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Russia renews bid for Arctic regions

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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

1Russia has renewed its efforts to get the United Nations to recognise 1.2 million sq km (463,000 sq miles) of the Arctic shelf that it lays claim to. It made a similar move for the resource-rich territory in 2001, but that was rejected by a UN commission because of insufficient evidence. Russia’s foreign ministry said the fresh bid is backed by scientific data.But all other countries bordering the Arctic – Norway, Denmark, Canada and the US – reject Moscow’s claim. All five nations have been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.The competition for Arctic resources has intensified in recent years as the shrinking polar ice opens new opportunities for exploration.

2Tehran and Baku have recently intensified bilateral relations with an expectation to further deepen the all-out cooperation between the two close neighbors. As part of the measures to broaden the longstanding ties in various fields, an Azerbaijani delegation that included several representatives from oil, telecommunication, banking, and energy companies, led by Azerbaijan’s Economic Development Minister Shahin Mustafayev, visited Tehran. Referring to the role that the North-South corridor can play in consolidating the bilateral ties between the two countries, Rouhani stressed that Azerbaijan can act as Iran’s gateway to the Caucasus region while Tehran can ease Baku’s access to the Gulf and Oman Sea.

3Over 200 fields to be developed in Turkmenistan. Besides the hydrocarbon resources of global importance, Turkmenistan has rich and diverse solid minerals and hydro-mineral reserves of commercial scale. There are more than 200 deposits of various solid minerals and hydro-mineral raw materials prepared for industrial development at the state balance of Turkmenistan. Among them are a variety of mineral salts, iodine-bromine industrial waters, celestine, sulfur, bentonite and kaolin clays, ozocerite, barite, gypsum, ornamental and facing stones, carbonate raw materials for the chemical industry, a variety of mineral raw materials for the production of building materials.

4Ukraine is Intensifying the Transnistria Conflict.”The deteriorating relationship between Moscow and Kiev may be having profound regional consequences, with the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic (TMR) becoming a clear victim due to the abruptly worsening international environment. The Russian public has focused on the military aspects, although the problem is multidimensional and armed confrontation breaking out in Transnistria is unlikely” Igor Istomin [RIAC]

5Syrian Minister In Tehran For Talks On Ending Civil War. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem arrived in Tehran on August 4 for talks with Iranian and Russian officials aimed at ending the four-year-old war in his country. Moallem will meet Mikhail Bogdanov, President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East, before holding talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on August 5, Iranian media reported.”Fortunately, we see a change in the strategy of regional players in the Syrian crisis. If four years ago they believed war is the only solution, now they prefer to focus on diplomacy,” Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying by the Fars News Agency.

6Obama to make his case on Iran, drawing on lessons from the Cold War. “President Obama will ask Americans on Wednesday to give his tentative nuclear agreement with Iran a chance when he delivers a history lesson on the most prominent U.S. adversary of his lifetime — the Soviet Union.In an address heavy with homage to President Kennedy’s 1963 nuclear talks with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Obama will talk about the importance of engaging with a hostile and seemingly intransigent opponent in the hopes of achieving peace.The Cold War allusion has been a common theme in public conversations with White House officials all week, and always with a sharp point: “We clearly know who won,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday” Christi Parsons and Michael A. Memoli [Los Angeles Times]

7Kazakhstan Temir Zholy national railways company plans to transit 42,000 containers on the China-Europe-China route, and this figure is almost 40 times more than in 2011. The additional volume of container transportation from China to Europe and vise-versa in 2014 allowed for an increase of revenues from transit traffic by 13.7 percent compared to 2013, Kazakhstan’s Samruk-Kazyna National Welfare Fund reported. China emerged as a major economic player in Central Asia, driving billions into promoting Chinese-Central Asian trade. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, these investments reached $50 billion last year.

8Azerbaijan will be hosting the first International Eurasian Conference on energy economics on August 31–September 3, 2016 in Baku. The event that will be organized by the International Association for Energy Economics is of crucial importance both for energy and tourism spheres. Nearly 200 state, private and academic circles will attend the event.

9Europe must wake up before Iran falls into the arms of Russia and China. “European leaders seem to have been caught somewhat off-guard as regards Iran’s opening up. The Greek saga alone could explain this. The problem is that other competitors have already stolen a march and this is not the US, as it could appear as first sight by looking at the newspaper headlines. Europe’s key competitors to make business with Iran are Russia and China.Although Iran’s historical relationship with Russia has not always been cordial, President Vladimir Putin has become more of a partner as both countries fight against Sunni insurgent groups, such as the Islamic State. Furthermore, Russia was one of the key players pressing for a positive outcome from the nuclear negotiations and there seems to be no doubt that Iran will be grateful” writes Alicia García-Herrero for Bruegel.

10Azerbaijan may join the international GMO-analysis networking. The Genetic Resources Institute (GEI) of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan informs that GEI senior researcher and member of the Expert Council on GMOs Ayaz Mammadov participated in the 2nd international seminar of the network, held in the Italian town of Varese. Mammadov voiced a hope for Azerbaijan’s accession to the network and European Commission’s courses and seminars in the country for research on GMOs.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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‘We cannot rest’ until child labour is eliminated

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A woman watches children working at a stone quarry, Zambia. (file) IRIN/M. Deghati

Countries taking part in the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour this week in South Africa, are being urged to do more to end child labour by 2025.

The strong call for urgent action at the conference taking place in Durban, aims to combat an uptick in the numbers of children being forced into work.

Latest figures indicate that 160 million children  – almost one in ten worldwide – are still being affected. Furthermore, numbers are on the rise, with the pandemic threating to reverse years of progress, as child labour becomes a bigger scourge in particular among the vulnerable five to 11-year-old age group.

Make a difference

Speaking at the start of a week of hybrid format discussions, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on delegates to commit to taking “far-reaching actions” to make a difference in the lives of children.

“We are here because we share a common conviction that child labour in all its facets is an enemy. Child labour is an enemy of our children’s development and an enemy of progress.

“No civilization, no country and no economy can consider itself to be at the forefront of progress if its success and riches have been built on the backs of children.”

Mr. Ramaphosa’s call was echoed by Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), who underlined that “child labour is a violation of a basic human right, and our goal must be that every child, everywhere is free from it. We cannot rest until that happens.”

According to the ILO, global progress against child labour has stalled for the first time in 2020, after two decades of moving in the right direction. In addition, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to have pushed millions more children into the workforce.

First in Africa

This is the first time the Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour is being held in Africa, a region where child labour numbers are highest, and progress has been slowest, ILO notes.

According to recent data, most child labour on the continent – some 70 per cent – is in the agricultural sector, often in settings where children are working alongside other family members.

The conference builds on four previous Global Conferences, held in Buenos Aires (2017), Brasilia (2013), The Hague (2010), and Oslo (1997), which raised awareness of the issue, assessed progress, mobilized resources, and established a strategic direction for the global movement against child labour.

Call for action

With the 2025 UN Sustainable Development Goals  deadline for the elimination of child labour looming, many speakers outlined the urgent need to recover the progress that had been made in many regions, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Conference is expected to conclude with a formal Call to Action that will outline concrete commitments to scale up action to eliminate child labour.

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Israel: UN rights chief calls for end to ‘culture of impunity’

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The funeral of Shirin Abu Akleh in Jerusalem. Photo: Maisa Abu Ghazaleh

Investigations must be held into the actions of the Israeli security forces, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Saturday, calling for accountability and an end to impunity.

Her appeal comes in the wake of the killing of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot on Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in Jenin, West Bank.

The veteran Palestinian-American journalist was buried in East Jerusalem on Friday and huge crowds turned out for her funeral.

‘Shocking’ use of force

The High Commissioner issued a statement saying she was following “with deep distress” the events in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

“Footage of Israeli police attacking mourners at the funeral procession of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in East Jerusalem on Friday 13 May was shocking. Reports indicate that at least 33 people were injured,” she said.

Ms. Bachelet said the Israeli use of force, which was being filmed and broadcast live,  appeared to be unnecessary and must be promptly and transparently investigated.

“There must be accountability for the terrible killing not just of Shireen Abu Akleh but for all the killings and serious injuries in the occupied Palestinian territory,” she said.

Call for investigations

The UN rights chief reported that 48 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces so far this year.

The latest death occurred on Saturday when a young man called Walid al-Sharif, succumbed to injuries sustained during clashes last month at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

“As I have called for many times before, there must be appropriate investigations into the actions of Israeli security forces,” said Ms. Bachelet. 

“Anyone found responsible should be held to account with penal and disciplinary sanctions commensurate to the gravity of the violation. This culture of impunity must end now.”

Security Council condemnation

The killing of Ms. Abu Akleh has sent shockwaves across the globe, and UN officials have been among those calling for an investigation.

The journalist was shot even though she wore a vest that identified her as a member of the press corps. Her producer also was wounded.

The UN Security Council issued a statement on Friday strongly condemning her killing, reiterating that journalists should be protected as civilians.

The Council also called for an immediate, thorough, transparent, and fair and impartial investigation into her killing, and stressed the need to ensure accountability.  

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World Bank to support Education Recovery Strategy in Brazil

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The World Bank Board of Directors approved today the US$250 million Recovering Learning Losses From COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil project. The program will support the Brazilian strategy to promote learning recovery and address school dropout rates related to the health emergency crisis, by implementing innovative programs and systems to strengthen education management in primary and lower secondary schools in the North and Northeast region of the country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted unprecedent challenges to global education. A systematic recovery strategy will allow Brazil not only to revert learning losses related to the pandemic, but also to promote solid and sustained improvement in education,” says the Ministry of Education Victor Godoy Veiga.

Brazil had one of the longest school closures in the region due to the pandemic. According to Brazilian Ministry of Education, public schools remained closed for 287.4 days on average (or about 9.5 months) while private schools closed for 247.7 days (about 8 months), representing a 40-day public-private difference. The North and Northeast regions registered an even longer period of school closure, with the state of Bahia registering the longest school closure (366.4 days on average), followed by Roraima (349.4 days), Rio Grande do Norte (336.5 days), Acre (332.7 days) and Amapá (332.4 days).

Despite efforts to promote online classes, connectivity barriers both in schools and in students’ homes impaired learning, especially in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil. According to the 2020 School Census, only 60 percent of public schools in Brazil have internet. This situation is even more serious in North and Northeastern Brazil, where internet connectivity is only available in 48.5 percent of public schools (broadband in only 39 percent).

The proposed Operation aims to reduce regional gaps by supporting innovative online and face-to-face programs. Some key initiatives include: (i) the implementation of National and State Observatories of School Dropouts (OSD); (ii) an Early Warning System (SAP), to help identifying students at high risk of dropping out; Personalized Tutoring for Teachers and Socioemotional Initiative (SIS), to rebuild students’ socioemotional skills and to incentivize them to learn effectively.

Once back in school, the challenge is to make students (re)learn effectively. In this aspect, the program has two lines of action: face-to-face approaches by offering  Personalized Tutoring (APA) Program to small groups of students with similar learning gaps; and structured group discussions in SIS to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on student socioemotional skills. The second line of action focuses on hybrid strategies and education systems to recover learning losses, by providing internet connectivity to schools, access to internet for vulnerable students under the law 14,172 and to take to inner municipalities the Creativity and Innovation Labs, facilities in which teachers and principals will be trained to use technology in the classrooms and to master the foundational teaching skills needed to help students recover learning losses.

The project will also offer support to two innovative educational systems: The Education Solution Ecosystem, that aims to offer an array of education tools to public schools, including adaptive learning platforms; and  the Integrated Education Management Platform, that focuses on integrating the education management system from the Ministry of Education. By strengthening hybrid learning models, training teachers to use technology and consolidating education systems, the project expects to build resilience to future pandemics and natural disasters that may disrupt learning and teaching.

“The world is facing a silent crisis in education. Urgent action is necessary. By supporting this comprehensive and innovative learning recovery program, the World Bank strongly believe that Brazil will become a role model for countries in the region on how to fight against learning crisis”, says World Bank Director for Brazil, Paloma Anós Casero.

Outcomes supported by the program include:

  • Creation of National and State Observatories of School Dropouts (OSD).
  • Implementation of an Early Warning System (SAP).
  • Implementation of an Education and Family Program.
  • Implementation of a Personalized Tutoring (APA) Program.
  • Implementation of Socioemotional Initiative (SIS).

This loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) to the Ministry of Education is guaranteed by the Federative Republic of Brazil and has a final maturity of 34.5  years, with a 5 years grace period.

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