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The fate of the world cannot be determined by one country

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

1Russia says the fate of the world countries and nations cannot be put in the hands of a country or a limited number of countries seeking to keep their dominance over others, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in an article titled “Lessons of History and New Milestones.The article was published on Sunday in Russia’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily as well as China’s Renmin Ribao newspaper on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in August 1945. In an apparent reference to the interventionist policies of the US and its NATO allies in other countries, the Russian foreign minister said that global developments, including the occupation of Iraq and the conflict in Libya and Ukraine prove the “tragic consequences” of striving to capture and retain global dominance at any cost. “We are resolute opponents of imposing one’s will on sovereign countries, including by military means, of unilateral sanctions pressure, and in general of employing the practice of ‘double standards’,” he wrote. Lavrov said that the “lessons of the Second World War” proved that global woes can only be resolved through collective efforts.

2Turkmenistan, Iran trade to hit USD60b in 10 years. An Iranian official said that the two nations are committed to grow relations in all sectors as its presidents stressed in Iran’s Exhibition, therefore the trade between them is set to hit USD60 billion over the next decade. The oil, gas, construction, energy, water and engineering products and services exhibition resulted in Turkmen traders, economic activists and investors becoming acquainted with the capabilities of Iranian companies. The expo, called ‘Iran Project’, focused on increasing Iran’s non-oil exports and paving the way for developing trade, mainly exchanging Turkmenistan’s gas with Iranian goods and services.

3Japan has lodged a protest over Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to one of four disputed Pacific islands that have strained ties between the two countries since the end of World War II. The decades-old argument over the territory, claimed by both states, could set back Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to court resource-rich Russia and keep the door open to dialogue, despite the Ukraine crisis. While on the island, Mr Medvedev said Japan’s attitude would not stop more such visits.”Our position is simple: we want to be friends with Japan, Japan is our neighbour. We have a good attitude towards Japan, but this shouldn’t be linked in any way with the Kuril islands, which are part of the Russian Federation,” he said.”Therefore, we have made visits, we are visiting and we will make visits to the Kurils.” Mr Medvedev emphasised economic development plans for a region potentially rich in oil and gas and invited foreign investors. Russia ordered a quicker build-up of military facilities in the disputed islands in June, following comments by Mr Putin in April that he was ready to discuss the issue, while blaming Japan for a lack of dialogue.

4Despite the forecasts announced by investment group Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Kazakhstani experts say that the probability of a default in Kazakhstan remains low, Tengrinews reports citing business newspaper Kursiv. Last week, the American bank placed Kazakhstan on the ninth place among ten countries with the highest likelihood of sovereign default. Experts in the country acknowledge certain risks exist but contend that a default is not on the horizon.

5Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are in talks for the establishment of a joint bank whose branches would conduct financial operations in the two countries, Press TV reports. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi emphasized that further development of the two countries’ banking cooperation is necessary for expansion of trade relations between Tehran and Baku. “Currently, the trade volume between our countries is about USD 500 million…. I think that it’s not a very good indicator for the two neighboring countries and peoples so close to each other. Azerbaijan and Iran have set a goal to increase this figure by four times to USD 2 billion,” he said.

6The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank is seeking to increase the number of financial intermediaries in Azerbaijan. This was noted in the BSTDB cooperation strategy with Azerbaijan in 2015-2018, published on its website. The bank hopes to find suitable partners for the development of leasing in Azerbaijan.”It is an area of great potential in Azerbaijan and the Bank intends to use the leasing product not only for financing capital expenditure of SMEs but also for other companies as an effective financing tool for the promotion of regional trade. Medium-term credit lines opened to leasing companies for trade related purposes will enable them to offer their customers finance for capital expenditures on imports from other countries in the region,” the document said.

7Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and his Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov have discussed relations between their two former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Tajikistan’s presidential press service quotes Berdymukhammedov as saying that Tajikistan and Turkmenistan “have common positions on the issues related to peace and stability in the world and in the region.”Rahmon said the two countries have a “common position towards the struggle against terrorism, [and] extremism [that] creates a base for developing economic ties.” The presidents’ concerns about terrorism follow reports in recent months that Taliban fighters have intruded into Turkmenistan and Tajikistan from neighboring Afghanistan.

8Kazakhstan’s national gas supply company KazTransGas has signed with China Development Bank Corporation and Bank of China an agreement on a syndicated loan worth US $2.5 billion for the period until 2028. The loan will be used to finance the construction of the Beyneu-Bozoi-Shymkent gas pipeline, the press service of KazTransGas said on August 19. The Beyneu-Bozoi-Shymkent pipeline will deliver natural gas from gas fields in western Kazakhstan to southern parts of the country.

9The Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC will increase the number of the vessels engaged in cargo transportations in the Black Sea to four.The company said the ‘Teymur Ahmadov’ dry cargo ship, with an ability to carry a load of 3,000 metric tons, will reach the Black Sea through the internal waters of Russia.Aside from the ‘Teymur Ahmadov’ ship, the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC has the ‘Garadagh’, ‘Natavan’ and ‘Uzeyir Hajibeyli’ vessels in the Black Sea.

10Kazakhstan’s currency recovered some of its recent losses against the dollar Monday with a 15 percent rise, even as the country’s stock market slumped. The tenge traded at 218.61 to the dollar in the morning session on the Kazakhstan stock exchange, down from 252.47. The tenge had slumped by over 25 percent against the dollar on Thursday when Kazakhstan’s government and central bank moved to a free float, abandoning a trading corridor.

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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