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Azerbaijan has become a global energy player

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Wednesday, June 3:

1Azerbaijan has become a global energy player, Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan Natig Aliyev said June 3 within the framework of the Caspian Oil & Gas 2015 international conference held in Baku. He said that today, Europe is very concerned about the question of its energy security.“In particular, this was affected by tense relations between Ukraine and Russia, high dependence on [gas] supplies from Russia and the decline in production in the North Sea,” said Aliyev. “Europe imports about 90 percent of oil, 60 percent of gas and 42 percent of coal. Azerbaijan is also a new source of energy for Europe, and it offers Europe new routes,” the minister said. He said that not only Azerbaijani gas can be supplied via these routes, but also gas from Central Asia and the Middle East.

2Russian state arms producer Almaz-Antey said on Tuesday it would supply Iran with the advanced S-300 missile system once a commercial agreement is reached. The company’s chief executive, Yan Novikov, confirmed Moscow had removed restrictions on deliveries to Tehran that were imposed under pressure from the West in 2010. “All restrictions have been lifted by the political authorities. When there is a contract, we will supply the system, including to Iran,” he told a news conference when asked whether Almaz-Antey would supply the missile system to Iran. [REUTERS]

3Iran looks for steady customers for its crude oil under a new export strategy which is based on constructing refineries abroad, Deputy Minister of Petroleum Abbas Kazemi said. “Building refineries abroad with the participation of international investors can guarantee the security of sales and exports of crude oil from Iran for a period of 20 to 25 years,” he told the Mehr news agency. “In other words, with the construction of refineries abroad, Iran can count on permanent and stable customers for a couple of decades and guarantee demand and supply for long terms.”Negotiations have been held with several groups of investors, including from China, Brazil and India, for the purpose. So far, Iran has signed an MoU with Brazil to construct a refinery in the Latin American country for processing 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil. [PRESSTV]

4Kazakhstan Pharmaceutical Market Overview 2015. Kazakhstan’s pharmaceutical market remains the most accessible, transparent and, from a legislative point of view, progressive in Central Asia. In terms of market size, its potential is limited by its relatively small population (15mn) and logistical challenges. In the short term, Kazakhstan’s market development is driven by a balanced policy of import substitution and integration into regional (Customs Union) and global (World Trade Organisation) systems. Over the longer term, the country could leverage its favourable business environment and regional ties to supply neighbouring states, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, all of which have growing populations and lack domestic production capacity. [RESEARCH AND MARKETS]

5Iran, Iraq, Israel and Cyprus can deliver their gas to Europe via Azerbaijan’s infrastructure. Iran can join the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP), and supply its gas to Europe via TANAP or other routes. Azerbaijani Minister of Energy Natig Aliyev made the remarks Wednesday at the Caspian Oil & Gas 2015 conference in Baku.“We have repeatedly seen that the US and the EU supports energy projects in Azerbaijan. Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, often attends our events and supports these projects. Moreover, he also provides support in the supply of Turkmen gas to Europe,” the minister added. Iraq, a country with immense energy resources, is also interested in cooperating with Azerbaijan and may play a key role in boosting energy security of Europe, minister Aliyev said. The minister noted that Israel and Cyprus too can deliver their gas to Europe by using Azerbaijan’s infrastructure. “We have negotiated with Israel and Cyprus, and they say they can deliver their gas to Europe via Azerbaijani infrastructure which passes through Turkey”.

6Turkmenistan’s constitutional commission is considering two changes to the country’s constitution. The first one would extend the presidential term from five to seven years; the second would remove the 70-year age limit for presidential office holders, this according to Parliamentary Speaker Akdzha Nurberdyeva who last Friday spoke on television. If accepted, these changes would allow President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, 57, to serve indefinitely. [ASIANEWS]

7Why Russia protects North Korea from the West. “Russia benefits by developing a special relationship with North Korea, because it would give her a trump card in bargaining with the United States, and the ability to demand concessions from Washington in other areas of foreign policy”. Writes Sergei Dolmov, special to RBTH.

8A Russian Smartphone Has to Overcome Rivals and Jokes About Its Origin. “The YotaPhone prototype introduced in 2012 wowed international tech conferences with its novel two-screen design, with one face acting like a standard smartphone and the other like an e-reader. The second screen supports various functions without draining the battery, such as keeping a boarding pass handy or tracking every ripple in the dollar-ruble exchange rate — a local fixation”. Writes Neil MacFarquhar for The New York Times.

9The International Olympic Committee (IOC) cited serious challenges facing the two bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics, including pointed concerns over Beijing’s air pollution and lack of natural snow and Almaty’s budget risks and limited experience in hosting major events. The IOC issued a 136-page report that assessed the bids from the Chinese capital and the Kazakh city, underlining strengths and weaknesses of both. The report by the IOC evaluation commission did not rank or grade the bids or make direct comparisons. Almaty was portrayed favorably for its winter setting, natural snow and compact layout. Beijing was praised for its high-quality venues, experience from hosting the 2008 Summer Games and plans to develop a winter sports market for more than 300 million people in northern China. While the report did not include any major surprises, it did not hold back in listing drawbacks, notably for Beijing and its climate, heavy reliance on water for snow-making and spread out venues.

10Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi said that political will of the Azerbaijani and Iranian leaders is an important factor for promotion of bilateral relations, so their cooperation should expand in all spheres. He said Iran considers no limit for more cooperation with Azerbaijan, trying to upgrade cooperation in all dimensions. He also emphasized joint campaign against extremism and terrorism in the region and said consolidation and cooperation between the two countries in various fields will be effective in regional security and stability.

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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EU Politics

EU Parliament to host conference on abolishing the death penalty

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The opening ceremony of the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty will be held in the European Parliament in Brussels on 27 February.

The World Congress Against the Death Penalty, organised by ECPM (Together against the Death Penalty) from 26 February to 1 March, is the world’s leading abolitionist event, and brings together more than 1000 stakeholders from over 140 countries.

The official opening ceremony will take place in the European Parliament’s hemicycle on Wednesday 27 February at 10.00. It will gather MEPs, high-level guests including EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders, and various governmental and civil society representatives to reflect on positive efforts in the abolition movement and address what future work must be done to convince retentionist nations to abolish the death penalty.

The ceremony will also feature a panel of Ministers of Justice from non-abolitionist countries, as well as video messages from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Robert Badinter, former Minister of Justice and a driving force behind the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, and Pope Francis.

An exhibition (The Great Witness of Abolition) and sculpture installation (Chaise LXB) will be displayed in the Menuhin Hall in the European Parliament’s Paul-Henri Spaak building from Monday 25 February to Friday 1 March.

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Energy News

Nepal Hosts First Regional Conference of Women in the Power Sector

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The first regional #WePOWER conference kicks off in Kathmandu, Nepal (photo: World Bank)

More than 250 engineers and energy-sector professionals represented their countries at the first regional conference of the Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER)–a forum to promote and diversify female practitioners’ opportunities in the power and energy sector. They included representatives from 60 participating institutions from local and international power utilities, energy sector organizations, and multilateral agencies.

Pravin Raj Aryal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation in Nepal, opened the two-day conference. “Energy access and infrastructure development are critical elements in South Asia’s regional development strategy. However, women’s opportunities to contribute to the energy sector are limited, with a visible lack of gender diversity in technical and senior management positions,” he said.

He added that initiatives such as WePOWER would help nurture partnerships among women professionals, leading to an increase in their engagement across the sector. The conference was organized by the World Bank, with support from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian AID and Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

It drew senior and junior professionals and engineering students from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Besides panel discussions on the viability of jobs, skills, and opportunities in the sector, the conference also had a special interactive session for secondary school girl students to encourage them to find their footing in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

“WePOWER aims to support greater participation of women in energy projects and utilities, and promote normative change regarding women in STEM education,” said Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.  “This initiative also fits the broader work of the World Bank, aimed at removing constraints for more and better jobs as part of our Gender Strategy.”

Caren Grown, World Bank Senior Director of the Gender Group, added: “Women’s low participation in the sector is a constraint to gender equality and equality of opportunities. It is imperative for men and women to have access to good quality jobs, and events like WePOWER reinforce this need.”

Peter Budd, Australian Ambassador to Nepal, opened the second day of the WePOWER conference and said, “Forums such as WePOWER are and will continue to be an important mechanism for deliberation on low carbon gender integrated pathways that meet the growth needs of the countries in the region.”

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Human Rights

Discover the new Right to education handbook

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photo: UNESCO

Education is a fundamental human right of every woman, man and child. However, millions are still deprived of educational opportunities every day, many as a result of social, cultural and economic factors.

UNESCO and the Right to Education Initiative (RTE) recently released the Right to education handbook, a key tool for those seeking to understand and advance that right. It is also an important reference for people working towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 by offering guidance on how to leverage legal commitment to the right to education. 

Why is this handbook important?

The aim of this handbook is to make sure that everyone enjoys their right to education. Its objective is not to present the right to education as an abstract, conceptual, or purely legal concept, but rather to be action-oriented. It provides practical guidance on how to implement and monitor the right to education along with recommendations to overcome persistent barriers. It seeks to do this by:

  • Increasing awareness and knowledge of the right to education. This includes the normative angle of the right to education, states’ legal obligations, the various sources of law, what states must do to implement it, how to monitor it, and how to increase accountability.
  • Providing a summary of current debates and issues regarding education and what human rights law says about them, including on forced migration, education in emergencies, the privatization of education, and the challenge of reaching the most marginalized.
  • Providing an overview of the UN landscape and its mechanisms, including a clear understanding of the role of UNESCO and more generally the United Nations, as well as all relevant actors in education, particularly civil society.  

Who should use this handbook?

The handbook was developed to assist all stakeholders who have a crucial role to play in the promotion and implementation of the right to education. This includes:

  • State officials, to ensure that education policies and practices are better aligned with human rights.
  • Civil servants, policy-makers, ministers, and the ministry of education staff, officials working in ministries and departments of justice, development, finance, and statistics, as well as National Human Rights Institutions.
  • Parliamentarians, their researchers and members of staff will find this handbook useful in evaluating and formulating education, human rights, and development legislation, and in implementing international human rights commitments to national law.
  • Judges, magistrates, clerks, and lawyers and other judicial officials can use the material to explain the legal obligations of the state and how to apply them.
  • Civil society including NGOs, development organizations, academics, researchers, teachers and journalists will benefit from this handbook as it includes guidance on how to incorporate the right to education in programmatic, research, and advocacy work.

Those who work for inter-governmental organizations, including at key UN agencies, will find this handbook useful in carrying out the mandate of their organizations. Private actors, multilateral and bilateral donors, and investors can use this handbook to ensure their involvement complies with human rights and that they understand and can apply their specific responsibilities.

How to use this handbook?

The handbook was designed to be accessible. Each chapter starts with the key questions addressed in the chapter and ends with a short summary consisting of key points and ‘ask yourself’ questions, designed to make the reader think deeper about issues raised in the chapter or to encourage people find out more about the situation in their own country.

For more than 70 years, UNESCO has been defending and advancing the right to education, which lies at the heart of its mandate. It recently ran a digital campaign on the #RightToEducation to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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