The multinational and multi-confessional nature of the Azerbaijan population is an essential aspect of intercultural dialogue, one of the national cultural policy priorities. The fundamental spirit of the national policy derives from the Constitution (1995), which ensures all citizens equality, regardless of ethnic or racial origin. The Law on Joining the International Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (№ 95-IQ of May 31, 1996) has found its reflex in the Law on Culture (№ 506-IVQ of December 21, 2012) and other relevant laws. On 16 June 2001, Azerbaijan joined the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of National Minorities. The leading public actor responsible for implementing the programmes and policies to promote intercultural dialogue in Azerbaijan, at national and local policy levels, is the Ministry for Culture, which closely cooperates with other state bodies, depending on the matter under consideration.
The Ministry for Culture has implemented the project “Cultural Diversity in Azerbaijan”, which was designed to highlight the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity. It involved the cultural associations of the various national minorities and helped realise one of its chief strategic aims – developing and supporting intercultural dialogue. Another significant event, traditional festivals – “Azerbaijan – my motherland”, was organised by the Ministry for Culture in November 2006, October 2008, November 2011, June 2014, and June 2016. Scientific conferences, photo exhibitions and preliminary concert performances and gala concerts, held in the framework of the festivals, attracted thousands of participants from different regions representing practically all national minorities and ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan.
The Republic of Azerbaijan joined the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions on November 26, 2009. Furthermore, the establishment of the Baku International Multiculturalism Centre (May 15, 2014) testifies to the country’s commitment to principles of tolerance. 2016 was declared the Year of Multiculturalism to preserve, develop, and promote multiculturalism traditions, mutual understanding, and dialogue.
The “Baku Process” is based on the interregional specifics of Azerbaijan, resulting from its geographic situation, social-political aspirations, and historical-cultural traditions. With the modern Republic of Azerbaijan being at that time the only state member both of the Council of Europe and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), the Baku Process has been initiated by the Ministry for Culture to bring these regions closer.
Formalising the Baku Process involved three initial stages:
- Organising a Council of Europe Conference of Culture Ministers in Baku, to which ISESCO and some of its member states were invited (December 2-3, 2008), with the theme of “Intercultural dialogue as a basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighbouring regions”.
- Holding an ISESCO Conference of Culture Ministers in Baku, to which the Council of Europe and some of its member states were invited (October 13-15, 2009), following the celebration of Baku as Islamic Culture Capital for 2009.
- Establishing a biennial Baku World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue with the participation of relevant inter-governmental organisations, culture ministers from all over the world.
The Baku World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue has taken responsibility for delivering:
- The Global agenda on the Dialogue among Civilisations adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (2001),
- The UNESCO Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005),
- ISESCO’s ‘Islamic Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2004),
- The Declaration and the Action Plan of the Third Summit of Heads of States and Governments of the Council of Europe (2005),
- The Council of Europe’s White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue (2008),
- The Baku Declaration for the Promotion of Intercultural Dialogue (2008).
In cooperation with UNESCO, the UN Alliance of Civilisations, the UN World Tourism Organisation, the Council of Europe, ISESCO, with the participation of culture ministers of numerous states, heads of leading international organisations, mayors of various world cities, diplomats, media organisations, international NGOs, scientists, scholars, distinguished cultural experts, practitioners, intellectuals and activists, the Republic of Azerbaijan has already hosted:
- The First Baku World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue under the motto – “United Through Common Values, Enriched by Cultural Diversity” (April 7-9, 2011);
- The Second Baku World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue on the subject of “Living Together Peacefully in a Diverse World” (29 May – 1 June 2013);
- The Third Baku World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue dedicated to the theme “Sharing Culture for Shared Security” (May 18-19, 2015);
- The Fourth Baku World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue on the subject “Advancing Intercultural Dialogue: New Avenues for Human Security, Peace and Sustainable Development” (May 5–6, 2017);
- The Fifth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue under the motto of “Building dialogue into action against discrimination, inequality, and violent conflict” (May 2–3, 2019).