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Iran will raise exports even if the oil prices fall

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

1Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said that Iran will not give up its quota in OPEC and its share in world market.Speaking on Iranian State TV Aug. 26, Zanganeh said Iran will raise exports even if the oil prices fall.“The Islamic Republic of Iran will by no means ignore its quota in OPEC and the world oil market. We have no problem with slashing of oil prices on the global market because we can double our oil exports,” said Zangeneh, adding, “We should bypass the tyrannical conditions imposed on our country because maintaining Iran quota in OPEC and world market is among our vital parameters.” He said. Noting that the OPEC members should reconsider current oil production, Zanganeh said to this end, OPEC members have been asked to hold an extraordinary session that will be held if all the 13 members agree to it on consensus. Certain OPEC members do not wish increase in the prices and want to harm other members through low prices as a result of oversupply, he concluded.

2The next meeting of the Working Group on the legal status of the Caspian Sea is scheduled for early September in Moscow, Iran’s special envoy for Caspian affairs, Ibrahim Rahimpur told Trend. Rahimpur said the meeting would discuss the issues on the legal status of the Caspian Sea still uncoordinated by the littoral states.There are two possible solutions to the issue on the legal status of the Caspian Sea: delimitation using a midline modified method or division into five equal parts of 20 percent share.Baku supports defining the Caspian Sea’s legal status based on the sovereign rights of the littoral states, a mutually beneficial partnership, and peaceful negotiations.Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on the delimitation of their respective Caspian maritime borders on May 14, 2003. Azerbaijan, together with Kazakhstan and Russia, agreed on the delimitation of the sea in early 2000. Turkmenistan and Iran, however, have not reached a consensus yet.

3China and Russia: Cyber Cousins but not Cyber Brothers. “There seems to be a strong divergence in perception behind China’s desire to command cyberspace offensively. On the one hand, there is the assumption that this is a natural manifestation of its growing desire to achieve global superpower status. On the other hand, there is the counter-argument that emphasizes China’s own perception to be unable to operate effectively against the United States in a conventional military confrontation. Indeed, many Chinese writings suggest cyber warfare is considered an obvious asymmetric instrument for balancing overwhelming US power” Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.

4Putin To Visit China Next Week, Sign 20 Bilateral Deals. Putin will attend celebrations dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the victory of Chinese people over Japan and the 70th anniversary of victory in WWII. The Russian and Chinese leaders also plan to hold negotiations on energy and other issues, and sign more than 20 bilateral documents, many implementing agreements reached during Xi’s visit to Russia in May 2015 and in meetings in Ufa in July 2015.Russia’s Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said cooperation between the two countries has “already become a powerful stabilizing factor of security” in the world.

5Pakistan and Kazakhstan on Wednesday agreed to bolster bilateral ties through enhanced cooperation in trade, economy, energy, science and technology and education for the mutual benefit of two brotherly countries.“As we move forward, we would be taking concrete steps to expand mutual cooperation in diverse fields, including regional connectivity, energy, security, education, culture, and people-to-people exchanges,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing a joint press conference with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The prime minister said the two sides also agreed to strengthen economic cooperation by optimally utilising the existing institutional mechanisms, adding, the bilateral trade between the two countries was not commensurate with the actual potential and needed to be revitalized.

6Kazakhstan Steering through Troubled Waters. “Perhaps, with the exception of multinational oil companies, potential investors are turned off by the many disadvantages there are to investing in Kazakhstan. In addition to being quasi-democratic and geographically landlocked, Kazakhstan’s private sector lacks experience, still has to develop a larger educated workforce, and suffers from global doubt as to its financial ability to follow through on the aforementioned promises. It also doesn’t help that Kazakhstan acts like an autocracy at times in that its government is known for its lack of transparency and has high levels of corruption. It maintains tight controls over the press, lacks diversity, and has an unimpressive civil rights record. Dealing with these political complications would be an inevitable headache for investors” Jeanette “JJ” Harper for Modern Diplomacy.

7The Western flow of Caspian natural gas. Azerbaijan has been a reliable energy partner with the West for more than 20 years now, after the country opened up to international investment and partnership following the restoration of its independence from the Soviet Union. Since 2006, it has pumped nearly a million barrels of crude oil each day through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to Europe, the U.S. and Israel, and much-needed natural gas through the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline.Unlike those pipelines, which were designed and driven by international companies, Azerbaijan itself is now a major player in the Southern Gas Corridor. The corridor will start in Azerbaijan, initially tapping into its giant, Manhattan-size Shah Deniz gas field. Azerbaijan’s state energy company, SOCAR, is also a major stakeholder in the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline and will operate the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline; and its input will also be essential if the Trans-Caspian Pipeline is built. Nasimi Aghayev Azerbaijan’s consul general to the Western United States, based in Los Angeles [Washington Times]

8Azerbaijan to regulate activity of social networks. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications and High Technologies will certify the activity of instant messengers (Viber, WhatsApp, Skype and others) and social networks, Azerbaijani Minister of Communications and High Technologies Ali Abbasov told reports August 27. He said that the negotiations with these companies have already started.“Most of them have reacted positively to this action of the regulatory body of the country, moreover, a number of them render services over the Internet. As a regulatory body, we believe that the companies engaged in mass collection of information in Azerbaijan must work in accordance with the country’s law about the personal data, that is, get a certificate. This certificate is issued by our ministry.”

9Why an Iranian New Deal was Necessary. “Several conceptual and theoretical explanations have been used to highlight key indicators that counteract the effectiveness of sanctions within the Middle East and how the spread of certain ideologies and social practices have impacted the success of international mediations. This microcosm analysis of the various social variables, mostly stemming from historical and political events, supports the need to judge more harshly the long-term efficacy of sanctions. It provides an analysis concerning weapons proliferation within Iran and will question the overall potential success of sanctions against such targeted states” Dianne A. Valdez for Modern Diplomacy.

10Russia Overtakes Botswana as World’s Top Diamond Producer. Canada emerged third in production value, Angola fourth and South Africa fifth. Russia saw its output leap 20% to $3.73 billion, while the value of precious stones rose 19% to $97.47 per carat. Its volume jumped 1% to 38.303 million carats. Botswana saw its diamond value drop 5% to $147.84 per carat as the growth in value of the country’s diamond output remained at $3.65 billion despite a 6% leap in volume to 23.187 million carats.

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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Top global firms commit to tackling inequality by joining G7 Business for Inclusive Growth coalition

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A group of major international companies has pledged to tackle inequality and promote diversity in their workplaces and supply chains as part of a G7 initiative sponsored by French President Emmanuel Macron and overseen by the OECD.

The Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) coalition will be launched at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Biarritz, France, taking place from 24 to 26 August 2019. Spearheaded by Emmanuel Faber, Danone Chairman and CEO, the coalition brings together 34 leading multinationals with more than 3 million employees worldwide and global revenues topping $1 trillion. Members have agreed to sign a pledge to take concrete actions to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are more widely shared.

B4IG coalition members will tackle persistent inequalities of opportunity, reduce regional disparities and fight gender discrimination. Companies have identified an initial pool of more than 50 existing and planned projects, representing more than 1 billion euros in private funding, to be covered under the initiative. The projects range from training programmes to help employees adapt to the future of work to greater investment in childcare, to increasing women’s participation in the workforce; to financially supporting small businesses, to encouraging greater participation in supply chains; and to enhancing the integration of refugees through faster integration to the workforce. Coalition members will seek to accelerate, scale up and replicate already existing projects, while significantly expanding their social impact.

The platform, chaired by Danone, consists of a three-year, OECD-managed programme. It aims at increasing opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented groups through retraining and upskilling, as well as promoting diversity on the companies’ boards and executive committees and tackling inequalities throughout their supply chains. They will also step up business action to advance human rights, build more inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in their internal and external business ecosystems.

The B4IG initiative will be presented to President Macron during a meeting with business and civil society leaders at the Elysées Palace on Friday 23 August.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “Growing inequality is one of the biggest social challenges in the world today, perpetuating poverty, undermining social cohesion and trust. Sustainable economic growth means inclusive economic growth. It means giving every individual the opportunity to fulfil her or his potential, the chance not only to contribute to a nation’s growth but to benefit from it, regardless of their background or origins.”

Mr Gurría added: “I welcome this initiative by France to involve some of the world’s most important companies to work hand-in-hand with governments and the OECD to tackle inequalities. The OECD, for its part, will contribute with its policy analysis, research and expertise.”

A Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) Incubator of public-private projects will be created at the OECD. The facility will offer companies access to the latest policy research, to help them launch and develop projects, undertake impact assessments and eventually bring about meaningful change. The B4IG Incubator will be funded by both G7 governments and private donors. It will service innovative inclusive business projects that require strong collaboration between the private and the public sector. The Incubator will catalyse and disseminate knowledge around the business models with higher social impact.

An evaluation of the projects will be published after three years, alongside OECD guidance for promoting inclusive growth through joint public-private action and for measuring business performance.

OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa Gabriela Ramos, leader of the OECD Inclusive Growth Initiative, said: “The OECD has been documenting and raising the alarm bell regarding the increased inequalities of income and opportunities in OECD countries for decades. They do not only undermine social cohesion and trust, but they also hamper growth, by preventing our economies to take full advantage of the talent of its people and businesses. We are delighted to partner with leading companies that are committed to take action. Our experience, evidence and best practices are at the service of the Business for Inclusive Growth Initiative.”

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World Bank Launches Stakeholders Consultations to Support Peace in Afghanistan

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The World Bank today launched a stakeholder’s consultation to identify economic initiatives to support and sustain peace in Afghanistan once a potential political settlement is reached with the Taliban.

After completing several consultations with international and Afghan stakeholders, the World Bank is now seeking broader input from all stakeholders and made public several draft documents on its website to facilitate the process.  

At the 2018 Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, the World Bank was tasked to support planning for post-settlement economic development projects and programming following discussions.

According to Henry Kerali, the World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, the consultations will serve several purposes. “First, we want to show that a peace agreement can bring substantial economic benefits to all Afghans and is in the interest of all parties involved in the ongoing conflict. Second, we want to identify potential principles and themes to guide programming decisions following a settlement. Finally, we want to provide some concrete ideas about the kind of programs that could be scaled up or initiated to maintain peace and realize new economic opportunities in Afghanistan.”  

Kerali also noted that the consultations come at a critical time for Afghanistan. “The World Bank is merely providing technical analysis and is not involved in any negotiations; our priority is to plan for the future of Afghanistan. Peace prospects can improve if the right economic conditions are in place and create job opportunities for those who might otherwise take up arms.” Kerali also noted that public input would be vital to ensure effective planning.

The World Bank is inviting comment on three documents now published on its Afghanistan website:

  1. A two-page consultation note;
  2. A short consultation presentation; and
  3. A full technical report.

Consultations are expected to continue until a peace agreement is reached and new programming decisions are made. The public is invited to share comments and questions throughout the process via email or through comments on the relevant website.

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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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