Feeds

24815 items (24815 unread) in 55 feeds

Default Default
Sex & Gender Sex & Gender
Social Sciences Social Sciences
Policy & Legislation Policy & Legislation
Government Government
Journalism & News Journalism & News
Blogs & Podcasts Blogs & Podcasts
Other Other
 «  Expand/Collapse

Default (100 unread)

 
  • Permalink for 'Secular Coalition Urges the Senate to Save the Johnson Amendment '

    Secular Coalition Urges the Senate to Save the Johnson Amendment

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 3:16pm EST by Casey Brescia

    Washington, DC -- Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which contains a provision that severely weakens the Johnson Amendment. Passed by Congress in 1954, the Johnson Amendment prohibits all 501(c)3 nonprofits, including houses of worship, from endorsing political candidates. Section 5201 of the House tax reform bill would effectively repeal the Johnson Amendment by allowing tax-exempt churches and nonprofits to endorse political candidates.

    Statement by Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America

    "We are deeply disappointed that Members of Congress would vote to remove a common-sense safeguard to gain political points with the extreme religious right. For 63 years, the Johnson Amendment has helped protect the integrity of our elections, our nonprofits, and our secular government. While the original version of the House's tax reform bill exclusively allowed houses of worship to endorse political candidates, Members of the House Ways and Means Committee amended the text to include secular nonprofits. This amendment was intended to make the bill appear equitable but it remains a fact that, unlike secular nonprofits, religious nonprofits are not required to file a 990 tax form which discloses sources of income and expenditures. This lack of financial transparency threatens to unleash a new wave of "dark money" into our elections, opening the gates for tax-deductible donations to flow through church coffers and into political campaigns."

    "As the Senate prepares to vote on their version of tax reform legislation, we urge them to listen to the voices of faith leaders, nonprofits, and voters, the overwhelming majority of whom support the Johnson Amendment. Contrary to the misinformation of the religious right, all nonprofits are already free to speak out on political issues. The repeal of the Johnson Amendment will turn nonprofits into political pawns and further politicize houses of worship. We will not stand by while the integrity of our political system and the efficacy of charitable organizations around the country is compromised for the benefit of religious fundamentalists who want to engage in partisan electioneering on the taxpayer's dime."

    ###

    Contact:
    Casey Brescia
    Communications Associate and Spokesman
    Casey@secular.org, (845) 380-6201

     

    The Secular Coalition for America is the nation's premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations.

     

  • Permalink for 'Pic of the Week: Tony Bennett Honored in Star-Studded Gershwin-Prize Tribute'

    Pic of the Week: Tony Bennett Honored in Star-Studded Gershwin-Prize Tribute

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 11:22am EST by Wendi Maloney

    Photo by Shawn Miller.

    Celebrated performer Tony Bennett salutes the crowd on November 15 after Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and a delegation of Members of Congress presented him with the 2017 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Members who joined Bennett on stage were Rep. Kevin Yoder, U.S. House of Representatives Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch; Rep. Gregg Harper, U.S. House of Representatives Chairman of the Committee on House Administration and Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader; Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, U.S. Senate Member of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress; and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader.

    Earlier, during an evening concert in DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., some of the nation’s top artists paid homage to Bennett’s extraordinary gift as an interpreter of America’s songbook, showcasing some of his most memorable songs. Performing were Chris Botti, Michael Bublé, Gloria Estefan, Michael Feinstein, Savion Glover, Josh Groban, Wé McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Lukas Nelson, Vanessa Williams and Stevie Wonder—a former recipient of the Gershwin Prize—with a special presentation by Wynton Marsalis. Actor Bruce Willis hosted the evening’s festivities, concluded by a performance by Bennett of some of his favorite tunes.

    The concert will air on PBS stations nationwide at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, January 12. The program will also be broadcast at a later date on the American Forces Network to the U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.

    Bestowed in honor of the legendary songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, the Gershwin Prize recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding, entertaining and informing audiences and inspiring new generations. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson and Smokey Robinson.

  • Permalink for 'Q&A Series #3: When Women Do Better, Countries Do Better'

    Q&A Series #3: When Women Do Better, Countries Do Better

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 10:00am EST by DipNote Bloggers

    Women entrepreneurs have come up with extraordinary innovations that are transforming millions of lives around the world. In this series of blogs, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) introduces you to some of the women whose ideas they have supported. These women are having an outsized impact in the developing world — and beyond — proving that when women do better, countries do better.

    Third in the series is Sasha Kramer, who co-founded SOIL in Haiti. The organization develops social business models around ecological sanitation, a process in which nutrients from human waste return to the soil rather than polluting fresh water resources.

    How did you come up with your innovation and how did you turn it into a business?

    I traveled to Haiti in 2004 in the wake of a coup as a human rights observer, never dreaming that nearly 15 years later I would still be living and working in a country that I love so dearly and have devoted myself to.

    As I came to know Haiti and build relationships with community leaders and activists, I realized there was an elegant solution that could simultaneously leverage my training as an ecologist and address one of the primary challenges facing communities in Haiti: a simple, locally driven, ecological approach to sanitation.

    My organization, SOIL, was founded in the spirit of working side-by-side with communities to build ecological sanitation solutions that could be community-led, and that idea has evolved into the social business that we’re currently refining, EkoLakay.

    SOIL’s ecological sanitation method. (SOIL)

    SOIL’s ecological sanitation method. (SOIL)

    EkoLakay was born in part out of the lesson we quickly learned, that people in impoverished communities do not have the time nor the capacity to voluntarily manage a shared community toilet facility. There is often an assumption that need correlates to willingness and ability to volunteer, when in reality the opposite is true — those with the greatest need are expending their time and effort keeping their families safe and healthy as best they can.

    At SOIL, this was an opportunity to evolve our thinking and develop a solution that was truly sustainable — a social business that could provide livelihood opportunities in addition to ecological sanitation services.

    What struggles have you faced as a female entrepreneur?

    I have been blessed with incredible opportunities, particularly in education, and I have found incredible support and guidance from professors throughout my life, who helped me to learn rigorously, defend my ideas and — perhaps most importantly — think critically and never step back from asking questions. Women often face skepticism and disbelief in the workplace, and particularly in traditionally male fields like science and technology. I’ve faced that skepticism by respectfully questioning, and standing up whenever I felt my voice and presence were being silenced.

    What advice would you give to girls who dream of becoming entrepreneurs when they grow up?

    Listen and learn from others, be respectful and humble, but don’t take no for an answer, and never be afraid to take up space or ask people for what you need, whether that’s time, support, expertise — anything.

    What’s been the most gratifying part of this work for you personally?

    It has been an inspiration to see this work catching on around the world. Over 10 years ago when SOIL was founded, we were pretty unusual. Now we are part of a formal alliance of practitioners working on similar sanitation solutions around the world, and I’m overwhelmed by the gathering momentum behind this idea that sanitation can be so much more than just a toilet.

    What advice would you give institutions like USAID that want to help entrepreneurs like you succeed?

    As best they can, large institutions need to let locally based organizations lead, and be responsive to our commitments and rationales behind why we choose to do our work the way we do. I’m proud that SOIL has always followed the science and the research, rather than distorting our mission, vision and priorities to obtain funding. This often makes it difficult to accept funding from large institutions due to stringent requirements, and we’re excited and grateful that we’ve found a pathway to collaboration through USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures fund — these types of funds are incredibly important for supporting smaller organizations and initiatives on our terms.

    Follow USAID on Twitter and Facebook as we head to the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit Nov. 28–30 in Hyderabad, India, where women entrepreneurs and their role in fostering economic growth will take center stage.

    Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared in USAID's 2030: Ending Poverty in this Generation publication on Medium.com.

    For more information:

  • Permalink for 'Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: FY 14: Strengthening Evidence-Based Humanitarian Decision-Making: Understanding Refugee Returns to Urban Areas (Church World Service)'

    Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: FY 14: Strengthening Evidence-Based Humanitarian Decision-Making: Understanding Refugee Returns to Urban Areas (Church World Service)

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 9:58am EST
    Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
    November 17, 2017

    FINAL REPORT, DECEMBER 2016:

    PROJECT OVERVIEW

    More than 60 percent of refugees worldwide are now estimated to live in urban areas, and increasingly humanitarian agencies are expanding their focus to become engaged with refugees and displaced persons living in cities and towns. Policy and operational shifts are underway, with emphasis on expanding access to protection, self-reliance and essential services among refugees who live in urban and non-camp locations.

    Increased urbanization of forced displacement raises new opportunities and challenges in facilitating access to durable solutions, including the capacity and willingness of refugees to return to their countries of origin, and the prospect of increased returns to towns and cities rather than rural locations. With support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), CWS undertook this research project with the goal of identifying factors that are related with relative success of refugee return to urban areas. Specifically, CWS sought to explore relationships between two variables – (a) place of origin in home countries and (b) place of settlement in countries of asylum – with refugees’ capacity for successful return and reintegration into urban areas.

    The project drew on both a review of relevant policy regarding voluntary repatriation and urban and non-camp refugees, and field research conducted in Côte d'Ivoire and Rwanda. Data collection was focused in Gisenyi, Rwanda, a regional city of 106,000 inhabitants, and Bloléquin, Côte d’Ivoire, a town that is home to just over 30,000 persons. This served as an opportunity to examine return dynamics and urbanization in town and small city contexts, which may not receive the same attention from researchers nor humanitarian agencies as do large urban areas.

    GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

    • Identify key factors in refugee decision-making regarding return to urban areas, including differences related to socio-economic characteristics, flight experiences, family and social networks, and access to protection in countries of asylum;
    • Identify project design, implementation and/or monitoring and evaluation tools that could be applied to working with urban returnees, in the context of sustainable voluntary return processes; and;
    • Inform discussion of policy and operational practices related to voluntary return, based on the findings of the study.

    KEY FINDINGS

    • Urbanization occurs at multiple stages throughout the forced displacement and returns processes;
    • Urban returnees who had lived in non-camp settings tended to be less reliant on external assistance, and to engage in a wider array of livelihoods activities while in exile, compared to camp-based returnees;
    • Non-camp settings still allow for refugees to access essential services, but not at the same rates as in camp settings;
    • Non-camp refugees are more likely to repatriate sooner and return ‘spontaneously’ to urban locations than their camp-based counterparts;
    • Perceptions of conditions in countries of origin are a key factor in voluntary returns to urban locations, although “push” factors still play a role;
    • Quality of housing may be a concern for urban returnees, even after permanent shelter is accessed;
    • Economic challenges may exist, even if employment rates are high, and may be greater for urban returnees who had fled from rural areas;
    • Subsistence agriculture remains part of household livelihood strategies in urban returns contexts;
    • Social networks are available to some, though not all, urban returnees (and could depend on whether returnees were originally from urban or rural locations);
    • Higher crime rates in large urban areas may negatively affect the safety and security of returnees;
    • Social ties with persons in countries of asylum are often maintained, though circular migration is not necessarily evident.

    RECOMMENDATIONS

    • Anticipate increased urbanization of refugee returns:
      • Humanitarian organization policy frameworks should be updated to overcome biases favoring refugee returns to state of origin and biases against refugee urbanization;
      • Implementing partners should increase information collection in order to determine the living situations of displaced refugees pre-repatriation and the environments they intend to return to post-repatriation;
    • Explore new routes for refugee return from urban and non-camp areas:
      • Humanitarian organization policy frameworks should go beyond affirming the right of refugees in urban or non-camp areas to return, and explore options for enabling this in a manner that recognizes the specific characteristics and challenges of refugee life outside of camps;
      • Implementing partners should include engagement of non-camp refugees in intentions surveys, registration or verification exercises, or other activities that are undertaken in countries of asylum in anticipation of voluntary returns;
    • Promote repatriation through social linkages rather than rupture:
      • Humanitarian organizations should continue to ensure that refugees have access to information about conditions in countries of origin, including in town and city locations; and
      • Promote an interactive “reintegration orientation” prior to returning in order to assist prospective urban returnees in preparing appropriately.
     


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: Remarks on Human Rights/Religious Freedom in Sudan'

    Collected Department Releases: Remarks on Human Rights/Religious Freedom in Sudan

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 9:50am EST
    Remarks John J. Sullivan
    Deputy Secretary of State Khartoum, Sudan
    November 17, 2017

    Asalaam Alaikam. I am honored to join all of you here today. I would like to first thank the leaders of the Al-Neelain Mosque for hosting us today and for their gracious hospitality. Many people from different faiths, backgrounds, and cultures have joined us here today to talk about the important work they are undertaking in Sudan to embrace tolerance and further the goal of mutual respect among all citizens.

    It was a great privilege to spend time with many of you earlier this morning and to learn about the many ways that interfaith groups are working together to forge a new path forward in Sudan and to move away from divisions based on religion and culture. Our discussion was particularly significant as we continue to build a new relationship between the United States and Sudan. I want you to know that the U.S. government and international community stand with you in this important work.

    This is my first visit to your beautiful country. Secretary Tillerson asked me to travel to Khartoum to speak with you and your government about the growing importance of our bilateral relationship. I am here today to underscore one key aspect of that relationship: the shared values of mutual respect, tolerance, and religious freedom.

    I would like to share a bit of my own personal history on these topics, as they are central to who I am. I am the grandson of Irish-Catholic immigrants who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1880s. At the time they arrived – and for many decades that followed – Catholics in the United States faced widespread prejudice based on their religion. When John F. Kennedy – another Catholic from my home state – ran for President of the United States in 1960, he even had to give a prominent speech to reassure the nation that his faith was compatible with the duties of the office of President.

    In the United States today, recalling such history seems quaint. But it was not easy, and it took many decades. Eventually divisions were narrowed and mutual understanding between Catholics and Protestants in the United States improved substantially. Today, it is nearly unthinkable that one’s status as a Catholic in the United States would serve as a disadvantage to one’s ambitions for life.

    The American experience in this regard underscores that respect for the human dignity of every person – regardless of religious belief or origin – is a key component of not only protecting human rights, but also fostering a society that can flourish, build upon each other’s strengths, and move forward together.

    This brings me to one of the purposes of my visit: to make clear that the United States remains deeply committed to positive engagement with Sudan on a wide range of topics – including the protection of religious freedom and the promotion of other human rights throughout your country.

    This path of closer engagement is new for both of us.

    In 2015, after decades of strained bilateral relations, the United States began a measured engagement with your government to urge greater progress in various peace processes and to seek positive changes for the people of Sudan – regardless of religion, class, or ethnic background.

    In June 2016, Sudan and the United States initiated a historic framework for the path forward, the so-called Five Track Engagement Plan.

    This plan outlined five priority areas for constructive engagement, and required the Sudanese government to:

    1) cease hostilities in conflict regions, including the aerial bombardment in Darfur and the Two Areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states;
    2) improve humanitarian access throughout Sudan so that aid groups could provide vital resources and assistance needed by the Sudanese people;
    3) refrain from interfering in South Sudan and instead play a constructive role in regional peace efforts;
    4) cooperate with regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army, and;
    5) build U.S.-Sudanese cooperation on counter terrorism, and make both of our countries safer.

    In each of those five areas, the Government of Sudan has made measureable progress. As a result, last month, the United States formally revoked certain U.S. sanctions on Sudan to open a new chapter in our bilateral relationship.

    We hope that these positive developments are emblematic of a positive trajectory for the future of our bilateral relationship. But, we also recognize that completion of the Five Track Engagement Plan is only a first step on a longer road toward fully normalizing our bilateral relations. More hard work is required – from both of our countries. 

    The United States is eager to see Sudan make progress in a range of areas in the months and years ahead, as we work towards a new framework for bilateral engagement. In short, the closer our countries become, the higher our expectations for Sudan will become.

    This engagement will proceed on several fronts. For Sudan to become a full partner of the United States, it must seek peace within its borders and with its neighbors, and cooperate reliably with the international community to improve security and prosperity in the region and adhere to long-standing international norms. 

    In addition, supporting human rights, including religious freedom, has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of the United States’ bilateral engagement with Sudan.

    In the United States, the protection of the basic rights and freedoms of our citizens is fundamental to who we are as a nation. The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution – our foundational legal document – sets forth protections for individual liberties and prohibitions on government power in these realms, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. These are among our most cherished rights as Americans, and the protection of human rights and the dignity of the individual has served as a key basis of U.S. foreign policy throughout our history.

    This history has shown that U.S. partnerships around the world are strongest and most durable with countries that take the necessary steps to protect the same basic human rights and freedoms that are central in the United States.

    In the years ahead, one measure of the strength of the U.S.-Sudanese relationship will be improvements in Sudan’s respect for human rights and, in particular, religious freedom. Indeed, one of the reasons I am speaking to you today – at the Al-Neelain Mosque, with Sudanese Muslim and Christian leaders – is to emphasize that the United States cares deeply about religious freedom in Sudan.

    By taking steps to enhance protections for religious freedom, the Government will make the entire country more stable and secure.

    Interfaith understanding, respect, and the protection of religious freedom and other human rights are bulwarks against extremism. Religious tolerance is a building block of peace and security and is the mark of responsible governance. The treatment of members of religious minorities is often the ultimate indicator of a government’s commitment to these values.

    When governments favor a specific religious, ethnic, or sectarian group over others, violent radicalism thrives. We also know that governments that sponsor or condone violence against their own people are far more likely to see violent extremism growing in their country.

    But by protecting every person’s human rights, society is more just, more free, and more stable for everyone.

    For these reasons, we urge the Government of Sudan to protect basic freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion, and movement. The United States calls on Sudan to protect political opposition members, human rights defenders, civil society groups, and the media. We also urge the government to hold accountable all who are responsible for human rights abuses.

    On the issue of religious freedom, the United States has continued to designate Sudan as a “Country of Particular Concern.” The State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report noted instances of the arrest, detention, and intimidation of religious leaders, and the denial of permits for the construction of new churches; restrictions on non-Muslim religious groups from entering the country; and the censorship of religious material.

    During my discussions with senior leaders over the last 6 months, we have welcomed the Sudanese Government’s expressed desire to take steps to overcome its designation as a Country of Particular Concern. However, for that to occur, we must see concrete and demonstrable progress through better policies and improved laws.

    We have communicated these steps to the Sudanese Government through a proposed “Action Plan,” which we hope Sudan will approve and enact. As an immediate confidence-building measure, we have suggested that the Government convene a roundtable with members of religious minority groups about property registration issues, as certain government officials have cited registration issues as the rationale for the demolitions of places of worship. The Government of Sudan, including the Federal States, should also immediately suspend demolitions of places of worship, including churches and mosques.

    President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Tillerson have made clear that the protection and promotion of religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Administration. As we move forward in our relationship, the United States will not ignore violations of human rights, including the right to religious freedom.

    The United States is ready and willing to assist in these efforts. To that end, we will explore opportunities to work with religious leaders who build bridges through tolerance and interfaith understanding to counter extremism – like those leaders with me here today – while we bring in new voices to further conversations about accountability and inclusive governance.

    The United States will also review our people-to-people programs, such as the Young African Leaders Initiative and International Visitor Leadership Program, to identify ways to maximize partnerships and exchanges with the people of Sudan. I am pleased to see so many alumni here this morning as a testament to the success of these programs.

    Indeed, we believe that any country-to-country relationship begins on the individual level. We are committed to finding more avenues for Sudanese religious and youth leaders to advance interfaith efforts for peace.

    Before I conclude, I also want to touch on a few other important aspects of the U.S.-Sudan relationship.

    We recognize that there are ongoing impediments, including certain commercial and financial restrictions, on the bilateral relationship between our countries and a lack of normalized diplomatic relations. Further strengthening of our bilateral relationship will require a renewed commitment by the Government of Sudan on other policies beyond religious freedom.

    In particular, while restraint and a cessation of attacks in conflict areas is a positive step forward, we now expect the Sudanese government to move closer to a permanent ceasefire that will create an opening for a truly inclusive political dialogue in Darfur and the Two Areas.

    The armed opposition must of course also denounce hostilities and make a commitment to a negotiated peace. All parties who have signed the African Union roadmap must live up to their commitment to engage in dialogue toward a resolution of the conflicts and a comprehensive and inclusive political process, and those who have yet to join the process must do so, as there is no other path to peace and improving the conditions of the people living in the conflict areas. As a first step, the opposition should accept the U.S. proposal to facilitate humanitarian aid in conflict areas across lines to help those who are suffering the most.

    Moving forward, we also encourage the Government to improve cooperation with UNAMID – the AU-UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur. UNAMID protects civilians, facilitates humanitarian assistance, and mediates conflict at the local and national level in Darfur.

    This mission – which the United States strongly supports – will continue to be instrumental to Sudan’s future and greater collaboration with the UN is a win-win proposition for the people of Sudan.

    Violence, war, and ongoing instability are holding Sudan back from a future with great potential. Conflict has affected millions. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have been displaced and killed. It is time for a path to reconciliation and peace. Your country’s prosperity and the security of future generations depend on it.

    The United States calls on all parties to take this opportunity to define a way forward that will help all of Sudan’s people.

    Finally, the United States is also looking for the Sudanese Government to help counter international security threats. In that regard, I very much appreciate and applaud Sudan’s public statements condemning North Korean provocations, and Sudan’s full commitment to compliance with the UN Security Council Resolutions regarding North Korea. Finally, the statements yesterday by the Government of Sudan affirming that it will cut off all ties with North Korea is most welcome.

    Let me conclude by noting that I am deeply encouraged by the interactions I have had with the Government and with civil society representatives during my visit here. The religious leaders with whom I met earlier today are a deep source of inspiration. Indeed, there are challenges that lie ahead, but we should all have reason for hope and optimism about the growing engagement between our two countries.

    Thank you for your hospitality and kindness. I look forward to many more opportunities to further our goals of a more peaceful and prosperous Sudan – a Sudan that respects the rights of persons of every faith.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: Remarks on Human Rights/Religious Freedom in Sudan'

    Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: Remarks on Human Rights/Religious Freedom in Sudan

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 9:50am EST
    Remarks John J. Sullivan
    Deputy Secretary of State Khartoum, Sudan
    November 17, 2017

    Asalaam Alaikam. I am honored to join all of you here today. I would like to first thank the leaders of the Al-Neelain Mosque for hosting us today and for their gracious hospitality. Many people from different faiths, backgrounds, and cultures have joined us here today to talk about the important work they are undertaking in Sudan to embrace tolerance and further the goal of mutual respect among all citizens.

    It was a great privilege to spend time with many of you earlier this morning and to learn about the many ways that interfaith groups are working together to forge a new path forward in Sudan and to move away from divisions based on religion and culture. Our discussion was particularly significant as we continue to build a new relationship between the United States and Sudan. I want you to know that the U.S. government and international community stand with you in this important work.

    This is my first visit to your beautiful country. Secretary Tillerson asked me to travel to Khartoum to speak with you and your government about the growing importance of our bilateral relationship. I am here today to underscore one key aspect of that relationship: the shared values of mutual respect, tolerance, and religious freedom.

    I would like to share a bit of my own personal history on these topics, as they are central to who I am. I am the grandson of Irish-Catholic immigrants who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1880s. At the time they arrived – and for many decades that followed – Catholics in the United States faced widespread prejudice based on their religion. When John F. Kennedy – another Catholic from my home state – ran for President of the United States in 1960, he even had to give a prominent speech to reassure the nation that his faith was compatible with the duties of the office of President.

    In the United States today, recalling such history seems quaint. But it was not easy, and it took many decades. Eventually divisions were narrowed and mutual understanding between Catholics and Protestants in the United States improved substantially. Today, it is nearly unthinkable that one’s status as a Catholic in the United States would serve as a disadvantage to one’s ambitions for life.

    The American experience in this regard underscores that respect for the human dignity of every person – regardless of religious belief or origin – is a key component of not only protecting human rights, but also fostering a society that can flourish, build upon each other’s strengths, and move forward together.

    This brings me to one of the purposes of my visit: to make clear that the United States remains deeply committed to positive engagement with Sudan on a wide range of topics – including the protection of religious freedom and the promotion of other human rights throughout your country.

    This path of closer engagement is new for both of us.

    In 2015, after decades of strained bilateral relations, the United States began a measured engagement with your government to urge greater progress in various peace processes and to seek positive changes for the people of Sudan – regardless of religion, class, or ethnic background.

    In June 2016, Sudan and the United States initiated a historic framework for the path forward, the so-called Five Track Engagement Plan.

    This plan outlined five priority areas for constructive engagement, and required the Sudanese government to:

    1) cease hostilities in conflict regions, including the aerial bombardment in Darfur and the Two Areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states;
    2) improve humanitarian access throughout Sudan so that aid groups could provide vital resources and assistance needed by the Sudanese people;
    3) refrain from interfering in South Sudan and instead play a constructive role in regional peace efforts;
    4) cooperate with regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army, and;
    5) build U.S.-Sudanese cooperation on counter terrorism, and make both of our countries safer.

    In each of those five areas, the Government of Sudan has made measureable progress. As a result, last month, the United States formally revoked certain U.S. sanctions on Sudan to open a new chapter in our bilateral relationship.

    We hope that these positive developments are emblematic of a positive trajectory for the future of our bilateral relationship. But, we also recognize that completion of the Five Track Engagement Plan is only a first step on a longer road toward fully normalizing our bilateral relations. More hard work is required – from both of our countries. 

    The United States is eager to see Sudan make progress in a range of areas in the months and years ahead, as we work towards a new framework for bilateral engagement. In short, the closer our countries become, the higher our expectations for Sudan will become.

    This engagement will proceed on several fronts. For Sudan to become a full partner of the United States, it must seek peace within its borders and with its neighbors, and cooperate reliably with the international community to improve security and prosperity in the region and adhere to long-standing international norms. 

    In addition, supporting human rights, including religious freedom, has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of the United States’ bilateral engagement with Sudan.

    In the United States, the protection of the basic rights and freedoms of our citizens is fundamental to who we are as a nation. The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution – our foundational legal document – sets forth protections for individual liberties and prohibitions on government power in these realms, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. These are among our most cherished rights as Americans, and the protection of human rights and the dignity of the individual has served as a key basis of U.S. foreign policy throughout our history.

    This history has shown that U.S. partnerships around the world are strongest and most durable with countries that take the necessary steps to protect the same basic human rights and freedoms that are central in the United States.

    In the years ahead, one measure of the strength of the U.S.-Sudanese relationship will be improvements in Sudan’s respect for human rights and, in particular, religious freedom. Indeed, one of the reasons I am speaking to you today – at the Al-Neelain Mosque, with Sudanese Muslim and Christian leaders – is to emphasize that the United States cares deeply about religious freedom in Sudan.

    By taking steps to enhance protections for religious freedom, the Government will make the entire country more stable and secure.

    Interfaith understanding, respect, and the protection of religious freedom and other human rights are bulwarks against extremism. Religious tolerance is a building block of peace and security and is the mark of responsible governance. The treatment of members of religious minorities is often the ultimate indicator of a government’s commitment to these values.

    When governments favor a specific religious, ethnic, or sectarian group over others, violent radicalism thrives. We also know that governments that sponsor or condone violence against their own people are far more likely to see violent extremism growing in their country.

    But by protecting every person’s human rights, society is more just, more free, and more stable for everyone.

    For these reasons, we urge the Government of Sudan to protect basic freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion, and movement. The United States calls on Sudan to protect political opposition members, human rights defenders, civil society groups, and the media. We also urge the government to hold accountable all who are responsible for human rights abuses.

    On the issue of religious freedom, the United States has continued to designate Sudan as a “Country of Particular Concern.” The State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report noted instances of the arrest, detention, and intimidation of religious leaders, and the denial of permits for the construction of new churches; restrictions on non-Muslim religious groups from entering the country; and the censorship of religious material.

    During my discussions with senior leaders over the last 6 months, we have welcomed the Sudanese Government’s expressed desire to take steps to overcome its designation as a Country of Particular Concern. However, for that to occur, we must see concrete and demonstrable progress through better policies and improved laws.

    We have communicated these steps to the Sudanese Government through a proposed “Action Plan,” which we hope Sudan will approve and enact. As an immediate confidence-building measure, we have suggested that the Government convene a roundtable with members of religious minority groups about property registration issues, as certain government officials have cited registration issues as the rationale for the demolitions of places of worship. The Government of Sudan, including the Federal States, should also immediately suspend demolitions of places of worship, including churches and mosques.

    President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Tillerson have made clear that the protection and promotion of religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Administration. As we move forward in our relationship, the United States will not ignore violations of human rights, including the right to religious freedom.

    The United States is ready and willing to assist in these efforts. To that end, we will explore opportunities to work with religious leaders who build bridges through tolerance and interfaith understanding to counter extremism – like those leaders with me here today – while we bring in new voices to further conversations about accountability and inclusive governance.

    The United States will also review our people-to-people programs, such as the Young African Leaders Initiative and International Visitor Leadership Program, to identify ways to maximize partnerships and exchanges with the people of Sudan. I am pleased to see so many alumni here this morning as a testament to the success of these programs.

    Indeed, we believe that any country-to-country relationship begins on the individual level. We are committed to finding more avenues for Sudanese religious and youth leaders to advance interfaith efforts for peace.

    Before I conclude, I also want to touch on a few other important aspects of the U.S.-Sudan relationship.

    We recognize that there are ongoing impediments, including certain commercial and financial restrictions, on the bilateral relationship between our countries and a lack of normalized diplomatic relations. Further strengthening of our bilateral relationship will require a renewed commitment by the Government of Sudan on other policies beyond religious freedom.

    In particular, while restraint and a cessation of attacks in conflict areas is a positive step forward, we now expect the Sudanese government to move closer to a permanent ceasefire that will create an opening for a truly inclusive political dialogue in Darfur and the Two Areas.

    The armed opposition must of course also denounce hostilities and make a commitment to a negotiated peace. All parties who have signed the African Union roadmap must live up to their commitment to engage in dialogue toward a resolution of the conflicts and a comprehensive and inclusive political process, and those who have yet to join the process must do so, as there is no other path to peace and improving the conditions of the people living in the conflict areas. As a first step, the opposition should accept the U.S. proposal to facilitate humanitarian aid in conflict areas across lines to help those who are suffering the most.

    Moving forward, we also encourage the Government to improve cooperation with UNAMID – the AU-UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur. UNAMID protects civilians, facilitates humanitarian assistance, and mediates conflict at the local and national level in Darfur.

    This mission – which the United States strongly supports – will continue to be instrumental to Sudan’s future and greater collaboration with the UN is a win-win proposition for the people of Sudan.

    Violence, war, and ongoing instability are holding Sudan back from a future with great potential. Conflict has affected millions. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have been displaced and killed. It is time for a path to reconciliation and peace. Your country’s prosperity and the security of future generations depend on it.

    The United States calls on all parties to take this opportunity to define a way forward that will help all of Sudan’s people.

    Finally, the United States is also looking for the Sudanese Government to help counter international security threats. In that regard, I very much appreciate and applaud Sudan’s public statements condemning North Korean provocations, and Sudan’s full commitment to compliance with the UN Security Council Resolutions regarding North Korea. Finally, the statements yesterday by the Government of Sudan affirming that it will cut off all ties with North Korea is most welcome.

    Let me conclude by noting that I am deeply encouraged by the interactions I have had with the Government and with civil society representatives during my visit here. The religious leaders with whom I met earlier today are a deep source of inspiration. Indeed, there are challenges that lie ahead, but we should all have reason for hope and optimism about the growing engagement between our two countries.

    Thank you for your hospitality and kindness. I look forward to many more opportunities to further our goals of a more peaceful and prosperous Sudan – a Sudan that respects the rights of persons of every faith.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: FY 14: Becoming Urban Humanitarians: Engaging Local Government to Protect Displaced People (Urban Institute)'

    Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: FY 14: Becoming Urban Humanitarians: Engaging Local Government to Protect Displaced People (Urban Institute)

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 9:35am EST
    Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
    November 17, 2017

    FINAL REPORT, SEPTEMBER 2016: [www.urban.org]

    PROJECT OVERVIEW

    People displaced into urban areas due to war, persecution, or climatic crisis have claimed an increasingly prominent position in humanitarian operations and research. Through an examination of three African municipalities currently hosting displaced persons we study the cognitive, financial, and political incentives that work for and against a proactive response to displacement. We find that in cities where deprivation is widespread, effective engagement with municipal authorities demands a shift in approach. Rather than appeals to domestic or international protection principles, effective engagement with local authorities requires recognizing local authorities’ interests and incentives to develop strategies to align protection concerns with local political economic factors.

    GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

    • Use a systematic approach to assess and understand the priorities and incentives of local actors in Kampala, Nairobi and Johannesburg;
    • Asses who holds formal and de facto responsibility in urban areas for people of concern;
    • Understand the obstacles, abilities and incentives for local authorities in responding to people of concern;
    • Assess the “reformability” of local authorities;
    • Identify non-state actors who are (a) providing or obstructing opportunities for people of concern (b) working on behalf of people sharing similar interests with people of concern (c) are enlisted in providing services or pressing for positive change in local authorities

    KEY FINDINGS

    • In most circumstances, people of concern are a low political priority for local authorities. While displaced people are often used as political tools, their protection is rarely at the forefront of the political agenda;
    • Unless there is a strong local constituency concerned with refugees’ rights and welfare, politicians have little political incentive to promote refugee rights;
    • Humanitarian actors need to find “back routes to rights” and social solidarity with locally legitimate actors—local officials, businesspeople, landlords, service providers—who have the power to bring about immediate positive change;
    • In engaging with local authorities, humanitarians should look for new opportunities for solidarity and appeals to interest. This may require a new spatial perspective so that the language resonates locally, intervention is locally legitimate and the approach is gradual and cautious; and
    • Effective engagement with local authorities demands a strong understanding of variations in institutional configuration, the language of urban development, and the politics surrounding diversity, poverty reduction, and immigration.

    RECOMMENDATIONS

    • Temper the language of law and rights to expand protection and security. Where possible, expand protection in ways that do not analytically or legally distinguish between local residents and displaced persons;
    • Incorporate local government and sectoral experts into strategic planning and operations;
    • Develop programs that incentivize protection by officials by providing direct financial support to country systems that can verify that they are supporting POC;
    • Work to build solidarity with other groups including urban poor, health providers, unions and tradespeople, to push for inclusive reforms and improved service delivery;
    • Engage with intergovernmental structures such as local government finance systems to create funding mechanisms that encourage or enable improved local government performance;
    • Develop protection standards that are pegged to locally determined service delivery standards;
    • Develop donor funding strategies that do not demand only quantifiable service delivery outputs;
    • Support humanitarian assessments and interventions that consider ‘local’ populations and institutional capacities/ opportunities; and
    • Develop humanitarian funding initiatives that can support inclusive developmental local government.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: On the Occasion of Latvia's National Day'

    Collected Department Releases: On the Occasion of Latvia's National Day

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 8:00am EST
    Press Statement Rex W. Tillerson
    Secretary of State Washington, DC
    November 17, 2017

    On behalf of the United States government, I congratulate the people of Latvia on the 99th anniversary of your independence.

    The relationship between the United States and Latvia is strong. This strength is anchored in our shared commitment to upholding democratic values and the unity of our transatlantic community. Latvia is a valuable partner and a vital NATO Ally. In 2017, our two countries shared many successes, including two meetings between Vice President Pence and Latvian President Vējonis. Vice President Pence underscored the United States’ ironclad commitment to NATO and collective defense under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Our relationship is strong across many fields, including security and defense, trade, entrepreneurship and innovation, and cultural and academic exchanges, and will continue to broaden through the deep connections between our people.

    As you begin to light your candles in Riga and across Latvia to celebrate 99 years of independence, I also want to wish you a great start to your centennial independence celebrations in the New Year. The United States is looking forward to celebrating with you in 2018 as you mark your 100th anniversary.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'November 17, 2017'

    November 17, 2017

    Posted: November 17th, 2017, 5:06am EST by 257

    Proceedings of

    HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    Met at 10:00 AM

    [kjm]

    Journal approved.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Mooney (R), WV led the House in the Pledge of Allegiance.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Speaker signed the following enrolled bills (H.R. 1545 - VA Prescription Data Accountability Act 2017, H.R. 3949 - VALOR Act, H.R. 4374 - To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to authorize additional emergency uses for medical products to reduce deaths and severity of injuries caused by agents of war, and for other purposes).

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Chair declared the House adjourned until 11:00 AM, Tuesday, November 21st.

     

     

     

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: Remarks With African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Before Their Meeting'

    Collected Department Releases: Remarks With African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Before Their Meeting

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 6:48pm EST
    Remarks Rex W. Tillerson
    Secretary of State Treaty Room
    Washington, DC
    November 16, 2017

    SECRETARY TILLERSON: Good evening. Well, I’m pleased to welcome Chairman Faki of the African Union to the State Department. We’ve got a significant African Union ministerial tomorrow, the whole day, and look forward to having an early discussion with the chairman. Thank you.

    CHAIRPERSON FAKI: Thank you.

    SECRETARY TILLERSON: Welcome.

    QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, should Robert Mugabe step down?

    SECRETARY TILLERSON: We’re going to follow that situation. Thank you.

    QUESTION: (In French.)

    CHAIRPERSON FAKI: (In French.)


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: Sudan Commits To Sever Ties With the DPRK'

    Collected Department Releases: Sudan Commits To Sever Ties With the DPRK

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 5:57pm EST
    Press Statement Heather Nauert
    Department Spokesperson Washington, DC
    November 16, 2017

    Today, following bilateral meetings in Khartoum with Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry formally announced Sudan’s commitment to sever all trade and military ties with North Korea. The United States welcomes the Government of Sudan’s pledge and will continue engagement on this issue to ensure that this commitment is fully implemented.

    Isolating the North Korean regime is a top priority for the United States, and is a key element to maintaining peace and stability worldwide. The United States is grateful for Sudan’s commitment to take these important steps in light of the critical threat posed by the DPRK.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Indigenous Freethought'

    Indigenous Freethought

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 3:53pm EST
    Enclosure: [download]

    Dan talks about his trip to Central America, where he spoke for the Honduran Freethinkers and Guatemala Humanists, a tour that included four national television and one national radio interview. After discussing Senate candidate Roy Moore’s theocratic hypocrisy, we announce recent FFRF victories in the public schools in Texas and West Virginia. Then we hear renowned composer Brent Michael Davids, a member of the Mohican tribe, talk about “Do you know an American Indian atheist?”

  • Permalink for 'Collecting Independent Comics and Cartoon Art'

    Collecting Independent Comics and Cartoon Art

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 3:39pm EST by Wendi Maloney

    This is a guest post by Megan Halsband, a reference librarian in the Serial and Government Publications Division. It was first published in “Comics! An American History,” the September–October issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine. The issue is available in its entirety online.

    Through an agreement with the Small Press Expo, the Library collects and preserves independent comics and cartoon art.

    “Henni” by Miss Lasko-Gross (2015), drawing for a poster designed for the American Library Association. Small Press Expo Collection, Prints and Photographs Division.

    Like Animals? Monsters? Robots? Superheroes? Autobiography? Noir? Science Fiction? History? The Small Press Expo Collection at the Library of Congress probably has a comic (or two) for you.

    The nonprofit Small Press Expo was created in 1994 to promote artists and publishers who produce independent comics. The annual SPX festival in Bethesda, Md., hosts independent and small-press comic artists and publishers from around the world who come to the festival to present their wares, chat with fans and nerd out about comics (or comix, if you prefer).

    Small Press Expo executive director Warren Bernard approached the Library in 2010 about establishing a collection to preserve the artistic output of the creators who come to SPX, as well as the history of the yearly SPX festival. This agreement provided a unique opportunity for the Library to collect materials for both its comic book and original art collections.

    With as many different subjects and genres as there are artists at the festival, the collection is a fantastic representation of the wide variety of comics and comic books currently being published outside the mainstream press.

    Every September since 2011, a number of Library curators attend the festival and seek donations from artists and publishers. Through their generosity, the Library has been able to develop these contemporary and relevant enhancements to its graphic arts and serials collections.

    From a few dozen items at the start of the agreement, the collection has grown to several thousand. Material in the SPX collection ranges from tiny accordion-fold pages of doodles and poignant memoirs to oversize newsprint issues and original artwork and posters.

    Annually since 1997, the Small Press Expo has awarded the Ignatz Award for outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning. The nominees and winners of the awards in nine categories form a key component of the overall collection. In addition, the collection includes online content—webcomics and the Small Press Expo website itself —which the Library harvested through its web archiving program. The new SPX web archive went live this fall.

    The Library also hosts an annual lecture series that has featured artists such as Dean Haspiel and Box Brown, publishers Gary Groth and Locust Moon Press and writer-editor Heidi MacDonald. The lectures, held the Friday before the SPX festival, are open to the public and are archived on the Library’s website.

    Scroll down to listen to Dean Haspiel’s 2012 presentation—the first in the series—and Gary Groth’s talk from 2016.

    {mediaObjectId:'F5EA42949CAB01D6E0438C93F11601D6',playerSize:'mediumStandard'} {mediaObjectId:'44CECEB7ADFA00B6E0538C93F11600B6',playerSize:'mediumStandard'}
  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: President Pahor's re-election as President of the Republic of Slovenia'

    Collected Department Releases: President Pahor's re-election as President of the Republic of Slovenia

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 2:48pm EST
    Press Statement Heather Nauert
    Department Spokesperson Washington, DC
    November 16, 2017

    The United States congratulates President Pahor on his re-election as President of the Republic of Slovenia. Slovenia is a close U.S. partner and NATO Ally, and we value the contributions Slovenia makes to regional and global peace and stability.

    We appreciate President Pahor’s work to strengthen the U.S.-Slovenian relationship and, during his second term, look forward to deepening our already close cooperation on security, economic, and people-to-people ties between our two countries.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Americans United Denounces House Tax Bill That Undermines The Johnson Amendment And Public Schools'

    Americans United Denounces House Tax Bill That Undermines The Johnson Amendment And Public Schools

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 1:59pm EST by Liz Hayes
    Legislation Turns Nonprofits, Including Houses Of Worship, Into Tax-Exempt Partisan Campaign Organizations; Expands School Voucher-Like Program

    Americans United for Separation of Church and State today criticized the U.S. House of Representatives for passing H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which would essentially repeal the Johnson Amendment. This 63-year-old provision in federal law protects the integrity of our elections and tax-exempt nonprofits, including houses of worship, by ensuring the organizations don’t endorse or oppose candidates for public office.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: U.S. Department of State Supports Energy Diversification in the Caribbean'

    Collected Department Releases: U.S. Department of State Supports Energy Diversification in the Caribbean

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 1:02pm EST
    Media Note Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
    November 16, 2017

    The U.S. Department of State announced $4.3 million in funding to support energy diversification in the Caribbean. The announcement was made at the U.S. and Caribbean Prosperity Roundtable November 15 in Miami. This funding, programmed through the Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources, USAID, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), will advance the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative and the Caribbean 2020 Strategy by providing energy-related technical assistance, grant funding for project preparation, and new opportunities for globally competitive U.S. energy firms and exports.

    The U.S. and Caribbean Prosperity Roundtable brought together Caribbean ministers and U.S. executives from the private sector to spur investment and address obstacles and opportunities for economic collaboration. This year's Roundtable was led by the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Kenneth Merten and affirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to increase the security, the prosperity, and the well-being of the people of the United States and the Caribbean.

    To view the full Caribbean 2020 strategy, please visit: [https:]] .

    For more information on the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, please visit: [https:]] .


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: Report to Congress on Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016 PL 114-231, Sec. 201'

    Collected Department Releases: Report to Congress on Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016 PL 114-231, Sec. 201

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 12:16pm EST
    November 16, 2017

    The Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act (P.L. 114-231) (the "Act") directs the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce, to submit to Congress a report that lists focus countries and countries of concern, as defined in the Act.

    Wildlife trafficking remains a serious transnational crime that threatens security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, long-standing conservation efforts, and human health. Wildlife trafficking is one of four areas highlighted in Executive Order 13773, signed by President Trump on February 9, 2017, calling for a comprehensive and decisive approach to dismantle organized crime syndicates.

    The Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking (Task Force), co-chaired by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Attorney General, brings together 17 federal departments and agencies to implement the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (the "National Strategy"). In that implementation, the U.S. government is combating this illicit trade by targeting three strategic priorities: (1) strengthening enforcement; (2) reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife; and, (3) building international cooperation.

    The Task Force's work to combat wildlife trafficking is making a difference on the ground at home and worldwide. Task Force efforts and activities are better coordinated across the U.S. government; efficiencies are being identified and exploited, redundancies eliminated, and resources used more strategically; our international outreach continues to expand; and improved coordination with the intelligence community has spotlighted new areas of work. Working in partnership with the private sector, local communities, and non-governmental organizations, the United States has led the way globally, securing agreements and commitments from governments and stakeholders at all levels to take urgent action. Highlights of Task Force efforts are included in the separate Strategic Review, as called for in Sec. 301(d) of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act.

    Much work remains, including securing greater involvement from the intelligence community, solidifying coordination of our efforts with those of other governments and donors, strengthening capacity of communities that live with and protect wildlife, and bringing more of those responsible for the illegal trade to justice. We also strive to improve the availability and veracity of information on wildlife trafficking, to close data gaps and enhance our understanding of the breadth of global trade routes. Measuring our success, or failure, is not easy but we continue to work to identify appropriate indictors and metrics. There is no single approach that will solve this daunting challenge: it requires - and will continue to require -steadfast dedication, innovative approaches, and extensive collaboration and cooperation at all levels of government and society.

    Focus Countries

    Methodology for Determining Focus Countries

    The Department of State worked closely with the other agencies of the Task Force to develop and employ a qualitative and quantitative process for identifying focus countries and countries of concern, as defined in Section 2 of the Act. Technical experts and scientists from Task Force agencies began this effort by establishing a process to analyze wildlife trafficking information and subsequently obtaining a set of relevant and available data. This analysis included evaluation of data drawn from public reporting by U.S. government agencies; international entities such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and non-government organizations (NGOs) such as the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), TRAFFIC, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and Transparency International.

    Based on the analysis of interagency experts, the input from outside experts, and the availability, quality, and consistency of data, the Task Force employed the following process to identify focus countries:

    Range States: The Task Force used information from IUCN, CITES, the Endangered Species Act, and seizures reported to CITES to generate a list of wildlife species that are of high conservation concern and are known to be illegally traded based on seizure data as reported to CITES. Experts then used the IUCN Red List and other sources to determine the range states for biologically significant populations of these species.

    Seizure Data: The Task Force compiled seizures of trafficked wildlife reported by the U.S. government since 2011, and added seizures that other countries reported to the CITES Secretariat. The seizures were analyzed in a manner that scored countries for being the source country for a seizure (and in some cases the transit or final destination if this information was known), but excluded from scoring the countries that successfully made the seizure.

    The Task Force considered both seizures of illegal wildlife and wildlife products, as well as a secondary analysis of only those species identified in the range analysis, with countries being scored based on whichever analysis caused them to be ranked highest.

    Recognizing that seizure data only capture a small but unknown percentage of all illegal wildlife trade and that much of that trade may not transit through a country with a strong customs enforcement system, the Task Force then considered additional data available for several key species.

    Species Specific Data: The Task Force utilized the rankings listed in the 2016 CITES Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) report of countries that plays a significant role as a supplier, transit, or consumer country. The Task Force also considered trade and market analyses conducted by NGOs for rhinos, reptiles, birds, and pangolins, as the most trafficked species.

    Risk and Enabling Criteria: The Task Force further considered risk and enabling criteria, including Transparency International's Perceptions of Corruption Index; countries that are currently subject to CITES trade suspensions; and a Department of State analysis of the global transportation network that sought to identify key nodes and chokepoints for illegal wildlife trade.

    Country-Specific Analysis: The above data sets were scored in a weighted manner, which led to a list of countries where further country-specific analysis was needed. Factors such as range states, seizures, and species-specific criteria were weighted more heavily than additional risk and enabling factors.

    Task Force agencies, including those at U.S. overseas missions, reviewed the initial analysis and provided additional information that was often only available locally. These country-specific analyses helped to round out the global data, including by providing information on additional species such as felines, primates, and marine species. Agencies also considered the trajectory of wildlife populations and trafficking's impact on that trajectory, government and private sector efforts to prevent illegal trade, and the presence of legal or poorly regulated domestic markets for species threatened by wildlife trafficking.

    The Task Force further evaluated whether governments have recently taken steps to improve legislation, regulations, and/or enforcement and other trends such that the country is stepping up its efforts to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.

    2017 Focus Countries

    Using the methodology described above, the Department of State, in consultation with the Departments of the Interior and Commerce as well as other agencies of the Task Force, determined the following countries should be listed as focus countries pursuant to Section 201(a) of the Act. In other words, each country listed is a "major source of wildlife trafficking products or their derivatives, a major transit point of wildlife trafficking products or their derivatives, or a major consumer of wildlife trafficking products."

    This determination is based on our analysis of the statutory criteria and does not reflect a positive or negative judgment of the listed countries or indicate that these countries are not working diligently to combat wildlife trafficking. Indeed, the United States has longstanding and deep partnerships with many of these countries with respect to combating wildlife trafficking and recognizes the strong political will that already exists in many of these countries to tackle this problem. The Department of State and other Task Force agencies look forward to continuing close and constructive relationships with these countries as we work collaboratively to combat wildlife trafficking.

    2017 Focus Country List (in alphabetical order)

    Bangladesh
    Brazil
    Burma
    Cambodia
    Cameroon
    China
    Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Gabon
    India
    Indonesia
    Kenya
    Laos
    Madagascar
    Malaysia
    Mexico
    Mozambique
    Nigeria
    Philippines
    Republic of the Congo
    South Africa
    Tanzania
    Thailand
    Togo
    Uganda
    United Arab Emirates
    Vietnam

    Countries of Concern

    Methodology for Identifying Countries of Concern

    To identify countries of concern as directed by Section 20 I (b) of the Act, the Department of State, in consultation with the Departments of the Interior and Commerce and other agencies of the Task Force, reviewed publicly available information as well as classified material that indicated the following governments actively engaged in or knowingly profited from the trafficking of endangered or threatened species. This designation does not indicate all parts of the government are or have been involved, but rather that there are serious concerns that either high-level or systemic government involvement in wildlife trafficking has occurred.

    2017 Countries of Concern (in alphabetical order)

    Democratic Republic of Congo
    Laos
    Madagascar


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: U.S. National Statement at COP-23'

    Collected Department Releases: U.S. National Statement at COP-23

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 11:39am EST
    Remarks Judith G. Garber
    Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Bonn, Germany
    November 16, 2017

    President of COP 23, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates. The United States is pleased to be engaging with other Parties here at the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    Let me extend my sincere appreciation to the Government of Fiji for its leadership in presiding over this COP, and to the Government of Germany and the City of Bonn for hosting this Conference.

    President Trump has made clear the U.S. position with respect to the Paris Agreement. Although he indicated that the United States intends to withdraw at the earliest opportunity, we remain open to the possibility of rejoining at a later date under terms more favorable to the American people.

    Irrespective of our views on the Paris Agreement, the United States will continue to be a leader in clean energy and innovation, and we understand the need for transforming energy systems.

    President Trump made this clear when the United States joined other G-20 countries in the G-20 Leaders’ Declaration in stating that we remain collectively committed to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through, among other things, increased innovation on sustainable energy and energy efficiency, and working towards low greenhouse gas emissions energy systems.

    Our guiding principles are universal access to affordable and reliable energy, and open, competitive markets that promote efficiency and energy security, not only for the United States but around the globe.

    The United States will continue supporting a balanced approach to climate mitigation, economic development, and energy security that takes into consideration the realities of the global energy mix.

    Over the past 10 years, the United States has shown that it can reduce emissions while growing the economy and promoting energy security. Since 2005, the United States’ net greenhouse gas emissions have decreased 11.5 percent while the U.S. economy has grown 15 percent, adjusted for inflation.

    A large portion of these reductions have come as a result of the adoption by the private sector of innovative energy technologies –fostered by early stage innovation by the public sector.

    Collaborative U.S. public and private efforts over the past ten years have resulted in dramatic decreases in the cost of low-emissions technologies and fuels, including natural gas, solar, wind, energy storage, and energy efficiency. Natural gas prices have dropped to about a third of what they were in 2007 and the cost of utility-scale solar PV has dropped by more than 64 percent.

    We want to work with other countries to continue advancing the development and deployment of a broad array of technologies that will ultimately enable us to achieve our climate and energy security goals.

    Already, the United States is working bilaterally with countries such as China and India to advance power sector transformation and smart grid technologies, energy efficiency, and Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage.

    We are also engaged in many multilateral initiatives.

    Through the Clean Energy Ministerial, we are engaging our national laboratories to provide in-depth technical expertise to pursue new global opportunities to leverage the potential of advanced energy technologies including carbon capture, utilization, and storage, and nuclear energy.

    Through our work with Power Africa, we have catalyzed some $60 billion in energy investments that will provide modern energy services for roughly 300 million citizens across Africa by 2030.

    And through the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, we are working with island states to identify cost-effective options for using advanced energy technologies to diversify and strengthen their power systems and increase energy access.

    Of course, we know that each country will need to determine the appropriate energy mix based on its particular circumstances, taking into account the need for energy security, promotion of economic growth and environmental protection.

    In that context, we want to support the cleanest, most efficient power generation, regardless of source.

    Beyond energy, the United States will continue to help our partner countries reduce emissions from forests and other lands, to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to respond to natural disasters.

    Our Sustainable Landscapes programs are helping partners to protect well over 2 million square kilometers of forests and other landscapes, reducing more than 300 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions, while enhancing sustainable development, generating local livelihood opportunities, and protecting biodiversity and water resources.

    U.S. government technical agencies also continue to help partners improve their capacities to monitor and report on terrestrial carbon through the SilvaCarbon program. SilvaCarbon has helped countries conduct forest inventories, develop maps of forests and other ecosystems, and worked to include forests and other landscapes in national greenhouse gas mitigation strategies and targets.

    In sum, the United States intends to remain engaged with our many partners and allies around the world on these issues, here in the U.N. Framework Convention and everywhere else.

    Thank you.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'The Value of Student Exchanges to Developing Countries — and the U.S.'

    The Value of Student Exchanges to Developing Countries — and the U.S.

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 11:00am EST by Grace Lang

    USAID’s student exchange programs prepare students to be leaders in their country’s development. But they also bring benefits to American students, faculty and communities. 

    When students travel to another country to study as part of an exchange program, the benefits don’t just accrue to the individual student — communities across borders gain from the experience.

    USAID funds student exchanges between institutions in developing countries and U.S. colleges and universities. The students who come to the U.S. gain knowledge and skills they can use back home, which in the long run can result in higher employment, enhanced productivity and a stronger economy in their home country.

    The U.S. benefits from these exchanges, as they enhance intellectual debates with American students and help generate innovative ideas for tackling global issues. Financial benefits to U.S colleges, universities and local communities are also considerable: international students studying here contributed over $35.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

    Student exchanges also lead to a broader understanding of development issues — like containing Ebola and Zika; building a broader genetic base for food security; forecasting and notifying citizens of potential natural disasters such as tsunamis and hurricanes; sharing new technologies; promoting democratic principles; and learning conflict resolution skills.

    During federal fiscal year 2016, USAID provided critical training and exchanges for more than 3.3 million foreign nationals. The majority of them were trained within developing countries, though more than 73,000 were selected to receive strategic training in neighboring countries or in the U.S. Scholars who arrive in the U.S. come with a plan for putting their skills into action once back home in their own country.

    Here are some examples:

    In Ukraine, where there is limited or no access to transportation and infrastructure for people with disabilities, Natalia Osaulenko sought to ensure disabled children are able to integrate into society.

    After participating in a USAID-funded program, Natalia opened the Rehabilitation Center for Children with Disabilities in Romny, the first to exist in a rural area of Ukraine.

    Natalia Osaulenko, exchange student from Ukraine: “The main purpose of my time in America was to find modern rehabilitation methods for children with severe disabilities.” / USAID

    Natalia Osaulenko, exchange student from Ukraine: “The main purpose of my time in America was to find modern rehabilitation methods for children with severe disabilities.” (USAID photo)

    Natalia traveled to Detroit, Michigan, to participate in a USAID student exchange. “The main purpose of my time in America was to find modern rehabilitation methods for children with severe disabilities,” she said. Upon returning to Ukraine, “the first thing we did was introduce new teaching methods for children with disabilities who have severe speech problems.”

    While in Michigan, Natalia visited Wing Lake School, which serves students in Oakland County who have severe cognitive impairment and severe multiple impairments. She also organized a bake sale with the Union of Ukrainian Women of America in Ann Arbor to raise funds to open a speech therapy school back in Ukraine.

    “While in Detroit, Natalia made a positive and powerful impression on her professional colleagues in advocacy for people with disabilities,” said Marian Reich, executive director of the nonprofit organization Global Ties Detroit, a USAID partner.

    USAID_3.png

    Student exchange benefits: Eric Danquah takes a pigeon pea and white yam cropping system back to Ghana. (Photo courtesy of Eric Danquah)

    In Ghana, small-scale farmers who grow white yams face two main challenges: higher production costs from having to stake the crops, and the need to search for new land after the crop strips the soil of nutrients. Eric Danquah, a Ghanaian doctoral student at Michigan State University’s Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, set out to solve these problems.

    Eric, who benefits from a USAID program to develop agricultural scientists, is researching whether pigeon peas and white yams could be combined into a single and complementary cropping system. He discovered that, not only do pigeon peas help fertilize the soil, their stems are thick enough to serve as stakes for the yams. He recently traveled back to Ghana to plant crops in research fields, demonstrating potential benefits to local farmers, who are likely to adopt a successful cropping system.

    Mary Adjepong, also from Ghana and pursuing a doctorate in human nutrition at Michigan State University, is working on problems of nutritional deficiencies and stunting in her home country.

    She is studying the role of essential fatty acids on the growth and brain function of Ghanaian children and hopes to inform her country’s policy makers on stunting interventions. Once home, she also plans to mentor young women and encourage them to take science-related courses.

    “These students are active on campus and in the community, where they bring a deeper level of understanding about different cultures to their colleagues and friends, professional organizations, houses of worship, shops, sporting activities, and many other areas,” said Anne Schneller, co-director of the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development program at Michigan State University.

    “We often talk about the benefits the students gain from this experience, but benefits are definitely felt in the U.S.” — Anne Schneller
    USAID_4.png

    Venera Fusha, exchange student from Kosovo: “We want to encourage a shift in mindset, and we want to have people thinking about entrepreneurship.”

    In Kosovo, Venera Fusha sees entrepreneurship as a viable career option for everyone at the University of Prishtina.

    After participating in a leadership program through USAID and receiving an MBA in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise from Colorado State University, she co-founded VentureUP at the University of Prishtina to help students become entrepreneurs.

    Her time at Colorado State University was also beneficial to U.S. students.

    “International students bring global points of view, cultural diversity and shared purpose to U.S. campuses,” said Mark Hallett, senior director of International Student and Scholar Services at Colorado State University.

    “These connections with American students and faculty engender cooperation and progress on the transnational challenges facing the world — economic, environmental and international relations,” he said.

    About the Author: Grace Lang serves as the Division Chief for Higher Education, Youth Workforce Development, and Training within the USAID Office of Education.

    Editor's Note: This entry is orignnally appeared in USAID's 2030: Ending Extreme Poverty in this Generation publication on Medium.com.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: END Wildlife Trafficking Report Submitted to Congress'

    Collected Department Releases: END Wildlife Trafficking Report Submitted to Congress

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 10:30am EST
    Media Note Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
    November 16, 2017

    The Department of State has submitted the first annual report to Congress as required by the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016.

    Wildlife trafficking remains a serious transnational crime that threatens security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, long-standing conservation efforts, and human health. The U.S. government is combating this illegal trade at home and abroad by targeting three strategic priorities: strengthening enforcement; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife; and building international cooperation. Wildlife trafficking is one of four areas highlighted in Executive Order 13773, signed by President Trump on February 9, 2017, calling for a comprehensive and decisive approach to dismantle organized crime syndicates.

    The Act directs the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce, to submit to Congress a report that lists Focus Countries and Countries of Concern, as defined in the Act. Each Focus Country is a major source, transit point, or consumer of wildlife trafficking products or their derivatives. Being identified as a Focus Country is neither a positive nor negative designation. Many Focus Countries have taken significant steps to combat wildlife trafficking, including in partnership with the United States. A Country of Concern is one whose government has actively engaged in or knowingly profited from the trafficking of endangered or threatened species. The United States looks forward to continuing dialogue with both Focus Countries and Countries of Concern to identify steps to thwart transnational organized crime engaged in wildlife trafficking.

    The 2017 Focus Countries identified are Bangladesh, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam. The 2017 Countries of Concern are Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Laos.

    For more information, contact Tory Peabody (PeabodyVW@state.gov) and follow the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs on Twitter @StateDeptOES.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: Initiative To Address Homegrown Terrorism Launch Event Held in Valletta, Malta'

    Collected Department Releases: Initiative To Address Homegrown Terrorism Launch Event Held in Valletta, Malta

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 10:10am EST
    Media Note Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
    November 16, 2017

    The United States and the Kingdom of Morocco, under the auspices of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and in partnership with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, launched a global initiative to address homegrown terrorism on November 15–16, 2017.

    ISIS’s prolific use of social media has expanded its reach throughout the world, allowing the group to direct or inspire adherents, including those who have never stepped foot in a conflict zone, to commit acts of terrorism in their own countries. The homegrown terrorism threat is growing as ISIS attempts to compensate for the loss of control of territory in Iraq and Syria by encouraging and directing attacks elsewhere, including by leveraging foreign terrorist fighters relocating from the conflict zone. Recent attacks in Barcelona, New York, and Manchester, show no country is immune to these terrorist attacks.

    To address homegrown terrorism, the initiative’s launch brought together over 70 government officials, law enforcement officers, academics, and non-governmental representatives from 25 countries. The participants discussed the trends and issues associated with homegrown terrorism, and highlighted available tools and programs to address this threat. Participants reviewed ways to improve information sharing, both within and among governments, and examined prevention and intervention programs. This initiative will result in non-binding good practices for policymakers and practitioners that will highlight comprehensive and integrated approaches to preventing and detecting homegrown terrorists.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: Secretary Tillerson Hosts the Ministerial on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa'

    Collected Department Releases: Secretary Tillerson Hosts the Ministerial on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 10:03am EST
    Notice to the Press Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
    November 16, 2017

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will host discussions with foreign ministers or their representatives from the African continent, including the African Union Commission Chairman, in Washington, D.C. on November 17, 2017. The discussions will be based on three themes: trade and investment, security, and good governance. This meeting will advance the U.S. agenda, working with African partners, to promote a shared commitment to open markets; free and fair trade; democracy and the rule of law; and effective responses to global terrorist threats. This meeting also builds on President Trump’s working lunch with African leaders in September at the UN General Assembly.

    The opening session and the family photo session will be open to the press.

    For Opening Remarks at 9:45 am in the Loy Henderson Conference Room: Pre-set time for cameras: 8:30 am from the 23rd Street entrance. Final access time for writers and stills: 9:15 am from the 23rd Street entrance.

    For the Family Photo at 11:30 am in the Dean Acheson Auditorium: Pre-set time for cameras: 10:45 am from the 23rd Street entrance. Final access time for writers and stills: 11:15 am from the 23rd Street entrance.

    Media representatives may attend these events upon presentation of one of the following: (1) a U.S. Government-issued photo media credential (e.g., Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center), or (2) an official photo identification card issued by their news organization, or (3) a letter from their employer on official letterhead verifying their current employment as a journalist.

    Additionally, they must present an official government photo identification card (i.e., U.S. driver's license or passport).

    For more information, please contact AF-Press@State.gov or the State Department’s Office of Press Relations at 202-647-2492.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

  • Permalink for 'Q&A Series #2: When Women Do Better, Countries Do Better'

    Q&A Series #2: When Women Do Better, Countries Do Better

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 8:30am EST by DipNote Bloggers

    Women entrepreneurs have come up with extraordinary innovations that are transforming millions of lives around the world. In this series of blogs, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) introduce you to some of the women whose ideas they has supported. These women are having an outsized impact in the developing world — and beyond — proving that when women do better, countries do better.

    Second in the series is Rama Kayyali, co-founder of Little Thinking Minds, a children’s education company that creates engaging digital Arabic literacy tools to improve language acquisition, fluency and literacy — supplementing classroom learning.


    How did you come up with your innovation and how did you turn it into a business?

    My partner Lamia and I were frustrated with the lack of engaging Arabic educational content for our young sons. As professionals in the media and content space, we decided to create 20-minute videos that address preschool basics. We set up a company called Little Thinking Minds and the very simple videos we produced — some filmed in our backyards with our kids and their friends — became very popular (we have over 30 million views on YouTube). We then moved to app production, and now we create Arabic digital literacy and numeracy solutions for primary school children in both the public and private sectors.

    What struggles have you faced as a female entrepreneur? 

    At first, our biggest struggle was our lack of experience when it came to running a business. We then joined an incubator in Amman, Jordan, where we underwent boot camp training and countless mentorship sessions that were extremely helpful. Of course, trying and failing again and again also developed our business skills and taught us many lessons — from revisiting our business model to pivoting our direction to building the right team. Our struggles today are mostly funding related as we want to reach more children and more schools while developing new products.

    What advice would you give to girls who dream of becoming entrepreneurs when they grow up?

    Go for it! It is liberating and exciting and frustrating and stressful and the most fulfilling thing we did personally and professionally.

    What’s been the most gratifying part of this work for you personally?

    Seeing students totally engaged in reading while using our literacy app, smiling, reading aloud, feeling proud of their improvements and confident in their classrooms.

    Photo courtesy of Rama Kayyali

    Photo courtesy of Rama Kayyali

    What advice would you give institutions like USAID that want to help entrepreneurs like you succeed?

    In our region, there are many challenges when it comes to starting your own business and we need all the support we can get. Although the sector is finally beginning to grow, there needs to be a push in all directions to accelerate this growth, encourage the young to take risks, be innovative and disruptive, to fail and try again, without having any restrictions.

    Follow USAID on Twitter and Facebook as we head to the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit Nov. 28–30 in Hyderabad, India, where women entrepreneurs and their role in fostering economic growth will take center stage.

    Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared in USAID's 2030: Ending Extreme Poverty in this Generation publication on Medium.com.

  • Permalink for 'At the TCS NYC Marathon, Volunteering Is Global'

    At the TCS NYC Marathon, Volunteering Is Global

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 8:26am EST by Lauren Aitken

    The TCS New York City Marathon is the biggest one-day sporting event in the world, attracting over 51,000 runners from more than 125 countries from around the world. So naturally, the largest group of volunteers are international as well. This year more than 1,400 students, au pairs, and interns on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program volunteered on race day, making them the largest and most diverse group of volunteers at the marathon for the third year in a row.

    A Natural Fit

    The TCS New York City Marathon has long been an international spectacle, and race organizers say that having an international volunteer base aligns with the mission of the marathon. “Our runners come from over 135 countries,” said Marcia Tyler, Director of Event Staffing and Volunteer Operations at the New York Road Runners. “You see the J-1 volunteers and what they bring. It’s just so much a natural fit.”

    The J-1 participants bring a unique element to the cheering sections at fluid stations by showing support for runners around the world. Not only are runners thankful for the refreshment, they appreciate seeing a piece of home, whether it be their flag or cheers in their local language. As Thabiso Tjatjie, a J-1 participant from South Africa, said: “I saw South African runners, and I screamed, ‘Wooo! South Africa!’ It was very cool.”

    These moments proved to the volunteers that what they were doing was more than holding cups of water. “You feel needed,” said Elisa Brunner, an au pair from Germany. “You are just one person, but with a group you can change something. Even though you are one person of 10,000, you can change something.” 

    J1 Volunteers Water NYC Marathon.jpg

    J-1 program participants hand out refreshments and cheer-on marathon runners. (State Department photo)

    Beyond those running, American volunteers benefit from interacting with the international J-1 volunteers. “They bring different perspectives, different cultural ideas, ideologies, philosophies, and they share them with their fellow volunteers,” said Mike Schnall, Vice President of Community Engagement Initiatives for the New York Road Runners. “It’s wonderful because we get to learn about them and where they come from.”

    Helping Others to Run: Community Engagement and Volunteerism

    The TCS New York City Marathon is an event that leans on community engagement and volunteerism. Over 10,000 people volunteer for the marathon — setting up, handing out refreshments, cleaning, and most of all: cheering on the runners. Through volunteering, J-1 participants experience that culture.

    “People say Americans are individualistic. It’s not true in a sense,” said J-1 participant Vuyani Maduna from South Africa. “Even though they are individuals, they still believe in community. Volunteerism brings a sense of community. You are responsible for your neighbor and your neighbor is responsible for you.”

    Running for a Cause

    On the course, J-1 participants see an American culture of philanthropy up-close. In fact, some J-1 participants had the opportunity to run in the race themselves, raising funds for people in need. One of those participants was Laura Helbig from Germany, an au pair through the J-1 program, who ran the marathon alongside her host mom, Candice Nielsen.

    J1-Exchange-Volunteers-NYC-Marathon.jpg

    Laura Helbig (Au Pair, Germany) and Candice Nielsen (Host Mom, Wisconsin) gave remarks at a State Department reception the evening before the marathon. (State Department photo)

    Laura and Candice ran to raise funds for Kids First Foundation, and at the start of the race had raised over $1,000. Laura said raising funds like this in Germany is possible, “but it’s uncommon,” she said. “I like having that spirit here: that people help out. There’s strong community, there’s volunteerism, and donating.”

    Laura and Candice initially bonded over their love of sports and running during the interview process for Laura to join the family as an au pair. Candice, who has run marathons before, encouraged Laura to use this opportunity to run her first marathon, to push herself and support a good cause.

    Running is Unifying

    As flags plastered to runners’ uniforms were zooming by during the race, flag garlands fluttered above the fluid stations where J-1 participants cheered on runners. The energy, camaraderie, and sense of unity were undeniable.

    “Running unites the world,” says Schnall, “Whether you’re in the race or you’re a spectator, we’re all celebrating the human spirit, human accomplishment. The J-1s make that possible. They help [runners] get through the 26.2 miles. They really are energizing and provide that extra push to get past the finish line in Central Park.”

    Volunteers had similar sentiments, describing the day as “unforgettable” and “once-in-a-lifetime.” Lorenzo Gomez, J-1 participant from Colombia, said: “It’s the best volunteer experience I’ve had since I came to the United States.” We expect that when these J-1 participants return home, they will bring this experience with them, along with a renewed enthusiasm for volunteerism.

    To learn more about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, visit [j1visa.state.gov] and follow @J1exchanges and #RouteJ1 on Twitter.

    About the Author: Lauren Aitken is a social media manager in the Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Office of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

    Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.

  • Permalink for 'November 16, 2017'

    November 16, 2017

    Posted: November 16th, 2017, 4:05am EST by 209

    Proceedings of

    HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

    Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Met at 9:00 AM

    [kjm]

    Journal approved.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Brown (D), MD led the House in the Pledge of Allegiance.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One Minutes

     

    1. Hartzler (R), MO (Guest Chaplain)
    2. Hice (R), GA (Constituent Tribute)
    3. Carbajal (D), CA (Tax Reform)
    4. Walberg (R), MI (Tax Reform)
    5. Brown (D), MD (Tax Reform)
    6. Bilirakis (R), FL (NIH Funding/Alzheimer’s)
    7. Ruiz (D), CA (National Park Service Fee Increase)
    8. Fitzpatrick (R), PA (Constituent Tribute)
    9. Velazquez (D), NY (Tax Reform)
    10. Thompson (R), PA (Tax Reform)
    11. Napolitano (D), CA (Tax Reform)

     

    H.R. 1 - Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

     

    Debate (cont’d) – 2 Hours      9:19 AM

     

    1. Nunes (R), CA
    2. Jenkins (R), KS
    3. Levin (D), MI
    4. Holding (R), NC
    5. Lewis (D), GA
    6. Bishop (R), MI
    7. Thompson (D), CA
    8. Curbelo (R), FL
    9. Larsen (D), CT

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Members were advised to direct their comments to the Chair.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    1. Blumenauer (D), OR
    2. Hensarling (R), TX
    3. Kind (D), WI
    4. Chabot (R), OH
    5. Pascrell (D), NJ                                                        [jjs]
    6. Walker (R), NC
    7. Doggett (D), TX

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chair admonished members to avoid engaging in personalities with the President.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    1. Duncan, John (R), TN
    2. Davis, Danny (D), IL
    3. Buchanan (R), FL
    4. Higgins (D), NY
    5. Cramer (R), ND
    6. DelBene (D), WA
    7. Kelly, Mike (R), PA

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chair admonished members to direct their remarks to the Chair.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Message from the Senate received (passed S. 807 – Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act).

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    1. Chu (D), CA
    2. Renacci (R), OH
    3. Sewell (D), AL
    4. Messer (R), IN
    5. Lewis (D), GA
    6. Yarmuth (D), KY
    7. Rice, Tom (R), SC
    8. Lujan (D), NM
    9. Marchant (R), TX
    10. Sanchez (D), CA
    11. McHenry (R), NC
    12. Crowley (D), NY
    13. Estes (R), KS
    14. Clyburn (D), SC
    15. Brady (R), TX
    16. McMorris Rodgers (R), WA

     

    Chair declared the House in recess at 11:10 AM, subject to the call of the Chair.

     

    The Chair reconvened the House at 12:30 PM.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    H.R. 1 - Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

     

    Debate (cont’d)           12:31 PM

     

    1. Young (R), AK
    2. Neal (D), MA
    3. Brady (R), TX
    4. Scalise (R), LA
    5. Hoyer (D), MD
    6. McCarthy (R), CA
    7. Pelosi (D), CA                                                           [jjs]

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chair admonished members to address their remarks to the Chair.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    1. Ryan (R), WI

     

    On passage:

    Neal (R), MA asked recorded vote - 1:31 PM

     [637]

     

    YEAS 227      NAYS 205

     

    PASSED                     1:49 PM

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chair admonishes those in the galleries to avoid demonstrations of approval or disapproval.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Unfinished Business

     

    H.R. 3109 - "Sr. Chief Ryan Owens Post Office Building" Designation Act

    On susp. of rules & passage (2/3):

     

    PASSED - VOICE                 1:51 PM

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chair announced the Speaker’s appointment of Comstock (R), VA to the U.S. Capitol Preservation Commission.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chair announced the Democratic Leader’s appointments to the Frederick Douglas Bicentennial Commission.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Roe (R), TN asked u.c. that when the House adjourns today it meet at 10:00 AM on Friday.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One Minutes

     

    1. Gianforte (R), MT (GOP Tax Cuts)
    2. O’Halleran (D), AZ (Small Business Saturday)
    3. Hill (R), AR (GOP Tax Cuts)
    4. Jackson Lee (D), TX (Constituent Tribute)
    5. Wilson, Frederica (D), FL (Vote)
    6. Garrett (R), VA (GOP Tax Cuts)
    7. Cohen (D), TN (GOP Tax Cuts)
    8. LaMalfa (R), CA (Constituent Tribute)
    9. Payne (D), NJ (GOP Tax Cuts)
    10. Foxx (R), NC (National Bible Week)
    11. Cardenas (D), CA (GOP Tax Cuts)
    12.  Budd (R), NC (Bermuda Loophole)

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Special Orders - 2:12 PM

     

    1.  Gohmert (R), TX (Obamacare)

     

    Message received from the Senate (agreed to the conference report to accompany H.R. 2810 – National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2018).

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The House adjourned at 3:14 PM until 10:00 AM Friday.

  • Permalink for 'Collected Department Releases: Eighth Anniversary of the Death of Sergey Magnitskiy'

    Collected Department Releases: Eighth Anniversary of the Death of Sergey Magnitskiy

    Posted: November 15th, 2017, 6:45pm EST
    Press Statement Heather Nauert
    Department Spokesperson Washington, DC
    November 15, 2017

    We honor the memory of Sergey Magnitskiy, who died on November 16, 2009, while in custody in a Moscow prison. An investigation by Russia's Presidential Human Rights Council found that Magnitskiy had been severely beaten in prison, and members of the Council said his death resulted from beatings and torture by police officials.

    Magnitskiy uncovered a vast tax fraud scheme perpetrated by Russian officials, and was imprisoned by those whose crimes he uncovered. Russian authorities have failed to hold those responsible for his death accountable and instead, in recent months appear to be increasingly propagating conspiracy theories designed to distract attention from the crime.

    In honor of Magnitskiy’s extraordinary courage, we continue to support efforts to hold those responsible for his treatment in prison and subsequent death accountable, including implementation of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.


    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.