Azerbaijan is often in the news, but rarely for good reasons, given the country’s frequently authoritarian bent. However, Baku recently hosted the third meeting of the European Council of Environment and Health Ministers, which was held as part of “Green Week.” The latter was sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program and the International Dialogue for Environmental Action.
IDEA was founded by Leyla Aliyeva, vice president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. She asserted her country’s desire to be a leader in “green” economic development. With UNEP’s support Azerbaijan had studied the requirements of a “green economy.”
Moreover, she added: “Within ‘Green Week,’ the International Youth Forum, round tables on ‘Environmental Diplomacy Course,’ ‘green economy’ as well as for the first time outside of the Western European region, the Regional Consultation Meeting have been held in Azerbaijan.”
It’s not clear that such activities will have much practical impact on Azerbaijan’s economy. However, they reflect an obvious desire to connect with the West. And that provides a good lesson for the West for both economics and politics.
Drawing the authoritarian Central Asian states westward is not easy, but engagement is a better tactic than isolation. Especially when the nations indicate that they want to be part of the West. Baku should be encouraged to further liberalize its economy and political system. If stronger international connections are made, real reforms are more likely to be adopted.