Symposium Report 2011- Immigration

For the first time ever, more people live in cities than in rural areas and people are living a truly urban life. The European Union is the closest experiment to open borders and works because the levels of disparities amongst the EU nations are not as wide as the disparities between Europe and North Africa.

Although exact figures are often thought to be unbelievable, it is estimated that there are approximately 214 million international migrants in the world today- this estimation does not include internal migrations. It should be noted that migrant numbers are not included in this statistic. Instead, migration scholars, such as Khalid Koser prefer to say that 3 percent of the total global population are international migrants, which is believed to be a more accurate statement. One in 35 people is an international migrant, constituting the population of the fourth biggest nation in the world, Indonesia. This may seem like an intimidating thought to think that an entire nation of migrants exists, but Koser asks the question, “Why is the forces of migration is so strong do the other 97 percent of the Earth’s population not migrant?”

Statistics can often be misinterpreted due to the differing definitions of migration terminology. The above stated numbers do not take into consideration the estimated 740 million internal migrants, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre.

Despite the current economic crisis, migration has not slowed down significantly. In fact, during the financial crisis unemployment amongst migrants was not as large as to be thought because average citizens were thought to rather accept welfare check than take jobs they thought were beneath them. However, the quality of the life of migrants decreased.  Also during the global financial crisis, flows of irregular migrations decreased, but stocks of migrants increased for fear that after unemployment if they left they would not be able to come back.

Almost 50 percent of migrations now are woman migrants; this used to be due to reasons of marriage, whereas now women are seen as the breadwinners. The feminization of migration is due to many countries’ liberalization where women have a more important role in society, the need for services stereotypically taken on by women such as cooking and cleaning, as well as prostitution and human trafficking.

Migrants are often placed into the categories of legal or illegal, by those who use migration as a political tool, especially for re-election, whereas humanitarian organizations refer to migrants as documented and undocumented or irregular migrants. The term irregular migrants can be used in circumstances where irregular circumstances occur that cause the migrants to leave their documentation behind. Refugees are not included in the estimation of migrants. Contrary to popular thought most migrants come in legally and then become considered ‘illegal’ because they have overstayed their visas.

The term ‘voluntary migration’ has been highly contested. If a family’s home has been destroyed by a natural disaster, they are considered a forced migrant, but if a member of a family leaves the country to find work in another country because their country of origin is lacking openings, are they then considered to be ‘voluntary migrants.’ There is no simple solution to this question, typically governments see these individuals are voluntary migrants, whereas humanitarian organizations are more liberal in interpreting the events that led to migration.

Remittances are the money made by the international migrants that is sent back to the migrants’ families. The top three nations to receive remittances are India, China and Mexico and 50 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP is dependent on remittances. The 2010 flow of remittances is estimated to be about $316 billion. Although some governments may state that the amount of remittances leaving the country in which the money was made, hinders the economy, only 10 percent of remittances are sent back to the migrants’ country of origin and the other 90 percent is sent in the country the migrants are living in to pay for food, rent and other immediate expenses. The danger of remittances stands in that a cultural dependence of this flow of money is established and migration looks more appealing.

International migration law is not recognized as a sect of international law, although it is an emerging field. The UN convention of 1990 does not refer to admission of migrants, but only the legal status of migrants. One of the principles governing migration is that migration and expulsion of ‘aliens’ is a part of the sovereignty of a country. Domestic jurisdiction is an evolving concept and is thought to be better to use than sovereignty in legal terms. States no longer enjoy absolute discretion and must adhere to certain grounds of rejection of aliens, being: a threat to security, not meeting financial requirements, having a contagious disease, a lack of documentation, a prior violation of immigration laws, war criminal status or having a criminal record.

Many fallacies exist about the state of migrants, such as they are unhealthy and bring disease into the country. According to the IOM, this is false, as the strongest and healthiest individuals are those that migrate for work purposes. In fact not only are most migrants healthy, but migrants often underutilize health services and do not take away from public health services, as thought by some. The World Health Organization has reported that Australia has the most access to health care for migrants, whereas Qatar has the least access to health care. Unfortunately the most cited reason for migrants being rejected from the health care system is the government thinks it is too costly.  Switzerland claims that migrants receive full health equality services in hospitals, but migrants are forced to use a different entrance to the hospital, as it is inappropriate for them to enter through the same entrance as a ‘regular’ citizen of the country. The IOM has launched a campaign to educate both migrants and doctors as to what their rights are, as both parties have been fed different stories by governments and are unaware of what their rights and obligations are.

Governments spend billions of dollars a year on making policies concerning migration laws and then approximately three years  later these laws are scrapped and replaced with new ones. Koser believes these funds would be better spent on policy evaluation. When discussing migration, civil society is excluded from official migration dialogues and the legitimacy of representation when one representative represents a thousand organization flounders as a list of three of four concise priorities are difficult to comprise. Private sector is also not involved in migration dialogue, even though they are often a driving force of migration.

Solutions for the models for global governance of migration should exhibit more formal cooperation between states, engage in more robust and regional global dialogues, consider cooperation between regional consultative processes, as well as institutional reform, which would include the creation of a new agency, designating a lead agency from the existing agencies bringing the IOM into the UN system, considering a leadership or WO model. The obstacles that lie within the global governance of migration is that this may impede on a nation’s sovereignty, cause institutional inertia, increase North vs South relations and exhibit a lack of consensus amongst advocates.

The statistic of refugees does not include asylum seekers, internally displaced peoples or stateless persons. In order to be a refugee, the ‘refugee’ must be recognized by the host nation. There are two different ways to determine refugee status. There is the individual procedure and examination and the collective determination of a population. Legally speaking, ‘asylum seeker’ refers to a person who has not been officially recognized as a refugee and the definition of a refugee is based on the well-founded fear of persecution.

The refugee problem was first addressed in May of 1945 in response to the Holocaust and World War II. Within this timeframe there were 40 million refugees and internally displaced people, 13 million expelled Jews, 11.3 million forced labourers and 100 million refugees beyond the parameters of Europe. UNHCR was created during 1949-1950, to replace the IRO that was founded in 1947, as of January 1951. UNHCR’s effectiveness is punted against its non-political mission, as helping those in need is seen by opposing sides as a political act. However, the UNHCR’s objective is not to ask how or why the refugee situation is caused, but rather how to provide basic services for refugees, such as food and shelter.

After the WWII refugees, the next group of refugees came from Hungary in 1956, where the UNHCR helped resettled 200,000 refugees in thirty countries and repatriated 10 percent of the refugees. The next largest UNHCR operations to date occurred in Bangladesh (1970-1971) and then followed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Afghanistan is the single biggest refugee population in the world, being affected by the invasion of the Soviets, the Taliban rule, the “War on Terror,” as well as other internal conflicts. Interestingly enough, the United States of America is the single biggest donor to the UNHCR. Afghan refugees account for 40 percent of all the refugees in the world, not including Palestinian refugees. Proportionally Somalia has the biggest percentage of refugees and Colombia has the most IDPs, approximately three million. These IDPs receive aid from UNHCR although their legal status is less clear than that of refugees. Another group of people of concern to the UNHCR are settled refugees, who still have access to assistance programs.

The principle of non-refoulement is guaranteed by Article 33 of the Geneva Convention which states that a country cannot force people to go back to nation of persecution if they still feel a sense of persecution.

The right of asylum is not acknowledged as an individual right and falls under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 40: the right to seek and enjoy asylum. This however is not an obligation for a state to provide asylum.

In 1951 the UN convention relating to the status of refugees has contributed to providing durable solutions by the UNHCR to refugee situation including voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, local integration into the country of asylum and resettlement to a third country. However, the UNHCR has been shy about repatriation in the past and usually leaves it up to the IOM to handle repatriation as they are not a U.N. entity.

UNRWA- The United Nations Relief and Work Agency is short for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Special attention should be given to the word ‘Palestine,’ as there were refugees who lived in Palestine but were not of Palestinian descent, including Turks, Armenians and other minority groups. UNRWA is the only U.N. organization set up to face a specific refugee problem for a specific group of people, with more than 30,000 employees. UNRWA has a budget of $700 million, as well as a $250 million emergency fund. The United Nations brought in Gordon Clapp,  the former Director of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the USA to help shape UNRWA. UNRWA is not responsible for finding a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, but rather they are to provide schooling and humanitarian aid to Palestine refugees, the longest standing refugee issue in modern history.

In concern with human security in world politics, the concept of a ‘traditional’ security of ‘national’ security erodes from the traditional concept of safeguarding the population and core values of a nation. The three main reasons why this concept erodes with time is due to a shift from interstate to intrastate wars, a fragmentation of global or common threats and fragile or failed states’ security threats that appear above and below the state level. 

In a survey in South Sudan, citizens were asked if they felt a sense of human security for the months to come. A majority of the surveyed said yes, but their definition of human security was equated with food security. This in mind, an interdisciplinary method is needed for human security. Human security catalysts are often economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security factors. Environmental security is needed in cases where the well-being or survival of the community is being threated due to human activity that threatens the environment or in cases of environmental change or degradation caused by conflict.

Constructivism in a method for studying social phenomena that focuses on the role of ideas in shaping our identities and gives meaning to the world around us. Constructing security interests involves identifying the threats that weapons pose, the enemy and humanitarian intervention, keeping in mind that threats are a part of an ideological issue. Securitization on the other hand is when threats are socially constructed by powerful actors and accepted by a relevant audience and identification of an existential threat that takes an issue beyond the usual rules of policies and calls for urgent extreme or extra-legal measures to respond, for example: The war on terror or the war on drugs.

While new forms of multilateralism to address human security have been established, such as the Human Security Network, regional responses to human security and the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development have strengths such as their crossregional representation abilities, ministerial level initiatives and the taking on of cutting edge issues such as landmines and child soldiers, there are also weaknesses- they are too dependent on individual leadership, lack a consensus on issues of hierarchy and have bad timing and  weak follow through.

The objective of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development is to raise global awareness of the negative impact of armed violence and support the reduction of armed violence. There are about 700,000 deaths annually due to armed violence with 40-50,000 as a result of direct conflict, homicides at 490,000 and 200,000 as a result of indirect conflict deaths. Excess mortality rates are used in these armed violence statistics. There are at least 875 billion weapons held worldwide with more than 2/3 in civilian hands, ¼ with armed forces, few with police and less than 1% with armed groups. New issues on the human security agenda tackle issues such as landmines, cluster munitions, small arms and light weapons, child soldiers, civilian protection and conflict goods.

What is humanitarian action? According to the OECD/DAC in 2007 is to save lives, alleviate suffering, maintain and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of emergencies and should be consistent with principles of human dignity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Humanitarian action is so relevant because it is easier to send money in contemporary times, it is foreign policy by default, media attention and it is a way to contain refugee issues.

To be a humanitarian is to have a transnational concern to help persons in exceptional distress while humanitarianisms propound loft goals and hide deep contradictions. Intervention on the other hand is the interference, forcible or supported by force, of one independent state in the internal affairs of the other.

There are for categories in categorizing humanitarianism. The first being the Dunantsists, who are strictly impartial, neutral and independent. Then there are the Wilsonians who are broadly tuned with foreign policy of their home country and have a liberal democratic peace agenda. Thirdly there are Faith Based, such as Islamic relief and fourthly there are the Solidarists who seek justice, human rights or development in addition to the objective of humanitarian assistance. There  is also a difference between development aid and humanitarian aid, as development aid is transformative, long term and utilizes local leadership and humanitarian aid has a conservative agenda, is short term and requires external intervention. There are five different action modes, three of which fall under the guise of protection: denunciation, mobilization and persuasion and the other two being support and substitution.

Actors of humanitarian intervention are those who have political interest and won’t refer to situations, such as Libya, as civil war. If it were to be referred to as a civil wall, humanitarian intervention crisis argument then collapses.

What is terrorism? Terrorism are a universal problem, social phenomenon, a strategy, a tactic, technique, crime, resorted to by the weak against the strong, psychological and physical weapons and are elusive in their goals. Terrorism has a long history starting with the Zealots in the year 60 AD with the Jews in Palestine against the Romans, then the Assassins in 1090-1270 in Persia and then the French Revolution in 1792-1794. However, modern terrorism is born in the 1860s by means of  an organic relationship between terrorism and technology, being triggered especially by World War I. And religious terrorism does not start until the1980s.

The initial terrorist mode is the destruction of the most harmful persons in government and the punishment of official lawlessness., but there are difficulties in defining terrorism because it is a disputed and nebulous concept, the definition must stay away from the avowed reasons of the terrorist, yet take them into account, the direct targets of violence aren’t necessarily the main targets and the problem at the crossroads of ideology. Hence, the US Army, FBI and Department of State do not have a standard, agreed upon definition of terrorism, in fact the United Nations have been meeting for 20-30 years concerning devising a standard definition. Despite the inability to define terrorism there are main agreed upon features of terrorist attacks: they are organized, deliberate and systematic, politically motivated, the usage of force, indiscriminately targeting of civilians, meant to communicate a problem, aimed at a symbol, conducted by state or non-state actors, part of a campaign and to achieve strategic direct or indirect results. 

Executive Summary Sample

Executive Summary for the Week of 16/5/2012 – 23/5/2012

Egypt: Elections

All of the Think Tanks summarized below hold very different viewpoints concerning the same issue, the Egyptian elections; although, there are some statements that hold true throughout all of the think tanks. All believe that this is a very important time for Egypt and that the outcome of this election is very detrimental, possibly even predictive of the future of Egypt. The pieces primarily examine parliament and the role of the Islamists in Egypt. The Brookings Institution conducted a poll that is telling of what Egyptians want and see in their future, which shown alongside the Gallup poll can be disconcerting. The Gallup poll shows a more pessimistic view of the current political climate, whereas The Brookings Institution is more optimistic, this however can be attributed to the types of questions asked, as well as the depth of the questions. Both the Center for American Progress and Washington Institute for Near East Policy examined the role America can play in the transition process. The Center for American Progress, being more progressive, took a centrist approach to reinstating ties with the new Egyptian government; it was also the only report to provide more detailed background knowledge about the candidates. In contrast, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, under the guise of fostering stability, took a very American Exceptionalist approach to the elections, assuming the worst and even regretting the inability for the Obama administration to get involved. The second report from WINEP also indicates concern with the ability of Egyptians to monitor the elections for fairness and vote rigging. The Plofchan report from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, although not the first to talk about the Salafis and The Muslim Brotherhood, it was the first to chronicle, however briefly, the beginnings of the split between the two groups, as well as state some of the differences in beliefs amongst the two. Lastly, the Council on Foreign Relations report was the only report to put a face to a people, speaking of the obstacles Egypt may face and providing a more in depth look at what many Egyptians may be feeling.

Think Tank: Brookings Institution

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 21/5/2012

Author: Shibley Telhami

Type: Report

Title: What Do Egyptians Want? Key Findings from the Egyptian Public Opinion Poll

Address: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2012/05/21-egyptian-election-poll-telhami

The Brookings Institution has conducted a poll surveying the Egyptian public about political preferences, leaders and regional issues, during May 4-10, 2012 in light of the first presidential election. The Brookings Institution places great emphasis on the importance of the inaccuracies of probable predictions, as there is no analytical model of voting behaviour as of yet. Egyptian voters have also shown a difference in criteria by which they judge parliamentary and presidential candidates.

Poll Results:

  • Abul-Fotouh led the polls with 32%, followed by Mousa (28%) then Shafiq (14%), Morsi and Sabahi at (8%).
  • In parliamentary elections, 24% a favoured political party determined their vote, whereas in presidential elections, personal trust is a determining factor for 31%.
  • Christians supported Mousa the most, with 43%, as well as voters outside of cities with 31% of the vote.
  • Abul-Fotouh led among university graduates with 35% and among youth, under age 25, with 36%.
  • 54% believe Turkey to be the model reflection in terms of Islam in politics, followed by Saudi Arabia with 32%
  • A majority of those polled hold very unfavourable views of the U.S., with 68% and 73% support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.
  • 66% of Egyptians support Sharia as the basis of Egyptian law, but 83% believe Sharia should be adapted to modern times.
  • A majority of Egyptians admired the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, with 63%. When asked to include Egyptian leaders, Erdogan fell to 15%, with Sadat at 35% and Abdel Nasser at 26%.
  • Brokering Middle East peace and establishing a Palestinian State ranked highest (66%) in regards improving U.S. favourability, followed by stopping military and economic aid to Israel as 46%.
  • While 55% believe there will be no lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis, 46% would like to maintain the peace treaty with Israel and 44% would like to see it cancelled.
  • The two countries that pose the biggest nuclear threat are Israel (97%) and the U.S. (80%).
  • Egyptians have been in support of the rebels against Assad and the Syrian government, but only 18% wish to see external military interventions, 15% support a Turkish Arab military intervention and 43% wish to see no military intervention.

Think Tank: Center for American Progress

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 23/5/2012

Author: Brian Katulis

Type: Brief

Title: Previewing Egypt’s 2012 Presidential Elections

Address:  http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/05/egypt_elections.h tml/#1

This report by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank dedicated to public policy research, provides a brief description of Egypt’s first democratic presidential election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, as well as recommendations for the American government to restore and reinforce ties with the new Egyptian government. In addition, the brief lists and describes the presidential candidates.

According to the report, it is believed that “no candidate will receive more than 50% of the vote,” which would lead to run-off elections in mid-June between the two top candidates. By June’s end a new president will be sworn in for a four-year term and military rulers will hand over power to the new government. However, the transition is still incomplete as a new constitution is to be written and their remains questions over:

  • The economy- Candidates have addressed unemployment and inflation, but have yet to address public-sector debt, the currency crisis, and energy and food subsidies.
  • Security, Law and Order- The drafting of the new constitution has been halted due to Egypt’s disunities over the identity of their new political system; ie. The role of Islam in the government and legislation.

The drafting of the constitution is set to take six-months to draft, although it could take longer to get approved and gain public support. The new constitution may also address a checks and balances system, as well as the role of parliament. The role Egypt is to take in the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional security is also a source of debate amongst the candidates.

The report suggests that the American government conduct a “major interagency review of its Egypt policy.” This review will prepare the U.S. administration for dialogue with the new Egyptian administration later this year. The dialogue should consist of:

  • A renegotiation of “basic terms of the relationship.”
  • Enhance bilateral relationship through common interests.
  • “Build a more stable foundation for U.S.-Egyptian bilateral ties.”

Results of these dialogues would redefine ties and include more parts of the Egyptian government that were not included in past years.

Egypt Presidential Candidate Profiles

  • Amr Moussa- He served under the Mubarak regime as Egypt’s Foreign minister, as well as the secretary general of the Arab League. His platform consists of a centrist political strategy. He has been labelled as a remnant of the Mubarak regime. He is known for his anti-Israel and America statements and has campaigned as the “alternative to Islamist candidates.”
  • Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh- His candidacy is opposed by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is an Islamist activist and “would implement Sharia as a formal legal code.” His platforms are “populist economics and “people first” economics.” He served on the Muslim Brotherhoods decision-making council for twenty-two years. He has the support of leaders from the Salafi Nour Party.
  • Ahmad Shafiq- He has served as prime minister, and air force commander under Mubarak, causing him speculation amongst “revolution minded voters.” His platform is to “restore law and order within 30 days of being elected.” Public perception of him has been negative. He is running as an “alternative to Islamist candidates. “
  • Hamdeen Sabbahi- He has nationalist ideologies, basing his campaign on criticism of the U.S. and Israel. He founded social and political organizations and worked as a journalist, in which he was arrested for his “public confrontation” with former President Sadat concerning “rising food prices.” He did not serve under the Mubarak regime and is not an Islamist. He has proposed an alliance with Iran and Turkey and severing ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • Muhammad Mursi- He is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Leader. He has served in Egypt’s Parliament and is the Brotherhood’s leading spokesman. He plans to amend the peace treaty with Israel “to create a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and have Israel recognize the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees.”

Think Tank: Council on Foreign Relations

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 21/5/2012

Author: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh

Type: Expert Brief

Title: A New Presidential Authority in Egypt

Address: http://www.cfr.org/egypt/new-presidential-authority-egypt/p28308

This brief takes a more optimistic approach to the Egyptian elections, summarizing the possible obstacles for the newly elected official, obstacles pertaining to religion in politics, and while also providing a look at the voters’ demands and desire for dignity.

While Egypt has witnessed violence, protests and authority turnover in the last sixteen months, it has empowered Egyptians to take part in their political system. Current polls show “a clear majority of Egyptians continue to hold the military in high regard,” although not nearly as many Egyptians “support a military-dominated political system.” The SCAF has been contested by the public for the “Selmi principles,” granting “autonomy from elected civilian officials,” as well as for their “application of the State of Emergency.”

The Muslim Brotherhood votes are split between two candidates, Aboul Fotouh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood, and Morsi, who has been behind in the polls. Despite the parliament being a Brotherhood majority, the Brotherhood is not leading in the presidential polls, possibly due to a Brotherhood announcement against running in the presidential race, that was later followed by Morsi’s presidential bid.

Egyptians demand more accountability of politicians. Although economic strife “helped create an environment of misery,” in years prior to the uprising, “Egyptians were demanding freedom, justice, and dignity when they brought Hosni Mubarak down.”

One thing that may delay the transition process will be the role of Islam in politics. Within that lies the issue of whether the Salafis or the Islamists are to speak for Islam. It is anticipated that whomever wins the election must negotiate between different religious groups. If the organised labour parties can emerge in large-scale, they can be very influential in the economic and social policymaking.

Think Tank: Gallup World via The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 18/5/2012

Author: Mohamed Younis and Ahmed Younis

Type: Report

Title: Support for Islamists Declines as Egypt’s Election Nears

Address: http://www.gallup.com/poll/154706/Support-Islamists-Declines-Egypt-Election-Nears.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=World

According to the Gallup poll, spanning from July 2011 until April 2012 the Islamists have seen a steady increase, followed by a sharp decline in overall support as well as in the areas of prime minister appointment and constitution drafting.

  • July 2011 saw Muslim Brotherhood support at 17%, steadily increasing and peaking at 63% in February, then sharply declining to 42% in April.
  • In July 2011 Salafi support was at 5%, steadily increasing and peaking at 37% in February, then sharply declining to 25% in April.
  • The Nour Party saw 5% support in July, peaking at 40% in February and declining to 30% in April.
  • The Freedom and Justice Party saw 15% support in July, peaking at 67% in February and declining to 43% in April.
  • In February 2012, 62% of Egyptians felt comfortable with parliament writing the constitution, in April 2012 that percentage fell to 44.
  • In February 2012, 46% of Egyptians believed the party that wins the most seats in the parliament should appoint the prime ministers. Egyptians supporting the newly elected president appointing the prime minister next summer was 27%.
  • In April 2012, 27% of Egyptians believed the party that wins the most seats in the parliament should appoint the prime ministers. Egyptians supporting the newly elected president appointing the prime minister next summer was 44%.
  • In February 2012, 62% of Egyptians thought a parliament influenced by the Brotherhood was a good thing; 27% thought it was a bad thing.
  • In April 2012, 36% of Egyptians thought a parliament influenced by the Brotherhood was a good thing; 47% thought it was a bad thing.

This dissatisfaction can be attributed to the economic decline and bouts of violence. The transition has been twisted by power struggles within parliament, as opposed to reversing “financial decline and working to hold former regime members accountable.”

Think Tank: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 22/5/2012

Author: Eric Trager

Type: Policy Analysis

Title: Presidential Elections Will Not End Egyptian Instability

Address: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/presidential-elections-will-not-end-egyptian-instability

This WINEP analysis focuses on American interests within the Egyptian elections and states that given the economic situation of Egypt and the lack of clarity in the role of a new president, the elections will not provide stability in Egypt, but could further instability. Trager states that Sabahi is considered a favourite amongst expatriate voters, and while Mousa appears to be leading in the polls, there is no anticipated winner. With 75% of the parliament being Islamists, “ongoing instability has damaged the Islamists’ popularity and raised the profile of former regime candidates,” such as Shafiq, who has sought the votes of former Mubarak supporters.

The analysis concentrates on the shift from an American friendly regime to the current stance of the candidates that express anti-Western platforms, with the exception of Shafiq who is the only candidate who is not anti-Western or pro-Sharia. 

Fair elections will not likely cause stability as the parameters of the role of the newly elected president are undefined, as the new constitution has not been drafted. The proposals to allow the SCAF “to retain absolute powers in reviewing its internal affairs, including its budget,” and the ability of the president’s power to dissolve parliament, are likely to “ignite a severe confrontation between the military and the Islamists.”

The Obama administration has not declared support for any candidate. Washington should insist the SCAF conduct the elections fairly and to “follow a credible constitutional process,” otherwise mass protests could occur. Such protests could suppress stability restoration. Concerned that Islamists may play a role in an uprising against the SCAF, Washington should “use its $1.3 billion in military aid as leverage,” to ensure proper SCAF administration.

Think Tank: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 22/5/2012

Author: David Schenker

Type: Policy Analysis

Title: Egyptian Elections: Beyond Winning

Address: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/egyptian-elections-beyond-winning

This policy analysis of the Egyptian elections by WINEP, often criticised for being pro-Israel, discusses the credibility and speculation surrounding the actual voting process in Egypt. Concern is raised over an Islamist sweep within the new government, as Islamists are the majority of the new parliament. WINEP believes that regardless of the election process, a group of Egyptians may not accept the results if their candidate does not win.

Egyptians have been to the voting polls four times in fifteen months, causing concern that Egyptians may be losing their enthusiasm to vote. The constitutional referendum in March 2011 saw 41.2% of eligible voters vote, but Shura Council elections in January and February 2012 saw only 6.5% of voters in the first round and 12.2% voters in the second. About 54% of voters cast their ballots for the People’s Assembly elections. The high turn out rate is thought to be because some Egyptians believed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would fine them for not voting. The threat of SCAF imposing an “interim constitution” could discourage voters or encourage voters to vote.

The Carter Center, the only American based democracy promotion organisation currently in Egypt  “will not be allowed to observe any single polling station for more than thirty minutes.” Thousands of Egyptians have volunteered to monitor the polling stations.

WINEP believes that in the event Shafiq or Mousa win, there may be “claims of SCAF fraud,” accompanied by mass protests. The key to stabilizing Egypt is in the credibility of the voting process.

Think Tank: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 16/5/2012

Author: Thomas K. Plofchan III

Type: Report

Title: Egypt’s Islamists: A Growing Divide

Address: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/islamists/egypt’s-islamists-growing-divide

This report chronicles and examines the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi rivalry from the fall of Hosni Mubarak until more recently into the elections. The two organisations originally held similar positions on issues after the fall of Mubarak, although began to divide mid-2011.

Three Salafi organisations, The Nour Party, being the biggest, joined the Brotherhood led Democratic Alliance that soon dissolved afterwards. The Salafis then formed the Islamic Bloc that won approximately 27% of the parliament vote, despite political inexperience. “The Nour Party won 111 of the 508 parliamentary seats, making it the second largest part in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament.” The Brotherhood won 40% of the vote. Both parties have stated little interest in forming an Islamist alliance in the parliament.

The media has recently depicted the Brotherhood in a negative light due to entering the presidential candidacy after stating they wouldn’t. The Salafi party supports Aboul Fotouh, an expelled Brotherhood leader, while the Brotherhood’s Morsi is behind in the polls.

Salafis “oppose the use of alcohol and exposure of women’s bodies,” in regards to tourism standards; The Nour Party encourages cultural tourism contrasting to resort tourism and the Brotherhood “have distinguished between Egyptians and foreigners traveling in the country.” The biggest contrast deals with the role of Sharia in the new political system. The Brotherhood supports the principles of Sharia in legislation, whereas the Salafis support Sharia judgment.

Remembering Rachel Corrie on the anniversary of her death

contact@ifamericansknew.org

 

 

Dear Friend,

On this day 13 years ago, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers driving a military bulldozer. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. According to numerous witnesses and photographic documentation, she was killed intentionally.

Representative Brian Baird from Washington State introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the federal government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Rachel’s death. The bill was co-sponsored by 77 representatives, but Congress took no action. 

The Corrie family then filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc in 2005, alleging that Caterpillar supplied Israelis with bulldozers even though they knew they were being used to commit war crimes. The lawsuit was dismissed.

The Corrie family’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was also dismissed. The court acknowledged that the U.S. government paid for the bulldozer that killed Rachel, but said that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on the “political question” of U.S. military aid to Israel. 

In 2010, the Corrie family filed a lawsuit in Israel against the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli officials prevented the physician who had examined Rachel’s wounds from testifying in the case. The court ruled that Rachel was responsible for her own death. In 2014, the Corrie family’s appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel, and the IDF was absolved of any wrongdoing.

Keep Rachel’s message alive by sharing her story with your community. We have cards, a booklet of Rachel’s letters, and posters available for download and order.

#SupportPalestineInDC2016

U.S. taxpayers send Israel over $3 billion a year in military aid with virtually no strings attached, and now the prime minister of Israel wants $5 billion a year.

The majority of Americans oppose taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but virtually all Democratic and Republican members of Congress continue to supply Israel with more and more weapons each year (Palestinians do not receive military aid).

American taxpayer dollars have enabled Israel to continue its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian land and deny Palestinians basic legal and human rights. With our money, Israeli forces have killed over 9,200 Palestinians as well as numerous international journalists and peace activists since 2000.

We are driving the violence in this region, and we must stop it.

This weekend, AIPAC kicks off its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump scheduled to give speeches. We hope you will join us this Sunday at noon at the White House to protest AIPAC’s influence on American politics and support Palestinian human rights. Your voice is urgently needed!

As always, thank for your commitment to peace, justice, and equality for all people.

The If Americans Knew team

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Buzz to the Qamar #pets

What was the name of your first pet?

When I was a kid my parents had fish, but apparently I overfed them and killed them. I want to say it was something I did out of ignorant kindness, but I also have a distinct memory of catching all the fish and putting them in a pot on the stove. I don’t remember them floating, so I’m assuming this was prior to making the tank into a fishy graveyard. It’s just one of those flash moments in my memory that I can’t explain.

When my brother was younger he really wanted a pet. He wanted a cat, but my mother and I were very allergic to cats at the time. We even went to a shelter to see if maybe we could make it happen. My brother was maybe 7 at the time. He fell for a kitty that had one bad eye and all these health problems and my mom knew she would be stuck dealing with the tough stuff like kitty meds and claw clipping. There was a big cryfest where we all felt horrible but ultimately let it go.

To appease my brother’s nurturing side, my mother got my brother a gerbil, which my brother named Buzz. I wasn’t really into it so much. It was very much my brother’s thing. I think he named it Buzz after The Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear. I was more of a  Mr. Potatohead fan. We even had this little plastic ball that we would put Buzz in and he would explore the house. I don’t know what the lifetime of a gerbil is, but he didn’t live that long. It was so  long ago but my concept of time may be a bit off. We maybe have a picture or two of him somewhere in our photo albums (This was the good old day when you had to develop photos in order to see them). I remember Buzz breaking his leg somehow and ultimately dying in the end. I don’t know if there was anything we could have done for it. I was pretty young, Buzz wasn’t my responsibility. I know my mother took the brunt of the responsibility in dealing with Buzz and his tank cleaning.

After that, My brother decided he wanted a rabbit. This rabbit was mostly white from what I recall, we used to let her hop around the house from time to time. We kept her in my brother’s room and oh man is keeping a rabbit smelly. I don’t know if it was the pee or the poop or that type of wood shaving type stuff. I’m not sure if they came up with better products in recent years to trap that smell, but it was rough. Lots and lots of cleaning was needed to keep that cage clean, much of the responsibility my mother took upon herself again. I don’t know how my brother slept in such a smelly room. I guess people do lots of crazy things for love. My brother, bless him, loves his animals. Anyways, like I said, we used to let this bunny jump around the house. One day, she died with very little notice. She was fine. The assumption we made was that she must have eaten something she shouldn’t have when we weren’t looking. As many of you know, bunnies can’t throw up. So if they eat something bad for them, they’re unfortunately done for. We remember her having a funny red mark around her mouth when she died. So maybe that’s what it was?

After that , my brother was upset, so we go him another rabbit. This rabbit was black and white. Like the other rabbit, I don’t remember what my brother named her or him. At the time, I wasn’t much of a pet person so I never took that much interest. I don’t even remember if it was a boy or girl bunny. This bunny, we were more careful to not leave something she could eat and then kill herself with. But we did let her play around in our backyard during the warmer seasons. She did nibble quite a bit on our radio sound system wires, which my father wasn’t fond of. But it was easily fixable and she seemed to enjoy bouncing about in the grass. She would always come back to her cage when she was done. We had some wild bunnies in the yard, in the beginning we think she met them and they scared her or maybe something else scared her because she would run back to her cage for dear life. But I think her and the wild bunnies made nice, because SHE RAN AWAY WITH THEM one day. Yeah at first we thought she was lost. We looked for her. We kept her cage outside. She never came back so we thought maybe she was eaten by another animal until we saw her one day frollicing about with the other wild bunnies. I never realized that domestic bunnies could become wild bunnies. I didn’t think she had the skills for it. But what do I know? Hopefully she lived a  happy life with the other rabbits.

During that time, my brother was away staying at my grandmother’s for the summer. And my brother’s obsession for cats returned. Mainly because my grandmother’s area has a lot of stray cats. My grandmother’s domestic helper (because my grandmother is disabled) brought a stray kitten for my brother. She was adorable. A grey and white long hair, but again she was very much my brother’s, I still would become super congested around her. I didn’t really get my brother’s love for animals at the time. Not that I hated animals, but I didn’t necessarily have that nurturing quality at the time. Long story short, the kitten ran away. It was really sad, my brother was sad and that made me sad.

When the summer was over, my dad decided to get my brother some fish, to hopefully fill that void. But whoever sold my dad the fish should have told him that one of the fish needed to be kept in a separate tank because it will eat all the other fish and rip them to shreds. I’m led to believe, with my little knowledge of fish now, is that it was a Betta fish. Mystery solved I guess. The remaining warrior fish lasted for a while. I guess the normal year or so. Who knows how long it lived in the store before we bought it.

Then one day, while my mom was driving home from work, she found a turtle in the middle of the road. My mother is afraid to touch animals, so she used sticks she found on the street and a box in her trunk to try and bring it home. Man was that a surprise. We didn’t really have the things needed for a turtle, so we kept it outside in this squared off part of a yard. We left food and water  for it. The season must have been spring or summer, because it was nice out. We wouldn’t have left the turtle out in bad weather and we checked on her or him throughout the night. We woke up the next day and the area looked broken into. So either a vicious animal ripped into the area or this turtle unleashed its mutant ninja skills and escaped.

Fast forward 6+ years and my brother is driving down the road– he sees a sign for kitten adoptions and he spontaneously drops in and gets a kitty. She was adorable, the sweetest. I wish we had taken a picture of her. She was a ginger tabby, which someone told me is rare to have a female ginger kitty. But the timing was really bad. Pets are a commitment. She wasn’t litter trained and I think she was ripped away from her mama a bit too soon. She definitely still needed mama’s milk. All three of us in the house were working and I was working three jobs at the time. My brother was working long hours and my mom was really allergic to her, so she wasn’t getting the proper attention. I tried to play with her and keep her company when I had the time, but she was always so scared and hiding. She wasn’t litter trained yet, so she was peeing everywhere. And I’m still allergic to cats, so I felt like a physical miserable mess. It was a bit too much for us at the time, but our hearts were in the right place. We had to do the responsible thing.  My brother, heartbroken, had to return her to the woman he got the kitten from. Such a sad sad day. But hopefully, she was able to find a forever home that was better equipped to deal with such a precious furbaby.

Anyways, a few years later, my brother convinced my mother to get a cat and that this time things would be different. We’d get a healthy adult cat that’s already litter trained and we had more time for her. My mama did some research, and by some, I mean a lot of research. She decided we needed to have a female cat because she read that they were less aggressive than male cats. I don’t know how true that was, but my mama is an important part of our decision making process so we. of course, complied.  My brother wanted a long hair cat or a chubby cat, but my mom got the final call and she decided a short haired cat would be best for her allergies (she was right.) Our cat has never bothered or gotten to my allergies at all. They went to a cat colony in the area they were living in at the time. A cat colony differs from a typical animal shelter because the cats aren’t in cages and they’re free to roam, unless they’re sick, just got fixed, are preggers or are new mommies. Then they get put in separate room to be taken care of appropriately. So my mom and brother go in and apparently it smells bad. That many cats, it has to be a bit overwhelming. My mother was afraid of cats, even though she thinks they’re cute some of them were very aggressive. My brother had a list of cats he’d seen on their site, but all the cats he liked were either sick or taken already.

But then our luck changes. Out pops a little 9lb Russian Blue adult cat about 2 years old at the time. She came sneakily skulking out of the closet, which was a surprise to everyone working there, because apparently, the entire time she has been there Helen (that’s our kitty’s legal first name) has hid in the closet. My family automatically fell in love with her. She’s gorgeous, sweet, silly, playful, quiet, loving– everything you could ever ask for in a kittycat. We took her home and poor Helen, who we renamed Qamar (which means ‘moon’ in Arabic),  was scared silly. The story that the Cat Colony assumes happened was that she was a house cat that was allowed to go outside. But one day, around age 1, she came back pregnant and like many young mamas to be, her family wanted nothing to do with it. So they kicked her out. The colony found her on the streets with her babies in the cold winter. They took her in. Let her have time with her babies until they were ready to be on their own. Her babies got adopted quickly because they were just as gorgeous as she is. But there were many much more dominant cats and larger cats at the colony that bullied our little Qamar and that is why she stayed in the closet all day, everyday.

It’s fate. We wanted a sweet kitty and a sweet kitty came out to find us. Bless her a million times over. She’s the best. When my brother had his surgery, she sat next to him all night. When my mama is upset, she paces with her back and forth until she calms down. And me, she lets me cuddle her and love her. She’s addicted to turkey, like she’ll fight you for some turkey. She loves gravy and goes wild over catnip. You can often find her running out of the house to explore her outside surroundings, only to come back immediately when she realizes she doesn’t like it– I think she finds it overwhelming. She loves to play catch and tears apart any dangling strings she can find. She loves playing with flowers and cheap toys. She doesn’t go anywhere near expensive toys, she’s all about the Dollar Tree. She loves her kitty treats, but hates it when we tell her to get off the table. She didn’t start speaking to us until a year ago, and when we first got her she would have horrible nightmares. She has stolen all of my hair ties and I can’t be mad at her for it. She has a bit of a hard time connecting the dots– she still can’t figure out how food goes from a plate in my hand to the floor.  She used to love sleeping on her cat bed, but now she enjoys sleeping on the couch or on a blanky in the closet. She also loves sitting on a sunny windowsill. She sometimes falls off the couch which sends me into a panic, but she shakes it off. She has the sweetest, softest purr, but the moment she sees a dog she growls and sounds like a mini-lawn mower. If she hears a dog bark, she will hide. There’s clearly some bad blood there.  She’s the love of my life and my soul mate. 😛

Peace and Pistachios,

Heba

xoxo

REMARKS: Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein At the Release of the 2014 Report on International Religious Freedom

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 REMARKS

Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein

At the Release of the 2014 Report on International Religious Freedom

 

Press Briefing Room

Washington, D.C.

October 14, 2015

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  I want to thank the Secretary, not just for his remarks; he made a number of commitments of support for this work when I came on, and he has more than fulfilled those commitments.

The Annual International Religious Freedom Report provides an important opportunity for the United States to highlight an issue that continues to be a foreign policy priority for the Administration, documenting how, where, and when the universal right of freedom of religion or belief was violated or protected in every corner of the world.

Through the immense effort of countless State Department officials, particularly our knowledgeable and tireless staff of the International Religious Freedom Office and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in Washington, as well as dedicated staff in each one of our embassies across the globe, the 2014 report maintains the high standards of objectivity and accuracy for which we strive.

A little over a year ago, I stood at a podium next to Secretary Kerry here in this room when he announced my nomination for the position of Ambassador-at-Large, and during my 10-month tenure I have been gratified by the support from both the Secretary and the President in implementing so many of the priorities I identified in my confirmation hearing and my swearing-in speech.  We have since increased the number of staff in my office, allowing us to expand our country monitoring work and better address a variety of issues – from the importance of religious freedom and countering violent extremism to the terrible global impact of blasphemy laws.  Simultaneously, we have expanded foreign assistance programs that strengthen religious freedom. 

I’m also deeply appreciative of President Obama’s and Secretary Kerry’s support for the appointment of Knox Thames as special advisor for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia; I’m delighted that he’s able to be with us today.  Knox will build upon our already intense efforts on behalf of these minorities over the past year, including our work to protect Yezidis in those early days and weeks on Mount Sinjar in Iraq and the Assyrian Christian communities of the Khabur River area of Syria.  Knox will help guide the U.S. Government-wide efforts to promote conditions in these countries that will allow members of displaced minority communities to be able to return home.

Since January, I’ve also worked to build deeper partnerships with foreign governments to advance religious freedom as these global challenges require a global response.  Thanks to the leadership of my Canadian counterpart, Ambassador Andrew Bennett, we have forged an intergovernmental contact group bringing together likeminded nations to devise common strategies to promote and protect religious freedom for all.

Now, during my tenure I’ve noticed certain enduring truths.  In many countries, religious freedoms flourish; people are free to choose their faith, change their faith, speak about their faith to others, teach their faith to their children, dissent from religion, build places of worship, worship alone or in fellowship with others.  In such societies, denominations and faith groups organize as their leaders and members see fit.  Interfaith cooperation flourishes, religious communities contribute significantly to the social welfare and serve as a moral compass to their nations.

Yet in far too many countries people face daunting, alarming, growing challenges on account of their beliefs.  In countries where once proud traditions of multi-faith cooperation, positive coexistence was the norm, we have witnessed growing numbers of religious minorities being driven out of their historic homelands.  And in too many countries, prisoners of conscience suffer cruel punishment for their religious beliefs and practices.  This report gives a voice to all those around the world who are seeking to peacefully live their lives in accordance with their conscience or religious beliefs.

In the pages of this report, we strive to put a human face on this incredibly important human right that touches so many people across the globe and remains central to the identity of the American people.

A number of trend lines stood out in this year’s report.  The first one, the Secretary has already mentioned, is the single greatest challenge to religious freedom worldwide, or certainly the single greatest emerging challenge, and that is the abhorrent acts of terror committed by those who falsely claim the mantle of religion to justify their wanton destruction. 

In both Iraq and Syria, Daesh has sought to eliminate anyone daring to deviate from its own violent and destructive interpretation of Islam.  Targets include non-Muslims, Shia, Sunnis alike.  It has displaced individuals from their homes based on their religions or ethnicity.  Similarly, Boko Haram has killed thousands in both indiscriminate violence and deliberate attacks on Christians and Muslims who oppose its radical ideology.  It has subjected the peoples of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, to unspeakable acts of terror, sexual violence, abductions, and fatal attacks on places of worship.

Secondly, the impact of blasphemy laws and apostasy laws in countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, and in a number of others – as well as laws that purport to protect religious sentiments from offense.  The United States uniformly opposes such laws which are used to oppress those whose religious beliefs happen to offend the majority.  Such laws are inconsistent with international human rights and fundamental freedoms, and we will continue to call for their universal repeal.  The existence of such laws has been used in some countries as pretext to justify violence in the name of religion to create an atmosphere of impunity for those resorting to violence and/or leads to false claims of blasphemy.

Third, repressive governments routinely subject their citizens to violence, detention, discrimination, undue surveillance, for simply exercising their faith or identifying with a religious community.  We see this dramatized by the plight of countless numbers of prisoners of conscience.  We remain deeply committed to seeing such individuals freed everywhere in the world.

In my travels to Vietnam, I saw firsthand how religious groups are forced to undergo onerous and arbitrary registration process to legally operate.  As Vietnam considers amending its religion laws, we stand with the country’s religious communities in calling for the easing of such restrictions.  And in Burma, Ambassador Bennett of Canada and I spoke out forcefully together against a series of discriminatory laws banning interfaith marriage and restricting conversion.

Many governments have used the guise of confronting terrorism or extremism to broadly repress religious groups for nonviolent religious activities, or by imposing broad restrictions on religious life.  Russia continues to use vaguely formulated anti-extremism laws to justify arrests, raids on homes and places of worship, and the confiscation or banning of religious literature.  Tajikistan bans people under age of 18 from participating in any public religious activities, supposedly on the ground that exposure to religion will lead youths to violence.  Chinese officials have increased controls on Uighur Muslims’ peaceful religious expression and practice, including instances of banning beards and headscarves. 

And a word about China:  During my visit in August, I found that despite widespread, continuing government abuses and restriction, many places of worship were nonetheless full and flourishing.  In areas of the country where the government’s hand was lighter, faith-based social service and welfare agencies operating homeless shelters, orphanages, soup kitchens, made highly positive contributions to the wellbeing of their society.  We’ve urged the Chinese Government to use that as a model of what can work nationwide.  But far more often restrictive policies still stifled religious life, preventing Chinese people from experiencing such benefits.  This reality has only been exacerbated by the growing crackdown on human rights lawyers in China, including those seeking to work within China’s legal system to enhance religious freedom.  And this does include Zhang Kai, a peaceful, respected, Christian human rights lawyer who was detained just prior to a meeting with me and whose whereabouts remain unknown.

A fourth trend is the role of societal violence and discrimination, that which emanates not from the government itself but from other societal groups.  And the question is:  What does the government do to try and ameliorate the conditions that lead to such violence, and what does it do to protect harassed minority communities?  In Europe, many governments are struggling to cope with the aftermath of terror attacks such as those in France, Belgium and Denmark, along with increased anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim actions and sentiments.  As hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and others have fled into Europe in recent weeks, we urge governments to uphold their obligations for humane treatment of refugees and ensuring that individuals do not face harassment or discrimination on account of their Muslim faith.

Now, despite these many challenges detailed in our report, we also see governments and individuals working to improve their communities and societies.  Following the terror attacks in Copenhagen in February, thousands of people of different faiths formed in Denmark a human ring outside the synagogue where the murder occurred.  In September of 2014, Kyrgyzstan’s constitutional court ruled part of the country’s problematic religion law unconstitutional, a decision we hope will ease registration requirements for minority religious groups and enable members to engage in peaceful religious activities more freely.

After years of growing religious tensions and violence in Sri Lanka generated by hardline ethnic Buddhist groups, a new government has taken office and staked out a much more tolerant view of religious diversity.  Since that time, some of these tensions have noticeably eased. 

In closing, while the challenges are daunting, we are deeply inspired by the work of countless religious communities, civil society organizations, and individuals around the world working alongside us to ensure that their governments live up to their international commitments to protect freedom of religious and belief.  We dedicate our work to their struggle and continue to fight for a world in which every individual is free to live out the core of his or her conscience.

I’m now happy to answer any questions.

MR TONER:  Any takers?  Go ahead, David.

QUESTION:  You’ve sketched out a number of things that are going badly and a few things that are going well.  Is it possible to look at a global trend?  Are things better than they were when you took office or worse, globally?

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  If you look at the Pew reports that I believe are a year behind our reports, over the last several years there’s been a steady increase in the percentage of people who live in countries that are – that have serious restrictions on religious freedom.  And of course, as both the Secretary and I pointed out, the escalation of the violence perpetrated by non-state actors, often in the name of their interpretation of religion, is a new phenomenon that has really escalated in the last 18 months.  So on that level, there are trends that are deeply troubling.

At the same time, if you look and for – just take one example in Europe, and you look at the acts of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim activity that took place, across Europe leaders of the different countries and civil society leaders and religious leaders have all spoken out condemning these acts, taking steps to help prevent these acts, standing in protection of minority communities with many governments deploying either police or militia to protect endangered minority communities.  And we’ve seen enormous expansion of interfaith efforts on almost every continent to try and address the challenges.

So it’s hard to give you the sum between the dangerous and the encouraging parts of it.  This report doesn’t make those kinds of judgment.  It just states in facts what is happening in each and every country. 

MR TONER:  Barbara.

QUESTION:  Just to follow up the China situation, have the Chinese Government responded in any way to your questions about the detention of this Zhang Kai, I think his name is?  And also, what are the circumstances of the people who were detained around the same time?  And sorry – finally, how do you explain that balance or that kind of mixed message between religious – a certain amount of religious freedom or expression, but on the other hand increasing restrictions, especially when you were actually there?

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  So let me clarify what the situation was.  At the very end of our time in mainland China, these detentions took place.  One was of somebody – someone with a human rights legal background who had met with us to give the analysis that that person brought to bear on the subject, who was detained the next day in house detention. 

About 10 of the people from the community of Wenzhou – now that, I’m sure, many of you have read about.  That’s a community where there’s been an escalation of efforts to take down crosses from a few hundred churches, to dismantle some churches in Wenzhou.  And we wanted to meet with people there.  We were denied permission to actually travel there, but we were allowed to go to the capital of that province.  And that group of people – including three human rights lawyers, four pastors from the area, three or four other activists, a group of about 10 people – were all detained. 

Several of them have been released.  Several of them still face the possibility of charges.  And with Zhang Kai, who really is one of the most respected human rights lawyers in China, someone who has argued over and over again that they have to work within the legal system of China in order to win these battles and has proved very skilled at doing that, representing a range of religious groups, he and I believe one or two or the others are still in locations where we’re not sure where they are.  This is not an uncommon occurrence.  And on – our human rights bureau has reached out in all their encounters.  We’re trying to talk about these problems in a structural level.   We have continued to ask questions.  We will continue on this.  And we hope that we will get answers.

Just on one foot – again, the report doesn’t make the judgments about why these disparity of experiences, these encouraging signs and these deeply discouraging signs, live side by side in the same country.  It just sets out the facts and allows you folks to provide the interpretation. 

MR TONER:  Nicole.

QUESTION:  Thanks for doing this, Mr. Ambassador.  The report talks about a wave of anti-Israel sentiment in Europe in 2014 that crossed the line into anti-Semitism.  And I’m wondering if you could explain to us how you defined where that line was.  What constituted anti-Israel action or sentiment versus anti-Semitic?

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  We actually have a very brief paper on that.  If you’d like, we can provide that to you.  But just very quickly here, criticism of the public policy of any nation – Israel, the United States, China, a European nation, African nation, Asian nation – no matter what the nation is, that’s appropriate.  That’s part of the free marketplace of ideas and discourse. 

Where it has often crossed the line is when groups try to argue that Israel is an inherently illegal state and doesn’t have a right to exist as a Jewish state here and takes actions to de-legitimize those fundamental rights.  It comes – it’s right on the cusp of that line when it holds one country to different standards than it would hold any other country.  Normally we think of that as the denial of rights to a person that are given to other similarly situated people, or the imposition of obligations on a person not applied to other people.  We normally think of that as racism.  And this, in the minds of many, feels that when it steps over that line, that it constitutes anti-Semitic activity and not just anti-legitimate discourse about Israel’s policies.

MR TONER:  In the back.  Michele.

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  Hi, Michele.

QUESTION:  Hi, how are you?  When you look at what ISIS is doing in the Middle East, would you describe that as a war on Christians?  What more could the U.S. do to protect communities like that or to help resettle people here?  And then finally, what would you tell Russia about Bashar al-Assad’s record on protecting minorities in that country?

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  That’s a broad range of issues.  Let me try to do this quickly, working backwards.  The – Assad’s record is absolutely clear.  We have made that clear to the world.  I think there’s overwhelming consensus in the global community about the horrific abuses of human rights that the Assad regime has been engaged in.  And so Russia’s intervention doesn’t change what our message on that has been.

In terms of bringing people here, the President has announced an expansion in the number of refugees that we will be taking in.  It is presumed a number of those will include – of the expansion will include people from that – will include people from that region.

We have worked vigorously on the issue of protecting the minority communities.  ISIL is certainly targeting the Christian community, but is also targeting the Mandaeans, the Shabak, certainly the Yezidis that explicitly said it wanted to wipe out here.  So it is trying to decimate and eviscerate the presence of those very communities here.  And we know that if there’s going to be a possibility to bring them home, we know what the ingredients are going to be.  I’ve spoken on this publicly to a number of the major Christian groups who are concerned about this, but also the groups that are concerned about the – in meetings with the Yezidi, the Shia Muslim groups from the area who are affected by this as well.

That is, we need to sustain them where they are in place at a condition that they’re going to be willing to stay – mostly in Kurdistan – until ISIL’s presence is removed.  And we clearly need to remove ISIL’s presence for them to return home.  That means there have to be schools for their kids, there has to be better health care, there have to be job opportunities for their kids who are graduating school, et cetera.  And the United States is the lead factor in providing that kind of humanitarian aid.

Secondly, there needs to be a security system when they return home in which they can trust, because a lot of that trust was breached when ISIL came in.  And they need their own – the right to have their own effective defense forces that have to be integrated with the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.

Third, there has to be a restorative justice, a transitional justice system.  People go back to their communities; some of their former neighbors have taken over their businesses, their homes.  There has to be a system that will fairly adjudicate that and hold people responsible who assisted ISIL.

Fourth, at a macro level in Iraq, there has to be a change in the governance structures that allow those minority groups to have a real role in shaping the future of the country.  Prime Minister Abadi has made clear that that is his intent.  We see some of that represented in appointments that he’s made, and the United States is working with the Iraqi Government on that day in and day out.

And finally, there has to be an internationally engaged plan on the economic rebuilding so that people will have a sense of hope for the future.  We know what those ingredients are.  The United States, often together with the UN or other nations, are working on planning in this.  And that’s very important because if it were – we waited until ISIL was pushed out, it would leave a vacuum that chaos would potentially descend.

And so we know what needs to be done.  We’re working on those things – and pushing very hard – that will benefit the Christian community.  I mean, think about it.  There’s been a Christian community there for 1600 years.  Across the Nineveh plain, church bells have pealed for 1600 years.  Today they are silent.  And we are not going to rest until people have a right to live out their religious lives back in their home communities in accordance with their conscience.

MR TONER:  A couple more questions.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  On North Korea and on religious freedom and human rights in North Korea, in North Korea they detained many of the religions and the pastors for past years, then they are still in prisons.  So how – would you please tell us:  How many U.S. citizens still in the North Korean prisons?  Can you guess how many U.S. citizen pastors or religions or whatever citizens?

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  First, as you know, Korea remains a country of particular concern for us.  It is one of the worst violators of human rights in the entire world.  We have talked about that over and over again.  The countries of particular concern who were this past year continue this year.  I think everyone knows that list – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

Secondly, we continue – we don’t have direct relations, so we continue through international partners and by mobilizing these international coalitions to put continuing pressure for North Korea to ease its restrictions on religious freedom and to let every one of those prisoners of conscience – and there are far, far too many, and they often face brutal conditions in the prisons – to go.

And finally, the United States Government is always working, day in and day out, to ensure that its citizens who are imprisoned unjustly without due process and for the exercise of fundamental internationally protected rights are allowed to go free, and/or encounter a judicial system that does provide due process and fairness.  We do that as best we can through the international contacts with North Korea going on every day on an ongoing basis.

The question of how many, I actually don’t know the answer to.  The specific cases we can’t comment on.  American privacy laws protect us from – protect them from allowing us to talk about their situation, and they’re not in a position to give us authority and permission to do that.  So we can’t comment on the individual cases.

MR TONER:  Pam.

QUESTION:  In your outreach to countries to address religious freedom concerns, do you ever get pushback from governments who may view the idea of religious freedom as a Western concept?

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  We do, and it has been somewhat of a growing phenomenon.  Here – we therefore make it clear over and over again we are not trying to impose the standards of Western countries, of countries of any particular majorities – religious majorities – here, or American, European standards on any of these countries.  Almost all of these countries we’re dealing with are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Article 18 is quite clear about a robust application of religious freedom.  We regard these as internationally protected rights, and it is within that guise that we deal with it.

Let me just point out, however, that we respect the varied traditions of people up to the point it violates those international norms.  We try to engage with them on their terms to find ways to address what concerns they might have about defamation of religion, about attacks on religion, about the questions of what religiously would be – would constitute blasphemy by finding non-legal ways to deal with that.  The passage of UN Resolution 1618 is a prime example of that.  It enjoyed the support of the OIC in passing it.  It looks at non-penal ways to address some of these questions. 

And we have set up a very effective training program drawing on the Justice Department, the Homeland Security Department, and the State Department.  Working with other experts around the world, we’re out in other countries doing training programs about this, and the countries – it’s been a handful of countries we’ve done a test run on, and now we’re going to be expanding this in a much more global reach.  It’s one of the things that I’m focused on doing.  And that’s where we engage people where they are and try and bring them in ways to address their concerns within international legal norms.

MR TONER:  Really, last few questions.  In the back there and then Nicole.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Ambassador, for your time.  The Syria Catholic patriarch last week said that Christians in the Middle East feel like the West has abandoned them.  How do you respond, and how can this report help in their crisis right now?

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  Sometimes there are competing truths – two things that are absolutely true here.  There is a robust effort of the developed world – of the democratic world, excuse me – to help protect the Christian communities.  They are – all of the efforts that we’re doing in terms of supporting the humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees, of Iraqi refugees; of working with the Government of Iraq in the lines – along the lines that I was talking about in the international community manifest that.  Day in and day out there isn’t a single day that we are not doing more and more.  The – bringing Knox Thames, such a respected advocate of religious freedom – for those of you who don’t know Knox, he had been the director of policy and research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, widely respected in the field – who hit the ground running when he came on just within the last couple of weeks, he’s going to be working side by side with me and with our international counterparts and with every arm of our government that is doing programs, working on defense training and work with countries in the area here (inaudible) the intelligence communities, all of the human rights work that we’re doing here, to help really strengthen the work on behalf of these minorities. 

That’s one reality.  I mean, I could talk for hours about what is being done, the programmatic work that’s being done – the relief and humanitarian work, et cetera.  They’re in the middle of a horrific war situation.  Every day their lives could be imperiled.  There’s no magic button that can fix this.  It is – as the President has said, it is going to be long, steady progress here until we can reach the kind of goals that we want.  If you’re living there and you fear for the well being of your family every day, certainly you’re going to feel like the world isn’t doing enough about it.  It’s a paradox.  We recognize that reality.  We do everything we can to ameliorate that, to offer greater protection and to meet the needs of these communities, and we won’t cease doing so until they really are able to live in freedom in accordance with their conscience.

MR TONER:  Nicole, last question (inaudible) sorry.

QUESTION:  Does the State Department consider efforts by Western countries to ban the Muslim headdress or the Muslim covering for women as a repression of religious freedom?

And second, very quick, if you can.  Iran, Saudi Arabia – which one is more respectful of religious freedom?  Thanks.

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  Both of them, as you heard, are on the list of the countries of particular concern here and continue to be on that list, Nicole.  So we don’t make judgments about which are better and worse.  Both of those countries have structural, systematic, egregious violations.  Minority in Saudi Arabia – no one other than Muslim community can worship openly, can partake in their religious life openly.  Even when they do it privately, often they’re harassed and interfered with.  These are very serious challenges and problems.  In Iran, we have very serious problems as well.  Again, the Shia Muslim community – interpretation of Islam dominates the legal structure, the culture of the country.  Other Muslims find themselves – Mahdi Muslims find themselves in trouble; in the Baha’i community, systematically oppressed.  Almost every minority group faces restrictions and are discriminated against in one form or another. 

So they are both – have very serious problems.  Read the report; you would have to make the judgment yourself which is the worst here. 

QUESTION:  And the headdress issue?

 AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  Say again?

QUESTION:  The headdress issue?

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  Yeah – yes.  We have taken a position in our approach to this that exercise of freedom of religion and belief allows people to make determinations about what their appropriate re0ligious garb would be.  If women feel they have to have their heads covered, if Sikhs believe that they have to wear turbans, this is their right.  If Jews believe they have to wear yarmulkes, kippot to cover their head, this should be the determination that each and every person makes.  There may be circumstances in which there are compelling reasons – simply the need to identify someone or safety reasons – you can’t wear a turban working around equipment that could catch a turban.  If you got to wear a safety helmet, you got to wear a safety helmet. 

So accommodations should be made as far as possible.  Those exceptions are really few and far between.  We believe that people’s right to live in accordance with their conscience includes the right to use religious garb and religious dress.  We’ve been critical of other democratic countries as well as nondemocratic countries that have put such restrictions, and we hope in the future things will ease enough that – and will be seen in a different perspective that this restriction of religious freedom will be allowed to fade away.

MR TONER:  Thank you all, appreciate it.  Thank you, Ambassador. 

AMBASSADOR SAPERSTEIN:  Thank you.

# # #

[announce_onepalestine] FW: Press Release from Alkarama on Amer Jubran

***Please circulate***

We are forwarding the following press release from the Geneva based human rights organization Alkarama. The original can be found here:

http://en.alkarama.org/1896-jordan-human-rights-activist-sentenced-to-10-years-in-prison-after-unfair-trial-before-state-security-court

05 October 2015

Jordan: Human Rights Activist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison After Unfair Trial Before State Security Court

On 29 July 2015, human rights activist Amer Jubran was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the State Security Court following an unfair trial during which confessions extracted under torture were admitted as evidence. In view of this decision, Amer appealed to the Cassation Court, which has not considered his case yet. Following this, Amer’s friends and family sent a communication to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) in September calling upon the Jordanian authorities to release him immediately, as well as launched a campaign on his behalf.

Amer is a long-time activist for the Palestinian cause and an anti-war advocate who frequently expresses his political opinion on social media. After publishing articles criticising Israel’s policies against Palestine, on 5 May 2014 Amer was arrested by members of the General Intelligence Directorate of Jordan, an intelligence agency notoriously known for its sweeping powers to monitor public life in Jordan and its frequent use of torture and ill-treatment. He was kept in secret detention for almost two months, during which he was subjected to numerous acts of torture in order to obtain confessions, which would later be used as evidence during his trial. The acts of torture inflicted on Amer include 72-hour long interrogations, sleep deprivation, threatening his family, and severe beatings all over his body.

It is only two months after his arrest, on 27 June 2014 that his family was allowed to visit him for the first time for 10 minutes. In August 2014, Amer was charged with a series of terrorism-related offences, which included conducting “acts that threaten to harm relations with a foreign government.” On 29 July 2015, Amer was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labour, following an unfair trial before the State Security Court, a military court known for its lack of independence, as it is directly linked to the executive branch and its members are appointed by the Prime Minister. In prison, Amer currently fears that the Jordanian authorities will take retaliatory measures against him for speaking out about his case.

In view of these facts, Alkarama will raise Amer’s case before the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) in view of Jordan’s third review during the Committee’s 56th session, which will take place from 9 November to 9 December 2015. “Although Jordan is a party to the Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and has taken some encouraging legislative measures to put an end to torture – such as removing the term ‘illegal torture’ in Article 208 of the Criminal Code in January 2014 – violations of the right to physical integrity persist,” says Inès Osman, Legal Officer for the Mashreq at Alkarama. “The Jordanian special courts continue to rely heavily on confessions extracted under torture, which, added to their lack of independence, often leads to the arbitrary sentencing of people like Amer,” she continues.

Concerned over the systematic crackdown on dissent under the pretext of the fight against terrorism in Jordan, Alkarama calls upon the Jordanian authorities to:

  • Adjust the legal framework, including by amending the Antiterrorism Law to create an environment where the freedoms of expression, association and assembly are respected;
  • Abolish the State Security Court; and
  • Implement the obligations arising from the Convention against Torture (UNCAT).

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team at media@alkarama.org (Dir: +41 22 734 1008).

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TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security

 

 

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH JOHN P. CARLIN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

TOPIC:  UPDATE ON U.S. GOVERNMENT COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2015, 4:30 P.M. EDT

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center.  This is an on-the-record briefing on Department of Justice measures to combat violent extremism with Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin.  We’re very pleased to host him today.  I would like to ask, after his initial remarks we’ll go to Q&A, and please wait for the microphone and please identify yourself. 

Thank you.  Mr. Carlin.

MR CARLIN:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  At the Department of Justice, the National Security Division was the first new litigating division created in about 50 years.  And we were created in 2006 as one of the post-9/11 reforms.  And our number one mission, simply, is to prevent terrorist attacks here inside the United States.  And our mission, first and foremost, when it comes to ISIL is to prevent attacks against U.S. citizens here in the United States and abroad.  And we work in coordination with our law enforcement intelligence community partners and with countries around the world to ensure that we can disrupt terrorist actors before they commit those acts. 

This is a good week with UNGA in town and the Global Counterterrorist Forum to take a step back and talk a little bit less about our efforts to protect U.S. citizens and more about our responsibilities as global partners to prevent terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world.  We have a fundamental responsibility to prevent ISIL from having U.S. citizens join ISIL in its campaign to rape, to commit sexual slavery, and to murder innocent civilians, including children, as tactics.  And so together last year, when I was here in New York for these same events, we worked on the UN Security Council Resolution 2178, which was an unprecedented mandatory resolution for every country around the world to work to put laws on the books to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from their country from going to join the fight and also to make – take steps to keep them from returning to commit terrorist attacks once they left the battleground in Iraq or Syria. 

Since that resolution last year, we commend the over 20 nations that since last year have put new laws on the books that are specifically designed to combat the support for these foreign terrorist organizations either through actual citizens from their countries or from providing material or financial support.  And among those since last year, over three dozen nations have taken law enforcement actions, have arrested individuals before they could go join these foreign terrorist organizations. 

At the Justice Department we’ve provided assistance both in the legislation and as some countries try using these statutes for the first time.  And we’ve sent our prosecutors over the last year on countless trips to work hand-in-hand with foreign partners all over the world as they draft these new laws. 

We also house and support Interpol.  And since last year, when there was a commitment by countries at this very event – and in conjunction with 2178 and also with the Global Counterterrorism Forum that consists of over 30 countries, there was a new commitment to provide information to Interpol, which we house and support.  And since last year, that has resulted in six times the amount of information being shared, approximately 4,000 new profiles on foreign terrorist fighters, from over 45 countries.

And we recognize, to talk a little bit about what we face in the United States versus other countries as they face this foreign terrorist fighter threat, although the overall number some put at 25,000 or 30,000 individuals – and that’s higher than what we saw even at the height of the conflict in Afghanistan and the FATA – that when it comes to the numbers that are from the United States, our numbers are lower, particularly even compared to our Western partners.  And we have about – we estimate around 250 U.S. citizens who have either attempted to or gone over to fight or who have gone over and returned.  That number also includes those we’ve arrested.

Since about last year, we’ve brought criminal cases against 70 individuals.  Sixty of those individuals, it was for conduct related to either supporting foreign terrorist fighters or attempting to join the group.  The other 10 is a trend that we’ve started to see here in the United States since ISIL changed its tactics and called on individuals to commit terrorist attacks where they live, particularly in Western countries.  We have over 10 criminal cases brought to date of individuals inspired by ISIL or other terrorist groups to commit attacks here in the United States.  So between the 60 who wanted to join the foreign terrorist fighter groups and the 10 who wanted to commit attacks here in the United States, that’s how we have over 70 cases.

In terms of trends inside the United States, in almost every case social media is involved.  Unlike some other countries, we’re not seeing it in any particular geographic part of the United States nor confined to any ethnic group.  The FBI currently has open investigations in all 50 states, and we have brought criminal cases in 25 different jurisdictions to date across the United States, so places that have not traditionally confronted a foreign terrorist threat.

Consistent with the fact that this is a social media-driven threat here, in over 50 percent of the cases the defendants are 25 years or younger, and in over a third of the cases they are 21 years or younger.  And for us in confronting the terrorist threat, that is different than the demographic we saw who went to support core al-Qaida in the Afghanistan FATA region. 

I think what you’ll hear tomorrow under the President of the United States leadership is the summit that he’s convening of countries throughout the world – over 60 countries – dedicated to combating this terrorist threat.  And what you’ll see is a focus – in addition to the efforts that I’ve talked about to date, the law enforcement criminal justice efforts – is a focus on efforts to prevent it from ever reaching the law enforcement system in the first place.  And that means working on countering the message and propaganda that ISIL uses to draw recruits from our communities, and it means exposing ISIL for what it really is and not what it pretends to be.

They put out images of child soldiers handing out candy to children, but in reality they’re a group that beheads and kills Muslims and non-Muslims alike with equal impunity, that rapes and sells women and children into sexual slavery, and that deliberately looks to destroy the cultural heritage of the countries in which it resides.  So a law enforcement response is essential, and we need to continue the progress that we’ve made since last year’s resolution.  But it also can only be part of the answer, and others need to dissuade would-be foreign fighters from joining ISIL in the first place. 

You’ll see the attorney general of the United States convene a first-of-its-kind Safe Cities Forum tomorrow as well that will consist of mayors across the United States but also from other countries across the world, because fundamentally to dissuade individuals in the first instance from joining these types of groups is going to require local-level, community-driven engagement.  And so I think tomorrow’s forum, the Safe Cities Forum, is going to work and introduce mayors to each other so they can talk about best practices at keeping these individuals from ever going down the path of radicalization.

I will stop there and open it up for questions.

QUESTION:   Hajime Matsuura, Japan, Sankei’s columnist here based in New York.  A question about the most – the breakdown of the social media ISIL is using.  Do you have the breakdown of which social media is popular and how you’re working with the host of or owners of the social medias?

 

MR CARLIN:  So when it comes to social media, I think you see ISIL use pretty much every available service that they can find, and they target people according to who uses the service.  So – and it’s different depending on which country that you’re in, although it is a global problem.  So here in the United States, we’re seeing it with those who are using sites that are frequented by English-language speakers or are popular in the United States.  And that really ranges through the most familiar names, be it Twitter to Facebook to YouTube videos. 

And what they do is they blast out these often slickly produced propagandistic messages using the same type of techniques that Madison Avenue advertisers use to put out images like handing out candy to children, or they’ll have an ISIL soldier in the caliphate with a kitten in one hand and a gun in the other and they’ll say, “Come join the caliphate.”  They bombard the internet with thousands and thousands of these messages a day, and the number of people who respond to them is a tiny, tiny percentage of those who they reach with that message, but it only takes a very small number from each country to either prevent – present a terrorist threat our home country, but also to reach the numbers that they’re reaching of getting people to join the fight when you’re talking about having that message reach 100 different countries.

So to the extent they’re able to get people who are language or cultural experts, then they will use those individuals who have joined ISIL already to target a particular country or audience.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you.  Diego Senior from Caracol Radio in Colombia.  I know you’re focusing on ISIL, but this is a question that I have to ask, and it’s about a terrorist organization – deemed terrorist organization by the U.S. Government in Colombia.  And they just reached this peace accord – not a complete peace accord, but one regarding transitional justice in our country.  I’m wondering what the strategy from your department or from wherever within the Justice Department is capable of doing.  What are you guys doing or thinking to do facing terrorism – that terrorism threat which it might stop be or at some point – when will you stop calling them terrorists since they’re going to give in their weapons?

MR CARLIN:  So I’ll describe generally.  In the American legal system, the model that we’ve used to confront the international terrorist threat is using a statute called the material support to terrorism statute.  As we’ve discussed, as countries around the world are putting new statutes on their books, this is one model that they’ve – that some countries have elected to follow.  And what it hinges upon is there’s a formal process for the designation of a group or an individual as an international terrorist organization, and then the criminal consequences of that designation follow.  So to the extent that there is an armistice, what would be the key for those of us in the prosecution and law enforcement community would be whether or not they remove the FARC as a designated terrorist organization as part of the reconciliation process, and so we’ll wait and see what occurs in that regard. 

And obviously, long-term, and this includes ISIL, the endgame – we need to use law enforcement and prosecution as a tool to prevent these terrorist attacks from occurring, but we recognize that the long-term solution is one that requires the participation of states and local governments to prevent these groups from existing in the first place, and that’s what success looks like.  And that’s why I think you’ll see the President tomorrow emphasize the need to combat violent extremism and the attorney general at the Safe Cities event talk to mayors about getting rid of those root causes to that these groups don’t exist in the first instance.

MODERATOR:  We have a question from Washington.  Washington, please go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  My name is Anatoly Bochinin, TASS News Agency, Russia.  Sir, as you said today, this ISIL problem affects many countries – also Russia.  So my question is:  Do you cooperate with Russian security services?  And are you going to work with this new informational center in Baghdad which will be established these days?  Thank you.

MR CARLIN:  So I’ll say that generally, that the FBI has partnerships with law enforcement agencies throughout the world, and some countries have made a real dedicated push to share intelligence or law enforcement information regarding the terrorist threat.  Some countries have work to do in that regard, but it’s going to take a partnership when it comes to combating these foreign terrorist organizations.  And we’ve seen improvements, like I discussed in terms of INTERPOL and sharing information about terrorist identities, or since last year, with a dedicated focus on this, the number of terrorist identities has increased six times.  We have 4,000 identities into that system. 

It needs to improve further, and we hope it will.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Harriet Alexander from The Telegraph.  You spoke about the 250 estimated citizens who’ve gone or attempted to go, and those against which you’ve got criminal cases.  I wondered if you’d talk a little bit more about the backgrounds of those people, just generally, because – I ask because in Europe, we find that an awful lot of people who are going to join these organizations have already got criminal records and have previously spent time specifically in prison.  That was very much the case in France with the Paris attacks and with the Toulouse attacks.  And I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about any de-radicalization programs that you may have in prisons.

MR CARLIN:  That’s a good question, Harriet.  So I’d say in terms of the trends that what we’ve seen is there isn’t a particular profile other than the common factors that I discussed, which is, one, in almost every case there’s some connection to social media; and two, the general demographic trending young.  And as you can imagine, as it trends younger and younger, these are not people with long criminal histories inside the United States.  And although we remain very much vigilant and concerned about the issue of prison radicalization and what occurs to individuals when they are released, that has not comprised currently the majority of the cases that we’ve seen.

What we are seeing is with this new focus on targeting the young or the unstable, that you’ll – they’ll attract individuals who you would not necessarily think of as being ISIL adherents but end up getting – going down the process of radicalization after being exposed through one of these general social media sites.  And then what they do often is once they have someone on the hook, if you will, they end up in direct communication in some of these cases – so the terrorist overseas is in direct communication with the young person or troubled person here, personally walking them down the path towards radicalization using social media.  And this is new, I know, for the United Kingdom, having talked to counterparts there, and for the United States.  In terms of a trend, I think both our countries together are struggling on new approaches to combat what is a new strategy or tactic by the terrorist group.

It is different than – although we still remain concerned, and al-Qaida still has the intent to commit the large-scale spectacular attack against a Western target, as does al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Nusrah, the al-Qaida franchise in the Syria region.  So we remain concerned and need to disrupt that large-scale spectacular attack, but this new tactic of urging people to commit the attack, even small-scale, immediately – we use the expression sometimes “the short flash to bang,” which is social media-driven, which means if you think about a fuse of dynamite, the time between when you light the fuse and when the dynamite explodes is very, very short.  That’s a hard problem for the intelligence community and law enforcement to crack and really is going to rely on partnerships.

QUESTION:  Hi there.  Justin Fishel with ABC.  I have two quick questions.  The first is about the migration issue and the refugee crisis.  As you know, the U.S. wants to bring in 85,000 refugees from Syria next year, and there are some sort of opposing views about whether this – there’s risks associated with this and risks of ISIL infiltration.  So what’s your assessment of that risk and plan to combat it?  Then I have one more other question.

MR CARLIN:  Look, our job in the law enforcement/intelligence community is to see what the decision is by policymakers to try to accommodate those who are in a terrible situation and who are facing unbelievable brutality, both by the regime and by ISIL.  And whatever decision is made, then we need to work and apply the resources to make sure that the terrorist groups don’t try to take advantage of a humanitarian gesture to get individuals predisposed to commit terrorist attacks either into Europe or the United States.  And we’ve faced that sort of challenge before and we’ll apply the resources necessary to combat it.

QUESTION:  Okay.  My last question, more a domestic politics issue.  Your division of the Justice Department is overseeing the email review, and the one piece of clarification I think – and one of the things that got really confused throughout this whole thing was why this is not a criminal probe but the – there are federal – there are people like yourselves involved in it, so how is it that it is not criminal?  That’s something that I think a lot of people are confused about, and I apologize to my colleagues for the domestic nature of this question.

MR CARLIN:  Well, I’m going to stick to the foreign press questions for this event.

QUESTION:  I’m Sajidu Haque from Bangladeshi television channel.  Do you think Bangladesh fall in high risk in near future?  Because some existing terrorist group like ISIL and al-Qaida, they are all in Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Pakistan, India fall in high risk.

MR CARLIN:  I’m sorry, I didn’t fully catch the question.

QUESTION:  Do you think near future, Bangladesh fall in high risk for terrorism – in terrorism?

MR CARLIN:  Oh, do I – do I think that there’s a high risk of terrorism occurring in Bangladesh?

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MR CARLIN:  I confess to not being an expert in terms of what the risks are of terrorist attacks occurring inside Bangladesh.  I’d say more generally, as we’ we’ve seen, this is a phenomenon that has already crossed in an unprecedented way.  It has foreign terrorist fighters from over 100 countries.  I believe Bangladesh is one of those 100 countries.  And there is a concern, certainly, if any citizen goes over to fight with one of those foreign terrorist groups, what happens when they return armed, trained on how to commit attacks, and spending a long time being steeped in this ideology?  So in that sense there’s a concern that cuts across all of these countries.

And the other issue would be the same social media phenomenon of individuals who stay at home and are contacted by this terrorist group and are encouraged to commit, if they can’t travel, terrorist acts where they live. 

QUESTION:  Vasco Jesus, VascoPress Communications, Brazil.  (Inaudible.)  Is there any sharing of information, collaboration, between the Government of Brazil and United States, your department, concerning the threat of international terrorism?  I ask you this because next year – well, Brazil doesn’t have a history of international terrorism on its borders, but next year Brazil is hosting the Summer Games, and our neighbor Argentina in the ‘90s had two huge cases – the AMIA case and the bombing of the Israeli consulate.  I would like you to comment on those, thank you.

MR CARLIN:  I’d say prior to each of the last Olympics – and this is the world in which we live now – I know that we have offered assistance, including the sharing of information, primarily through the channel of the FBI and law-enforcement-to-law-enforcement channels but also in others, to help protect not only our own citizens participating in the Games but to help protect the Games themselves.  And I know we have extended and will extend similar outreach to Brazil and look forward to working as appropriate with their authorities to help protect the Games.

QUESTION:  So far?

MR CARLIN:  I’d have to refer you probably over to FBI or other avenues to talk about current efforts to date. 

QUESTION:  Sorry, me again.  Can I just ask for a bit more information about this Safe Cities Forum?  So what actually do you think will come out of that?  I mean, is that just a talking shop where people are going to be exchanging ideas, or do you think that there’ll be concrete policies and agreements resulting from that?

MR CARLIN:  I think it is both.  It is, one, to make sure to focus individuals’ attention on this issue and to make sure that they – there’s a channel for community-to-community engagement.  But I also think they hope to, if not at that forum, to kick it off into smaller sessions to develop best practices similar to the type of best practices we’ve developed through the Global Combating Terrorist Forum that led to resolutions like encouraging the changes in – certain changes in the criminal code, like protecting classified information and figuring out a way to do that while preserving due process or undercover operations.  That’s been the type of best practice produced in my space, in the space of a group focused on criminal prosecutions.  I think for the mayors, they’re hoping when it comes to combating violent extremism that similarly there may be some community-based, local-oriented best practices for cities to take into account when they’re developing their own programs as to how to keep people from going down this path in the first instance. 

QUESTION:  Alexey Osipov from Israeli Novosti.  Most of the international media and of course politicians are politically correct; they call terrorism as at least international, but for sure 99 percent of terrorism have specific religion or specific nationality.  In your department, in your office, do you use the words like “Islamic terrorist,” anti-Israel terrorism, Palestinian terrorism, et cetera?

MR CARLIN:  So for us as lawyers under our statutes, we have the full remit for the prosecution of terrorist cases.  When it comes to international terrorism, the statute that we use, as I was describing earlier, is based on whether or not the particular group is designated as an international terrorist group.  So it keys off identifying that group and then if you provide any support – financial, even yourself to support to the group – you fall within our criminal laws.  So I wouldn’t – I don’t indict a religion or a nationality, but the name of the designated terrorist group will – will be in the indictment. 

For our domestic terrorism groups, those without an international connection, there is not a similar statute in U.S. law.  There’s a definition of terrorism that works as a sentencing enhancement and for certain evidentiary purposes, but usually what we’re charging will be the actual criminal conduct, because many times under our system – and this is different than most countries throughout the world – because of the First Amendment and our dedication to free speech and free expression and the way it plays out in our legal system, in many instances talking the talk, if you will, in support of these groups is not sufficient for a criminal charge.  You have to show some type of overt act in furtherance of a violation of a criminal statute. 

QUESTION:  Me again.  For domestic enforcement, sort of ethnic or racial profiling has been an issue under scrutiny.  How about your stance with this regard?  And is there any possibility that you’re using that kind of screening? 

MR CARLIN:  So you cannot profile an individual based on their – or target an individual and use legal tools against an individual based on their – solely upon their First Amendment-protected rights under our guidelines.  And as I said, when it comes to who that profile would be, at least with our current version of the ISIL terrorist threat, what we’re seeing is a threat that cuts across all 50 states, where we’ve currently brought criminal cases in over 25 different jurisdictions and where there’s little in common between the 70 individuals who are currently charged other than their – some connection to social media and being connected to one of these groups. 

And so I think we do need to look for – this is a lesson even in the criminal realm – but is to make parents, community members aware of what could be going on with their friend or neighbor when they’re on social media, because it’s new for a lot of parents that they’re facing this type of threat, and look for those signs which both law enforcement but also community organizations are putting out of someone who’s started down this path of radicalization. 

According to one study of cases that did end up in the criminal justice system, in 80 percent of those cases there was someone who saw that process of radicalization occurring, and in over half of those cases they did not take a step to intervene.  So if we can improve those numbers and have people in the community take steps to intervene, hopefully we can reduce the number of people that ever enter the criminal system.

MODERATOR:  We are out of time.  I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there.  Thank you very much.

MR CARLIN:  Thank you.

# # #

Volunteer Legal Advocate, Asylum Access Malaysia

Volunteer Legal Advocate, Asylum Access Malaysia

Volunteer Opportunity posted by: Asylum Access

Posted on: September 9, 2015

Volunteer Opportunity description

Volunteer Legal Advocates (VLAs) Needed in Malaysia

Opening: Next batch of VLAs are expected to start between October to December 2015. Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

Remuneration: Please note that all Asylum Access VLA positions are unpaid. We are happy to work with successful applicants to arrange for funding or school credit where available. The VLA will be responsible for expenses incurred relating to obtaining their visa. Details and orientation on required documents and procedure in applying for visas will be shared with successful candidates.

Asylum Access Malaysia (AAM) is actively seeking applications from individuals passionate about social justice and refugee rights, and who are driven to make a positive impact in the lives of refugees living in Malaysia. Volunteer Legal Advocates (VLAs) will commit to a minimum of six months in Malaysia where they will be supervised by the Legal Services Coordinator/Manager, and will work alongside other refugee advocates and fellow volunteers. Following an intensive training program in international refugee law and domestic laws and policies on refugees, VLAs will play a key role in executing AAM’s advocacy tools:

(1) Legal aid: VLAs will provide legal counsel and advice to refugees seeking asylum before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia. They may also assist in the representation of clients during Refugee Status Determination (RSD) proceedings in the UNHCR.

(2) Community Outreach: VLAs will also be given the opportunity to participate in community legal empowerment initiatives, develop materials for Know-­‐Your-­‐Situation workshops and handouts for refugee community members, and participate in other activities to reach refugees where they are.

AAM launched its direct legal services to refugees living in Kuala Lumpur in October 2014. VLAs joining us in October/November 2015 will have the unique opportunity be part of AAM’s expanding team and help shape AAMs legal aid and community legal empowerment programs.

AAM fosters a collaborative team environment, to which all VLAs will contribute. The VLAs help to support the full management of the office, which includes participating in direct office administration essential to the successful running of AAM operations. VLAs may be also expected to facilitate community activities, present information about Asylum Access and refugee rights at community events, and organize conferences and meetings.

Position Responsibilities

VLAs for the February 2015 intake are responsible for the following duties:

  • Advise refugees on the RSD process and assist them to understand their rights and domestic laws and policies that govern them;
  • Conduct client intake and screening interviews, assess needs, and identify and refer relevant service providers as needed;
  • Interview refugees and submit written briefs on behalf of those undergoing individual RSD before UNHCR;
  • Maintain a potentially high caseload of RSD cases in a fast paced, demanding environment while adhering to strict filing deadlines;
  • Communicate updates with clients on a timely basis;
  • Conduct research on Country of Origin Information (COI) and refugee law jurisprudence;
  • Develop material for “Know Your Situation” workshops for refugees, work with translators to adapt materials, and teach and/or participate in the workshops;
  • Participate in community meetings and assist in identifying and developing the leadership capacity of community members;
  • Assist in developing and executing client outreach strategy in collaboration with the AAM team;
  • Assist with the general administrative duties of the office, including helping to build administrative capacity within the office to meet demand as AAM grows.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Ability to commit to at least 6 months of full-­time service work;
  • Degree in Law (specialization in International Law, International Refugee Law or International Human Rights Law an asset);
  • Experience working in direct clients services, ideally with asylum seekers or in human rights, as well as a strong passion for social justice work;
  • Experience working with vulnerable populations and/or survivors of trauma;
  • Community organizing experience an asset;
  • Experience working in a non­‐profit or legal aid setting with limited resources, ideally in the global south;
  • Experience living and working cross­‐culturally, preferably in Southeast Asia or other areas with large refugee populations;
  • Aptitude to successfully complete assigned tasks with minimal oversight while serving clients with the highest ethical standards;
  • Understanding of the importance of working as part of a team and the ability to follow the direction of AAM management staff;
  • An easygoing personality with demonstrated capacity to handle living and working in an ad­‐hoc environment where difficult situations and crises can develop at a moment’s notice;
  • A positive, flexible personality and attitude;
  • Professional written and verbal English is required, knowledge of other languages (Burmese, Arabic, Tamil, Urdu, Somali, Farsi, French) very helpful.

Program Highlights

Refugee Rights Training and Professional Development – Throughout VLAs work with AAM, the organization will support VLAs with a series of tools to maximize their programmatic work and their understanding of refugee law and practice. Regular training and debriefing sessions will offer VLAs the chance to enhance and process their experience and share insight about cross-­‐cultural issues.

Casework – Upon joining the team, VLAs will be largely responsible for their own casework, which they will see through preparation, submission and results. Throughout the life of a case, they will receive support and mentorship from AAM’s leadership team. This will give VLAs the practical experience of legal representation, client contact, research, brief writing, and other invaluable legal experience.

Joining our Network – After working with Asylum Access, VLAs will be connected with an ever-­growing network of refugee legal advocates around the world, which circulates job openings, research opportunities, refugee news, and more. VLAs will have access to the mentorship of AAM’s leadership team.

How to apply

To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and a legal writing sample (between 2 -­ 3 pages) to aam.hiring@asylumaccess.org with the subject line “VLA Application -­ Malaysia”. Applications will be received on a rolling basis. Candidates who apply by 16 September 2015 will be prioritized for the October ‐December 2015 intake. Please be sure to specify in your cover letter what makes you uniquely qualified to be a VLA with AAM and how volunteering with AAM fits into your career plans. Please also state the dates that you expect to be available.

Each year Asylum Access receives a high number of applications for a handful of VLA positions and thus it is strongly encouraged that applicants submit polished and complete applications as early as possible.

Location

Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Time Commitment

Duration
3 months or longer
Time commitment
Full time (30-40 hours/week)
Times of day
Mornings
Afternoons
Days of week
Weekdays
Schedule
Fixed schedule

DEPUTY COUNTRY DIRECTOR, EGYPT Job posted by: American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative Posted on: September 4, 2015

Deputy Country Director, Egypt

Job posted by: American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative

Posted on: September 4, 2015

Job description

ABA ROLI is a non-profit pro­gram that implements legal reform programs in roughly 60 countries around the world. ABA ROLI has nearly 700 professional staff work­ing abroad and in its Washington, D.C. office. ABA ROLI’s host country partners include judges, lawyers, bar associations, law schools, court administrators, legislatures, ministries of justice and a wide array of civil society organi­zations, including human rights groups.

JOB SUMMARY

In the absence of the Country Director provides overall field responsibility for in-country programs, provides overall field responsibility for in-country programs, with an strong emphasis on judicial education, including grant-funded programs implemented overseas; assists with the management of international and local staff; works with the Country Director to identify program methodologies and will be involved in working meetings and presentations with key stakeholders to introduce, create and implement new training modules developed and established for judges. Will support the development of a curriculum, individual courses, and may also serve as a trainer. Training modules may include giving and/or coordinating trainings on judicial skills, substantive legal knowledge and skills relating to courtroom and case management. This will also involve a train-the-trainer component. Provide secondary responsibility for financial oversight of all programs and donor relations in-country. Works with the Country Director in cooperation with headquarters-based program staff to draft grant proposals and undertake fundraising in-country.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Design and adapt training modules for judges on skills (e.g. opinion writing) and substantive areas of law (e.g. criminal law, criminal procedure);
  • Assist to identify and address strategic priorities for judicial education;
  • Design and adapt resource materials for judicial training such as bench books and training manuals;
  • Conduct portions of training workshops on the skills-based and substantive legal issues;
  • Coordinate international and national experts’ input into training modules and resource materials;
  • Assist the Country Director with the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of rule of law program activities;
  • Assist Country Director to manage international and local staff;
  • Assist Country Director with financial oversight of program and donor relations in-country; and
  • Identify program methodologies and develops long-term and short-term strategies and work plans to improve the rule of law.

REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS

  • Must have a Juris Doctorate degree and at least 5 years of relevant experience; or
  • Must have a Master’s Degree and 7 years relevant experience;
  • A minimum of 5 years of legal practice.
  • Experience in international development or international legal development and/or project management experience;
  • Familiarity with the assigned country’s legal system;
  • Excellent oral communication and interpersonal skills;
  • Demonstrated planning, management, analytical, and writing skills;
  • Fluency in English

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS

  • At least 1 year of experience in working with USG funded programs;
  • Previous experience building the capacity of judicial actors through the development of training curricula and evaluation of training effectiveness;
  • Strong preference for Chief of Party or Deputy Chief of Party experience;
  • Strong preference for proven exceptional leadership in the design, management, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of similar size and complex USG-funded programs with skills in strategic planning, management, supervision, budgeting;
  • Strong preference for experience with liaising and negotiating with host country governments, USG donors, and contractors as well as budget management, staff oversight, and the provision of legal services and technical advice;
  • Strong communication skills, both interpersonal and written, to fulfill the diverse technical and managerial requirements of the Program and to effectively coordinate with a wide range of regional stakeholders;
  • Proven ability to develop and communicate a common vision among diverse public partners and the ability to lead multi-disciplinary teams;
  • Excellent written and spoken English;
  • Knowledge of Arabic a plus.

To apply, click here:

Due to the high volume of applications received, we are only able to follow up with candidates who are selected for interviews. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and this position may be filled prior to the close date.

https://www5.recruitingcenter.net/Clients/abanet/PublicJobs/controller.cfm?jbaction=JobProfile&Job_Id=11472&esid=az

How to apply

http://www.idealist.org/view/job/BnJZ4swbH4bD

Location

Cairo, Muḩāfaz̧at al Qāhirah, Egypt

Details

Education requirements
Employment type
Full time
Professional level
Managerial
Job function
Owner’s areas of focus

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENTS OF EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, AND HONDURAS, AND THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA REGARDING: THE PLAN FOR THE ALLIANCE FOR PROSPERITY OF THE NORTHERN TRIANGLE

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 MEDIA NOTE

March 3, 2015

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENTS OF EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, AND HONDURAS, AND THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA REGARDING:

THE PLAN FOR THE ALLIANCE FOR PROSPERITY OF THE NORTHERN TRIANGLE

Begin Text:

The Presidents of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén; Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina; Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández; and, the Vice President of the United States, Joseph Biden, met in Guatemala City on March 2-3, 2015, with the President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno, to discuss the important commitments which will accelerate the implementation of the Plan for the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle of Central America.  The senior representatives also agreed to conduct joint high-level dialogues on security issues with relevant authorities, to discuss social issues with civil society, and to review trade and investment issues through meetings between the U.S. private sector and the private sectors of the Northern Triangle of Central America.  All these meetings will be held in the first half of this year.

The leaders stressed that their governments agreed to continue the development of the Plan for the Alliance for Prosperity of the North Triangle in an expedited and comprehensive manner, through coordinated efforts among the three countries of the Northern Triangle and with the technical support of the Inter-American Development Bank. They will continue this work throughout 2015.  The draft implementation plan and roadmap for each of the above-mentioned topics will be presented in Washington on March 16.  For its part, the Government of the United States reiterated its commitment to support these efforts.

The leaders agreed that the joint regional plan and its continued implementation represent significant milestones for the collaboration among the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The leaders reviewed recent progress in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, including the following examples:

  • El Salvador has passed an Investment Stability Law, giving investors assurances that tax and customs regulations will not change over the course of an investment.  It has also begun the process of restoring one-stop business registration for foreign investors.
  • The Government of El Salvador has created the National Council for Public Security and Coexistence to promote consensus on a public security strategy and a forum for dialogue between the government and multiple social actors; it has also established an Anti-Extortion Task Force.
  • El Salvador has passed the Development and Social Protection Law, which establishes a legal framework to support development, citizen protections, and social inclusion. Likewise, El Salvador conducted ambitious reforms in the area of health, laying the groundwork for a new, integrated health system.  El Salvador also has implemented important educational programs, such as “Full-Time School,” which allows for a holistic approach to expanding the educational system’s intervention model.
  • Guatemala has inducted new police officers through regional academies throughout the country that will be assigned to police stations for those geographic areas, continuing the policy of regionalization with a goal of deploying 35,000 agents nationwide.  This has already reduced murder rates from 46 to 31 persons per every 100,000 inhabitants.
  • Under its plan to implement the National Policy on Integrated Rural Development, the Government of Guatemala has reached agreement with 33 communities on reparations for communities where human rights were violated by the construction of the Chixoy dam, through Government Agreement 378-2014 of the Cabinet Council.
  • Guatemala has achieved a diversified energy grid incorporating new technologies such as natural gas, wind, and solar power, allowing for 60% of its energy generation to be based on renewable sources of energy, which contributes to reducing greenhouse gas effects and fulfills the objectives of Guatemala’s Climate Change Law of 2013.
  • The Government of the Republic of Honduras, in its renewed commitment to transparency in public administration, has become the first country to sign a Cooperation Agreement with Transparency International for the Promotion of Transparency, Combating Corruption, and Strengthening International Transparency Systems, which includes plans to make human resources and government procurement information publicly available.
  • Honduras developed mechanisms aimed at restoring peaceful coexistence, highlighting the following efforts and results: i) air, sea, and ground shields to prevent the entry of drugs into the country; ii) counternarcotics actions to combat the drugs that enter the country; iii) development of effective judicial authorities; iv) strengthening of democratic institutions; v) anti-corruption measures; vi) emphasis on the protection of human rights; vii) actions against poverty; and, viii) a security tax.  These actions resulted in a significant decrease in homicide rates from 86.5 in 2012 to 66.4 in 2014 for every 100,000 inhabitants.  Based on the same commitment, Honduras has extradited 7 Honduran and 8 foreign high-profile drug traffickers involved in Latin American drug networks.
  • In the area of fiscal management, Honduras reduced its fiscal deficit by more than 3 percentage points of GDP, closing at 4.5 in 2014.  Honduras increased tax revenue by 21% in 2014, and took specific actions to control public spending to include specific measures strengthening transparency in its public finances.

These examples of progress are the results of the commitments that the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are making to Central America’s success.  In this context, and well aware of the continued challenges, the leaders expressed their commitments on the following points:

1. The presidents of the Northern Triangle of Central America and the Vice President of the United States of America expressed a shared commitment to promote the strategic areas of the Alliance for Prosperity, such as: energizing the productive sectors of the economy; creating economic opportunities; developing human capital, citizen security, and social inclusion; improving public safety and enhancing access to the legal system; and strengthening institutions to increase trust in the state.

To that end, we, the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, recognizing the importance of promoting the productive sector of the economy in our countries, will:

1.1 Advance economic integration based on the legal frameworks of the Central American integration process, CAFTA-DR, and other existing trade agreements.

1.2 Welcome the signing by Honduras and Guatemala of the General Framework for the Establishment of the Customs Union, which includes, inter alia, the elimination of border crossings between both countries and the establishment of a unified customs area.  The details of this agreement will be defined and supported through negotiations to occur before December 2015.

1.3 Take steps to promote an integrated, efficient energy market among the countries of the Regional Electricity Market (MER), and the markets of neighboring countries.  Review existing regulations and gradually standardize them so that commercial transactions between countries may be conducted in an equitable, competitive, transparent manner, to ensure legal certainty and allow for the promotion and development of markets with reduced costs.  This will be addressed in subsequent forums in 2015, to be completed before the end of 2016.

1.4 During 2015, continue to promote the conditions for increased investment in the diversification of the energy grid, specifically to support measures resulting in the operation of the natural gas pipeline between Mexico and Central America, for which an agreement between the member countries of the Alliance will be required.  By March 13, Guatemala and Honduras will sign an additional protocol to the Mexico-Guatemala agreement, which will permit this interconnection work to go forward.

1.5 Promote a public-private dialogue regarding the implementation and monitoring of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle governments by mid-2015, through existing public-private partnerships.

1.6 Continue efforts to establish and run one-stop business registration windows for foreign investors before the end of 2015.

2. The Government of the United States will support the governments of the Northern Triangle to promote their productive sections with a view toward greater inclusion, by:

2.1 Facilitating trade with the support of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authorities, who can share proven risk management strategies and provide other types of training to make the transfer of goods across borders more secure and efficient.

2.2 Helping to implement actions to improve trade between the countries of the Northern Triangle, within the Central American Integration System.

2.3 Providing support for the integration of energy markets in Central America, Panama and Mexico, including by supporting the review of existing regulation to promote long-term contracts.

2.4 Providing technical assistance to develop laws that will incentivize the adoption of technologies and best practices for energy-efficiency.

2.5 Supporting rural development of the countries of the Northern Triangle.

2.6 Providing potential investors and project developers the financial and risk mitigation tools to make investments in the Northern Triangle more attractive, with the support of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

3. We, the countries of the Northern Triangle, will strengthen our strategies for social and economic development to achieve the following:

3.1 In line with national plans, identify the geographic areas of greatest need to focus development and investment by April 2015.

3.2 Establish a plan to strengthen and streamline investment in education, especially at the pre-school, secondary, and vocational levels by 2016.

3.3 Create the conditions to facilitate access to credit for micro, small, and medium enterprises through financial education programs, improvements to legal frameworks, and development of specific financial products beginning in 2015.

3.4 Expand existing programs to improve health services, nutrition, and child development.

3.5 Strengthen equal opportunities policies, especially for the economic empowerment of women, ethnic groups, and at-risk youth by 2016.  During the same year, each country will double the number of women and youth served and provided training by specialized community centers.

4. The United States government will support the Northern Triangle governments in meeting commitments for the development of economic and social opportunities for its citizens, giving special attention to the following:

4.1 Advancing economic prosperity with programs and training that accelerate business development in urban and rural areas.

4.2 Helping to create a better climate for micro, small, and medium businesses to create conditions to expand their access to credit and strengthen proven results throughout specialized business centers in the hemisphere, thus strengthening value chains.

4.3 Continuing efforts to boost family farming and food security through various programs, such as “Feed the Future.”

4.4 Implementing plans to improve access to education and educational quality for underserved populations, including indigenous and afro-descendant children in rural schools, as well as the expansion of educational and vocational training opportunities for at-risk youth.

4.5 Supporting populations along Central American border areas in order to bolster a surge in new economic activity in these communities.

4.6 Backing the efforts of the Northern Triangle countries to redouble their assistance to women and youth in specialized community centers.

5. We recognize the need to improve public security and access to justice; therefore, the leaders of the Northern Triangle agree to:

5.1 Expand security policies and programs, especially those that dismantle gangs and prevent gang violence, as well as by combating common crime, extortion, money laundering, human trafficking, illegal trafficking, and drug trafficking.   We will strengthen justice institutions, among others, using international best practices, depending on the specific context of the priority areas.

5.2 Promote approaches to strengthening the justice sector, emphasizing efficiency, transparency, and accountability, as well as decreasing case backlogs and promoting alternative dispute and domestic violence resolution techniques.

5.3 Improve prison systems, including infrastructure based on prisoner risk profiles, the capacity of prison staffs, and rehabilitation programs, including those focused on juvenile offenders and their prison conditions.

5.4 Deepen police reforms, including reforms focused on money laundering and human trafficking throughout 2015.  During the first half of 2015, Honduras will announce a proposal for the comprehensive reform of its educational system and its police training initiative, as well as its plan to train and contract 6,000 new police officers over the next three years.  Guatemala announced that it is in the process of reforming its immigration law in order to criminalize the trafficking of Guatemalans, especially children and adolescents.

5.5 Approve and strengthen laws against money laundering.  El Salvador has established an Anti-Extortion Task Force, and will begin in mid-2015 a legal reform to criminalize bulk cash smuggling.

5.6 Guatemala will promote reforms in its civil and commercial procedure codes to establish and streamline oral hearings and make more efficient its judicial proceedings during 2015. In addition it will create new specialized criminal investigative anti-money laundering units, asset forfeiture units, and cyber-crime units, in the first half of 2015.

6. The Government of the United States, along with the governments of the Northern Triangle, will back efforts to improve public safety and access to justice by supporting:

6.1 Police reforms, to including police training in the areas of internal affairs, vetting, and oversight and transparency mechanisms, as well as through the provision of equipment and information systems.

6.2  The work of governments to strengthen local mechanisms for the prevention of crime and violence.

6.3 The work of religious and civil organizations within the framework of government strategies to provide at-risk youth with life skills, job training, and recreational activities, and supporting civic groups to recover public spaces controlled by gangs and improve basic infrastructure.

6.4 The expansion and strengthening of centers against domestic violence and violence against women.

6.5 The strengthening of juvenile justice and alternatives to incarceration and detention.

6.6 The efforts of States to improve criminal investigations, especially through improved forensic laboratories.

6.7. The work of the security agencies to effectively dismantle transnational organized crime networks that carry drugs and money in coastal waters and across land borders.

7.  With the goal of promoting strengthened institutions, Northern Triangle countries will continue to promote transparency and engender confidence in our citizens.  In this regard we will:

7.1. Promote independent monitoring mechanisms, using best practices to ensure governmental transparency throughout 2015.

7.2. Increase and strengthen tax revenues through greater efficiency and effectiveness in tax collection, strengthening tax authorities, simplifying tax codes, and professionalizing tax collection authorities.

7.3. Join forces to improve the professionalization of the civil service, starting in 2015.

8  The Government of the United States will support governments of the Northern Triangle in strengthening its institutions, by:

8.1. Working with Central American governments to provide expert advisors, such as those from the Department of the Treasury, and including assistance to governments to leverage additional resources through more efficient tax administration and public-private partnerships.

Finally, with regards to implementing this plan, we agreed to take into account existing best practices in the region, such as the model implemented by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, to maximize the impact of our initiatives and actions that seek to be effective and transparent, and which recognize the leading role of the state and its public institutions.

Agreed to in Guatemala City on March 3, 2015.

End Text