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How to Reduce the Risk of a Military Encounter Between Russia and NATO

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

1A Pan-European Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe, including former foreign and defence ministers from the U.K., Poland, Russia, Germany, Turkey and France has expressed its concern over a possible military escalation in the crisis between Russia and the West and has called for a new agreement between NATO and Russia to prevent accidental incidents or miscalculations leading to an escalation of tension and even confrontation. In its paper on Avoiding War in Europe: How to Reduce the Risk of a Military Encounter between Russia and NATO the Task Force describes some of the increased military activity in Europe in recent months and outlines a required new military agreement modelled on a recent US-China deal to avoid dangerous incidents in the East China Sea and elsewhere. [European Leadership Network]

2Kazakhstan, EU to sign new deal. The new EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will help Kazakhstan to implement the government programs aimed at strengthening the national economy. The implementation of the new Agreement has significant importance for the country, particularly in the current context of regional tension and global economic crisis.The new Agreement will replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in force since 1999, and will give EU-Kazakhstan relations a new up-to-date and stronger foundation.Over the past decades, the EU has become Kazakhstan’s first trading partner and first foreign investor, representing over half of total Foreign Direct Investments(FDI) in Kazakhstan.

3Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Iyad bin Ameen Madani has applauded Azerbaijan`s role as an active member of the organization, AzerTag reports.“Azerbaijan is making a considerable contribution to the efforts to address economic, humanitarian and political challenges faced by the OIC,” Mr Ameen Madani told Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov as they met in Baku. The OIC Secretary General also congratulated Azerbaijan on “excellent” organization of the first European Games. He expressed confidence that the country will successfully host the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017.

4Turkmenistan will propose to consider the issue of holding the ‘International Forum on Security and Cooperation in Central Asia’ in Ashgabat in 2016 during the forthcoming 70th session of the UN General Assembly. The forum aims at establishing a regular multilateral dialogue on the problems of the region, working out the common approaches to the creation of a permanent mechanism of political consultations in Central Asia in the future.The international non-military, non-block organizations, primarily, the UN and OSCE, could also take part in the forum.

5Tehran and Moscow started talks on the supply of the Russian-made Sukhoi 30 fighter jets to Iran. The talks were held on Tuesday on the sidelines of the MAKS 2015 air show in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow during which Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian Vice-President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari were present. The Sukhoi Su-30 is a twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable fighter aircraft developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.

6Why the JCPOA Won’t Turn Iran Into the Next Saudi Arabia. “Yet it is far from certain that the JCPOA will have anything like the cataclysmic effect some have predicted. Moreover, it is questionable how far Iran will push its newly-freed oil economy once sanctions are lifted, with a host of infrastructural challenges, as well as some compelling historical experience, potentially foiling the country’s rise into major petro-state status” Gregory Brew for Modern Diplomacy

7Former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency has predicted Iran will become one of the leading powers in the world oil and gas market by 2040. During a visit from Iranian petroleum ministry’s Institute of International Energy Studies (IIES) in Tehran, Nobuo Tanaka said, “We believe that Iran is the most important player in the world oil and gas market because of its exemplary geopolitical situation which is worth any kind of energy investments. I hope the Strait of Hormuz is never blocked and the world is never deprived of Iran’s energy resources,” said Tanaka, who currently serves as executive director at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation., Iran’s SHANA news agency reported.

8The United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Commercial Service has started the formation of the American trade mission to Azerbaijan. The mission, that will take place on November 18-20, is a response to the rapid growth and potential of Azerbaijan.The mission is open to U.S. companies, investors, consultants specializing in the field of agriculture, banking and financial services, chemicals and petrochemicals, education, energy, food processing, healthcare, telecommunications and IT, infrastructure and construction, light industry, machinery, pharmaceuticals, transport and logistics, and tourism. The trade turnover between Azerbaijan and the U.S. increased by 7.7 percent in the annual quantities – up to $877.07 million – in January-July, according to the Azerbaijan State Customs Committee.

9Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and First Deputy Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev of Kazakhstan reached a six-point consensus to advance bilateral cooperation on Tuesday. Zhang and Sagintayev co-chaired the seventh session of the China-Kazakhstan Cooperation Commission in Beijing, at which they summarized the results and planned future cooperation in the areas of manufacturing capacity, energy and resources, trade and investment, inter-connectivity, technology and people-to-people contact. The two sides agreed to step up integration of the China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt with Kazakhstan’s new economic policy of the Bright Road. They will establish a joint work group on building the Silk Road Economic Belt as soon as possible and start drafting a guideline on bilateral cooperation at the earliest possible date.

10International Conference InvestPro Azerbaijan 2015. This autumn the Bosco Conference Company for the third time holds an international b2b conference and exhibition devoted to international investments, finance, corporate solutions, wealth management and asset protection: 26th of October 2015 – InvestPro Azerbaijan Baku 2015 (JW Marriott Hotel Absheron Baku)

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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