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Relationship between Azerbaijan and U.N has become much more of partnership PDF Print E-mail

Azerbaijan has become increasingly visible on international scene

Exclusive interview with the UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Bruno Pouezat

Baku, Hafta Ichi daily, December 24, 2009 - We had interviews with ambassadors, heads of offices of international organizations to focus both on political and business matters and on personal life. But we have never had an interview with UN Resident Coordinator Mr.Bruno Pouezat. We asked for an interview and though he was really busy, after a short while, we got an appointment. Taking this opportunity, we had an interview both about politics and personal life. Mr.Pouezat started the conversation about his job, and the role he played among organizations he represented.
 

 



  • If you remember the U.N has been created to address peace and security on the one hand and development on the other. My functions focus on development. I’m the Resident Coordinator of the U.N in Azerbaijan. Of course I’m interested as well in political dimension of the relationship between Azerbaijan and U.N. But for the political relations I’m only an observer. I don’t intend to be an expert and I don’t have formal responsibility. But as an observer what I have noticed living in Azerbaijan for the past 3 years is that Azerbaijan has become increasingly visible on the international scene. It has successfully developed the network of its Ambassadors abroad; this reflects in Azerbaijan’s better communication and engagement in international organizations and the support of various international projects. The change I’ve observed over the past three years is that relationship between Azerbaijan and the U.N has become much more of partnership than it used to be originally. Azerbaijan was a recipient of assistance and the country is now moving increasingly towards becoming a donor on the international scene. For example, the U.N has supported Azerbaijan’s National Mine Action Agency (ANAMA) from the day it was established in 1999.. Initially, most of the experts were international. Today, all the experts are from Azerbaijan. Initially, the Agency was receiving support from donors, today the UN is trying to promote ANAMA as a source of expertise for the demining activities and for the training of deminers around the world.
  • Since you touched a concrete programme, what other programs you have been implementing during your tenure in the country?
  • The UN’s main goal is to strengthen national development. After the country gained its independence and U.N Baku office opened in 1992 general dynamics of the needs changed. In 1992-1994 Azerbaijan had to face large-scale destruction because of the conflict, because of the flooding of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people pushed out of the occupied territories and all of these people required immediate humanitarian assistance. And that was the first focus of activity of all United Nations agencies in their early years of operation in the country. In those early years, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for instance, provided assistance for transportation of IDPs, for temporary housing, for bedding, blankets, cooking utensils, immediate needs for food and non-food product. The World Food Program provided food assistance to literally half a million people. We estimate that over the years the WFP has provided 160 thousand tons of food to IDPs. Imagine that 16 thousand trucks lined up along the highway coming to Azerbaijan to feed the people. At the same time UNICEF, child agency of the United Nations, played special role in the provision of immediate health services such as immunization, for children and their mothers among the internally displaced population. UNDP, the World Bank, UNHCR worked together to help Government of Azerbaijan to establish Azerbaijan Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (ARRA) which had the mandate for coordination of assistance for reconstruction work. Naturally, as the political and economic situation stabilized, the needs of Azerbaijan started changing. U.N agencies responded with different form of assistance. Increasingly, U.N experts have brought to Azerbaijan expertise rather than funding. Over the years as Azerbaijan has become wealthier and as other donors have left the country, Azerbaijan itself became the primary source of funds for some international projects. At present, 16 United Nations are active in Azerbaijan, have continuing activities in Azerbaijan. This is a very diverse group. So, it is difficult to give brief description of all of the activities of so many agencies. Sometimes we are the proudest when our contributions have been totally integrated into the activities of the Government and civil society organizations of Azerbaijan. For instance, when a retired person collects his or her pension from automated tele-machine at a bank, this is the result of the efforts by the official Baku with support from the World Bank and UNDP.
  • By the way, how much money has been spent by the UN and for what after Azerbaijan’s accession to the UN?
  • It is a very difficult question to answer because there are so many different actors and there are also so many types of assistance. If you look at 3 agencies that provide credits, loans to Azerbaijan the World Bank, IMF and IFAD, the World Bank has provided more than 2.6 billion USD of credit all together of which 1.8 billion has actually been disbursed. The IMF has provided assistance with around 500 million USD, of that 400 million USD had already been reimbursed by the Government. And IFAD has also provided loans around 100 million USD all together mostly for the development of irrigation system. If you look at the technical assistance grant-giving organizations, UNDP has provided around 100 million USD, the High Commissioner for Refuges - around 70 million USD and the WFP around 100 million. Then since 1992–1993 the U.N system has provided around 3 billion USD worth of loans to Azerbaijan and about 350 million USD worth of grant, technical assistance. This doesn’t include the value of the expertise provided by all these agencies over the years. We have also received financial contributions from the large group of donors, some bilateral donors, member-states such as, Norway, EU in recent years but also private sectors, organizations such as BP, Statoil and other. For the next 5 years the technical assistance agencies are now finalizing their program which should be approved by the Government of Azerbaijan in the next few months. And we expect that over the 5 years in 2011–2015 the UN agencies will provide around 90 million USD in grant technical assistance.
  • By the way, I wonder, how, as the UN, do you monitor the expenditures?
  • My responsibility is to ensure that the activities of the United Nations are coordinated closely with the national priorities expressed by the Government. So, personally I don’t have the responsibility to monitor the disbursement of funds. Of course, the Government of Azerbaijan does that. Because such issues are envisaged under agreements signed between the United Nations agencies and the Government. Generally, it is very important for us to be accountable for the resources entrusted. To this end, every project is monitored by the Government and the appropriate donor.
  • Let’s talk a bit about Karabakh. Why does the U.N remain aside? Why the OSCE Minsk Group is charged with the principal mediation role?
  • I don't think it's fair to say the United Nations remains aside from the negotiations. The negotiations, as they are progressing, are all exclusively based principles outlined in the 4 resolutions of the Security Council dating back to 1993. The concerned governments, Azerbaijan and Armenia, then decided to ask the Minsk group to support the negotiations process. But these negotiations as I mentioned are based on those U.N Security Council.
  • The main point is that none of these resolutions has been implemented. So, we wish the U.N be equally responsible for the implementation of decisions?
  • I don’t agree with this opinion. Because the resolutions are being implemented. They have provided the legal framework for the ongoing negotiations. I certainly wish, like everyone, that the negotiations would move faster so that we see the positive results soon. If this happens, I wish that the people of Azerbaijan be able, as was instructed under the resolutions, to return to their homes and resume their lives on the own land in the occupied territories. The resolutions also instructed the agencies of U.N to support the humanitarian needs of the IDPs. As I explained earlier this was a sizable program of assistance. Of course, all of the U.N agencies are prepared for the day when the negotiations have successfully been concluded and allowed the return of the internally displaced to return to their houses and we will provide assistance to the government for meeting their needs. The most important point is that the U.N has reaffirmed the inviolability of the state borders and the right of the people of Azerbaijan to return to their homes in the occupied territories.
  • In the world media and in certain political circles, the UN is said to be under control of big powers. The very fact of non-implementation of these resolutions is linked to the interests of those powers. What’s your attitude towards this issue?
  • As I said, my mandate is development not politics and this is a political question. I have been spectator in meetings of the General Assembly and in meetings of the Security Council. U.N is the only place in the world where every country has its own seat, and that seat is of the same size with that of other countries. As a result, the UN is an inevitable forum where all global issues are discussed and agreed. As an example we can refer to last week’s negotiations at Copenhagen summit on climate change. The U.N is a human invention. It needs to be regularly improved. It is Azerbaijan’s United Nations as much as it is the United Nations of the United States.
  • Then, why the Security Council is represented only by 5 permanent members? Why the number of permanent members of the UN Security Council is not increased and why it is not possible to replace the current permanent members? Today there is an increasing number of powerful countries like Japan, Germany to ensure international security?
  • This is the best example of the need of reform in the United Nations. By the way, this issue has been under discussion in U.N for a number of years already. It is a bit like the story of the U.N Headquarters. It has been remained as it was built for many years. They said you cannot restore it.But one day the question was raised and the member states agreed to pay the price and it is now under complete renovation and reconstruction. We should have the same hopes about the “architecture” of the U.N.
  • What would you do if you were the U.N Secretary General?
  • (smiling) I should be grateful that I’m not a Secretary General. The Secretary General is a secretary for member states. The reform of the UN Security Council has been on the work plan of a number of Secretary Generals already. If I were the Secretary General I would do exactly the same that the previous SGs did in recent years: request expert opinions, call meetings and ask the member-states to address problems.
  • Before coming to Azerbaijan what did you know about this country and what were your impressions when you arrived?
  • Before I was appointed here I knew nothing about Azerbaijan. So I was obviously, very pleasantly surprised when I arrived in Azerbaijan, when I discovered Baku, the natural beauty of the country, the culture that you discover on the streets of Baku and the seashore. I’ve visited obviously the North from Guba all the way to Sheki.. I have gone down south to Lankaran, and I’ve gone to the West, Ganca, and the front line. I’ve been particularly impressed by Sheki which I think is an absolute jewel with the “Sheki Xan Palace” in the middle, very impressive ensemble; it’s not only the palace, it is the the mountain, the city and the Palace in the middle. Of course, I did not travel a smuch as I would have liked. I’ve been extremely impressed by the variety of Azerbaijan that stretches from the desert to the permanent snow on top of the Caucasus, from the Caspian Sea to Xinaliq and there is enormous range of different climates, with different vegetation and different cultures that are really national treasure. In addition, I am impressed by the culture of Azerbaijan, particularly, the music, from Mugham to jazz including classic music. Azerbaijan has internationally known composers and performers.
  • Did you like Azerbaijani cuisine, what did you eat and drink?
  • What I find most enjoyable about Azerbaijan cuisine is the ingredients, fruit, vegetable and meat, particularly, lamb. In Azerbaijan, every fruit and vegetable has its own season and during this short period you can have the true taste.
  • Has there ever been a situation that you had to cook dinner on your own?
  • I’m sadly out of practice lately. But I look forward to the holidays and my wife invites me to the kitchen.
  • You have talked about fruit and vegetables, so you should go to bazaar and choose them. Do you do shopping yourself?
  • I visited “Taza Bazaar” on my first day in Baku. I don’t go very often but I always go back with pleasure. I also like when we travel outside of Baku to stop by the side of the road and buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are being sold by the farmers on the road side. I know they are fresh.
  • It’s really interesting to know. Normally, officials and VIPs when go to public places they are recognized and treated differently. Have you ever felt anything about this?
  • I’m really grateful for the fact that people, if they do recognize me on the street, do not change their attitude because of that. Because I live in Baku like anybody else. I can go in the shops, cinema, concerts like everyone and has never confronted any discomfort.
  • In the end, what personal and career objectives would you like to realize?
  • I would not say plan, I have dreams. Why do I work for the U.N? Because I believe in the ideals of the organization. One of them is to improve the lives of people all around the world. I’ve been working in this organization for 20 years and this remains one of my key goals. This is also one of my future career objectives.
 
 

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