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NATO: Azerbaijan’s importance is growing

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

1Azerbaijan is going to be an important component of global energy security market place, according to NATO Liaison Officer in the South Caucasus William Lahue. It is important that countries have multiple sources of supply in order to protect themselves from fluctuations in available sources of supply,” he said. “In this process Azerbaijan is going to be important, and its importance is growing.”

2A report on the results of the recent talks with Turkmenistan’s official delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Baimurad Hodzhamuhammedov in Tokyo was heard at the recent meeting of the country’s Cabinet of Ministers. During the working visit, there were held meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and business representatives. The meetings focused on the prospects for attracting Japanese investments in the implementation of the projects for developing fields in Turkmenistan, modernization of the oil and gas industry and diversification of the supply routes of Turkmen gas, as well as cooperation within other bilateral agreements and contracts.

3Russia has become the most attractive market among BRICS countries for investors in 2015, replacing China as the top earner, this according to the Bloomberg news agency. Concerns over falling oil prices and the collapse of the ruble at the end of 2014 have largely dissipated, with investors betting on fewer political risks for Moscow.According to Bloomberg, “the tables have turned in these seven months.” Crude has rebound, and investors have calmed down over the country’s troubles. Oil has stabilised above US$ 55 a barrel and a cease-fire is holding in eastern Ukraine, whose crisis the West has blamed on Russia.“Most Russian stocks are fundamentally undervalued,” said Mattias Westman, the London-based founder of Prosperity Capital Management, a major asset investment firm heavily involved in former Soviet republics. “There is potential for further recovery,” he explained. Russia’s economy, set to contract this year for the first time since 2009, may rebound 0.5 per cent in 2016. At the same time, European economic sanctions over the Ukraine are likely to be relaxed, as it will not be “easy to convince everyone to prolong them” next year, Westman said.

4Iran set for significant investment. A few investors are racing to establish funds for Iran following last week’s nuclear deal with world powers, and many others are tapping into multinationals already present in the $400bn economy. The agreement has made some seek a foothold in Tehran’s $100bn stock market even before sanctions are lifted, although others are taking a more cautious approach. Classified as an upper-middle income country, with a population of 78m and annual output higher than that of Thailand or the United Arab Emirates, Iran is set to be the biggest economy to rejoin the global trading and financial system since the break-up of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago.

5“Hybrid war” – a Scholarly Term or a Propaganda Cliché? “In June 2015 the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) published a report entitled “Russia’s Hybrid War in Ukraine: Breaking the enemy’s ability to resist”, by András Rácz, a senior research fellow at the institute [1]. As the title indicates, the subject of the paper is the phenomenon of “hybrid war”. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the start of military actions between Ukrainian security forces and units of the non-recognised Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in 2014, this phenomenon has attracted the close attention of political, military, academic and journalistic circles in western countries and in Russia” writes Pyotr Topychkanov for RIAC.

6Russia’s Coming Regime Change. Regime change in Russia is inevitable, maybe imminent. But the West should not bet on that eventuality or make it a policy goal. The Russian people will rise up again, but the path to a sustainable democracy and stable economy will be challenging. The West should be ready to help then” writes Andrei V. Kozyrev for the New York Times.

7Your Time Is Over Mr. Netanyahu. “Three years ago, when the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed an imaginary map of Iran’s effort to build nuclear bomb at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to the attendees, he was not taken seriously by anybody, even his own American friends. At that time, some politicians told Netanyahu that “your time is over,” though he did not believe them” writes Haroun Yashayaei, Leader of Iran’s Jewish Community for Iran Review.

8Market study: Home Care in Kazakhstan. Home care saw a good sales growth during the review period benefiting from economic growth in Kazakhstan and rising income levels. There was strong expansion in the country’s mid-income group while many low-income consumers also benefited from increased household budgets. Consequently low-income consumers became able to buy a wider range of home care while mid- to high-income consumers continued to trade up to more specialised and value-added products. Urbanisation also contributed to sales. [Euromonitor]

9Turkmenistan, India to hold talks on TAPI project. Talks on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project will be held in India’s New Delhi city July 21. For this purpose, a Turkmen delegation has been sent on an official visit to India in accordance with the order of Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov. TAPI project was one of the key issues during the negotiations between Turkmenistan’s president and India’s prime minister in Ashgabat July 11.

10Azerbaijan specifies requirements on state secrets protection. The activities of state authorities of Azerbaijan in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan and beyond, regardless of legal form of the organization and types of property, all enterprises, institutions and organizations performing activities related to state secret, formations, military units and institutions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and other military agencies established in accordance with the legislation shall be based upon the provisions of the Requirements.

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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