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What the world could look like in ten years after the 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

1“Diplomatic relations would be resumed. Iranian-European relations would improve as well. Iran could also have better relations with some Arab nations. This is the best-case scenario, but even here the Middle East doesn’t suddenly turn into Utopia. This dark scenario assumes that Iran won’t comply with the agreement and still develops a nuclear weapon. With diplomatic efforts shown to be fruitless or pointless, the future U.S. president will launch air strikes against the Iranian nuclear sites. Britain will participate in the attacks. The question, even now, is: What would Iran do in response to such strikes? The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been involved for decades in a covert war with Iran. Republicans, Israelis and Saudis who are promoting direct military action against Iran need to know the difference between dancing with devil and boxing him” writes Riyadh Mohammed for The Fiscal Times.

2India, China, and Iraq have received the most weapons and military equipment in 2014 from Russia’s state-run Rostec company, according to the company’s annual report published on Wednesday.“The deliveries of military equipment were sent to 59 countries. The company’s main importers were India (25 percent), China (22 percent), Iraq (22 percent), Syria (5 percent), and Venezuela (5 percent). Geographically, the main exports of military equipment went to Asia (75 percent), Latin America (9 percent), and the Middle East (7 percent),” the report shows.The company’s annual report also reflects that military exports to the former soviet republics have drastically dropped to $370 million in 2014 from $1.5 billion in 2013.The company fulfilled 9,400 contracts in 2014; that is 54 percent more than in 2013.

3Russia’s Justice Ministry says it has issued warnings to 12 nongovernmental organizations that the Kremlin has deemed as “foreign agents,” saying the groups face “administrative liability measures” – fines severe enough to shut down almost any Russian NGO. A ministry statement on July 21 said all nongovernmental organizations receiving funds from abroad must indicate on all printed or distributed materials that the group “performs functions as a foreign agent.” It added that warnings were issued to the Memorial human rights center, Memorial’s information center, the Sakharov Center, For Human Rights, Transparency International’s Russian research center, the Committee Against Torture, and the Civil Assistance charity for refugees and internally displaced persons. It said warnings also were issued to the Siberian Press Development Institute, the Bellona-Murmansk environmental group, the Maximum support center for discrimination victims, the Resource Human Rights Center, and the St. Petersburg-based Civil Control rights group.

4Turkmenistan, Russia to mull prospects for expanding co-op. The third meeting of joint Turkmenistan-Tatarstan working commission on trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation will be held July 23-24 in Ashgabat. It is planned to discuss the prospects for expanding the cooperation in the petrochemical sphere, energy, industry, transport, construction, agriculture, environmental protection, education, health care, sports and tourism. Russia tops the list of Turkmenistan’s largest foreign trade partners. In recent years, Turkmenistan has intensified the cooperation with such largest regions of Russia as Tatarstan, St. Petersburg, Astrakhan, Sverdlovsk and others.

5Azerbaijan is the EU’s reliable and strategic partner in the energy field, and we want to take this partnership further, President of European Council Donald Tusk said at the joint press conference with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in Baku on July 22. One aim of the European energy union is to exclude the possibility of using gas as a threat, this is why the EU is dedicated to diversifying our supplies. And Azerbaijan is a main partner in this endeavor,” he added.“Today, we agreed to stand united on developing the Southern Gas Corridor – a project which is in our common strategic interest – and to make sure it is completed on time, whatever our competitors do. For Europe, it is a question of diversifying supply. For Azerbaijan, it is a question of diversifying demand,” Tusk said.

6Kazakhstan to establish fund to finance energy-saving programs. Kazakhstan will establish a special fund engaged in financing energy-saving programs, Investment and Development Minister Asset Issekeshev said at a briefing in Astana on July 20.”Many countries have established special funds for energy efficiency,” he said. “Currently, we are working over the concept of such a fund.”Issekeshev also said that the Kazakh authorities are holding talks “with the World Bank and the European banks” to ensure financial provisions to the fund.”The main investors will be international financial institutions. They have already expressed their readiness. It is clear that in order to use the money efficiently and transparently, we asked them to be the main investors and help us manage the fund to launch pilot projects,” he added.

7The Olympics for military experts. China has successfully deployed its military personnel and hardware, including tanks, to Russia to participate in war games, the Russian Defense Ministry reports. The deployed members of the People’s Liberation Army of China as well as Chinese military hardware were deployed to take part in the International Army Games 2015 along with 14 other nations, including India, Armenia and Russia. The games, which are often described as the Olympics for military experts, will take place from August 1 through 15 and will consist of 13 military individual and team competitions, including a ‘tank biathlon’ as well as Aviadarts, according to Russian agency Sputnik International News.

8The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says Turkmenistan is the country with the world’s lowest proportion of tobacco smokers. WHO chief Margaret Chan said during a July 21 health forum in Ashgabat that a recent WHO study shows only 8 percent of Turkmenistan’s population smokes tobacco. She said “this is the lowest national indicator in the world.” Turkmenistan annually holds a month of public exercises and sporting events under the slogan “Health and Happiness.” It was one of the first post-Soviet republics to crack down on smoking, introducing hefty fines in 2000 for smoking in public places.

9President Ilham Aliyev: We need to bring to the world the truth about Azerbaijan. “The target number one for Armenians worldwide is Azerbaijan. I already talked about this, and I want to reiterate that our main enemy – is the Armenian lobby. I can say and prove it at any audiences”, – said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at a meeting with members of the Board of the Press Council on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the national press.

10Israel’s nuclear strategy after the Iran agreement. “In each and every case, Israel’s nuclear strategy must aim for deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post. This does not mean that such strategy should necessarily steer clear of preparations for actual nuclear war fighting. On the contrary, there is still likely to be established a purposeful and productive association between enemy perceptions of any such nuclear war-waging preparations, and Israeli nuclear deterrence” writes Louis René Beres for The Hill.

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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Environment

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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Energy News

Brazilian stakeholders of UNIDO-GEF project trained on biogas

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC), and the International Center of Renewable Energy (CIBiogás) trained members and partners of the Steering Committee of its GEF Biogas project on the biogas value chain in Brazil – a renewable source of energy produced from the decomposition of organic waste generated by various enterprises, such as farms and restaurants.

“The potential use of biogas arises from the need to pursue sustainability in agribusiness; at the same time, it represents an opportunity for local economic development”, said UNIDO Project Management Specialist Bruno Neves. “Organic waste generated by the Brazilian agricultural production can result in economic, social and environmental gains as the benefits of biogas production can both be internalized by producers and be made available in the form of thermal energy, fuel and electricity”.

Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA); the Ministry of Environment (MMA); the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME); the Ministry of Planning, Development and Management (MP); the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE); the Energy Research Company (EPE); the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC); the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP); Itaipu Binacional and the German cooperation agency (GIZ) participated in the training.

“The main objective of the training was to raise the awareness of ministries and important institutional agents about the need to make rules around renewable energy generation more flexible”, said CIBiogas CEO Rodrigo Regis. “Today, Brazil is very dependent on diesel and we have a growing demand for energy, which biogas can partly supply in a decentralized way, and can develop a new economy for the country, thereby generating jobs, income, development and progress”.

The training included a visit to the Itaipu hydroelectric dam and to a demonstration unit supported by CIBiogas: with a breeding of five thousand pigs, the farm is capable of generating 770 cubic meters of biogas per day, resulting in savings of over US$1,000 per month in energy costs.

“The development of biogas is one of MCTIC’s strategic priorities”, said Rafael Menezes, Coordinator of Innovation at the Ministry’s Secretariat for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The Brazilian potential for biogas and biomethane production is underexplored; we have to create public policies and a favorable environment so that we can increasingly tap into this potential”.

The GEF Biogas project “Biogas Applications in Brazilian Agroindustry” foresees local and federal actions to stimulate the sustainable integration of biogas in the national production chain. It is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and aims to expand the production of renewable energy and strengthen national technology supply chains in the sector.

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The workplace equality challenge

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This year’s G7 French presidency has chosen the theme for the Biarritz Summit well. ‘Combating inequality’ is indeed one of the key challenges of our time. 

The theme of combating inequality strongly aligns with the International Labour Organization’s mandate for social justice, as articulated most recently by our Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work  adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2019 . The G7 presidency’s intent for the Biarritz Summit to reaffirm the G7 members’ commitment to respond to global challenges through collective action further provides important support for the declaration’s call for stronger multilateralism to confront the issues facing the world of work.

The G7’s labour and employment track, known this year as the G7 Social, furthered the overarching theme of France’s presidency by concentrating on four goals: further integrating international labour standards into the multilateral system, supporting access to universal social protection systems, supporting individuals through digital transformation and its impact on the future of work, and promoting occupational equality between women and men. Because these themes are integral to the Decent Work Agenda, they provided the ILO with an opportunity to engage deeply with G7 members, not only by providing technical inputs on each of them but also by participating during the discussions.

In the context of the G7 Social’s focus on the rapid changes in the world of work, France highlighted the importance of the ILO’s centenary by welcoming Work for a brighter future, the report of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. It also emphasised the critical role played by the ILO in the multilateral debate on economic and social policy, and the importance of the ILO’s groundbreaking new international standard on violence and harassment in the world of work.

The communiqué  adopted by labour and employment ministers when they met in Paris on 6–7 June 2019 reflects the work of the G7 Social through an ambitious set of goals:

A call to action to reduce inequalities in a global world, including a multilateral dialogue and coordination for the reduction of inequalities and a commitment to promoting responsible business conduct in global supply chains;

Commitments in favour of universal access to social protection in the changing world of work;

Commitments to empower individuals for the future of work; and,

Commitments to ensure gender equality in the world of work.

The ministers’ communiqué and the ILO’s Centenary Declaration have many strong points of convergence that reveal key areas of focus for the future of work.

The economic and social link

Both instruments stress the need to strengthen multilateralism. The G7 communiqué emphasises the inseparability of economic and social policies to reduce inequalities. This finds its counterpart in the Centenary Declaration’s recognition of the “strong, complex and crucial links between social, trade, financial, economic and environmental policies”, which leads to a call for the ILO to play a stronger role in broad policy dialogues among multilateral institutions. The communiqué and the accompanying G7 Social Tripartite Declaration reaffirm and implement the G7 members’ commitment to social dialogue as the means of shaping the future of work we want.

Similarly, just as the G7 communiqué stresses that social protection, in line with ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors , “is instrumental in shaping the future of work”, the Centenary Declaration calls on the ILO to “develop and enhance social protection systems, which are adequate, sustainable and adapted to developments in the world of work”. Both instruments draw from the Report of the Global Commission, which underscores the importance of social protection systems to support people through the increasingly complex transitions they will need to navigate the changing world of work in order to realise their capabilities.

The G7 communiqué’s call for empowering individuals hinges on the need to “adapt labour market support and institutions to provide decent working conditions for all platform workers” and “underline[s] the importance of harnessing the potential of current changes to create high-quality jobs for all”. Addressing new business models and diverse forms of work arrangements, the Declaration, for its part, directs the ILO’s efforts to “[harness] … technological progress and productivity growth” to ensure decent work and “a just sharing of the benefits for all”. Both documents draw on prior work of the ILO to call for a transformative agenda for gender equality through a broad range of policies, including by closing persistent gender gaps in pay and participation in the labour market. Both instruments recognise the persistent challenges of informality.

As the ILO begins our second century, we are preparing our next programme and budget to respond to the key priority areas identified in the Centenary Declaration. We look to the G7 summit to provide an important boost for the ILO’s efforts to bring that about, and by so doing to provide our own contribution to the G7 priority of combating inequality.

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