More than 750 Delegates, including numerous Heads of State and Government, attended this extraordinary event devoted to the South-South Cooperation and the role of Azerbaijan in the new World of today being shaped. The success was enormous !
All Participants were impressed in discovering what is actually achieved in this Country and the very many Business contacts are promising important developments for the future.
Read what Melanie Veness, CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business in Afrique du Sud wrote to us :
I have just returned from Baku, Azerbeijan, having attended the 2012 Crans Montana Forum. I must admit, that prior to having received an invitation to attend this years forum, I had not heard of it. The list of presenters was impressive, including various heads of state, and the subject matter of the presentations under the theme: "Addressing a Changing World", seemed engaging, I took the opportunity to learn what I could.
Firstly, I must say, that if making international connections at the highest level is something that you wish to achieve, then the forum is definitely the place to do it. Several Presidents made presentations alongside the "who's-who" in the oil world (including H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, the Crown Prince of Fujairah Emirate, United Arab Emirates). I met and befriended several Members of Parliament from around the world, influential business people involved in the energy sector and even a Crown Prince! The success of the forum lies not in the fact that people at this level attend, but that, on the whole, they are eager to engage.
The opening session addressed our changing world, and considering the subject matter, it seemed fitting that the forum took place in Baku. I was told that, not long ago, Baku was a rather dilapidated place, with oil spillages in several places. So much oil leaked out, that the place smelt strongly of it. Now, the city is a magical metropolis, boasting modern buildings on wide boulevards, a renovated old city and five star hotels on every corner. There is barely a whiff of oil in the air. It far exceeded any expectations that I might have had, and we were told that most of the development that we observed has taken place over the last decade. Cranes can still be seen all over the city.
Azerbaijan lays claim to having the highest economic growth rate for the past several years. Their economy has trebled in eight years, and unemployment is around five percent. It is an oil rich country, but what is remarkable about what they have achieved, is that they have utilised the proceeds from their natural resources to improve Azerbaijan for the people, and their people are benefiting. By saying this, I am in no way advocating nationalisation. What I am saying, is that we do have an abundance of natural resources, and we should see the benefits on the ground.
When asked to explain what lies behind the country's success, the President, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, attributed the growth to educating the citizens ("turning black gold into human gold"), a significant investment in information technology, putting the right people in key positions, and creating a favourable business environment. We know that these are critical issues for South Africa to address. We hear it over and over again, but seeing the results in Azerbaijan was very powerful.
There were several other interesting sessions, including one on developing an effective regional transportation system, several on energy efficiency and energy renewables, a further session on cyber warfare and one on women's rights.
This was a gathering of powerful and influential people brought together to establish stronger relationships and to seek sustainable solutions for global challenges. There were also a number of inspiring people, passionate advocates for change, like Mrs. Frida Allaghi from Libya who spoke passionately about Libya's liberation.
But the person who made the strongest impression on me, is a French Member of Parliament named Jean Lassalle. Some years ago, a large corporate in his constituency made the decision to relocate their business. Jean Lassalle did everything he could to stop them from leaving, finally resorting to a hunger strike. It lasted forty one days. He was very close to death when the Chief Executive agreed that the company would stay. Now that is serious commitment!