The president’s message was read out by Hikmat Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration.
The message reads: "I extend my greetings to you on the occasion of the opening of the International Conference themed “Neocolonialism: Human Rights Violations and Injustice.” It is gratifying that representatives of 14 countries from different continents and fighters for justice from different territories have come together in Baku to condemn the colonialism policy that regrettably persists in the XXI century and to organize and conduct systematic and consistent efforts to eradicate it.
As you know, four years ago, upon a unanimous decision of the Non-Aligned Movement countries, Azerbaijan assumed the Chairmanship of the Movement on 25 October 2019. The Non-Aligned Movement brings together 120 countries and stands as the second-largest political institution after the UN General Assembly, serving the cause of promoting universal values.
At the outset of Azerbaijan’s tenure as the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, I declared that my priorities and activity would be based on the Bandung Principles. Fighting neocolonialism was among the issues addressed during the Bandung Conference. The delegates affirmed that “The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitations constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an evil which should speedily be brought to an end.”
Azerbaijan is deeply concerned with the ongoing colonialism and its reemerging manifestations. Although 70 years have passed since the Bandung Conference, some countries continue to pursue colonialism. Among those, the foremost one is France.
Overall, most of the bloody crimes of the colonialism history of mankind were committed by none other than France. France had occupied tens of countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Latin America, plundered their resources, and for many years oppressed their peoples while perpetrating numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity. The French troops subjected hundreds of thousands of civilians to ethnic cleansing based on their ethnic and religious affiliation.
Throughout 30 years in the XX century, France had conducted nearly 200 nuclear tests in French Polynesia and 17 nuclear tests in Algeria. The dire consequences of those tests have, to this day, affected Polynesia and the Algerian people. In response to the appeals by the multitude of organizations, it is imperative to evaluate the repercussions of the nuclear tests and disburse appropriate compensations.
During the 132-year-long occupation of Algeria, more than 1.5 million people lost their lives at the hands of the French state, leading to the country's recognition as the "nation of 1.5 million martyrs." The scale and geography of massacres committed by the French troops are so extensive that recounting them is a challenge in itself. Nations such as Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, Djibouti, Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, Vietnam, Comoros Islands, Haiti, and others continue to grapple with the dire repercussions of that occupation.
A report titled “France, Rwanda and the Tutsi Genocide (1990-1994)” submitted to the French President on 26 March 2021 by the “Commission on the French Archives relating to Rwanda and the Genocide of the Tutsi” concluded that France bore substantial responsibility for the massacre of over 800 thousand of Tutsi tribe members.
France ranks among the leading nations globally in terms of landmine use. Over 5 million mines were planted across Algeria alone. As a result, just like Azerbaijan, Algeria is among the top countries in the world suffering from mine explosions. On that list, immediately behind France, comes its close ally – Armenia. In just three years, some 340 Azerbaijanis, including civilians, fell victim to the mines planted by Armenia across Azerbaijan’s formerly occupied territories. Among others, one of the reasons that closely binds these two countries is the practice of resorting to mine terrorism.
Eighteen thousand skulls of the fighters murdered throughout the colonial wars of the XIX century are kept and displayed at the Paris Museum of Mankind. The skulls of Algerian fighters are among the others on display. France is yet to comply with Algeria’s demand to return those skulls. Finding such a mentality in any country in the XXI century is a rare occurrence.
Despite centuries having passed, disgraceful new methods of French colonialism persist due to the unchanging mindset. The peoples of the overseas territories gathered at this Conference have fought for independence for many years. France, unable to abandon its colonialism history, disregards the aspirations and the rights of the peoples outside of France – overseas communities and territories of the Pacific and Atlantic and goes out of its way to undermine the realization of those aspirations.
The social situation in French Guiana is gradually deteriorating; nearly half of the population is on the edge of poverty, and unemployment is rising yearly. Its natural resources are plundered, and 90% of the land is in the possession of the French government.
Martinique and Guadeloupe face two significant disasters. The indigenous population is subjected to assimilation through clandestine and illicit resettlement. The past use of chlordecone pesticide had poisoned the natural ecosystems and population, as the locals still cope with its oncological ramifications.
France refuses to recognize the sovereignty of the Union of Comoros over the Island of Mayotte. In its documents, the Non-Aligned Movement always supports the unequivocal sovereignty of the Union of Comoros over the Island of Mayotte.
A referendum is held in New Caledonia without the participation of half its population, depriving them of their right to independence.
France, which rejects the concept of ethnic minorities, is prohibiting the Corsican language. The UN assessed that as discrimination and violation of international law. Pursuing the policy of hypocrisy and double standards, France is simultaneously attempting to position itself as a defender of national minorities in our region.
We register widespread racism and Islamophobia across France, along with neocolonialism trends. Some people represented here today have been subjected, in one way or another, to pressure, discrimination and bigot attacks. Instead of confronting such alarming and dangerous trends at home, the French authorities try to lecture other countries and interfere in the domestic affairs of others.
The recent withdrawal of the French troops from Mali, Niger and Burkina-Faso has once again demonstrated that its merciless neocolonialism policy is doomed. Instead of being ashamed of the atrocities committed and apologizing for its colonialism history abundant with bloody crimes, France speaks of fictional ethnic cleansings in other countries. This country exploits its status as the UN Security Council permanent member to pursue biased and subjective policies and is busy with geopolitical conspiracies in different regions.
As the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, Azerbaijan supports the peoples who fight colonialism and aim to free themselves. Your participation in the Ministerial Meeting in Baku on 6 July 2023, as part of Azerbaijan’s chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement, then at the UN General Assembly Headquarters in New York on 22 September and finally here again in Baku, at an event dedicated to the issue of urgent relevance for mankind - colonialism, its consequences and the fight against neocolonialism - is a vivid manifestation of Azerbaijan’s support, as the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, to that cause.
We must deliver the neocolonialism issue to the international community's attention through all possible platforms. In that regard, the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee (Political and Decolonization) activity must be re-energized.
Today’s Conference is a favorable opportunity to address colonialism, its ramifications, the struggle against neocolonialism, challenges in the global agenda, and available options. I believe the discussions at this Conference will contribute to mobilizing collective efforts in the fight against colonialism and producing new ideas and initiatives aimed at ensuring mankind’s prosperity and leaving the new generations a legacy of a “colonialism-free world.”
I extend my best wishes to you and wish this Conference every success."