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Azerbaijan, the most stable country in the South Caucasus

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

1Azerbaijan is the most stable country in the South Caucasus in terms of stability in domestic and foreign policy, economic power and the ability to resist extremism, says a report published by Minchenko Consulting. The report mentions that the collapse of the USSR gave birth to six armed conflicts, the majority of which still remain unsettled. “The South Caucasus is the only region in the post-Soviet area where some of the states do not have diplomatic relations. There are no diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Georgia and Russia, Armenia and Turkey,” says the report.Azerbaijan is mentioned as the most stable country among the three South Caucasian countries in terms of stability in domestic and foreign policy, economic power and the ability to resist extremism. Azerbaijan comes first thanks to its monolithic political system and strong economy.

2Russia’s Defense Ministry broadcasting channel, Zvezda-TV, reports that Moscow has plans to start building new early warning radar stations in Azerbijan and near the Arctic Circle. The radar stations are meant to provide long-distance monitoring of airspace. Construction of the Voronezh-DM radar will start at Azerbaijan’s Soviet-era Qabala military complex in 2017 and is scheduled to be completed during 2019. The new radar will replace old Soviet radar system Daryal, which Russia stopped using in December 2012 due to differences with Baku over the Qabala lease fee.

3Some 234 trains have been launched via the China-Europe-China railway route through Kazakhstan for the first seven months of 2015, which is almost three times more than in the same period of last year, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (Railway of Kazakhstan) said.”As of 2015, the number of organized container trains is expected to increase up to 510 or more than 40,000 containers, which is almost 40 times more than in 2011,” a statement said.”Kazakhstan Temir Zholy is actively working to implement the transit-transport potential of the country in three main vectors: East-West (China-Europe-China), TRACECA (China, Turkey, the Caucasus); North-South (China, Russia, India, Gulf countries),” a statement said. “Great success in this area was observed in transcontinental transportation via the China-Europe-China route.” The container transportation via this route increased, mainly due to redirecting the cargo flow from marine transport to railway transport.

4Kazakhstan Power Market Outlook To 2025. This report elaborates Kazakhstans power market structure and provides historical and forecast numbers for generation, capacity and consumption up to 2025. Detailed analysis of the Kazakhstan power markets regulatory structure, import and export trends, competitive landscape and power projects at various stages of the supply chain is provided. The report also gives a snapshot of the power sector in Kazakhstan on broad parameters of macroeconomics, supply security, generation infrastructure, transmission infrastructure, degree of competition, regulatory scenario and future potential. Financial performance of the leading power companies is also analyzed in the report. [Market Research Reports]

5Turkmenistan has seen a 7.8-percent GDP growth in oil and gas condensate production in the January-July 2015 period. This data was announced at a meeting of the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers, which summarized the results from various sectors of the national economy for the first seven months of the current year. It was also noted that the country’s GDP growth was at the level of 8.7 percent, including an industrial sector growth rate of about 4.4 percent, 12.6 percent in the construction sector, 13 percent in trade, and 12.2 percent in agricultural production. The volume of investments from all financing resources amounted to 27.7 billion manat, representing a 7.9 percent growth from that of the same period in 2014.

6How Much Pressure Will Iran Put On Oil Prices? “According to Robin Mills, Head of Consulting at Manaar Energy, the anticipation of the Iranian deal has already caused prices to fall and further falls will depend on the pace of the increase in Iranian exports.“Iranian exports will increase somewhat ahead of the formal confirmation of lifting sanctions, about 6 months after the approval of the deal by the U.S. and Iran (which itself takes 3 months from signing), but the return of ~1 million bpd of Iranian exports will depress prices by $5-10 per barrel. In the long term, growing production from Iran will help keep prices moderate,” stated Mills to Oilprice” source: investing.com

7Central Asian Cities: Between Demography and Politics. “We live in a rapidly urbanizing world, where city populations are growing in across the globe at an impressive rate. In 1950, 28.8 percent of the world’s population lived in cities, in 1975 – this figure was 37.2 percent and in 2000 – 45.0 percent, while more recently, in 2009, it exceeded 50 percent. This trend is also apparent in the post-Soviet space, chiefly in Central Asia. In 1959, city-dwellers accounted for 38.5 percent of the population, whereas in 2014 this figure had risen to 47.6 percent, with the population increasing from 8.9 to 32.1 million. According to UN forecasts, by 2050 the region is to become home to 82 million people, with 45 million or 55 percent residing in cities. The fastest increase takes place in major cities, which are gradually becoming into megalopolises, and this gives rise to a range of political challenges for Central Asian states” Artem Dankov for RIAC.

8Kazakhstan’s Mining Fiscal Regime. Kazakhstan has significant fossil fuel reserves, and mineral and metal deposits. It produces a variety of mineral resources such as coal, uranium, lead, zinc, tungsten, molybdenum, borates, phosphorite, copper, potassium and cadmium. The fiscal regime report covers mining industry of Kazakhstan which is governed by the Ministry of Industry and New Technology and Ministry of Environmental Protection. The Law of Subsoil and Subsoil Use is the main regulating law for mining activities in the country. The report outlines governing bodies, governing laws, licenses, rights, obligations and key fiscal terms which includes upfront payments and taxes on subsurface usage, land tax, vehicle tax, deductions, depreciation, loss carry forward, withholding taxes and value added tax (VAT) [Research and Markets]

9Three-day consultations of heads of customs services of the participating countries of international transport project North-South, including Azerbaijan, will start in Delhi tomorrow. Indian ambassador to Russia Pundi Srinivasan Raghavan has informed today that the parties are actively working on launching this project as it will halve the costs on the delivery of goods. Transport corridor from Nava Sheva (Mumbai, India) through Bandar Abbas (Iran) to Astrakhan (Russia) and Baku (Azerbaijan) is expected to reduce much the time of transporting cargo from India to the regions of Central Asia and Russia. Currently, an important issue in the running of transport corridor North-South is the completion of railway line Qazvin-Rasht-Astara with length of 375 km.

10Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey agreed to create a common Turkic-speaking channel.Memo was signed during the first meeting of the ministers in the sphere of information and media council of cooperation in Astana. The channel will broadcast in the language of the member-states which signed a memo on its creation.

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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World Bank, Gates Foundation, DFID Join Forces to Improve Education Quality Around the World

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The World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UK’s Department for International Development today announced a new partnership that will develop tools governments can use to better monitor the quality of their education systems, allowing policymakers to take real-time decisions to ensure that all children are learning. This collaboration will advance the goals of the Human Capital Project, a global effort to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth.

The multi-year partnership, which was announced during the Education World Forum in London, will provide countries with an integrated system for tracking the how well education is delivered and how well countries are progressing toward their policy goals. The World Bank will take the lead on developing the new tools under a multidimensional Global Education Policy Dashboard, working together with education and governance experts from around the world. The Dashboard will soon be tested in 13 countries and it will be progressively expanded to more countries.

All children should have the right to learn how to read and write so they have the voice and skills needed to advocate a better and prosperous future for themselves and their communities. UK aid is making sure millions of children around the world can access 12 years of quality education, to help them reach their potential and help lift their countries out of poverty,” said Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s International Development Secretary and Human Capital Champion. “Our innovative partnership with the World Bank and Gates Foundation will help governments analyze evidence to show why children aren’t developing these essential skills and recognize what interventions they can put in place to improve their education systems and invest in their most important assets – their own people,” she added.

As the recent World Development Report 2018 highlighted, being in school isn’t the same thing as learning, and much of the world is facing a learning crisis. The new partnership seeks to upend that crisis by empowering countries with new data on the most important indicators linked to better learning outcomes. These indicators cover three dimensions at different levels of the system—quality of service delivery, policies, and political commitment to education—to allow more holistic monitoring of progress than is currently possible.

Tackling the learning crisis requires improving the quality of every child’s experience in school,” said Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Senior Director for Education. “As the largest financier of education in the developing world, the World Bank is committed to supporting the measurement of what students are learning and how well school systems are performing. This is critical in allowing policymakers to see which aspects of the system are working, and which need fixing.”

Improving education systems requires a multi-faceted approach: children have to be ready to learn, teachers need to teach successfully, schools need to have the right materials, and school management has to provide appropriate leadership and oversight. To get this right, education polices need to be aligned with the goals. This partnership will provide countries with reliable data on the functioning of the whole education system along these dimensions while highlighting the gaps between their actions and best practices.

The ability to read fluently by grade 3 is critical and underpins learning in later grades which is why the education dashboard emphasizes foundational learning as a key outcome,” said Girindre Beeharry, Global Education Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The dashboard provides actionable information on key bottlenecks to learning in the education system which will make it a valuable tool for reform-minded policy-makers.”

In this way, the Global Education Policy Dashboard will allow governments to track progress with their investments and policy reforms to improve learning, starting from what’s happening in the classroom all the way to the decisions taken in ministerial meetings. It will provide countries with data to make decisions that have a real impact on student learning, boosting human capital and giving the next generation the ability to succeed.

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On One-Year Anniversary of China’s Ivory Ban, New Campaign Targets Travelers Abroad

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More than one year after China implemented a full ban on commercial ivory sales, several surveys indicate Chinese travelers are still purchasing ivory at souvenir shops in neighboring countries. To counter this trend, China Customs and the National Forestry and Grasslands Administration (NFGA) are partnering with WildAid and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on a national campaign to remind travelers that their “souvenirs could be contraband.”

In the new public awareness campaign, popular Chinese actor Huang Xuan, dressed as a Customs officer, informs travelers that purchasing wildlife products is driving certain species toward extinction and reminds them that it is illegal to bring ivory into China, even as souvenirs.

The campaign comes as part of a three-year initiative by China Customs to tighten security at borders and halt imports of illegal wildlife products. Since 2018, Customs has made two trips to Africa to extradite Chinese nationals involved in wildlife smuggling.

Since domestic sales of ivory were banned in China, there’s been a clear decline in illegal sales and demand for ivory on the mainland, according to a survey released by TRAFFIC and WWF in September 2018. Twelve percent of respondents claim to have purchased ivory in the past 6 months compared to 26 percent of respondents who reported doing so in a similar 2017 pre-ban survey, a 54% decline.

Yet the same TRAFFIC and WWF study shows that more than 18 percent of outbound travelers bought ivory products on trips abroad, with Thailand and Hong Kong being the top two markets. Other destinations popular with Chinese travelers are also of concern. In Laos, more outlets are selling new ivory items to meet Chinese demand, according to a Save the Elephants investigation, with nearly all vendors in the market being Chinese and prices quoted in Chinese yuan. And just this month, more than 73 kilograms of ivory products were confiscated from a souvenir shop in Laos. The ivory products were hidden in secret drawers under the shop’s counters.

The new public awareness campaign will appear on public media and customs entry and exit points at airports, train stations, and border crossings, particularly where China borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.

“WildAid brings decades of experience delivering high-impact media campaigns to protect wildlife to this partnership,” CEO of WildAid Peter Knights said. “We’ve seen how these campaigns generate results in increased awareness and reduced consumption of wildlife products such as shark fin. This message with Huang Xuan will reach tens of millions of people, and will help build on the recent momentum to end the devastation caused by ivory consumption.”

“WWF’s goal is to reach Chinese travelers who have the means to buy ivory and access to it in popular destinations where ivory can still be found,” said Jan Vertefeuille, senior director for advocacy at WWF. “This campaign is the kind of collaboration we need between government agencies and conservation groups to get the word out that ivory is illegal to bring home and it’s not socially acceptable.”

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Human Rights

Another 170 migrants disappear in shipwrecks: UN call for an end to Mediterranean tragedy

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Refugees from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa await assistance and a health-screening by the Spanish Red Cross in the port of Malaga, after disembarking from a Spanish rescue ship. 19 September 2018. © UNHCR/Markel Redondo

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, stated on Saturday that “no effort should be spared” in saving lives at sea, following reports of two new shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea, in which some 170 people either died or went missing.

“The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to various NGOs, about 53 people died on the Alborán Sea, in the western part of the Mediterranean. One survivor is understood to have been rescued by a passing fishing boat after being stranded for more than 24 hours at sea and is receiving medical treatment in Morocco.

According to UNHCR, Moroccan and Spanish rescue vessels have been searching for the boat and survivors for several days to no avail.

The Italian Navy are also reporting another shipwreck on the central Mediterranean. Three survivors, who were taken for treatment on the island of Lampedusa, reported that another 117 people, currently dead or missing, had boarded the ship with them in Libya.

UNHCR has been unable to independently verify the death tolls for these two shipwrecks, but in 2018, 2,262 people lost their lives attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

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