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Away From Dollar: Russia, China creating own gold market

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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

1As Western central banks continue their manipulation of the gold price in order to prop up flagging fiat currencies, two of the world’s largest bullion hoarders are fashioning their own gold market which will function outside the dollar system. This new approach is connected closely with the China-led New Silk Road project and the Shanghai-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In May 2015 Beijing announced it had established a state-run gold investment fund, aiming to bolster China’s role in global gold trade. The new initiative is a part of China’s ambitious One Belt and One Road plan. The “Silk Road Gold Fund” will invest in mining projects in the regions along the New Silk Road encouraging central banks of its members to increase their holdings in the precious metal. [mining.com]

2Russia, Iran Plan To Expand Military Cooperation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the Kremlin plans to develop military and technical cooperation with Iran after international sanctions against Tehran are lifted under a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Lavrov made the remarks following talks in Moscow with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on August 17. Russian media reports said the two discussed the possible delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles from Russia to Iran and new contracts to build nuclear power plants in Iran.

3Trans-Caspian transport route: what does it mean for Azerbaijan? The member-states of the Trans-Caspian international transport route will be able to earn $1 billion in freight transportation for the first few years, Akif Mustafayev, TRACECA (Europe-Caucasus-Asia) transport cooperation program national secretary on Azerbaijan, told Trend News. The profit of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey as a result of the transportation via this route will increase in the future. “The train has arrived from China to Azerbaijan, but it is necessary that this route gets extended through Georgia and Turkey, and then further to Europe,” he said. “Work is currently underway in this regard, and the arrival of the first train gives hope that the work will be completed in the near future.”In general, as the national secretary said, all the projects realized recently, including the construction and reconstruction of the railway in Azerbaijan, the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway’s section and a new international seaport in Alat, are aimed at high-level cargo transportation from China to Europe.

4Azerbaijan’s model of interfaith harmony. The Valley Outreach Synagogue, one of the most influential Jewish synagogues in Los Angeles, hosted a presentation on Azerbaijan on August 14, 2015. Attended by over 500 members of the Synagogue, the event featured Nasimi Aghayev, Azerbaijan’s Consul General in Los Angeles. Synagogue’s Spritual Leader Rabbi Ron Li-Paz noted that during the turbulent times of religious intolerance and violence in various parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, Azerbaijan stands out as a beacon of tolerance, interfaith harmony and secularism. He called Azerbaijan “a ray of hope in the darkness” and an exemplary model of religious tolerance and acceptance.

5Iran’s energy ministry and the State Agency on Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources (SAARES) are set to enter into a deal on enhancing generation of renewable energies, a deputy energy minister said. Houshang Falahatian was quotes by shana as saying on Tuesday that Iran plans to add 1,000mg it to power generation by renewables. Once sealed, Azeri companies active in the field of renewable energies will start cooperating with MAPNA group in Iran for developing projects for generation of power from renewable energy resources.

6Goods transfered from Central Asian countries to Bandar Abbas – port by Persian Gulf in southern Iran – will recieve 35 percent transfer discount, Hossein Ashouri, an official with Iran’s railroad organization said. He added that Iran also gives 40 percent discount to the transfer of goods from Central Asia to Pakistan via the Iranian railroad, IRNA news agency reported August 17. The official further said that a two-way discount is also to be given to the transfer of goods between Iran’s northeastern border city of Sarakhs and Turkey.

7Russian energy company Rosneft said on Monday it had registered to take part in the 13th licensing round organised by Brazilian national energy agency Agencia Nacional do Petroleo, Gas Natural e Biocombustiveis. Rosneft said that 10 oil basins and blocks, located onshore and offshore, would be put up for sale at the licensing round.

8More than 700 Russian and foreign companies from 30 countries will put their products on display at the MAKS-2015 aerospace show. According to exhibition director, 40 Iranian companies are also due to showcase their products and achievements in MAKS-2015, including Iran Air Show, Qom International Airport, and Sharif Hamrah Pazhouhan Science and Technology Co. Unlike previous years, Iranian firms and companies have been provided with a larger space in the exhibition this year. Several satellites and launchers, jet engines, navigation systems, helicopters and airplanes are among the Iranian products to go on display in MAKS-2015.

9Yuan’s devaluation to impact Kazakh economy. The decision of the world’s second-largest economy – China – to devalue its national currency has unsettled global financial markets. Sabit Khakimjanov, the director of research at the Halyk Finance JSC, believes that the depreciation of the yuan might increase the likelihood for the devaluation of Kazakhstan’s national currency, the tenge. “First, yuan’s depreciation will further strengthen overvaluation of tenge. This is certainly an additional handicap for Kazakh producers, but when considering the fact that tenge has greatly overvalued against the ruble by 20-25 percent in real terms, the devaluation of yuan by 2 percent is relatively not too big,” he told local media. Several experts consider the devaluation of yuan as a positive factor for Kazakh exporters; while others claim that the depreciation of the Chinese currency not will have any impact on either the Kazakh economy, or the tenge, as Kazakhstan is not a rival of China. [Azernews]

10Three days for Constitution Day in Kazakhstan. This year, Kazakhstan celebrates the 20 years anniversary of the Constitution. The anniversary of the Constitution will be celebrated along with the 20th anniversary of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan.

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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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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