVA, head of the marketing department in the ‘Microsoft Azerbaijan’ company spoke on human resources and intellectual potential:
- Respected Mister President, some work has been done on the protection of intellectual property. We know that you and the leaders of the Microsoft company had negotiations in Davos this year. I am sure that these agreements will lead to rapid progress in ICT marketing and this will create a huge number of employment opportunities for young people. They will be jobs in which young people will find opportunities to realize their intellectual potential.
President Ilham ALIYEV: Thank you. I am familiar with this issue. I have had a meeting with the European president of the Microsoft company. He told me that this also concerned him greatly. I have given appropriate directions. Here, of course, action must be taken. There should be control, public control. There must be certain mechanisms, because it is no easy matter to control this field. And we don’t have such great experience. There are not many people who know this work well enough to identify pirate productions and intellectual property. If you have proposals on this issue, it would be good to process these mechanisms. This is an important issue because, in general, we are very focused on the development of the ICT sector. The sector is a priority for us and it will remain a priority in the coming years. I am very happy that international organizations are praising Azerbaijan’s work in this field. For example, the World Economic Forum – Davos - placed Azerbaijan in first place in the post-Soviet area for its ICT preparation. We have to stay in first place this year, we should not let go of it. I say again, this sector serves the development of intellectual potential, it is very important for the image of the country and there are plenty of business opportunities here.
Shahin ISMAYLOV, head of the Azerbaijan Students and Youth Organizations Association, having touched on the activities of the students and youth organizations, said:
- Unfortunately, students participate only in educational processes at the universities. Universities, let’s say, are not interesting to student life. We have organizations in 39 universities and certain problems appear in all of them. The students and youth organizations play almost no role in rallying the students behind them, in identifying their problems and possible solutions. Participation by students’ organizations in university life and university administration is usually in a very low level. For example, we have researched 29 universities and we know that only three leaders of students’ and youth organizations are represented in university administrations or scientific councils. In some cases the rectors interfere in elections of leaders of students’ organizations. This brings passivity to student life and problems arise with the organization of students’ free time.
You know that students were taken from less well-off sections of society. We have worked with them for some time. They have some questions and this is a very good opportunity for me to bring these questions to you. They ask for some special privileges for students. There great experience in this area in Europe and the world as a whole. The students are given special discount cards and they can get reductions with these cards. I’d like to make a proposal, if possible, to create a general students’ card that students can use to some advantage.
I also would like to make another point. Besides students’ and youth organizations, students’ trade unions also operate in the universities. If we enquire it appears that the youngest leader of the student trade union is 26 years old and the oldest is more than 50 years old. This results in certain questions and students withdrawing from the unions.
Mister President, this is a very good opportunity, the question most often raised by the students is that of increasing the stipends. I would like to take this chance and address this question to you: are there any plans in the near future concerning an increase in student stipends?
President Ilham ALIYEV: Thank you, we will take care of the issues that you have raised. Of course, if there are concrete proposals about the ways that students can spend their spare time we will look at them with great pleasure and resolve the issue. Concerning the application of general student cards, if there is such practice in the world, let us investigate it and we can also apply it, so that there are certain privileges. Of course, we must ensure that students’ lives are meaningful and full and financed sufficiently. Increasing students’ stipends is in our plans. But the stipends are related to the minimum salary level. The feeling is that it should be no more than the minimum salary level. Currently, the minimum salary in Azerbaijan is 85 manats. We will increase it very soon and thus an opportunity will be created to increase the stipends. I also have to note that even though we are not satisfied with the level of the stipends, Azerbaijan’s is one of the highest in the post-Soviet region.
If there are concrete proposals, they can be reflected in the programme. I am very pleased that you raised this problem. Because we have more than 100,000 students and they must live and study well during their youth.
Orkhan AKBAROV, co-founder and head of the International Forum of Azerbaijani Young People who are Studying or have Graduated Abroad, spoke about involving graduates who have studied abroad in education work in the higher educational institutions:
- Our young people used to think young Azerbaijanis studying abroad was just a dream. But now, within the framework of the state programme supported by the decree, you have authorised Azerbaijani students to study in more than 200 of the best universities in 24 countries.
Young Azerbaijanis are currently studying in more than 30 countries. Some of them stay there and work after they finish their education and others come back to Azerbaijan.
I would like to give my thoughts about certain concrete issues. The young people of Azerbaijan studying abroad today do not make up a scattered minority, but an intellectual majority. I think that we can take maximum advantage of this and properly direct their intellectual abilities and skills for the development and future of Azerbaijan. How is this to be done? The problem I mentioned a little earlier – the problem of developing education in Azerbaijan. The students who are sent abroad through the state programme have to work for government organizations for five years. I think that, as an addition to this, if teaching in the higher educational institutions of Azerbaijan was also considered, this would make a very nice contribution to the development of our education. I have many friends who teach very successfully in many of Azerbaijan’s universities today. This is my first proposal.
My next proposal, Mister President, there is a great need for a youth centre in Baku. I can explain the need in this way: there are many active youth organizations in Azerbaijan and they cannot always afford to rent a conference hall in some hotel to hold an event there. Actually, events which would give us a lot are cancelled because of lack of finance; so these things do not happen. Generally, our young people should use their spare time and it would be very good to build a Youth Centre supplied with high speed internet, with conference and meeting halls where we can hold international and local events and which even has places to accommodate guests from abroad. For example, the International Youth Centre in Strasbourg.
My second proposal is that we carry out many more events abroad. Of course, the Ministry of Youth and Sports finances big events. But sometimes there are cases when we should definitely run a reciprocal event, but we cannot because of the finance required. I think that the Youth Fund you told us about could solve this by active financing (I mean, not by filling