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Russia and the alternative to the global world order

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Monday, May 25

1Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov is in Moscow where he will hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the two will discuss the conflict in the disputed Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh and ways to strengthen bilateral ties when they meet on May 25. Strategic partnership between Russia and Azerbaijan is important both in terms of the bilateral cooperation and stability in the South Caucasus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. The economic relations between the two countries are developing, the trade turnover has reached its historic high and increased by 12 percent compared to 2014. Many Russian regions have relations with Azerbaijan, said Lavrov adding that preparations for the sixth Russian-Azerbaijani forum in Ekaterinburg are underway.

2Indonesia could soon be purchasing crude oil form Iran and tapping into the Middle Eastern nation’s oil fields. “The government is considering opportunities to buy Iranian crude directly,” said Dadan Kusdiana, spokesman for the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. The United States government and the European Union have blocked the import, purchase and transport of Iranian crude.But Indonesia could soon join other countries in Asia, such as China, India and Japan, and start buying oil from Iran. (Jakarta Globe)

3Azerbaijan and Russia have reached an agreement to hold a joint military exercise in Caspian Sea. Nearly ten surface ships and vessels will take part in the exercise. During the consultations, the representatives of the military delegations agreed to hold an exercise on joint actions to protect marine economic objects in the Caspian Sea in the central part of the sea in September of 2015.

4In 2015 Kazakhstan may increase its grain exports to Iran five times thanks to the Uzen-Bereket-Gorgan railway launched in December 2014, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said when speaking at the annual Astana Economic Forum. The 900-km-long railway link constructed through concerted efforts of the nations involved and launched early December 2014 runs from the Kazakhstan’s steppe across Turkmen Karakumy desert to the mountainous Gulistan province in the North of Iran. The project was bolstered by the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank.

5Wary of Russia, Europe now tiptoes when it comes to expansion: “In the final declaration agreed on Friday, E.U. leaders recognized the “aspirations and European choice” of their neighbors but offered nothing more. Former Soviet countries that had entertained hopes of joining the European Union as full partners now feel they are being shut out. The newfound caution hands the Kremlin a victory as pressure eases slightly in the Ukrainian crisis. European advocates of a more open-armed approach toward former Soviet nations warn that concessions will only encourage Russia to be more aggressive with its neighbors in the future.” Writes Michael Birnbaum for The Washington Post.

6Invest in Kazakhstan 2015 the official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan – is a definitive guide to foreign direct investment, looking at the wide range of opportunities across all major industrial and financial sectors, and how they can be harnessed to efficiently maximize long-term returns. The publication will provide an in-depth view of Kazakhstan’s business environment, with an extended section on Kazakhstan’s key oil and gas industry, as well as a focus on the areas of mining and minerals, construction, power and renewable energy, transport and infrastructure, agriculture, ICT, banking and finance, healthcare, tourism, and education.

7Azerbaijan became the leader of the International Fund for Cooperation and Partnership of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea (BSCSIF). Chingiz Abdullayev became the new president of the Fund. The change of the leadership of the structure took place on May 23 in Baku during the 14th session of the General Assembly and the Board of Directors of the BSCSIF. The BSCSIF is an international non-governmental non-profit organization, established on March 4, 2009 by the initiative of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Romanian President Traian Basescu.

8Turkmenistan has unveiled a gold-leafed statue of the president in a gesture intended to burnish the leader’s burgeoning cult of personality. The 21-meter monument presented to the public Monday consists of a statue of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov atop a horse mounted on a towering pile of marble. Berdymukhamedov, nicknamed Arkadag (the Protector), won the presidential election in 2012 with a landslide 97 percent in a vote criticized by election monitoring groups.

9“The Russian administration will have an opportunity to present the country as a leader of the non-western world. Presidency of the BRICS will allow Moscow to position itself as a participant of an association that offers an alternative to the global world order. In the company of the largest economy in the world (at least that is how the IMF estimates China’s GDP in relation to its purchasing power parity) and the dynamic leaders of South Asia, Latin America and Africa, Moscow can confidently say that it does not intend to return to the G8, even if it is suddenly invited back” writes Alexander Gabuev for the Russia Beyond the Headlines

10Azerbaijan awaits unambiguous and firm actions by the European Union to ensure that the resolutions of the UN Security Council on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are strictly complied with and implemented, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in its statement on the final declaration of Riga summit.“However, there are issues that cannot be a subject to compromise” he added.

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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