With the participation of Heads of State, Prime Ministers, Ministers, leading figures and experts in global politics and Civil Society, the proceedings of the 5th Global Baku Forum, entitled “The Future of International Relations: Power and Interests,” opened its proceedings on Thursday, 16 March 2017.

The Forum was hosted by the “Nizami Ganjavi International Center,” under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, for the purpose of exploring and assessing the new global state of affairs and new threats being faced by humanity, and elaborating positions and actions for facing these challenges and enhancing international security and peace.

Before the Forum’s opening ceremony, at the Presidential residence, The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Alyev, accompanied by the Minister for the Azerbaijani Diaspora, Nazim Ibrahimov, received the Board of Directors of the “Nizami Ganjavi International Center”: The heads of the center, Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former President of Latvia, and Dr. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and the members of the Center’s BoD, former president of Serbia Boris Tadic, former president of Bulgaria Petar Stoyanof, former president of Croatia Ivo Josipovic, former president of Romania Emil Constantinescu, former prime minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina Zlatko Lagumdzjia, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, and UNESCO Good Will Ambassador Marianna V. Vardinoyannis.

President Ilham Aliyev congratulated them on their unflagging efforts and initiatives, which resulted in the impressive growth of the Global Baku Forum, and on this year’s gathering of so many important figures from all over the world at the Forum, which provides the opportunity for fertile and productive dialogue, thus auguring well for the future of international relations. The members of the Board of Directors of the “Nizami Ganjavi International Center” and President Ilham Aliyev then talked at length and exchanged opinions regarding the prospects for their future collaboration.

The Forum was attended by over 26 representatives of 50 countries from around the world, and President Ilham Aliyev, giving the Forum’s opening welcome address, underscored the great importance of this Forum, saying: “Every international Forum is important, because the issues raised impact decision-making centers in the future,” and referring to the 5th Global Baku Forum, he said: “It is now a tradition for Azerbaijan, as this is not the first time it is being held here.” And he added: “Azerbaijan is an independent state and a relatively new one, as last year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our reconstruction and independence. Our actions and the programmes we are implementing in our country have garnered a positive response throughout our region, and this is a way for us to present our country to the world … Unfortunately, between the previous Global Baku Forum and today’s, our world did not become more secure. The protracted conflicts, controversies and wars in our region continue, and this is a very dangerous trend. Within this climate, Azerbaijan is playing an important role as a factor for stability. The initiatives we are taking as a state are aimed at cooperation with our neighbours with a view to strengthening the security measures in the region …”

During his speech, President Ilham Aliyev did not omit to mention the refugee issue humanity is facing: “The refugee issue,” he said,”is leading to even less understanding between different states. It is causing discomfort and hardship for the residents of countries where refugees are arriving. But this is only symptom of the problem. The real cause is the foreign policy and military intervention in the internal affairs of these countries. And I would not characterize this stance as a very careful policy on the states of the Middle East, because this policy, in turn, leads to radical changes in the structure of the societies where the refugees end up.”

“We believe,” President Ilham Aliyev noted in conclusion, “and are investing in the dialogue between different cultures.”

The opening ceremony of the Forum was also addressed by Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former president of Latvia, and Dr. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, who, having set out the basic characteristics of today’s global political map, underscored the broad sense that the world order is shifting in ways that remain unclear, and that people are facing the challenges of the globalisation of international trade and the growth model with concern. In closing his speech, he added: “All of this, in combination with the ever-increasing inequality that is poisoning social relations and fuelling political extremism, makes it incumbent upon us to promote dialogue and exchange views in order to draw on the collective wisdom of everyone who responded to the invitation from the ‘Nizami Ganjavi International Center’ and is in Baku today.”

Within the framework of the 5th Global Baku Forum, Mrs. Vardinoyannis had a private meeting with the Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and wife of the President, Mehriban Aliyeva. The two ladies are linked by close ties of friendship, share the vision of building a better, peaceful world through education and culture, and collaborate in the context of the relevant UNESCO programmes, as Mrs. Aliyeva is also a UNESCO Good Will Ambassador. Mrs. Aliyeva gladly accepted Mrs. Vardinoyannis’s invitation to come to Greece in 2017, adding that she hasn’t forgotten her previous visit to our country, two years ago, and the concert held at that time by the Embassy of Azerbaijan, at the Herodes Atticus Theatre, in collaboration with the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” and with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. She noted that the concert, in particular, drew considerable interest and played an important role in promoting Azerbaijani culture in our country.

Mrs. Vardinoyannis also met with Mrs. Odeta Nishani, the First Lady of Albania, who accompanied the President of Albania, Bujar Nishani, to the Forum, as the two ladies are linked by ties of friendship and cooperation in the sector of children’s cancer, the care and protection of ailing children.

Mrs. Vardinoyannis was accompanied to the 5th Global Baku Forum by Melissa Vardinoyannis, a member of the “ELPIDA” Association of Friends of Children with Cancer.

Participants in the Forum included: Bujar Nishani, President of Albania; Raimonds Vejonis, President of Latvia; Filip Vujanovic, President of Montenegro; Giorgi Margvelashvili, President of Georgia, Rexhep Meidani, former President of Albania; and Turki Al Faisal, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.

*The founding principles and activities of the “Nizami Ganjavi International Center” are governed by the philosophy of the12th-century Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi. The promotion of the values and expression of his work, as well as the promotion of intercultural dialogue and understanding between peoples, is a key goal of the Center.