Press release – Nigeria: MEPs call for international cooperation to stop Boko Haram

The massacres perpetrated by the terrorist sect Boko Haram in Nigeria were vehemently condemned by the European Parliament in a vote on Thursday. MEPs urge the Nigerian authorities to do their utmost to end the violence and tackle the root causes of the terrorism, including corruption. Parliament also urges Nigeria’s neighbours and the international community to cooperate with efforts to starve Boko Haram of income and prevent it spreading terror abroad.

MEPs strongly condemn the wave of gun and bomb attacks, suicide bombings, sexual slavery and other sexual violence, kidnappings and other violent acts committed by Boko Haram against civilian, government and military targets in Nigeria.

They note that these acts could constitute crimes against humanity, and praise journalists and human rights defenders for drawing the world’s attention to Boko Haram’s extremism and the innocent victims of its violence.

Everything possible must be done to find and free the 276 girls Boko Haram abducted from the school in Chibok more than a year ago, and the estimated 2,000 more girls and women it has abducted since then, MEPs stress.

 

Tackle root causes of violence

MEPs congratulate Nigeria’s newly-elected President Muhammad Buhari, and call on him to deliver on his campaign promises to devote all his resources into ending Boko Haram’s violence, re-establishing stability and security across the country and tackling the root causes of this terrorism.

Firmer action is needed against internal corruption, mismanagement and inefficiencies within the public institutions and the army, MEPs point out. They also insist that the fight against terrorism must respect human rights and the rule of law.

 

Step up regional and international response

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other regional players should step up their response to Boko Haram’s terrorism and contain cross-border illicit flows of arms and fighters, in line with international law, MEPs say.

They warn that without such cooperation, the violence is likely to continue and undermine peace and stability across the region, and call on the African Union (AU) to coordinate, with all countries involved, the fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel region.

MEPs also urge the international community to help Nigerian refugees in neighbouring countries, and call on EU member states to fulfil their commitment to providing a comprehensive range of political, development and humanitarian support for the efforts of Nigeria and its people to tackle the Boko Haram threat.

 

Cut off resources

The Nigerian authorities must cooperate with neighbouring countries in taking measures to starve Boko Haram of its illegal income, especially from smuggling and trafficking, MEPs say. They also urge the EU to strive to enhance the transparency of trade in all natural resources, including oil, so as to prevent any company from fuelling conflicts.

The non-legislative resolution was passed by 516 votes to 11, with 36 abstentions.

Background

 

Boko Haram’s violence has led to more than 22,000 deaths since 2009, says the text. The UN estimates that the violence in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states has displaced 1.5 million people, including 800,000 children, and that more than 3 million people have been affected by the insurgency. More than 300,000 Nigerians have fled to north-western Cameroon and south western Niger to escape the violence, notes the text.

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Speeches: Remarks at the 2015 Open Square Summit

As prepared

Thank you so much for that very kind introduction, Sanan, and thank you to Esta and her team at Futures Without Violence, as well as the Open Square Foundation, for gathering us all here today. This is an impressive crowd of people committed to advancing women and girls, and I’m honored to be here.

One of the very best things about my job is that I get to meet some truly courageous, innovative, and extraordinary people.

One of those people is a young woman from Malawi named Memory Banda. I just saw Memory in New York at the Commission on the Status of Women in March. And I’m always excited to hear the latest about how she’s working to empower girls—both in her community in southern Malawi and her country as a whole.

Memory is a powerful example of how education can change lives. As an advocate for girls, she offers free writing lessons to adolescent moms in her neighborhood. She visits the families of girls who are in danger of being married, and she encourages them to change their minds. And she’s part of a grassroots campaign to build networks for girls and end child marriage once and for all.

But that’s not the whole story. Memory became an activist because, for her, gender-based violence is personal. Her younger sister Mercy was just 11 years old when she got pregnant during a so-called “sexual initiation” ceremony. During these ceremonies, girls are forced to have sex with an adult man to prepare for marriage. These ceremonies are horrific, and their consequences are lasting. Like many other girls, Memory’s sister ended up pregnant and had to drop out of school.

Memory and Mercy’s stories illustrate how education and gender-based violence can determine whether a girl becomes a powerful advocate or an adolescent mother.

That’s why as Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, one of my top priorities is gender-based violence—both how we can address it and, even better, how we can prevent it. Violence influences so much else in a woman’s life—her ability not only to survive but thrive. So this issue is directly linked to our other foreign policy priorities.

For example, the United States is focused on increasing women’s full participation across the board. From the corner store to the corner office, from the peace table to Parliament, women deserve the opportunity to fully participate in society.

And when they do, we all benefit. Our economies are better when women are in the work force. Our societies are stronger when women are in politics and on police forces. And our progress is greater when girls have the same opportunities as boys, whether that’s in school or at home.

So I’m glad this summit is focused on gender-based violence and also on education. It recognizes that women and girls have tremendous capacity to be powerful engines of economic growth and leaders for change.

Everywhere I go I meet girls with this capacity. Girls from Mexico City or Marrakech who, just like Memory Banda, deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential.

For these girls, adolescence is a critical moment. Their decisions—or their inability to make decisions for themselves—can determine the rest of their lives. And gender-based violence is one of the biggest factors at play. On any given day, there are many vulnerable moments for a girl.

It starts when she wakes up in the morning, and gets ready for school. If she lives in a developing country, she may not have a bathroom in her house. Whether she’s walking to a public toilet far from home, or making her way to school, she is at risk of harassment or sexual violence.

When she gets to school, she’s greeted by her teacher. Again this can be a moment of risk. Her teacher may try to force her into having sex with him in exchange for improved grades. He may even view sex with his students as compensation for his low salary.

But he’s not the only potential threat. She also has to be on guard against sexual violence from her fellow students. A recent study in Cameroon, for example, found that 30 percent of sexual violence experienced by girls in school was committed by a male peer.

If she lives in a country or area plagued by conflict, her journey home can also be fraught with the potential for violence. It can come from a soldier, an armed rebel, a gang member, or a sexual predator.

If she gets home safely, in many places she spends hours doing work around the house before she finishes her day.

But what if it’s a holiday and she doesn’t have school? If she lives in one of the 29 countries where we know female genital mutilation/cutting is prevalent, the time off from school may actually be when she undergoes FGM/C. Now she’s at risk for a lifetime of health consequences: hemorrhaging, recurrent infections, increased risk for HIV infection, complications in child birth, and even death.

And FGM/C might be the way her parents are preparing her for marriage. If she does get married as an adolescent girl, she’s at risk for increased violence—and her young marriage will likely put an end to her education.

The good news is that we’re not powerless to stop this. We can play important roles in addressing these problems. We can expand women’s economic opportunities—like the Akilah Institute for Women does in Rwanda and Burundi. We can build girls’ confidence and leadership, and transform gender norms—like the Inter-American Development Bank has done with a girl-centered sports program in Bolivia. We can teach men and boys to be champions for gender equality—like Plan International’s program for adolescent boys does in Brazil. And we can make sure we have a strong research foundation to help with decision making—like the Clinton and Gates Foundations’ No Ceilings report does for all of us here.

In the face of these tremendous challenges, everyone here is doing powerful work to promote education and end gender-based violence. I’d like to talk for a minute about the work of the United States in this effort.

Last month President Obama and the First Lady launched the Let Girls Learn initiative. This is a whole-of-government approach to reach girls around the world at this critical juncture in their lives and help them stay in school until they finish—ready to contribute to their economies. Over the coming months, we will provide every U.S. embassy with concrete tools they can use to advance girls’ education.

Now we know education is critical. But it’s most powerful when it’s part of a comprehensive approach. That’s why in addition to Let Girls Learn, we also have programs like the DREAMS partnership. Through DREAMS we’re working to reduce new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women—with the ultimate goal of an AIDS-free generation.

And of course we’re always looking at local solutions to these problems. Last July, as Ebola spread across West Africa, my office launched our biggest grant ever to end FGM/C in Guinea. In Bolivia, we’re funding radio campaigns to end the silence around intimate partner violence. In Papua New Guinea we’re funding trainings that empower survivors of gender-based violence with business skills. And in Benin, we’re working to reduce early and forced marriages and expand services to survivors.

All of these efforts—not just those of the United States government, but the efforts that you represent—all of these are critical. And they take place at a critical time. In a few short months, the world’s governments will come to an agreement around a shared global vision, one that will shape our development investments for the next 15 years. Many of the world’s development challenges hinge on investing in—and including—girls and women. So it’s exciting that for the first time, the global community will likely recognize gender-based violence as an impediment to unlocking this potential and achieving the future we want.

But this will happen only if we raise our collective voices loudly enough. I know that’s exactly what you’re doing here today, and I wish you all the best.

So I’d like to end with a few words from Memory that I think are appropriate. “Let girls be valued… their issues be prioritized… their voices be heard. What we need is action.”

Thank you.

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Speeches: Making Progress: US Prevention of Mass Atrocities

[embedded content]

Thank you very much, Ambassador Daalder, for your warm welcome to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. You are certainly missed at the State Department. I join you this afternoon to mark the third anniversary of the Atrocities Prevention Board, but first I have to applaud you and your team for the Council’s commitment to educating the public about the important global challenges that we face and strengthening the public discourse about U.S. foreign policy. Thank you.

Three years ago yesterday, President Obama announced that mass atrocities prevention is both a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility. The President committed the United States to becoming a global leader in preventing large-scale violence against civilians worldwide, but he made clear that the U.S. cannot and should not intervene militarily every time there is an injustice or an imminent atrocities threat. Instead he called for the U.S. government to use its full arsenal of tools – diplomatic, political, financial, intelligence, and law enforcement – to prevent these terrible crimes.

As one such tool, the President established the Atrocities Prevention Board, referred to in government-speak as the APB, to put this prevention approach into practice. This interagency forum serves a horizon-scanning function by identifying atrocity risks by looking at early warning indicators and bringing together senior officials from across the executive branch to develop coordinated, whole-of-government responses to mitigate them.

The Atrocities Prevention Board speeds up the cogs of our government’s bureaucracy by bringing attention to at-risk cases within the interagency policy process. To be clear, the APB was never envisioned as the singular solution to mass killings, nor is it meant to replace the work we are already engaged in to address atrocities. Rather, its role is to prompt coordination among the larger U.S. national security apparatus to better address these problems early on by recognizing warning signs. The APB’s comparative advantage, then, is focusing on potential or ongoing violence that might escape attention in existing policy fora rather than expending its energy focusing on cases where threats to civilians – such as Assad’s brutalities against the Syrian people – are well-recognized and are the subject of extensive work in regionally-focused policy discussions. This early warning, preventive approach gives the U.S. government additional reaction time to plan and implement appropriate de-escalation interventions. Another benefit of this whole-of-government approach is that when threats emerge, the APB can marshal attention, technical expertise, and occasionally financial resources from across the government to better support our embassy-led responses on the ground.

On this third anniversary of the APB, we are invigorated by the U.S. government’s progress in further highlighting atrocities prevention into the foreign policy process and institutionalizing the capabilities, analysis, and expertise that is needed to do prevention work.

Since becoming Under Secretary for Civilian Security, I’ve worked to strengthen the State Department’s internal response to the threat of mass atrocities and to build a closer relationship with our prevention partner, the U.S. Agency for International Development. I have also redirected the focus of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), to provide dedicated expertise and a formal analysis, planning, and coordinating role in support of APB priorities. As the new hub for State’s atrocities prevention work, the bureau works with USAID to produce assessments of the drivers of conflict in a targeted set of countries as well as corresponding risk assessments. This new analytical atrocities assessment framework allows CSO to work with the Department’s regional bureaus to develop evidence-based, civilian-focused intervention options, including diplomatic, programmatic, multilateral, and economic efforts. CSO is also developing a growing collection of best practices that are informing more targeted, effective government responses.

The APB has also formalized and increased our coordination efforts. At the State Department, we’ve established an Anti-Atrocities Coordination Group to help facilitate State’s work in at-risk countries, engage with regional experts who know the political, regional, and sub-national dynamics best, and help chart the course for institutionalizing the necessary atrocity prevention tools within the normal State processes. Finally, we continue to coordinate with our embassies on atrocity prevention work. Frontline officers are often the first to detect and report on emerging atrocity risks, and chiefs of mission can request that the APB conduct risk analysis of their host countries as well as identify appropriate interventions to mitigate the risk.

Let me provide some examples to illustrate how the U.S. Government identifies and responds to risks of extreme violence. When the Department’s atrocities watchers grew concerned about escalating tensions in Burundi, they sounded the alarm. This concern immediately initiated the APB process, elevating the level of attention on the threat. The State Department and USAID put together an interagency team from both the regional and functional parts of the government to conduct a thorough analysis of risks for violence, which led to a broad diplomatic engagement and programmatic strategy that was operationalized by our embassy in Bujumbura. The APB process also galvanized over $7 million in State and USAID funds to address the risks identified in the assessment through creative programming. For instance, the USG-financed projects provide conflict resolution training for community leaders, support a saving and lending program to improve economic opportunities for vulnerable youth, and empower civil society partners to monitor hate speech. With this additional funding, the Department was also able to deploy a prevention advisor to support the embassy in advance of Burundi’s upcoming national elections beginning in May. By sounding the alarm early and laying the groundwork two years ago, we are now in a much better position to monitor and respond to the worrying signs of political tension that are coming to the surface in Burundi. Let me be clear, we remain deeply concerned about the rising tensions, and the international community and the region must be vigilant as we urge President Nkurunziza to respect of the two term limit provision the Arusha Accords and continue to press for credible, peaceful elections. We continue to call on all parties in Burundi to play a peaceful role in this electoral process and refrain from violence. We have warned anyone who might be considering violence that they will not be welcome in the United States and that, as appropriate, we will deny visas to anyone who orders, plans, or participates in acts of violence. We will continue to monitor the situation in Burundi closely in the coming days and weeks and take steps to prevent, mitigate, and address violence.

Let’s also look at the Central African Republic. When violence quickly escalated in that African nation in December 2013, the Board’s atrocity prevention experts worked hand in hand with our regional bureaus as senior leaders from across government identified key interventions, including from DOD, USAID, and State. Together, over the last two years, we provided over $100 million in peacekeeping and security assistance and over $30 million in funding for conflict mitigation, reconciliation, justice and accountability, and governance. This has funded everything from community and grassroots peace and reconciliation programs to the purchase of vehicles and other equipment desperately needed by peace keeping forces. This is in addition to the $452 million we have provided in assessed funds to the UN for the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA). With 2.5 million people – over half the country’s population – in dire need of humanitarian assistance, we have also provided almost $200 million in critical aid, saving thousands of lives. And we have married funding with increased diplomatic and public engagement, including naming a Special Representative and transmitting a peace message recorded by President Obama on local radio stations throughout the country at the height of the crisis.

Another example of this Administration’s commitment to atrocity prevention is US support for the counter-Lord’s Resistance Army mission in the central Africa region that has led to dramatic results in protecting civilians from LRA atrocities. Over the past three years, the Ugandan-led African Union Regional Task Force – with Defense Department logistics and support from US Special Operations Forces and State civilian liaisons – has removed three of the LRA’s top five most senior and notorious commanders from the battlefield. The United States worked with leaders from the Task Force’s member countries to ensure that LRA number-two commander Dominic Ongwen, who was transferred to the International Criminal Court in January, faced justice, and we continue to offer up to $5 million in rewards for information leading to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of LRA leader Joseph Kony. During that time, defections and releases from the LRA have significantly increased, with more than 250 individuals putting down their arms and leaving the LRA, and the number of people killed by the LRA has dropped by over 75 percent. According to the U.N., the number of people displaced by the LRA decreased from approximately 400,000 one year ago to roughly 160,000 in 2014, the lowest number in a decade.

Obviously, the USG has been focused on countering the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by building a strong multilateral coalition to address the spreading threat as it grew in Syria and then Iraq. In this case, the APB did not need to play a role in raising awareness of ISIL’s atrocities; instead, it was able to play a value-added role by focusing attention on particular cases, helping to prompt swift action. For example, when ISIL drove tens of thousands of members of the Iraqi Yazidi religious minority from their homes last year, the APB again helped ensure a swift USG response by working with our Embassy and consulates in Iraq along with the State Department’s Religious Freedom Office to collect credible information. This information helped inform the U.S. decision to launch strikes that degraded ISIL’s capabilities and gave the local Kurdish military forces enough momentum to break the siege and free the Yazidis from Mount Sinjar.

We recently registered another achievement in advancing a preventive approach to mass atrocities – this time in Nigeria, which conducted a largely peaceful election last month. The US government has long been focused on preventing violence in Nigeria, and the APB worked to complement that focus by spurring contingency planning and advocating for more of an atrocity prevention focus into the normal interagency policy processes. To prevent the violence that left over 800 dead after the 2011 national vote, the APB provided support for the implementation of the USG’s election assistance strategy for Nigeria, contributing to and enhancing multiple USG agencies’ efforts to prevent violence and ensure transparency and credibility more than a year in advance of the election. And while there were dozens killed during this election, which is too many still, there was a dramatic decrease in violence – a decrease many attribute to increased transparency, credibility, and a democratic transfer of power. The APB also helped galvanize the interagency to more effectively address the horrific atrocities being committed by the violent extremist group, Boko Haram, identifying gaps in the regional governments’ security approach, finding some new resources, and developing programs to strengthen the region’s and local communities’ capacity to respond. For example, the APB has contributed to ongoing efforts by the USG to work with the governments of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Benin to support their cooperative efforts to take on Boko Haram, which may eventually include a Multinational Joint Task Force to better coordinate these efforts, while at the same time supporting local communities and law enforcement efforts that address the root causes of the insurgency. In northeast Nigeria, USAID has launched an initiative to improve stability and strengthen democratic institutions. The program focuses on strengthening links between local government, civil society, and communities to mitigate and prevent conflict, increasing access to credible information, and reducing youth vulnerability to violent extremist influences. We are encouraged by the commitment of Nigeria’s President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to tackle the Boko Haram threat.

In addition to amplify our prevention efforts, we are also seeking to encourage like-minded partners to adopt a similar approach. I recently led a group of State and USAID officials to meet with UN interlocutors who oversee issues of atrocity prevention, which resulted in a collaborative dialogue that I intend to regularize. We are also further highlighting mass atrocities prevention in ongoing bilateral and multilateral diplomatic discussions, such as the U.S.-EU Civilian Security and Development Dialogue.

Despite its important achievements and the President’s commitment to elevating atrocity prevention as a U.S. foreign policy priority, challenges remain. Chief among these are resource constraints. While APB meetings do not require funding, effective prevention tools do depend on resources, particularly sources of funding that can be accessed and mobilized swiftly. While we have sometimes succeeded in marshaling funding to respond to an escalating crisis, in this constrained budget environment, we often see prevention needs that we are unable to meet before the crisis escalates. In a world of proliferating crises and limited resources, prevention work is more critical than ever.

Some observers have expressed dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration’s commitment to preventing mass atrocities across the globe. I understand their perspective. The APB has not halted violence worldwide; in its three years of existence, it has not protected every civilian from governments, insurgents and terrorists. As imperfect as our current efforts are, they represent undeniable progress – both in further prioritizing atrocity prevention and in delivering concrete results. On the APB’s third anniversary, we are certainly closer to realizing the President’s intent that the United States government embraces the mission of preventing mass atrocities. It is my hope that three years from now, the United States will have made its tools, resources, and actions even more effective in preventing mass violence against civilians.

President Obama took a bold step by elevating concern about mass atrocities as a foreign policy priority. Atrocity prevention, he said, is not just a matter of values and a moral responsibility but also a core national security interest. The President acknowledged that “It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man’s endless capacity for cruelty,” but he reminded us that Elie Wiesel and other holocaust survivors chose never to give up. Nor can the United States of America.

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