Caspian Week a Strategic Partner of the annual Global Meeting held by HORASIS: the Global Visions Community

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On June 8, 2021 HORASIS: the Global Visions Community had its annual Global Meeting, co-chaired by Murat Seitnepesov, Chairman of Caspian Week. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held as virtual meeting. You can find more on our key sessions:
  • Unlocking Investment Opportunities in the Greater Caspian Region
  • The Greater Caspian Region: Spearheading Shared Leadership
  • Preparing for a New Pandemic: Global System for Preparedness for Disease X
  • Competition and Cooperation: The Global Promise of a Technology Olympics

During the first session, Unlocking Investment Opportunities in the Greater Caspian Region (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35b2I9bG3h0) the panelists discussed the structural trends that could be translated into investment opportunities in the region. As pointed out by Nusret Comert (Chairman, Damnus Energy & Investment, Turkey), the Greater Caspian Region is one of the most important and interesting regions in the world. It is rich in oil, gas and minerals. It also has vast renewable resources, such as wind, solar and hydro power. In the new era the region will increase in importance with development of renewables. Private sector investors, as well as big oil and gas companies should put renewable energy in their investment agenda. There is room for increased cooperation between Turkey and the other countries in the region, both in security and energy matters. Andreas Schweitzer (Managing Director, Arjan Capital, United Kingdom) mentioned payment as a big issue for these countries, since dollar clearing is difficult. One of the possible solutions could be payment in crypto currencies. It is also a great crowdfunding opportunity. This point of view was shared by Murat Seitnepesov (Chairman, Caspian Week, Switzerland).

Holger Wagner (Founder, Wagner & Partners, UAE) stressed that the key to stability in an economy and in a society is to improve their overall income purchasing power and standard of living. The first step is foreign direct investment. That goes through joint ventures, because you cannot work in these countries without having a local partner. The next step could be IPOs, and then openness is generated for other investors coming into the country. One of the ways forward would be the retail business, and there is a tremendous opportunity because in all these countries (excluding Turkey) the market is very fragmented

Murat Seitnepesov mentioned several success stories in attracting foreign investors into the region. In a little more than four years Uzbekistan started to open, cancelled visas for almost 100 countries, and now this country is really going forward with economic reforms. The second good example is Azerbaijan where a "single window" concept called "ASAN service" was created where registration of everything related to the business could be done just in several hours. Several industrial zones were also created in Azerbaijan where industrial production can be done with moderate taxes or even with tax exemptions. Another illustration is the Asana International Financial Centre in Kazakhstan which introduced English law and English arbitration into the legal system. Investors feel safe, because they are working as per English law which is an internationally recognized legal system.

The second session, The Greater Caspian Region: Spearheading Shared Leadership (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-JQe8zBr2M) was devoted to cooperation between countries in the region and beyond the region. Matthew Bryza (Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council, USA) designated new opportunities to pull Central Asia, South Caucasus and Europe together through telecommunications, the "Digital Silk Road". A good example of cooperation is an agreement between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on a disputed oil and gas field in the middle of the Caspian Sea. In Afghanistan an agreement was signed between the US and the Taliban, giving Afghanistan a chance to connect itself to the Indian Ocean and through Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea toward Europe. He was echoed by Abdullah Khenjani (Senior Deputy Minister for Peace, Afghanistan), who made three observations: 1) Afghanistan is the missing part of the chain when it comes to the connection in the region, but the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has created an opportunity to bring peace and stability; 2) None of the countries in the region would like to see Afghanistan to be another ground for the regional terrorists; 3) This is also an chance for Afghanistan to redefine its relationship with the region and beyond. Murat Seitnepesov (Chairman, Caspian Week, Switzerland) underlined that this process was extremely important not only for Afghanistan, but for the whole region. Countries that have borders with Afghanistan are waiting when the situation will improve.

Babar Badat (Immediate Past President, FIATA, Pakistan) was excited to see what's happening today on the business side. He believes that global best practices should be adopted in different regions. A professional private sector should be able to jump the hedge and create partnerships. Claude Beglé (Chairman of Swiss-China World Silk Road Association, Switzerland) confirmed that the Caspian region and the Central Asia was a land of huge opportunities. The main issue to resolve, however, is the initial lack of stability. The Silk Road initiative should be considered in the context of many external influences upon the region, as well as the tribal structure in many of those countries. China's impact on many of those countries is good and bad at the same time. It helps putting the infrastructure, it helps building ports, but it also means that China is getting involved in the local politics. It is very important to remain prudent. What is really needed is how to get connected without becoming dependent.

One of the most thought-provoking topics of the Horasis meeting was Preparing for a New Pandemic: Global System for Preparedness for Disease X (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4otWkAQY6x4). The main question was: Is it possible to create a global system comprised of cutting-edge technologies and the right organizational structure to identify the next pathogen currently unknown before it develops into a possible pandemic?

Murat Seitnepesov (Chairman, Caspian Week, Switzerland) pointed out that today's knowledge about COVID-19 and other potential epidemics or pandemics was very fragmented. A project to accumulate and consolidate all the fragmented knowledge available in the world - the GSPDX - was announced on March 18, 2021. It will definitely contribute to the initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) to create a Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence together with the German government. On 4 June a patent application for the method with the Swiss and European Patent offices was filed.

He presented the project in much detail. The first stage is to collect data about known existing pathogens, be it viruses or bacteria. At second stage, we will need real data sets from clinics - parameters and symptoms - and what was the diagnosis. Then the machine learning algorithm will deal with real data sets, and learning algorithms will teach themselves. The third stage will be the practical implementation: at the airports sensors and analyzers will analyze passengers' temperature, air and sewage water. The machine learning algorithm will already know which parameters and symptoms correspond to each pathogen, so we will be ready to detect already known pathogens, like COVID-19. The fourth stage is detecting the unknown pathogens: if the algorithm finds some unusual combination of parameters and symptoms, the system will alert the relevant authorities which could perform the analysis and try to understand what the pathogen was.

Manuel Carballo (Executive Director, ICMHD, Switzerland) indicated pros and cons of WHO's involvement in the project. The positive factors are: 1) all countries are WHO members; 2) it has the official capacity to issue recommendations and to organize international databases. The negative aspects are: 1) WHO can say things countries are not necessarily expected to follow, 2) official health statistics are variable in quantity, quality and accessibility, 3) validity of data will always reflect the extent to which a country has been able to gather the data.

The idea to look for a combination of symptomatic data opens up a whole new area of research. Mathematical algorithms are highly scientific, and they are more credible today than any other source of information. To what extent will pathogens become epidemic or pandemic, is going to depend on a variety of social and environmental factors. Climate change is going to be a critical factor in the issue of the origin of new pathogens, or the spread of existing pathogens. Urban slums in developing countries constitute the most optimal conditions for the emergence of new pathogens or the spread of existing pathogens.

Ernesto Kahan (Scientific Director, Galilea Institute, Israel) presented some aspects related to the political and philosophical consequences of this academic exercise. It is important for the society to be prepared for new serious epidemics and pandemics because they produce a significant medical, social and economic impact in all societies. The two characteristic examples are the Plague in Middle Ages and the Spanish Flu in the middle of the First World War. A couple of days ago the new aviary flu was discovered in China, and it may be even more aggressive than coronavirus. However this project is not easy to implement, and it has to be started in small countries.

A new idea – to create an Olympics style international competition around technology – was put forward during the session on The Global Promise of a Technology Olympics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDtPQGLhiF0). Steve Hellman (Founder, Mobility Impact Partners, USA) believes that a new Olympiad that will identify the world's most talented people in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics could channel competition into a sense of global goodwill. It should include events for teams like robotics and even events for corporations or institutions, for example around quantum computing. The point of the technology Olympics is to involve national heroes in technology to act as role models to drive interest in the fields. The two major challenges are 1) the diplomatic challenge - how to bring 197 countries together to participate; and 2) how do we make this competition interesting.

Timur Kim (Senior Scientist, Diamond Light Source, United Kingdom) and Murat Seitnepesov (Chairman, Caspian Week, Switzerland) presented their experience in participating in science Olympic competitions in the former Soviet Union. This tradition developed very rapidly after 1967 when the government made a full support to it. Kids in every school could participate. You could participate at a school level, and then if you were winning, you went to the district level, regional, republican level and then all-union competition. This was a pyramid to select the brightest people. According to Murat Seitnepesov, what is needed here is the scientific lift for the young professionals, who could get proper financing by winning such Olympic Games. Based on this idea of Olympic Games, young scientists could be recognized much earlier. Today is the right moment for such initiative, for the whole society is quite well shaped because of the coronavirus pandemic, climate problems and also the digitalization of the world. There is also a great possibility for corporations, for the governments and for the research institutes to get brilliant young scientists. Timur Kim mentioned that this kind of competitions also lead to international competitions between the countries. This is a great opportunity for the young students to attract attention. Unfortunately, it is not so well known for general public. The main players who would be really interested are China, United States, Russia, South Korea and several European countries.

The idea got full support from José Ramón Calvo (President, Institute of Multidisciplinary Research, Spain) and Andrew Flett (CEO, Growth Control Capital, USA). José Ramón Calvo spoke about the Campus of Excellence (Spain) that is now being reinvigorated. It focuses on students that just graduated from the university. They can share their projects with others and especially with talented people like Nobel laureates. Andrew Flett said that it was important to figure out a balance between what is scientifically important and what is engaging. We have to find content that engages the younger generation, which is entertaining. We have to bring together people from the media world and people from the scientific community, lock them in a room and get them to come up with tons of ideas. We can leverage all of the platforms to distribute this content in a way that's consumable for those that want to be engaged with these different fields.

Matthew Bryza (Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council, USA) concluded that we were increasingly dependent upon technology. Technology has developed so far, we've grown so much more dependent on it. Who would have imagined a year ago that we'd get a vaccine within a year when usually it takes at least 10 years? We have to find a way to make sure that the technological Olympiad will be commercially viable. It has to be something that can attract sponsors.

Best regards,
Caspian Week Team