Ambassador Elchin Amirbayov discusses the importance of international events for developing countries
ALL COUNTRIES FACE challenges and questions around how to improve the lives of their citizens – questions that transcend borders and are common across different geographies.
International events play an invaluable role in meeting these challenges – for both developed and developing nations. They create a space that brings together individuals, communities and countries to share experience, expertise and innovation while sparking new ideas for a better and brighter future. They also allow the host country to demonstrate their own style, vision and approach to making this happen. However, historically only the biggest and richest countries could afford or were given the opportunity to host major global events.
In recent years, we have seen new locations emerge as committed and capable hosts. As the developing world and emerging economies continue to catch up with (and even overtake) established nations in terms of wealth and infrastructure development, they now have the opportunity to host and make their mark on international events. At the same time, there appears to be a growing appetite for event organisers and voting bodies to look beyond the usual candidates, to explore new destinations and hear new voices. Expo events, organised by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in Paris, have shown themselves to be at the front of this trend.
The BIE principles that underpin Expo exhibitions are to educate the global public, share innovation, promote progress and foster cooperation. In recent years, BIE members have voted for Expo to be held in new destinations such as Antalya, Turkey(2016), Astana, Kazakhstan(2017) and Buenos Aires, Argentina(2023). The next World Expo, held in 2020, will take place in the new destination of Dubai and construction is already well underway. For the 170 member countries of the BIE, this is an indication that all countries have the chance to host these prestigious events in the future.
For countries that do not sit among the more powerful nations of the UN Security Council, the G8 or even the G20, the value of hosting such an event is particularly high: whether broadening diplomatic outreach and relations, seeking new trade, investment and partnership opportunities or promoting national pride, this is an occasion for countries not only to have their voices heard but to actually lead the debate on issues that are of importance to them and to present the solutions and ideas that they have successfully implemented.
In its ambitions to host World Expo 2025 and promote the voice of developing countries Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, is competing with three other cities. As Head of the World Expo 2025 Baku bid Taskforce, it is my aim to use the opportunity of a World Expo to promote dialogue and exchange between developed and developing nations.
In the past three decades, Azerbaijan has shown itself to be at the forefront of developing nations and assessed by the World Bank as a ‘leading reformer of the world’ (2009). Since 1991, GDP has tripled, making Azerbaijan one of the world’s fastest growing economies. During this time, poverty has reduced from 49 per cent to 5 per cent, more than 1.6 million jobs were created, and unemployment levels reached 5 per cent – one of the lowest in the world. As a result, Azerbaijan was awarded the UN South-South Award for successful realisation of UN Millennium Development Goals and today ranks 35 among 137 economies in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.
As Azerbaijan continues to make significant progress, we have recognised the need to develop and protect the potential of our citizens through the creation of more than 3,000 schools, over 600 hospitals and more than 50 sports complexes across the country. Young and talented Azerbaijanis now have greater opportunities to study both at home and abroad, and each year we are proud to welcome hundreds of international students to our leading universities and academies. These successes see the country sit on the boundary between developing and developed, understanding the challenges of both, and best positioned to offer a bridge between the two worlds.
We are proud of what we have achieved, and we are assisting developing nations reach their development objectives too. Since the Azerbaijan International Development Agency (AIDA) was established in 2011, Azerbaijan has provided humanitarian aid and development assistance valued at US$1.5 billion to more than 40 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
With this success, Azerbaijan has grasped every opportunity to participate in the international community and to collaborate with other nations. In doing so, Azerbaijan has demonstrated its ability to host spectacular international events, such as Eurovision 2012, the first European Games 2016, Islamic Games 2017 and become a regular feature on the Grand Prix circuit.
Recognising the importance of Expo events in leading international debate, since 2000 Azerbaijan has committed to each Expo opportunity and constructed ambitious pavilions designed to both educate and inspire those who visited. As a result, Azerbaijan received awards for its pavilions at the last three Expo events: Astana 2017, Antalya 2016 and Milan 2015. Furthermore, our Expo 2015 Milan pavilion received more than three million visits, and is currently being permanently installed on the seafront in Baku, to continue to educate and entertain the public.
Baku hopes to bring this success to the World Expo 2025 event and to create a new and lasting dialogue on our proposed theme: ‘Developing human capital – building a better future.’Human capital is central to the story of Azerbaijan’s success and is a theme we believe of universal concern – equally important to both developed and developing countries.
In my position as Ambassador of Azerbaijan, and my experience working across the globe, I have seen that the key question for all countries is how to develop their most important resource: people. Through our theme, and subthemes of health, education and work, we want to challenge the international community to collaborate and form partnerships that expand our understanding of how to create happy, healthy and meaningful lives for everyone. We believe we can use our theme to both champion the voices of other developing nations and to generate a debate on global challenges, that will continue a global dialogue starting in World Expo 2020 Dubai to 2025 and beyond.
Azerbaijan has already established itself as a key new voice at international events. I believe that Azerbaijan has the experience and capability, combined with a unique and welcoming perspective, to create a magical World Expo in 2025. In November, a vote for Baku is not just a vote for Azerbaijan but for all nations seeking to widen the debate and hear new ideas.
There has never been a better time for Baku than now.