Vol. 5, No. 10 (May 15, 2012)

Azerbaijan and OSCE: 20 years of cooperation

Ambassador Koray Targay
Head of the OSCE Office in Baku

The year of 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s membership in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Baku having joined the OSCE on January 30, 1992.  

The history of OSCE

Our organization traces its origins to the détente period of the early 1970s, when the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) was created to serve as a multilateral forum for dialogue and negotiation between East and West.  After meetings lasting more than two years in Helsinki and Geneva, the CSCE reached agreement on the Helsinki Final Act, which was signed on 1 August 1975.  This document contained a number of key commitments on politico-military, economic and environmental and human rights issues that became central to the so-called Helsinki Process.  It also established ten fundamental principles (the Decalogue) governing the behavior of States toward their citizens, as well as toward each other.

Until 1990, the CSCE functioned mainly as a series of meetings and conferences that built on and extended the participating States’ commitments, while periodically reviewing their implementation.  However, with the end of the Cold War, the Paris Summit of November 1990 set the CSCE on a new course.  In the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, the CSCE was called upon to play its part in managing the historic change taking place in Europe and responding to the new challenges of the post-Cold War period, which led to its acquiring permanent institutions and operational capabilities.

As part of this institutionalization process, the name of the organization was changed from the CSCE to the OSCE by a decision of the Budapest Summit of Heads of State or Government in December 1994.

Azerbaijan as an important actor

Azerbaijan is a young democracy, which restored its independence on 18 October 1991.  Since then, six presidential, four parliamentary and three municipal elections have been held in Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijan has achieved remarkable political stability and high economic growth, developing the energy sector, and generating high revenues from oil and gas exports.  Azerbaijan reduced the poverty rate from 49% in 2001 to 11% in 2009, scored a record 35% GDP growth in 2007, followed by a consistent growth trend henceforth.  These developments have naturally heightened Azerbaijan’s international commitments also adding substantially to the challenges in the local environment involving the work of OSCE.

Establishment of the OSCE Office in Baku

Almost 12 years have passed since July 2000, when the OSCE Office in Baku (the Office) began operations in Azerbaijan, based on OSCE Permanent Council Decision No. 318 dated 16 November 1999.  During this decade, Azerbaijan has experienced significant political, social and economic developments, and the Office has implemented its mandate in all three OSCE dimensions of security and stability in response to emerging local needs and requirements.  Specifically, the Office promotes the implementation of all OSCE principles and commitments; co-operates with the Government of Azerbaijan; co-ordinates activities with the Chairman-in-Office and other OSCE institutions; establishes and maintains contacts with local authorities, political parties, other international actors, non-governmental organizations, mass media, universities and research institutes.

What we do

The Office possesses a broad mandate, which covers major areas of concern in all OSCE dimensions including the human, political, economic and environmental aspects of security and stability.  The OSCE Office in Baku must not be identified with the “Minsk Group” Office, which represents the OSCE Chairman-in-Office in issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The political projects under the first dimension support the Government’s reforms of law enforcement, including community policing, border control and public assembly management, and major update and revision of basic police training; as well as combating terrorism, organized crime, corruption and trafficking in human beings.  The Office implemented a five-year project to assist in the modernization of police training, which culminated in adoption of the new curriculum extending basic police training from three months to six.  Likewise, the Office supports the Azerbaijani Police with training on modern crowd control methods since six years.

In the Economic and Environmental dimension, fast economic development has shifted the focus to supporting initiatives by the Government and the international community for strengthening good governance, promoting transparency and fostering Small- and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) development.  The Office has also succeeded in highlighting the major environmental concerns in Azerbaijan including water management, access to environmental information, environmental education, as well as energy policy dialogue, including renewable energy. 

The Office’s Human Dimension activities have demonstrated particular dynamism, encompassing achievements in both the Rule of Law and Democratization.  The Rule of Law and Human Rights programme supports legal and judicial reforms throughout the Country.  This includes conducting trial and detention monitoring, capacity building for legal professionals, authorities and civil society, as well as increasing awareness about mechanisms to ensure full exercise of human rights. 

Since it was established in 2006, the Democratization program has made strides in the environments of media freedom, election administration and democratic governance.  It has established close, productive working relationships with major Government partners, including the Presidential Administration, Parliament and the Central Election Commission, while expanding the capacities of civil society and media, especially the public broadcaster ITV.  Furthermore, it has been a key developer of crucial pending and adopted legislation, such as the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence, amendments to the Election Code, the Law on Access to Information and the decriminalization of defamation.

During the past decade, in response to the growing national requirements and successful co-operation with the Government and the civil society, the Office expanded multi-fold, generating a budget growth from €595,500 to €2,826,000 per year; the number of international staff from five to twelve presently, representing eight different OSCE participating States, and relying on the fine work of 27 national staff members, up from five in 2000.  I am the sixth Head of the OSCE Office in Baku, succeeding previous Ambassadors from Turkey, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

In conclusion

The National Security Concept of Azerbaijan identified democratic development of the country and its integration into the Euro-Atlantic area as the strategic choice.  I am convinced this is the path that Azerbaijan does and will pursue.  Our duty is to support this Country in its democratization efforts through the capacity building activities, supporting legislative reforms, bringing best practises from other participating States and so on.  I am sure that Azerbaijan has all the intellectual human resources to make serious achievements in the nearest future.  Our aim is to assist and stand by the Azerbaijani nation to shorten the way it needs for reaching the set targets.