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Nazarbayev: We must pave our way carefully

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s leader since 1989 is no stranger to accusations of autocracy. Western media has long been refering to Nazarbayev as “Kazakhstan’s autocratic president”. On the eve of the Constitution Day, President Nazarbayev commented on the accusations of autocracy.”I know that we are often accused of autocracy. But how can one talk about autocracy, when every 4 or 5 years people vote to elect their President and Parliament at free alternative elections. We are told to move faster towards democracy practiced by western countries, from the USA to Europe. We understand it all well. Democracy is a path towards development of humanity. We are making our way there. But we also have to consider that our country is an Asian society. Our traditions differ from Western ones. Our cultural and religious views are different. That is why we must pave our way carefully,” Nazarbayev said during the Conference dedicated to the 20th Anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Constitution.

2America and Russia locked in race to control the Arctic Circle. “Barack Obama was set to become the first sitting American president to visit the Arctic Circle on Wednesday night, as the United States battles to assert itself in a global race to control the region’s natural resources. Melting permafrost caused by rising global temperatures has made the once impenetrable Arctic Circle increasingly accessible, sparking intense competition between Russia, the United States and China to assert control over an area that it is thought may hold as much as 40 per cent of the world’s oil and gas resources” Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph.

3Why Kazakhstan is building a uranium bank. The world suffers no shortage of uranium, the raw material for nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. The amount of electricity generated globally by nuclear power peaked almost a decade ago. And no reactors have ever been shut down because of a lack of fuel. Yet Warren Buffett has put the first $50m behind a $150m project agreed on August 27th to build a uranium bank in Kazakhstan, the world’s biggest producer of the mineral. It sounds like something a Bond villain might dream up, rather than a philanthropic American billionaire. What is the logic? The Economist

4China plays hard to get with Russia. “Moscow turned to its powerful Asian neighbor last year after being hit with sanctions by the West. But the plan for a deeper economic relationship is not working out. China’s slowdown is making it harder for Beijing to deliver on promises it made to Moscow, and Chinese investors are spooked by Russia’s deep economic crisis. Vladimir Putin is now hoping to give the relationship a second chance. The Russian president is in China this week, accompanied by an entourage of senior officials and business leaders” CNN

5Azerbaijan is a suitable route for transferring Iran’s gas to EU, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said. He made the remarks during a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Oktay Asadov.Larijani underlined that cooperation between Tehran and Baku can be developed further in the fields of oil and gas.Iran holds 33.8 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves— or 18.2 percent of the world’s total proven reserves.The country has been pursuing multiple projects for years to pipe natural gas to Europe. The most serious project was Nabucco which was pursued by an international consortium led by Austria’s OMV. Iran had been originally designated in Nabucco as a key supplier for future exports to Europe.

6Iran has recently showed great interest in neighboring Turkmenistan, in terms of investment, proved by closing deals worth USD450 million, mainly to fund it with technical services. Iran has already been seizing opportunities, such as the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in Vienna conducted in July, all in all, supporting the oil industry’s goals.

7Iran is ready to talk extending the “peace pipeline” to Bangladesh which envisages exports of the Iranian gas to Pakistan and India, Tehran’s Ambassador to Dhaka says.Abbas Vaezi said the issue had been discussed between Iranian and Bangladesh governments as well as with India and Pakistan, adding “they must have a feasibility study” to proceed further.Bangladesh’s Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Nasrul Hamid has been invited to Tehran where he will discuss all energy-related issues including the gas pipeline, the ambassador added.The recent conclusion of nuclear talks with Iran has revived interest in the “peace pipeline” which ran into hurdles after India withdrew from the project and Pakistan failed to fulfill its obligations.

8NATO vs. Russia War Could Begin Today Or Tomorrow. “Pentagon’s deployment of F-22 fighter aircraft to the Baltic states would mean nothing if the quality of governance in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania is low. But the Pentagon explained that the deployment of F-22 fighter aircraft is ‘designed to send a message to Russia’.In Estonia and Latvia, Russian-speaking minorities account for about one-quarter of the population, and over 6 percent in Lithuania. Not long ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that all those people deserve his ‘protection’.Such comments by Putin triggered a wave of fear in the Baltic states, which is why the three countries have been seeking NATO’s security assurances. And NATO couldn’t think of anything better than to respond with war games” ValueWalk

9Azerbaijan’s oil fund SOFAZ is studying investment opportunities in new markets. SOFAZ, an entity that accumulates and manages Azerbaijan’s oil and gas revenues, implements its investment plan in accordance with the regulations outlined by its management. The Fund’s assets fell by 3.56 percent earlier in the year from $37.104 billion to an estimated at $35.783 billion as of July 1. As of June 30, 2015, SOFAZ’s total investment portfolio amounted to $35.726 billion, or 99.8 percent of total assets. Some 33 percent of its investment portfolio was invested for a period of up to one year, 30.5 percent from one to three years, 11 percent from three to five years, 9.7 per cent more than five years, and 15.8 percent funds were invested in real estate, stocks and gold.

10Work on the reconstruction of the water supply system began at the refinery in the town of Seydi (eastern Turkmenistan).Work for the high-volume production of high-quality petroleum products are carried out at the large industrial enterprise at the expense of deep processing of raw materials.Repair and reconstruction of production units are carried out for this purpose. Special attention is given to the important issues related to water supply of the plants, wastewater treatment and their purification.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos

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Helping Armenia Thrive

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Despite being a landlocked country with few natural resources, Armenia has come a long way since independence in 1991, with all major socio-economic indicators drastically improved.

The Asian Development Bank now is supporting Armenia in its effort to expand its private sector, diversify its economy, cut red tape, and gain access to new markets, says Shane Rosenthal, Country Director for Armenia at the Asian Development Bank.

What is Armenia’s current state of the economy?

Since independence in 1991, Armenia has come a long way. Gross domestic product per capita has increased ten-fold in the country, in large part because of smart decisions about investment and because of good connections with its main trading partner, Russia.

We now have a country where the electricity is reliable, where most of the population has access to clean water, where business is beginning to thrive, not least because it is possible to register a business in a short amount of time. It’s possible to go to a bank and get a loan.

This economy needs to diversify into new products, into new markets. That may mean Europe, it may mean other Eurasian economic union members, and increasingly, it may mean looking eastward, toward Asia.

What role does ADB play in Armenia’s development?

ADB has focused on what it does best vis-a-vis other development partners in Armenia. And that, for us, means infrastructure.

Infrastructure in terms of connectivity, helping upgrade the national highway system so that cargo and people can reach neighboring countries more quickly, more reliably.

It means making the cities more livable with improved water supply.

How can the private sector support Armenia’s development?

Going forward it’s important to understand that Armenia’s growth can no longer depend on the public sector to play the leading role. The private sector needs to be the one that takes this country forward. And that means diversification. It means ease of doing business, and it means access to new markets.

ADB is going to focus increasingly on a balanced portfolio, between the public and private sectors. It’s clear that Armenia’s future will depend on the role that the private sector plays. And there, Armenia has many advantages: a strong financial system, a strong diaspora, with very good connections around the world, and a very strong educational base.

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Three steps to end discrimination of migrant workers and improve their health

Afsar Syed Mohammad

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Authors: Afsar Syed Mohammad and Margherita Licata

When migrant workers leave their home, many encounter abuse and violence on their journey and discrimination once they arrive. This can be because of their status as migrants but also because of their ethnicity, sex, religion, and HIV status.

They often struggle to find decent work, which means they can end up in poor living and working conditions, which in turn affects their health. Female migrants are more likely to be vulnerable to exploitation and violence, which exposes them to the risk of HIV and other health issues.

Research has shown that migrant workers – particularly those who are in an irregular situation – often fail to access health services because of poverty, language and cultural barriers, lack of health insurance, as well as fear of job loss and deportation. It means that by the time they see a doctor, their illness has become all too serious.

Against this background, a newly launched ILO publication looks at the interplay between migration policies and those relating to broader health goals in countries of origin, transit and destination. Its key recommendation is that HIV and health policies should be integrated into the entire labour migration process.

So what can be done to ensure that migrant workers have better access to decent work, health and HIV services? The report recommends a three-pronged approach.

1) End discriminatory practices

Migrants face obstacles in accessing decent work, health as well as social protection. Whenever migrants are denied their rights, they tend to live and work in the shadows.  They become vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and marginalization.

Discriminatory practices such as mandatory HIV testing of migrants for employment have proved to be ineffective. On the contrary, it is a violation of their rights. It disrupts access to health care and increases migrants’ vulnerability to HIV infection.

2) Set up an integrated response

It is essential to develop a response that does not just pile up ad-hoc policies one after another. Instead there needs to be an integrated and coordinated response that leads to decent work and health outcomes for migrants, including more effective HIV responses.

Right to entry does not mean the right to work for women in many countries. In such cases, women are left with no option but irregular migration which further exposes them to various forms of abuse, exploitation and risks such as HIV.

Gender-responsive migration policies would help address existing inequalities between men and women migrants, while at the same time improve their health.

3) Focus on migrant workers’ rights

There are no quick-fix solutions but discrimination and inequalities relating to HIV and health can be reduced if we focus on migrants’ rights and if we take a global approach. The report especially insists on the following priorities:

  • There is a need to target different groups of migrant workers for HIV prevention, care and treatment, depending on the specific risks that they face. For example, risks are different depending on whether they are low skilled or high skilled workers.
  • Effective responses to HIV for migrant workers should be integrated into fair recruitment initiatives, encouraging fair business practices to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and equal access to health services.
  • Health programmes and HIV prevention for migrants must be disassociated from immigration enforcement.
  • Inclusion, participation and freedom of association among migrant workers are essential pillars for effective actions on migration, health and HIV.
  • Migration and health policies and practices, in particular those relating to HIV and AIDS, should address inequalities between women and men. A gender analysis is needed from the start for all policies and practices relevant to migration and health.

*Margherita Licata, Technical Specialist Gender, Equality and Diversity and ILOAIDS Branch

Source: ILO

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Mexico officially joins IEA: First member in Latin America

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Mexico officially became the International Energy Agency’s 30th member country on 17 February 2018, and its first member in Latin America. The membership came after the signed IEA treaty (the IEP Agreement) was deposited with the government of Belgium, which serves as the depository state, following ratification by the Mexican Senate.

Mexico’s accession is a cornerstone of the IEA’s on-going modernization strategy, including “opening the doors” of the IEA to engage more deeply with emerging economies and the key energy players of Latin America, Asia and Africa, towards a secure, sustainable and affordable energy future.

The IEA Family of 30 Member countries and seven Association countries now accounts for more than 70% of global energy consumption, up from less than 40% in 2015.

“With this final step, Mexico enters the most important energy forum in the world,” said Joaquín Coldwell, Mexico’s Secretary of Energy. “We will take our part in setting the world’s energy policies, receive experienced advisory in best international practices, and participate in emergency response exercises.”

“It is a historic day because we welcome our first Latin American member country, with more than 120 million inhabitants, an important oil producer, and a weighty voice in global energy,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “The ambitious and successful energy reforms of recent years have put Mexico firmly on the global energy policy map.”

At the last IEA Ministerial Meeting, held in Paris in November 2017, ministers representing the IEA’s member countries unanimously endorsed the rapid steps Mexico was taking to become the next member of the IEA, providing a major boost for global energy governance.

They recognized that Mexico had taken all necessary steps in record time to meet international membership requirements since its initial expression of interest in November 2015. In December, the Mexican Senate ratified the IEP Agreement paving the way for the deposit of the accession instrument and for membership to take effect.

Mexico is the world’s 15th-largest economy and 12th-largest oil producer, and has some of the world’s best renewable energy resources. The IEA family will benefit greatly from Mexico’s contribution on discussion about the world’s energy challenges. The IEA is delighted to continue supporting implementation of Mexico’s energy reform with technical expertise, and further intensifying the fruitful bilateral dialogue of energy policy best practice exchange.

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