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Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update

January 8, 2014 Comments off

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on January 14, 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary ad hoc international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union will assume the chairmanship in 2014.

Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy.

This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. Thanks in part to the Contact Group’s concerted efforts, there has not been a successful pirate attack on a commercial vessel off the Horn of Africa in more than a year and a half, and pirates no longer control a single hijacked vessel.

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world

November 23, 2013 Comments off

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters

Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.

Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.

+ Complete poll results

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update

October 28, 2013 Comments off

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on January 14, 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary ad hoc international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union will assume the chairmanship in 2014.

Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy.

This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. The last successful pirate attack on a major merchant vessel in the region occurred on May 10, 2012.

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update

July 23, 2013 Comments off

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on January 14, 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary ad hoc international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union will assume the chairmanship in 2014.

Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy.

This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. The last successful pirate attack on a merchant vessel in the region occurred on May 10, 2012.

CRS — Horn of Africa Region: The Humanitarian Crisis and International Response

January 31, 2012 Comments off

Horn of Africa Region: The Humanitarian Crisis and International Response (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

As a result of the worst drought in 60 years, regional conflicts, and conflict within states, a humanitarian emergency of massive proportion has unfolded over the past year in the Horn of Africa region. Current estimates suggest that more than 13.3 million people are currently affected, 250,000 of whom need food assistance in the near term to avoid death. Somalia has been hardest hit so far, creating population displacement within its borders and a refugee crisis of nearly 1 million people in the region, primarily in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The international community continues to respond with a massive humanitarian operation that reached full strength in mid 2011. Although food security has begun to improve, the situation remains very fragile, particularly in southern Somalia, where conditions are considered among the worst in the world. Humanitarian needs are expected to demand sustained attention well into 2012. While life-saving assistance is the current priority, long-term responses may be needed to break the disaster cycle in the Horn. Though triggered by drought, the humanitarian emergency is complicated by political and security pressures within, between, and among the various countries in the region. The recent deterioration of security conditions along the Kenya-Somali border, security incidents within the Dadaab refugee camp complex in northeast Kenya, and increasing restrictions by Al Shabaab, an Islamist insurgency led by an Al Qaeda affiliate, on humanitarian access in Somalia all have had an impact on the relief effort.

This report provides an overview of the current status of the crisis, summary background on the region, a framework for the international and humanitarian response, and an analysis of some of the operational challenges.

The role of the 112th Congress, which has so far focused on the crisis in hearings, legislation, and congressional correspondence with the Administration, is also examined, particularly with regard to funding questions, including:

  • budget priorities on global humanitarian accounts and food aid;
  • diversion of food aid;
  • donor restrictions on aid; and
  • burdensharing and donor fatigue.

It is anticipated Congress will continue to follow and respond to events as they unfold in the Horn.

Country Specific Information: Somalia

September 4, 2011 Comments off

Country Specific Information: Somalia
Source: U.S. Department of State

September 02, 2011

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Since the collapse of the central government in 1991, Somalia has been subject to widespread violence and instability. A Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was established in 2004 to guide the country to a more representative government. However, the TFG remains fragile and lacks the capacity to provide services in Somalia. The foreign terrorist group al-Shabaab attacks the TFG and its allied forces regularly in Mogadishu and in regions outside the capital, and commits terrorist acts throughout Somalia, including kidnapping for ransom. Inter- and intra-clan violence also frequently occurs throughout the country. The United States has no official representation in Somalia.

In 1991, the northwest part of the country proclaimed itself the Republic of Somaliland and maintains a separate regional governing authority; however, Somaliland has not received international recognition as an independent state. The northeastern section of Somalia, known as the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, has also made efforts to establish a regional governing authority but has not claimed independence. Somalia’s economy was seriously damaged by the civil war and its aftermath, but the private sector is trying to reemerge. Tourist facilities are non-existent. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Somalia for additional information.

State Department Travel Warning: Somalia

August 21, 2011 Comments off

State Department Travel Warning: Somalia
Source: U.S Department of State

The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Somalia and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia. This replaces the Travel Warning dated December 27, 2010, to update information on security concerns.

Assassinations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate armed attacks in civilian populated areas are frequent in Somalia. In August and September 2010, terrorists launched an offensive against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces involving multiple attacks against local and international targets. On February 21, terrorists exploded a suicide truck bomb at the gate of Sarangi police camp in Mogadishu’s Hamar Jajab district, killing 17 people and wounding more than 40 others. On May 30, AU peacekeepers engaged in a shootout with al-Shabaab insurgents just outside of the AMISOM base in Mogadishu, thwarting an attempted suicide bombing. On June 10, a suicide bomber killed the TFG’s Minister of Interior at his residence.

There is no U.S. Embassy or other U.S. diplomatic presence in Somalia. Consequently, the U.S. Government is not in a position to assist or effectively provide services to U.S. citizens in Somalia. In light of the serious security threats, the U.S. Government recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.

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