Rarely do the forces of globalization allow individual nations the chance to decide their respective economic destiny. Yet with the opening of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline in May 2005, the people of Azerbaijan received a chance to mark their place in a competitive world.
From its inception, the BTC Pipeline project was a lightning rod of public attention and criticism. Civil society groups worldwide questioned the willingness of energy companies to agree to equitable distribution of the benefits from using Azerbaijan’s abundant energy resources. Decades of political repression compelled others to conclude that Azerbaijani government officials would be the only people to benefit. Still others cited repeated examples where energy-rich countries failed to prosper from the presence of extractive industries. It was clear that an open discussion on how to correctly manage the process of integration could provide a timely intellectual underpinning for the Azerbaijani people as they move forward in making important choices about their future.
In June 2005 GFI initiated the Azerbaijan Working Group to serve as an independent council of NGOs and think tanks bound together by common concern and impending focus. The Working Group consisted of the following members: The Global Fairness Initiative (GFI);the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), USA, The Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation (IEAC), Ukraine; The Aspen Institute Berlin, Germany, the French Institute for International Relations, the Community Housing Finance (CHF) Foundation, Baku; the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, Baku; The Centre for International Relations, Poland;Tesev, Turkey; IMI, Ukraine; and the INAM Center for Pluralism, Baku.
Through a series of meetings and conferences, the Azerbaijan Working Group engaged key stakeholders from various sectors and institutions to address Azerbaijan’s most pressing economic concerns in a comprehensive manner. Their work assessed the technical, economic, political and social aspects of Azerbaijan’s growth agenda. Guided by the intellectual output gained from these engagements, future Azerbaijan Working Group efforts will concentrate on the following areas: