Speech by Abulfaz Babayev, Chairman of National Association of City Municipalities of Azerbaijan, at the 4th General Meeting of National Associations of Local and Regional Authorities of Council of Europe member states

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen! First of all I would like to greet you on behalf of Azerbaijani delegation and wish all of you success.

I would like to note, that in 2006, in accordance with requirement of “European Charter of Local Self-Government” and of the Azerbaijan Republic Law on “Status of Municipalities”, National Associations of City, Settlement and Village Municipalities were established in Azerbaijan on the basis of municipalities’ initiatives, which would then be known as “Azerbaijani model”.         

In the first years of its activity the Association used all its efforts for organization issues and for coordination and improvement of activities of municipalities, to ensure participation of municipalities in implementation of local programs and realization of projects of local importance, to strengthen role or reputation of local municipalities in the society. Meetings of Heads of Municipalities were held in Baku and 51 regions by the initiative and organization of National Associations on the subject of “Participation of local municipalities in the implementation of local projects for social-economic development of City, Settlement and Villages” and their regional councils and Council of Coordination of Activities of National Associations of City, Settlement and Village Municipalities were established. This was important as it caused to improve efficiency of mutual activities of different Municipalities and Associations.

In order to determine issues which cause Municipalities to be interested and to worry, direct meetings were held with Municipalities, more than 5 thousand offers of Municipalities were gathered and at the result it was determined that the most actual problems for Municipalities were the followings: improvement of their activity, suggestion for relevant amendment to the current legislation, increase of financial and economic potential of Municipalities, study and share of advanced work practices, establishment of permanent service areas, increase and management of property and settlement of social problems.

In order to organize business discussions over general issues, Republican Conference on “Municipalities: new form and new subject”, as well as different round table meetings for City, Settlement and Village Municipalities were held.

In order to finalize works performed at the initiative of Associations, to discuss achievements and current problems, to generalize issues gathered and analyzed by associations and to determine relevant measures, as well as to investigate the ways of increasing role of municipalities in socioeconomic development of the regions, first All-Republican Meeting of Head of Municipalities on “Role of Municipalities in socioeconomic development of the regions” was held on 27 June 2007 in Baku, and Second All-Republican Meeting of Head of Municipalities on “Role of Municipalities in establishment of civil society and implementation of democratic principles” in on 25 June 2008 Yevlakh city. Activities of Municipalities and current problems were analyzed in details in the reports and speeches at the meetings and National Associations provided brief information on works performed by the Municipalities in settlement of social issues in the documentary film introduced according to tasks undertaken during the first meeting and in the book called “Municipalities: new form, new subject”.

Chief of Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan, heads of central and local executive powers, deputies, representative of general secretary of the Council of Europe in Azerbaijan Denis Bribosia, expert of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe Owen Masters also participated and gave a speech in these meetings.

Conclusions of Meetings, recommendations adopted in such meetings have become activity plan of state municipalities for future phases. Initiatives of associations such as unification of municipalities with low potential, which was successfully implemented in 2010, offer of regular organization of “Local Democracy Weeks” every year in Azerbaijan and initiative of “One Municipality - at least one project” aiming at strengthening activities of municipalities in solution of social problems of local importance were raised by the National Associations in these meetings.

More than 15500 projects with total cost of 74.000.000 AZN have been implemented by the municipalities. There were 7 more initiatives in Republican Conference of the Associations on “Municipality: new form, new subject” dedicated to advanced municipality practices. These initiatives include “Let’s hear our voters”, “Municipality day”, “Municipality care to sport facilities”, “Municipality Cup”, “Our Address”, “Flourishing village” and “Flourishing estates”.

Among those implemented within the frame of initiatives, the projects intending construction of roads of local importance, potable water supply, area flourishing and improvement, removal and disposal of domestic wastes, construction and maintenance of “Facilities for wedding and mourning ceremonies”, maintenance of water irrigation ditches of local importance, maintenance of buildings of educational institutions, supply of irrigation water, construction and maintenance of common sport facilities, maintenance of buildings of cultural institutions and protection of cemeteries have been realized by Municipalities. In 2011 about 1259 projects intending maintenance of roads of local importance, 745 projects intending area flourishing and improvement and 359 projects intending potable water supply of population were implemented. Implementation of such projects has been reported in the Mass Media.

Considering characteristics of administrative system in our country, by the Decision of Second All-Republican Meeting of Head of Municipalities, Municipalities and local Executive Power Bodies have been recommended to establish coordination councils for the purpose of coordination of activities of local executive power and municipalities in socioeconomic development of territories of city, settlement and villages and in solution of problems of local importance.

Today such councils operate in all cities and regions of the republic. In some case such coordination councils are managed by head of Municipalities, in other case, by Executive power body chief deputies.

Initiator of Local Democracy Weeks annually held in Azerbaijan is National Associations of City, Settlement and Village Municipalities of Azerbaijan. Associations supported the initiative of the Council of Europe to organize such Weeks, creatively developed this idea and having obtained support of municipalities organized the first “Local Democracy Week in Azerbaijan” on 5-11 November 2007.

Within the first “Democracy Week” that gave push to increase transparency in activities of municipalities, to development of democratic principles and widening participation of people in activities of local municipalities, city and regional meetings of head of municipalities have been held, detailed information has been provided regarding essence of this initiative and these meetings have been achieved to be held in high level with regard to popularity, organization and democracy. This created in the society initial understanding about “Democracy week”. Being creative to this issue our Associations afterwards gave thematic direction to “Democracy Week”. Between 17-23 November 2008 “Democracy weeks” were held in the territories of all municipalities of our republic aiming at increase of citizen’s participation and legal knowledge in development of New Democracy under the name “Let’s hear our voters”, increase of interest and participation of citizens in Municipality election under the name “Let’s report to voters” on 21 October - 20 November 2009, increase of role of civil society in governing the society under the name “Municipality - Citizen” relations on 19-25 December 2011.

There have been used slogans and placed invitations with the subject of these Weeks in the populated places during preparatory period and whole week.

Another interesting point within the frame of the Week was talks with pupils on the subjects of “Our Municipality”, “What I would do if I were the Head of Municipality”, “Municipality with the eyes of the Youth” and so on.

I would like to note, that both different aspects of democracy week and some aspects of municipal government, such as initiative of “One Municipality - at least one project”, may be interesting as an innovation with regard to the exchange of experience among the member states of the Council of Europe.

It is not accidental, that it was highly appreciated, that our country was active in organization of Local Democracy Week in Azerbaijan in accordance with the requirements of Valencia Declaration adopted at the 51st Session of the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Authorities of member states of the Council of Europe dedicated to Local Democracy week.

During the “Weeks” “hotlines”, “municipality post boxes”, special information boards were placed, “open door days”, round tables were held, particular attention was paid to active participation of the youth, women and population and there was great opportunity to increase “citizen-municipality”, “municipality-citizen” relations.

National Associations, together with the Center of Work to Municipalities under the Ministry of Justice and Justice Academy organized courses for improvement of professional skills and seminar-meetings for municipalities.  

 Analyses revealed that great number of small municipalities cause to increase of administrative costs, minimize financial resources among them, weaken staff potential, cause dispersedness  in local self-government, create obstacles in performance of power, prevent fast development. These issues were initially discussed in details during the first All-Republican Meetings of Head of Municipalities organized by the National Associations and there were offers related to unification of small municipalities according to international practices. The Second Meeting determined it as necessary step, taking into consideration the fact that optimal choice of territorial limits and number of population is important aspect in formation of municipalities for their efficient acting.

In order to ensure that unification process is realized on basis of democratic principles, this process was simplified in legislation and competence was determined for giving direct decision regarding unification in the meetings of citizens with voting rights in the regions.

National Associations of City, Settlement and Village Municipalities of Azerbaijan having analyzed offers, socioeconomic conditions of the territories and other aspects, organized 9 regional meetings on 2-3 April 2009 in connection with unification.

With the initiative of head of municipalities, decisions regarding unification of the mentioned municipalities were adopted in 2401 meetings held with participation of more than 401 thousand of people with voting rights in 1960 settlements that 1570 Municipalities of 46 cities and regions of the republic and relevant indoors and outdoors, including necessary conditions were provided by municipalities for such meetings.

According to results of these meetings, applications of relevant Municipalities were considered by the National Council (Milli Mejlis) of the Republic of Azerbaijan during Spring Session and the Law was adopted calling for establishment of new Municipalities.

At the result of unification, total number of country municipalities decreased in 1037 unit (37,7%), from 2755 to 1718,  while number of municipalities of areas with less than 1000 person was decreased up to 5 times.

National Associations were active in preparation of draft laws on legislation related to local self-government, which was adopted by the Milli Mejlis, and managed to have discussions of draft laws with Municipalities and to include to them the provisions that are considered to meet their demands. Collections of Laws containing amendments and modifications to the Laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan concerning “Approval of draft regulations of Municipalities”, “Administrative control over the activity of Municipality”, “Basis of Finance of Municipality”, “Permanent and other commissions of Municipalities”, “Status of Municipalities” and “Management of Municipality lands”  can be shown as a sample.

During its activity period National Associations developed relations with Milli Mejlis, relevant ministries and organizations, collaborated with Committee on Regional Issues of the Milli Mejlis regarding issues of local self-government, heads of National Associations actively participated in the meetings of the committee in connection with “works done in Committee”, “state budget”, “amendment to legislation” and “report of body having control over activity of municipality” and in plenary meetings.

During past time, cooperation has been maintained with Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, as well as with international bodies and nongovernmental organizations in connection self-governmental issues, works were done towards creation and development of relations between national associations and  associations of foreign countries, Chairmen of all 3 National Associations participated at the All-Republican Forum of Ukrainian Municipalities held in Odessa, Ukraine, report meeting of Union Latvian Municipalities and annual meeting of Association of Turkic World Municipalities.

National Associations carry out serious activities in establishment of bilateral relations between Azerbaijani municipalities and Municipalities of European Countries within the context of “twinnig municipalities”. More than 20 “Twin Municipalities” treaties have recently been signed between country municipalities and municipalities of France, Latvia, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Bulgaria and delegations of municipalities made mutual visits.

Such visits create real conditions for regional and local economic relations along with creation of friendship among the people at municipal level.

I would like to bring to your attention, that we have friendly relations with European cities for many years. In this case, I would like to highlight twin relations between Sumgayit and Ludvigshafen cities and we have recently celebrated 35th anniversary of collaboration and partnership between these cities.  

Association of Municipalities of France which has highly appreciated international importance of activeness of municipalities in this field, has awarded Mr.Abulfaz Babayev, Chairman of the National Association of City Municipalities of Azerbaijan with golden medal of Association of Municipalities of France for efficient activities in development and strengthening of mutual relations between French and Azerbaijani Associations upon decree of its annual meeting. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my French colleagues for their attention to activity of our Associations of municipalities.

In the end I hope that this brief information will create necessary impression on activity of National Associations which act in our country and the colleagues who participate in the meeting today will have intention to cooperate with us.

Thank you for attention!

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