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Russia, China closing military tech gap with U.S.

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

1Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday warned Russia and China are quickly closing the military technology gap with the U.S. as inconsistent military budgets and slower innovation threaten America’s lead in the military world. “Our technology remains the best. At the same time, we can’t ignore the overall trend: High-end military technologies long possessed by only the most advanced foes are finding their way into the hands of both non-state and previously much less-capable militaries,” Mr. Carter said in a speech at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside of Washington, Defense News reported. Washington Times

2Russia’s leading oil company, Lukoil has expressed readiness to sign cooperation documents with Iran , Amir Hossein Zamaninia, the Islamic Republic’s deputy oil minister said. The company’s president Vagit Alekperov who is in Tehran met with Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh to discuss the future mutual cooperation, Zamaninia said. The Russian company expressed readiness to implement enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and improved oil recovery (IOR) techniques in the Iranian fields, Zamaninia added. The oil recovery factor in Iran is very low. Iran is able to extract just 20 percent (157 billion barrels) of its oil reserves on average. The current active fields lose about 8 to 13 percent of production volume.

31st Caspian Media Forum. The forum, which kicked off on September 16, brings together representatives of Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The 5-day forum will discuss prospects for cooperation in various fields, participation at joint informational projects and exchange of information. The Forum will also feature lectures, round tables and discussions. The key sessions of the forum will be held on September 17-18.

4The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) and Russia’s Gazprom company will start implementing swap transactions on Russian gas supply to Azerbaijan soon, SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev told reporters Sept.17.“Gazprom has an excess of natural gas and therefore we have decided to store these volumes in our gas storage facilities,” said Abdullayev.“We have held such talks with Iran as well,” said SOCAR president. “For our part, we have expanded the capacity of our gas storage facilities and the supply of Russian gas will become a kind of pilot project for testing their capabilities.”

5A new study identifies challenges and opportunities to help Kazakhstan and its regions to diversify its economy and boost its export capabilities. The study, “Diversification of Kazakhstan’s economy: a capability-based approach”, was produced by the strategy and public policy advisory firm Whiteshield Partners and funded jointly by the government of Kazakhstan and the EBRD’s Shareholders’ Special Fund. The report recommends that each region’s diversification strategy needs to take local circumstances into account. Regions that have already succeeded in developing new capabilities over the past ten years, such as Almaty, now need to focus more on innovation and moving up the value chain in sectors where they have comparative advantages. Regions with less developed capabilities need to broaden the skills and capabilities first, which can be achieved through policies focused on training, improvements in the business environment and better cooperation between regions.

6The member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have unanimously approved Turkmenistan’s accession to the organization. The decision was made during the 59th meeting of IAEA General Conference.The representatives of IAEA member states praised Turkmenistan’s commitment to the principles of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world, in particular in Central Asia and emphasized the country’s significant contribution to ensuring peace and security.

7Putin Sees Path to Diplomacy Through Syria. “The Obama administration has been “trying to sit on two chairs,” noted Konstantin von Eggert, an independent political analyst. It has been both slamming Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, while saying it seeks to cooperate with Russia on the Iran nuclear deal, the Middle East and other issues. If Mr. Putin manages to forge a coalition on Syria, it would be increasingly difficult for Washington to argue that the Kremlin deserves isolation. There is an inconsistency in the message, Mr. von Eggert noted, and “Putin always exploits those inconsistencies.” Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew E. Kramer –The New York Times.

8Kazakhstan Oil and Gas Market Insight and Outlook Report 2015. Complete analysis and forecasts of Kazakhstan upstream, downstream and midstream sectors. The research work provides analysis of key opportunities and associated challenges facing Kazakhstan markets. Yearly production and consumption forecasts of oil, gas, LNG, LPG, gasoline, diesel and fuel oil from 2005 to 2025 are included in the report. Further, primary energy demand, GDP, population and vehicle production details are provided from 2005- 2025. Research and Markets

9EU And Azerbaijan: Breaking Up Or Muddling Through? “Just three months ago, Azerbaijan was playing host to the inaugural European Games. These days, it seems as though Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s administration is prepared to make a break with the European Union” EurasiaNet.

10International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a loan agreement worth 50 million euros in Luxembourg Sept. 16. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending 50 million euros to the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) to finance projects promoted by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and middle capitalization companies (midcaps) in the country.The EU bank’s loan will support projects in the priority areas specified by the EIB external lending mandate, including the development of the local private sector.

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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