Speech by the UN Resident Coordinator at the launch of the Sub-regional Innovation Policy Outlook 2020 publication in Azerbaijan
11 February 2021
The Joint UN-Gov Cooperation Framework advocates for a people-centric approach with a strong shift from a resource-based to innovation-driven economy.
H.E. Mr. Elmir Velizade, Deputy Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies,
Ms. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary, UNECE
H.E. Mr. Christian Kamill, Ambassador of Sweden to Azerbaijan
It is a great pleasure for me to join you today for the launch of the Sub-regional Innovation Policy Outlook (IPO) publication.
I would like to thank the United Nations Economic Commission for organizing this event to share the findings and recommendations of this important publication.
The launch of this publication comes at an important time for Azerbaijan which has just released Azerbaijan 2030 Vision document and has embarked on an ambitious socio-economic recovery plan for COVID-19 and territories affected by the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
These extraordinary events highlighted the need for a new socio-economic model that maintains the country on track for the achievement of the SDGs while protecting the weakest in society.
In addition, the United Nations Country Team in Azerbaijan is about to launch its next five-year sustainable development Cooperation Framework which places a strong emphasis on transformational solutions in the areas of inclusive growth, delivery of public and social services, and protection of the environment.
The Joint UN-Gov Cooperation Framework advocates for a people-centric approach with a strong shift from a resource-based to an innovation-driven economy.
Towards that goal, we have identified several targets on the transition to the digital economy, the promotion of climate-solution technologies, and the adoption of innovative practices to produce SDG data and public policies.
We are pleased to notice that there is a strong commitment within the Government of Azerbaijan to embrace this transformative agenda.
A lot has been achieved already in terms of setting up the core infrastructure for the delivery of digital public and social services.
The knowledge economy is also recognized as the way forward to attain the SDGs and to better position Azerbaijan in global competitiveness rankings through building on the country’s many strengths, such as; its location, its educated workforce, and its financial resources.
However, there are also challenges to innovation to be addressed, such as the impact of COVID-19 on oil prices, the vast reconstruction needs in conflict-affected regions, and the fragile environmental systems.
These challenges, also highlighted in this Report, risk placing undue emphasis on short-term priorities at the expense of longer-term planning.
In Azerbaijan’s Vision 2030, a competitive human capital and a greater space for modern innovations have been identified as key priorities.
This is positive and provides an opportunity to expand on the current partnership with the UN system to address current challenges to innovation.
One way to achieve this is to accompany the country in its attempts to diversify the economy away from dependence on the hydrocarbon sector.
We would also support changes to the investment climate and regulatory framework in order to strengthen the resilience of Azerbaijan’s economy and create incentives for innovation.
As the Innovation Policy Outlook rightly notes, increasing support for the private sector activities and fostering innovation by supporting investment in research and development would allow Azerbaijan to fully exploit its innovation potential and diversify its economy.
These challenges are a common feature of many transition economies in all six countries of Eastern Europe and South Caucasus, which have completed difficult transitions from centrally planned to market economies.
I see in this shared past a tremendous opportunity for regional cooperation and peer learning.
Our meeting today is a step forward in that direction and the IPO publication will help us compare innovation ecosystems and scale-up ideas in these six countries.
Once again, I would like to thank UNECE for all the work that went into the design and launch of this report and l wish you all a productive event.