Monday, November 9

JJ

About a little over a year ago, I was skyping a friend living and working in Baku. The topic of our discussion that day was finding a name for my blog you are currently reading. It took us a while but at the end, "flying carpets and broken pipelines" was created.

This friend's name is Jake Jones and currently he is the Country Director of International Republican Institute (IRI) in Baku. And so I would like to dedicate this post to Jake. 

We first met back in 2007 when I was just starting my work in Azerbaijan as an analyst and IRI was one of the first international organizations my colleague and I met during our first trips. Soon Jake and I developed a friendship which grew into a strong bond that I hope continues for a long time. 

About two weeks ago, I learned that IRI was shutting down its branch in Azerbaijan because of funding issues. Knowing how much importance Jake attached to his work in Azerbaijan, I instantly knew that he wasn't happy. But he wasn't alone. Days later, a Facebook page was opened to support IRI. The group now has 690 members- everyone who knows IRI, or worked with IRI or took part in their seminars is there, showing their support and calling USAID to keep the institution in the country. 

I have never met a person so interested in the region. He learned the language, traveled the country and gets on well with everyone. When Emin and Adnan were arrested, he was there to support and help in any way he could. When on May 10th half of our mutual friends were taken into a police station in front of our eyes, he was the first one to inform the embassy and make sure that there were representatives at the police station. All of this is only a small portion of what Jake and IRI has done in Azerbaijan, which also involves endless trainings and seminars held all over the country.

People come and go in Azerbaijan but rarely there are people who actually take their time and make a huge effort in learning the language, getting to know the culture, and blend with all the locals instead of keeping their distance. Jake is one of such people and his work as a Country Director at IRI is important and does make a difference in a country where there is a need for "know how" when it comes to everything and anything.  

So for what it is worth, at the end of the day it doesn't matter who you are- republican, democrat, leftist, socialist- what matters is how you present yourself and what you do because the rest are simply labels. IRI presented itself as an institution investing in the country and hoping to have made an impact (among other international institutions working in the country). It would be a loss for Azerbaijan to see IRI leave so please USAID (if anyone there is reading this blog) let them stay and do their job because they are worth it!
***
There seems to be a general misunderstanding that IRI didn't make any proposals for its next year activities in the country. It is NOT true, IRI DID propose. In fact there are local partners who can SUPPORT and JUSTIFY for this.

18 comments:

Ilkin said...

Unfortunately I don't know Jake well personally, but few times I saw him he always tried to help and actually cared. Which is rare. So, I hope IRI will stay.

Thanks for the post, Arzu.

Vugar said...

Tell to IRI he must next year make contract tender. He do not this year. This why they go.

arzu geybulla said...

I agree Ilkin, he does care and it is rare. I hope so too.
Thanks for the comment. I had to make an additional small comment at the end of the post for all those who think that IRI didn't make any proposals for its future activities in the country.

Fariz Huseynov said...

How can we find out the true reasons behind this leave? And yes, can you provide a list of past and planned activities (or link) so that people would realize IRI is needed stay in Azerbaijan.

Anonymous said...

This is not good news... I have met Jake once and he seemed a really smart person. What will he do - head back to the US?

Vugar said...

Yes, IRI make contract tender this year but after take away it. It choosed to stop because it choosed did not want follow USAID rules. 2 different organizations choosed they want follow USAID rules and they stay in Azerbaijan. You are not correct.

Vugar said...

You do not write my words on blog. You same as goverment, only to say one side of story. This is big problem with country. Yes IRI made contract tender and after told no to USAID. IRI did not want follow new contract rules and after taked away contract tender. IRI choosed stop works in Azerbaijan. You must to talk to USAID leaders. You are not correct.

arzu geybulla said...

Ok, so I still feel like there are few things to be clarified here:

1. IRI did make its bid as Vugar said;
2. Of course we could never know what are USAID's true intentions;
3. Fariz, I neither have the right or authority to disclose such kind of information however I am sure when its time IRI or USAID itself will open the floor for discussion and make its intentions clear;
4. Here is my response to this discussion as to why I think this way. When time for USAID came to go over its budget they had to look at all the institutions they were funding, which included not just IRI, but also IFES and NDI. Normally each of these institutions have their own agenda. However giving limits to the budget, USAID decided to combine IFES, NDI, and IRI, which meant several things- one strategy, joint projects, one budget, and one country director. I am sure you would agree that none of the country directors would have agreed on something like this. At the end of the day they are in Azerbaijan to do their work and these institutions are not new, they have been here for a while so its not like they haven't spent time and made effort in putting a lot of hard- work into their respective projects.

In this case, IRI was the first one to say no. In fact, not only they said no, but they also stayed put to their original proposal which focused on youth, Internet, and civil society. IFES also said no but later.

I hope this all made things a little clearer. I am just observing and writing what I think. Thats the whole point of this blog. You might not agree with me but I am not trying to push or force people (readers) to agree with me anyway.

Thank you for your comments.

Sabi said...

If he is as you described him to be, he got my respect as well :) Glad to know there are such people on our planet :)

TMS said...

Sean,

nice post, though flawed a bit here and there.

Honestly, as deep rooted hard-core realist I am not very fond of institutions as IRI or the kind. Though, I should admit that they may be useful in certain spheres, particularly in countries like ours.
This aside.


First of all, I see a logical fallacy. Do we need JJ? or IRI? or both? From the article and my hearings from others, it appears that JJ's personality is far more famous than the doings of IRI. That I dont like, for the duty of country director must be promoting his/her institution in all costs even that cost elevates to self-limitation.
But if its his personality that matters much, then he can still stay and the problem withers.

As for USAID, I think we are not very well equipped with the details. USAID funded IRI many years, I guess. There should lay crucial reasons to cut funding all of a sudden.

Even the reasons you listed are correct, still IRI could have opted to stay in the country in exchange a bit of its freedom of action.

So, me says we should first find a solid grounding to land and then judge what is going on.

To hear something from USAID would be cool.

Keep posting pls.

Liberty Chaser said...

TMS,

Why are you not a supporter of institutions like IRI? Certainly, they are controversial. Should the US be promoting democracy abraod? Shouldn't nations be finding their own paths forward (or backward...)

If nothing else, institutes like IRI and NDI are symbols of American support for Azerbaijani democracy, that its not just all about oil. Even if they don't do anything, they are a symbolic presensece that democracy is good. Second, they do provide moral support for people that struggle for freedom, whether you find that saccharine or not I don't know. But persuading and convincing and motivating political actors to keep on fighting is worthwhile. Finally, you can talk about the technical assistance like helping train Internet activists. We can argue whether youth in Baku need training, or blogs, or taught how to lobby and work with media. Actually, I'm not interested in that much. To me, this is a symbol or American support for liberty.

Liberty Chaser said...

Also, TMS. True, there is a lot of talk of their director here and not much of the institute. But that's really an Azerbaijan issue. When people talk about political parties they don't say rightist or leftist or Musavt or Popular Front - they say Isa Gambar's party and Ali Kerimli's party. NGOs are discussed in the same way.

Unfortunately Azerbaijan doesn't have a tradition of separating movements from leaders. Leadership tends to be authoritarian, so people just look at the leader and what he says and does. Then they judge the members and the work. Sad. There is only one time when an organization changed leaders and kept from falling apart - when YAP switched from Heydar to Ilham.

Give this JJ a break. He doesn't seem to be having a good day.

Anonymous said...

Arzu, I'm involved in the process and can atlk about it. Vugar, yaxshi da. USAID already called of of us together to say why IRI is leaving. It's very complex. IFES is also leaving and no one is saying they wanted to leave. It seems its all bureaucracy and paperwork. Bureaucracy everywhere works the same. IRI got lost in the system. As a result, they lose because a big organization like USAID isn't flexible. As a result, youth and bloggers in Azerbaijan lose. It's sad. But who thought governments were logical or effective? Just because they are Americans doesn't make them smart.

Also, Arzu is the same as the government? Seriously?

TMS, I'm not sure if you're from here or not. But oif you were, you'd know the statement "still IRI could have opted to stay in the country in exchange a bit of its freedom of action" is a big problem. Trading freedom for money is not a good example.

Eric said...

People,

Let's look at the connections. The State Department carries out US foreign policy. USAID is part of the State Department. USAID funds other organizations to help carry out US foreign policy goals. USAID is kicking out IRI and its democracy building activities. Thus, it is no longer the US policy. Why is this difficult to get?

Anonymous said...

@ TMS

The issue has nothing to do with JJ’s respect within the society. The author simply knows him well, so she slightly focuses on the character. As to promotion of the institution, I’m sure JJ did his best throughout his term; otherwise such “crucial reason” would not have been questioned so much and cause extension (IRI will stay in the country till the end of January).

@ Eric

The question is why they did it. You can’t just blame an organization in not submitting proposal, though they did, as stated by Arzu. What must be done by other organizations in order to prevent such unexpected outcomes?

TMS said...

Was listening to Dcik Cheney yesterday about his perspective about freedom.

here his cropped speech.

...Most important is this: governments that embody human rights must
champion them in their foreign policies – in all places, for all
peoples and at all times. This is not just the right thing to do; it
marks a higher form of realism. The character of regimes cannot be
divorced from their behaviour. Governments that abuse and lie to their
own people will likely do the same to us, or worse. Conversely, states
that respect the rights of their citizens are more apt to play a
peaceful role in the world. For reasons of basic self-interest, then,
we must lead the long, patient effort to shape a world in which human
rights are more secure for more people.

There will of course be times when we supporters of human rights will
fall short of our own high standards. But in those times, our true
friends will demand better of us and we will change course. What
matters most is that we remain confident in our principles, mindful
that they are not ours alone, and supportive of all who aspire to
them. This means that the US and our allies must always align
ourselves on the right side of history – with the oppressed, not their
oppressors.

We should certainly respect the wishes of dissidents who do not desire
our support. But when demonstrators call on us by name, plea for our
assistance and write their banners of protest in English, this is a
good sign that they want our help. We owe it to them. When brave
citizens peacefully appeal for their rights, we must encourage them to
endure. When they are seized and thrown in prison, we must call and
work for their release. And when they face violence and intimidation,
we must condemn it and remind the perpetrators that their crimes will
not be forgotten.

This is not to say that we should refuse to engage with human rights
abusers when it is in our interest to do so. The world is not that
simple, and we may need to deal at times with some pretty bad actors.
But we should never pay for that pleasure by silencing our criticisms
of how they treat their own people. Indeed, it is morally incumbent
upon us to speak out for human rights in those situations – for it
shows oppressed citizens that, even as we negotiate with their
jailers, we have not forgotten or forsaken them. It shows that we know
whose side we are really on...

Me again: dont you see a lot controversies here. I do not say he represents the democratic camp, not at all. but definitely 59 Americans voted for him.

I think that can be linked my personal view I do not like organizations such as IRI.

Anonymous said...

Dear TMS, I'm going to guess where you're from. First, I don't think you're from this area. Because if you were, you would know that Russia is waiting enxt door and has NEVER been interested in stability, or freedom, or peace, or democracy here. Russia is the main obstacle to Karabakh. Russia is the main obstacle to gas issues here.

Second, I don't think you're from America. Because if you were, you would know that freedom loving people don't fly planes into your buildings.

Your point is understood about Cheney. The man seems shadowy, questionable, and too conservative.

But he is a former American politician. I'm not concerned about former American politicians. I'm not concerned about former American politicians. I'm worried about CURRENT AZERBAIJANI politicians. I'm worried about CURRENT RUSSIAN politicians.

Maybe you dislike IRI type of organizations becuase they are too American, spend tax money, tell other countries what to do, etc. But for me, they are helping people like me protect my rights (how few they are) lobby my own government, and speak out for friends like Emin and Adnan. They are giving me the tools to do that.

TMS said...

anonymous, your guesses are not correct indeed:)

i am an Azerbaijani indeed.

but anyway nice guess.