Baku Forum 2013: experiences of a participant BY Asiya Mahar

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 From 31st October to 1st November 2013, 794 participants including 7 former Presidents, 13 Nobel Prize laureates, 7 Emeritus Professors, 107 world-famous public and prominent political figures gathered at one venue for the 3rd Baku International Humanitarian Forum 2013. Among the experienced pool of professionals from diverse fields, I was the youngest participant attending the forum. Certainly it’s worth sharing what the conference was all about? How it went? How were we treated as international delegates? What was the outcome? Why it’s important to organize such events, besides drawing an analogy between Azerbaijan and Pakistan that I figured out during the conference. Introducing Baku International Humanitarian Forum: The Forum is an annual event that brings famous representatives of the world community together to hold dialogues, discussions and exchange views on wide range of global humanitarian issues. The forum was founded in 2010 by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his counterpart, the then President of Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev and is effectively working on its goals that include building a dialogue through round tables and providing every single person a chance of being heard and listened to; providing constructive ground for the exchange of ideas, theoretical and practical knowledge; and bridging the gap between Western and Islamic cultures, bringing the two sides together to address common humanitarian issues. President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev opened the forum with a comprehensive speech covering national and international topics of global concern, along with highlighting the need for the resolution of Nagorno Karabakh issue on humanitarian grounds demanding international community to take stance on illegal Armenian occupation over Azerbaijani lands so as to make regional peace and stability possible. After it, the messages of Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were read out. A video address by Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova was screened. Other speakers on the first day included DG ISESCO, former Presidents of Baltic states, 13 Nobel Prize laureates and presentations by Chairmen of the roundtables. On the second day, the forum featured roundtable meetings on multiple topics encompassing Converging Technologies and Outlines of the Future; Humanitarian Aspects of Economic Development; Scientific Innovations and their Transfer into Education; Multiculturalism and Originality; National Identity in the Postmodern Era; Sustainable Development and Ecological Civilization; Achievements in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and topical Issues of Mass Media in the Globalizing Information Network. I was one of the speakers in the third panel of the roundtable discussing the topical issues of mass media, in which I gave a presentation on the topic ‘don’t let the media fool us: Analyzing Trends to Understand the Confusion’. The forum closed with vote of consent of the delegates accepting the final declaration of the Forum for practical implementation. For the next two days, excursion tours to five regions of Azerbaijan i.e. Nakhchivan, Gabala, Ganja, Lankaran and Guba were arranged in order to acquaint the delegates with Azeri culture, history and traditions. Experience of being delegate at Baku Forum: For the 6 days, we were hosted as the guests of the President of Azerbaijan. The hospitality of the Government of Azerbaijan and Azeri people, and officials from various sectors was unmatched. The management, organization and arrangement of such a huge event is ostensibly a tiresome task but each delegate received equal respect and care. Why such events are important? Before being part of such event, I used to think why states spend huge money on them; rather it should be used for some constructive purpose. But after attending the forum I’ve realized that it’s not something as spending without thinking, instead it’s an act of being smart on diplomacy. Inviting prominent figures from every professional field worldwide is but an investment for better future. When these figures share their experiences of being at the conference; what impact does it leave? Firstly, many get to know about Azerbaijan as a country, its history, its significance and geostrategic location. Secondly, prominent professional figures from multiple sectors of Azerbaijan get a platform to hold meetings with their counterparts and many MOUs are signed on the sidelines of Conference. In addition, students also get to meet their professional role models and become aware of new innovations. All these meetings would have cost much if talking about individual visits of all of them to other states around the world. Analyzing Similarities and Differences between Azerbaijan and Pakistan: Though only one article will not be sufficient to describe similarities and differences between these two countries, a brief synopsis will surely tell the readers the depth and warmth of relations between the two brotherly countries. Talking about the similarities, people of both the nations are hospitable and generous; many dishes are similar, lifestyle of families is based on strong moral values, most customs and traditions originated from the same cultural and religious beliefs are practiced, the landscapes and weather is almost same, the traffic jam in Baku was same as we have in Karachi, and our airlines performance is also on same scale. Talking about differences, the foremost is that Azeri people owe trust and respect to their Government and the rulers are accredited for their visionary leadership that has guided their nation towards progress. Secondly, there is no differentiation between civilian and army sectors, they are situated together and cleanliness is ensured at its best. Third is the level of development, in just 22 years after independence, they have made commendable progress. As President Aliyev mentioned that the poverty level has been brought down from 55% to 5.5%. Impressively, Baku has turned into city of lights, using technology at its best to illuminate buildings. Fourth is the importance given to education, for example only in Nakhchivan city having population of 75,000 there are 3 universities and 29 colleges. Fifth is the difference in worth of currencies, Azeri manat holds more worth i.e. one manat equals one euro. Sixth is the attachment of Azeri people with their past history and the commendable way they have preserved it. Seventh, is the connection with the outer world, 70% of Azeri population are internet users and students are given special training on how to use social media in an effective way to gain benefits. There is much more to mention but words limit is the constraint. Thus summing it up, I want to mention that wearing my flag everywhere there was a source of pride for me. Everyone whom I met greeted me with much respect on being the youngest participant and on representing a soft image of Pakistan and Muslim women. The writer is Ph.D Scholar in IR.