The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Friday, June 5:
1Iran is a bona fide superpower in global energy markets. Or rather it would be if reserves in the ground were the measuring stick. Taking oil and gas together, only Russia can boast of greater riches.The potential to be a major gas exporter, then, is huge – were it not, that is, for the small matter of sanctions.This rather obvious point is not lost on President Hasan Rouhani, who has wasted little time in repairing relations with the West, with one eye firmly on future oil and gas revenues to help bolster his country’s ailing economy. His efforts are very likely to be rewarded in the coming months, as a nuclear deal with the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China that would end sanctions moves ever closer”, writes Richard Anderson for the BBC.
2The Obama administration is weighing a range of aggressive responses to Russia’s alleged violation of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, including deploying land-based missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy the Russian weapons. This “counterforce” option is among possibilities the administration is considering as it reviews its entire policy toward Russia in light of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea and other actions the U.S. deems confrontational in Europe and beyond. The options go so far as one implied — but not stated explicitly — that would improve the ability of U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory” writes Robert Burns for Associated Press.
3The First European Games in Baku is an important event, a great success of Azerbaijan, which will be inscribed into Azerbaijan’s history, said the Azerbaijani president’s aide for public and political affairs, Ali Hasanov, on June 5. Hasanov went on to add that some people even don’t want to recognize Azerbaijan as a European state.“Some Europeans, ill with Islamophobia, perceive the ascension of a Muslim state as a great tragedy, they are jealous of the dynamic development of the Muslim peoples. We have to show them an example. Muslim states, such as Azerbaijan, don’t lag behind your most exemplary states professing other religions,” said Hasanov.
4Vladimir Putin and Alexander Dugin’s vision of “Holy Russia”, which is shared with the Russian Orthodox Church, sees Russia’s mission as being to expand its influence and authority until it dominates the Eurasian landmass by means of a strong, centralized Russian state aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, championing “traditional” social values over against the cultural corruption of a libertine West. The partnership between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has been aimed not only at articulating this sacralized view of Russian national identity to the domestic audience, but also in advancing the mission of the Russian nation abroad, writes Paul Coyer for Forbes.
5Saudi Arabia and Israel appear to be ascribing to the ancient proverb that says “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The two countries have held five secret meetings since the beginning of 2014 to address their regional foe, Iran, it was revealed on Thursday at a Council of Foreign Relations event in Washington.”Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries have shared over the years,” said Dore Gold, who will soon become Israel’s next foreign ministry director general, according to Bloomberg. “But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead.” Anwar Majed Eshki, a retired Saudi general who was once the adviser to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States, and Gold disclosed the secret diplomacy, which is aimed at discussing how to address Iran’s growing influence in the region”, writes Angelo Young for the International Business Times.
6Lukoil talks oil and gas exploration in Kazakhstan . Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov visited Astana to attend the 28th Plenary Session of the Foreign Investors’ Council under the President of Kazakhstan. As part of his visit, Mr. Alekperov met with Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Masimov, executives from Kazakshtan’s Ministry of Energy and KazMunayGas, the national oil company of Kazakhstan. The parties discussed LUKOIL’s operations in Kazakhstan. Following the meeting, LUKOIL and KazMunayGas signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand the cooperation between the companies in exploration at unlicensed areas in Kazakhstan.
7Kazakhstan Agribusiness Report. Although the 2014/15 grain harvest has disappointed, the government is encouraging exporters to take advantage of climbing prices for wheat. The lowest quality grains will compete with imported corn for the animal feed market. Improving the quality of domestically produced animal feed is high up the agenda in the government’s Master Plans for the beef and poultry industries. We expect the sustained investment in improving inputs and providing financial support to commercial farms that the plans commit to will see meat production picking up pace. Despite the falling value of the tenge due to the oil price slump, we expect strong economic growth to 2019 , which will enable the government to continue to support agricultural development in the country.[FAST MARKET RESEARCH]
8Azerbaijan has raised its oil and gas production targets for 2015, after a strong performance from BP-operated fields during the early months of this year, according to a senior executive at state oil and gas firm SOCAR. Speaking Thursday at the Caspian Oil and Gas conference in Baku, SOCAR Vice President for Oil and Gas Production Rahman Gubanov stated that the country now plans to produce 291 million barrels of oil and 1.07 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2015. These figures are a slight improvement over the previous targeted amounts of 288 million barrels and 1.02 trillion cubic feet and comparable with what Azerbaijan produced last year (300 million barrels and 1.05 trillion cubic feet). Gubanov said that SOCAR’s own contribution to Azerbaijan’s 2015 production is planned to amount to 59.3 million barrels of oil and 230 billion cubic feet of gas. [RIGZONE]
9“We cannot ignore the crisis in Ukraine. It is the most painful crisis for all of us. We believe that it is time to take active measures to overcome it… There is a clear format in the Minsk agreements as to how it is to be overcome. Therefore, we are calling on all the parties to strictly adhere to the Minsk format and we believe that this is the only path that can lead us to overcoming this deep crisis. It is abnormal in nature and we believe that history will not let it continue for a long time,” Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Yerlan Idrissov said. Kazakhstan and President Nazarbayev personally are take part in the settlement of the crisis, he said. “Kazakhstan is ready to assist in resolving the crisis in our region,” he added.
10Turkmenistan’s parliament, the Majlis, adopted a resolution ratifying the Protocol for Protection of the Caspian Sea against Pollution from Land Based Sources and Activities. The document is a protocol to the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Caspian Sea’s Marine Environment also known as the Tehran Convention signed in November 2003. The Tehran Convention is the first legally binding agreement ratified by all the coastal states. It sets the main directions in the management of human impact to the marine environment, protection and reproduction of the Caspian Sea’s biological resources, and the procedural issues in making joint decisions by the Caspian states.
EU-UNIDO projects highlight gender equality as key to climate action
Ensuring that women and girls equally lead, participate in and benefit from environmental action are key priorities for the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Speaking at an event held in connection with the Stockholm+50 conference, three women who participate in EU-UNIDO projects around the world told their stories.
Opening the event, Gerd Müller, UNIDO Director General, and Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, both underlined that a healthy planet is impossible if gender inequalities persist. Therefore, women’s voices as leaders of circular economy, climate technologies and environmental preservation must be recognized and amplified.
Three projects from the EU-UNIDO cooperation portfolio were highlighted during the event.
Amira Saber, Member of the Egyptian Parliament and Secretary General of the Foreign Relations Committee, participates in the Parliamentary action on climate and energy project, which helps catalyze greater engagement of women MPs in renewable energy, energy access and sustainable transport issues. She said that “voices of women are not well represented in the issue of climate change, neither as negotiators, nor as policymakers. Through my NGO, which was founded to close the gap between civil society organizations and policymakers, we’ve been helping with many trainings to build the capacity of women-led organizations, to train women, to give them data and to help implement their projects on the ground.”
She continued, “I want all the women figures in senior policymaking who are influential in their countries and in their surroundings to understand and to stand very solid on the importance of the critical issues, which we’re talking about: climate change.”
Lep Mary, a Cambodian business owner, is part of the CAPFISH project, which supports the Cambodian government’s efforts to achieve sustainable development, climate resilience and inclusivity of the country’s freshwater and marine fisheries resources. Mary noted that “with the support of the UNIDO-CAPFish project, we are able to address most of our challenges related to food safety compliance while enhancing capacity of our suppliers along the value chain on food safety practices. The support will also help to improve environment plans regarding waste management and the safety of workers.”
The Youth Rising project supports vocational education and training for young people in Liberia. Esther Gheh Isatta Javillie, who is part of the project, said that ”the local carpenter producers are all-male. We have this stereotype in Liberia that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is really for males”.
The event was organized by UNIDO and the EU in association with the Stockholm+50 conference, which commemorates the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment and celebrates 50 years of global environmental action. It was moderated by Cecilia Ugaz Estrada, Director of UNIDO’s Office for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.
New Project Will Support Improved Mobility and Accessibility in Indonesia’s Bandung
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved the $224 million Indonesia Mass Transit (MASTRAN) Project on May 20, 2022. The project will support improved urban mobility and accessibility in key cities while strengthening the country’s institutional capacity for mass transit development.
The project, which is aimed at improving transportation efficiency for Indonesia’s fast-growing urban populations and provide public transportation alternatives to cars and motorbikes, will finance development of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems in the metropolitan areas of Medan, North Sumatra, and Bandung, West Java.
“With the active participation and cooperation of the local government, we will create an environmentally friendly urban mass transportation system by lowering the usage of private vehicles in order to promote community mobility and access to new possibilities that are in accordance with the National Medium-Term Development Plan’s goals via the implementation of MASTRAN project,” said Budi Karya Sumadi, Minister of Transport of the Republic of Indonesia at the National Public Transportation Movement event.
The metropolitan areas of Medan and Bandung were selected as pilot cities under the project based on readiness and viability. Greater Bandung is the third largest urban agglomeration in Indonesia and Bandung City was ranked as the second most congested of 38 Indonesian cities in a recent World Bank study. The Mebidang area, which covers Medan, the capital of North Sumatra Province, the city of Binjai, and the district of Deli Serdang, is the largest metropolitan area outside of Java, and the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country. It ranked third most congested among Indonesian cities in the World Bank study.
The success of the project will be evaluated based on reduced travel times for users of public transportation, increased numbers of riders, greater satisfaction regarding safety and security, and a higher percentage of women employed in BRT system operations. The project is also intended to support the establishment of national and sub-national agencies that are able to plan, develop, and manage mass transit systems in Indonesia. The project will facilitate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through avenues such as a shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles, shift from personal modes to public transport, reduced congestion, and expected electrification of the BRT fleet, and transit-oriented-development impacts over the longer term.
“Almost 60 percent of Indonesia’s GDP comes from urban areas, so mobility in cities is crucial to ensuring economic competitiveness,” said Satu Kahkonen, Country Director for World Bank in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. “This project will strengthen the collaboration between Indonesia’s central and local governments and improve the technical expertise needed to plan and operate urban transport systems. By upgrading the quality of public transportation, the project will offer alternatives to motorcycles and cars and rein in pollution and congestion.”
In addition to support from the World Bank, the project will receive financial support from the Indonesian government, Agence française de développement (AFD), and the private sector, bringing the total financing to US$364 million.
African nations leading the way on ‘food systems transformation’
African countries are at the vanguard of a vital transformation of food systems to simultaneously address food security, nutrition, social and environmental protection – all while boosting resilience – said the UN chief on Thursday.
António Guterres was addressing the start of a high-level policy dialogue at UN Headquarters in New York, part of the Africa Dialogue Series 2022, convened to strengthen resilience in food supplies across the continent, at a time when “decades of progress on hunger are being reversed.”
He said for too long, nutrition, food security, conflicts, climate change, ecosystems and health have been treated as separate concerns, “but these global challenges are deeply interconnected. Conflict creates hunger. The climate crisis amplifies conflict”, and systemic problems are just getting worse.
He noted that after more than a decade of improvements, one in five Africans were undernourished in 2020, while 61 million African children are affected by stunting. Women and girls bear the brunt, and when food is scarce, “they are often the last to eat; and the first to be taken out of school and forced into work or marriage.”
Mr. Guterres said that UN humanitarians and partners were doing their utmost to meet Africa’s needs amidst crisis, but aid “cannot compete with the systemic drivers of hunger.”
Other “external shocks” were exacerbating the situation, such as an uneven recovery from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, with African countries among the most heavily impacted by grain shortages and rising debt.
Climate crisis frontline
Building resilience also requires addressing the climate crisis.
“African farmers are on the frontlines of our warming planet, from rising temperatures to droughts and floods,” he said.
“Africa needs a massive boost in technical and financial support to adapt to the impact of the climate emergency and provide renewable electricity across the continent.”
He added that developed countries must deliver on their $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries, with the help of international financial institutions, so African countries, in particular, can invest in a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, on the tide of renewable energy.
Food systems, said the Secretary-General, “connect all these challenges”, as highlighted at last September’s UN Food Systems Summit.
“Many African Member States led the call for fundamental change, through inclusive transformation pathways, which aim to address – simultaneously – food security, nutrition, social protection, environmental conservation and resilience to shocks.”
He welcomed the African Union (AU) decision to designate 2022 as the Year of Nutrition – a pledge to act on the strong commitments made at the Summit.
“Through national, regional and global cooperation, we must build on lessons learned and harness collective expertise. Together, we must deliver on these pathways”, Mr. Guterres added.
“The international community must rise to the occasion”, he declared, adding that scaling back support when demand is at an all-time high, was “not an option.”
Official Development Assistance, or ODA, based on a percentage of available public funds, is more necessary than ever, he said.
“I urge all countries to demonstrate solidarity, invest in resilience, and prevent the current crisis from escalating further.”
The UN chief said that during his recent visit to Senegal, Niger, and Nigeria, he had been inspired by the resilience and determination of the people he met.
“Women and young people in particular were committed to lasting, sustainable solutions that enable them to live in peace with their neighbours and with nature.”
The ambitious goals, he concluded, of ending hunger and malnutrition by the fast-approaching 2030 deadline, were realistic, and achievable.
“The United Nations stands by your side, every step of the way.”
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