The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Monday, June 1:
1An Iranian foreign ministry official said good achievements have been made in fixing the Caspian Sea borders as well as outlining the legal regime of the sea. Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia-Pacific Affaris Ebrahim Rahimpour made the remarks in the 40th meeting of the special working group of the Caspian Sea on June 1, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported. All these efforts, he went on to note, culminated in the 4th summit of the Caspian Sea littoral countries where three important documents on the cooperation in living water resources, meteorology and preventing unpredicted disasters were signed. The agreements certainly paved the way for removing many of the existing problems in the Caspian Sea and gave rise to hopes for settling the remaining issues in near future.The 40th meeting of the special working group of the Caspian Sea opened June 1 in Tehran, with deputy foreign ministers of the five Caspian Sea littoral states in attendance.
2Europe is on alert: while European businessmen continue to lose money and market share due to the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by Brussels under intense pressure from the US, Washington has quietly stepped up its business with Russia. Trade turnover between the EU and Russia shrank by almost ten percent in the first two months of 2015 year-on-year, while Russian statistics shows that trade between the US and Russia spiked by approximately 6 percent, states German weekly magazine Der Spiegel. “The Americans have exercised great pressure on Europe to impose tough sanctions,” Der Spiegel quotes Frank Schauff, CEO of the Association of European Business in Moscow as saying. “While it is worth mentioning that they themselves extended their trade with Russia last year.” [SPUTNIKNEWS]
3The two turbans. Iran is a great regional force in the Middle East and has a profound influence over its Arab neighbours, having trained various militias around the Arab World. It is also militarily well-equipped and prepared, counting on a strong Army and Navy, which makes the other countries very uncomfortable, especially those from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (this is not to say that they are not making Iran nervous with their close bond to the US). Writes Luísa Monteiro for Modern Diplomacy.
4Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to NATO with the support of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) organized a Photo Exhibition “Azerbaijan and Europe: Competitors in Sport, Partners for Peace” at NATO HQ, dedicated to the twenty one years of Azerbaijan-NATO partnership and Baku 2015 First European Games. Photos demonstrating different aspects of Azerbaijan-NATO partnership, including political dialogue, contribution to operations, civil emergency planning, public diplomacy and defence cooperation, as well as, selected photos of photography competition organised by the European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) dedicated to the Baku 2015 First European Games were exhibited.
5The longest gas pipeline on Turkmenistan’s territory, East-West pipeline will be commissioned soon. The country’s leadership attaches great importance to this. The general contractor of the pipeline is Turkmengaz state concern. This pipeline will link the fields in Turkmenistan’s east with its west part on the coast of the Caspian Sea from where there can be an opportunity to enter the world markets – Europe – through the Caspian Sea and Russia along the coast of the sea. The Caspian Coastal Pipeline, through Kazakhstan to Russia, halted after a decrease in Turkmen gas purchases by Gazprom.
6“Russia obviously retains the right, if needed, to deploy its nuclear weapons anywhere on its national territory, including on the Crimean Peninsula,” the Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms control at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Mikhail Ulyanov told the RIA Novosti news agency today. Ulyanov added that the US missile defense plans remain a major challenge in relations between Moscow and Washington.“Of all the factors which are negatively affecting strategic stability, the most significant is the creation of the (US) National Missile Defense program,” he said, adding that the system was being developed step by step.
7Iran plans $16bn investment in mineral sector. Iran is planning investments of around $15 billion during its sixth five-year economic development plan (2015-2020) to develop mining projects and raise the production capacity of steel, aluminium and copper industries, a report said. Iran’s steel production capacity is slated to increase from the current 23 million tonnes to 40.3 million tonnes by 2020, Deputy Minister of Industries, Mines and Trade Mehdi Karbasian was quoted in an Iran Daily report, which cited Press TV. “Iran ranks among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of mineral reserves which stands at an estimated 60 billion tonnes,” Karbasian said, noting that more than 68 types of minerals have been discovered in the country.[TradeArabia]
8Iran`s soft solutions for hard realities. Many of the leverage in the Iranian soft power rests in the values of the Islamic republic, deriving from the Shiite Muslim traditions. The influence is two-fold: one part is composed from creating bonds with Shiite communities all over the world, forming a good basis for support of the country`s policies. The other is centered around promoting the particular Islamic revolution culture and traditions abroad through the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (ICRO), subordinated directly to the Supreme Leader`s Office. Writes Petra Posega for Modern Diplomacy.
9Kazakhstan’s businessmen have been invited to do business in Croatia, Tengrinews reports. “We need your growth, your energy, because Kazakhstan is a country of social and economic growth. We are a civilised state open for investments. We are building hotels, of course, probably not as big as they are here. But, in any case, we meet the needs of tourism in Central and Northern Europe. You may also contribute to it. And your investors can make money here,” Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said at the Kazakh-Croatian business forum in Astana on May 27. [TENGRINEWS]
10Credit cards are once again becoming popular in Kazakhstan, according to the Kazakh analytical service Ranking.kz. As the analytical service said, over a period from April 2014 to April 2015, the number of the active credit cards in Kazakhstan rose by 19 percent up to 413,000. In comparison, the number of active debit cards rose over the period in Kazakhstan by only six percent. Some 15 percent of the credit cards were used in Kazakhstan in April 2015, while in April 2014, this figure was 9.5 percent. The number of other kinds of active cards (prepaid and debit cards with a loan limit) grew in Kazakhstan over the year by 104,400 up to 590,000.
UNIDO helps enhance the quality of industrial policy in Vietnam
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Vietnam Industrial Agency of the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade jointly organized a four-day training workshop on “Enhancing the quality of industrial policy in Viet Nam – White Paper on Vietnam’s New Industry Policy” in Hanoi, from 12 to 17 November 2018.
Conducted under the framework of the project “Support to the Government of Viet Nam in the formulation of Sub-Sector Industrial Strategy and of related Implementation Policy through Institutional Capacity Building”, which is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, the workshop showcased studies on horizontal factors such as population ageing, Industry 4.0, and the current China-US trade relations and their impact on selected sectors including textile and apparel, leather, automotive, electronics and food processing. Inputs from the workshop will inform a White Paper on Vietnam’s New Industrial Strategy to be launched in June 2019.
“The workshop is one in a series of capacity development activities for senior policymakers in Viet Nam,” said UNIDO Project Manager Jung Jaehwan. “Learning will be based on international best practice and innovative research and conducted by a combination of researchers, practitioners and policymakers.”
Participants included UNIDO experts and staff from the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET) as well as representatives from various Vietnamese business associations.
WEF initiative pledges to equip 20 million ASEAN workers with digital skills by 2020
A coalition of major tech companies pledged today to develop digital skills for the ASEAN workforce. The pledge, part of the World Economic Forum’s Digital ASEAN initiative, aims to train by 2020 some 20 million people in South-East Asia, especially those working in small- and medium-size enterprises.
Other goals include raising $2 million in contributions to provide scholarships for ASEAN technology students, ensuring an additional 200,000 digital workers are hired across the region, and engaging at least 20,000 citizens through “Digital Inspiration Days”, whereby companies invite students and the public to visit their offices and learn more about the character of the jobs of the future. There will also be internship opportunities for ASEAN university students, as well as initiatives to train digital regulators and shape the curricula of technology and computing courses at 20 ASEAN universities.
The aim of the pledge is to establish a regional movement among businesses committed to empowering individuals through skilling, reskilling and upskilling. It will not only increase the number of workers hired for digital jobs and trained in digital skills, but also help support business leaders with insight and analysis of what other companies in the region are doing to build a future-focused workforce.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is unfolding at accelerating speed and changing the skills that workers will need for the jobs of the future,” said Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “These changes are happening just as the working-age population in ASEAN is expanding by 11,000 people every day – a rate that will continue for the next 15 years. Given these trends, it’s critical that businesses help to build digital skills in ASEAN.”
Called “ASEAN Digital Skills Vision 2020”, the public pledge is open for all companies to join, but a number of early champions have already made strong commitments. Google has pledged to train 3 million SME employees throughout the ASEAN region by the end of 2020, while Cisco, Lazada, Microsoft, and the Sea Group have pledged to train another 5,634,000 SME workers.
The pledge also calls for companies to offer ASEAN citizens the opportunity to participate in Digital Inspiration Days, and Cisco, Microsoft, Grab and Sea Group have collectively committed to offer the opportunity to 1,035,000 ASEAN citizens by 2020. Similarly, the pledge calls for internships for ASEAN university students, and Microsoft, Sea Group and Tokopedia together have committed to hire 18,000 interns. Microsoft has also pledged to hire 8,500 ASEAN digital workers by 2020.
Supported by the Forum’s Digital ASEAN initiative, success stories and innovative approaches will be shared through an online platform to magnify their impact, and a series of workshops involving the private sector and government will be staged over the next two years to ensure the efforts of businesses both align with, and help to shape, public policy on training and education.
Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand, and one of the advisers of the Digital ASEAN initiative, said: “The rise of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics is creating concern about the future of work. But I am more optimistic. I believe that if workers have the right skills, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be highly empowering and will lift wages and living standards in Thailand and across the region. But we need to make sure that workers receive the right training and education today.”
Rajan Anandan, Vice-President for India and South-East Asia at Google, said: “ASEAN could see an uplift of $1 trillion in GDP by 2025 by using its digital economy to accelerate intra-regional trade and growth. SMEs will be the key to this growth and their digital workforce will be the change agents in their communities. We’re committed to supporting South-East Asia’s promising digital economy.”
Forrest Li, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Sea Group, said: “The ASEAN region is brimming with entrepreneurial potential. But for SMEs to start businesses and grow them successfully, they’ll need to learn the right skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Building on our existing efforts to enable SMEs around the region to benefit from the opportunity of e-commerce, we are committed to making a major contribution to providing these skills.”
Naveen Menon, President of Cisco Systems in ASEAN, said: “ASEAN’s economy is poised to grow further as digital innovation and adoption gather pace. However, the increased adoption of technology will result in a change in the nature of jobs and workforce requirements across the region, which demands rapidly reskilling. We are committed to work with all stakeholders to build a sustainable pool of homegrown talent in ASEAN.”
Lucy Peng, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of the Lazada Group, said taking part in the World Economic Forum pledge is one of the key levers to create an inclusive and sustainable e-commerce ecosystem to support South-East Asia’s economic growth. “Sellers want to go beyond trading on a platform. They want to create their own universe in the digital world to reach out and connect with Internet-savvy and increasingly mobile consumers,” she said. “We are championing our seller communities by using our technology and logistics infrastructure to help them ride the e-commerce boom and flourish into sustainable businesses.”
Sunny Park, Corporate and Legal Affairs Regional Director for Microsoft in Asia Pacific, said: “ASEAN is the future of borderless economies, investments, e-commerce and education and we believe in a future where every young person has the skills, knowledge and opportunity to succeed. Digital skills are essential for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and can open the door to greater economic opportunity. Right now, over half the people on the planet lack basic access to the knowledge and skills that would enable them to participate in the new digital economy. Together with our partners, we are going to change that. We are going to empower every person and SME in ASEAN to achieve more.”
The Digital ASEAN initiative was launched by the World Economic Forum in Singapore in April 2018 in response to demand from the Forum’s regional partners in ASEAN, both public and private. The aim is to work on the issues that will underpin a regional digital economy in ASEAN so that the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be fully unlocked and become a force for regional economic inclusion. The initiative has launched five task forces, each focussed on a specific digital issue:
- Pan-ASEAN Data Policy – Shaping a common regional data policy
- ASEAN Digital Access – Optimizing high-quality broadband access for ASEAN
- ASEAN Digital Skills – Building a shared commitment to train digital skills for the ASEAN workforce
- ASEAN e-Payments – Building a common ASEAN e-payment framework
- ASEAN Cybersecurity – Nurturing cooperation and capacity building in ASEAN cybersecurity
By the end of 2020, the aim is for the coalition of companies involved in the pledge to:
- 20,000,000 Train 20 million people working at ASEAN small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in digital skills;
- 2,000,000 Raise US$2 million for scholarships for ASEAN technology students;
- 200,000 Hire directly an additional 200,000 ASEAN digital workers;
- 20,000 Engage 20,000 ASEAN citizens in “Digital Inspiration Days”, where companies invite students and the public to their offices to learn more about jobs of the future;
- 2,000 Offer 2,000 internship opportunities for ASEAN university students;
- 200 Contribute to the training of 200 ASEAN digital regulators; and
- 20 Contribute to shaping the curricula of technology and computing courses at 20 ASEAN universities.
Breaking down barriers for recycling industries
Standardization, awareness-raising, and regional cooperation – these were just some of the solutions to the many challenges faced by recycling industries globally, which were discussed at the Circular Economy: Development of Recycling Industries meeting.
The meeting, co-organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Environment Department and the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), brought together recycling experts, representatives of UNIDO Member States, and industry leaders from all over the world to discuss existing barriers to recycling industries and innovative approaches to overcome these.
From plastics to textiles recycling, a broad range of presentations from representatives of national governments, NGOs and industry, offered perspectives on how to move forward, with examples of innovative initiatives brought from both developed and developing countries alike.
Mattresses, waste bins, and home furnishings were just some of the recycled (and recyclable) products presented by companies from Italy and Guinea, with industry giants, such as IKEA, also providing insights into their efforts as brand leaders when it comes to recycled cotton and polyester.
The meeting was also an opportunity for UNIDO to showcase some of the projects it has been working on in this area, including e-waste in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Other related projects include metals recycling in Thailand, e-waste in the Philippines, recycling industry development in Senegal and a Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional project helping reduce open burning through the introduction of recycling.
Institutional, structural, and economic barriers were identified during the sessions, with legal and regulatory frameworks representing a challenge in many regions. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was another key theme of the meeting, as well as the establishment of internationally-recognized criteria for recyclables, and the potential for integrating the formal and informal recycling sectors, particularly in developing economy contexts.
Engaging civil society and changing mindsets and attitudes towards recycling at a global level was also seen as essential for the successful development of the recycling industry.
“Civil society must be at the forefront of any recycling activity,” affirmed Ranjit Singh Baxi, President of the BIR.
The meeting highlighted the important role that UNIDO has to play in convening stakeholders to discuss industrial development topics relevant to UNIDO Member States. This meeting’s interactive format allowed participants to take part in digital polls for each session, as well as to pose questions to the various panels, which were then ranked and sorted digitally according to the audience’s preferences.
The insights gained during this event will contribute to UNIDO programming for the coming years and strengthening the Organization’s services in this area.
“Strengthening multilateral dialogue is essential and UNIDO stands ready to continue to foster such dialogue on global environmental cooperation and the circular economy in the name of inclusive and sustainable industrial development,” stated Stephan Sicars, Director of UNIDO’s Environment Department, at the close of the meeting.
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