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20th anniversary of the Neutrality of Turkmenistan

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

1The year 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the recognition by the international community of the legal status of permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution. For the first time in the history of the United Nations General Assembly, the adoption of the Special Resolution on 12 December 1995, entitled “On the Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan” became a recognition of the peaceful foreign policy of this country and an approval of the authoritative role of Turkmenistan as a state that can make a worthy contribution to the peaceful development of international relations and ensuring universal security and steady progress. Turkmen neutrality model assumes that contemporary international law is the law of peace, and that constantly, a neutral state must adhere to its status not only in wartime, but also in peacetime. As a new phenomenon in international legal practice, Turkmen neutrality has become the basis of a new concept of cooperation and achievement of world peace.

2Russia’s newly amended Maritime Doctrine took effect Sunday upon approval from President Vladimir Putin. The Doctrine underscored friendly relations with China in the Pacific Ocean as a key element of Russia’s naval policy.”Business cooperation in the naval sphere plays and important role in the development of trusting strategic bilateral relations,” the ministry stated.The two countries have conducted joint naval exercises, provided convoys for vessels and exchanged expertise, the statement said.According to the ministry, cooperation between the two countries contributes to peace and stability in the region and throughout the world. [Sputniknews]

3Oman, Iran close in on $60 billion gas plan. An Omani delegation is in Tehran for the finalization of the operational plan for transfer of the Iranian gas to the sultanate via a pipeline across the Persian Gulf, a top energy official says.“Currently, the Iranian adviser for studying (the subsea section of) the pipeline for 200 kilometers from Kuh-e Mubarak to Oman’s Sohar port has been chosen,” head the National Petrochemical Company (NPC) Alireza Kameli said Wednesday.The onshore section of the pipeline in Iran will be built for another 200 km from Rudan to Kuh-e Mubarak, he added.“According to the plan, engineering studies in both the offshore and onshore sections will be carried out simultaneously so that the implementation of the two lines does not hit a snag,” Kameli added.The $60 billion deal was concluded during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Muscat in 2013 to ship 10 million cubic meters per day of the Iranian gas to Oman for a period of 15 years.

4Greece, Azerbaijan resuming DESFA talks. Next week, the Greek government will resume talks with Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR on the sale of a controlling interest in Greece’s gas transmission system operator DESFA, the Kathimerini newspaper quoted Panos Skourletis, the productive reconstruction, environment and energy minister of Greece, as saying July 29. The main topic of discussion, as Skourletis said, will be the share in DESFA, which will be sold to SOCAR.In early May, Bloomberg reported that Greece’s government is considering the sale of 49 percent share in DESFA to SOCAR.SOCAR won a tender in December 2013 on the sale of the 66 percent share in DESFA for 400 million euros.Currently, the deal is being considered by European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, and the procedure will last until late 2015.

5Land-Locked Kazakhstan Plans to Build a Blue-Water Commercial Fleet. Kazakhstan plans to expand its shipping fleet on the Caspian Sea and to acquire, for the first time, a blue-water one (Np.kz, July 23). Its maritime strategy is aimed to allow this Caspian-littoral Central Asian republic both to take advantage of the cost-savings of ship transport and to make itself less dependent on foreign shippers, including Russian ones. [Jamestown]

6Iran and Turkmenistan are targeted to pump up their bilateral trade volume up to $60 billion in the upcoming 10 years, the Iranian Industry Minister said in his meeting with the Turkmen Foreign Minister on Tuesday.”According to the agreements made by the presidents of the two countries, mutual trade volume is to hit $60 bln in the following ten years,” Iranian Industry, Mine, and Trade Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said in his meeting with Turkmen Foreign Affairs Minister Rashid Meredov.The Iranian minister referred to foregoing cultural and historical joints and underscored the necessity of expanding ties between the two countries’ private sector.Nematzadeh also announced Iran’s readiness to ease its technical, infrastructural, and industrial transactions with Turkmenistan.

7US foundation first ‘undesirable’ foreign group. Russian prosecutors Tuesday declared the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy the first “undesirable” foreign group under a controversial new law to ban overseas organisations deemed a threat.”Taking into account the overall aim of the endowment’s work, prosecutors came to the conclusion that it presents a threat to the constitutional order of Russia, its defence capabilities and state security,” the prosecutors said in a statement.They accused the American non-profit organisation of using local NGOs to undermine elections and organise political rallies in the country.”The National Endowment for Democracy participated in work to declare the results of election campaigns illegitimate, to organise political demonstrations aimed at influencing decisions taken by state institutions and to discredit service in the Russian armed forces,” the statement said.

8Iran cancels visa requirements for citizens of Azerbaijan. Iran canceled the visas for the citizens of seven countries, Oxu.Az reports citing the Iranian newspaper Kayhan. From now on tourists from Turkey, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bolivia, Egypt and Syria can travel to Iran without a visa.

9Kazakhstan is considering to establish oil consortium to ensure the implementation of the Eurasia international oil project in the Caspian basin, according to remarks made by Kazakhstan’s Deputy Energy Minister Uzakbai Karabalin at a July 27.”Kazakhstan is considering the establishment of the consortium on public-private partnership with the further implementation of works on the Eurasia project in 2016-2021 in order to ensure the implementation of tasks, in particular on such a large project,” he said. Karabalin also noted that Kazakhstan is developing a legal code on ubsoil and its adoption is scheduled for 2015-2016. The government plans to make amendments to the Tax Code in order to reduce the tax burden in conducting geological research, exploration of subsoils, as well as the implementation of the contract on the geological study of the Caspian Basin.

10Azerbaijan, France to expand military cooperation. Azerbaijani Defense Minister, Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov met with French Ambassador to Azerbaijan Pascal Monnier, the Azerbaijani defense ministry said. During the meeting, the sides discussed the military-political situation in the region and the successfully developing relations in the military sphere. They stressed the importance of expanding activity in this direction.

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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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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