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NATO’s Largest Military Drills In Decade

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

1NATO is going to carry out its largest military drills in over 10 years, focusing on battling ISIS, according to NATO commanders. NATO forces will be deployed across the Mediterranean, while Russia is invited to observe the drills. It is unclear whether this is some kind of ruse or NATO just wants to show off in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Alliance’s largest military drills named ‘Trident Juncture’ will be carried out from September 28 to November 6 in Spain, Italy and Portugal as well as in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. “We cannot choose between the eastern threat and the southern threat, we have to train for both,” said commander of the NATO military command in Brunssum, Netherlands General Hans-Lothar Domrose, who is in charge of the exercise, as quoted by Reuters.

2Major European nations have no appetite for conflict with Russia“In the final analysis the European powers closest to the Russian threat – Germany and France – have demonstrated they are not prepared to go to war over Ukraine. UN sanctions have been imposed, and that’s about it” [Independent]

3During the recent talks between Japan and Turkmenistan, Japanese partners expressed their intention to invest in the construction of a new international sea trade port in Turkmenistan’s city of Turkmenbashi.This port is designed to become not only the “sea gates” of the country, but also an important and integral part of the high-capacity regional transport infrastructure that is being created today.Earlier, it was reported that following the international tender, Turkish company Gap Insaat, which is part of the Calyk Holding, was named the general contractor for the project for construction of a new Caspian Sea port in Turkmenbashi.

4Almaty-Cholpon-Ata highway. Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Temir Sariev during a meeting with his Kazakh counterpart Karim Masimov raised the issue of construction of the Almaty-Cholpon-Ata highway, Kabar news agency reported on July 21. “We have established direct flight from Almaty to Tamchy, but it is not enough. We need to build high-speed road from Almaty to Cholpon-Ata. Then Kazakh people will drive to Issyk-Kul lake in 2.5 hours,” said Sariev.Prime Minister of Kazakhstan instructed relevant state agencies to expedite the construction of the highway.

5Foreign investments in Azerbaijan’s fixed capital increased by 46.3 percent in January-June 2015, according to a report by the Azerbaijani State Statistics Committee. Under the report covering a period of six months, the total volume of foreign investments made in Azerbaijan’s fixed capital amounted to 3.2 billion manats(approximately $3.05 billion). More than 2.85 million manats (over 88.5 percent) of investments made in county’s fixed capital by the foreign countries and international organizations over the first half of this year belonged to investors from the UK, Norway, Russia, Iran, Sweden, USA, Turkey, and Japan.

6Kazakhstan is ranked 50th in the Government Efficiency Index. The efficiency index considers expenditures, workload regulations and political transparency. The Government Efficiency Index is led by Qatar that is followed by Singapore and Finland. The outsiders of the list are Argentina, Italy and Venezuela that landed on the last lines of the ranking. Kazakhstan beats of a number of European countries in government efficiency, according to the list. In particular, Kazakhstan is ahead of Belgium, France, the Check Republic, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Serbia and Romania. South Korea, Israel and India were, too, beaten by Kazakhstan in the ranking. Russia, Armenia, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan are also ranked below the 50th place.

7Netanyahu steered U.S. toward war with Iran – the result is a deal he hates. “Much of the criticism of the Iran nuclear deal has focused on the fact that it is entirely limited to the nuclear issue, which leaves Iran a free hand — and new resources — to continue policies that have angered regional and international players. There is no denying that if Iran plays its hands well and uses the next decade to build its economic and political potential, its regional influence is likely to expand, as is its capacity to do the sort of things that have angered Israel and Gulf Arab states” writes Shibley Telhami for Reuters.

8Turkmenistan will start producing high-quality Euro-5 gasoline at the Seidi refinery from 2016, the country’s Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources Ministry reported.The U.S. Westport Trading Europe Limited company won the tender for the design and reconstruction of a production facility for the new generation gasoline.This novel motor fuel is distinct from the previous generations in that it has a lower content of sulfur and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. With Euro-5, engines work quieter, they can be started much more quickly and easily, corrosion is prevented, and vibration and fuel consumption is reduced.

9Why is the Iran deal bad? “Think North Korea. Perhaps Iran will cooperate, but so far, it has not come clean with the IAEA about 12 existing “areas of concern” regarding the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program. That is not a good sign. It suggests that Iran, like North Korea (or, for that matter, Iraq during the 1990s), is likely to play a game of cat-and-mouse with inspectors — and that if it does cheat, as North Korea did, the world will again discover it is too late to do anything about it” writes Max Boot for the Los Angeles Times.

10Almaty 2022 Accommodation Plan A Key Asset. After a nearly two year bidding race, Almaty 2022 is ready and excited to welcome the international community to its beautiful city. Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city has seen a rapid rise in its tourism sector. With annual growth rates of almost 11% in hotel rooms, Almaty is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in all of Central Asia.

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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Energy News

ADB Supports 275 MW Power Plant to Boost Energy Access in Sumatra, Indonesia

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a private sector financing package to support the construction of a 275-megawatt combined-cycle gas turbine power plant in Riau province in central Sumatra, Indonesia, to help secure the country’s energy future and provide communities with more affordable and reliable electricity.

The financing consists of a $70 million A loan from ADB’s ordinary capital resources and $82 million B loan from Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and MUFG Bank, with ADB providing a partial risk guarantee (PRG) to the participating commercial banks. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will provide $50 million for the Riau Natural Gas Power Project in the first-ever cofinancing of an infrastructure project by ADB and IFC in Indonesia.

ADB will also administer a $20 million loan from the Leading Asia’s Private Sector Infrastructure Fund (LEAP), supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Established in March 2016, LEAP’s mandate is to help fill financing gaps and increase access to finance for ADB-supported infrastructure projects in Asia and the Pacific.

“ADB’s involvement in the project has helped secure long-term commercial bank financing necessary for any large-scale infrastructure investment, which has remained a challenge in Indonesia,” said Infrastructure Finance Division Director for Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific at ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department Mr. Jackie B. Surtani. “ADB’s role as a lender and provider of PRG to the project’s B loan lenders will enable the project to mobilize a significant amount of long-term debt.”

The project is being implemented through PT. Medco Ratch Power Riau, a special purpose vehicle partially owned by PT. Medco Power Indonesia, a leading developer and operator of small and medium-sized independent power producers (IPP) in the country, and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company Limited, Thailand’s largest IPP.

“ADB’s role was key in getting this transaction closed from the negotiation stage of the power purchase agreement to the structuring of the financing package,” said PT. Medco Power Indonesia Chief Executive Officer Mr. Eka Satria.

The plant is expected to provide stable and reliable power to the domestic grid, amounting to about 1,445 gigawatt-hour annually. The use of combined-cycle gas-fired power generation will improve the environmental sustainability of the current energy mix in Sumatra by displacing diesel and coal as fuels for electricity generation.

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Environment

Education critical to ensure future of forests, and reverse their destruction

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The UN drew attention to the vital role that forests play in addressing some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges on Thursday, and the importance of tackling the issues that threaten them, such as deforestation, and land degradation.

The UN drew attention to the vital role that forests play in addressing some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges on Thursday, and the importance of tackling the issues that threaten them, such as deforestation, and land degradation.

Marking the 2019 International Day of Forests, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched new forestry education initiatives aimed at raising awareness amongst young people about their sustainable use and conservation, and some of the major challenges related to forestry education.

Despite the well documented and important role that forests play in keeping the environment healthy and helping to address global challenges such as climate change through the capture of greenhouse gases, many people have little knowledge of the many ways that forests support human life, or the grave dangers many forests face.

As more and more people move to cities, becoming oblivious to the plight of rural areas, says the FAO, this problem is growing.

In a statement, José Graziano da Silva, FAO’s Director-General, said that “education is a critical step to safeguarding natural resources for future generations. It is essential for children to learn about forests at an early age.”Education, however, can challenge and reverse this situation. The FAO has identified deficiencies in the way that forest-related issues are taught, describing forestry education as generally “inadequate,” and failing to address emerging challenges. The opportunities to study forestry at all levels, the Organization says, are few and far between.

As part of the global celebrations marking the day, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) held a special event at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday, featuring remarks by senior UN and government officials, as well as a panel discussion and general discussion by Member States and UN bodies.

Opening the event, Mr. Hossein Moeini Meybodi, Senior Forest Policy Officer at the UN Forum on Forests, was positive about the effect that education, awareness raising measures and improved forestry management can have on the future of forests: “It is our sincere hope that by sharing positive messages on solutions that exist for forests, and the communities that they support, we can learn from each other and together create a greener, more sustainable world for future generations.”

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Human Rights

UNESCO research on AI’s implications on human rights

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“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming the veiled decision-maker of our times.  AI has profound implications on human rights ranging from freedom of expression, privacy, to right to equality and participation; a human rights based approach must be mainstreamed to guide the development AI through inclusive multi-stakeholder participation,” said UNESCO programme specialist Xianhong Hu, when she spoke at the 40th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council last week.

She was presenting the summary findings of UNESCO’s new report Steering AI for Knowledge Societies: A ROAM Perspective, during the panel discussion on Human Rights in the Era of Artificial Intelligence: Exploring the AI development from UNESCO’s prism of Internet Universality, this report shows these principles are intended for all interested stakeholders and AI development should align with human Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder governance.

This ROAM approach can serve to guide the ensemble of values, norms, policies, regulations, codes and ethics that govern the development and use of AI – a theme that was echoed by a number of delegates in the room.

“The complexity of AI calls for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, global and multi-stakeholder reflection on the opportunities and challenges that come with such advanced ICTs,” stated Abdulaziz Almuzaini, Director of the UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office.

UNESCO’s ROAM framework was highly commended by delegates, professionals and academic representatives present during the panel session. “We appreciate our cooperation with UNESCO. AI is transforming our lives, the use of AI in the exploitation of big data is essential. These are all areas we need to protect human rights,” said Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of Morocco. H.E. Zniber elaborated that AI-generated content sometimes boosts “fake news” and blurs the lines for accountability of produced content. Moreover, AI’s consequences will be felt strongly the Global South, where the potential for digital divide are stronger.

Further insight was provided by Francois Gave, Deputy Permanent Representative of France, regarding France’s position on AI and technology. Stating that AI has been placed on the G7 agenda, he noted that democracy itself could be at stake in the grander scheme of human rights, because some people do not realise that their information is being gathered and retained. At the level of the European Union, many principles surrounding human rights and data privacy exist. However, he held that “now is the time to take things further and work together.”

Dr. Eileen Donahoe, Executive Director, Stanford Global Digital Policy Incubator, moderated the session and pointed that the implication of AI for human rights are vast and multilayered. She believes the existing universal human rights framework including UNESCO’s ROAM principles, can serve as a primary guide for technologist and for policy-makers to help ensure that AI development is beneficial for humanity.

The UNESCO summary report also reveals that privacy is often infringed when AI involves opaque data collection, de-anonymization, third-party data-sharing, and the tracking and profiling of individuals.

 “Increasing Information personalization and content moderation by AI enhance users’ access to information, but at the same time can narrow down the scope of Information and the pluralism of ideas to which they are exposed. Particularly, when Internet intermediaries are pressured to use AI to combat hate speech and disinformation, this can risk removing legitimate content and thus undermine the free flow of information”, stressed UNESCO’s Hu in her presentation.

Vidushi Marda, Legal Scholar from Article 19, stressed that some people may be “forsaken” with the development of AI. She held that the unintended consequences of AI are not being considered as much as they ought to be.

Coining AI as a “trend” word, Jovan Kurbalija, Executive Director and Co-Lead of the United Nations Secretary General High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, emphasised that using AI in local scenarios is of utmost importance. In addition to the protection of human rights, “human happiness and appreciation” must also be considered.

UNESCO’s new summary report is about ongoing research and  the final publication will elaborate key options for actions for different stakeholders as well as overarching options for shaping the future of AI development. The preliminary brochure is online at https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/unesco-steering_ai_for_knowledge_societies.pdf as well as on UNESCO’s webpage dedicated to Artificial Intelligence https://en.unesco.org/artificial-intelligence.

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