AIDA – an effective tool for achieving foreign policy priorities of Azerbaijan

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DNA EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Azerbaijan is a nation that has chosen an independent path of foreign policy, based on its historical experience, current achievements and forward looking vision.Despite all the difficulties endured by this country, today Azerbaijan is thriving. It has become a country with a strong economy – an emerging donor, which provides humanitarian and economic support to other countries. This strategy allows Azerbaijan to mobilize the support of the international community and increase the number of its allies.In order to implement this strategy in an efficient and proper manner, the Azerbaijan International Development Agency (AIDA) was established under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan in September 2011. For three years, the Agency has been actively working in promoting the imageof the country globally and increasing the number of its partners.
The Director of the AIDA Agency Dr. Ashraf Shikhaliyev gave a special interview to Diplomatic News Agency (DNA). Here are excerpts from his interview.

Dr. Shikhaliyev, what was the main idea behindi creating such an Agency?

The primary purpose of the Agency is to support the efforts of international community in coping with social problems around the world. At the same time, considering the speedy development of the Azerbaijani economy and ever-growing number of received aid applications from foreign countries, the timely and coordinated provision of international aid by the Republic of Azerbaijan has been identified as the principal task of AIDA.
Since its establishment, AIDA, in providing aid to foreign countries, has been committed to the principles of collaboration, efficiency, transparency and equality. It is organizing its activities in two main directions: humanitarian aid and international development assistance. Guided by the Millennium Development Goals and based on bilateral and multilateral cooperation, AIDA is supporting the efforts of developing countries in poverty reduction, development of science, culture and healthcare, wider application of information-communication technologies, efficient use of energy resources, various scholarship programmes, as well as with other humanitarian and technical projects.

How does AIDA implement its Projects and what they are aimed at?

The provision of aid by Azerbaijan to foreign countries is aimed at enhancing international cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and other areas. Thus, AIDA serves to ensure peace, security and prosperity in the world, as well as to achieve foreign policy priorities of Azerbaijan.
Furthermore, AIDA closely cooperates,through partnerships and joint projects, with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and other international organisations and donors agencies.

What are the main directions and priorities of AIDA’s activities around the globe?

AIDA carries out various projects in the areas of humanitarian aid and international development assistance.
The implementation of humanitarian aid projects is aimed at eliminating the consequences of natural and man-made disasters around the world and restoring the living conditions of the disaster-affected people. In most cases, assistance is provided as an immediate humanitarian aid upon an appeal from the disaster-hit country. In other cases, humanitarian aid is provided to the assistance requesting country within the framework of pre-planned aid programmes.
Development assistance projects are mainly implemented in developing countries in order to stimulate their socio-economic development. Depending on the priorities of these countries, the provided technical assistance is aimed at strengthening a certain sector of their economies.

Which countries were provided with humanitarian aid?

Azerbaijan is regularly giving humanitarian aid to many countries facing emergency situations.More than 30 countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia have so far benefitted from programmes, projects and the international aid delivered by AIDA.
Since 2011, humanitarian assistance has been provided to a number of recipients, including Panama, Syrian refugees settled in Jordan, Cuba, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Afghanistan,Gazaand others.

I believe that the international development assistance covers a wide area of activities. What AIDA’s activities are aimed at in this direction?

As a new donor state, Azerbaijan not only extends humanitarian aid to the countries in need, but also contributes to their development through special campaigns, programmes and projects, which boost exchange of expertise, capacity building, as well as the bilateral relations with these countries.

Please give us a brief introduction to the ongoing projects and programmes.

AIDA implements various assistance projects around the world. One of them is E-governance project in Afghanistan. In close cooperation with the Ministry of Communications and High Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan and United Nations Development Programme, AIDA provides assistance to Afghanistan within the framework of the project aimed at establishing E-governance system in this country and increasing the efficiency of functioning of its government institutions.
AIDA also provides Scholarship opportunities for international students withinits scholarship programme that allows them to study at top Azerbaijani universities. Thus, the number of international students, studying in Azerbaijan, is growing. By living in the country for several years, they obtainfirst-hand knowledge of Azerbaijan, make many friends and retain warm feelings towards a country that offered them such opportunity. The scholarship programme is one of the most important and effective programmes of AIDA. The Agency intends to expand this programme.
Azerbaijan is a country with large oil and gas reserves. Therefore our national policy includessearch for innovations in the oil and gas industry, quality trainings for professional and exchanges of expertise with other countries. In this respect, AIDA, in partnership with the Azerbaijani universities and research centers, organizes research programmes, capacity building courses and seminars in various areas, aimed at strengthening the human capital of developing countries.
Quite efficient are oil seminars regularly organized by the Agency.AIDA and the Scientific Research Institute “Geo-technological Problems of Oil, Gas and Chemistry” of the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy jointly organizetraining seminars on increasing oil production, in which participate representatives from many countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Such courses, which bring together specialists from across the world, are of high value. It is worth mentioning that leading Azerbaijani experts in oil and gas, along with prominent international academics, deliver lectures during the seminars. Notably, this course is evolving into a platform for international scientific collaboration and exchange of expertise in the oil and gas area. The seminar offers an excellent opportunity to freely share the expertise and knowledge in the oil and gas production.
In addition to the above projects and in strategic partnership with the Islamic Development Bank, AIDA is successfully carrying out cataract treatment campaigns within the programme “Alliance to Fight Avoidable Blindness”implementedin 9 African member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Benin, Guinea, Cameroon, Niger, Mali and Libya).Azerbaijani ophthalmologist surgeons regularly participate in these humanitarian campaigns. The campaigns help thousands of people to restore their sight,which opens the way for their involvement in labour activity.
These campaigns are among the most important activities of AIDA. They lead to the restoration of people’s sight. Hence, the work of AIDA promotes the spread of the image of Azerbaijan in aid-recipient countries.
On the above mentioned projects and programmes, AIDA partners with different government institution of Azerbaijan, including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Communications and High Technologies, Ministry of Economy and Industry, Ministry of Emergency Situations.

What about the most recent and effective project that was carried out by AIDA?

Recently, AIDA has carried out one of its unique projects aimed at improving lives of ordinary people in Pakistan. TheHeydar Aliyev Water Supply Scheme was implemented on the initiative and under the auspices of the First Lady of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, in the Tank district of the Dera Ismail Khan area of Pakistan. The Project was supported by AIDA and the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Pakistan.
The Heydar Aliyev Water Supply Scheme produces 150 tonnes of fresh water daily that is distributed to nearly 40,000 people in the area. It is also worth mentioning that prior to its installation the benefited population had no access to fresh water for centuries and had to use the collected rainwater.
And most recently, the AIDA donated humanitarian aid to flood affected people of South Punjab and Kashmir. The aid consisted of 3000 ration bags that was distributed in cities of Multan, Muzaffargarh, Leyyah, Mandi Baha-ud-din, Sargodha, Chiniot, Narowal, Sialkot, Hafizabadm Mizaffargarh and Bagh.

Dr. Shikhaliyev, thank you for such an interesting overview of AIDA’s activities. What are AIDA’s plans for the future?

Here I want to point out that the fruitful work and success of the Agency for over 3 years are quite evident. Although young, AIDA has a great potential and has done an immense capacity of work throughout its projects and activities. Thus, we will continue to contribute to the noble efforts of the international donor community in improving the lives of ordinary people around the globe by spreading knowledge, bringing development and prosperity to their societies.