Academic Ramiz Mehdiyev notes in his December 3, 2014 article entitled "World order of the double-standards and modern Azerbaijan” that our republic has managed to be successful in some aspects of the development of civil society, where even Europe has failed to do so. For example, in the areas of multiculturalism and tolerance.
Academic particularly emphasized the fact that Azerbaijan has granted each one of its citizen the constitutional rights and freedoms thus ensured the peaceful co-existence of people from different confessions and ethnicities: "At the same time, Azerbaijan has remained a secular state despite the majority of people adhering to the religion of Islam”.
Establishment of Ombudsman Institute in 2001 in the Republic of Azerbaijan can be viewed as the requirement of the period. The fact that Azerbaijan was a multi-ethnic state and many ethnic and national groups lived in its territory made this a historical necessity. This was manifested in the creation of the Ombudsman institute. But what do we mean when we say "Ombudsman”(Advocate)?
According to the articles of the Constitutional Law entitled "On Ombudsman”, everyone living in the territory of our country, regardless of their race, nationality, religion, native language, is entitled to appeal to Ombudsman.
The article 8.1 of the Law stipulates that Ombudsman reviews the complaints of the citizens of Azerbaijan, foreigners and stateless people and legal persons about the violations of the human rights.
Since its inception, the institution of Ombudsman has carried out several measures to ensure the freedoms of ethnic and religious minorities. Advocate has made speeches with constructive suggestions for the relationship between people of different religions in the conferences dedicated to religious tolerance. In order to promote religious tolerance among children and young people, the Ombudsman is in constant contact with the international network "Religions for children”.
We know that individuals belonging to various religious confessions reside in prisons. The religious affiliation of these people should be viewed within the prison regime they are in and more opportunities should be created for freedom of conscience. Taking this into account, the Ombudsman has proposed to improve the conditions of the inmates belonging to different religious confessions and organizing regular meeting with the religious figures of various confessions.
The ombudsman also keeps in touch with the members of various religions and regularly addresses their concerns. Taking into account the fact that ethnic and religious tolerance is the specific characteristic of the Azerbaijani society, the Advocate had called for the establishment of an inter-faith council called "Peace through religion”. Ombudsman has also participated in several international events dedicated to religious and human rights as well as the rights of ethnic minorities. The Ombudsman has signed documents on mutual cooperation with 7 other Ombudsman institutes (Russian Federation Ombudsman, Tatarstan and other subjects of Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Uzbekistan).
Ombudsman has regularly held meetings with ethnic minorities living in various parts of Azerbaijan and organized trainings and workshops to inform them on legal matters. Regional centers of the Commissioner for Human Rights were established in three regions of Azerbaijan – Guba, Sheki and Jelilabad which have the most ethnic minority population, with the support of the UN Development Program in 2003 to promote human and civil rights.
Ombudsman and her representatives attend several international conferences including annual meetings of the OSCE on Human Dimension. Several advisors have been assigned to the Ombudsman to more effectively defend the rights of ethnic minorities, analyzing the international documents on this issue and improving the legislation.
Understanding the importance of joining the Convention dated December 14, 1960 on "Against the discrimination in education” adopted by the UNESCO, the Ombudsman appealed to the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan to ratify the Convention.
At the initiative of the Ombudsman, a roundtable was organized on the topic of "Forming peace movement in Azerbaijan: problems and prospects” which was attended by the large religious communities (Muslim, Jewish, Russian Orthodox, Catholic) in our country and issue of guaranteeing rights and freedoms of different ethnicities living in the territory of Azerbaijan was discussed. Establishment of peace movement in our country, the role of ethnic and religious tolerance in this, operation of the peace movement as a large alliance was talked about and the National Peace movement was founded in Azerbaijan.
On June 16, 2011 the Ombudsman Apparatus hold the IX Baku International Conference dedicated to "Cultural rights of ethnic minorities and migrants: legal aspects and implementation”. The event was dedicated to June 18 – 20th anniversary of the restoration of the independence of Azerbaijan and the Human Rights Day and the 45thanniversary of Pacts on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights ("Azerbaijan” newspaper, 03.03.2011, p.-2).
June 18 is celebrated as the Human Rights day every year in our country. On this occasion, every year at the initiative of the Ombudsman the "Human Rights month” is celebrated from May 18 to June 18 in our Republic. As part of the month, human rights organizations, as well as state agencies, NGOs and other relevant institutions hold events on defending the rights of citizens and promoting human rights in our country.
The social and economic development of the regions also affects the areas populated by the ethnic minorities. The State program on the social and economic development of the regions play a very important role in balanced and comprehensive development of the regions in the recent years, increasing economic activity, increased competitiveness of the economy, new jobs and enterprises and ensuring rapid and sustainable development of our country as a whole. The policy implemented for the social and economic development of the region has turned into a progressive method of economic growth, state regulation of the systematic and sustainable development. It has created conditions for full mobilization of national and economic reserves in the region, vitalizing the business sector, developing free market and forming the production sector capable of competition.
One of the main development doctrines of 2014-2018 is to expand the geographical boundaries of balanced development, increase the level of production and enterprises, multiply the number of national producers that have proven themselves in terms of liberal economy and finance.
Ethnic minorities live densely in Sheki-Zagatala, Guba-Khachmaz, Lenkeran-Astara and other regions. We should note that, the social and economic development of the regions is currently at the center of attention. We can see it clearly in the dynamics of socio-economic indicators of the region in 2012 and 2013 as part of the "State Program on social and economic development of the regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2009 -2013”. To elaborate, investments in capital for Sheki-Zagatala economic districts in 2012 was 222.8 manat and 958.6 manat in 2013. For Guba-Khachmaz region it was 583.1 and 2667.4 in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The figures for Lenkeran economic region was 222.8 and 958.6 million manat in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Newly built and fully repaired roads were 452.4 km for Sheki-Zagatala economic region in 2013, 358.6 km for Guba-Khachmaz economic region and 400 km for Lenkeran economic region.