Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture "Intercultural dialogue as a basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighbouring regions"

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Speech by Abulfas Garayev, Minister and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Dear Guests!
Ladies and Gentleman!

We are now moving from the theoretical framework to the practice of dialogue which is the core objective of Baku cooperation process in the framework of White paper . This is, therefore, the right time for us to discuss the requirements of cultural dialogue not only in Europe but also with its neighboring regions.

After the adoption and launch of the “White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue”, this conference even which offers an important opportunity for discussions at ministerial level on the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law through intercultural dialogue and cultural policy and to create new mutual contacts and to exchange mutual cultures.

I would like to thank to the Council of Europe for preparing outstanding document as named White paper which promotes transparency and honesty in all aspect of dialogue. The White Paper responds to an increasing demand to clarify how intercultural dialogue may help appreciate diversity while sustaining social cohesion. It seeks to provide a conceptual framework and a guide for policy-makers and practitioners.

Intercultural strategy of Azerbaijan.

Strategy of Azerbaijan on intercultural dialog is mainly directed to supporting and protecting of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is not only a fact and right to be protected, but also an economic, social and political plus, which to be developed and adequately managed. Protection, promotion and maintenance of cultural diversity are factors of human development and and manifestation of human liberty, and they are an essential requirement for sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations. Cultural diversity of country is a rich asset for individuals and societies.
All groups, minorities, communities living in Azerbaijan compose the social base of Azerbaijan people. That is why, activities of Government and nongovernmental organizations to be aimed for establishing social equality and protecting their right in the public life of country.

All of us are aware that the normal development of society also depends on mutual understanding among different nations and representatives of different cultures, as well as state and its citizens.

Intercultural dialog is also linked with the level of development of economy in our country. Because one of the priorities of state policy of Azerbaijan is using its economic growth and increasing income for the development of culture and intercultural dialog and supporting of intercultural initiatives of different groups and communities as well as NGOs acting in this field.

Activities is being realized by Government and nongovernmental organizations aimed to protect the cultural rights of different groups, minorities and nations. As outlined in the Constitution and in the Law on Culture, the national cultural policy is based on the principles of equal opportunities to create and use cultural values and to preserve the heritage in Azerbaijan. Every person has the right to create, use and disseminate cultural values, irrespective of their social and material status, nationality, race, religion and gender.

The problems of the dialogue among civilizations, protection of cultural rights and fundamental freedoms, guarantee of respect to cultural diversity and cultural heritage, the right of everybody to preservation and development of his own cultural heritage in the framework of his society, assistance to historical and cultural tourism are always in the focus of the attention of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The project and programmes realizing in the area of intercultural dialog help us:

- to identify differences and similarities of different cultural traditions and perceptions,
- to share best practice particularly in the areas of intercultural dialog, the democratic management of social diversity and the promotion of social cohesion
- To help managing cultural diversity in a democratic manner by making the necessary adjustments to existing social and political arrangements in all kinds
- To bridge the divide between those who perceive diversity as a threat, and those who see it as a enrichment
- To improve the ability of finding common language for understanding and respecting cultural differences…

Once in every two year we organize Festival of National Minorities living in Azerbajan. We are planining to organize International Festifal for Minorities next year. It is also another contribution for the of promotion intercultural dialogue.

Azerbaijan participates in a series of multilateral cultural projects. Co-operation with the Council of Europe (CoE) is one of the key elements of our foreign cultural policy. We have been realizing The Kyiv Initiative Regional Programme (KI) for the Black sea region and South Caucasus since 2006. In response to this initiative and the recommendations stemming from the STAGE project, the Secretariat of the Council of Europe, jointly with participating countries, identified the objectives and defined the conditions for their realisation. It implements, in the framework of the KI, multilateral projects such as Heritage Management, Wine Culture Tourism Exchange (WCTE), Alexander Dumas Route/Cultural Routes, Cross-Border Cinema Culture (CBCC), Cultural Policy and Exchanges. The project Alexander Dumas Route in the Caucasus, initiated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan, is of particular interest. The Project is realized with the participation of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Dagestan Republic of the Russian Federation and supported by France, with methodical support from the Luxemburg European Institute of Cultural Routes.

We have very good cooperation with UNESCO, ISESCO, TURKSOY, GUAM and etc international organizations. At the 5th Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers (Tripoli, 21-23 Nov1/2007), the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Baku was proclaimed Islamic Culture Capital for 2009. The programme of activities for 2009 includes holding different international and national official, scientific-practical, educational-training, arts and cultural-tourism events, film-festivals, book fairs, projects on the protection of Islamic cultural heritage, culture days and etc.