The 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations has officially opened in Baku today.
The event, which motto is 'Living together in inclusive societies: a challenge and a goal', is attended by about 2000 guests, including heads of state, UN member governments, political leaders, representatives of international and regional organizations, the private sector, media, foundations, academies, partnerships structures. They will take part in 30 different sessions, following which the Baku Declaration will be adopted.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev noted that the fact that Baku hosts this event is a sign of recognition of the republic's achievements and promotion of values of intercultural dialogue and multiculturalism.
The President also thanked the founding fathers of the alliance, Turkey and Spain, President Erdogan and the former Prime Minister Zapatero, for ‘this extremely important initiative’, which was supported by the international community.
"I'd also like to express my gratitude to UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, for his leadership, contribution and promotion of peace, solidarity and friendship," the President said.
Ilham Aliyev noted that Azerbaijan is proud to have representatives of more than 140 countries gather in Baku to address the important issues of the alliance of civilizations. "Religious tolerance, multiculturalism were always present here. There was no such word ‘multiculturalism’, but the idea were always present," he stressed.
As a result, Azerbaijan today is a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional country, where representatives of all religions and ethnic groups live with dignity and in peace. "This is one of our biggest achievements, and we are proud of our history. We are proud of our historical monuments, which reflect the influence of different cultures," the President said.
President reminded that one of the oldest mosques in the world, which was built in 743, is situated in Azerbaijani city of Shemakha. Also, one of the oldest churches in the Caucasus, the ancient church of the ancient state of Caucasian Albania, is also situated in Azerbaijan, close to another ancient city of Sheki.
The President said the Azerbaijani government invests in the construction and renovation of mosques, orthodox and catholic churches, synagogues. "This is our policy and this is our lifestyle. For centuries, Azerbaijan is preserving this heritage, regardless of the political or social situation in the country," he stressed.
The President noted that Azerbaijan is relatively young as an independent country, only 25 years old, at the same time it has deep historical and cultural roots. "Multiculturalism for us is a state policy. We organize different events, addressing this important issue," Ilham Aliyev said.
The head of state reminded that the Intercultural Dialogue Forum takes place in Azerbaijan every two years. Another event that Baku hosts on a regular basis is the International Humanitarian Forum. The main idea of these events is to bring the representatives of different religions together and to establish better understanding between us.
Azerbaijan also hosted the World Summit of Religious Leaders, which addressed important issues of inter-religious dialogue. "I think today this is one of the most important topics on the global agenda," he said.
"Unfortunately, we see some very concerning trends in our region, in Europe, in the Middle East, in the former Soviet republics. We see clashes, confrontations, based on ethnic and religious grounds," the President said.
"I think that the UNAOC 7th Global Forum in Baku will address these issues and will contribute to the cause of solidarity, peace, mutual understanding and partnership," Ilham Aliyev concluded.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed guests and participants of the forum in a video address. "I appreciate the hospitality of President Ilham Aliyev, the government of Azerbaijan and welcome the team of the forum," he said.
According to the Secretary General, the mankind lives at a time of great crises. "Many people were forced to flee their homes. Many escaped violence, extremism and prosecution," Ban Ki-moon said.
The Secretary General stressed that the United Nations is promoting the settlement of disputes, conflicts and consolidate peace. "We are focused on conflict prevention by tackling the root causes of conflicts," he said.
Ban Ki-moon said that the General Assembly has welcomed the United Nations Plan of Action to prevent violence and extremism. "This phenomenon is not rooted in any single religion, or nationality and these stereotypes are dangerous and destabilizing," he concluded.
A political scientist and MP of the Azerbaijani Majlis, Rasim Musabekov, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that Baku was chosen as the venue for this forum is not accidental, "because multiculturalism and the dialogue of cultures is a very important priority of domestic and foreign policy of Azerbaijan". "The Republic is at the crossroads of East and West, North and South, Christian and Muslim civilizations. Finally, I think that it is important for Azerbaijan that more than a thousand politicians, public figures, experts, will come here. They will see how much progress Azerbaijan has acheived during the years of independence, see how tolerant our capital city is, and hear about the problems that concern Azerbaijan, first of all, the unresolved conflict in Karabakh," he said.
Speaking about the agenda of the forum, the MP expressed an opinion that "there are risks, first of all, associated with terrorism, in particular, with terrorist activities of Daesh". There is need "to conduct the dialogue of cultures, religions, and no religions should be associated with terrorism. On the contrary, all of the world religions call for peace and a dialogue. In any case, I cannot say that the agenda of the forum has significantly changed since the first forum," Rasim Musabekov concluded.
Writer Chingiz Abdullayev said that this forum is of great importance for Azerbaijan, "given the fact that we had an unfortunate incident with the neighboring state in early April". "It is known that the neighboring state opposed the forum, but, fortunately, all the world leaders have come to our country," he said.
"We believe that it is a direct support of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. I always say in such cases that we should look at the map. Not a single inch of the neighboring country has been captured by Azerbaijan. I think this is so obvious that it is recognized by the whole world. The only thing we want is to restore our territorial integrity," Abdullayev stressed.
"Therefore, holding such a forum is symbolic and logical. Azerbaijan has achieved great successes in multiculturalism. As you know, we did not close any of the Russian schools in Azerbaijan. Almost 18 thousand students study in Russian. And our president even taught at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Affairs in Russian," the writer recalled.
"Heads of state, heads of major organizations visit Baku and see the situation in the country with their own eyes and understand that the armed conflict must be ended. We hope that Azerbaijan and Armenia will be able to live as neighbors," he hopes.
According to the expert, the agenda includes several issues. "I think that one will be multiculturalism. But of course, in the first place, they will discuss terrorism," said Chingiz Abdullayev.