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Diplomacy came first, now it’s money’s turn

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

1Two months after Iran and six world powers signed a landmark nuclear agreement, foreign companies are seeking to secure a foothold in an economy bigger than Thailand’s and oil reserves rivaling those of Canada. With the nuclear accord all but certain to overcome domestic opposition in Iran and the U.S., scores of foreign investors are visiting Tehran to scour foropportunities to expand into one of the largest untapped frontier markets in the world. The agreement curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for easing sanctions that have crippled its economy and cut off its banks from the international financial system.“Iran is a country that has great potential and hasn’t been tapped,” Sowmya Rajagopalan, an analyst at market researcher Frost & Sullivan in Chennai, India, who estimates the size of Iran’s healthcare industry at about $30 billion. “They want to grow economically, to be able to cater to their population, and also to export to African countries and other neighboring countries.” Bloomberg

2Satellite photos taken in mid-September and obtained by IHS Jane’s show Russian forces developing two additional military facilities near Syria’s Mediterranean coast, Rob Munks, editor of IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, said on Tuesday. Munks said the previously undisclosed work was taking place at a weapons storage facility and a military base north of Latakia, suggesting Russia is preparing to place troops at both locations. Russia has been dramatically increasing its forces at an air base south of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including positioning combat planes and helicopters as well as tanks and accommodation blocks.

3Pentagon officials planning for war with Russia – just in case. “For the first time since the Cold War ended, American officials are preparing contingency plans for war with Russia, Foreign Policy magazine reported Friday.The respected U.S.-based publication quoted current and former Pentagon officials who said the Department of Defense had begun to revisit long-abandoned strategies for armed conflict with the powerful nation. It comes five years after then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates dismissed any need for inclusion of battle with Russia in the Pentagon’s long-term defense plan, and months into a heavy arms buildup near Russia’s border in Eastern Europe” Chron.com

4Azerbaijan was in the spotlight of OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) that kicked off Monday, September 21 in Warsaw, Contact.az reports.At the meeting, the official representative of Azerbaijan and a number of NGO leaders characterized the criticism as “biased,” citing human rights abuses in Western Europe and the United States. They noted, in particular, the intolerance towards migrants and pressure on journalists.Although European politicians focused on a large-scale refugee influx from the Middle East and Asia to EU, more attention was paid to the human dimension of overriding principles: freedom of expression and freedom of information and the press.

5Astana-2 conference. Representatives of the Syrian opposition will hold a fresh round of consultations in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on October 2-4, a prominent opposition politican said Tuesday. “During a meeting with President Nazarbayev, I asked him about hosting a new round of talks in Astana,” Randa Kassis, head of the Movement of the Pluralistic Society, told Sputnik. The conference will be mediated by Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Askar Musinov and director of the French Center for Political and Foreign Affairs Fabien Baussart.

6How will Greek election impact Azerbaijan’s TAP project ? The second appearance of the radical left party, however, may greatly differ from the first one. In particular, this concerns the economy and energy projects, including the main point of contact between Greece and Azerbaijan. Therefore, the main question arises. What should be expected from the Greek election towards the Azerbaijani energy projects? Maksim Tsurkov – Trend

7Launching the new Women in Business program in Kazakhstan, the EBRD is providing a local currency credit line for women entrepreneurs which will be on-lent via Bank CenterCredit, one of the EBRD’s partner banks in Kazakhstan. The 3.7 billion tenge financing package will support female entrepreneurship and participation in the economy by helping women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access finance, know-how and advice.

8In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the Legacy of Soviet Rule Endures. “Turkmenistan’s first president, Saparmurat Niyazov, made the same smooth transition from Communist Party first secretary to president, keeping a tight lid on his country of 5.1 million while cultivating a bizarre cult of personality. Before he died in 2006, he ordered the construction of his own mausoleum, next to a giant mosque, now guarded by the same kind of goose-stepping soldiers who keep watch over Lenin’s tomb on Red Square in Moscow” Celestine Bohlen, The New York Times

9Leading international publishing and research firm The Business Year (TBY) has recently appointed Anna Matskevits as CountryManager for The Business Year: Azerbaijan 2016.This annual publication, being developed in collaboration with the Administration of the President of Azerbaijan, aims to highlight the ongoing economic development and showcase the most exciting investment opportunities in the country.The 2016 edition will highlight the growing contribution of Azerbaijan’s non-oil sector and the important roles that technology and industry play in the Azerbaijan economy. This special edition of TBY will also be showcasing the Formula One Grand Prix, which will take place in Baku in the summer of 2016. This huge event, coming a year after the success of the 2015 European Games in Baku, will attract racing aficionados from all over the world.

10Azerbaijan is leading the region in fixed broadband Internet, says a report from the International Telecommunication Union. The country is in 52th place among 189 countries in fixed broadband internet, according to the ITU report. The “State of broadband 2015” report, published on September 22, provides data on the telecom industry for 2014. Azerbaijan has improved its position by six points from 2011. ITU said that there are 19.8 Internet connections for every 100 people in Azerbaijan.

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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