Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos
1Tehran’s Power Lobby. “Iran has a track record of lobbying energy firms to put pressure on the West. In 1991, Tehran reached a pre-agreement with Conoco, granting the U.S.-based oil company the right to develop gas and oil fields in Iran. Through these efforts, Iran sought to entice U.S. oil companies to pressure U.S. authorities into altering their approach toward Tehran’s leadership. These efforts resulted in a discreet campaign by oil giants to improve Iran’s public image in the United States and led to lobbying efforts to get Washington to promote business with Iran. When Mohammad Khatami began his term as Iranian president in 1997, he sought to soften Western attitudes toward Iran. His policies prompted the creation of a number of lobby groups across the United States. At the same time, the National Foreign Trade Council, a representative group for major U.S. corporations, started its own lobbying initiative called USA*Engage. Other major U.S. business lobbies followed suit, establishing the American Iranian Council (AIC) with a governing board comprised of former U.S. diplomats and executives from Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Halliburton” By Tara Shirvani and Siniša Vuković for the Foreign Affairs.
2Russia’s Hybrid War in Ukraine: Breaking the Enemy’s Ability to Resist. “The form of warfare Russia employed in Ukraine in 2014, often called hybrid war, has been aimed at defeating the target country by breaking its ability to resist without actually launching a full-scale military attack. In line with contemporary Russian military thinking on ‘new generation warfare’, hybrid war is built on the combined use of military and non-military means, employing basically the whole spectrum of a state’s policy inventory, including diplomatic, economic, political, social, information and also military means” new report by András Rácz and The Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
3China, Kazakhstan agree to integrate growth strategies. Chinese vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov met Thursday and agreed to align their countries’ growth strategies and boost bilateral cooperation on production capacity. China and Kazakhstan are indeed comprehensive strategic partners, said Zhang, who arrived in Astana on Wednesday for a three-day visit to Kazakhstan.The Silk Road Economic Belt initiative brought up by Xi and the “Path of Light” economic strategy proposed by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev enjoy a high degree of compatibility, Zhang pointed out. [China Daily]
4Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services had lowered its long-term insurer financial strength and counterparty credit ratings on Kazakhstan-based JSC Oil Insurance Co. (NSK) to ‘B’ from ‘B+’. The outlook is stable. At the same time, we lowered the Kazakhstan national scale rating to ‘kzBB+’ from ‘kzBBB’. The downgrade reflects our view that the company’s capital adequacy, liquidity, and financial flexibility have significantly weakened following a large claim recognized in May 2015. We note that the company currently plans to restore its financial standing by generating sufficient net income. We don’t factor in any capital support provided by shareholders, because we have no clear view on their willingness to provide it or of the possible timing, the statement said.
5Islamic State may threaten Russia’s Caucasus. “The head of Russia’s Security Council has identified Islamic State (IS) as the greatest threat to world peace and security, and it seems the danger could be getting closer to home. The militant Islamist group has proclaimed the establishment of a wilayaat, or province, in Russia’s mainly-Muslim North Caucasus, suggesting it may be gaining the upper hand in a battle for control over radical forces there. The statement follows an anonymous audio message posted online pledging allegiance to IS on behalf of militants in four regions. But it remains unclear how far – and high – that support may reach among militants previously loyal to the banned, al-Qaeda-affiliated group Caucasus Emirate, which has long sought to carve out an Islamist state in the region” writes Sarah Rainsford for the BBC.
6Brzezinski’s full recipe for solving the yearlong Ukrainian crisis:”Ukraine must have a right to freely choose its political identity and forge closer ties with Europe. At the same time, Russia must be reassured that Ukraine will never become a NATO member,” Brzezinski said, as quoted by Spiegel Online. In other words, Ukraine needs to become Finland of sorts. Brzezinski’s ideas echo those of Henry Kissinger. In an opinion piece for the Washington Post published in March 2014, the former secretary of state urged the West to understand Russia’s concerns and its attachment to Ukraine. “Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe,” Kissinger stated, adding that Kiev should not join NATO and “should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland.” [SputnikNews]
7During the scientific and practical conference “National press of Azerbaijan – 140: “Ekinchi” traditions and modern journalism,” Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani president’s aide for public and political affairs said that some great powers want to control certain countries and naturally, Azerbaijan is among such countries.“Today, Azerbaijan has its resources, policy and own interests,” he said, adding that in order to fulfill these interests, Azerbaijan should say “no” to someone’s wishes. “When it is not to their advantage, they come down on Azerbaijan. Big states want to control Azerbaijan. However, President Ilham Aliyev’s independent policy which is literally based on Azerbaijani people’s will, is not to their advantage and they stand against it,” said Ali Hasanov.
8Kazakhstan Infrastructure Report. The Kazakh infrastructure sector is facing severe challenges stemming from falling oil revenues cuts to government expenditure and weak credit conditions. However preparations for the 2017 World Expo the country’s rich natural resource endowment a desire for economic diversification and sovereign wealth-backed infrastructure development will provide for distinct investment opportunities some growth relief and continued investments. Following a generally weakening domestic economy including falling loan and private consumption levels we nonetheless expect infrastructure and construction growth to remain far below previously expected levels. [Fast Market Research]
9Azerbaijan signs agreement for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Representatives from 57 Prospective Founding Members (PFMs) of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), including Azerbaijan, gathered on June 29 in Beijing for a Signing Ceremony of the Bank’s Articles of Agreement at the Great Hall of the People. From Azerbaijan, the Minister of Finance of Azerbaijan Samir Sharifov, who is currently on a visit to China, signed the financial agreement. The AIIB, which will be headquartered in Beijing, will initially have an authorized capital stock of $100 billion, said the message published on the website of the bank. Reflecting the regional character of the bank, its regional members will be the majority shareholders, holding approximately 75 percent of shares.
10Mehriban Aliyeva: “Azerbaijan once again demonstrated its power to the world through successful organization of the Baku 2015 first European Games. Each victory of the independent Azerbaijan is based on President Ilham Aliyev’s will and knowledge”
70 years on, landmark UN human rights document as important as ever
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaches its 70th anniversary on Monday, a chance to highlight the many important breakthroughs brought about by the landmark UN document, and to remind the world that the human rights of millions are still being violated on a daily basis.
Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted, untold human suffering prevented and the foundations for a most just world have been laid.
High Commissioner hails continued relevance of Declaration
Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement released on Wednesday that the document has gone from being an “aspirational treatise” to a set of standards that has “permeated virtually every area of international law.”
The Declaration has shown itself to be as relevant today, as it has always been, and is applicable to situations and scenarios that could not have been foreseen at its inception, such as the need to govern artificial intelligence and the digital world, and to counter the effects of climate change on people.
Ms. Bachelet said the she remains convinced that the human rights ideal, laid down in the Declaration, has been one of the most constructive advances of ideas in human history, as well as one of the most successful.
The human rights chief pointed out that women played a prominent role in drafting the document: Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the drafting committee, and women from Denmark, Pakistan, the Communist bloc and other countries around the world also made crucial contributions. Consequently, the document is, for its time, remarkably free from sexist language, almost always referring to “everyone,” “all” or “no one” throughout its 30 Articles.
Human rights violations perpetrated ‘on a daily basis’
Celebrating the resilience of the human rights system, and the contributions of the Declaration to advancing human progress, peace and development, a team of independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, in a statement published on Friday, echoed Ms. Bachelet’s comments, noting that the “protection provided by the international human rights system has increased including by addressing new and emerging human rights issues and demonstrating its capacity to evolve and respond to people’s needs and expectations.”
However, the experts detailed some of the many violations of international law and human dignity that are perpetrated on a daily basis in many countries: “Recent memory is replete with multiple examples of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Impunity reigns supreme in many countries undergoing conflicts or political upheavals, encouraged by narrow national objectives, geopolitics and political impasse at the United Nations Security Council.”
They also said that the upsurge of nationalism and xenophobia seen in countries of asylum, at a time of rising forced-migration, is “reversing the gains of international humanitarian cooperation of the last 70 years.”
This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day.
In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, the UN is urging people everywhere to “Stand Up for Human Rights”: www.standup4humanrights.org.
Preparing teachers for the future we want
At its annual meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica, from 5-9 November, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 adopted a declaration focused on ensuring that teacher issues stay at the centre of the global education agenda.
Through this declaration, the Teacher Task Force reinforces its vision that at the heart of the right to education is a highly valued, qualified, and well-trained teaching profession. It therefore recommends that:
International partners should intensify efforts to develop robust definitions and classifications of qualified and trained teachers and strengthen cooperation and reporting mechanisms to ensure full monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal target 4c.
Governments should ensure adequate financing for all public goods, including the teacher workforce, and this should be achieved primarily through domestic resource mobilization based on socially just fiscal policies, rigorous measures against corruption and illegal financial flows, efficient and effective teacher policies and deployment practices, developed with the full involvement of teachers and their organisations, and continued focus on external resource mobilization to complement domestic resources for countries.
Moreover, the dual focus of the Education 2030 agenda on equity and learning puts teachers at the heart of policy responses that should foster equal participation and learning globally. Teachers can be an impactful equalizing force to overcome unequal life chances from birth. The massive recruitment of new teachers, particularly in least develop countries, with little or no training is a real cause for concern.
The Teacher Task Force also expressed its concern over the fact that teacher education has not kept pace with preparing new teachers to face the rapid changes in globalization, migration, demographic change, and technological advances that will mark the future of education.
Furthermore, teacher education in this increasing complex world must be forward-looking and prepare teachers who are continuous learners themselves. It must enable teachers to think about the kind of education that is meaningful and relevant to young people’s needs in the different 21st century’s learning environment.
The Teacher Task Force acknowledges the ever-growing importance of Information and Communication Technologies in education. However, technology should be treated as a supportive tool for teachers and not a replacement. Teacher education should therefore empower teachers to use technologies to support learning within a holistic and human-centred educational framework.
The Teacher Task Force also called attention to the fact that teacher education needs to be seen as career-long education and special attention should be paid to the nature of teachers’ professional development, competency frameworks, curriculum development and professional learning communities/communities of practice. As teaching is a knowledge-based profession, teachers and trainers should be supported to continually update their knowledge base.
Through this declaration, the Teacher Task Force advocates for a teacher education that allows teachers to prepare learners to manage change and to be able to shape a just and equitable future, leaving no one behind.
This declaration reflects UNESCO’s belief that the right to education cannot be fulfilled without trained and qualified teachers. Teachers are one of the most influential factors to the improvement of learning outcomes and UNESCO has for long been an advocate of better training for teachers to ensure inclusive and quality education for all.
UNESCO, which is one of the founding members of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, has supported its work since its creation in 2008 and hosts the Teacher Task Force Secretariat.
ADB to Partner on New $4 Million Facility to Help Asia Meet Climate Commitments
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today announced the launch of the Article 6 Support Facility, a $4 million initiative to help developing member countries (DMCs) in Asia and the Pacific combat climate change through a key provision of the Paris Agreement.
Funded by ADB, the Government of Germany, and the Swedish Energy Agency, the facility will provide technical, capacity building, and policy development support to help the DMCs meet Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, in which countries have voluntarily committed to lower their carbon emissions.
The ultimate goal of the Article 6 Support Facility is for DMCs to achieve critical expertise on Article 6, draw lessons from pilot activities, and enhance their preparedness for participation in carbon markets beyond 2020, while contributing to international negotiations.
The Paris Agreement will go into effect on 1 January, 2020 and aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C.
“This new facility will play an important role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and we are delighted to be establishing it at this very critical time,” says ADB Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Director General Mr. Woochong Um.
“Climate change is a challenge that must be met on a global level and we are confident that this facility will help deliver the critical practical experience, innovation, and learning necessary for our developing member countries to meet their emissions targets.”
The facility is another step by ADB toward meeting its commitment to address climate change, a core part of its long-term strategy, Strategy 2030. The strategy commits ADB to scaling up support to address climate change, climate and disaster risks, and environmental degradation as one of seven operational priorities.
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