New jobs, youth and women empowerment among top priorities
Baku, 15 March 2019 – During her three-day visit to Azerbaijan, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States held a series of meetings with UNDP key government and development partners in Azerbaijan discussing future opportunities for closer cooperation on women and youth empowerment and economic diversification.
“The working-age population in Azerbaijan is growing by about 100,000 people a year. UNDP remains strongly committed to expanding our excellent partnership with the Government of Azerbaijan to create new jobs, start-ups and small family businesses, empower women and youth and create a more diversified economy that will benefit everyone”, Ms. Spoljaric Egger stated during her meeting with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
‘I trust and believe we will continue to expand our partnership and intensify our cooperation with the Government of Azerbaijan in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” concluded Ms. Spoljaric Egger following her meetings with senior government officials key state officials.
Head of UNDP Eurasia also spoke at the opening ceremony of the 7th Global Baku Forum on ‘New Foreign Policy’ hosted by the Nizami Ganjavi International Centre and the Panel on Sustainable Development Challenges. At the ceremony the UN Assistant Secretary-General highlighted the importance of forging new partnerships between governments, the private sector, civil society and citizens to ensure the achievement of the SDGs.
The Head of UNDP Eurasia attended the opening of the Women’s Resource Centre in the Baku Khazar district. It is expected that over 400 women will benefit from this new Government, UNDP and UN Women USD 637,000 initiative funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Austrian Development Cooperation.
Since 2011, eight Women’s Resource Centres have been launched, providing more than 6,000 women with free training in a range of hard and soft skills. This training has directly helped almost 150 women launch their own businesses with in-kind grant support from UNDP, the European Union, USAID, the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Government of Azerbaijan.
Ms. Spoljaric Egger also opened the 6th Regional Internet Governance Forum together with Mr. Ramin Guluzade, Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies. One of UNDP’s signature events held annually in Azerbaijan, this forum was a major highlight of Cyber Week 2019, organized for the first time ever in Azerbaijan by the Government and UNDP to raise awareness about the importance of cyber security.
Over the past eighteen years, in partnership with the Government, UNDP Azerbaijan has developed one of the largest e-governance programmes in the region, with projects worth over $50m spanning more than a decade.
UNDP and the Ministry of Communications, Transport and High Technology are currently implementing a joint project to modernise and improve the sustainability of the ICT systems and infrastructure in Azerbaijan. This joint effort seeks to extend the benefits and reach of the information and communications technologies to the most remote parts of the country and improve information security for telecommunications operators, businesses and IT companies. The first milestone of the project was the establishment of the country’s first Data Centre - a data storage facility for state and private entities. UNDP and the Ministry also organised an Idea to Business initiative, conducting start-up tours throughout the country to support the expansion of the start-up movement and opening centres for STEM and robotics studies in schools.
Ms. Spoljaric Egger also visited ASAN, the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and met with its chairman, Mr. Ulvi Mehdiyev. Having earned a reputation of a one-stop shop for public service delivery in Azerbaijan, ASAN (which means “easy” in Azerbaijani) is the country’s flagship solution for increased transparency and efficiency aimed to bring government services closer to the people.
Ms. Spoljaric Egger also became acquainted with the UNDP’s programme that provides entrepreneurial training to help people set up small family businesses in the north-west of Azerbaijan. This three-year programme funded by the EU in the amount of USD 1,074,000 is implemented by UNDP in partnership with ABAD - a national network for supporting family businesses. The programme began in 2017 and is already helping to empower 44 vulnerable families in the region, including IDPs from the war-affected Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Among the start-ups so far initiated, 23 businesses are led by women. On completing their entrepreneurial training and establishing their own business, the programme beneficiaries will become full members of ABAD, meaning they will be able to place and sell their products in ABAD’s large distribution network, which includes big supermarkets, hypermarkets and duty-free shops.
As the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS, since October 2018, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger leads UNDP’s work and teams in 17 countries and one territory, spanning Central Asia, the Western CIS and South Caucasus, and Western Balkans.
Ms. Spoljaric Egger previously served as Head of United Nations and International Organisations Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, where she has been instrumental in shaping Swiss UN policies and priorities in support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
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