THE FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL PEACE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE IN AZERBAIJAN, AFAQ AHMADOVA, TELLS AZERI OBSERVER ABOUT THE GOALS AND AIMS OF THE ORGANIZATION AND A NEW PROJECT WHICH WILL CLOSE THE GAPS IN THE PEACE PROCESS WITHIN AZERBAIJANI SOCIETY.
BY ELENA KOSOLAPOVA
AZERI OBSERVER STAFF WRITER
Question: Tell us about your education and professional activity before the creation of the International Peace Research and Development Institute.
Answer: I graduated from the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).
Back in Moscow, I studied Political Science with a specialization in Global Security. While studying there, I joined many different peace projects, conflict management and international security, including PIR Center’s projects on nuclear disarmament, implemented jointly with the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and initiatives of the Russian Youth Association for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation (YATA-Russia) under the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and non-proliferations projects by Pugwash Committee in Italy (Trento). Coming back to Azerbaijan, I saw a big gap in the peace research sphere. There was only one foreign NGO conducting theoretical research projects, but even that was closed to the wider public. In 2008 I joined the NATO International School of Azerbaijan (NISA) and European Students’ Forum AEGEE and was elected coordinator of the AEGEE Media Working Group. Together with a team of 7-11 volunteer students, I implemented several projects, including the Youth Leadership beyond Boundaries, Conflict of generations, an AIDS campaign, and an Information Society seminar during a year and half.
Q.: Could you give us a brief history of the International Peace Research Institute? What was the need for its creation?
A.: The idea of an International Peace Research Center came from our activities and involvement in the process. I founded the International Peace Research and Development Institute (IPRDI) in October 2009, and my team from AEGEE Baku made up its core. IPRDI Baku is a non-profit, non-governmental, politically neutral organization focused on peace research, analysis and the organization of training, conferences, seminars and round table discussions. Our goal is to bring relevant science and theory into practice.
Q.: This year the Institute celebrates its 10th anniversary. Can you discuss the projects and achievements during this period?
A.: Throughout the 10 years, the organization has undergone various transformation. We started as the Center for Peace Research. In 2011 by our Initiative, Institute for Conflict Transformation and Peace building in Switzerland, held training for diplomats in Azerbaijan. After such collaboration, we restructured the organization into the Peace Research Institute in order to make more academic activities and later we added the word ‘development’ to its title. The two biggest events organized by the Institute were the International Scientific Peace Conference ‘Causes of War and Prospects for Peace’ dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the end of World War Two, with guest speakers from the Russian Center for Policy Research, the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) and Sorbonne University, the Algerian State Political Advisor, the Head of Baku International Conflict Research Center and, the Head of International Relations department at Caucasus University. The second event – the Alternative to Violence Project aimed at training society activists from different regions of Azerbaijan, with invited trainers from the German AVP Project. The goal of the latter project was to decrease social aggression in society by using games and simple communication tools. Both projects were widely covered by the press. Another project that was discussed with two private agencies last year, was delayed due to technical issues, for example, “Women and children in times of war,” which is a theatric catwalk on the stage (podium). It is a 5 minute ‘voiceless’ play with only costumes and performances to highlight the social message to audience: “Women and children shall be the object of special respect and protection.” We provide only the scenario and the main line, but the implementation process by the agency and their supporters, were the reason of the delay. We believe they will restart it next season.
Q.: What is on the Institute agenda now?
A.: From the beginning of 2019, the organization reinforced its policies, in order to strengthen a few social gaps. This idea turned into a yearlong project on Policy Design. Its first stage envisages training and round tables in policy design, including policy games. Let us imagine the country as a superstructure, like a big boat with its engine representing bureaucracy itself. The first stage is about superstructure itself, types of bureaucracies, and modes of decision making such as self-coordination, which is an alternative to superior coordination, divides in positive coordination and negative coordination. Positive coordination, which is very exceptional, implies that policy proposals are initiated by all responsible sections, considering all consequences for all sections based on forecasts rather than actual results. Negative coordination, by contrast, has to ensure that any new policy initiative designed by a specialized subunit within the ministerial organization, will not interfere with the established policies and the interests of other ministerial units. We will invite specialists from various fields to participate in the project.
The second stage will be dedicated to political advisory systems (PAS) and consultations within this sphere. PAS provides a holistic view of individual and institutional advisers, who operate in accordance with their own goals and procedures, for example, public service and central agencies, partisan ministerial advisers, external consultants, commissions of inquiry, parliamentary committees, think tanks, supranational organizations and formal advisory bodies.
The third stage of the project is evaluation and post-evaluation, i.e. an evidence-based judgment of the extent to which an intervention has been effective and efficient. Regulation of any type on any level can be centralized into an inter-ministerial evaluation board to be assessed before adoption.
Evaluation criteria must be based on effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence, country added value and answer the questions; what are the needs for logistic intervention, and how the views of different stakeholder groups differ.
Q.: What international projects is the Institute engaged in? Why is this international cooperation important?
A.: During this project we plan to cooperate mostly with academic institutions. I am about to start my PhD in Germany in policy design, so we will always have access to foreign science research. International cooperation is very important in order to always adhere to best practice, in order to gain further knowledge, but I do not find it very practical. All the information we glean from our international friends should be adapted and adjusted before implementing to the wider public within the country.
Q: What impact do you expect to have from this project?
A.: The impact will have both internal and external effects. Externally, it will be beneficial for the society, as a new generation of political advisors could be valuable to the executive management at any level, in the public and private sector. It will assist to explore better solutions and stand against any type of crises in the country to do with education, migration, finance, labor, health system, foreign policy, for example. We will also have the ability of these new specialists, to work in the Policy design Lab team to create decisions or regulations by passing every stage of the theory: to define the problem, to define the goal, evaluation of different options to reach those goals, analysis of possible cost, profit, effectiveness and the possibility of success of different means, comparative analysis of all possible solutions and selection as the best way to solve the problem.
As for the internal impact, every successful initiative means an additional point in our portfolio, development of the networking base and better reputation of the International Peace Research and Development Institute. We are looking forward to building strong relations with the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, as well as with the Academy of Public Administration. The final product we expect to create as a result of this project, is a generation of responsible and highly qualified specialists from different fields, with a strong ability of rational choice and desire to ensure their work is understandable and comfortable to the final recipient. The main characteristics of a good advisor, which make them different from a general scientist, is the ability to feel the scope and timing, view the case from different angles, create rational structures and deliver them in a simple way, to bring benefits to all the stakeholders.
The Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Political Administration (Baku)
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO),
Master’s Degree in Political Science (Moscow)
Dual Degree Azerbaijan/Swiss MBA (Baku-Geneva)
Hertie School of Governance, doctoral student (Berlin).
State University of New York Levin Institute of International Relations (NY, USA).
Belgium Royal Military Academy (Brussels).
French National School of Public Administration (L’ENA Paris).
Hertie School of Governance, Berlin.