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Fact Sheet: Charting a New Course on Cuba

December 19, 2014 Comments off

Charting a New Course on Cuba
Source: U.S. Department of State

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba.

It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

See also: Announcement of Cuba Policy Changes (John Kerry, Secretary of State)
See also: Briefing on Changes in U.S. Policy Toward Cuba (Roberta S. Jacobson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs)

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Release of Foreign Relations of the United States, Public Diplomacy, 1917-1972, World War I

December 11, 2014 Comments off

Release of Foreign Relations of the United States, Public Diplomacy, 1917-1972, World War I
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, Public Diplomacy, 1917–1972, World War I. This is the first chapter in a retrospective volume which will augment the series’ coverage of U.S. public diplomacy. While the series began to document the subject in a sustained and concerted way starting with the second administration of President Richard M. Nixon, previous FRUS coverage of U.S. public diplomacy efforts have been far less consistent. This retrospective volume will fill that gap, which stretches from the First World War to the early 1970s. This compilation covers World War I; subsequent compilations, which will document up to the end of the first Nixon administration, will be published as they are completed. The compilation also features the first inclusion of film in a Foreign Relations of the United States volume.

To Walk the Earth in Safety (2014)

December 9, 2014 Comments off

To Walk the Earth in Safety (2014)
Source: U.S. Department of State

The 13th edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety describes the programs and partnerships that comprise the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Program. Since 1993, the U.S. has led the international donor community in reducing the harmful effects of poorly secured, unstable or illegally traded conventional weapons of war. We have contributed over $2.3 billion to more than 90 countries around the world.

Inspection of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, High Threat Programs Directorate

October 16, 2014 Comments off

Inspection of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, High Threat Programs Directorate (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General

Key Findings

+ The establishment of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, High Threat Programs directorate in 2013 enabled the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to enhance its focus on the security needs of overseas posts most susceptible to risk and threat.

+ The High Threat Programs directorate suffers from significant staffing gaps and position shortages. In order to continue to meet its goals, the Department needs to staff the directorate fully.

CRS — State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2015 Budget and Appropriations (August 15, 2014)

September 15, 2014 Comments off

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2015 Budget and Appropriations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The annual State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs appropriations bill (also referred to here as “foreign affairs appropriations” or “foreign affairs funding”) is the primary legislative vehicle through which Congress reviews the U.S. international affairs budget and influences executive branch foreign policy making. (Foreign relations authorization and foreign assistance authorization legislation, required by law prior to State Department and foreign aid expenditures, are also available to Congress to influence foreign policy, but Congress has not passed either since FY2003 and FY1985, respectively. Instead, Congress has waived the requirement within the appropriations laws.)

On March 4, 2014, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its budget request for FY2015. The original request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs totaled $48.62 billion, including $5.91 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. The Administration amended this request on June 27, 2014, by increasing OCO funds to $7.27 billion and updating export assistance estimates, thus raising the overall total to $50.08 billion. The amended OCO funding level is 11.5% above the FY2014 estimated OCO funding of $6.52 billion. Of the total amended request, $17.09 billion is for State Department Operations and related agencies, a 7.8% increase from the FY2014 funding estimate of $15.86 billion. Much of the requested increase is for U.S. Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) and Contributions to International Peacekeeping (CIPA) accounts. For Foreign Operations, the Administration requested $32.99 billion, a 2.2% decrease from the FY2014 estimate of $33.72 billion.

Portfolio Assessment of the Department of State Internet Freedom Program

September 5, 2014 Comments off

Portfolio Assessment of the Department of State Internet Freedom Program
Source: RAND Corporation

The struggle between those promoting Internet freedom and those trying to control and monitor the Internet is a fast-paced game of cat and mouse, and the DRL Internet freedom program seeks to fund projects that promote preserving the open character of the Internet. Employing portfolio analysis techniques, the authors assessed DRL’s Internet freedom portfolio for fiscal year 2012–2013. The assessment showed good alignment between the State Department’s strategy and the cumulative effect of the 18 funded projects. Additionally, the portfolio was assessed to be well balanced with an unrealized potential for supporting emergent State Department needs in enlarging political space within authoritarian regimes. The assessment revealed that the investment in developing Internet freedom capacity and capabilities would likely have residual value beyond the portfolio’s funded lifespan, with positive, but indirect, connections to civic freedom. Moreover, promoting Internet freedom appears to be a cost-imposing strategy that simultaneously aligns well with both U.S. values and interests, pressuring authoritarian rivals to either accept a free and open Internet or devote additional security resources to control or repress Internet activities. Finally, the authors determined that the value of such analysis is best realized over multiple stages of the portfolio’s lifecycle. Among the authors’ recommendations were for DRL to enhance the synergy within the portfolio and among its grantees and to maintain a relatively balanced Internet freedom strategy that includes projects working on access, anonymity, awareness, and advocacy.

International Religious Freedom Report for 2013

July 28, 2014 Comments off

International Religious Freedom Report for 2013
Source: U.S. Department of State

In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents. Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm.

In Syria, as in much of the Middle East, the Christian presence is becoming a shadow of its former self. After three years of civil war, hundreds of thousands fled the country desperate to escape the ongoing violence perpetrated by the government and extremist groups alike. In the city of Homs the number of Christians dwindled to as few as 1,000 from approximately 160,000 prior to the conflict. Elsewhere, in the Central African Republic, widespread lawlessness and an upsurge in sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims reportedly resulted in at least 700 deaths in Bangui in December alone and the displacement of more than one million people throughout the country during the year.

Anti-Muslim violence in Meikhtila, Burma, led to up to 100 deaths and an estimated 12,000 displaced residents from the area in early 2013. This event showed that mob violence against Muslims was no longer confined to western Rakhine State, where over 140,000 persons have also been displaced since 2012. Although the government’s overall human rights record continued to improve, organized anti-Muslim hate speech, harassment, and discrimination against Muslims continued, exploited by those seeking to divide and pit Buddhist and Muslim communities against one another, often for political gain.

All around the world, individuals were subjected to discrimination, violence and abuse, perpetrated and sanctioned violence for simply exercising their faith, identifying with a certain religion, or choosing not to believe in a higher deity at all.

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