Over the past two decades, Azerbaijan has transitioned from a struggling young democracy to a major powerhouse in the South Caucasus region. This transition was precipitated largely by capitalizing on increased revenues from oil and natural gas. That being said, poverty is still an issue in Azerbaijan.
Fortunately, there are a number of development projects in Azerbaijan that are currently underway and promise to improve circumstances for many Azerbaijanis. Here is a look at five of them, some completed and some still underway.
- Highway Three
Many development projects in Azerbaijan have focused on infrastructure. However, not all of this new infrastructure has been accessible to all Azerbaijanis. Highway Three and projects like it, which are being financed in part by the World Bank, aim to rectify this gap by creating a fledgling interstate system that better connects all parts of the country.
Highway Three is notable because, in addition to connecting two of Azerbaijan’s largest cities, the highway and its offshoots will also serve rural areas. The project is being done in conjunction with efforts to modernize Azerbaijan’s existing highways and bring them up to international standards.
- A new medical clinic in Kamalli
Working together with the Azerbaijani government, USAID has just finished helping to replace an aging one-room clinic with a more spacious and better-equipped facility in the rural community of Kamalli. The clinic opened in October 2017, and is expected to serve over 2,000 people from Kamalli and other neighboring communities in the rural province of Saatli. Similar development projects in Azerbaijan in recent years have made a significant dent in morbidity and mortality rates.
- Water supply improvements in Shahsevan-Tazakend
Also in October, residents of Shahsevan-Tazakend, with the assistance of the Azerbaijani government and USAID, installed almost a kilometer of new pipes and two new water storage tanks. These new installations are meant to alleviate the repeated chronic water shortages that this area has been experiencing in recent years, in addition to eliminating the need to walk long distances to collect water each day for the 800 members of this community. This project is typical of the numerous other development projects in Azerbaijan that have helped to improve living conditions for over 150,000 people.
- A new agrobiodiversity preservation project
In February 2017, Azerbaijan and the UNDP launched a new initiative focused on preserving Azerbaijan’s agrobiodiversity as a part of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. The project will run for five years and will target the regions of Shaki, Goranboy and Goychay.
The Azerbaijani government spearheaded the design of the project, which will receive support from the U.N. and focuses on protecting native crops and encouraging their use in commercial farming. The project also aims to promote research and development on native crops and increase market access for small farmers who grow native crops.
Like many other development projects in Azerbaijan, this was designed with an eye on the future and hopes to promote resilience and productivity in agriculture in the face of climate change, as Azerbaijan also works to reduce its dependence on oil and natural gas as a revenue source.
- The National Innovation Contest
The U.N. sponsored a contest for young scientists and entrepreneurs to put forth their best ideas for helping Azerbaijan accelerate its progress toward meeting the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The ideas may potentially be used to inspire future development projects in Azerbaijan.
This is the latest in a series of efforts to support research and development for similar concepts. The awards for the contest were presented in a ceremony on December 21, 2017. The winners included projects focusing on improving credit access and access to the legal system, as well as projects focused on alternative fuel sources.
In addition to major improvements in quality of life and major reductions in poverty, these development projects in Azerbaijan all promise to help the country transition to a greener economy and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels as a revenue source. In doing so, these projects will also improve the health outcomes for all Azerbaijani people and help more citizens make a living in sustainable ways. These projects make Azerbaijan an excellent example of how supporting sustainability efforts can also improve health and help to diversify a growing economy.
– Michaela Downey