Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the opening of “ASAN xidmet” center in Kurdamir12 february 2020, 14:30
Dear ASAN xidmet Center team, dear volunteers! Please accept my warm greetings and heartfelt congratulations on the opening of the Kurdamir center of “ASAN xidmet”.
As you know, by my order, this year has been declared a Year of Volunteers in Azerbaijan. This is evidence of the fact that the Azerbaijani state attaches great importance to the volunteer movement. The presentation I have just seen on the stands here once again shows how versatile the activities of Azerbaijani volunteers are.
The volunteer movement in our country essentially began at “ASAN xidmet” centers. The main objective was to ensure that young and talented residents of our country join this work and help our citizens, a volunteer movement is launched in Azerbaijan and serious progress is made in this area. The launch of “ASAN xidmet” centers essentially gave an impetus to the volunteer movement. Only after that did the volunteer movement and volunteer activity gain large proportions. Volunteers played a major role in the prestigious international competitions held in our country, including the inaugural European Games and the Games of Islamic Solidarity. They have contributed a lot to the successful hosting of these games. I see that the volunteer movement and volunteer activities have become even wider now. Volunteers are very active in the events on the theme of patriotism, environmental balance, as well as the fields of art, culture and others. At the same time, the activities of volunteers are very important in strengthening the international relations of our country. It is no coincidence that authoritative international organizations of the world, including the UN and other organizations, highly value both the activities of “ASAN xidmet” centers and the volunteer movement that has emerged and is developing in Azerbaijan.
In many countries, including Azerbaijan, there are organizations, structures and public associations uniting youth. However, I believe that the volunteer movement occupies a special place among these public organizations, because Azerbaijani volunteers are patriotic, educated and talented. They personify Azerbaijani youth and their talent. Because volunteering is essentially consistent with our national character. Charity, kindness, mutual assistance and good treatment are all inherent values recorded in our genetic code. Volunteers simply combine all these positive features and qualities inherent in our people and act as a holistic movement today. It is no coincidence that the volunteers in Azerbaijani society, including the “ASAN xidmet” centers, are treated with great respect. You as volunteers and employees of “ASAN xidmet” centers see and know this perfectly well. In fact, the activities of the “ASAN xidmet” centers and the discipline, culture and honesty prevailing here have become a major innovation in Azerbaijani society and a revolution in the field of public services. At the same time, it was rather unexpected for those applying to these centers because, unfortunately, public services had always been a problem in our country. Citizens had to spend days and weeks turning to one agency after another and experienced difficulties in having their fair demands met. Unfortunately, red tape, bribery, corruption and lack of culture were commonplace in the public services sector. Today, none of this is the case at “ASAN xidmet”. At the same time, the wonderful atmosphere at “ASAN xidmet” centers positively affects other areas of life in our country. Therefore, I appreciate the activities of both the volunteer movement and the “ASAN xidmet” centers. This is not just the provision of hundreds of services in one building – in essence, it is a new face of renewing Azerbaijan. This is another success of the modern state.
I want to say again that “ASAN xidmet” is a manifestation of all the positive qualities inherent in our people, as well as modernity, technology and innovation. Our country can succeed by developing in this direction. I have repeatedly said this but I want to say it again. In particular, I want to appeal to young people: in state building, in social processes and our reforms, the core values should be above all for us. The independent state of Azerbaijan is built on very deep national and spiritual values. At the same time, our state is modern and secular. It is ready to successfully go into the future and is open to international cooperation. A synthesis of all these factors is the key to our success. In particular, if young people are brought up in the national spirit, in the spirit of patriotism, then they will be able to adequately defend the interests of the country in the future.
Several important factors are needed to defend the interests of a country. First of all, there should be love of the motherland, attachment to the motherland and to the national roots. These are available in our society today, and it is up to you, the young people, to make sure that it is always the case because the future of our country will be in the hands of such modern, knowledgeable and talented young people as you. The development of Azerbaijan in 50, 100 years from now will depend on the activities and world outlook of young people like you, on the next generations. Therefore, we must pass on the values inherent in our people from one generation to another, not lose them, preserve them. In the current circumstances, it is not so easy because the world is globalizing and there are no boundaries to information. This is a positive fact in itself but, along with this, it there are no boundaries to disinformation either. Just five to six years ago, the concept of fake news did not exist. Now it is a reality and it is recognized by the heads of leading countries of the world. They have also suffered from that. On the one hand, the media overcome all borders and enter every country, which this is a positive fact. As you know, there is media freedom in Azerbaijan, the Internet is free, there is no censorship. But on the other hand, media provocations, false messages and news full of slander cross borders as well. We must be prepared for this, especially the young people. We must know that no-one is interested in our successful development more than we are ourselves. Our fate is in our hands. We have been living as an independent country for about 30 years, and independence is the most valuable asset. Therefore, national values, independence and modernity are the most important factors for our further development. We must be far from dogmatism, which is the main obstacle to any society.
We have our own path of strategic development – to protect our national values, to strengthen our independence, not to depend on anyone and not to be managed by anyone. A successful socioeconomic development, security, stability, openness to the world and protection of national interests. This is our strategic course. It remains, will and must remain unchanged.
But we can’t lock ourselves up, so to speak. The processes taking place in the world and in our region affect us, of course. Unfortunately, the processes in our region are developing in a negative direction and we are seeing that. New hotbeds of conflict and confrontation, wars, civil wars – all these negative trends, including the crisis in the world experienced in the economic sphere, can and do affect us. Therefore, by carefully monitoring the processes taking place in the world, we should take our own steps, including tactical ones, in accordance with this. Considering the fact that there are no risks inside the country – political, social, economic, physical – all potential problems can come from outside. Both ideological provocations, as I have already mentioned, and other provocations. Therefore, we must defend our country and our borders. We must erect strong informational and spiritual borders so that not a single outside force can create obstacles to our national and spiritual values, independence and further successful development. As long as remain in this position, Azerbaijan will follow the path of independence, freedom and development. We must try to ensure that future generations and young people build their activities in this direction, do not succumb to provocations and do not believe false reports of some international organizations. They are underpinned by very serious political interests. Why does Azerbaijan sometimes face international pressure? Because we don’t bow to anyone and never will! We do not act on someone's directions and do the right thing. This is why there is stability, development and tranquility in our country.
Look at other countries. They have fallen under the influence of large states. Look at the condition they are in. There are civil wars and public disobedience there. Political and economic crises continue in these countries. Such countries are actually under external control and have given their independence to someone else. We are pursuing a dignified policy. I have always said that the fate of the people, the fate of the Azerbaijan state is in the hands of our own people. Finally, we live as an independent state and are not dependent on anyone. But we know our story perfectly well. Even the history of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was rather unequivocal. The formation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic is a historic event and a source of pride for us because it was the Azerbaijani people who created a democratic republic for the first time in the Muslim world, adopted laws, plans and intentions that determined the successful development of our country. However, it is also true that for two years the Azerbaijani government could not completely control its territory. It is also true that a foreign expeditionary corps that did not recognize the power of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic ruled Baku. Its leaders had to hold discussions with the expeditionary generals to pursue an independent policy. This process was also fraught with major difficulties.
Therefore, the present-day independent Azerbaijan cannot be compared with any period. Not with a single one. There was no such independent and free state in the history of Azerbaijan. Historians know this perfectly well. And we must appreciate that.
In 1991, we were granted a fateful chance. We could have missed it and we essentially did because the processes that took place in the early 1990s were leading our country to a precipice. But after Heydar Aliyev came to power in Azerbaijan, our country got rid of all these troubles and embarked on a path of development, a path of independence. We are going down this path now and will continue to do so.
Today, in a meeting with you at the opening of the “ASAN xidmet” center, I simply wanted to share these thoughts with you. I want you to know my opinion and the Azerbaijani people to hear once again what our intentions are, what our politics are and what our path is. I want to say again that the “ASAN xidmet” centers have ushered very serious positive changes in our country. This was a manifestation of our intentions and policy. When the first centers were opened, it seemed to people that this was just another project intended for people’s comfort, a project of services. At that time, many may not have understood that this was not just a project, but a policy, an action, an intention. Just have a look – reforms are under way in all spheres of life in Azerbaijan today, in political and economic spheres, structural and personnel reforms. The Cabinet of Ministers and the Presidential Administration have been reformed. The parliament is being reformed. A few days ago, parliamentary elections were held in Azerbaijan. Transparency is being ensured in the economic sphere. Due to this transparency, the state treasury received more than one billion manats last year alone, and these funds, every single gapik, were spent on raising people’s pensions and salaries. In January this year, the treasury received over 160 million manats in excess of the forecast. We will spend all these funds on social projects. 160 million manats a month, and if multiplied by 12 months – although a simple approach is not possible here – at least this is a trend.
All this work makes our country stronger. The parliamentary elections have once again shown that our intention is to ensure democratic development. Because even the organizations that had always been critical of us, had to acknowledge positive trends in their election-related reports. As far as violations are concerned, they noted that those were procedural in nature. In other words, they are observed in any country. No country can hold a perfect election. In the latest elections, there was no fraud, no serious irregularities or violations that would cast doubt on the legitimacy or results of the elections.
The vast majority of observers rated the election very positively. Some noted that they could serve as an example for many countries. I believe that the report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which has always displayed a biased attitude towards us, was also balanced and more objective in comparison with previous times. Of course, we cannot agree with certain questions but I think that the overall conclusion of the report was closer to objectivity. We have stated that the existing violations would be seriously investigated, that those who committed them would be punished and that we would continue our activities and cooperation with all international organizations in this direction.
There were more than 1,300 candidates this time. This is a record figure. It shows that the elections were held in a competitive environment. If an average of 10 people participate in the elections in one district, isn't that competition? The final report says there was no competition. Then what is competition after all? Each candidate held open meetings in their constituency, said what they wanted, some criticized the authorities. No-one put up any obstacles. Then what is open competition? Why is the “freedom of assembly wasn’t ensured” phrase always used in relation to us? This is a lie, it was fully provided. Everyone can exercise the freedom of assembly in appropriate places but within the framework of law now. Just as in other countries.
Therefore, the electoral process met all democratic criteria. No-one can say that there were irregularities in the electoral process. I believe that the elections were positive on voting day too. If there were violations, I want to say again, they will be investigated. I know that the Central Election Commission has already started working hard. We are collecting information from the ground. We don’t want any violations. Those who have committed violations must be punished so that such situations do not recur in the future. There is absolutely no need for that because, I am saying this with all honesty, there is no alternative to our policy in Azerbaijan today. There is no political force that would to some extent win the sympathy of the people, and the current elections showed this once again. Our policy meets the interests of the absolute majority of the people and the work we have done is obvious. Therefore, the reforms carried out in all these areas are producing effect. Another stage of the reforms began in 2018. After the presidential election, I announced that we were entering a new phase. Our consistent activities in this direction were continued and the issues I have mentioned are proof of this.
I meet with young people on a regular basis. Every time I meet with young people, I am very delighted that the Azerbaijani youth is patriotic, knowledgeable, educated and beautiful. I wish you success. Your activities begin and continue at “ASAN xidmet”. This is a great school. I am sure that the knowledge accumulated here will help you in the future and you will have a say in the further development of our country. I congratulate you once again and wish you success. Thank you!