Address of President Süleyman Demirel at third Baku International Humanitarian Forum
SÜLEYMAN DEMİRELMr. President, İlham Aliyev and Mihriban Aliyeva
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first express my appreciation to President Aliyev and his colleagues for inviting me to this prestigious forum and for their excellent organization and hospitality.
It is a distinct pleasure for me to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished audience.
Before I begin, allow me also to congratulate my dear friend, İlham Aliyev, and the people of Azerbaijan, on his election for the third time as president.
I was here two years ago to attend the first Baku International Humanitarian Forum.
Today, I am once again very impressed and proud to witness the remarkable development of this beautiful city in all aspects.
The distinguished audience present here today, is the concrete affirmation of the success of Azerbaijan, with President İlham Aliyev at its helm, in transforming itself into a world class economic, cultural, scientific and industrial center of attraction.
What is most impressive however, is the human dimension of Azerbaijan’s development and its exemplary success in elevating the welfare and living standards of its people.
Hence, Baku is the most appropriate city to host this international humanitarian forum.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, momentous events took place.
These events led to a search for a new world order.
Today the world is still going through a state of rapid transformation.
The flow of history is accelerated and its momentum is felt most profoundly in and around our very region.
We witness the shift in the political and economic centers of gravity from west to east and from north to south.
The new global political, economic and security landscape which is still taking shape presents us with a multitude of challenges, as well as opportunities.
We need to address many challenges with regard to poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, dwindling resources, increasing population and their consequent problems in terms of security and stability.
But today, we have at our disposal the greatest accumulation of tools, talents and knowledge in history to confront these challenges and to exploit the opportunities created by this new world order.
In fact, I am encouraged by some of the statistical data available today.
In the two decades between 1990 and 2010, the world has managed to pull a billion people out of extreme poverty reducing the percentage from 43 to 21.
China alone, in the last three decades, lifted 680 million of its people above the extreme poverty line, reducing the extreme poverty rate from 84 to 10 percent.
Rate of growth in the developing world also accelerated during the same period from an annual average of 4.3 percent between 1960 and 2000 to 6 percent in the following 10 years.
The figures indicate that we have the capacity to move beyond a Malthusian fatalism which predicted an impending doom to be ushered by geometric population growth combined with insufficient resources.
I am fairly confident that with a collective will to act and determination to cooperate we can manage the exponential population growth with matching resources.
We are yet at the beginning of a long and arduous journey.
And, at this juncture, we need to understand that the challenges we face today are bigger than any one nation can address alone.
The Millennium Development Goals declared in September 2000 will expire in two years but the eradication of poverty still remains the most fundamental and pressing priority of the international community.
The world now needs a renewed commitment to garner even greater political momentum to face and tackle the remaining challenges.
The United Nations should not be united only in name. We need to unite truly, in words and in deeds.
Next war we wage should be a war against poverty and illiteracy.
In this context, I cannot overemphasize the critical importance of cooperation.
Cooperation at all levels: national, regional and international.
We must develop creative cooperative networks connecting civil society, corporations, governments and NGOs.
To create a strong sense of buy-in and ownership it will be necessary to involve all actors and all segments of the society and the community of nations.
Without national, regional and indeed international ownership, it would not be possible to achieve lasting peace, stability and prosperity.
In this respect, economic integration is also very important.
Through economic integration we should aim to create positive and balanced interdependencies which would reinforce ownership and provide a ground conducive for peaceful and lasting solutions.
Ensuring the free circulation of goods, capital and people is a prerequisite for successful and beneficial economic integration.
The impressive global economic growth of the last three decades which made it possible to reduce the number of people living in destitute owes much to the gradual lifting of barriers in front of the free trade.
Globalization, which initially benefited the developed world more than the developing, eventually helped integrate the emerging markets into the world economy, thereby generating wealth for those who were previously unable to cope or compete with the more advanced societies.
Economic integration, however, cannot be achieved in the absence of security.
The unresolved Nagorno-Karabagh conflict, for example, still prevents this region from achieving its true economic potential.
There is an urgent need to find a just and peaceful solution to this issue on the basis of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
It is important for Armenia to recognize the benefits of taking the necessary steps for normalizing its relations with Azerbaijan, as well as with Turkey.
In an integrated and interconnected world, not only the benefits, but also the problems and their consequences propagate more rapidly.
No corner of the world is far enough from another to remain immune or indifferent to changes happening elsewhere.
A flame lit in Tunisia engulfed the entire region within a matter of weeks if not days, transforming the whole of North Africa and the Middle East.
We are still coping with the reality and the repercussions of the Arab Spring in Libya, in Egypt and most horrifically in Syria.
Another example is piracy.
Bred by the turmoil and desperation in the failed or failing states, piracy in the Gulf of Aden showed its potential to disrupt important sea lanes of communication with considerable effect on the world trade.
Or, can we call deforestation, pollution, environmental degradation and climate change local problems?
In the global village we live in today, few issues are local, if any and the way to address them goes, first and foremost, through investing in our human capital.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Policies that fail to place the human element at the center cannot hope to provide lasting solutions.
Economic growth is important and necessary but is not enough by itself.
Macro-economic numbers do not readily translate into better schools, better roads and secure access to basic amenities such as clean water, shelter and healthcare.
Governments need to put in place the appropriate mechanism that can translate growth into development.
For this, we need take the humanitarian dimension of growth as our focal point.
To diagnose problems, to generate solutions, to drive progress and sustain development, nations would need a population educated and aware.
In this respect, Azerbaijan runs an exemplary and commendable program designed to transform nation’s natural resources into intellectual potential which is aptly called “turning black gold into human capital.”
Societies which have invested in their human capital and which enjoy a high degree of education rarely experience violent upheavals or deviate from dialogue for reconciling differences.
They uphold universal values, respect democracy and human rights and seek peaceful solutions to conflicts based on mutual respect and understanding.
Cognizant of this fact, Turkey has also placed human dimension at the heart of both its domestic policies and its foreign relations.
In fact, the main theme of the Fifth Annual Ambassadorial Conference of the Turkish Foreign Ministry which gathered all Turkish ambassadors around the world in Ankara last January was “humanitarian diplomacy.”
It is a value-based approach which aims to nurture democratic principles, human rights, basic freedoms, good governance and stability at the grassroots level by encouraging human to human contacts.
However, you cannot build a healthy democracy in a society suffering from gross inequalities in the distribution of wealth and opportunities.
Inequality in the distribution of wealth is a leading cause of unrest, crisis and conflict.
Inequality erodes the faith in justice, discourages cooperation, causes polarization and reduces productivity.
Despite the benefits of globalization and free trade which helped to eradicate extreme poverty by generating wealth, the last two decades also saw an alarmingly widening gap between the rich and the poor.
We have to identify the causes of this inequality in the distribution of opportunities and income and fight it vigorously.
For that, we need a new deal guided by good governance.
In the next decade-and-a-half, it will be more challenging to lift an additional billion people above the extreme poverty line.
It will no longer be enough to buy African cotton from the local farmers and then try to sell them shirts which they cannot afford to buy.
As a part of this new deal, we need to devise ways to produce these shirts in Africa together with the Africans so that we can all share the generated wealth more equitably.
In the past 20 years, we have successfully globalized. Now we need to “glocalize” by thinking globally but acting locally, as the motto says.
Local solutions in Rwanda, through the Human Resources for Health program, dramatically increased access to healthcare in a country where hitherto only 633 physicians were available to treat the entire population.
This is indeed the guiding principle of Turkey’s strategy of opening up to new geographies, in which Africa plays a pivotal role.
We tailor our policies to cater the needs of the local populations taking into account local realities and expectations and by building local capacity.
This is essential for creating a sense of ownership that is required for long term and mutually beneficial cooperation and development.
Nature sustains life.
It is unrealistic to expect to achieve sustainable development at the expense of nature.
China, which was a success story in eradicating extreme poverty, is learning this the hard way.
While in the north they are fighting severe droughts, in the south its rivers are clogged by scores of dead and decaying fish.
Now the Chinese government has to spend billions to reverse the effects of environmental degradation.
We need to find environmentally sound and sustainable solutions.
Germany proved us that this is possible by generating 22 gigawatts of electricity in a single day, roughly the output of 20 nuclear power plants, by using solar energy in a country hardly known for its sunny weather.
Technology not only defines how we interact with each other but also how we connect with the nature.
We need to harness technology, from cell phones to solar panels, to develop sustainable solutions for ensuring equitable distribution of wealth while preserving and protecting the environment.
We gathered here today because we are in a search for a new world order based on the commonly accepted values of democracy, human rights and a free-market economy.
We are here because we share a vision for a better world where people of all races and creeds would work together in peaceful co-existence to address the challenges which no longer recognize national borders.
Independence and interdependence need not be mutually exclusive.
While we seek independence, we should also be able to cooperate and integrate.
To succeed in a globalized world, we should learn to “work together, live together.”
The human element needs to remain always at the center of our focus. It should be our departure point, the guiding principle and our destination.
We should also devise ways to take the best advantage of the tools offered by this new information age to use the treasure chest of our collective and cumulative intellect.
However, all our efforts could come to naught if we fail to create the right environment for human potential to fulfill itself.
We can only flourish in an environment of peace, freedom and stability and only democratic societies could provide this environment.
So, we are here today to discuss how we can together contribute to the creation of the necessary conditions for fostering democracy, cooperation and integration around the center of human talent and potential.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Yes, the challenges are many. But I am not disheartened.
This forum, which brings together the greatest minds in this field representing a deep pool of knowledge, shows that the opinion shapers and decisions makers of the world are fully aware of these challenges and are ready, willing and able to act.
I am, therefore, optimistic that we are on the right path to make this world, which we have borrowed from the next generation, a better place to live and prosper.
Once again, I thank President İlham Aliyev for taking the lead in this honorable endeavor.
Turkey, which will host the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016, will continue to make every possible contribution to leave a safer, richer, cleaner, freer and greener world to a better-educated humanity.
*This is the full text of former Turkish President Süleyman Demirel’s speech to the forum on Oct 31.