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 will guarantee a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean and boost its strength in the Atlantic and Arctic under a new strategy to counter “unacceptable” Nato expansion.The plans, which also include ambitious ship-building targets and expansion of infrastructure for the country’s fleet in the Black Sea, were laid out in a new naval doctrine approved by Vladimir Putin on Sunday.Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister with a portfolio for defence, emphasised the “accent put on the Atlantic and the Arctic” in a meeting with Mr Putin on Sunday. Mr Rogozin, a strong critic of Nato, said that the new doctrine reflects “changes in the international political situation and the objective strengthening of Russia as a great naval power. Our attention towards the Atlantic is justified by the expansion of Nato in the east,” he told Russian news agencies. [Telegraph]
2Why is Russia sending bombers close to U.S. airspace? Two Russian bombers intercepted by U.S. fighter jets off the California coast on July Fourth could be seen as having raised a metaphorical middle finger to the United States.”Good morning, American pilots. We are here to greet you on your Fourth of July Independence Day,” they said, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.U.S. fighters also intercepted two other Russian Tu-95 bombers the same day off the southern coast of Alaska. In both instances, American fighter jets flew up to intercept the Russian bombers, and the aircraft turned away. [CNN]
3Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of the EU in peace-building processes and the fields of energy, culture and sport, Novruz Mammadov, the deputy head of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration said.“All this is reality. There is a strange situation. From ambassadors to heads of state, all say Azerbaijan is a country to be cooperated. However, they say that it’s a newspaper and wrote this article, it’s a NGO and made this statement. This breaks the balance of justice. Officials say Azerbaijan is at high level, but if any newspaper or NGO release any information, it undermines Azerbaijan’s reputation. I’m in doubt that such mechanism will bring a success to the West. Most of world countries are in doubt about these approaches,” Mammadov noted.
4Kazakhstan Wind Power Market: Outlook 2015 – 2025.This market report offers an incisive and reliable long-term overview of the wind power sector of the country for the period 2015-2025. Current cumulative installed wind capacity in the country is insignificant, but a number of fully permitted and ready to build projects will promptly increase in 2015 and next years. First MW szie wind power plants have been launched into commerical operation, whilst pipeline of over 1,300 MW (1.3 GW) wind projects pipeline are progressing in different stages of permitting process. Feed-in tariff for wind energy has been approved in Kazakhstan in June 2014, and combined with 15 years PPA period are expected to pave the way for fast further growth of wind power market in Kazakhstan. [Research And Markets]
5Iran announced that it will invest $6 billion in Kazakhstan at the latest Kazakh-Iranian forum held in Almaty on July 22-24. The Islamic Republic also plans to establish a center for the exchange of technologies in Kazakhstan’s special economic zone, the “Park of innovative technologies,” where it will present the country’s latest achievements in the mining and oil and gas industries, and the agriculture and healthcare sectors.”Your country has great economic prospects. And we would like to join our efforts for dynamic development in the field of innovative technologies. This forum should be a first step in this work,” Iranian Deputy Minister of Science, Research, and Technology Vahid Ahmadi said. Kazakhstan and Iran cooperate fruitfully in international and regional organizations, including the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
6Kazakhstan: 100 Steps Toward a New Nation. “The 100 Concrete Steps program, called Plan of the Nation, was unveiled soon after President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s re-election and is designed to provide the strong national platform needed to overcome both short-term challenges and achieve the country’s ambition of joining the top 30 developed countries by 2050. It is a comprehensive reform package that builds on past progress to drive improvements in all the country’s institutional pillars” writes Erlan Idrissov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan. [The Diplomat]
7Azerbaijan was effective in countering radicalisation. “Azerbaijan continues to be a beacon of secularism and tolerance notwithstanding the recent turbulence in the Muslim world. Walking in the streets of the Azerbaijan, a country with a predominantly Muslim population, one cannot help admiring the culture of acceptance. Even during the holy month of Ramadan, all the restaurants and cafes in Baku are open with plenty of people in them. Some people wear modern dresses, others more traditional ones. Some are drinking alcoholic beverages whereas others prefer soft drinks. Judgement and enforced values are absent here” [Euractiv]
8Iran ready to sign $1bn worth of contracts with Turkmenistan. Irans oil minister, Bijan Zanganeh held talks with Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister, Rashid Muradov in Tehran on Sunday, discussing further expansion of trade exchanges between Tehran and Ashgabat.On the sidelines of the meeting, Iran’s deputy oil minister for international affairs and trade said Iran is ready to sign about $1 billion worth of contracts with Turkmenistan for the export of technical and engineering goods and services to the Central Asian country .Turkmenistan has been always a good trade partner for Iran and we hope it would remain the same in the future,” Amir Hossein Zamaninia added .
9UAE’s Alpha Destination Management Company hosted a series of roadshows in Russia in a bid to promote the Gulf region as an all-encompassing tourism destination. Russia is among Dubai’s top 10 tourism source markets with the number of weekly flights from to UAE almost tripling in the past two years, reaching 124 flights last year. The promotional and marketing initiative was held over a 10-day period in eight Russian cities and evoked strong response from the travel trade professionals.
10Azerbaijan supports Turkey in its fight against ISIL. “The Syrian crisis and the operations of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are taking place in Turkey’s neighborhood. Other processes, respectively, also affect Turkey. It is normal that the Turkish government is taking actions against ISIL” said Novruz Mammadov, deputy head of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, chief of the Administration’s Foreign Relations Department.
In Afghanistan, women take their lives out of desperation
The situation for women is so desperate in Afghanistan that they are committing suicide at a rate of one or two every day, the Human Rights Council has heard.
It comes as the top UN rights forum in Geneva agreed to Member States’ request for a rare Urgent Debate on the issue this Friday.
Addressing the Council, Fawzia Koofi, former deputy speaker of the Afghan Parliament, said lack of opportunity and ailing mental health, was taking a terrible toll: “Every day there is at least one or two women who commit suicide for the lack of opportunity, for the mental health, for the pressure they receive.
“The fact that girls as young as nine years old are being sold, not only because of economic pressure, but because of the fact that there is no hope for them, for their family, it is not normal.”
Bachelet highlights ‘progressive exclusion’
Echoing widespread international concern for ordinary Afghans, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet condemned the massive unemployment of women, the restrictions placed on the way they dress, and their access on basic services.
Women-owned and operated businesses have been shut down, Ms. Bachelet added, saying that 1.2 million girls no longer have access to secondary education, in line with a decision by the de facto authorities who took power in August 2021.
“The de facto authorities I met with during my visit in March this year, said they would honour their human rights obligations as far as [being] in line with Sharia law.
“Yet despite these assurances, we are witnessing the progressive exclusion of women and girls from the public sphere and their institutionalised, systematic oppression”.
Ms. Bachelet encouraged the re-establishment of an independent mechanism to receive complaints from the public and protect victims of gender-based violence.
“Beyond being right, it is also a matter of practical necessity”, said the High Commissioner. “Amid the economic crisis, women’s contribution to economic activity is indispensable, which itself requires access to education, and freedom of movement and from violence”.
Women made ‘invisible’
Also speaking at the Human Rights Council, its Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, described a chilling attempt by the Taliban to make women “invisible, by excluding them almost entirely from society”.]
As an example of the de facto authorities’ intentions to impose “absolute gender discrimination”, the independent rights expert also noted that women are now represented by men at Kabul’s Loya Jirga, or grand assembly of religious scholars and elders.
Such measures contravene Afghanistan’s obligations under numerous human rights treaties to which it is a State party, Mr. Bennett insisted before adding that the situation for women “massively diminish(ed) women’s lives, deliberately attack women and girls’ autonomy, freedom and dignity, and create a culture of impunity for domestic violence, child marriage and sale and trafficking of girls, to name but a few of the consequences”.
Despite public assurances from the Taliban to respect women and girls’ rights, they are reinstituting step by step the discrimination against women and girls. Said Ms. Koofi, a former member of the peace negotiation team with the Taliban said that the fundamentalists “obviously have not kept their promises of what they were telling us during the negotiations, in terms of their respect for Islamic rights for women”.
Ms. Koofi added that “in fact, what they do is in contradiction to Islam. Our beautiful religion starts with reading. But today, Taliban under the name of the same religion, deprive 55 percent of the society from going to school”.
For Nasir Andisha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN in Geneva, “the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan demands nothing less than a robust monitoring mechanism to collect, consolidate, and analyse evidence of violations, to document and verify information, to identify those responsible to promote accountability and remedies for victims, and to make recommendations for effective prevention for future violations”.
A draft resolution on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan is being negotiated at the Human Rights Council and will be considered on 7 July.
Safer roads, a global development challenge for all
Every 24 seconds someone is killed in traffic, making safety on the world’s roads a global development challenge for all societies, especially for the most vulnerable, a senior UN official has said, ahead of the first ever High-level General Assembly Meeting on Improving Road Safety.
Nneka Henry, who heads the United Nations Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) Secretariat, noted that 500 children die in crashes every day, and that of the older population, women are 17 times more likely to be killed during a car crash than men, even when wearing seatbelts.
Challenge for all
Despite these statistics, road safety is not just a challenge for women or for young people. It is “for each and every one of us who walk, ride, cycle or drive on our roads,” Ms. Henry told Diedra Sealey, a young diplomat in the President of the General Assembly’s HOPE Fellowship programme.
The interview took place ahead of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Improving Road Safety, which gets underway at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday and Friday, organized by the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Coinciding with the meeting, is the UN Road Safety Fund pledging conference. The Fund was established in 2018 with a vision to “to build a world where roads are safe for every road user, everywhere.” It specially finances projects in low- and middle- income countries, where some 93 per cent of road deaths and injuries take place.
“I am here in New York to remind all 193 Member States of their commitment to the Fund’s mandate and success,” Ms. Henry said.
Those successes include the announcement that as of 1 July, all vehicles imported in East Africa need to be below the Euro 4/IV emission standard and no more than eight years old.
The Fund has been working with the Economic Community of West African States’ 15 members, to harmonize vehicle standard resolutions.
“This will have major air quality and road safety benefits,” Ms. Henry said about the latest announcement.
Some of the other achievements by the Fund include legislation in Azerbaijan to help emergency post-crash response, help to increase enforcement of the speed limits and other road traffic rules in Brazil and Jordan, as well as improving data collection in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, and training urban planners on making safer school zones in Paraguay.
Vision for the future
As part of the High-level meeting this week, UN Member States will adopt a political declaration, to lay out a “vision for the future of mobility as one that promotes health and well-being, protects the environment, and benefits all people,” according to a press release.
The interconnected targets are part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that show how road safety is also integrated into the SDGs, from allowing safer access to education, to allowing people access to groceries and reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Halving traffic deaths and injuries by 2030 is a target under the third SDG, on good health and well-being.
Rise of disinformation a symptom of ‘global diseases’ undermining public trust
Societies everywhere are beset by “global diseases” including systemic inequality which have helped fuel a rise in disinformation, or the deliberate spreading of falsehoods, said the UN human rights chief on Tuesday, addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Michelle Bachelet said the restoration of public trust was essential, as disinformation should really be seen as a symptom of diseases such as systemic inequality, which has seen “deep-seated discrimination” flourish, along with fragile institutions, a loss of trust in effective governance, and “limited rule of law”.
She said those countries impacted by inequality were now threatened with instability and frayed co-existence within society.
Flourishing amid discontent
“Disinformation spreads when people feel that their voices are not heard. It arises in contexts where political disenchantment, economic disparity or social unrest flourish”, she said.
“It flourishes when civil society, journalists, human rights defenders and scientists cannot work, assemble and speak freely. When civic space is limited or closed. When the human rights to freedom of expression and access to information are threatened.”
It can be fuelled by governments and public officials, potentially leading to hate crimes and violence.
But she warned governments against trying to “officially ordain what is false, and what is true, and then attach legal consequences to those determinations. Our human right to access and impart information, is not limited to only what is deemed by the State as ‘accurate’”.
She called for a focus on “assessing how communications are being revolutionized by technology and on unpacking who is responsible for what.
“We need to look at how best to contain the harms caused by disinformation, while addressing the underlying causes that give disinformation life and allow it to gain traction.”
She said the sheer speed and volume of information circulating online, meant that it could be easily manipulated, with campaigns using automatic tools, rapidly creating a “false impressions of broad popular support for or against certain ideas, or be used to counter and marginalise dissident voices and ideas.”
Organized disinformation campaigns are also being used to silence rights defenders, journalists, and minority voices, “and as a result of repeated attacks, women, minority communities and others can be deterred from participating in the public sphere.”
The international response has to be consistent with universal rights obligations, she warned.
“When we debate the best ways to respond, we need to understand that censorship is not only an ineffective medicine – it can actually harm the patient.” Freedom of expression and the right to access information are essential, she underscored.
“I therefore call on States to uphold their international obligation to promote and protect these rights, whatever the social ill they seek to mitigate. Maintaining a vibrant and pluralistic civic space will be crucial in this endeavour.”
She called for policies which support independent journalism, pluralism in media, and digital literacy, which can help citizens “navigate” the online world and boost critical thinking.
“States must also ensure wide and free access to information so that it reaches all communities and constituencies…Trust can never be achieved without genuine government transparency.”
Social media regulation ‘insufficient’
The human rights chief said that social media businesses have transformed the way information circulates, “and they have a clear role to play.”
“To start with, we must understand better how they affect our national and global debates. While platforms have taken welcome steps to enhance their own transparency, and redress channels, progress remains insufficient.
She called for independent auditing of social media companies’ services and operations, and more clarity on the way advertising and personal data is being handled.
“And we need access for researchers and others to the data within companies, that can help us better understand and address disinformation.”
Ms. Bachelet told the Human Rights Council that there are two “critical needs” in the battle against rising disinformation.
“First, we need to deepen our understanding and knowledge: we need more research on how the digital sphere has transformed media and information flows; on how best to build public trust within this environment; and on how different actors can contribute to countering disinformation operations.”
Secondly, she said all discussions had to be framed within human rights norms. “Shortcuts do not work here: censorship and broad content take-downs are an ineffective and dangerous response.”
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