Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan: NRC country programmes

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The Norwegian Refugee Council has the following goals for its work in Azerbaijan:
  • Help protect and promote refugees' and internally displaced persons' human rights

  • Contribute to long-term solutions for internally displaced persons and refugees through humanitarian assistance
This is what we are doing:
  • Rehabilitating homes and schools

  • Performing community work in collective homes for internally displaced persons

  • Village development

  • Offering rolling loan programmes to help create jobs and means of income for internally displaced persons

  • Developing models for instruction in human rights in schools
Recent developments in projects

Eight years after the end of the bitter war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the situation is still in a deadlock. The conflict led to many hundreds of thousands of people being forced to flee, and it does not seem possible that any of them will be able to return to their homes in the foreseeable future. There are currently 570 000 internally displaced persons and 225 000 refugees in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan's many internally displaced persons have been living in miserable conditions for almost ten years. Around half of the internally displaced persons live in urban areas, most of them in the capital Baku, generally in dilapidated, overpopulated public buildings - many of which used to be student halls of residence and dormitories. The buildings were not designed for their current use, where often a family of five or six lives in a room intended for one person. Kitchens and bathrooms are shared. After almost ten years of overuse, these buildings are in a poor state of repair and many are uninhabitable. The Norwegian Refugee Council is rehabilitating many of these buildings - installing new electrical systems, sanitary systems and water supply; replacing doors and windows; and renovating communal rooms. Through active community work, the inhabitants are being encouraged to take responsibility for the day-to-day maintenance of the buildings and social aspects within and around the buildings, including providing activities for children, young people and the elderly.

In the south-western part of the country, despite the fact that Nagorno Karabakh and the six surrounding provinces are still under occupation, there has been a limited return to liberated areas near the occupied areas. The Norwegian Refugee Council is building homes and schools here.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has also set up a loan project aimed at internally displaced persons and refugees. Unemployment among these groups is extremely high, and the goal of the project is to improve these people's opportunities to earn a living. So far, almost three thousand people have been granted a loan. Many small companies have been established, while other people use the loan to set up trading.

The Norwegian Refugee Council is working to introduce and improve the position of human rights teaching in the education system. Developments to date include publication of several textbooks for pupils, a resource book for teachers and a guide for parents. The Norwegian Refugee Council is working in close collaboration with other NGOs and the Ministry of Education on this project.

Recent developments - the conflict and the refugee situation

There has been a ceasefire in the region since 1994, but so far the peace talks have not resulted in a permanent peaceful solution. The Nagorno-Karabakh enclave and six surrounding provinces in Azerbaijan are still occupied. Negotiations are being carried out under the direction of the Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but several peace proposals have been rejected by the parties, both of whom are adamant in their demands. There still seems to be little political will to resolve the key issue of the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. At the moment there is scarcely any real contact between the two countries: the border is closed, it is difficult to ring from one country to the other, there is no trade between them, and very few Azerbaijanis and Armenians visit each other's countries.

Background

In the mainly Armenian populated Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan, the Karabakh Armenians' demand for independence in 1991 led to war, supported by Armenia. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee. Ethnic Azerbaijanis living in Armenia fled to Azerbaijan, and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from Nagorno Karabakh and the surrounding areas to other parts of Azerbaijan. Armenians living in Azerbaijan fled the other way.

The conflict between the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh has been labelled ethnic. However, the conflicts between the two peoples, which have deep historical roots, are not the whole reason behind the situation. Arbitrary moving of borders and forced removal of entire groups of people during the Soviet period have also exacerbated the conflict. Further, Russia has manipulated the conflict in order to secure its own strategic and economic interests. Major economic difficulties after the breakdown of the Soviet Union have not eased the conflict either.