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China and Russia: the world’s new superpower axis?

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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

1China and Russia: the world’s new superpower axis? “Forget euro summits and G7 gatherings: for the countries that like to style themselves as the world’s rising powers, the real summitry takes place this week in central Russia, where Vladimir Putin will hold court. Leaders of the Brics countries (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) will meet Putin in Ufa on Wednesday, then make way for the Asian powers grouped in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation” [The Guardian]

2Brics to set up $100bn New Development Bank in Russia. Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan in Russia, will witness the establishment of New Development Bank (NDB), a joint initiative of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) with an initial capital of 100bn. The signing of documents on the establishment of NDB – which will have its headquarter in China and whose first president elect is an Indian veteran banker K V Kamath – will take place along the VII Summit of Brics during July 8-10. The summit is also expected to see the establishment of “Fund of Reserve Currencies” with a capital of 100bn, which is an alternative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which “depends on the pressure of the US and EU countries”, Russian Ambassador to Qatar HE Nurmakhmad Kholov told the media here yesterday.

3India to renew contract with Kazakhstan for uranium supply. Sources said the two countries will renew their old contract under which Kazakhstan supplied uranium to India. India and Kazakhstan already have civil nuclear cooperation since January 2009 when NPCIL and Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm signed an MoU under which KazAtomProm supplies uranium for Indian reactors.

4Azerbaijani Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfas Garayev met the delegation headed by the Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad Matthias Fekl. At the meeting, the sides discussed the current state and prospects of cooperation between Azerbaijan and France in the sphere of tourism, AzerTag reports. Abulfas Garayev noted that in the sphere of tourism there are wide opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, as well as in the field of culture. According to him, activity of the First Lady of Azerbaijan, the head of the Azerbaijan-France inter-parliamentary friendship group, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva, the realized projects are extremely important for development of relationship between France and Azerbaijan.

5PM Modi arrives in Astana. Prime Minister Modi is in Kazakhstan for the second leg of his eight-day tour to five central Asian countries and Russia. A high powered FICCI delegation, representing sectors such as construction, pharmaceuticals, mining, banking, power transmission and IT, has accompanied him on his visit. Top Indian companies such as Essar group, GMR, BHEL, NASSCOM, Punjab National Bank, Lupin, Punj Llyod and SUN Group are being represented in the business delegation. During the visit, the CEOs will meet leading companies from Kazakhstan and discuss a comprehensive strategy to enhance our mutual trade and investment.

6Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has agreed to invest $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion) in Russia, in a powerful sign of the rapprochement between Moscow and Riyadh. The Public Investment Fund signed a deal with the Russian Direct Investment Fund for the largest foreign direct investment yet in Russia, RDIF said late on Monday. “The first seven projects have received preliminary approval, and we expect to close 10 deals before the end of the year,” said Kirill Dmitriev, RDIF chief executive. [Gulf News]

7Beware The Iranian Oil Mirage. “Investors are jittery at the prospect of Iran suddenly adding millions of barrels of oil to an oversupplied market if sanctions are lifted. This, according to many, is the primary cause of Monday’s oil sell-off. Iran is projecting oil strength in advance of a possible deal in the nuclear talks and the possibility that all sanctions will be lifted. However, Iran is not trustworthy and information that comes out of government ministries is not reliable. Iran’s goal here is to portray power” writes Ellen Wald for the Investing.com

8Turkmenistan seeks investments in textile industry. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov of Turkmenistan has said that the main purpose of restructuring in the textile industry is to increase the manufacturing of competitive products and attract investments, according to the country’s national television channel. The issues of development of the textile industry were discussed during the last meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, the channel said. Turkmenistan traditionally grows cotton, which serves as a basis for developing the textile industry. In 2014, the annual turnover of the textile industry was about $400 million.

9Russia seen as biggest oil market loser when Iran returns. “The return of Iranian barrels would increase availability of heavy sour crude and would be positive for refiners,” said Vasilis Tsaitas, a spokesman for Hellenic Petroleum. The company operates three of the five refineries in Greece, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

10Turkistan, a cultural gem in the south of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s southern city of Turkistan is an ancient Silk Road destination, with a history that goes back to the 4th century. With a population of more than 230,000, the city is about 160 kilometres from Shymkent and its medium-sized airport.Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, Turkistan was the capital for the Kazakh Khans. [Euronews]

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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