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
1As the critical vote on the Iranian nuclear deal nears, politicians of all ilk keep calling for military action against Iran as the alternative. The necessity appears to be more driven by the need to curry favor with Israel, than any other reason. John McCain thought it was cute when he publicly used a parody of a 1965 Beach Boys release of Barbara Ann and sang “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran.” John B. Alexander, Ph.D. for The Huffington Post.
2Six NATO hubs being established along the alliance’s eastern flank went into operation on September 1, the alliance said, in a move responding to a perceived new security threat from Russia. The six NATO centers — in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania — are to help on the ground with exercises and planning activities. Each should be staffed with around 40 people by the end of the year.”They have begun work, but are not yet operating at full capacity,” a NATO spokesman said.
3The development of economic partnership, implementation of joint projects in the gas sector were discussed during Turkmen-Japanese talks in Ashgabat.The talks were held among Turkmengas State Concern and representatives of Japanese corporations such as Mitsubishi, Chiyoda, Sojits, Itochu and JGC.The matter rested in the upcoming work as part of the third phase of developing Galkynysh super-giant field. The upcoming work is directly related to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) main pipeline.
4An Azerbaijani court has sentenced investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova to 7 1/2 years in prison after convicting her on charges that rights groups have called retribution for her reports on corruption involving senior government officials. The verdict drew swift condemnation from colleagues, human rights groups, and media freedom organizations, while Western governments and officials said they were “deeply troubled” by the outcome of the case. Ismayilova, who has reported extensively on the financial dealings of long-ruling President Ilham Aliyev and members of his family, has strongly denied the charges and called the trial a “scam” meant to silence her work.[RFE/RL]
5Kazakhstan and China signed 25 agreements worth $23 billion, aiming to move cooperation dominated by raw materials to products with greater added value, the Kazakh president’s office said on September 1. China has invested billions in mineral-rich Kazakhstan, mainly in oil and gas, and in infrastructure projects serving the industry.”I think this visit is a turning point in the Kazakh-Chinese relationship,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev was reported as saying during a meeting with Chinese businessmen in Beijing, including the chairman of Huawei Corporation and heads of several Chinese development banks.”For over 20 years we have actively cooperated with China, mainly in the energy and resource-extraction industries. At the new stage, we are beginning to intensify our interaction in the processing sectors of the economy, including mechanical engineering and resource processing,” he said.
6Can Kazakhstan Learn to Fight Corruption from China? The Chinese government has spent the last three years in a deliberate fight against corruption–arresting big-name “tigers” and squashing countless “flies.” The debate continues to rage among China watchers about the intentions and ultimate impact of the country’s anti-corruption campaign, but the Kazakh president, for one, sees China as an example to be emulated. [The Diplomat]
7Kazakhstan’s Capital Serves as Inspiration for Growth. Following a tumultuous period following independence, and with the introduction of a new currency (the tenge), the city has emerge – and continues to evolve – into an important cultural and financial center. Unlike its counterpart, former capital Almaty, there is room for growth and the government has tapped into the city’s vast potential and has, thus far, created a space that has captured the interest of regional and world leaders. [JakartaGlobe]
8Will Russia, China Beat U.S. In The Arctic? President Barack Obama should be applauded for gathering world leaders in Anchorage, Alaska, this week for a U.S.-led conference on “Global Leadership in the Arctic.” Yet the summit’s limited focus on climate change, though undoubtedly important, belies the significance of the broader U.S. interests and responsibilities in the Arctic.As ice turns to navigable ocean, the Arctic is becoming the U.S.’s third great ocean border, creating vexing strategic challenges and unprecedented opportunities. These include not only climate change, but threats to national sovereignty and security, revolutions in international commerce and a Klondike-like rush to control vast undersea resources. James M. Loy for Hartford Courant.
9Azerbaijani and Turkish air forces’ joint tactical drills, entitled ‘TurAz Qartali 2015’, continue, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry reported on September 1.The exercises involved the combat helicopters Mi-35, Mi-17, transport and combat helicopters Sikorsky UH-60, as well as search-and-rescue helicopters Cougar AS532.The exercises, which are held as part of a joint annual military plan will last until September 18.Baku and Ankara enjoy strategic relations in many fields, including the military.
10Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov will soon pay a visit to Azerbaijan.Oxu.Az reports citing the Foreign Ministry of Russia that the statement came from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.”Everything proceeds on rise in our economic relations. Despite the international conjuncture, the intergovernmental commission functions and Minister of Industry and Trade of Russia D.V.Manturov is expected to visit Azerbaijan.
UN launches global plan to strengthen protection of internally displaced persons
With multiple crises forcing millions of people away from their homes, United Nations agencies, Governments and partners have launched a set of measures to strengthen protection of internally displaced persons as well as find solutions to address their problems.
“Addressing the protection needs of the forcibly displaced and seeking solutions to their plight contribute to greater stability for countries and whole regions,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in a news release announcing the three-year Plan of Action.
“The consequences of our failure to resolve internal displacement can be devastating,” he stressed.
The framework, formally called the Plan of Action for Advancing Prevention, Protection and Solutions for Internally Displaced People (2018-2020), calls on all relevant actors to step up efforts to prevent, respond to and resolve internal displacement.
It also proposes concrete activities to strengthen the participation of internally displaced persons in decisions concerning them, and expand national laws and policies on internal displacement as well as actions to improve data collection and analysis on displacements globally.
By the end of 2016, more than 40 million people were displaced within their own countries due to insecurity or rights violations. An additional 24 million were driven from their homes due to disasters. Every year, an estimated 15 million people are also displaced by development projects.
Bold and ambitious steps needed
Given this complex conundrum, “bold and ambitious” steps are needed, underscored Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.
“The Plan of Action seeks to galvanize a strategic dialogue, concerted action and adequate resources to address the plight of the internally displaced, while engaging them in the decisions that affect them,” added the independent expert.
In the same vein, Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs committed that the Organization will continue to work with affected Governments and displaced persons to ensure that their needs are addressed.
Leave no one behind
“The international community has pledged to leave no one behind,” stressed Mr. Lowcock, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, noting that this promise must extend to all those displaced.
The Plan of Action was drafted under the leadership of the Special Rapporteur, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Its launch coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, widely accepted as being the global standard for protecting and assisting internally displaced people.
UN Environment designates Chinese idol Wang Junkai as National Goodwill Ambassador
Singer and Actor Wang Junkai, or Karry Wang, best known for his leading role in the box office blockbuster film Miracles of the Namiya General Store and the hit single “KarryOn” was designated as UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador today in a ceremony in Beijing.
In his role as goodwill ambassador, Wang will connect with China’s youth on some of the most urgent
environment issues of their generation, including pollution, air quality, wildlife protection, ecosystems, and more.
As a young actor and singer, I greatly appreciate UN Environment giving me this opportunity to be National Goodwill Ambassador. We youth have the responsibility to protect our environment and secure our future, and I am looking forward to learn from and work with the UN family on key environmental issues. Youth are no longer merely onlookers when it comes to environmental action, nor should they be. I will spare no effort to do everything I can to take care of our earth, and I invite everyone to join me in generating a wave of positive action.
It’s inspiring to hear a strong and determined voice of Chinese youth on environmental issues. When young people set their mind to change, incredible things can be accomplished,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We’re very excited to work with Wang Junkai to create even more awareness about environmental issues and, more importantly, the solutions to these challenges.”
The 18-year old performer is a superstar of the highest ranks in Asia. Known for his leading role in the film Namiya General Store, top roles in various TV series – among which “Finding Soul” and “Qingyun Zhi “ – and solo music career, he has amassed more than 40 million followers on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Both in China and the rest of South-East Asia, Wang has been one of the leaders of the online conversation on the environment.
In 2016, Wang widely shared the #wildforlife Campaign, reaching 400 million viewers. A year later, he publicly spoke out on the urgent need to protect endangered wildlife, naming them the “superstars of the planet.”
Beyond drawing attention to wildlife, he called upon his followers to pledge to reduce their e-waste, with the hashtag #beatpollution. Within 24 hours, his post was retweeted by 1.67 million times and more than 400,000 followers signed the pledges.
New Solar Project to Restore Electricity to Over One Million Yemenis
The World Bank announced today a new project to finance off-grid solar systems in Yemen to power vital basic services, and improve access to electricity for vulnerable Yemenis in rural and outlying urban areas.
Funded by a US$50 million grant from IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, the new project will rely on the commercial solar market, which has grown despite the conflict, providing further support to the local economy and creating jobs.
Solar power has proved to be the most immediate solution for severe energy shortages in Yemen. A booming solar industry has developed driven by the private sector, but the costs have put the technology beyond the reach of public facilities and the most vulnerable populations.
The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project will work with the current solar supply chain and the existing network of microfinance institutions, to finance and deliver off-grid solar systems to rural and peri-urban areas. The aim is to restore or improve access to electricity to 1.4 million people, around half of them women. The project will also fund solar power for critical infrastructure, such hospitals, schools, water corporations, and rural electricity providers.
“The lack of electricity in Yemen has had a devastating impact on Yemenis and the provision of services,” said Dr. Asad Alam, World Bank Group Country Director for Yemen, Egypt, and Djibouti. “While responding to immediate need, the project will contribute to building a more inclusive and sustainable solar market in Yemen through targeted financing to the private sector which will expand its reach to the poor and vulnerable.”
The project will be implemented in partnership with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and in collaboration with the local private sector, including Micro Finance Institutions, solar equipment suppliers and technicians. Working with the Yemeni private sector will help create hundreds of jobs.
“Investing in solar will make Yemen’s electricity more resilient, reduce the dependence on fuels for critical service facilities, and create jobs in the private sector,” said Joern Torsten Huenteler, World Bank Energy Specialist and Task Team Leader of the project, “What Yemenis need today more than ever is a quick and innovative energy solutions to help ease the crisis.”
With this new financing, IDA emergency grants to Yemen issued since July 2016 have totaled US$1.183 billion.
These projects have been prepared – and are being implemented – in partnership with Yemeni institutions and UN organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations Office for Project Services.
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