Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/26/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:51 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I appreciate you accommodating the change in the time to the briefing today.  We wanted to make sure that all of you had the opportunity to see the President welcome the WNBA champions, Phoenix Mercury, to the White House.  

But now that we are all assembled, let’s get started.  Nancy, do you want to start us off?

Q    Yeah, thanks.  What was the President’s reaction to the Roanoke shooting?

MR. EARNEST:  I did not have the opportunity to speak to the President about the tragic shooting that occurred earlier today in Virginia.  Obviously the thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the White House are with the families of those who were injured or killed in that terrible incident.  The precise details of that incident continue to be under investigation.  

But as you’ve heard me say in the past, this is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small, all across the United States.  And while there is no piece of legislation that will end all violence in this country, there are some common-sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have a tangible impact in reducing gun violence in this country.  And Congress could take those steps in a way that would not infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.  And the President has long advocated Congress taking those steps, and the President continues to believe that they should do so.

Q    Can you say what role federal officials will have in the investigation?

MR. EARNEST:  I do know that officials from the FBI and the ATF were involved in responding and tracking down the individual who is believed to have been responsible for this violence.  And I would anticipate that federal officials will be working to support state officials who will conduct the investigation.

Q    Also, do you have any comment on the signing of the peace agreement in South Sudan, and what the prospects are for lasting peace there?

MR. EARNEST:  This is something that was just reported within the last few hours.  What I would say is that the administration believes that President Kiir made the right decision to sign the peace agreement today.  But we should be just as clear that the United States and the international community does not recognize any reservations or addendums to that document.  And President Kiir and the government of South Sudan should abide by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development agreement that was signed today, and they should work toward ending the conflict and rebuilding the country.

Nancy, you’ll recall that the President had the opportunity to meet with leaders of other countries in the region in discussing trying to broker some peace in South Sudan.  So this is an issue that the President has not just been following but been actively engaged in.  And you heard him note that South Sudan is a country that has been wracked by terrible violence in recent years, and the United States and other countries in the region have been trying to act in coordinated fashion to broker some peace there.  So this is something that we’re going to continue to monitor as the situation moves forward.

Roberta.

Q    Has the White House raised its sights on the Iran vote?  And is the White House now trying to get enough votes to — actively trying to get enough votes to block a motion of disapproval?

MR. EARNEST:  Roberta, what our strategy is focused on right now is building as much support as possible in both the House and the Senate for the agreement.  As I’ve noted before, the appropriate congressional role here, as described and codified by Congress, is not to sign off on the agreement, but Congress does have a role in evaluating the agreement.  And essentially, the role that Congress would play at this point is spoiler.  Congress does have the capacity to kill this agreement.  

This is an international agreement between the United States and several other countries and Iran.  And our legislative efforts are focused on building enough support for the agreement to prevent Congress from spoiling, and that’s what we will continue to do.  That effort has included a variety of lobbying efforts.  This has included presidential phone calls.  Other senior members of the President’s national security team have reached out to members of Congress and their staff members to advocate for the agreement.  And you’ll note that later this afternoon the President will conduct a handful of interviews with television anchors from across the country, and this will be among the issues that will be up for discussion.  And it’s the President’s view and it’s the view of his team that the more that we elevate this discussion and the more that the American people have the opportunity to hear the arguments in favor of this agreement, the more likely they are to support it.  And that’s the reason that the President will do those interviews today.  It’s part of our ongoing effort to build as much support for the agreement in Congress as possible.

Q    So does the White House feel that it’s possible — feasible at all to get 41 votes of support in the Senate?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the last I saw, I think that there are 26 or 27 senators who support the agreement.  There are only two Democrats that have come out in opposition to it.  That’s an indication that we’ve got a lot of momentum built up in terms of building support for this agreement.  But what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get as many members of the Senate as possible — and as many members of the House as possible — to back the agreement.

I would note that there was a letter that was signed by about 150 House members prior to the completion of the comprehensive agreement back in July indicating their support for an agreement that was consistent with the aims that the President had identified for a final agreement.  And the essence of the final comprehensive agreement does fulfill that criteria, and so we are optimistic that we will be able to earn the support of those who sign that letter — we’re still hard at work in that effort.  But what’s notable is that there are several Democrats in the House of Representatives who declined to sign that letter, but yet have announced their support for the final agreement.

So there are several indications that we are succeeding in our efforts to build sufficient support for the agreement in the Congress, but we certainly want to collect as many votes as possible.  

Q &

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Statement by the Spokesperson on the repeated suicide attacks in Cameroon and Nigeria and…

In the last two months, about 800 people are reported to have been killed and many more wounded in multiple terror attacks in the countries around Lake Chad.
 
Those responsible for the recent suicide attacks in Cameroon on 25 July and in Nigeria on 26 July have a complete disregard for human life and dignity.
 
We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured. We express our solidarity with the authorities of the concerned countries and our confidence that those responsible for these acts of terror will be brought to justice.
 
Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria are sparing no effort in fighting terrorism in the region. Strong coordination both on the ground and at regional level, and for continued socio-economic development of the affected areas is needed. The EU reiterates its support to those regional organizations, national authorities, civil society organizations and citizens that are involved.
 
The pursuit by national authorities of long-term development, the protection and strengthening of basic services and the respect for humanitarian law and for human rights is essential for ensuring enhanced state presence and providing a sustainable solution to this crisis.
 
The European Union supports the efforts for comprehensive bilateral and regional cooperation to tackle these challenges. The recent visits of President Buhari to Niger and Chad and his upcoming visit to Cameroon are timely opportunities in this regard. 
 
 

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EU reinforces its support to Central Africa

Today, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, signed the Central Africa Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) for an amount of €350 million for the period 2014-2020. 

The signature took place in the presence of Ministers and representatives of the Central African region, the Secretary General of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the President of the Commission for Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).

The programme, whose implementation will be monitored by a steering committee, will cover three areas: political integration and cooperation in peace and security (€43 million), regional economic integration and trade (€211 million, of which €135 million will go through the Infrastructure Trust Fund), and the sustainable development of natural resources and biodiversity (€88 million). Another €8 million is set aside to support technical cooperation and regional authorising officers.  

Commissioner Neven Mimica said: “Regional integration is only viable when driven from within the region. It is a means to fulfill the policy objectives set out in the Cotonou Agreement, and to build on the achievements which ECCAS and CEMAC have already made, in economic and monetary integration, in peace and security, in infrastructure and in environment and natural resources.”

 

Context

The region of Central Africa includes 11 countries: Angola, Burundi, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Sao Tomé and Principe. It has to be noted, however, that Equatorial Guinea never signed the revised Cotonou Agreement, and can therefore not directly benefit from EDF funding. The region has a total population of about 160 million with the Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for nearly half. It is a region rich in natural resources, covering the largest tropical forest area after the Amazon.

Previous funding for Central Africa under the 10th European Development Fund amounted to €165 million. 

For more information see also:

Press release: The EU boosts its support to recovery and development in the Central African Republic

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5040_en.htm

Factsheet: The EU engagement with the Central African Republic (CAR)

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5041_en.htm

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EU Threatens Big Sanctions on Burundi

Meanwhile, a grenade attack in a bar killed four people. These attacks are becoming more commonplace in the run up to the presidential elections next month.  “The EU is determined to adopt, if necessary, targeted restrictive measures against those whose actions might have led or might lead to acts of violence and repression and serious human rights violations,” EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg said in a statement. The European Union funds about half the annual budget of Burundi, one of the world’s poorest nations, and diplomats have said in the past donors would seek targeted sanctions rather than broad steps that could harm the population.” (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1GjuMq6)

More Violence in Northern Nigeria…”As many as 30 people were killed Monday after a bomb exploded at a bus station in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, in an attack likely to be blamed on the rebel group Boko Haram. The blast occurred near a fish market in the Baga Road area of the city, which has been repeatedly targeted in recent weeks by shelling, bombs and suicide attacks.” (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1Lh9b7m )

Quote of the Day The Pope is on a Roll: “It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn’t it?” he said to applause. He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries, saying “duplicity is the currency of today … they say one thing and do another.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1Gju10o)

Africa

Eritrea has defended its controversial policy of decades-long national service from which some 5,000 people flee each month, saying it has “no other choice” due to threats from long-standing enemy Ethiopia. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudO98)

European Union foreign ministers threatened to sanction individuals involved in Burundi’s political violence. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1N0YYdI)

Amnesty International called on Cameroon to immediately release 84 children who have been held for months without charge, after the teachers at their Quranic schools were accused of running terrorist training camps. (DW http://bit.ly/1GCzC47)

Somalia’s security agency said Monday it carried out a night raid on key targets inside a Shebab-controlled town in southern Somalia, targeting “senior” commanders. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudR4B)

Anglo-Irish company Tullow Oil said Monday it had settled a long-running tax dispute in Uganda by agreeing to the payment of a $250 million bill. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudQhj)

MENA

Israel disputed on Monday the findings of a U.N. report that it may have committed war crimes in the 2014 Gaza conflict, saying its forces acted “according to the highest international standards”. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RBRZ)

Israeli Druze blocked an Israeli army ambulance they believed was transporting wounded Syrian rebels on Monday, local authorities said, a rare confrontation underscoring Druze concern for brethren caught up in the civil war next door. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6Rxl5)

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Egypt to stop what it describes as “a politically motivated campaign” against the pan-Arabic Al Jazeera network.  A CPJ statement Sunday also called on Germany to release jailed Al Jazeera reporter Ahmad Mansour immediately. (VOA http://bit.ly/1TI2C1k)

Asia

An intense heat wave over three days has killed more than 180 people in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, officials said on Monday, leading authorities to declare an emergency as the electricity grid crashed and bodies stacked up in the morgues. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RvcY)

A co-ordinated Taliban attack on the Afghan parliament in Kabul has ended with all six gunmen killed, the interior ministry says. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Gjva8b)

Human Rights Watch on Monday criticized a Malaysian Islamic court for fining nine Muslim transgender women for cross-dressing and jailing two of them for a month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H6RrK6)

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is running for president next year, has resigned from the cabinet in a break with President Benigno Aquino as he is investigated for corruption. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RDJl)

Malaysian authorities Monday gave a Muslim burial to 21 human trafficking victims, believed to be Rohingya Muslim refugees, found in shallow graves in jungles bordering Thailand. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IudNlm)

Malaysia has stepped up health screenings at all entry points into the country, after the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was reported in neighboring Thailand last week. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1IudMxT)

The Americas

Authorities in Chile’s capital Santiago have imposed emergency measures amid rising pollution. According to city officials, pollution has reached a “critical level”. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Lw2Bb2)

Dozens of Central American migrants say they have managed to escape from a gang that abducted them in southern Mexico. They migrants told police they had been held for hours by armed men who stopped their bus, but later fought back and broke free from their captors. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Lw2Bru)

El Salvador has just experienced one of its most violent months since the end of the civil war in 1992, with 635 homicides reported in May for the country of just over 6 million people. June is on track to break that mark, with the latest bloodshed coming Sunday when suspected gang members killed two soldiers guarding a bus terminal in the capital. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H6RtBH)

…and the rest

The European Union launched a naval operation Monday to try to stop human-traffickers from bringing migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe in unseaworthy boats, a lucrative and at times deadly practice. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IudM0M)

Russia plans to extend a ban on Western food imports for six months starting from early August and may add new products to the list, in retaliation to extended European sanctions against Moscow, officials said on Monday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1eDO7vu)

Opinion/Blogs

Former Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky served four presidents and tells some great stories from her career in foreign policy. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1Lh9uyZ)

Pope Francis’ Timely Call to Action on Climate Change (IPS http://bit.ly/1Lw1k3J)

If we want to end poverty, we need to be able to measure it properly (Guardian http://bit.ly/1eDOWEN)

Argentine women hit back at violence (BBC http://bbc.in/1THXA4O)

Is South Africa On a Slippery Slope? (GroundUp http://bit.ly/1GCzv8E)

What if Beijing and Washington understood each other perfectly…but still clashed? (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1dbwiCu)

We must protect women and girls during crises (Devex http://bit.ly/1dbwuBJ)

On Child Mortality (An Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1eDRra7)

Anticorruption Co-opted:  Problems with the Purported Polygamy-Corruption Connection (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1QM9PhQ)
The failure of the TPP matters, but not for economic reasons (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1QM9QT2)

Discussion

comments…

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The EU engagement with the Central African Republic

The challenges facing the Central African Republic (CAR) are so complex and interlinked that only a comprehensive approach focused on security, humanitarian aid, stabilisation and development cooperation will help make a difference. This is the approach of the European Union (EU).

The EU is the country’s main development partner and the main provider of humanitarian assistance. It has committed more than €360 million of new funding to respond to the crisis in CAR since it started in 2013. Over the years, the EU has also given development assistance to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable people. Just last year, the first ever EU Trust Fund, calledBêkou, was established together with France, Germany and the Netherlands to better support projects that link humanitarian and development actions in CAR and to pave the way for its recovery.

The EU is active in the international efforts to stabilise the country, support the transition process and help put the country on track towards a sustainable recovery. The EU supports the transition authorities in their efforts to find a political solution to the crisis. This political process should be broad-based, inclusive and locally-led to make a difference and to pass the test of time. The EU maintains regular dialogue with the CAR authorities, in close coordination with its international partners.

EU priorities in the Central African Republic

The EU’s comprehensive approach covers the following priorities:

1) Security

Security is essential in order to restore a more stable government in CAR.

The EU supported the African-led mission MISCA under the African Peace Facility (APF). The EU’s contribution (€ 125 million) covered the cost of allowances, accommodation and feeding the troops deployed in the field. The salaries of civilian MISCA personnel and operational costs such as transport, communication and medical services were also supported by the Facility. This assistance was essential for the functioning of the mission ahead of the transfer of authority to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA), which took place on 15 September 2014.

Furthermore, the military operation deployed by the European Union – EUFOR RCA – contributes to the international efforts to provide a secure environment and protect the populations most at risk. Deployed in the Bangui area and for a period of nine months between April 2014 and March 2015, it creates the conditions for the provision of humanitarian aid. The overall cost of the operation was estimated at € 38 million.

Since March, a new EU military Advisory Mission (EUMAM CAR) has been deployed in CAR. In parallel, on 28 April a Security Council Resolution), renewed the mandate of MINUSCA for one year.

2) Humanitarian assistance

The Central African Republic is in the worst humanitarian crisis since its independence. More than half of the 4.6 million population are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance. There are more than 436 000 internally displaced people, including over 44 000 in the capital. The crisis has forced over 220 000 people to flee to Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo since December 2013. There are over 461 000 Central African refugees in neighbouring countries. In addition to protection from violence, the priority needs are food, healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter and basic household items.

The European Union is the largest humanitarian donor to CAR. The European Commission and Member States have substantially scaled up their humanitarian engagement in light of the evolving needs (from €20 million in 2012, to over €130 million in 2014). These funds support protection, access to health care, food and nutrition assistance, drinking-water distribution, sanitation services, logistics and humanitarian coordination. Life-saving assistance is provided to those in need within CAR as well as to refugees in neighbouring countries. In addition, the EU has organised repeated airlifts of life-saving items and aid personnel into CAR to help the victims in 2014.

In 2015 and to date, more than €47 million have already been committed by the EU (Commission and Member States) of which €14 million by the European Commission as a response to the most urgent needs in CAR.

A team of European humanitarian experts is closely monitoring the situation in the field, assessing the needs and overseeing the use of EU funds.

3) Stabilisation

The EU pays special attention to the fight against impunity and the re-establishment of rule of law. It is funding projects aimed at the restart of a basic criminal justice system in Bangui. It also supports the reinstatement of police and gendarmerie capacities for community policing as well as riot control, restoration of the joint operational command centre, reinforcement of the judiciary, and the rehabilitation of prison facilities.

Through a 2013 €12 million stabilisation package, with the EU’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the EU provides support to restore police missions in Bangui, to support independent media in CAR, to promote community dialogue and peace, supports the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for missions in CAR and promotes the rejection of armed violence at community level.

Communities at risk also benefit from EU support to retain their ethnical and religious diversity (with €4 million, also through the IcSP). Operated in the few areas of Bangui where co-habitation continues, this pilot project is helping maintain a basis for the reconciliation process. Given its successful implementation in Bangui’s most sensitive areas, the project will be extended to critical zones in the provinces, with an additional budget boost of €10 million.

The €4.65 million IcSP project offers support to the transition process in CAR. In order to facilitate political dialogue it provides support to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD). In addition, as Housing, Land and Property (HLP) rights of those affected by the displacement will inevitably be a major concern, the project provides support through the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and seeks to strengthen HLP rights with local authorities, humanitarian actors and community leaders, ,while also organising an information campaign for those affected.

A €3 million IcSP action is currently being launched. It aims, on the one hand, to provide support to the civic education of civil society organisations and build their capacity for election observation, and, on the other hand, to support the initial steps of implementing the security sectorial reform.

Overall IcSP contribution to stabilise CAR amounts to € 32.5 million.

4) Resilience and sustainable recovery

Although the EU’s development cooperation has slowed down considerably due to the security and institutional situation, it continues. EU engagement for development in the CAR aims to foster economic recovery, create livelihoods and help restore state presence.

Between 2008 and 2013, around €225 million were allocated through the different financial instruments (€160 million through the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) and €65 million through the EU budget).

The EU is also working on the transition from emergency response towards longer-term development assistance through an approach linking relief, rehabilitation and development.

On 9 July 2014 the EU adopted a support package of €119 million, including: Restoration of basic social services in the CAR: education and health (€27 million), support for the 2015 electoral process in the Central African Republic (€20 million) and support for the preservation and consolidation of the Central African Republic state (€33M).

The Bêkou Trust Fund

Moreover, in July 2014 the first EU Trust Fundwas established with three Member States (France, Germany and the Netherlands). The Bêkou Trust Fund, (which means hope in the Sango language received an original total amount of €74 million (€51 million from the European Commission, €10 million from France, €10 million from Germany, €3 million from the Netherlands), it provides more flexibility to the EU’s work in this specific and complex context of the CAR.

As of today, six projects have been approved by the Trust Fund’s Operational Committee, on health (€15 million), urban rehabilitation (€4.5 million), gender (€1.5 million), food security (€10 million), on limiting the effects of the CAR crisis in the region, focusing on refugees in the east of Cameroon (€4.5 million) and on a program to promote the independence of economic actors and economic re-launch (€11 million). The first contracts were signed at the beginning of 2015 and activities have already started, benefiting more than 1 million people.

Currently a State Building Contract 2015-2016 is under preparation for a total amount of €40 million, out of which, if agreed by the Member States, €25 million will be disbursed in 2015 and €15 million in 2016.

Under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the EU Delegation in CAR is currently finalising a project with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) for a total of €1.2 million, for 2014 and 2015. The project’s objective is to document human rights violations and international crimes, accompany and support victims of international crimes before national and international courts, mobilise states, the international community and the civil society to fight against impunity, respect for human rights and democratic principles.

5) Regional impact of the crisis

In order to mitigate the regional impact of the CAR crisis on neighbouring countries, the EU has been active to provide targeted humanitarian assistance for CAR refugees in border regions in Chad, Cameroon and DRC (€ 14 million in 2014 and so far additional €5,3 million in 2015). Through an ongoing IcSP-funded project in Chad, it also facilitates the integration of returnees/refugees in host communities and helps prevent potential radicalisation (€12 million). A similar initiative is under preparation for Cameroon (€4 million).

For more information

The EU boosts its support to recovery and development in the Central African Republic:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5040_en.htm

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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: Making Progress: US Prevention of Mass Atrocities

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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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