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Russia expects US to abandon Europe AMD plans after Iran deal

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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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

1Russia Quickly Maneuvers to Capitalize on Iran Nuclear Deal. “The deal reopens the door for lucrative contracts to expand Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program, which Russia has been looking forward to for years. And it may neutralize a major reason the United States has offered for developing a missile defense system in Europe, a project that President Vladimir V. Putin and other Kremlin officials have said was a threat to Russian security. “We all probably remember how in April 2009, giving a speech in Prague, the U.S. president, Barack Obama, said that if Iran’s nuclear program is successfully regulated, then the aim of the European segment of the missile defense will be dropped,” Mr. Lavrov said straight into the cameras of state-controlled Russian television. “This is why today we drew the attention of our American colleagues to this fact. We will expect a reaction” writes David M. Herszenhorn for the New York Times.

2Enemy of My Enemy: Keeping Iran Cornered through Saudi-Israeli Strategy. “What mitigating allies’ concerns truly means in this case is America may ultimately betray its promises and principles on stage today for other promises made to friends tomorrow. It just depends on how important the friends are. And Israel and Saudi Arabia are banking on always being very good friends. This is the true Great Game of the Middle East that no one likes to talk about. It is a game of strategic doubletalk” writes Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.

3Good Time to Have Foot in Iran as Nuclear Deal Boosts Stocks. “The deal is “bad for oil and related markets, and rather good for those interested in investing in quite possibly the most interesting market in the world,” said Emad Mostaque, a London-based strategist at emerging-market consultancy Ecstrat. Lower oil prices “will put real pressure on energy equities” as “the near-term impact of floating Iranian barrels and medium-term impact of increased Iranian production is absorbed by the market,” he said” [Washington Post]

4Turkmenistan takes concrete steps to resolve water issues at the national level and contributes to regional and international cooperation in this sphere, “Neutral Turkmenistan” newspaper reported. The constant growth of water consumption requires coordinated efforts and complex programs, as well as implementation of projects able to bring long-term effect, said the article. The large-scale project for creating artificial water reservoir – Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) lake – in Karakum desert is one of these projects. Currently, intensive work is underway as part of the second phase of this project. The collector’s branches are expanded and deepened, hydraulic structures, bridges, roads are constructed.

5Minister of Energy Natig Aliyev: 50% of works on Southern Gas corridor completed in Azerbaijan. “Though it is 2015, we are ahead of the schedule. Our work is to expand the Southern Gas Corridor. We must complete all projects by 2019. However, we have already done 50% of works. It encourages us”, the Minister said. Aliyev also noted that the works on TANAP are also carried out within the schedule: “We also control this project. We often hold meetings in Istanbul and Ankara. Our partners inform us about the works. There is no delay in that project either”.

6In January-June, 2015 Kazakhstan GDP increased by 1.7%, reported the Statistics Committee of the Ministry of the National Economics of the Republic of Kazakhstan, according to APK Inform. The bullish trend is based on the production growth in major industries, In particular, actual volume index totaled 100.6%, in agriculture – 103%, trade – 102.1%, transports – 106.7%.

7KHORASAN: Where DAESH, Caspian Energy, and Great Power Politics Meet. “Khorasan is a region that encompasses much of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran. To DAESH, Khorasan represents the first battleground of its end-of-days scenario. To regional powers, Khorasan represents the future of energy” writes Evan Thomsen for Modern Diplomacy.

8 ‘Rising’ Iran asserts right to play constructive Middle East role. “Now that the nuclear marathon is over, encouraging hopes for a better relationship with its old American enemy, Iran is projecting itself as an island of stability in a sea of trouble and demanding to be treated as an equal. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, continues to excoriate “global arrogance”, as he always has, but has hinted clearly at cooperation with the US once sanctions end, and dignity – a recurrent word – has been restored” writes Ian Black for the guardian.

9Greek Agreement and Iranian Deal Leave Russia Disappointed and Irrelevant. “Moscow was, in fact, more interested in the talks breaking down, so that the EU would plunge into a deep mess marked by a “Grexit” and Iran would remain isolated by the sanctions regime. However, the two landmark compromises signify a big step forward in enhancing the governability of world order, which leaves Russia—as a revisionist power that favors a crisis of the West-imposed global order—quite irrelevant” writes Pavel K. Baev for the Jamestown.

10An Archaeology Festival dedicated to the International Archaeology Day will be held in Azerbaijan’s medieval city of Agsu on July 24-25. The city’s archaeological and tourist complex will host the event. It is being organized by the Agsu archaeological expedition of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography and the “Miras” Public Union, dedicated to assisting the study of cultural heritage. The festival will include joint archaeological investigations within the complex, various competitions, and meetings with famous archaeologists.The aim of the event is to promote national heritage and ancient architecture, as well as to help develop Azerbaijan’s tourism industry.

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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Top global firms commit to tackling inequality by joining G7 Business for Inclusive Growth coalition

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A group of major international companies has pledged to tackle inequality and promote diversity in their workplaces and supply chains as part of a G7 initiative sponsored by French President Emmanuel Macron and overseen by the OECD.

The Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) coalition will be launched at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Biarritz, France, taking place from 24 to 26 August 2019. Spearheaded by Emmanuel Faber, Danone Chairman and CEO, the coalition brings together 34 leading multinationals with more than 3 million employees worldwide and global revenues topping $1 trillion. Members have agreed to sign a pledge to take concrete actions to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are more widely shared.

B4IG coalition members will tackle persistent inequalities of opportunity, reduce regional disparities and fight gender discrimination. Companies have identified an initial pool of more than 50 existing and planned projects, representing more than 1 billion euros in private funding, to be covered under the initiative. The projects range from training programmes to help employees adapt to the future of work to greater investment in childcare, to increasing women’s participation in the workforce; to financially supporting small businesses, to encouraging greater participation in supply chains; and to enhancing the integration of refugees through faster integration to the workforce. Coalition members will seek to accelerate, scale up and replicate already existing projects, while significantly expanding their social impact.

The platform, chaired by Danone, consists of a three-year, OECD-managed programme. It aims at increasing opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented groups through retraining and upskilling, as well as promoting diversity on the companies’ boards and executive committees and tackling inequalities throughout their supply chains. They will also step up business action to advance human rights, build more inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in their internal and external business ecosystems.

The B4IG initiative will be presented to President Macron during a meeting with business and civil society leaders at the Elysées Palace on Friday 23 August.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “Growing inequality is one of the biggest social challenges in the world today, perpetuating poverty, undermining social cohesion and trust. Sustainable economic growth means inclusive economic growth. It means giving every individual the opportunity to fulfil her or his potential, the chance not only to contribute to a nation’s growth but to benefit from it, regardless of their background or origins.”

Mr Gurría added: “I welcome this initiative by France to involve some of the world’s most important companies to work hand-in-hand with governments and the OECD to tackle inequalities. The OECD, for its part, will contribute with its policy analysis, research and expertise.”

A Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) Incubator of public-private projects will be created at the OECD. The facility will offer companies access to the latest policy research, to help them launch and develop projects, undertake impact assessments and eventually bring about meaningful change. The B4IG Incubator will be funded by both G7 governments and private donors. It will service innovative inclusive business projects that require strong collaboration between the private and the public sector. The Incubator will catalyse and disseminate knowledge around the business models with higher social impact.

An evaluation of the projects will be published after three years, alongside OECD guidance for promoting inclusive growth through joint public-private action and for measuring business performance.

OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa Gabriela Ramos, leader of the OECD Inclusive Growth Initiative, said: “The OECD has been documenting and raising the alarm bell regarding the increased inequalities of income and opportunities in OECD countries for decades. They do not only undermine social cohesion and trust, but they also hamper growth, by preventing our economies to take full advantage of the talent of its people and businesses. We are delighted to partner with leading companies that are committed to take action. Our experience, evidence and best practices are at the service of the Business for Inclusive Growth Initiative.”

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World Bank Launches Stakeholders Consultations to Support Peace in Afghanistan

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The World Bank today launched a stakeholder’s consultation to identify economic initiatives to support and sustain peace in Afghanistan once a potential political settlement is reached with the Taliban.

After completing several consultations with international and Afghan stakeholders, the World Bank is now seeking broader input from all stakeholders and made public several draft documents on its website to facilitate the process.  

At the 2018 Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, the World Bank was tasked to support planning for post-settlement economic development projects and programming following discussions.

According to Henry Kerali, the World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, the consultations will serve several purposes. “First, we want to show that a peace agreement can bring substantial economic benefits to all Afghans and is in the interest of all parties involved in the ongoing conflict. Second, we want to identify potential principles and themes to guide programming decisions following a settlement. Finally, we want to provide some concrete ideas about the kind of programs that could be scaled up or initiated to maintain peace and realize new economic opportunities in Afghanistan.”  

Kerali also noted that the consultations come at a critical time for Afghanistan. “The World Bank is merely providing technical analysis and is not involved in any negotiations; our priority is to plan for the future of Afghanistan. Peace prospects can improve if the right economic conditions are in place and create job opportunities for those who might otherwise take up arms.” Kerali also noted that public input would be vital to ensure effective planning.

The World Bank is inviting comment on three documents now published on its Afghanistan website:

  1. A two-page consultation note;
  2. A short consultation presentation; and
  3. A full technical report.

Consultations are expected to continue until a peace agreement is reached and new programming decisions are made. The public is invited to share comments and questions throughout the process via email or through comments on the relevant website.

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Microplastic pollution is everywhere, but not necessarily a risk to human health

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A woman fetches water in Pakistan. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

Tiny plastic particles known as microplastics are “everywhere – including in our drinking-water”, but they are not necessarily a risk to human health, UN experts said on Thursday.

In its first summary of the latest research into the impact of the tiny plastic pollutants on humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that they have been found in marine settings, waste and fresh water, food, the air and drinking-water, both bottled and from a tap.

Frequently, microplastics are defined as less than five millimetres long, according to WHO.

Its report notes that the particles most commonly found in drinking-water are plastic bottle fragments.

“Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health. “We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking-water.”

According to WHO’s findings, microplastics larger than 150 micrometres (a micrometre is a millionth of a metre) are unlikely to be absorbed in the human body, while the uptake of smaller particles is likely to be limited. 

Absorption of microplastic particles “including in the nano-size range may, however, be higher”, the WHO report continues, before cautioning that available data in this “emerging area” is extremely limited.

Asked by journalists about how levels of plastic pollutants differ between tap water and bottled water, WHO’s Jennifer de France from WHO’s Department of Public Health, replied that bottled water “in general did contain higher particle numbers”.

Nonetheless, Ms. France also cautioned against jumping to conclusions, owing to the lack of available data.

“In drinking water in general, often the two polymers that were most frequently detected were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene,” she said. “Now these polymers – the polyethylene terephthalate – is often used in producing bottled water bottles, and polypropylene, is often used in producing caps. However, there were other polymers detected as well, so more studies are needed to really make a firm conclusion about where the sources are coming from.”

While citing the handful of available studies into the absorption of microplastics and nanoplastics in rats and mice, which showed symptoms including inflammation of the liver, WHO’s report insists that people are unlikely to be exposed to such high levels of pollutants.

Drinking-water contamination: a million lives lost each year

A much more clearly understood potential threat than microplastics is exposure to drinking-water contaminated by human or animal waste, said Bruce Gordon, from WHO’s Department of Public Health, highlighting a problem that affects two billion people and claims one million lives a year.

One way that Governments can tackle this problem is by putting in place better waste-water filtration systems.

The move would reduce microplastic pollution by around 90 per cent, the WHO official explained, before noting that the report had touched on people’s wider concerns about how to live more sustainably and waste less.

“Consumers shouldn’t be too worried,” Mr. Gordon said. “There’s many dimensions to this story that are beyond health. What I mean by that is, if you are a concerned citizen worried about plastic pollution and you have access to a well-managed piped supply – a water supply – why not drink from that? Why not reduce pollution. Of course, there are times when you need a water bottle when you’re walking around, but please reuse it”, he emphasized.

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