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Eastern Partnership summit, Astana Economic Forum and more

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Friday, May 22.

1Riga. EU leaders meet representatives of the Eastern Partnership partner countries at the fourth Eastern Partnership summit in Riga to reconfirm the importance the EU attaches to its Eastern Partnership.

2Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called on Russia to further help his country in the battle against Takfiri ISIL terror group, saying terrorism poses a serious threat to the security of all its neighboring states. Abadi also said he decided to go ahead with his visit to Russia “despite recommendations by some forces to cancel this trip. We highly value relations with Russia and consider them promising, and I think our visit directly proves this,” he went on to say. Medvedev, for his part, voiced Moscow’s readiness to boost ties with Baghdad, saying, “We are glad to support and advance cooperation with Iraq at the government level.”

3“As long as Russia does not commit itself, and act according to, the fundamental values of international law, a return to the G8 format is unimaginable for us,” Merkel said. “The G8 is an informal club, no one gives out membership cards and no one can expel members,” Lavrov said, in an apparent response to Merkel’s comments.

4Avaza gas congress. Mukhammetnur Khalylov, Turkmenistan’s oil and gas industry and mineral resources minister: “Thanks to the Turkmen geologists’ discovery of gas fields that are unique for their reserves, the country’s potential hydrocarbon resources today stand at 71.2 billion metric tons of oil equivalent, of which 53 billion metric tons account for the onshore, and 18.2 billion metric tons for the offshore areas” Today, Turkmenistan, in terms of the size of proven gas reserves, ranks fourth in the world.

5Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice-President Wencai Zhang is in Kazakhstan for a 2-day visit where he has been holding talks with government officials on partnership opportunities. He also delivered the keynote address at the 8th Astana Economic Forum. “ADB will continue to support the Government of Kazakhstan’s development agenda through appropriate investment projects under the Partnership Framework Arrangement signed in May 2014,” said Mr. Zhang. “We will also pursue further knowledge cooperation to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of the country’s economy.”

6“Some circles in the West, Europe don’t demonstrate fair approach toward Azerbaijan” said Novruz Mammadov, Deputy Head of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, Head of the Administration’s Foreign Relations Department.“An organized and coordinated campaign is being held against Azerbaijan on some issues. Within a few weeks, there were a number of various processes, hearings, media reports, TV programs which do not reflect the real situation. The Azerbaijani side promptly responds and will respond to it,” he added.

7U.S. President Barack Obama sees a nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran as a key part of his legacy, stressing in an interview with Atlantic magazine May 21 that his reputation is on the line should Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. “Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” Obama said.

8Iranian Minister of Cooperative, Labor, and Social Welfare Ali Rabiei has expressed hope that the country would be able to import water from Georgia. During a meeting with Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Georgia’s Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, also signed a memorandum of understanding. He also pointed out that transiting Iranian gas via Georgian soil is possible, adding that doing so will benefit regional countries. Bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $200 million annually, and there is potential to increase it.

9Azerbaijan, Georgia discuss issues of cooperation in military sphere

10Eradicating chronic hunger and malnutrition worldwide will require the collaboration of both developed and emerging economies, and Kazakhstan is well positioned for leadership in this area. These were among the points highlighted by FAO Director-General Jose’ Graziano da Silva as he addressed the VIII Astana Economic Forum today. Kazakhstan is a key grain producer and exporter in the region, significantly contributing to the food security of neighboring countries. It participates in the FAO-based Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS) under the aegis of the G20, and is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union which has set food security as a key area of interest. It played a leadership role in developing a regional food bank.

 

ANALYSIS

Russia and Ukraine Battling for Historical Truth

“The use of historical facts is a long applied instrument for fueling an entire political context, usually with quite material consequences. In fact, turning the status of Crimea into the historical center of Russian statehood may create a stumbling block during zero-sum international negotiations” writes Ekaterina Chimiris for RIAC.

Azerbaijan: What awaits beyond sticks and carrots

“When it comes to Azerbaijan, the country has many different aspects of applicable power tactics. Since hard power relies on displays of military might and economic strength, we can argue that Azerbaijan displayed both in the armed conflict over the Nagorno- Karabakh region with neighbouring Armenia” writes Petra Posega for Modern Diplomacy

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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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UN launches global plan to strengthen protection of internally displaced persons

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With multiple crises forcing millions of people away from their homes, United Nations agencies, Governments and partners have launched a set of measures to strengthen protection of internally displaced persons as well as find solutions to address their problems.

“Addressing the protection needs of the forcibly displaced and seeking solutions to their plight contribute to greater stability for countries and whole regions,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in a news release announcing the three-year Plan of Action.

The consequences of our failure to resolve internal displacement can be devastating,” he stressed.

The framework, formally called the Plan of Action for Advancing Prevention, Protection and Solutions for Internally Displaced People (2018-2020), calls on all relevant actors to step up efforts to prevent, respond to and resolve internal displacement.

It also proposes concrete activities to strengthen the participation of internally displaced persons in decisions concerning them, and expand national laws and policies on internal displacement as well as actions to improve data collection and analysis on displacements globally.

By the end of 2016, more than 40 million people were displaced within their own countries due to insecurity or rights violations. An additional 24 million were driven from their homes due to disasters. Every year, an estimated 15 million people are also displaced by development projects.

Bold and ambitious steps needed

Given this complex conundrum, “bold and ambitious” steps are needed, underscored Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

“The Plan of Action seeks to galvanize a strategic dialogue, concerted action and adequate resources to address the plight of the internally displaced, while engaging them in the decisions that affect them,” added the independent expert.

In the same vein, Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs committed that the Organization will continue to work with affected Governments and displaced persons to ensure that their needs are addressed.

Leave no one behind

“The international community has pledged to leave no one behind,” stressed Mr. Lowcock, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, noting that this promise must extend to all those displaced.

The Plan of Action was drafted under the leadership of the Special Rapporteur, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Its launch coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, widely accepted as being the global standard for protecting and assisting internally displaced people.

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UN Environment designates Chinese idol Wang Junkai as National Goodwill Ambassador

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Singer and Actor Wang Junkai, or Karry Wang, best known for his leading role in the box office blockbuster film Miracles of the Namiya General Store and the hit single “KarryOn” was designated as UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador today in a ceremony in Beijing.

In his role as goodwill ambassador, Wang will connect with China’s youth on some of the most urgent
environment issues of their generation, including pollution, air quality, wildlife protection, ecosystems, and more.

As a young actor and singer, I greatly appreciate UN Environment giving me this opportunity to be National Goodwill Ambassador. We youth have the responsibility to protect our environment and secure our future, and I am looking forward to learn from and work with the UN family on key environmental issues. Youth are no longer merely onlookers when it comes to environmental action, nor should they be. I will spare no effort to do everything I can to take care of our earth, and I invite everyone to join me in generating a wave of positive action.

It’s inspiring to hear a strong and determined voice of Chinese youth on environmental issues. When young people set their mind to change, incredible things can be accomplished,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We’re very excited to work with Wang Junkai to create even more awareness about environmental issues and, more importantly, the solutions to these challenges.”

The 18-year old performer is a superstar of the highest ranks in Asia. Known for his leading role in the film Namiya General Store, top roles in various TV series – among which “Finding Soul” and “Qingyun Zhi “ – and solo music career, he has amassed more than 40 million followers on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Both in China and the rest of South-East Asia, Wang has been one of the leaders of the online conversation on the environment.

In 2016, Wang widely shared the #wildforlife Campaign, reaching 400 million viewers. A year later, he publicly spoke out on the urgent need to protect endangered wildlife, naming them the “superstars of the planet.”

Beyond drawing attention to wildlife, he called upon his followers to pledge to reduce their e-waste, with the hashtag #beatpollution. Within 24 hours, his post was retweeted by 1.67 million times and more than 400,000 followers signed the pledges.

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New Solar Project to Restore Electricity to Over One Million Yemenis

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The World Bank announced today a new project to finance off-grid solar systems in Yemen to power vital basic services, and improve access to electricity for vulnerable Yemenis in rural and outlying urban areas.

Funded by a US$50 million grant from IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, the new project will rely on the commercial solar market, which has grown despite the conflict, providing further support to the local economy and creating jobs.

Solar power has proved to be the most immediate solution for severe energy shortages in Yemen. A booming solar industry has developed driven by the private sector, but the costs have put the technology beyond the reach of public facilities and the most vulnerable populations.

The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project will work with the current solar supply chain and the existing network of microfinance institutions, to finance and deliver off-grid solar systems to rural and peri-urban areas. The aim is to restore or improve access to electricity to 1.4 million people, around half of them women. The project will also fund solar power for critical infrastructure, such hospitals, schools, water corporations, and rural electricity providers.

The lack of electricity in Yemen has had a devastating impact on Yemenis and the provision of services,” said Dr. Asad Alam, World Bank Group Country Director for Yemen, Egypt, and Djibouti. “While responding to immediate need, the project will contribute to building a more inclusive and sustainable solar market in Yemen through targeted financing to the private sector which will expand its reach to the poor and vulnerable.

The project will be implemented in partnership with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and in collaboration with the local private sector, including Micro Finance Institutions, solar equipment suppliers and technicians. Working with the Yemeni private sector will help create hundreds of jobs.

Investing in solar will make Yemen’s electricity more resilient, reduce the dependence on fuels for critical service facilities, and create jobs in the private sector,” said Joern Torsten Huenteler, World Bank Energy Specialist and Task Team Leader of the project, “What Yemenis need today more than ever is a quick and innovative energy solutions to help ease the crisis.

With this new financing, IDA emergency grants to Yemen issued since July 2016 have totaled US$1.183 billion.

These projects have been prepared – and are being implemented – in partnership with Yemeni institutions and UN organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations Office for Project Services.

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