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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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Department of State Announces Online Publication of 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Department of State Announces Online Publication of 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State is pleased to announce the release of the 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law, covering developments during calendar year 2013. The Digest provides the public with a record of the views and practice of the Government of the United States in public and private international law. The official edition of the 2013 Digest is available exclusively on the State Department’s website at: http://www.state.gov/s/l/c8183.htm. Past Digests covering 1989 through 2012 are also available on the State Department’s website. The Digest is edited by the Office of the Legal Adviser.

The Digest traces its history back to an 1877 treatise by John Cadwalader, which was followed by multi-volume encyclopedias covering selected areas of international law. The Digest later came to be known to many as “Whiteman’s” after Marjorie Whiteman, the editor from 1963-1971. Beginning in 1973, the Office of the Legal Adviser published the Digest on an annual basis, changing its focus to documentation current to the year. Although publication was temporarily suspended after 1988, the office resumed publication in 2000 and has since produced volumes covering 1989 through 2012. A cumulative index covering 1989-2006 was published in 2007, and an updated edition of that index, covering 1989-2008, was published in 2010.

Publication of U.S. Department of State Data on ForeignAssistance.gov

June 20, 2014 Comments off

Publication of U.S. Department of State Data on ForeignAssistance.gov
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State is pleased to announce its first release of foreign assistance obligation and disbursement data on ForeignAssistance.gov. This is a significant milestone for both the Department and the U.S. Government, and delivers on key U.S. commitments in the U.S. National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership, a network of 64 countries and civil society organizations dedicated to improving transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement, as well as commitments to the multi-stakeholder International Aid Transparency Initiative. With the addition of the Department of State’s financial data, users can access the website to examine detailed foreign assistance spending for nine agencies through ForeignAssistance.gov.

ForeignAssistance.gov serves as a mechanism for users to view foreign assistance data from across the U.S. Government and provides a wide variety of stakeholders with a tool to analyze, examine, research, and track U.S. Government foreign assistance investments. Foreign aid transparency can help recipient governments and interested stakeholders ensure more efficient use of aid, coordination among donors, and reduce opportunities for waste, duplication, and corruption.

Just Released — Trafficking in Persons Report 2014

June 20, 2014 Comments off

Trafficking in Persons Report 2014
Source: U.S. Department of State

“We each have a responsibility to make this horrific and all-too-common crime a lot less common. And our work with victims is the key that will open the door to real change—not just on behalf of the more than 44,000 survivors who have been identified in the past year, but also for the more than 20 million victims of trafficking who have not.

As Secretary of State, I’ve seen with my own two eyes countless individual acts of courage and commitment. I’ve seen how victims of this crime can become survivors and how survivors can become voices of conscience and conviction in the cause.

This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report offers a roadmap for the road ahead as we confront the scourge of trafficking.” — John F. Kerry, Secretary of State

Audit of Contractor Compliance With and Department of State Oversight of the Process Required for Vetting Local Guards

June 13, 2014 Comments off

Audit of Contractor Compliance With and Department of State Oversight of the Process Required for Vetting Local Guards (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General

Because of growing security threats at posts worldwide, the Department of State (Dep artment), Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), has augmented security at overseas posts through the Local Guard Program (LGP), which engages security contractors to provide local guard force (LGF) personnel to secure access to post s and provide building and residential security . Before any local guards are cleared to begin work at an embassy , the LGP contract requires the security contractor to complete vetting requirements on every prospective guard and submit the results for review and approval by the regional security officer (RSO) or assistant regional security officer (ARSO), as the contracting officer ’s representative (COR) for the LGP contract. The vetting requirements generally include a “police check covering criminal and/or subversive activities, a credit check, proof of successful previous employment with supervisor recommendations, and a personal residence check. ”

In response to the increased role of the LGP, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted this audit to determine whether security contractors had complied with LGP contract requirements for vetting the suitability of local guards at posts overseas and whether RSOs had performed adequate oversight of the local guard vetting process.

OIG found that none of the six security contractors selected for review fully performed all vetting requirements contained in the LGP contract. Inadequate oversight of the local guard vetting process places embassies and personnel at risk.

For example, security contractors did not always comply with LGP contract terms requiring the full vetting of the local guards prior to employment. Nor did the security contractors maintain the personnel files for local guards in accordance with LGP contract requirements ; therefore, OIG could not verify that all vetting requirements had been fulfilled.

Release of Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume E-15, Part 2, Documents on Western Europe, 1973-1976

May 12, 2014 Comments off

Release of Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume E-15, Part 2, Documents on Western Europe, 1973-1976
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume E-15, Part 2, Documents on Western Europe, 1973-1976.

This volume is part of a Foreign Relations subseries that documents the most important foreign policy issues of the Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford administrations. The focus of this volume is on the relationship between the United States and Western Europe during the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations from 1973 until 1976. It begins by examining the relationship from a regional perspective, focusing on the Year of Europe initiative, U.S. relations with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and with the European Communities, and issues such as the rise of Eurocommunism. The volume then explores U.S. bilateral relations with nine countries: Canada, Portugal, Iceland and Norway (paired in a single Nordic countries chapter), Spain, the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, and Italy, which will be added when it is cleared for publication.

Although the volume is meant to stand on its own, for the most comprehensive picture of U.S. relations with Western Europe during the years 1973 to 1976, readers should read this volume in conjunction with several other Nixon-Ford subseries volumes covering the same period, including Greece; Cyprus; Turkey (volume XXX); Foreign Economic Policy (volume XXXI); Energy Crisis, 1969-1974 (volume XXXVI); Energy Crisis, 1974-1980 (volume XXXVII); and European Security, 1969-1976 (volume XXXIX).

State Department — Country Reports on Terrorism 2013

April 30, 2014 Comments off

Country Reports on Terrorism 2013
Source: U.S. Department of State

On April 30, 2014, the State Department submitted Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 to the U.S. Congress as required by law. This report, available on http://www.state.gov/j/ct, provides the Department of State’s annual assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that occurred from January 1 to December 31, 2013. It includes a strategic assessment, country-by-country breakdowns of counterterrorism efforts, and sections on state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens, and foreign terrorist organizations.

Department of State OIG — Management Alert: Contract File Management Deficiencies

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Management Alert: Contract File Management Deficiencies (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), in recent audits, investigations, and inspections, has identified significant vulnerabilities in the management of contract file documentation that could expose the Department to substantial financial losses. Specifically, over the past 6 years, OIG has identified Department of State (Department) contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located at all. The failure to maintain contract files adequately creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department’s contract actions.

FY 2014-2017 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan

April 4, 2014 Comments off

FY 2014-2017 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2014 to 2017 sets forth the Secretary of State’s direction and priorities for both organizations. The Strategic Plan presents how the Department and USAID will implement U.S. foreign policy and development assistance.

Department of State by State

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Department of State by State
Source: U.S. Department of State

For about a 1% investment of the Federal budget, the State Department yields a large return for the American people by protecting U.S. national security, promoting our economic interests, providing services, and reaffirming our country’s exceptional role in the world. The map below represents just some of the direct effects State Department programs have in American communities.

State of Global Partnerships

April 2, 2014 Comments off

State of Global Partnerships
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships leveraged approximately $829 million in public and private resources for diplomacy and development since 2009, and worked with over 1,600 partners from around the world.

Globally, countless partnerships have been launched. In this report, we’ve selected a few standout partnerships to illustrate the impact these efforts have had, or will have, in the future.

Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Education Materials

March 27, 2014 Comments off

Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Education Materials (PDF)
Source: Foundation for the Defense of Democracy
From press release:

Though first noted as problematic more than a decade ago by the Department of State, incitement and hatred continues to be taught from government textbooks to students in Saudi Arabia. Today, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) released a monograph exploring why a 2011 U.S. government-commissioned study on the subject has been withheld from the public, what is being taught in Saudi schools today, and how official incitement impacts U.S. national security.

Fact Sheet: Highlights of the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development Budget

March 6, 2014 Comments off

Fact Sheet: Highlights of the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development Budget
Source: U.S. Department of State

The President’s FY 2015 budget request for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is $46.2 billion. The request reflects continued American leadership in pursuit of stability and prosperity while making tough trade-offs to support national security, diplomatic, and development priorities.

Mindful of fiscal constraints, this budget provides American taxpayers a remarkable return on their investment in American leadership. With just over one percent of the federal budget, the State Department and USAID budget provides security, stability, prosperity, jobs, and opportunity as it addresses some of the most complex challenges of our time, ranging from extremism and fragile and failed states, to global food security and climate change. It also expands opportunities for diplomatic engagement with the governments and citizens in 190 countries, building partnerships that help protect U.S. interests, promote common values, expand economic opportunities at home and abroad, and empower the next generation.

2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

February 28, 2014 Comments off

2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Source: U.S. Department of State

On February 27, 2014, Secretary Kerry submitted the 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (commonly known as the Human Rights Reports) to the United States Congress. The reports, now in their 38th year, are available on State.gov and HumanRights.gov. Mandated by Congress, the Human Rights Reports help inform U.S. government policy and foreign assistance. They are also a reference for other governments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, legal professionals, scholars, interested citizens, and journalists.

Keystone XL Pipeline Project Compliance Follow-Up Review: The Department of State’s Choice of Environmental Resources Management, Inc., To Assist in Preparing the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

February 28, 2014 Comments off

Keystone XL Pipeline Project Compliance Follow-Up Review: The Department of State’s Choice of Environmental Resources Management, Inc., To Assist in Preparing the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General

Based on the information provided and interviews conducted, OIG found that the process the Department used to select ERM to help prepare the Keystone XL SEIS substantially followed its prescribed guidance and at times was more rigorous than that guidance. The Department’s published guidance provides a general outline for the contractor selection process, and Department personnel managing the process drew on their previous experience to implement the process. For example, the Department used a selection panel of six Department employees to review the proposals submitted by the three third – party candidates that applied to serve as the SEIS contractor , and that panel interviewed each candidate. N either the selection panel nor candidate interviews are prescribed by the published guidance. Although in two instances the Department made reasonable deviations from its prescribed guidance , OIG found that these deviations d id not adversely affect the selection process. In one of the instances, f r example, the Department elevated the final contractor selection decision from the office director to a higher – ranking official, an assistant secretary .

State Department — Ukraine Travel Alert

February 19, 2014 Comments off

Ukraine Travel Alert
Source: U.S. Department of State

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens of the increased risks of travel to Ukraine because of the ongoing political unrest and violent clashes between police and protesters. Since February 18, there has been a sharp escalation in violence between protesters and police. The Ukrainian Security Services have announced that they may take extraordinary measures beginning the evening of February 18. U.S. citizens are urged to maintain a low profile and to remain indoors at night while clashes continue. As of February 18, the Kyiv Metro (subway) has been shut down and access into Kyiv by road has, according to credible reports, been restricted. The situation is currently very fluid and U.S. citizens in Kyiv should follow media reports closely as events develop. This Travel Alert dated February 18, 2014, replaces the Travel Alert dated January 24, 2014, and updates specific information on violent protests and transportation systems. This Travel Alert expires May 17, 2014.

See also:

Protecting Iconic Species for Future Generations: A New National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking

February 14, 2014 Comments off

Protecting Iconic Species for Future Generations: A New National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking
Source: U.S. Department of State

To protect threatened species like elephants and rhinoceroses for future generations, today the President approved a new National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The Strategy strengthens U.S. leadership on countering the global security threat posed by poaching and illegal trade in wildlife, which is decimating iconic animal populations. Because of the actions of poachers, today species like elephants and rhinoceroses face the risk of significant decline or even extinction. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today, we are taking action to stop these illicit networks and ensure that our children have the chance to grow up in a world with and experience for themselves the wildlife we know and love.

The new Strategy establishes three strategic priorities: strengthening domestic and global enforcement; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad; and strengthening partnerships with international partners, local communities, NGOs, private industry, and others to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade.

Annual Report on Assistance Related to International Terrorism: Fiscal Year 2013

February 12, 2014 Comments off

Annual Report on Assistance Related to International Terrorism: Fiscal Year 2013
Source: U.S. Department of State

This report includes descriptions of programs that directly counter international terrorism, such as programs delivered by the Bureau of Counterterrorism. This report also includes descriptions of programs that may have other primary purposes, but that also contribute indirectly, but substantially, to countering international terrorism in one way or another. Such programs include criminal justice assistance provided by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, as well as with assistance related to nonproliferation and destruction of conventional weapons provided by the Bureaus of International Security and Nonproliferation, and Political and Military Affairs.

Fact Sheet: Keystone XL Pipeline

January 31, 2014 Comments off

Fact Sheet: Keystone XL Pipeline
Source: U.S. Department of State

On January 31, 2014, the U.S. Department of State (“the Department”) released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Final Supplemental EIS). The analysis in the Final Supplemental EIS was done consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act and is in response to TransCanada’s application (May 4, 2012) for a Presidential Permit to construct and operate the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The President’s authority to approve or deny a cross-border pipeline permit is delegated to the Secretary of State or his designees in Executive Order 13337.

The analysis in the Final Supplemental EIS builds on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released on March 1, 2013 as well as the documents released in 2011 as part of the previous Keystone XL Pipeline application.

The proposed Keystone XL project consists of a 875-mile long pipeline and related facilities to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta, Canada and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana. The pipeline would cross the U.S. border near Morgan, Montana and continue through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska where it would connect to existing pipeline facilities near Steele City, Nebraska for onward delivery to Cushing, Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast area.

The Final Supplemental EIS is not a decisional document on whether to approve or deny the proposed project. The Final Supplemental EIS is a technical assessment of the potential environmental impacts related to the proposed pipeline. It responds to over 1.9 million comments received since June 2012 (from both the scoping and Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement comment periods). The Final Supplemental EIS reflects the most current information on the proposed Project as well as discussions the Department has had with both state and federal agencies. Notable changes since the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released in March 2013, include: an expanded analysis of potential oil releases; an expanded climate change analysis; an updated oil market analysis incorporating new economic modeling; and an expanded analysis of rail transport.

Terrorism Designations FAQs

January 14, 2014 Comments off

Terrorism Designations FAQs
Source: U.S. Department of State

There are two main authorities for terrorism designations of groups and individuals. Groups can be designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under Executive Order 13224, a wider range of entities, including terrorist groups, individuals acting as part of a terrorist organization, and other entities such as financiers and front companies, can be designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs).

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