Hunger in AzerbaijanHunger in Azerbaijan has been widespread for the last three decades. The country is located to the south of Russia, to the west of the Caspian Sea and to the east of Armenia. Saida Verdiyeva, a mother of two, lives in Toganali, a village in northwest Azerbaijan. Verdiyeva fears that social-distancing measures, which her government established in response to COVID-19, will make it impossible for her to feed herself and her two children.

In October 1991, two months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan declared its independence from the soviet block. The subsequent years of economic turmoil in her country led to widespread poverty and hunger in Azerbaijan.

Degeneration of Azerbaijan’s Economy Between 1991-1994

By 1995, Azerbaijan had endured a critical socio-economic crisis. According to the IMF, Azerbaijan’s Gross Domestic Product, industrial production, agricultural production, real average monthly wages, household consumption- virtually every meaningful factor of the country’s economy- plummeted between 1991 and 1994. It wasn’t until the end of 1994 that the government took some control over the economic crisis. In 1995, state-led programs were successful in addressing issues of economic degeneration and adverse living standards.

Azerbaijan’s Economy and Global Hunger Index

In 1995, after four years of economic crisis, Azerbaijan had a Global Hunger Index score of 28.30. Consistent with the relatively steady economic improvement between 1995 and 2000, Azerbaijan’s GHI score reached a value of 14.60 in 1996. It remained close to this benchmark in 1997. However, between 1997 and 2000, Azerbaijan’s GHI score increased from 14.89 to 27.50.

For about two years, the numbers show a direct relationship between Azerbaijan’s GHI score and its economy. However, the macroeconomic solutions implemented by the government at the time were deficient in addressing the specific needs of certain regions and populations. In all likelihood, Verdiyeva was among those Azerbaijani whose local problems were not fixed.

Hunger and Poverty in Toganali

Hunger in Azerbaijan, as elsewhere, is linked to poverty, and poverty is often a result of unemployment. Before COVID-19, Verdiyeva worked as a dishwasher for large events. Due to social-distancing measures, there have not been many large events in or around Toganali. As a result, Verdiyeva has struggled to find work.

Many countries around the world are scrambling to prevent hunger crises caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. However, nations that had already implemented relevant social policies and established the necessary bureaucratic infrastructure to handle hunger crises will now have a more nuanced ability to cope.

The Agenda for Sustainable Development in Azerbaijan

In 2015, all United Nations Member States agreed to pursue domestic policies in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The priorities of the SDGs are to end global poverty and ensure environmental protection. In addition, the SDGs aim to create conditions whereby all people can enjoy peace and prosperity. These objectives are to be fulfilled by 2030.

Among 166 other countries, Azerbaijan ranked 54th in its commitment to the SDGs. Much of Azerbaijan’s success in this regard is owed to the diligence in creating bureaucratic mechanisms to track vulnerable populations and organize data on age, gender and location of such groups.

The SDGs’ principle of “leaving no one behind” involves a preliminary method of accumulating a body of information about vulnerable demographic groups. The implication is that being seen is a prerequisite for being helped.

Verdiyeva and her two children are among those Azerbaijani who will benefit from their country’s commitment to the SDGs and its principle of “leaving no one behind.” In 2013, only 24% of preschool-aged children were enrolled in preschool education in Azerbaijan. By 2017, 75% of preschool-aged children were enrolled in a school where they have access to daily meals.

Likewise, the hourly earnings of female employees and unemployment rates improved from 2010 to 2017. Comprehensive domestic policies, like the SDGs, are institutional methods of ending hunger in Azerbaijan. COVID-19 is an obstacle to reaching this end goal. However, the Azerbaijani government made valiant efforts, especially from 2015 to 2020, to ensure healthier living conditions for its vulnerable populations through the next decade.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Hunger in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a small country that was formerly a part of the Soviet Republic. Some call it the Land of Fire due to a continuous, naturally burning mountain fire in its Caucasus mountains, and the country consists of both urban and large agricultural areas. Over the past 19 years, Azerbaijan has been steadily addressing its hunger issues and making important improvements. The proportion of undernourished citizens has decreased from 22 percent to less than 1 percent since 2000. Along with this advancement, here are 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan.

10 Facts About Hunger in Azerbaijan

  1. Azerbaijan has a global hunger index of 9.5, which is a low level of hunger. The global hunger index is a scale ranging from zero to 100, with zero being zero hunger and 100 being the most severe hunger. Numbers below 9.9 indicate low levels of hunger and numbers between 10-19.9 represent moderate hunger levels. On the other hand, numbers between 20-34.9 represent serious hunger levels, 35.0-49.9 reflect alarming hunger levels and anything above 50.0 refers to extremely alarming hunger levels. The global hunger index is based on four factors – child stunting, child mortality, undernourishment and child wasting.

  2. As of 2018, Azerbaijan ranks 40 out of 119 countries on the global hunger index scale. In 2000, the country’s global hunger index was 27.0, placing Azerbaijan in serious hunger levels. As the years have passed, Azerbaijan’s partnerships with UNICEF and the United Nations have developed programs addressing its hunger issues. As a result, the country has made significant progress, allowing its hunger index to decrease to 9.5.

  3. Child stunting refers to the proportion of children under the age of 5 who experience low height as a result of undernutrition. The percentage of child stunting in Azerbaijan has decreased by almost 5 percent since 2000. This improvement is partially because of one of UNICEF’s health programs that creates more educational resources and services for new mothers. Through the memorandum that UNICEF signed in 2019, mothers should receive more breastfeeding counseling in a baby-friendly hospital environment. Breastfeeding children for the first six months is the most effective method of ensuring a child’s healthy development and preventing child stunting.

  4. Child wasting is the number of children who are underweight for their age, reflecting undernourishment. Similar to child stunting, the percentage of children who undergo child wasting has dropped by nearly 5 percent in Azerbaijan since 2000. Although this is positive, 4.9 percent of children still experience child wasting. UNICEF has found that iron-deficiency anemia is a major cause of this problem.

  5. Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition in which a person does not have enough red blood cells. A leading cause of iron-deficiency anemia is the lack of iron in one’s diet. This can often lead to headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness and cold hands or feet. Iron-deficiency anemia in Azerbaijan affects 38.2 percent of women of reproductive age and 39.5 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11. A solution to combat this problem is flour fortification, which is the addition of nutrients such as folic acid and iron to flour. UNICEF is currently working with Azerbaijan’s government to pass legislation that will mandate flour fortification in hopes of reducing child wasting and improving overall health.

  6. The United Nations created a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015 to end poverty and achieve peace around the world by 2030. The second SDG is to achieve zero hunger by ending malnutrition and providing nutritious food. In October 2018, Azerbaijan hosted the first forum to discuss methods and solutions towards meeting these goals, especially targeting hunger in Azerbaijan. This forum covered issues mentioned in these 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan. Its government will focus on renewable energy sources to reduce oil use. The country will also aim to increase business and individual participation within a circular economy viewpoint, encouraging continuous resource reuse and waste elimination.

  7. An important aspect of a circular economy is creating sustainable farming methods that will allow a country’s lands to stay healthy, resulting in more food production in the long run. Azerbaijan recognizes that one of its struggles is the sustainability of its natural land ecosystems. The government claims there is not a high awareness among the general population about protecting the environment, which poses a barrier in progressing with the SDGs. Fortunately, there has been a recent push to engage the population with the first national innovative contest in which young citizens submitted over 220 proposals with economic and sustainability solutions. With initiatives and positive mindsets like these, Azerbaijan is getting closer to its zero hunger goal.

  1. Azerbaijan has historically been an agricultural country with a high percentage of genetic diversity in its local seeds and plants. However, the country produces only 15-20 percent locally, while the rest come from imported plants. This poses a risk to food security, so the U.N. created a three-part program in November 2016 to protect biodiversity and increase food production. This is a five-year plan that should end by December 2021. The U.N. hopes that the construction of bigger agricultural institutions and the improvement of the skills of local farmers will allow for the planting of crops from native species.

  1. So far in the first year of the agrobiodiversity program, two field gene banks have emerged for cereal plants and forage crops, and there has been an increase in wheat varieties (1.5 percent), vegetable crops (0.7 percent) and forage crops (0.3 percent). The Agrarian Science and Informational Consulting Services buildings received vital repair works that will enable the institution to host farming seminars. Most importantly, two vegetable farmer-farmer networks constructed in the Goranboy region. The next steps will be to maintain the established field gene banks and the specified, conserved farm areas. While Azerbaijan is meeting these goals, the country will continue to grow the farmer networks it developed to teach them sustainable farming techniques with native crop species. The program will release more information regarding the number of farmers involved and the areas it reaches once the U.N.’s baseline study finishes.

  2. In Azerbaijan’s Shaki region, over half the population works in agriculture, contributing to 14 percent of the country’s wheat harvest. Since this region plays a vital role in Azerbaijan’s food production, the country intends to implement another agricultural program the UNDP Agro-Biodiversity funded to introduce new technology to traditional practices. In 2019, farmers are receiving new irrigation methods, small grants and training in the Shaki region. UNDP predicts that after receiving these resources, farmers can efficiently harvest more produce using less water. There will be economic benefits that enable farmers to buy more food themselves while providing more food for citizens. So far, four farming families have changed their irrigation methods to the drop-by-drop system and are using fewer pesticides.

With the rise of innovative programs and worldwide discussions, Azerbaijan has improved the state of its population’s hunger levels. By working with the United Nations and UNICEF, the country has been able to incorporate important research regarding child nutrition and farming techniques into achievable goals and programs. These 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan show the government’s dedication to further reducing hunger levels through educational resources and economic changes.

– Jane Burgan
Photo: Flickr


10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan, a Eurasian country of 9.2 million people, has a total life expectancy between 69 and 75. Despite being an oil-rich nation on the rise, Azerbaijan continues to struggle with poverty within its borders. Political corruption and the lack of free speech among its media have also been concerns. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Azerbaijan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Azerbaijan

  1. In 2018, Azerbaijan’s average life expectancy was 70 for men and 76 for women, a significant increase from 60 and 66 in 1990. The male population has a higher mortality rate than the female population. While 8 percent of women die before the age of 60, 17 percent of men will die before then from causes including cancer, parasitic disease and circulatory and digestive diseases. Azerbaijan introduced plans to develop its domestic pharmaceutical sector in 2017, which will allow the country to be less reliant on exported goods and increase local health care reforms. Easier access to medicine locally would allow for longer life expectancy and access to care for diseases.
  2. Azerbaijan introduced a program in 2014 to provide additional training to medical professionals and increase medical staff, thus increasing the quality of service and raising awareness for health. This program, the State Program to Improve Health of Mothers and Children, contributed to the rise of life expectancy and the country currently uses it. Training doctors with increased medical services quality is an important step to improve health care in Azerbaijan.
  3. Azerbaijan‘s median ages are 30 for men, 33 for women and 31 overall as of 2018, with 6 percent of its population within retirement age (65 and older). Only about 13 people for each 1,000 reach the age of 80 or beyond in Azerbaijan. Currently, many citizens over the age of 65 are working due to the government’s lack of insurance implementation for accidents and low pension rates. Azerbaijan has introduced customary health insurance in 2016 via a pilot program within select regions. The State Agency for Mandatory Health Insurance monitors it which emerged in the same year. Many expect the program to reach other regions of the country throughout the coming years. The Azerbaijani government has also recently passed an amendment that would increase pensions by 48 percent for an estimated 36,000 people and increase customary insurance policy enforcement in an attempt to alleviate concerns for both the retirees and the injured.
  4. The rate of death in Azerbaijan as of 2018 is seven out of 1,000 people and the primary causes of death are diseases within the circulatory system (such as heart failure). There are about three doctors for about every 1,000 people in Azerbaijan as of 2014, which is not quite enough to serve those in need. The Azerbaijani government has taken steps to rectify this, including requiring all hospitals to implement a mandatory health insurance system to increase productivity and help patients in a timely manner. This is part of the customary health insurance program that Azerbaijan is currently rolling out in select parts of the country. As health care programs improve, the care people will need should be available as the insurance policy continues to move across Azerbaijan.
  5. The State Housing Construction Agency began a subsidized affordable housing system in 2017 which allows citizens to select apartments with a mortgage from a government-approved bank. The investment will allow individuals to own a place in healthier environments and better maintain housing care. Affordable housing is beneficial for people to save money as well.
  6. According to the Azerbaijan National Nutrition Survey from 2013, 22 percent of children between 6 to 23 months have adequate nutrition in their diet despite the fact that 93 percent of households currently have access to safe drinking water. The government revised food standards in 2016 that requires all providers to properly label their products to help parents pick the right item for their child’s nutrition needs. Azerbaijan intends the new labeling to increase nutrition in what it expects to be a healthier generation of children.
  7. Azerbaijan has begun to build new rehab centers for drug users and increase the quality of drug combating classes in August 2019 due to a rise of drug users since 2010. The country has been a notable transit for drug trafficking for many years, making drugs a possible risk to people’s life expectancy. Access to rehabilitation centers will allow citizens to overcome drug addiction that has been a growing concern over the years.
  8. The poverty rate dropped from 40 percent in 2000 to 8 percent the following year after heavily investing in health care and education as well as increased pensions and salaries across the nation. These investments allowed citizens to remained healthy and children to be able to learn on a much grander scale. Increased salaries and pensions also allow for greater personal spending and investments to bolster the national economy.
  9. The Azerbaijan 2020 project puts a strong emphasis on increasing the investment of health care to improve technology and services for diseases, surgery and childcare. This initiative is a part of a major plan to push Azerbaijan forward and increase the life expectancy. Sustainable health care is a priority to maintain current rates.
  10. Education will also receive investment in the Azerbaijan 2020 initiative by investing in and building technology. The increased focus on education allows children to gain access to a better understanding of their surroundings. The technology will also expand the teacher’s ability to pass down knowledge to their students.

Despite the current concerns of corruption within the government, these 10 facts about life expectancy in Azerbaijan show that it has taken steps to improve the life expectancy of the population. Programs designed to invest in the medical and education fields should grow the country further. Continued improvements over the course of these programs are crucial to Azerbaijan’s development as a nation.

– Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Nagorno-Karabakh
In 1994, the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire agreement that many politicians hoped would put a stop to years of conflict between the two states. When the Russian tsarist regime collapsed in 1917, Azerbaijan and Armenia fought over control of the landlocked mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in the Caucasus the size of Connecticut. After the Red Army annexed the Caucasian republics to the Soviet Union, the Armenian-majority territory of Nagorno-Karabakh became an autonomous region of Azerbaijan.

Seven decades later, when the Soviet Union began disintegrating in the late 1980s, Armenian secessionists and Azerbaijani troops launched a war over Nagorno-Karabakh. The outbreak of violence claimed around 20,000 lives and created one million refugees. After the 1994 ceasefire, Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence, but the international community continues to recognize the war-torn territory as a part of Azerbaijan.

Five Facts About Human Rights in Nagorno-Karabakh

The “Four Day War” in April 2016—an outbreak between the two warring parties that killed at least 200 people—ended more than two decades of ceasefire and put the human rights records of Azerbaijan and Armenia into the spotlight. Here are five facts about human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh:

  1. High-ranking Azerbaijani officials have spread hate speech and incited violence against the country’s Armenian minority, according to a 2016 Ombudsman Report. In November 2012, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev took to Twitter to declare that Armenia “is actually a colony, an outpost run from abroad, a territory artificially created on ancient Azerbaijani land.” Public statements like Aliyev’s violate Article 4 (c) of the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, which bars authorities from promoting racial discrimination.  
  2. Azerbaijani forces ruthlessly murdered civilians when they invaded Nagorno-Karabakh on April 2, 2016. Soldiers shot the elderly, infirm and young, and the targeted shelling of residential buildings killed or wounded more than two dozen civilians, many of whom were minors. The Ombudsman found Azerbaijan in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which delineates special protections for the sick, wounded and pregnant during war.
  3. While Armenia has instituted civil and political liberties since its independence in 1991, Amnesty International has called out the Armenian government for silencing journalists investigating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to the report, Armenians show little tolerance for “unarmenian” views of the conflict, with individuals disagreeing with mainstream opinion labeled as traitors. In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights delivered 12 judgments concerning Armenia, 11 of which found the country in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.
  4. With the exception of The HALO Trust and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which helps reunite family members who have gone missing in combat, the international community provides little support for human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh. Many NGOs know that entering Nagorno-Karabakh would make them ‘persona non grata’ in Azerbaijan, preventing them from returning in the future.
  5. Despite Azerbaijan’s threats, the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center—an organization that helps individuals with disabilities—has made substantial progress for human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh. Wars in the early 1990s and, more recently, in April 2016 injured many civilians, leaving some with physical disabilities; infrastructure for wheelchairs and medical facilities for treatment, however, were scarce. The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center provides treatment for 1000 patients annually and supports therapists that travel to individuals who cannot travel to Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, to receive care. In 2017, the Center opened a department for children with autism.

Human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh will improve with increased stability. In July 2018, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that he was ready to talk peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. A month later, Russia and Germany proactively offered to facilitate a settlement that would secure long-lasting peace. Once Armenia and Azerbaijan come to terms with the fate of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is hoped that humanitarian organizations will step in to monitor conditions on the ground and heal old wounds.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

Tourism Industry in Azerbaijan Has Potential to Alleviate Poverty
Oil has long been Azerbaijan’s main export commodity. However, a recent switch to an independent economy inspired the birth of a new market- tourism. Along with the increase in country’s GDP and increase in jobs, the tourism industry in Azerbaijan has the potential to alleviate poverty, especially for the 5.9 percent of the population that still lives on less than $1.25 a day.

Azerbaijan and United Nations

In February 2018, United Nations Sustainable Development report detailed the potential that the private business sector in Azerbaijan has to alleviate poverty. If used in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, tourism as a mean for poverty alleviation could produce great results.

The United Nations Development Programme partnered with the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Azerbaijan to reiterate the potential the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could have on Azerbaijan’s poverty reduction.

The U.N. SDG’s aim to create 380 million jobs in food, agriculture, urban mobility, energy, health and well-being globally by 2030 by partnering with local and private sector businesses. A commitment of the U.N. to support the government, private sector and civil society in Azerbaijan is a step in the right direction that could link the developing tourism industry with poverty reduction.

American Chamber of Commerce Executive Natavan Mammadova also spoke of the importance of small and medium businesses in Azerbaijan in regards to aligning the county’s economic growth with poverty reduction, which is the number one goal of the SDG’s.

Tourism potential

Tourism is a great opportunity for developing countries as they are rich in culture and have beautiful landscapes.  Being on the Caspian Sea shoreline, Azerbaijan’s breathtaking landscapes, hiking and skiing trails in the Caucasus mountains and developing modern art scene make the country a perfect candidate for the tourism market.

Five percent of the world’s GDP comes from tourism and 235 million jobs are created by tourism (one in 12 jobs worldwide) every year. When focused on the potential to alleviate poverty, tourism provides jobs and sustainable incomes to local people through small community-based businesses. According to the U.N. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in some developing countries, notably small island states, tourism can account for over 25% of GDP.

In Azerbaijan, the success of the developing tourism industry has a potential to provide jobs to those in need. The continued success of the tourism market is being supported by the State Tourism and Agency Board that was created in May 2018. Among other things, this organization has partnered with the UNWTO to enter the 1st annual Tourism Startup Competition in 2018. Events like this will continue to develop new markets, create jobs and help people out of poverty.

Markets indirectly related to tourism like agriculture and transportation can also expect an increase with the tourism development. This is good news, as 54.9 percent of the total land area in Azerbaijan is used for agriculture.

Whether the newly developing tourism industry in Azerbaijan is providing additional income or is supporting small businesses, the jobs this market is developing have the potential to alleviate poverty and help those who are struggling. Continued commitment to growing the tourism market will increase the number of people being helped out of poverty.

– Hope Kelly

Photo: Flickr

ten facts about poverty in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is the country located in the South Caucuses at the crossroad between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Humans have settled in this area in the Stone Age, and throughout the history, the country location was ideal for trade and commerce. Today, Azerbaijan, from the perspective of the capital city of Baku, has transformed itself into a polished country of luxury with glass skyscrapers and trendy malls. The country even began hosting a Formula One Grand Prix in 2017 and the European Games in 2015. But behind the glitz and glamour of the freshly paved streets of Baku, the country still deals with poverty. Here are ten facts about poverty in Azerbaijan.

  1. Azerbaijan was hit by a major economic shock in 2015 and 2016. In a study done for the Government of Azerbaijan in 2015, the GDP of the nation was decreased from 74.19 billion USD in 2014 to 34.9 billion USD in 2015. Understanding this fact is integral to understanding the poverty in the country, as in one year span the income per capita in the nation fell from $5,359.70 to $2,808.
  2. In 2017 the World Bank noted that Azerbaijan only experienced a “very modest recovery” from the recession that occurred in 2015-16. The country fell short in increasing the nominal average wage and the minimum cost of living enough to offset higher prices. The World Bank stated that poverty likely increased in 2017.
  3. The Asian Development Bank reported that in 2016 5.9 percent of the Azerbaijan population lived below the national poverty line, which is good compared to the neighbor countries Georgia and Armenia that had 21.3 percent and 29.4 percent of their populations, respectively, below the national poverty line in 2016.
  4. The Bank also reported that in 2016, 5 percent of the country’s population was unemployed. This is low compared with higher numbers in Armenia (18.4 percent) and Georgia (11.8 percent).
  5. In 2001 the State Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan estimated that 49 percent of the population was below the national poverty line. This fact is a good illustration of the rapid decline in poverty that Azerbaijan has experienced during the 2000s.
  6. People living in rural areas have lower income. In a report done by the State Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan in 2017, rural households achieved monthly income per capita of 151 USD, compared to 163 USD achieved in urban households.
  7. The number of households without access to a water was decreased from 37.6 percent in 2002 to 11.3 percent in 2018. In the same time, the percentage of the population connected to the sewage system increased from 86 percent in 2002 to 98.2 percent in 2018. These two figures reflect the macroeconomic trend of massive reduction in material deprivation in the country in recent decades.
  8. Internet access rose sharply from just 16.6 percent of household’s having internet access in 2005 to 77.2 percent in 2016.
  9. The number of graduates from higher education institutions increased in the country from 24,488 in 2000 to 37,506 in 2017, a figure that is extremely well for an economy that is trying to reduce its reliance on oil exports.
  10. Economic growth forecast of the country in 2018 expressed in GDP is projected to be 2.0%. This was reported by Azerbaijani news source in 2018. IMF increased this number for a GDP growth from 1.2% to 2.0%. This is an encouraging sign for an economy that suffered recent hardship and perhaps a realignment on the multi-decade long trend which has seen Azerbaijan experience much less material deprivation.

These ten facts about poverty in Azerbaijan show that the country stands at both a physical crossroad and at a metaphorical one. Extreme poverty in the country has been drastically reduced, but a continuance of the country’s economic dependence on oil makes the country susceptible to the economic crashes, similar to the one that happened in 2015, and the potential for poverty increase again. The country must decide how to diversify its economy and carry out its progress further into the future.

– William Carlos Menchaca
Photo: Google

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Azerbaijan
Since its formation in 1992, Azerbaijan has had positive diplomatic relations with the United States. The U.S. has affirmed its commitment to strengthening democracy in the region, as well as diversifying the economy and promoting regional stability. In 2017, the United States’ government gave $15.31 million in foreign assistance to Azerbaijan.

Over $4 million of that contribution went towards democracy, human rights and governance agendas. Another $3.63 million went towards economic development. Here are the four major ways in which the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Azerbaijan.

Positive U.S.-Azerbaijan Relations Support American Jobs

Azerbaijan purchases American services. In 2010, Azerbaijan signed a $1 billion contract purchasing eight civilian airplanes from the American Boeing company; this contract supported 11,000 American jobs.

That same year, seeking to create its first communication satellite, Azerbaijan signed another contract with the Orbital Sciences Corporation in Virginia. The $205.3 million contract created 1,500 American jobs.

U.S. Companies’ Substantial Stakes in Azerbaijan Economy

Azerbaijan has welcomed U.S. investment in its economy. The Law on Protection of Foreign Investments allows for foreigners to directly invest in any activity of the Azerbaijan economy in which a national investor may also invest.

U.S. companies quickly capitalized on this opportunity. Many have long-standing investments in offshore oil development projects; however, experts predict a decline in this industry.

As a result, several U.S. companies are investing in other fields of the Azerbaijan economy such as agriculture, telecommunications, tourism and transportation services. The U.S. also regularly exports aircraft and heavy machinery to the region.

Azerbaijan: Useful Ally in Combating Terrorism

Azerbaijan has a confirmed commitment to combating terrorism. The country is a member of several international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. The collaborative work of Azerbaijan’s State Security Forces and the Foreign Intelligence Service have made sizeable contributions to the international community’s efforts to combat terrorism.

Furthermore, as a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), Azerbaijan has also taken steps to deter money laundering schemes that could finance terrorism.

Given this commitment, positive relations with Azerbaijan could help advance U.S. security goals in the region.

Successful Market Democracy Could Provide a Model for the Region

The primary objective of USAID contributions in Azerbaijan is “to support Azerbaijan’s reform processes by promoting competition and pluralism in the society, laying the foundations for a sustainable market-based democracy.”

As a Muslim-majority country with a history of religious tolerance, Azerbaijan could be a model for countries in the region. Azerbaijan shares a border with both Russia and Iran. If Azerbaijan can successfully become a market economy, perhaps it can provide a model for similar countries in the region.

How the U.S. Benefits From Foreign Aid To Azerbaijan

By providing aid to the Azerbaijan people, the United States is ensuring the continued economic and security cooperation with a proven ally. Though often overlooked by popular U.S. media, Azerbaijan’s development has a notable effect on the American people.

– Joanna Dooley
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Azerbaijan

In Azerbaijan, school is compulsory from around the age of five or six to around 15 or 16 and consists of three levels of education from primary school to general secondary. In 2014, 1,474,000 children were enrolled in primary school with 11 percent of school-age children not enrolled.

Of those children who were enrolled, not all of them were able to finish the school cycle as the system is problematic when it comes to ensuring equality of girls’ education in Azerbaijan. This comes from several political and economic changes; however, there are several programs attempting to resolve this discrepancy. In order to make the necessary changes, it is important to understand the current status of girls’ education in Azerbaijan.

Reasons For Low School Attendance of Girls’ in Azerbaijan

In 1998, 10 percent of girls in Azerbaijan were not enrolled in primary school, and the rate of girls dropping out of school was higher than their male counterparts. According to UNICEF, there are four main causes accounting for the lower attendance rates, poorer performance in school and/or higher dropout rates when it comes to girls’ education in Azerbaijan:

  1. Financial difficulties may affect both genders; however, girls will feel a greater impact. It may be hard to invest scarce resources in the education of girls when families see more employment opportunities going to boys. Instead, women are often seen as “stabilizers” which means they are expected to preserve tradition while new opportunities go to men.
  2. Girls are viewed as being more vulnerable to both physical and cultural dangers. There is a concern of inappropriate behavior, whether by the girls themselves or by other males in the community toward the girls, that would result in the girls becoming unmarriageable. There are also concerns about the safety of young girls walking to school, the lack of female teachers and coeducational classrooms that could increase these dangers.
  3. There is a belief that girls have different mental abilities than boys. This comes from gender stereotypes, the girls’ greater societal responsibilities and classroom discrimination. Young girls also begin to lower their own expectations of how they can perform in school as a result of pressures. According to UNDP and its report on Azerbaijan Human Development, more importance is placed in providing males with higher quality education.
  4. Girls often marry early either as a result of religious beliefs or the fact that it is socially desirable to marry young. As high as 11 percent of girls are married by the time they reach 18 with 2 percent being married by 15. Higher rates can be seen around the country where there is a greater importance to marry and start a family. It is difficult to evaluate the exact number of child brides due to a lack of statistical data.

Each one of these factors is relevant to girls’ education in Azerbaijan and can be considered a reason for lower rates in female education. UNICEF has recommended strategies that could be implemented for the improvement of girls education, including alternative programs, interactive learning, bilingual education, scholarships, more female teachers, program based learning and single-sex schools.

While there is a push to have gender equality in school, more research must be done on current educational statistics. Azerbaijan has several challenges ahead while attempting to create an equal school system.

– Olivia Hodges

Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Azerbaijan
May 28 marked the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). With its independence in 1918, the country was poised for great progress, which included female suffrage and its democratic government.

The ADR was short-lived, however. In 1920 Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union and would not regain independence until the Soviet Union’s fall. Since its independence, Azerbaijan has faced an often difficult history, struggling with human rights and war with neighboring Armenia.

Human Rights

While Azerbaijan may not frequently be the focus of attention in the media, often the media misrepresents Azerbaijan by strictly focusing on its human rights record. In addition to discrimination of the Talysh and Armenian ethnic minorities, Azerbaijan has been known for suppressing the media and persecuting journalists and bloggers.

Yet, this depiction of Azerbaijan as a country with a poor track record for allowing free speech and media access is not unwarranted. With news outlets, including The Guardian as well as human rights advocacy groups, are barred from entering the country, the current Azerbaijani regime is made ripe for international criticism. The groups and people targeted—namely journalists and human rights activists—are the very people who report the country’s reputation.

Thus, beneath the excitement of the 100th anniversary, people, including Rep. Chris Smith, have been keen to remind the world of Azerbaijan’s tricky situation. In an article for The Hill, Smith called the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, a “dictator” and argues that its citizens are not members of a free society. Smith specifically points to Aliyev’s lengthy tenure as president, from 2003 to 2025, and cited concerns with the lack of power in Azerbaijan’s other governmental institutions.

Poverty in a Wealthy Nation

Serving to reinforce the already abundant human rights issues and an overly powerful president, the country, while wealthy from its oil reserves, is mired by issues with corruption and poverty. Thus, Azerbaijan occupies the public’s consciousness in almost contradictory extremes – it’s a country of wealth, yet one with the majority of its population living in poverty.

The depiction of Azerbaijan as a hub of human rights violations, and as a place oscillating between extreme poverty and excess, does, perhaps, ignore the movement to the future. This is how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan—it focuses on Azerbaijan’s economic and political issues, without addressing the hope and shifting dynamics within the country.

The Future

The rhetoric of Azerbaijan surrounding the 100th anniversary is decidedly not pessimistic. Looking backward one century provides the chance to look forward as well as to move in the direction of that early progress that defined the country in 1918. A statement from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses an intent and desire to bring “into the reality the aspirations and ideals” of the ADR.

With trade between Azerbaijan and other European markets increasing over the last few years, the progressive aims expressed on the 100th anniversary may soon be on the horizon and may, one day, be a reality. And, with the European Union and the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) continued support of education, through the EU’s “Modernising Vocational Education and Training (VET) Centres in Azerbaijan” plan, an emphasis is placed on transitioning Azerbaijan into a knowledge-based economy, thus pushing the country further into the future.

Of course one must not forget—surrounding the 100th anniversary of the ADR—writers, like the aforementioned Rep. Smith, have noted that expressing the optimism and excitement surrounding the country is, itself, how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan. A full view of the country, therefore, takes into account both the hope for the future as well as the current skepticism.

It might be the case that Azerbaijan actually isn’t misrepresented in the media, at least not now. The country does have human rights violations, its citizens do suffer from poverty and questions surrounding the efficacy of the government should be raised. Yet, with the shifting conditions in the country, this representation may be how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan in the future.

-William Wilcox
Photo: Flickr

credit access in AzerbaijanAs is the case in many developing economies, credit access in Azerbaijan is not as easy to come by as it should ideally be. That being said, significant efforts are being made to improve the ease of credit access and ensure that the country’s financial system has the capacity to cope with the increase in demand for credit that will likely come with greater ease of access.

Many of the obstacles to credit access in Azerbaijan are similar to the ones present in other countries. It is particularly difficult for businesses to secure a line of credit. Lenders require extensive collateral and often charge high interest rates. Encouragingly, there are government programs that enable particularly small businesses to secure funding even if they cannot secure a line of credit from a private institution.

Poor financial literacy, especially among business owners, is also impeding credit access in Azerbaijan. Many are often denied loans because of problems that they could rectify if given the needed support and education. For example, many Azerbaijani businesses fail to keep written records because they fail to understand that this impacts their perceived creditworthiness.

Improving financial literacy is an important part of expanding credit access in Azerbaijan. The MicroFinance Bank of Azerbaijan has reported that consumer loans, in particular, are being disbursed at a much higher rate than before, suggesting that creditors are becoming more willing to lend more liberally to reasonably worthy clients.

Also noteworthy are the extensive efforts that are underway to modernize the financial system and promote new lending and borrowing practices. The country’s first private credit bureau was recently established and intends to promote risk pooling and information sharing among the 20 largest domestic financial institutions. It is anticipated that this alone will greatly improve credit access in Azerbaijan by promoting responsible lending and eliminating some of the logistical hassles of applying for and granting credit.

– Michaela Downey
Photo: Flickr