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09.00 TO 18.00


Professor Geoffrey Clarke is the Director General of Westminster Centre for Strategy and Research. He is an award winning highly experienced and skilled British Academic and author having worked at top Britih Universities including University of Westminster, Middlesex University, University of Leeds, Metropolitan University and University of Strathclyde.  Geoffrey also holds extensive international experience and has worked at the Institute of Diplomatic Studies in Saudi Arabia where he had unprecedented access to Saudi Royal circles. During his stay at Iran, he worked fro British Council and BBC between 1978 and 1979. Geoffrey has been a witness of historic events that took place in that time in Iran. 

Professor Clarke has also taught at prestigiosu Government Colleges in UK including Waltham Forest College, Enfield College and Cambridge Regional College. He haswritten for famous international newspapaers and magazines such as The Herald, Liberty, The Times Education Supplement, The Morning Star and many others. He has authpred two famous books "Over his Shoulder" and "Mysterious Irrationality." He is a regular key note speaker at international seminars and conferences. His reseach interests are international relations, global security, education and literacy.

Diversification of the economy has now become a driving aim of the government of Azerbaijan in recent years due to dramatic reductions in oil revenues resulting in low global prices. Agriculture reforms necessary in these regulations as a key non-energy sector of the economy in order to preserve financial protection and support for continued development. Advancement of the oil and gas sectors in the early 1990s encouraged Azerbaijan to rebound from both the post-Soviet economic meltdown. Despite the "Contract of the Century" agreed to sign in 1994 between the Azerbaijani government and the British Petroleum (now BP)-led conglomerate of energy companies, oil exports brought considerable financial resources that led to remarkable economic development in a relatively short period of time. By 2007, Azerbaijan was among the world's fastest emerging growing economies. The increasing reliance of Azerbaijan on oil and gas also multiplied its sensitivity to volatility in the price of hydrocarbon commodities. The transformation to a market economy and the war with Armenia, indeed, had disrupted much of the economic and social infrastructure and international trade relations, providing additional stress to rely on its oil and natural gas being developed.

After the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, Baku centered on tackling the consequent vulnerability of the economic system of Azerbaijan by attempting to put the foundations for regional economic diversification. The first prominent initiative was the idea of "Azerbaijan—2020: The Vision of the Future," launched in 2012 to build a competitive economy beyond hydrocarbons. These initial attempts were totally inadequate to sustain the important implications of sudden oil shocks in 2014 and 2015. The Central Bank of Azerbaijan undervalued the national currency by around 80 percent against the dollar in 2015 as a result of lower oil revenues. A deteriorating economic situation led to an economic depression of 3.8% in 2016, which further compelled Azerbaijan to strengthen its cycle of diversification. The government, in reality, introduced so-called "Strategic Roadmaps" to design a new liquidity-oriented business strategy. Baku is introducing many other structural reforms together with the roadmaps. The Economic Reform and Communications Analysis Center was formed to examine the efficacy of the ongoing reforms. And in the financial sector, the government has established the Financial Markets Control Chamber to impose stricter rigorous and effective control of the financial sector.

Azerbaijan is also focusing on developing the cross-regional transit possibilities of the country as part of its diversification approach. Within the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the North-South Transport Corridor, the government should take an influential role in presenting itself as a regional link. In order to maximise the flow of goods and people throughout its territory and keep improving the operation of its border crossing contentions, Azerbaijan aims to demystify the transportation process by putting in place the eTIR system (which ensures secure, digital data exchange between national customs systems) with surrounding countries such as Iran. A further important consideration undertaken was the establishment of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) on the grounds of the launch of a new Baku International Sea Trade Port (BISTP), where all enterprises were exempt from taxes and government duties.

The FTZ will encourage the thorough utilization of the transit capacity of the country and reinforce the global role of Azerbaijan as a trans-regional transport and logistics center. The BISTP has also entered into an agreement with the Venlo Transport Hub in the Netherlands to draw well-known European companies functioning as part of Asia-Europe regional logistics chains. Azerbaijan's actions are yielding results in the implementation of its non-oil sectors. The non-petroleum economy contributed for 58.7% of the country's GDP in 2018. Non-oil sectors increased by 3% in the first seven months of 2019, non-oil exports by 17% and non-oil industries by 15.8%. The oil sector, however, still holds the highest dollar value share of exports and thus persists the main source of economic income of the state. Economic diversification encompasses more complex export destinations, which could be made necessary by experimenting with new partners. This prerequisite is the result of the increased expansion of Sino-Azerbaijani economic relations. Nevertheless, this advancement also increases China's political influence over conventional regional powers in the South Caucasus.

Azerbaijan is also convinced of the credit problems in the BRI countries. Considering these variables, Azerbaijan is hesitant in its economic relations with China, slowing the drive for diversification of Baku. The insurmountable reliance of Azerbaijan's non-oil exports on trade with two neighboring countries — Russia and Turkey — is another important consideration plaguing diversification. Agricultural products exports, with the highest proportion of all non-oil exports, are mainly targeted at these two locations. However, it takes time to prepare for new markets, and so does the consequent redirection of domestic exporters and the improvement of their products ' quality and traits to the mandates of new foreign customers.

World Trade Organization (WTO) participation might also be an effective way of increasing economic diversification. Yet Baku was unwilling to discuss WTO requests for dramatically reduced agricultural subsidies to Azerbaijan. Food production employs 36% of the country's labor force, and local products in Azerbaijan are technically unable to interact with imports in terms of price and quality. The government is therefore afraid that ratification to the WTO would undermine the political and economic situation at this time by increasing unregulated foreign economic influence.

Economic diversification is a complicated process, and there is a long way to go for Azerbaijan. Threats from a possible global economic slowdown, however, would have a negative impact on oil prices, thus raising the value of stimulating the growth of non-petroleum and non-gas industries or sectors. Azerbaijan has a tough task down that route of itself, making the existence of the above-mentioned barriers even more difficult. Nonetheless, it has already concentrated on a variety of strategically valuable ventures with impact on future advancement.

Mohammad Touseef FRSA FTIC GGA is Dy. Director General for Westminster Centre for Research and Strategy and CEO of Magnum Opus College. He is an author, public speaker and researcher on global strategy and security, defence policy, countering violent extremism, peacekeeping and peace building and counterinsurgency. Originally a MBA  from University of Surrey and alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, he currently pursues his research degree in Terrorism Studies from Manchester. He holds prestigious fellowships with The Intelligence Community and Royal Society of Arts. Touseef is also a member with Royal United Services Institute, Royal Air Force Association, Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, and holds various distinctions and awards in the field of higher education and international affairs. 

He is also co-authoring a Book on Terrorism Studies funded by the prestigious Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Touseef has written for Dialogue Times, Daily Ausaf, Startegym, GCDIS and WCRS. He is also a regular speaker for international seminars and conferences on CVE and peacekeeping. His latest speaking arrangement at the prestigious King's College London on countering violent extremism. Touseef also hosts a famous Radio Show "Global Spotlight with Touseef". Touseef is also a Global Goodwill Ambassador.

Ifraz Akhtar Adv is President with the Westminster Centre for Research and Strategy. Originally a law graduate, holds the position of President with Westminster centre for Research and Strategy. He is an author, public speaker, TV anchor and an analyst. His areas of interest are Countering Violent Extremism, Brexit, Social issues, Terrorism Studies and Maritime. Ifraz writes for various online publications including Dialogue Times and many leading newspapers in UK and Pakistan.

Ifraz Akhtar has also completed his MBA degree from United Kingdom and runs his own business in the heart of central London. Ifraz is a member of various prestigious organizations including Royal United Services institute, Royal Air Force Association, CQI. He is also a Global Goodwill Ambassador and an Ambassador of Peace with Institute of Economics and Peace. 

Ifraz Akhtar also hosts a famous TV Talk show around current affairs in London.

Dr Shadman-Pajh is a Vice President with Westminster Centre for Strategy and Research. She joined Teesside University in September 2008 as a part-time Lecturer in International Management whilst pursuing her PhD in Management. In 2013 she was appointed to the full-time position of Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management (HRM). She completed her PhD at Teesside University on “The Challenges of Importing Knowledge from Other Cultures: A Case Study of an Iranian Hotel Chain” 2015. Her project studied one of the largest corporations in the tourism sector in Iran, which examined the challenges the corporation faced in the areas of absorptive capacity and knowledge transfer in relation to training and innovation advancement. She studied the corporate from 2005 until 2012, using ethnography and held over 200 in depth interviews with staff and senior management. Her work is considered pioneering in the area of the impact of culture on HRM.

Dr. Shadman is currently carrying out reseaarch on countering violent extremism and working very closely with the local prevent channel. She is currently heading a multidisciplinary research group that is focussing on home grown extremism/ radicalisation with a special focus on the use of HRM and knowledge transfer concepts in identifying and addressing radicalisation within organisations.




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