Baku/AZERBAIJAN-Tbilisi/GEORGIA, 14 September 2018 – Where Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are concerned, partnerships are crucial, specifically at a local, regional and global levels. The SDGs can only be realised if countries show strong commitment to working together, including through regional projects that aim to improve livelihoods and create safe grounds for the mobility of people and goods across borders, in a global call to foster peace, security and free trade. In this regard, moving towards more robust, bilateral, regional and international cooperation in border management, Azerbaijan and Georgia have taken a proactive approach to improving and modernising integrated border management systems at joint customs control checkpoints, which connect the two countries of the South Caucasus.
Situated strategically at the intersection between Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan and Georgia joined forces in late 2015 in an effort to facilitate a secure and legal passing of people and goods at the Red Bridge Border Crossing Point, the main border control point between the two countries, and to a large extent, between the two continents –Europe and Asia. Implemented under the auspices of the European Union Eastern Partnership Flagship Initiative, the project was operated by UNDP in Azerbaijan and Georgia, in close cooperation with two strategic Government partners –the Revenue Service of the Ministry of Finance in Georgia and the State Customs Committee in Azerbaijan. With the total budget of EUR 2.66 million, the project has seen EUR 2.128 million in contribution from the EU, while attracting co-sharing from the Governments of Azerbaijan and Georgia –both contributing EUR 532,000 towards the implementation expenditures, collectively. After three years of successful operations at the Red Bridge Border Crossing Point, the Governments of Azerbaijan and Georgia joined by the EU and UNDP have come together today to mark the conclusion of the project and celebrate some of the milestone achievements of this joint platform.
Aiming to support the governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan in maintaining secure borders, the project specifically focused on the enhancement of bilateral and multilateral cooperation between the two countries as well as the EU Member States. Two key areas of project intervention were capacity building of the border management authorities in Georgia and Azerbaijan and the infrastructure and equipment support to facilitate the movement and increase security on the both sides of the Red Bridge.
Speaking at the project closing ceremony in Tbilisi today, the Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan Kestutis Jankauskas noted that this flagship partnership initiative, which the “European Union has been supporting and implemented together with UNDP, has already boosted the coordination between customs authorities of Azerbaijan and Georgia. This joint action “enhances regional cooperation, helps to simplify procedures and facilitates trade. With the EU assistance the Red Bridge is becoming an important element in global connectivity between Europe and Asia."
The lack of a secure customs clearance area outside of the Border Crossing Point in Azerbaijan in the past meant that shipments, which could not be cleared immediately delayed the processing of all other cargos. The Red Bridge project helped create a secure ‘overflow’ area, which now allows for secondary checks and facilitates border flows. Most importantly –the time required for the processing of the cargos has now been significantly reduced, as a result of the project. Only in Azerbaijan, more than 70 representatives of State Customs Committee received training on the EU’s best practices on customs control procedures, phytosanitary, sanitary, veterinary and food safety border control issues, while over 250 inspectors working at the Border Crossing Point received extensive capacity building through a total of 10 training programmes delivered by the EU experts from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Overall, more than 300 representatives of the Azerbaijan State Customs Committee attended a total of 20 knowledge sharing events organised in the framework of the project. Parallel activities have been conducted in Georgia.
Along with the project closing ceremony, today also marked the launch of a brand new state-of-the-art sanitary, veterinary and phytosanitary inspection point appointed with modern appliances and operating at full capacity on the Georgian side of the border and the opening of a new customs terminal on the Azerbaijani end of the Red Bridge.
Concluding the results of this landmark project, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Azerbaijan Ghulam Isaczai emphasised that “effective border management is strongly intertwined with the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to enhance their own national security, in compliance with international law, while also protecting the rights and reducing potential vulnerabilities of people crossing borders.”
For questions, please contact Arzu Jafarli, Communications and External Relations Analyst for UNDP in Azerbaijan, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sophie Tchitchinadze, Communications Analyst for UNDP in Georgia, at email@example.com