On May 21, 2018,Azerbaijan hosted an international conference on “Sustainable Development Goals: Promotion of Sustainable Development and Decent Work” in Baku involving number of state and non-state officials. The conference highlighted the progress made by Azerbaijan in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as its cooperation with the International Labor Organization (ILO)and the United Nations (UN). The ILO identified Azerbaijan as a focus country for the region in the implementation of the SDG8 and the 2030 Agenda.
The SDGs were adopted by the UN member countries in September 2015 with a view to implement 17 goals and 169 targets during 2016-2030.Azerbaijan joined the SDG at the UN Sustainable Development Summit on the same year.
Azerbaijan pays a special attention to the implementation of SDGs, which include the shared goals and targets set by the world leaders to mobilize people in achieving sustainable development. In order to achieve the SDGs in Azerbaijan, the National Coordination Council on Sustainable Development (NCCSD)was established by the decree of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev dated on October 6, 2016. NCCSD’s main function is coordinating the implementation of the SDGs at the level of senior officials of the relevant government agencies and working out national priorities in accordance with global targets. The Council’s importance for Azerbaijan lays in ensuring the compliance of state programs and strategies covering the socio-economic spheres within the SDGs.
Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of NCCSD Ali Ahmadov, speaking at the international conference, emphasized that “more than 1.9 million new jobs have been created in Azerbaijan over the past 15 years, which is about 40 percent of the active population in the country. Moreover, Azerbaijan is among the countries with rapid population growth, which amounts to up to 1.2 percent per year. This is quite a big figure, which makes it necessary to create more than 100,000 jobs annually”.
Another distinguished guest of the conference, Director-General of the International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder noted that “diversification of the economy in Azerbaijan is of great importance in raising employment and ensuring sustainable development. Reduction of poverty level in the country over the past 15-20 years is one of the most important achievements of Azerbaijan. This shows that the government directed the oil and gas revenue for social development.”
Talking about SDGs, it is also worth to review the implementation of these goals. Although any country can achieve significant success in many areas, however,it still can encounter unresolved environment-related issues. For example, the targets of SDG6 on clean water and sanitation are a priority for the country as an urgent matter for sustainable development.
Another issue is energy-driven economic growth. The key drivers of Azerbaijan’s economic growth are trading in crude oil and natural gas. At the same time, the country has a great potential to diversify its economy, and the economic diversification holds great potential to boost other sectors’ sustainable development. In this context, the Azerbaijani government seeks to accelerate the use of alternative energy, develop institutional environment, reinforce the scientific and technical potential, strengthen the personnel training, and carry out awareness campaigns for energy consumers. This corresponds to the SDG7 targets on building the capacities for renewable energy sources and diversification of the economy to meet these targets.
Besides abovementioned, it should be underlined that Azerbaijan has also national priority lists of SDGs which helps to bring up successful outcomes in the implementation of SDGs. The national priorities of the country focuses on SDGs: such asSDG8-decent work and economic growth, SDG12-responsible consumption and production, SDG13-climate action, SDG14-life below water, SDG15-life on land and SDG17(17.4)- partnerships for the goals.
One of the strategic objectives of Azerbaijan in the framework of SDGs national priorities is becoming one of the leading trade and logistics hubs of Eurasia by developing its transit and transport services. The main SDGs applicable to Azerbaijan’s vision for trade development are SDGs 8, 10, and 17. This transformation aims to create new jobs and open new business opportunities.
To support above-mentioned, the country is actively engaged in implementing the major transportation projects such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway and Baku International Sea Trade Port. The opening of the BTK railway on October 30, 2017, with an initial capacity to transport 1 million passengers and 5 million tons of freight a year, was an important step in Azerbaijan’s policy of connectivity.
President Ilham Aliyev has determined that a major state policy goal should be to make use of the country’s transit potential, pointing to the Baku Sea Port as a key strategic project in the diversification of economy, which is set to become one of Azerbaijan’s main investment projects in the non-oil sector generating the second greatest share of budget revenues.
To sum, Azerbaijan aims at achieving the following SDGs goals: inclusive and equitable education, gender equality, sustainable and inclusive economic growth that ensures full employment, as well as targets on infrastructure for sustainable economic development.