Turkmenistan is convinced of the need to attract political-diplomatic tools to achieve peace and prosperity in AfghanistanWednesday, 25 November 2020 11:34
The plenary session of the High-level Conference on Afghanistan, which is being held online in Geneva, took place today.
During the meeting, the heads of foreign affairs agencies of dozens of countries of the world, including Russia, Iran, Switzerland, the USA, as well as the representatives of the UN and its divisions, the European Union and other multilateral structures gave speeches. The event was marked by the addresses of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres.
The participants of the meeting discussed issues of cooperation between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community in achieving common interests: sustainable development, prosperity and peace in Afghanistan. In particular, the development vectors for 2021-2024, partnership coordination, as well as financial support for the Afghan administration were considered. The focus is on the development of a common political statement and financial mechanism for the economic development of this country.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan R. Meredov outlined the position and actions of Turkmenistan aimed at supporting the process of establishing sustainable peace in Afghanistan, including its involvement in the global economy.
It was especially emphasized that Turkmenistan is convinced of the need to involve diplomatic and political mechanisms in achieving peace in Afghanistan, which is a solid foundation for the country's socio-economic development.
As an example, R. Meredov cited a number of initiatives of the Government of Turkmenistan aimed at supporting fraternal Afghanistan. This includes the expansion of humanitarian cooperation, and the development and implementation of large regional and international infrastructure projects in the field of energy, transport, communications and much more.
At this meeting, it was noted that Turkmenistan intends to continue to provide assistance to Afghanistan and its people.
During today’s 16th Central Asia - EU Ministerial Meeting, the key issues of regional and international agenda were discussed. The Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan noted the active role of Turkmenistan in addressing the global challenges, as well as strengthening multilateral regional and international cooperation.
Thus, the firm commitment of Turkmenistan to the initiatives in the area of energy security, use of ecofriendly energy, expansion of regional and international transport and transit communications was underlined.
The parties expressed interest in the advancement of trade-economic, transport and energy cooperation and agreed to hold the First Economic Forum “EU-Central Asia” in 2021.
The issues of security and stability in the Central Asia and nearby regions were especially regarded. In this regard, the firm adherence of Turkmenistan to the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was emphasized. The importance of the Ashgabat Declaration of 2011 and the Central Asia’s Joint Plan of Action to counter terrorism was highlighted.
The participants expressed interest in continuing cooperation between the Central Asia and the EU on combatting terrorism, transnational organized crime, human trafficking, illegal drug trafficking and cyber security threats. In this context, the Turkmen side called for the intensification of partnership in the CA-EU-UN format.
The parties discussed the advancement of intra-Afghan peace talks and underlined the importance of support to the overall reinstatement of Afghanistan. It was noted that Turkmenistan actively works on the promotion of large infrastructural projects with participation of Afghanistan, including the construction of the gas pipeline TAPI, power and fiber-optic communication lines on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan route, building of the railway lines from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.
The participants of the session welcomed the initiative of the Government of Turkmenistan to host in December of current year in Ashgabat, an International Conference entitled as the “Policy of Neutrality and its Importance in Ensuring International Peace, Security, and Sustainable Development” devoted to the 25th anniversary of permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan, as well as to organize an International High-Level Forum in the year of 2021, which has been declared by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Peace and Trust.
The heads of the external policy agencies of the EU and Central Asia welcomed the mutual cooperation on humanitarian issues and discussed the opportunities of widening ties in the area of education, science, culture, technologies and innovations.
The Joint Communiqué was adopted upon the outcomes of the 16th Central Asia - EU Ministerial Meeting.
A new Europol-led project, funded by the European Union, has been launched, focused on strengthening the capacity of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to fight organised crime more effectively. The project will contribute to reducing crime and creating a safer living space for citizens in the region.
Through this four-year initiative, Europol will support cooperation between law enforcement authorities, both on a strategic and operational level. Special funding will enable the Eastern Partner countries to participate in operational activities against some of the ten most significant threats to EU security listed under the EU Policy Cycle. Existing networks for information sharing and operational cooperation may be further extended into joint investigations to improve the effectiveness in fighting transnational organised crime.
“This initiative is an important step in developing strong operational cooperation and trust between the law enforcement authorities of the EU Member States and our Eastern partners,” said Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol. “Our aligned efforts will bring a stronger response to the common challenges and cross-border threats we face.”
Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East at the European Commission, stated: “Organised crime networks operate across national borders and destabilise the entire region. Tackling serious and organised crime is a shared challenge by the European Union and its partner countries. By strengthening the strategic and operational cooperation between Europol and partner countries, we are proud to contribute to joint investigation successes.”
Located along the Black Sea and forming part of the ‘heroin route’ from the Middle East to Europe, all six Eastern Partner countries are threatened by organised criminal groups active in the area. These groups are involved in migrant smuggling, organised property crime, trafficking in human beings, firearms and drug trafficking, money laundering, and other related crimes such as document fraud. These criminal syndicates threaten not only the safety and security of people, but also the stability of the Eastern Partnership region and of the whole EU. More cooperation between law enforcement authorities of EU Member States and the Eastern Neighbourhood countries is crucial to improving the effectiveness of the common response to organised crime across borders.
As part of a larger €10 million EU cooperation initiative, the EU has dedicated €2.5 million to support the project that will run for the next four years. Two other components are focused on law enforcement training and threat assessment (a project led by Cepol with the participation of Europol) and on criminal asset recovery (managed by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute - UNICRI).
With support from the European Union, the two UN sister agencies will work with government bodies and civil society partners in six countries to challenge deeply ingrained gender stereotypes, increase men’s involvement in domestic work and childcare, and engage with potential perpetrators to prevent gender-based violence.
UN Women and UNFPA, together with the European Union (EU), have launched a three-year regional programme to tackle gender stereotypes and gender-based violence in six countries of the Eastern Partnership: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The programme, entitled “EU 4 Gender Equality: Together Against Gender Stereotypes and Gender-Based Violence,” ultimately seeks to strengthen equal rights and opportunities for women and men by challenging perceptions about men’s and women’s roles in the family and in society and working to eliminate gender-based violence.
“This is our first regional programme covering gender equality in the Eastern Partnership region and we are intensely proud of it,” said Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East in the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission. “We can and we will do more to develop this underused economic and social potential with our Eastern neighbours. As we emerge from the pandemic, we will propose that the future Eastern Partnership be more inclusive.”
A first of its kind, the programme has been informed by an in-depth situation analysis and intergovernmental consultations with the six countries. It is designed to engage a wide range of government bodies, civil society organizations, and individuals.
“We will work closely with governments and civil society organisations in the six countries to ensure the success of the programme,” says Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “This work is even more crucial now as the COVID-19 crisis has put into stark relief the imbalanced distribution of responsibilities based on traditional gender stereotypes.”
The programme aims at achieving real behavioural change. It relies on strategies designed to challenge structural gender barriers and norms, with particular emphasis on transforming gender-stereotyped behaviour, strengthening men’s involvement in parenting and domestic responsibilities, increasing men’s access to parental leave, and reducing the number of people affected by gender-based violence through prevention interventions with potential perpetrators.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, we have unfortunately seen an increase in women’s unpaid care workload and in cases of gender-based violence across the six countries,” says Alanna Armitage, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Our programme comes at the right time to fight these trends. We all have to work hand-in-hand to build a more just, equal, safe and secure world for all.”
The programme has a budget of €7,875,000 and is anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework, launched by the United Nations in 2015, and the EU Action Plan 2016-2020 on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women Through EU External Relations. It provides a unique opportunity for the EU and the six participating countries to affect social discourse, perceptions, and practices related to gender equality with the ultimate goal of achieving gender equality and related SDGs.
For more information, please visit: https://europa.eu/european-union/
On 29 June, a five-day water monitoring survey started in Batumi, Georgia, organised by the EU-funded project ‘European Union Water Initiative Plus for the Eastern Partnership’ (EUWI+).
The survey is carried out by Georgian experts from the National Environmental Agency. It aims to assess the quality of coastal and transitional water ecosystems to help identify appropriate measures to protect water resources.
Apart from the survey, the EU also supports the upgrade of Batumi’s laboratory by organising training courses for experts and providing new state-of-the-art analysis equipment. This aims to improve Georgia’s capacities to manage its water resources.
Two similar surveys were held in September and November 2019. The surveys allowed the National Environmental Agency to determine the ecological status of coastal waters in the Chorokhi-Adjaristskali River Basin District.
The EUWI+ project helps Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to bring their legislation closer to EU water management policies, with a main focus on managing transboundary river basins.
The Council of the European Union adopted, on 30 June, a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. Travel restrictions should be lifted for countries listed in the recommendation, with this list being reviewed and, as the case may be, updated every two weeks.
Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, as from 1 July member states should start lifting the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following third countries:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted cover in particular the epidemiological situation and containment measures, including physical distancing, as well as economic and social considerations. They are applied cumulatively.
A meeting within the framework of the Human Rights Dialogue “Turkmenistan - the European Union” was heldFriday, 19 June 2020 10:09
On June 18, 2020, a regular meeting as part of the Human Rights Dialogue “Turkmenistan - European Union” was held in the form of a video conference.
The heads and representatives of relevant ministries and departments of the country, including the Mejlis of Turkmenistan, the Ombudswoman of Turkmenistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and others attended the meeting.
The European side at the meeting was represented by the head and representatives of the European Service for Foreign Policy Activities, as well as the Head of the European Union Delegation to Turkmenistan.
During the meeting, issues of expanding cooperation between Turkmenistan and the EU in the field of human rights and international humanitarian law were discussed. An exchange of views took place on such issues as the development of civil society, the rule of law and judicial reform, as well as intensive interaction between the parties to reduce the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the framework of the online meeting, the participants discussed the comprehensive promotion of economic, social and cultural rights of the people in the framework of international and local documents, including the National Plan of Action for Gender Equality for 2015-2020, the National Human Rights Action Plan for 2016-2020, the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings for 2020-2022, the National Plan of Action for the realization of children's rights in Turkmenistan for 2018-2022, as well as the National Strategy of Turkmenistan for the Early Development of the Child for 2020-2025 and others.
Also during the dialogue, the parties expressed views on expanding cooperation between Turkmenistan and the EU in the framework of multilateral forums and international organizations.
The current session of the Human Rights Dialogue “Turkmenistan - European Union” serves yet as another proof of the adherence of the parties to multifaceted bilateral cooperation.
The EU-funded ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project has conducted the 2020 opinion poll in the six countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The survey (field work) took place between February and March 2020 (before COVID-19 crisis) and was based upon face-to-face interviews among a representative sample of 1,000 people per country. The annual surveys are now into their fifth year, with the first wave having been carried out in 2016. The results from the six Eastern partner countries are presented in national reports and a consolidated regional overview report.
Here below are the key findings in GEORGIA – more details may be found in the factsheets and report at the links indicated below.
- 77% of Georgians feel relations with the European Union are good.
- 69% of people in Georgia trust the EU, while only 28% trust the Eurasian Economic Union.
- 49% of Georgians have a positive image of the European Union (EU). Only 7% of Georgianshave a negative view of the EU.
- 61% of Georgians are aware of the EU’s financial support to the country, and 69% of them consider the support to be effective.
- Georgia report & factsheets 2020:
- ENG: https://www.euneighbours.eu/en/east/stay-informed/publications/opinion-survey-2020-georgia
- RUS: https://www.euneighbours.eu/ru/vostok/stay-informed/publications/opros-obschestvennogo-mneniya-2020-gruziya
- GEO: https://www.euneighbours.eu/ka/east/stay-informed/publications/sazogadoebrivi-azris-gamokitkhva-2020-c-sakartvelo
- Regional overview 2020 (all EaP countries):
On 3 May, the EU marked World Press Freedom Day in Georgia by launching the 2020 EU Prize for Journalism. This is the ninth edition of the prize, run jointly by the EU Delegation and the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia.
The 2020 EU Prize for Journalism will be awarded in six categories covering print, online and broadcast media. It also includes the Special Prize for Peace Journalism, which is awarded by the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) for conflict-sensitive journalism contributing to confidence building and peace.
Each winner in the six categories will receive €1,500. The winner of the EUMM Special Prize for Peace Journalism will receive a one-month fellowship with the Institute of War and Peace Reporting in London.
The deadline for submission of all entries is 15 December 2020. The application form, rules and submission guidelines are available at www.euprizejournalism.ge
The EU Prize for Journalism was introduced in 2012 to highlight and encourage high-quality media work in Georgia. According to the EU, this is now one of the longest running journalism competitions in the country.
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“Americans can create biological weapons”, “Georgia deliberately infects mosquitoes and sends them to Russia”, “Data on mass deaths in Georgian laboratory published”.
These are not lines from an apocalyptic Hollywood thriller, but examples of Russian media reports about the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research, located on the outskirts of Tbilisi. The laboratory is a partnership project between Georgia and the United States. But the centre’s activities for some reason worry Russia, which is spreading disinformation and propaganda about the laboratory.
“In September 2018, the whole world was talking about Russia’s use of the Novichok nerve agent in the UK. At the same time, Russia began to talk about the Lugar laboratory as a place where the United States allegedly produced biological weapons for use against the Russian Federation,” says Sopo Gelava, a researcher at the Georgian Media Development Fund.
If you type “Lugar Lab” into Google or YouTube search engines, you will see that most of the frightening news about it is produced by Russian media. To counter these myths, the Lugar laboratory opened its doors and showed what was going on inside.
“More Russian journalists visited the laboratory than Georgian ones,” says Paata Imnadze, Scientific Director at the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia.
But even regular tours of the laboratory did little to change the Russian media narrative. For example, the Russian news agency Sputnik described the “open day” at the laboratory in a dismissive and suspicious way.
Of course, not a single one of the “sensational” statements by Russian media about the Lugar laboratory was true. All of them were disproved by health experts. But these statements achieved the desired effect – 20% of Georgians believe that the laboratory contributes to the spread of epidemics. This is how disinformation works in the post-truth era.
Disinformation = mistrust, chaos, panic
In 2017, the European Union launched the EUvsDisinfo.eu online portal to counter disinformation from Russia. It is published in three languages - English, Russian and German. The site has a disinformation database, which so far contains nearly 8,000 examples of disinformation starting from 2015.
Half of the disinformation messages were directed against six countries – all former Soviet republics – Azerbaijan (31), Armenia (80), Moldova (132), Belarus (252), Georgia (345), and Ukraine (3,193), which Russia wanted to keep in its sphere of influence.
Many of the examples of disinformation used against these countries are aimed at causing panic, undermining the domestic political situation, intimidating, or increasing military tension (in the case of Ukraine). Often the messages look simply absurd, often they are naked lies or they twist information. But their poor quality doesn’t make them less effective.
“Ukraine faced the highest level of disinformation during the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the invasion of Donbass. These were hybrid propaganda tools in the media and social networks,” says Kristina Zelenyuk, political commentator for the Ukrainian portal Segodnya.
According to the Armenian media expert Samvel Martirosyan, the disinformation market is vast. It employs professionals who are constantly looking for new tools and methods of manipulating people.
“Now you can sow panic in a few hours using social media. Information spreads so fast that it’s almost impossible for people to identify disinformation,” says Samvel.
In March 2020, the European External Action Service published a special report, “COVID-19 Disinformation” with a special chapter dedicated to “pro-Kremlin disinformation”.
In February-March 2020 alone, the EUvsDisinfo database registered over 110 examples of coronavirus disinformation distributed by pro-Russian media. These examples were in line with the Kremlin’s traditional strategy of sowing mistrust and chaos, aggravating crisis situations and public concern. Moreover, misinformation directed at the Russian audience described the virus as a form of foreign aggression. It claimed that coronavirus originated from secret American or Western laboratories. Disinformation for domestic audiences focused on conspiracy theories about “global elites” which deliberately use the virus as a tool to achieve their goals.
Many fake and manipulative news based on shocking conspiracy theories gradually change the perception of information. At first, people simply don’t react to disinformation, then they react to it but don’t believe it, and then, due to the frequency and volume of such materials, they start to believe fake or misleading narratives. This is the goal that organisations and countries that manipulate information are trying to achieve.
“Disinformation is a terrible threat. It concerns not only those who are poorly educated or not well versed in politics. In fact, everybody is under attack,” says Alexander Starikevich, editor-in-chief of the Belarusian ‘Solidarity’ internet portal.
Critical thought ambassadors against fake news
The news agenda in our digital world changes so fast that people simply do not have time for deep analysis of events. That’s why fakes and manipulation are often perceived as real news. Different media, organisations dedicated to exposing fakes, as well as volunteers, are all working on deconstructing fake narratives.
“But this work should not be limited to a small group of people. The whole of society should benefit from it. We must educate it,” says Samvel Martirosyan.
Young people are effective helpers in the fight against disinformation. This is the opinion of Anina Tepnadze, director of the Georgian online media platform On.ge.
In her view, young people know more about disinformation and they are more sceptical. Therefore, they can teach their parents and neighbours how to consume information properly.
“But to engage young people, they should receive a clear message that it is really important, that this is not only ‘their problem’, but an issue for everyone. Then young people can be good ambassadors of truth,” says Tepnadze.
In the view of Alexander Starikevich, to prevent people from believing disinformation, we need to start teaching critical thinking from nursery-school age.
He points out that it is difficult to work with people who have already formed their worldview. “Their reaction is frequently ‘Why are you lecturing me? I understand everything myself.’ But there will always be a part of the audience that is open to explaining, and you need to work with them,” says Starikevich.
There are, however, more radical methods of fighting disinformation – for example, using legislation. Saadat Mammadova, head of the news department of the Azerbaijani CBC television channel, believes that it is necessary to adopt international legislation or a charter to solve the problem of fake news.
“Fake News is turning into a national security issue, a tool that can destabilise the world, and it's time to consider it in the security context,” stresses Mammadova.
Bloggers against disinformation
The growing popularity of social networks has led to the emergence of bloggers as competitors to the traditional media. These bloggers gather large audiences. Bloggers can be good helpers in countering disinformation.
Samvel Martirosyan believes that “people often trust bloggers more than traditional sources of information. Given this degree of trust, opinion leaders can jointly stop waves of disinformation and rumours.”
The popular vlogger from Moldova, Dorin Galben, believes that social networks have become a “nest” of fake news that needs to be unmasked. “Our role [as bloggers] is to reach out to as many people as possible, inform them about the phenomenon of fake news and the impact that ‘fake news’ can have on the future of the country and its citizens,” he adds.
Azerbaijani blogger Seymur Kazimov also speaks about the responsibility of opinion leaders. He believes bloggers should deconstruct fakes and disinformation, and counter them publicly.
“Bloggers need to publicly highlight examples of fake publications of friends or acquaintances, or people they follow. Specific examples always work better than theory,” says Anton Motolko, who is a blogger and civic activist from Belarus. “The first and most important thing is not to become a source of fake distribution ourselves. There is a golden rule here: if you suspect it is a fake, don’t publish it,” he adds.
Georgian TV presenter and blogger Zura Balanchivadze advises to look carefully at the headlines. This frequently helps determine if a particular piece is a lie. “Fake news often has sensationalist headlines or features strong exaggeration. Also, analyse those sites where you see dubious information – ask what type of content these resources usually publish,” adds the blogger.
“Blatant lies are easy to spot. But half-truths or manipulation of facts are harder to discern. Consult with experts in different fields. Learn to distinguish facts from subjective opinions. Do not take everything at face value. Always doubt, think and ask questions,” advises Roman Vintoniv, TV presenter and vlogger from Ukraine.
How to spot fake news
We asked journalists and bloggers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine to share advice on how not to become a victim of disinformation. From their answers we have compiled a list of rules that will help us not to fall victim to manipulation.
ü Always check several sources of information. These can be the media, social networks, or experts. But several sources are a must.
ü You should not rely on information from little-known websites. Look for the same information on trusted, serious and professional news websites.
ü Fake news often comes either from newly-created social media accounts which are thin on content, or from accounts that are imitating well-known news media but on closer inspection are fake.
ü If you are unsure of the information, do not spread it. This will help you avoid becoming a polluter of information flow.
ü Trust yourself, tune in to your common sense. It’s difficult to manipulate a thinking person.
Author: Viktor Kischak