On Thursday, 15 March 2018, within the framework of the visit she carried out to Azerbaijan on the occasion of her participation in the work of the VI Baku Forum, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Marianna V. Vardinoyannis received two international distinctions of major importance.

In recognition of Mrs. Vardinoyannis’ contribution to the creation of friendly relations between Greece and Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev awarded her the “Order of friendship of Azerbaijan” which is the highest honour of the Republic of Azerbaijan and is awarded to heads of state and prominent personalities from around the world.

In a separate ceremony that took place in the presence of the First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, President Aliyev spoke of  Mrs. Vardinoyannis’ great work and contributions:  “You are a true friend of our country and, at the same time, a shining example to the world.  This award is in recognition of what you have done for the friendship between our two countries and of the major humanitarian work you are carrying out in Greece.”

Immediately afterwards, Mrs. Vardinoyannis had a personal meeting with the First Lady of Azerbaijan, during which they had the opportunity to talk about important issues related to their joint actions.  Mrs. Vardinoyannis and Mrs Aliyeva are associated through a long and close friendship, as they cooperate within the context of UNESCO.

Mrs. Vardinoyannis was also awarded the Nizami Ganjavi International Award during the opening ceremony of the VI Global Baku Forum, which was held recently in Azerbaijan. This award honours and recognises the work of important figures for the promotion of dialogue between peoples; dialogue that lays the foundations for the creation of a society free of exclusion.

The award was presented to Mrs. Vardinoyannis by the two heads of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center:  the former President of Latvia, Vaira Vike Freiberga, and the former Director of the Bibliotecha Alexandrina, Ismail Serageldin.

Upon receipt of the Award, Mrs. Vardinoyannis said she was touched by the special honour and stressed that “this award symbolizes hope for a better world: A common vision that we share – all of us who have dedicated our work and our daily efforts to creating conditions of peace, friendship, and harmony.  Harmony between peoples with different cultures, a different history, and different views.”

In addition to Mrs. Vardinoyannis, the First Lady and Vice President of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II were also honoured with the Νizami Ganjavi International Award.

Other participants in the VI Global Baku Forum on “Bridging Gaps to Create Inclusive Societies” included Presidents and Prime Ministers of states, among whom were the President of Montenegro, the President of Albania, the President of Moldova, the Prime Minister of Turkey, the Prime Minister of Romania, the Prime Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as former Presidents and former Prime Ministers.   In addition, 500 important figures from 50 different countries, as well as heads of international organizations, attended the three-day events of the Forum.  Both Pope Francis and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres honoured the work of the Forum with written greetings.

Within the context of the VI Global Baku Forum, Mrs. Vardinoyannis had the opportunity to speak and exchange views with important political and diplomatic figures.