UNICEF in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a resource-rich upper-middle-income country that is fast approaching high-income status. In 2014, its population stood at 9,477,000 people, with 26.9 per cent of them children. The unresolved conflict in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan has displaced approximately 7.4 per cent of people including children. The country experienced significant growth in the last decade, owing to oil and gas revenues, which account for 95 per cent of its exports and 75 per cent of Government income.
UNICEF came to Azerbaijan in 1993, facing an army of refugees and internally displaced people in the wake of the Karabakh conflict and the collapsed economy of the transition period. Its first programmes were devised not only to address national development priorities, but also deal with immediate humanitarian needs. UNICEF’s first country programme for 1995-1999 focused on such urgent needs as immunisation, health, rehabilitation, nutrition, education and child protection.
Here and now
While previously UNICEF’s activities impacted a few thousand children through direct assistance, today the organization strives to bring about systemic change and touch the lives of all of Azerbaijan’s children. Certainly they deserve a better life. The 21st century will be a great time of unprecedented opportunity. Whether all of Azerbaijan’s children can benefit from this depends on building a powerful coalition comprised of UNICEF, state agencies, local communities, other international organizations, and the private sector.
In this challenging environment it’s necessary to have a social and legal system in place to protect the rights of children, especially those on the margins of society --families struggling to subsist, and those containing children with disabilities. This is the proven way to guarantee a more equitable and balanced social development.
Some people consider oil and natural gas to be Azerbaijan’s leading natural resources. Make no mistake, however: children are by far any country’s greatest resource and asset, and they need to be protected, strengthened, and developed.
The UNICEF Country Programme for 2016-2020 will support Azerbaijan in its efforts to accelerate the realization of children’s rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to contribute to the results related to child and adolescent rights stipulated in the “Azerbaijan 2020: Look in the Future” Concept of Development, as well as other sectoral policies and strategies.
The programme will also be based on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.