“In 2008, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev put forward the initiative to create a “bridge” for dialogue between different cultural societies, religions, civilizations,” the minister said. “This initiative found a response among organizations within the UN system: UNESCO, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC). We have established cooperation and the World Forum has already been held four times in Baku.”
Garayev noted that Azerbaijan began cooperation with the UNAOC since the establishment of this organization and is a member of the group of friends of the Alliance. Azerbaijan also provided periodic financial assistance for the implementation of Alliance projects, he said.
“However, partnership in holding the Baku World Forum of Intercultural Dialogue became the main and logical result of the cooperation,” said Garayev.
He noted that Azerbaijan as a country with traditions of tolerance, coexistence and joint development of layers within one society turned out to be a place where people from different cultural sectors of society come with pleasure and interest.
“We intend to continue our participation in the UNAOC, we announced about the preparation for the next Baku Forum and gave full information about the Baku Process,” he said. “A special “think tank” [project group] was created with a scientific base at Coventry University in the UK, where there is the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR), which took over the scientific development.”
“This group includes representatives of all international organizations and the government of Azerbaijan, which have been together developing an agenda for two years, and thus each following forum becomes a step forward and gives impetus to the implementation of some new program,” he noted.
Garayev noted that the success of the Baku Forum is that each international organization has its own vision, which is united under the umbrella of interest in the contact of civilizations and cultures.
“Next year, on June 30-July 10, Baku will host a regular meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee,” he said. “New proposals will be considered for inclusion in the World Heritage List. This is also a form of respect for cultures, forms of perception and understanding of the value of architectural, natural monuments - everything that we are rich in. There should be no division into nations, traditions, religions, and humanity is interested in preserving the most decent heritage so that our planet would have its own history.”
He noted that Azerbaijan is the place where respect for traditions is successfully combined with the opportunity to fulfill oneself in a new cultural space.
“If a state keeps traditions and gives an opportunity to develop and strive for progress to a new generation, then the state could find a synthesis of different views, and this is intercultural dialogue,” he said. “Intercultural dialogue is not necessarily a dialogue between different nations or religions, it is a dialogue between generations, worldviews.”
Garayev also said that all conditions have been created in Azerbaijan for the free exchange of information.
“There is an opportunity to freely express opinions online,” said the minister. “It stimulates both the creative process, the accelerated exchange of information between people and creative opportunities. Basically, this is a subject of interest of public organizations and independent creators. But we, as a state, do our best to help.”
Garayev noted that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation is very active in Azerbaijan, which promotes Azerbaijani culture in all its expressions - from traditional to megaprojects based on modern technologies.
He added that there are departments in the government that are engaged in innovative programs and startups for young people, there is a public organization, the name of which can be translated from Azerbaijani as “Create!” (YARAT!), the purpose of which is to conduct educational programs for young people interested in contemporary art.
“This is a new form of culture, it is inevitable, because modern technologies have created conditions for self-expression in a wide variety of forms,” the minister said.