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
1Similarly to Ukraine, post-Soviet Kazakhstan is also asserting its national identity, but the absence of EU ambition toward Astana and its participation in the Eurasian Union preserves the country from a Donbass-type scenario, writes Michael Emerson for Euractiv
2Turkmenistan’s government is preparing to hold an international exhibition and science conference titled ‘The main areas of development in the power industry of Turkmenistan’ on September 12-13. This specialized forum is meant to showcase the achievement and prospects of development of the Turkmen power industry. Power industry is one of the leading industries in the national economy of Turkmenistan, aiming to fully meet the needs of industry, agriculture and social sector in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan’s electricity is currently being bought by Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.
3The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed surprise on Monday, September 7, over an American warning to Russia against escalating the conflict in Syria, saying that the Kremlin’s Syrian policy — in particular furnishing military aid to help the government confront extremist forces — had been consistent for years. “We have always supplied equipment to them for their struggle against terrorists,” Maria V. Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in an interview. “We are supporting them, we were supporting them and we will be supporting them” in that fight. The problem is that the West cannot show one example of how they would manage the Syria story right after,” Ms. Zakharova said. “What is the West planning to do right after? Do they have a magic wand that will transform Syria from civil war to economic prosperity?”
4Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh says Tehran will support any step to help the recovery of the oil market.”Iran supports and welcomes any steps to help the oil market recover and escape the current conditions,” Zangeneh has been quoted as saying by the media. He made the comment in reference to a proposal made by Venezuela to coordinate between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers. Venezuela has for months been pushing for an emergency OPEC meeting and joint coordination with Russia to stem a tumble in oil prices, but with little success.
5A regional seminar entitled “Closure, long-term surveillance and maintenance of areas after the rehabilitation process” has kicked off in Baku. The seminar is part of “Support for environmental remediation programs” joint project between Azerbaijan`s Ministry of Emergency Situations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).The seminar brought together 70 representatives from Azerbaijan, Great Britain, Bulgaria, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and IAEA.
6Why Azerbaijan’s real estate prices remain high? The property market in Azerbaijan is now going through changes, having slightly decreased in prices after recent economic shocks – the fall in oil prices, the devaluation of manat, etc. The consulting company Value and Sources released a number of reasons why an apartment in Baku is not any getting cheaper. The company said the fact that housing prices in manat remained unchanged in the last year and has declined by an average of 25 percent in dollar, is controversial.“This is an average index, so it turns out that if the price for half of all housing in Baku fell in manat over the last year, the other half, on the contrary, has risen,” the company noted. Azernews
7Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev believes that Kazakhstanis need to learn from Chinese diligence and discipline, Tengrinews reports. He also highlighted that it was worth looking up to China in their fight against corruption. “They adopted a code of conduct for civil servants, which includes eight points and as you know the first of our (five) institutional reforms is aimed at the improvement of the civil service,” he pointed out.
8EU Ambassador to Azerbaijan Malena Mard has written an article in connection with the start of the academic year. “The EU is proud to be a key partner with the Ministry of Education as well as other stakeholders in modernising and reforming the education system in Azerbaijan. In this we will support bringing the education system closer to EU standards and, more generally, to allow it to better supply the required skills for the effective functioning of the economy. We hope to contribute and co-operate with Azerbaijani partners sharing our experiences within the EU. Through this we hope to contribute to create a robust, sustainable and diversified economic growth”
9Turkmenistan has begun the engineering and survey work for a 1,800km-long pipeline that will supply gas to the energy-hungry South Asian nation. The pipeline will be constructed as a part of the ambitious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project. Turkmengaz State Corporation said in a statement that specialists of the Institute of Oil and Gas began the engineering and survey work on the route last week, as Ashgabat planned to start the construction of the pipeline in December. Although the four Asian countries had taken a decision regarding the project long back, commencement of the project had been delayed mainly because of administrative issues and political instability in Afghanistan.
10Turkey and Azerbaijan are leading countries in the region, a board member of the Petkim petrochemical holding Kenan Yavuz said with reference to the head of SOCAR Turkey Enerji, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported. He said that the implementation of energy projects of Azerbaijan and Turkey is aimed at strengthening peace and stability in the region.With the construction of Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), the volume of total investment of Azerbaijan in the economy of Turkey will amount to $20 billion.TANAP project envisages transportation of gas of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field from the Georgian-Turkish border to the western borders of Turkey.
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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