Supported by USAID Guarantee, City of Dakar Announces First West African Municipal Bond at USAID Frontiers in Development


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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The City of Dakar announced today its plans to issue the first non-sovereign-backed municipal bond in all of Sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa. The $41.8 million bond, backed by a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Development Credit Authority bond guarantee, will raise funds for the construction of a marketplace for more than 3,500 street vendors

Ambassador Power at a Security Council Debate on Afghanistan

Special Representative Kubis, thank you for your briefing today and for your ongoing leadership in challenging circumstances. We wish you all the best and are grateful to you for your service in a very difficult assignment. Thank you, Ambassador Tanin, for your statement, which eloquently conveyed the stakes of the current impasse.

My remarks today will center on two issues: the election, and the role of UNAMA and the international community going forward.

First, on the election: as the efforts to finalize the results of the election proceed, we should not lose sight of the commitment of the Afghan people to their democracy. Many Afghan voters took real risks and overcame fears for their safety to cast their ballots. No matter who they voted for, their votes were an affirmation of Afghans’ desire to shape their country’s future. We commend Afghan auditors and observers for the critically important part that they have played in this process. We also commend the UN, and in particular UNAMA and UNDP, for their constructive role in the electoral process.

One of the Afghans who voted was Mohammed Ismail, a tire shop owner in Kabul. In the June runoff, he brought his 6-year-old daughter, Nida, with him to the polls. “She insisted,” Mohammed told The New York Times. “When I told her she didn’t have a voter card, she told me she would use mine.” He said, “I never thought I’d have the chance to bring my daughter to participate in a vote.”

The turnout of people like Mohammed is a measure of the progress Afghanistan has made in the last 13 years. That progress has come at a high price, as the suicide attack in Kabul earlier this week – which killed three people and wounded five more – brought into stark relief. So many people have given their lives to build a more democratic, secure, and prosperous Afghanistan.

And while there have been some setbacks, the progress is real. Afghans have seen improved access to education for all children, including girls. Less than a million students were enrolled in school in 2001 – none of them girls. Today, more than 8.3 million students attend school – a third of them girls. Health care has improved dramatically. A decade ago, 10% of the Afghan people had access to basic health services. Today, nearly two thirds do. During this decade, Afghanistan has seen the fastest gains in life expectancy, maternal health, and child health in the entire world. In 2001, there was virtually no independent Afghan media, only Taliban propaganda. Today, Afghans can listen to 175 FM radio stations, watch 75 TV channels, and read hundreds of print publications. All of that progress has changed people’s lives for the better. And the admirable patience of most Afghans with the democratic process, particularly through the recent recount, is a reflection of that progress, as well.

All of this progress now hangs in the balance. Until now, the candidates have been willing to stay at the table and work toward a compromise that would avoid the kind of divisions that could undermine Afghanistan’s advancements toward greater stability. Both have openly expressed their commitment to putting Afghanistan’s future first. Our message to them today is to persevere in that effort and forge a durable compromise.

Second, we support UNAMA’s ongoing efforts to assist the Afghanistan government, from building good governance and strengthening economic development, to promoting regional cooperation. UNAMA has been Afghanistan’s partner since 2002 and will continue to play a role in the country’s development.

The United States is also committed to Afghanistan’s ongoing growth, development, and security, and will remain a close partner of the Afghan government. That commitment to Afghanistan is rooted in the strategic partnership that we entered into in 2012. We look forward to working with the new Afghan government to align our development assistance with its priorities and uphold the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.

NATO allies and partner nations stand ready to continue to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014. Their mission will be based on the sound legal footing provided by the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement and the NATO-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement, which we hope will be concluded soon. The proposed plan, announced at the recent summit in Wales, is for the new NATO mission to be conducted in full partnership with the government of Afghanistan. In the coming months, we hope to work with the members of the Security Council to develop a resolution welcoming the government of Afghanistan’s decisions on this agreement.

Not long ago, an election in Afghanistan would itself have been unthinkable. Today, a six-year-old girl can insist that her father take her along when he casts his vote. That should give us all hope for Afghanistan’s future. And it should inspire the country’s leaders to reach a political compromise helping ensure that, one day, that girl can cast her own ballot.

Thank you.

- Source: U.S. Mission to the UN in New York

Ambassador Froman on Labor Enforcement Case Against Guatemala

“Today, I’m joined by President Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Ranking Member Levin, Representatives Becerra and Price, and Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu to announce that this Administration is once again taking action on behalf of workers, both here and around the world, by proceeding with our labor enforcement case against Guatemala under the Central America Free Trade Agreement.

“As President Obama has made clear, our trade agreements must advance both our interests and our values, they must be monitored closely, and the obligations of our trading partners must be enforced.  Central to that commitment are strong, enforceable labor standards.

“These standards level the playing field for American workers and help ensure that global competition is driven by entrepreneurship and innovation, not by exploitation or injustice. 

“These standards protect the fundamental rights of workers around the world and promote trade and investment that lifts the futures of all, not the fortunes of a few.

“These standards stem from our conviction that sustainable development requires much more than promoting economic growth; it requires protecting human dignity.

“And when these standards are threatened, we don’t simply remind our trading partners of their enforcement obligations and point to the bar they are in danger of missing. We work with them to develop a plan for fixing the problem, for creating a ladder they can climb. We extend a hand during our monitoring efforts, and when justified, we provide additional support if progress is significant but slower than promised.

“But we do not lower the bar. And when all our supporting efforts have been exhausted, we do not hesitate to take action.

“This case is the first-ever labor dispute under any free trade agreement, and we have been working with Guatemala even before we formally established this panel in 2011 to afford Guatemalan workers the rights to which they are entitled under Guatemalan law.

“In April of last year, we finished working together on the ladder that was needed: an 18-point Enforcement Plan with concrete steps to strengthen labor law enforcement. And having agreed on that plan, we suspended this arbitration, as we have on a number of occasions, so that Guatemala would have every opportunity to follow through on their commitments and demonstrate that changes were being made on the ground.  Ultimately, though, the ladder we built together remains Guatemala’s to climb.

“To drive home the importance of following through on these commitments, I met face to face with Guatemalan President Perez Molina here in Washington, D.C. last July.

“And, with his encouragement, I traveled to Guatemala the next week and met with their ministers of labor, economy and foreign affairs. 

“I met with Guatemalan Congressional leaders from across the political spectrum to personally urge them to pass needed labor protections.

“And I met with Guatemalan business groups, labor union representatives, the International Labour Organization, and the United Nations to enlist their help in getting Guatemala to enact the needed changes.

“Many of these conversations were productive, and Guatemala has made some important progress over time. That includes, for example, hiring over one hundred new inspectors and creating a unit to verify employer compliance with court orders.

“But, unfortunately, key commitments under the Enforcement Plan remain outstanding, such as passing legislation that enhances the authority of the Ministry of Labor to impose sanctions when it finds a violation of Guatemala’s labor laws and reduces the time it takes to bring labor law violators to justice. 

“Even despite our close collaboration with Guatemala’s Labor Ministry, the record that Guatemala has presented is insufficient to demonstrate that the changes made have had the desired impact on the ground.  

“But let me make clear that our goal in taking action today remains the same as it has always been: to ensure that Guatemala enforces the labor protections to which its workers are entitled. Litigation is a means toward that goal, not an end in itself.  And it is our hope that today’s action will help encourage those in Guatemala who wish to address these issues to strengthen their efforts.  In fact, we understand that even today, there are some in the Guatemalan government trying to push forward on key outstanding elements, like the sanctions legislation.  We will be supporting those important efforts.

“Both the rewards and the urgency of achieving the goal have never been greater than they are today.

“One reason is that our countries are bound together by a number of economic ties—whether it is textiles, apparel, or agricultural products—and making the most of our shared economic potential depends on ensuring that trade-driven growth is inclusive and broad-based.

“But these are not the only ties that our countries share.

“As President Obama made clear when he met with President Perez Molina in July, our countries also share strong connections of culture, family, and promise.

“And as the President said then, we have a shared responsibility to address the challenge of unaccompanied children risking their lives to travel across borders.

“As part of meeting that challenge, we must address the underlying factors that have stunted economic growth and placed opportunity out of reach for too many Guatemalans.

“We have a collective interest in encouraging Guatemala to create an economic environment that offers that opportunity, that reassures families that their children have a future at home and that they can make a living by staying rather than risk their lives by leaving.  Enforcing labor laws is an essential element for spurring economic growth and fostering communities where citizens can thrive. Adherence to the rule of law, transparent and fair procedures, and publication of data on governmental actions all create a better climate for investment and business.

“We remain hopeful that Guatemala can achieve a resolution that results in concrete improvements for workers on the ground and sends a positive signal to the world that would help attract investment, expand economic activity, and promote inclusive growth.

“And we remain committed to helping Guatemala achieve that outcome and earn the benefits that come with enforcing the law to uphold internationally recognized labor rights. 

“There is too much at stake—the rights of workers, the safety of children, the opportunities of future generations—to do otherwise.

“I’m now going to turn it to my friend and colleague Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO.

“Before I do, I would like to commend the AFL-CIO for everything they do to stand up for workers here in the United States and across the world.

“In 2008, the AFL-CIO worked with Guatemalan labor groups to file the original petition, which ultimately led to the United States initiating this case.

“Undaunted by the challenges, the AFL-CIO has shown a commitment to improving the labor situation on the ground in Guatemala, and they have collaborated closely with USTR and the Department of Labor to gather facts and build this case.

“Rich, thank you and your team. With that, I’ll turn it over to you.

“Thank you, Chris. Before we finish, I’d again like to commend Rich Trumka and the AFL-CIO for their tireless work on this case. 

“And I want to thank Ranking Member Levin and Representatives Becerra and Price for being here with us today.  I appreciate your dedication and commitment to standing up for American workers, and value the close partnership we have on our broader trade agenda.

“The labor enforcement case announced today underscores one of the core principles of our trade policy: that we can – and must – shape the terms of trade so that its benefits are broadly shared.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with Congress, stakeholders and the public in pursuit of a trade policy that creates economic opportunities, supports jobs, and upholds our fundamental values.”

- Source: ustr.gov

The ISIS Threat: Weighing the Obama Administration’s Response

 Well, thank you very much, Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, all the members of the committee. It’s my privilege to be here today. I’m glad to have this opportunity. Let me begin by both congratulating you and thanking you for the vote that took place yesterday. We are enormously appreciative because stepping up the efforts with respect to the moderate opposition is an essential piece in any strategy against ISIL, and I’ll go into that a little bit in a moment.

I know the Chairman knows I have a hard stop on this because I have to be at the White House for the meeting with President Poroshenko, so I’m going to – I’ll try to really abbreviate and I’ll try to keep my answers short, but I also want to make sure I answer them – your questions sufficiently.

For more than 10 years Iraq has been a source of debate and some disagreement, obviously, up on the Hill, in the country. I think we’d waste time today if we focused on sort of rehashing past debates when the issue that confronts us is really straightforward and one on which we ought to all agree. ISIL has to be defeated, plain and simple, end of story; has to be. And collectively, I think every single one of us is going to be measured by what we do in order to guarantee that that happens. And the same is true on the international level. Even in a region that has been virtually defined by division over these past years, leaders who couldn’t find any agreement for 11 years and who agree on very little in general are all in agreement that ISIS has to be defeated.

We’ve been focused on ISIL, I will tell you, since it morphed into al-Qaida in Iraq in 2013 and picked up AQI’s mission under a different banner. And obviously, prior to that we were focused on it in the full context in what we were doing with respect to al-Qaida. In January, we ramped up our assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces, increasing our intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance–ISR– and flights to get a better picture of the battlefield and in order to expedite weapons like the Hellfire missiles for the Iraqis so that they could bring those to bear in the fight.

Early this summer, the ISIL threat accelerated when it effectively obliterated the Iraq-Syria border and the Mosul Dam fell. And there are complicated reasons for why that happened. It’s not just a straightforward they-ran-over-them deal. It has to do with the kind of army that Prime Minister Maliki began to create. It has to do with Shia and Sunni. It has to do with a lot of other ingredients.

But as a result of that, we further surged our ISR missions immediately over Iraq. We immediately set up joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil. And our Special Forces conducted immediately a very detailed assessment of the Iraqi Security Forces, because we needed to know in order to be able to answer your questions and the questions of the American people what might we be getting into here. Do we have an Iraqi army that’s capable of fighting? To what degree? What will it take to reconstitute it? So whatever judgments are coming to you now are coming to you as a consequence of that assessment.

And in addition to that, I’m proud to say that thanks to American engagement, ISIL’s movement, which was rapid at that point in time and perilous, was stopped. Together with the Peshmerga and the brave, courageous souls, the Kurds who stood up, we were able to not only stop them there but to liberate Amirli, which had been under siege, liberate Sinjar Mountain, to begin to bring our efforts to bear on Haditha Dam and make a difference. And by the time ISIL had launched its offensive in the north, President Obama began airstrikes to begin with on a humanitarian basis to protect American personnel and prevent major catastrophes such as the fall of Haditha Dam or the maintenance of the Mosul Dam and also to bolster the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish forces.

To date, we’ve launched more than 150 airstrikes. And I know that sounds like – it doesn’t sound like – that’s very few compared to the 16,000 that was mentioned earlier. But it’s a different deal right now, because I believe we rightfully, absolutely needed to get in place a structured, clear, Iraqi-chosen Iraqi effort that provided a government with which we can work going forward. If you didn’t have a government with which you could work going forward, nothing that we tried to do would have had the impact necessary. So the platforms we put in place last June have enabled us to be able to do what we’ve done now, and there’s absolute clarity to the fact that we blunted ISIL’s momentum, created the time and space to be able to put together a comprehensive strategy, get the inclusive government, and build a broad coalition. And that’s the way we ought to go at this.

We’ve redoubled our efforts to move the Iraqi political process forward. We’re clear-eyed about the fact that any strategy against ISIL is only going to succeed if it has this strong and inclusive government in Iraq, and I hope you noticed a photograph on the front page of The Wall Street Journal two days ago that showed Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, arm-in-arm with the Kurdish president of Iraq and with the Shia foreign minister of Iraq. They all came together in Jeddah, and that’s why I went to Baghdad last week – to meet with this new Iraqi Government and make certain of what they were willing to do and were committing to us, and encouraged them to discuss in detail their commitment against ISIL and especially their commitment to unify the country and do the things that haven’t been done for these eight years or more.

What happened in Jeddah was literally historic in terms of the recent history of Iraq and the conflicts of that region. Iraq is now no longer isolated from its neighbors. Last week, the Iraqis weren’t just invited to come to Jeddah, but they were warmly received by the Saudis and by the rest of the countries there. And the Saudis announced in that meeting that they will reopen an embassy in Baghdad. That’s a big deal, and it’s essential. President Obama outlined the broader strategy in detail the other day. I’m not going to go through it all, but I just quickly highlight it because it’s important to continually remember this is not just an American effort, number one, and number two, it is not just military, not just kinetic, even within the military.

It is critical that we all understand how complicated it is, be – precisely because we’re not just focused on taking the enemy out on the battlefield, but we have to take out an entire network. I don’t know how many of you saw it today, but the Australians today arrested a large group of people that they suspected of being ISIL members, supporters, sympathizers in Australia who were planning some kind of extravaganza of brutality in Australia. So we have to decimate and discredit a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement and claiming with no legitimacy whatsoever to be a state. And it’s – there are similarities to what we’ve been doing with al-Qaida these last years, but frankly, it’s different for some of the reasons that Chairman Royce pointed out. These folks have now taken over territory in ways that al-Qaida never did. They have access to money in ways that al-Qaida never did. They have access to weapons that they captured from Iraqis, and they’re holding that territory and beginning to try to build a capacity for sustainability that challenges everybody.

So certainly, military support is going to be one component of this. And I sit here today – while I can’t go into all of the details at this particular moment for a lot of obvious reasons, I’m here to tell you that we have people in Europe committed to being part of kinetic effort; outside of Europe in other parts of the world committed; and in the region, Arab commitments to be part of this effort. In Syria, the on-the-ground combat will be done by the moderate opposition, which is Syria’s best counterweight to extremists like ISIL. And we can talk more about that moderate opposition – what it looks like, who it is, what they’re capable of today, what they could be doing – as we go forward.

In addition to the military campaign, we obviously need to dry up the illicit funding sources for al-Qaida. We have to stop the foreign fighters, people with passports from some of your states, people who could return here with experience in fighting in Syria or Iraq, and come back and engage in activities here. And the evidence of that is not in my saying it; a fighter who was in Syria traversed back through Turkey and other places, came back to Europe, a French sympathizer, went to Brussels and shot four people outside of a synagogue in Brussels.

So I emphasize that when we say in addition there’s another major step, and that will be to continue to deliver humanitarian assistance and to make a difference for the people on the ground so that they don’t get sucked in by the money that an ISIL can spend or even pay them.

In addition, we have a major effort to undertake to repudiate the insulting distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading. I was very encouraged to hear yesterday that Saudi Arabia’s top clerical entity, 21 clerics, unanimously came out and declared again that terrorism is a heinous crime under Sharia law, and more importantly declared that ISIL has nothing to do with Islam and that it is, in fact, the order of Satan. And this is vital because we know that preventing any individual from joining ISIL, from getting to the battlefield in the first place, is actually the most effective measure that we can take. The top – the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia last week said that ISIL is the number one enemy of Islam and it might serve us all well to focus on it not in a name that gives it a state, but to focus on it as the enemy of Islam.

That’s why I spent the last days in Europe and in the Middle East building this coalition together with others, countries, and that’s why I’ll be tomorrow in New York at the UN Security Council at a session that is aimed to build up this coalition even more and to get even more specific about commitments from each country as to what they’re going to do. We have more than 50 countries now contributing in one way or another, with specific understanding of what those countries will do – some will provide ammunition, some will help with the de-legitimizing, some will engage in de-financing, some will engage in military assistance, some in training and assist, some in kinetic activities.

In addition, in New York with me tomorrow will be General John Allen. I think many of you know him, command in Iraq for – in Afghanistan for two years, 2011-2013, and deputy commander of Anbar in Iraq and great experience in the region, great respect in the region, knowledge of the Sunni tribes, of all the folks there that are part of the mix to be able to mobilize action.

And he can help us match up each country’s capabilities with the needs of the coalition. That’s another reason why we can’t lay it all out to you today is because in the Pentagon as well as in our intel community as well as the White House, we are marrying all of the needs with the particular coalition contributors. Ambassador Brett McGurk as well as Assistant Secretary Anne Patterson, who was so much a part of the effort against al-Qaida in Pakistan, are also leading the team. And I commit to you that we will continue to build and enhance the coalition well beyond UNGA.

So with that, I look forward to your questions and I hope we can get through as much as possible. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

- Source: state.gov

Ambassador Baer on Ongoing Violations of OSCE Principles and Commitments by the Russian Federation and the Situation in Ukraine

The United States condemns, in the strongest terms, Russia’s
direct military intervention in eastern Ukraine, its continuing efforts to
destabilize the country, and its ongoing occupation of Crimea. Despite
the plan outlined in the September 5 Minsk Protocol that includes a cease-fire
agreement, Russian troops continue to reinforce separatist positions in eastern
Ukraine. These separatists continue their attacks against Ukrainian
positions. Last weekend, separatist forces again shelled Donetsk,
especially near the Donetsk airport.  Even OSCE monitors came under fire
and sustained serious damage to their vehicles, as we earlier noted in our
response to SMM Chief Monitor Apakan. These actions are intolerable and
escalate tensions at a time that demands cooperation, transparency, and
restraint.

This past weekend, Russia continued its violation of
Ukrainian sovereignty by sending more than 200 trucks into Ukraine without the
permission of Ukrainian authorities, supposedly to provide humanitarian
aid. Several news outlets have reported indications that the convoy
offloaded military equipment in Ukrainian territory. These actions are
hardly in keeping with either international law or the spirit of the Minsk
Protocol.

Due to Russia’s direct military intervention and continuing
efforts to destabilize Ukraine, the United States—joining the European
Union—announced deepened sanctions against Russia’s energy, financial, and
defense sectors. These sanctions will further isolate Russia from
international trading and business partners if it continues its aggressive
pattern of actions and violations of international law. As President Obama has
stated, Russia must abide by its commitments to implement the Minsk Protocol before
discussions can begin about sanctions being rolled back. 

Mr. Chair, we applaud the Ukrainian Parliament’s passage of
laws on Amnesty and Special Status for select parts of Donetsk and
Luhansk. This highlights Ukraine’s commitment to the Minsk Protocol and
to resolve the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine peacefully. The United
States also continues to support President Poroshenko’s Peace Plan and the
government’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the entire crisis.
President Poroshenko has stressed his continued commitment to a way forward
that includes decentralization, the free use of the Russian language,
state-assisted housing, and job creation. But Ukrainian resolve alone
will not bring peace. Russia and the separatists it supports must end
their destabilizing actions in Ukraine and follow through on their obligations
under the Minsk Protocol.

We also continue to reject Russia’s attempted annexation of
Crimea and reject the so-called regional and local elections in Crimea on
September 14. The United States does not recognize the legitimacy of
these so-called elections and will not acknowledge their outcome. In
addition, we are concerned by numerous reports that de-facto authorities in Crimea
are mistreating Crimean Tatars and other minorities on a widespread
basis. For instance, earlier this week, police officers and armed men
entered and searched the Mejlis, the Tatar legislative assembly. The Mejlis
raid, the prosecution of Mejlis member Esadullakh Bairov, and raids on local
mosques and madrassas appear to be further manifestations of the mounting
pressure on Tatar communities under the cover of “extremism” legislation. Russia also continues to deny re-entry of residents into Crimea. These
actions are unacceptable and we call for an immediate end to all such
practices.

Mr. Chair, it is now time for Russia to implement its own
commitments. Russia must withdraw its forces, weapons and equipment from
Ukraine; Russia must do its part to secure and respect the international border
between the two countries; it must ensure that all hostages are released; and it
must support the implementation of a buffer zone along both sides of the
border, monitored by the OSCE. Russia must also prevail on separatists to
stop violating the ceasefire. 

The United States will continue to support the democratic,
sovereign, unified and stable Ukraine that its people yearn for and
deserve.

- Source: U.S. Mission to the OSCE

U.S. Concerned by Threats to Freedom of Expression in OSCE Region

The United States shares the concern raised by our EU
colleagues on the continued threats to freedom of expression. We
particularly note the recent case of an attack on Ksenia Batanovo, a television
producer for the Dozhd Russian independent news channel. The brazen
attack against Ms. Batanova underscores the need for a speedy and thorough
investigation, and once again reminds us of the need for all states to condemn
all attacks on and harassment of journalists. Among the most valued
services journalists provide to any society are the investigation of injustice
and the exposure of corruption.

Russia bears much of the responsibility for the increasingly
hazardous media freedom situation in eastern Ukraine. We echo
Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic’s condemnation of the
suppression of free voices in Crimea in her press release of September 9. The detention and interrogation in Crimea of Yelizaveta Bohutskaya, a blogger
and contributor to various media outlets, including Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty’s Crimean desk, appears linked to local authorities’ desire to suppress
criticism of Russian officials. In the words of Secretary Kerry, “for too many,
a free press is under assault, and the journalists, bloggers, photographers,
satirists, and essayists who give life to the words ‘free press’ are in
danger.”

Mr. Chair, the United States calls upon the Russian
Federation to abide by its OSCE commitments to freedom of expression and media
freedom. The Russian government must take immediate steps to de-escalate
tensions in eastern and southern Ukraine and make clear to its own troops and
local militants that attacks on journalists and media outlets are completely
unacceptable and must be stopped.

Mr. Chair, we would also note the reports just this morning
of the attack on a BBC team in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan. According to reports, while working on a story about a Russian soldier
who died in Ukraine, the team’s cameraman was beaten, their camera smashed, and
recorded material deleted. We once again call on Russia for a swift
investigation into these attacks against journalists seeking to report news
stories. We echo Ms. Mijatovic’s comments to the press, in which she
stated, “What we are witnessing is a clear sign of harassment of free media
in Russia.”

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

- Source: U.S. Mission to the OSCE

Ambassador Baer on Detained Ukrainian Citizens in Russia

The United States joins the European Union, Canada, and
Ukraine in expressing concern over the continued detention of Ukrainian
citizens in Russia. At a time when signatories of the Minsk Protocol
should be implementing their commitments, Russia continues to disregard its
obligations by detaining Ukrainian citizens such as service member Nadia
Savchenko and film producer Oleg Sentsov.

The United States is extremely concerned by recent reports
that bail for Ms. Savchenko was denied again by a Russian court. Her
abduction by separatists, her smuggling across Ukraine’s border into Russia,
and her detention and treatment in Russia are unacceptable. We also
condemn the detention of Crimean film director and pro-Maidan activist Oleg
Sentsov, who has been detained since May 11 on trumped-up charges in Moscow.

We again call on Russia to release these Ukrainian citizens
immediately.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

- Source: U.S. Mission to the OSCE

Ambassador Baer Response to Report by Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan, Chief of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

The United States warmly welcomes Ambassador Apakan back to
the Permanent Council and thanks him for his report on a Mission that has
become an example of this Organization’s capacity to respond swiftly and
effectively to a crisis. Allow me also to applaud your team’s tireless
efforts and unwavering commitment to fulfilling the Special Monitoring
Mission’s mandate. And thank you, really, for a terrific, very candid report
today.

Ambassador Apakan, since participating States adopted and
renewed the mandate of one of the OSCE’s most notable missions, SMM monitors
have served as the eyes and ears for people in Ukraine and around the world who
demand answers and seek truth. In fulfilling your mission, you and your
team have shown laudable professionalism, flexibility, creativity, and
courage. The SMM was first to report objectively on the realities of the
crisis in Ukraine. The SMM was instrumental in facilitating access for
investigators to the site of the heinous MH17 downing. The SMM has been
tapped for a role in implementing the Geneva Joint Statement and Berlin
Agreement and has continued to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and
challenges to fulfill its mandate. Now, the SMM is poised to take on
perhaps its most critical role yet: monitoring the ceasefire in eastern
Ukraine and along the Ukraine/Russia border under the terms of the Minsk
Protocol.

We thank you for the operational flexibility you have shown
with your current resources. We applaud the SMM for deploying 60 monitors
to the Donbas less than one week after the September 5 agreement was reached
and for committing to expand the number of monitors in the region. We
encourage the SMM to direct and deploy staff where they are needed most and
where security conditions allow.

Each day we receive troubling reports that the fragile
ceasefire is marred by violations and that Russian troops continue to reinforce
separatist positions in eastern Ukraine. Your teams know all too well how
serious and dangerous these threats to the ceasefire can be. We were
alarmed by the report that SMM monitors traveling in two vehicles were hit by
artillery fragments on the outskirts of Kirovske, and, as a result of shrapnel
damage, one vehicle is no longer operational. It is unacceptable that the
monitors were exposed to danger as a result of ceasefire violations.

We renew our call for Russia to implement immediately its
commitments under the Minsk Protocol. Russia must withdraw its forces,
weapons and equipment from Ukraine; it must work constructively to secure and
respect the international border between the two countries and support border
monitoring; it must ensure that all hostages are released; and it must do its
part to implement a buffer zone along both sides of the border, monitored by
the OSCE. Russia must also prevail on the separatists to stop violating
the ceasefire and allow free and unfettered access of SMM teams across Ukraine,
including Crimea, where Russia must end its occupation. Thank you for
your words about the upcoming report that will include challenges to those
living in the Crimean region of Ukraine.

I stated earlier that the task before you in monitoring the
ceasefire is not an easy one—and while there is much hard work ahead for the
SMM, there is also hard work ahead for each and every participating State
around this table. The Special Monitoring Mission cannot properly
undertake its role in the Minsk Protocol unless the Mission is fully expanded
to its mandated 500 monitors and equipped with necessary resources, such as
armored vehicles, security personnel officers, and communications equipment. We encourage the SMM to provide participating States with a list of
needed equipment and resources.

As of today, the United States has contributed 26 Monitoring
Officers working under the aegis of the SMM in Ukraine. The United States
has also responded to the latest vacancy announcement by putting forward 50
nominees with relevant experience and expertise who are ready to deploy
immediately. Additionally, we are interviewing and vetting an additional
20 candidates on an urgent basis to add to the list of U.S. nominees. We
have received expressions of interest from a further 150 U.S. candidates. We continue to call on all participating States to provide the needed financial
and personnel resources to ensure the success of this Mission and a peaceful
outcome in Ukraine.

And I agree with you, as I have said before in this forum,
that this is an opportunity to put the theory behind women, peace, and security
into action.  We have averaged over 40% of our monitors, and we encourage
others to follow your call and provide qualified female candidates to the monitoring
mission.

Ambassador Apakan, we urge you to continue relaying your
needs and communicating your challenges to all participating States so that we
may provide you with the support and supplies you need. We welcome the
OSCE’s acquisition of technical assistance equipment, such as unmanned aerial
vehicles, to help monitor the ceasefire, while underscoring that no piece of
equipment can replace the valuable face-to-face interactions in which the SMM
monitors have proven themselves such effective interlocutors and
intermediaries.

If things go well, there will be urgent needs and demands
for the SMM to respond quickly. The demands on you will not diminish, and
we encourage you now to continue your urgent planning and deployments, and you
should brace yourself for the weeks ahead. But before concluding I want
to take a moment to express our gratitude, and to honor the courage and
dedication of the monitors on the ground. Many of them have left families
and comfortable lives behind, and are putting themselves at some risk every
day. And they do the work because they know that its important work that
they do on behalf of all of us. And we honor them, and appreciate their
efforts, as we appreciate those of yourself, your deputies, and your leadership
team in Kyiv. 

Ambassador Apakan, we thank you and your team for your hard
work, determination, and unwavering commitment to the OSCE and its fundamental
principles.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

- Source: U.S. Mission to the OSCE

Joint Statement on National Dialogue in Sudan

The members of the Troika (the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway) welcome recent efforts to reinvigorate a process of genuine national dialogue in Sudan. As the country confronts a new and critical era in its history, we remain conscious of the continuing governance concerns expressed by the Sudanese people, the problems of center-periphery imbalance, and the articulation of political, economic, and social grievances, particularly in the country’s peripheries. Despite years of peacemaking attempts supported by regional and international actors, deadly conflicts persist. We recognize that the many such attempts to resolve conflict and rectify grievances at a regional level have failed to achieve a sustainable peace. We reiterate our support for a mediation architecture that facilitates both resolution of conflict and a comprehensive process of national dialogue, and thus welcome initial progress with Sudanese stakeholders to this end, under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel.

In this regard, we recognize the following Principles as a basis for meaningful governance reform and lasting resolution of the conflicts in Sudan:

  • There is no military solution to the conflicts in Sudan;
  • A compartmentalized and regional approach to peacemaking cannot yield a solution to grievances that are national in character;
  • A sustainable peace and genuinely representative political system can best be achieved through a comprehensive national dialogue that addresses fundamental issues of governance, political inclusiveness, resource-sharing, identity, and social equality at a national level;
  • A comprehensive dialogue should be broadly inclusive; its exercise and outcomes should recognize and accommodate the country’s unique diversity of peoples, cultures, and religions; and such a dialogue must necessarily include the Government of Sudan, armed and unarmed opposition movements, political parties, a broad range of civil society representatives, and constituents from every region of Sudan;
  • A comprehensive dialogue can succeed only in an environment conducive to meaningful participation of all of the country’s diverse constituents, free from any restrictions to the right to assembly or the right to freedom of expression;
  • A comprehensive dialogue might best serve Sudan and its people by:

    • Upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Sudan;
    • Yielding an inclusive and participatory governance arrangement that allows all citizens and regions to participate in institutions that are democratic in nature and to benefit equitably from Sudan’s national resources;
    • Agreeing to a timeline and benchmarks for the holding of national elections, so as to ensure elections can be broadly participatory and yield legitimate and widely-recognized outcomes, and thus help to initiate a more democratic political dispensation in Sudan.

- Source: state.gov

2014/09/18 Seeing Through the Fog (and Dust and Snow) of War

MFRF

Degraded visibility—which encompasses diverse environmental conditions including severe weather, dust kicked up during takeoff and landing and poor visual contrast among different parts of terrain—often puts both the safety and effectiveness of tactical helicopter operations at risk. Current sensor systems that can provide the necessary visualization through obscurants struggle with latency and are too large, heavy and power-intensive to comply with military rotary wing operations.

Ambassador Baer on the Detention of Zinaida Mukhortova in Kazakhstan

The United States is deeply concerned that Zinaida Mukhortova, a Kazakhstani lawyer and human rights defender, was detained on July 2 and involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility in Balkhash. This is the third time in as many years that the government of Kazakhstan has forced Ms. Mukhortova to undergo psychiatric treatment for alleged “delusions.” Mr. Chair, the truth is that she has provided the local population with free legal aid, campaigned against corruption, and denounced political interference in judicial processes. The abuse of psychiatry for political purposes has long been roundly condemned by the international community. Yet we have seen Kazakhstan resort to this despicable practice several times during the past year. We call on the government of Kazakhstan to release Ms. Mukhortova immediately, to fully respect her human rights, and to recommit itself to fully implementing the entire body of its OSCE human dimension commitments.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

- Source: U.S. Mission to the OSCE

U.S. Statement at the Adoption of the Working Group Report of the UPR of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

As Delivered by Divya Khosla

Thank you, Mr. Vice-President,

The United States welcomes the return of the delegation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Working Group report.

We welcome the DRC’s support for Rwanda’s recommendation that the DRC fulfill its commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework. We appreciate the recommendations of a number of states for the DRC to increase efforts to address impunity for extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions. We also welcome the DRC’s pledge to increase support for victims of sexual and gender-based violence. We support its decision to facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders and to strengthen its National Human Rights Commission.

We are encouraged by the DRC’s support for the recommendation to establish, in conjunction with civil society and the international community, independent and impartial specialized mixed chambers within the national judicial system to address serious human rights violations. We are further encouraged that the DRC supports recommendations by a number of states to allow for full freedoms of expression and assembly. These include recommendations for the government to investigate the arrests of political activists and journalists detained for exercising free speech. We urge the Government to fully implement these recommendations.

Thank you.

- Source: U.S. Mission Geneva