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
1Oil, the lifeblood of many countries that produce and sell it, appears to be rapidly turning into an ever-cheaper economic curse.While the price has been declining for months, forecasts have always been hedged with the assumption that oil would eventually stabilize or at least not stay low for long. But new anxieties about frailties in China, the world’s most voracious consumer of energy, have raised fears that the price of oil, now 30 percent lower than it was just a few months ago, could remain depressed far longer than even the most pessimistic projections, and do even deeper damage to oil exporters. [New York Times]
2Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi along with King Abdullah II of Jordan and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Nahyan, in a series of talks starting on Tuesday in Moscow. Putin’s meeting with King Abdullah will pay special attention to the implementation of joint projects, including the construction of the first Jordanian nuclear power plant, according to a statement released by the Kremlin on Monday. Talks with Crown Prince Al-Nahyan, also the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates, will focus on enhancing security and stability in the Middle East and North Africa, in addition to bilateral cooperation in energy and investment.
3New gas field discovered in Turkmenistan. A powerful commercial natural gas inflow was obtained at the ‘Bagly-1’ area in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan’s Mary Province, the Turkmen newspaper ‘Neutral Turkmenistan’ said. According to the newspaper this happened after the first exploration well at the area reached a depth of 4,690 meters. The daily hydrocarbon output at the new field exceeds one and a half million cubic meters. The newspaper said the new field’s prospect can also be judged from its being located a few dozen kilometers away from the gigantic Galkynysh field, which is famous worldwide for its explored and proven natural gas reserves.
4Azerbaijan`s investment potential will be discussed as part of “Milan Expo-2015″ international exhibition on Tuesday.”Invest in Azerbaijan: Business environment and opportunities” event will be co-organized by the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO) and Azerbaijan-Italy Trade Institute (ITAZERCOM).The agenda includes discussions on prospects for cooperation between the two countries in the fields of information and communication technologies, agriculture, chemistry, mechanics, environment, industry and construction.The event will bring together representatives of AZPROMO, Azerbaijan Investment Company, Sumgait Chemical Industrial Park, and Clean City company.
5Kazakhstan’s Air Defence Forces have received five air defence missile systems from Russia according to the press-office of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense.“These S300PS air defence missile systems will be tested during live fire exercise and transferred to military bases of Kazakhstan’s Air Defence Forces to be in operation readiness covering the airspace of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the Commander of Kazakhstan’s AA Troops Nurzhan Mukanov said. The S300PS AA missile systems were given to Kazakhstan free of charge.
6Preparation for the official visit of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov to Afghanistan, scheduled for August 27 was discussed at the last meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers in Ashgabat, the Turkmen government reported. The president of Turkmenistan said that the country’s stance is exclusively peaceful settlement of the situation in Afghanistan by taking concrete steps to restore the Afghan economy and social infrastructure, according to the message.All this is proved by large-scale projects initiated by the Turkmen side, such as the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway, which started in 2013.
7Azerbaijan has expanded the investment in the social and economic spheres of the country in January to July, 2015.The investments in the mentioned spheres increased by 3.5 percent as compared with the same period of the past year, according to the report of the Azerbaijan State Statistical Committee.The total amount of investments amounted to 9.37 billion manats (over $8.94 billion), including 58.6 percent of internal investments.The government allocated the largest investments in the field of the construction and installation works for this period, amounting to 74.7 percent of the total volume of investments.
8Ahead of a high-level technical delegation from Iran, the Ministry of Commerce on Monday explored various avenues to enhance bilateral trade to $5 billion in the next five years after lifting of international sanctions against Iran. A delegation from Iran will visit Islamabad on August 25-26 to revive the trade links. Pakistan has a narrow export basket to Iran because 63 per cent of exports comprised of rice alone. Pakistan’s exports to Iran fell to a low level of $43 million in 2014 from $182m in 2010. While Iranian imports fell to $186m in 2014 from $884m in 2010.
9Duda on Top of Russian Threat. Poland sees Russia as a pre-eminent threat. This has been the essence of speeches made by Andrzej Duda, the newly appointed President who has called for additional security guarantees from NATO and has plans to create an anti-Russian bloc within the organization alongside other Eastern European countries. Given Duda’s attitude, it would seem that Russian–Polish relations could deteriorate even further, while tensions in the Baltic–Black Sea Region as a whole will increase sharply. Vadim Trukhachev for RIAC.
10The first lady of Azerbaijan, ISESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva is a very dynamic person with great talents and open-mindedness, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri said in an interview with Trend news agency.“She has always been an advocate of dialogue and positive interaction between cultures,” he said.The ISESCO director general went on to add that Mehriban Aliyeva’s support to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue is a strong factor of its success in achieving its noble objectives.
World Bank, Gates Foundation, DFID Join Forces to Improve Education Quality Around the World
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.
On One-Year Anniversary of China’s Ivory Ban, New Campaign Targets Travelers Abroad
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.”
Another 170 migrants disappear in shipwrecks: UN call for an end to Mediterranean tragedy
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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