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Russia, China closing military tech gap with U.S.

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

1Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday warned Russia and China are quickly closing the military technology gap with the U.S. as inconsistent military budgets and slower innovation threaten America’s lead in the military world. “Our technology remains the best. At the same time, we can’t ignore the overall trend: High-end military technologies long possessed by only the most advanced foes are finding their way into the hands of both non-state and previously much less-capable militaries,” Mr. Carter said in a speech at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside of Washington, Defense News reported. Washington Times

2Russia’s leading oil company, Lukoil has expressed readiness to sign cooperation documents with Iran , Amir Hossein Zamaninia, the Islamic Republic’s deputy oil minister said. The company’s president Vagit Alekperov who is in Tehran met with Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh to discuss the future mutual cooperation, Zamaninia said. The Russian company expressed readiness to implement enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and improved oil recovery (IOR) techniques in the Iranian fields, Zamaninia added. The oil recovery factor in Iran is very low. Iran is able to extract just 20 percent (157 billion barrels) of its oil reserves on average. The current active fields lose about 8 to 13 percent of production volume.

31st Caspian Media Forum. The forum, which kicked off on September 16, brings together representatives of Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The 5-day forum will discuss prospects for cooperation in various fields, participation at joint informational projects and exchange of information. The Forum will also feature lectures, round tables and discussions. The key sessions of the forum will be held on September 17-18.

4The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) and Russia’s Gazprom company will start implementing swap transactions on Russian gas supply to Azerbaijan soon, SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev told reporters Sept.17.“Gazprom has an excess of natural gas and therefore we have decided to store these volumes in our gas storage facilities,” said Abdullayev.“We have held such talks with Iran as well,” said SOCAR president. “For our part, we have expanded the capacity of our gas storage facilities and the supply of Russian gas will become a kind of pilot project for testing their capabilities.”

5A new study identifies challenges and opportunities to help Kazakhstan and its regions to diversify its economy and boost its export capabilities. The study, “Diversification of Kazakhstan’s economy: a capability-based approach”, was produced by the strategy and public policy advisory firm Whiteshield Partners and funded jointly by the government of Kazakhstan and the EBRD’s Shareholders’ Special Fund. The report recommends that each region’s diversification strategy needs to take local circumstances into account. Regions that have already succeeded in developing new capabilities over the past ten years, such as Almaty, now need to focus more on innovation and moving up the value chain in sectors where they have comparative advantages. Regions with less developed capabilities need to broaden the skills and capabilities first, which can be achieved through policies focused on training, improvements in the business environment and better cooperation between regions.

6The member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have unanimously approved Turkmenistan’s accession to the organization. The decision was made during the 59th meeting of IAEA General Conference.The representatives of IAEA member states praised Turkmenistan’s commitment to the principles of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world, in particular in Central Asia and emphasized the country’s significant contribution to ensuring peace and security.

7Putin Sees Path to Diplomacy Through Syria. “The Obama administration has been “trying to sit on two chairs,” noted Konstantin von Eggert, an independent political analyst. It has been both slamming Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, while saying it seeks to cooperate with Russia on the Iran nuclear deal, the Middle East and other issues. If Mr. Putin manages to forge a coalition on Syria, it would be increasingly difficult for Washington to argue that the Kremlin deserves isolation. There is an inconsistency in the message, Mr. von Eggert noted, and “Putin always exploits those inconsistencies.” Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew E. Kramer –The New York Times.

8Kazakhstan Oil and Gas Market Insight and Outlook Report 2015. Complete analysis and forecasts of Kazakhstan upstream, downstream and midstream sectors. The research work provides analysis of key opportunities and associated challenges facing Kazakhstan markets. Yearly production and consumption forecasts of oil, gas, LNG, LPG, gasoline, diesel and fuel oil from 2005 to 2025 are included in the report. Further, primary energy demand, GDP, population and vehicle production details are provided from 2005- 2025. Research and Markets

9EU And Azerbaijan: Breaking Up Or Muddling Through? “Just three months ago, Azerbaijan was playing host to the inaugural European Games. These days, it seems as though Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s administration is prepared to make a break with the European Union” EurasiaNet.

10International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a loan agreement worth 50 million euros in Luxembourg Sept. 16. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending 50 million euros to the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) to finance projects promoted by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and middle capitalization companies (midcaps) in the country.The EU bank’s loan will support projects in the priority areas specified by the EIB external lending mandate, including the development of the local private sector.

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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UN launches global plan to strengthen protection of internally displaced persons

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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.

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UN Environment designates Chinese idol Wang Junkai as National Goodwill Ambassador

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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.

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New Solar Project to Restore Electricity to Over One Million Yemenis

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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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