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To the participants of the Fifth Session of the Islamic Conference of Labour Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation

AZERBAIJAN, November 23 - Dear conference participants!

I welcome you to the Fifth Session of the Islamic Conference of Labour Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Azerbaijan attaches special importance to relations with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and supports the development of cooperation in all fields within the Organization. The city of Baku, which was declared the capital of Islamic culture in 2009, has hosted a number of meetings of the ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Today’s conference is also of great importance in terms of expanding cooperation and strengthening joint efforts in the fields of labor, employment and social protection among member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

As an active member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Azerbaijan has continuously supported the Organization’s efforts to strengthen Islamic solidarity in the world. In the era of global crises, new ordeals and difficulties facing humanity, and widespread Islamophobia, it is extremely important for Muslim countries to support each other and strengthen Islamic unity.

Year 2023 was particularly significant for Azerbaijan. By removing the “gray” zone that used to exist in our territories and putting an end to separatism, we have restored the sovereignty and constitutional structure of our country, thereby ensuring the celebration of international law and justice.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has always condemned Armenia’s 30-year-long aggression and policy of occupation against Azerbaijan, continuously and consistently supported Azerbaijan’s just cause and territorial integrity both during the Second Karabakh War and in the post-war period. Therefore, we express our gratitude to member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Unfortunately, during the years of occupation, our cities and villages were ravaged and looted, our cultural and religious sites were destroyed by Armenia. In addition, according to preliminary estimates, Armenia planted about a million landmines in our occupied territories, committed urbicide, culturicide and ecocide there. The Armenians, who committed genocide against the cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people, destroyed our mosques and insulted not only our own feelings, but also those of Muslims all over the world. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation vehemently condemned Armenia’s destruction and looting of Islamic historical and cultural sites and shrines in the previously occupied territories, and strongly censured the desecration of our mosques. Therefore, we once again express our gratitude to member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the General Secretariat of the Organization.

Large-scale restoration and reconstruction work is now underway in our territories liberated from occupation. Important infrastructure projects are being implemented. As part of the Great Return Program, some of the former internally displaced persons have already returned to their ancestral lands, the cities of Lachin and Fuzuli, including three villages. More than 140,000 people are expected to return to Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur before the end of 2026.

It is quite remarkable that a conference of labor ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was held in Baku 10 years ago. According to the “Framework document” adopted there, future priorities for the exchange of experience in the fields of labor, migration and social protection were identified. Within the framework of the conference, I put forward the initiative to establish the Labor Center of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation with headquarters in Baku, and member countries unanimously supported that initiative. Over this period, important work has been done towards establishing the Labor Center of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Baku. I am sure that the center will play an important role in strengthening cooperation between member countries.

Today’s event is dedicated to innovative solutions, as well as digitization of labor and employment services. The issues to be discussed are of particular importance for every country, including Azerbaijan. Important work on digitalization in the social sphere has been carried out in Azerbaijan in recent years. Basing social services on a foundation of innovative approaches and modern technologies, creating a system of transparent, agile, high-quality, accessible and citizen-oriented social services are one of the main goals of the social reform program. In this context, the “ASAN service” model, the DOST concept, and a large-scale electronicization program of social services have been implemented.

Comprehensive electronicization of public services in the fields of labor, employment and social protection, provision of more than 140 electronic services to the population in these areas, and the creation of a unified labor relations platform have put in place a rigorous support mechanism for the population. As a result of all-round reforms carried out in the country, employment opportunities have increased, the level of unemployment and poverty has dropped significantly to 5.5 percent, and social benefits have been increased several times. The four social reform packages adopted in the last four years alone covered 40 percent of our population, the minimum wage has increased 2.7 times, the salary fund 2.6 times, the median wage 2.1 times, the minimum pension 2.5 times, and the average monthly pension 2 times.

I am sure that today’s conference will serve as an important platform for exchanging useful ideas and coordinating efforts on new opportunities for expanding cooperation in the fields of labor, employment and social protection among member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and will also enrich our mutually beneficial partnership with new content.

I extend my best wishes to you and wish the conference success.

 

Ilham Aliyev

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Baku, 23 November 2023