Tag Archives: PolicyFightagainstFraud

New Global Population Estimates from the UN

The report from the number crunchers at the UN also show that life expectancy in the least developed countries has increased sharply over the last 6 years. “The world’s population is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050 and exceed 11 billion in 2100, with India expected to surpass China as the most populous around seven years from now and Nigeria overtaking the United States to become the world’s third largest country around 35 years from now, according to a new United Nations report released today. Moreover, the report reveals that during the 2015-2050 period, half of the world’s population growth is expected to be concentrated in nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Indonesia and Uganda.” (UN http://bit.ly/1KApafa)

The Largest Refugee Camp in the Middle East Turns 3 Years Old…The Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, which opened July 29 2012, has some 81,000 Syrian residents and can’t take any more. “With Za’atari at capacity, the number of urban refugees seeking shelter in Jordan’s second camp, Azraq, increased fourfold in the first six months of this year,” UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery told a press briefing in Geneva. In the first half of 2015, 3,658 people returned to Azraq from urban areas, compared to just 738 in the second half of 2014. This trend is driven by increasing vulnerability of urban refugees in Jordan whose savings are depleted after years in exile, and who are unable to find secure legal livelihoods. Those living in Amman, in particular, are trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the Middle East.” (UNHCR http://bit.ly/1KAj4LX)

Where’s the money? Only one percent of Kenyan government spending can be properly accounted for, according to a report by the country’s auditor-general released just days after US President Barack Obama warned corruption was holding the country back. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JvuvpB)

Deadly Flooding in India…Flash floods triggered by torrential monsoon rain have killed at least 26 people in a west Indian state in the past 48 hours, authorities said Wednesday. (AFP http://bit.ly/1D97jMX)

Africa

The president of Nigeria made his first official state visit to neighboring Cameroon on Wednesday, as the two former enemies struggle to contain the mutual threat posed by Islamic militants carrying out suicide bombings across the region. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OANP)

Nairobi announced it was going to relocate street children to rehabilitation centers in the country. The move coincided with a project to clean up the streets before the president’s arrival. Many say there must be a better way to address the plight of the Kenyan city’s street families. (VOA http://bit.ly/1MtVoes)

Fears are growing that endemic graft in Tanzania will deny the majority of its people a fair share of the wealth generated by the country’s natural gas riches. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1JRP4Z6)

Sudan’s foreign ministry summoned the European Union’s representative in Khartoum to complain about “false information” it said the EU had disseminated about the number of refugees and displaced people in the country. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1MtVrqB)

Threatened by the advance of a desert that already covers two-thirds of Niger, the poor Sahel nation hopes to halt rapid deforestation by promoting natural gas. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Jvu9PM)

Nigeria has appointed a new boss for the amnesty scheme for ex-Niger Delta oil rebels, in a move seen by observers as an attempt to put back on track the programme which doused militancy in the oil-rich region. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JvupOH)

More than 5 million text messages have been sent to subscribers, who get health information and reminders for doctor’s appointments direct to their mobile phones – many of them in distant parts of Tanzania. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1DbeqnG)

US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ethiopia, which saw him speak out against democratic restrictions, was positive but Washington must maintain pressure on the government, an Ethiopian opposition figure said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1I1XFKv)

MENA

A car bomb exploded outside an Ismaili mosque in Yemen’s war-damaged capital Sanaa on Wednesday, killing four people and wounding six, health authorities and a security source said. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1KAklm0)

Saudi-led warplanes bombed targets in Yemen’s northerly Saada province, a stronghold of Iranian-allied Houthi forces, local officials said Wednesday, and a U.N. official accused both sides in the conflict of failing to respect international law. (VOA http://bit.ly/1KAktlu)

Turkey’s renewed conflict with Kurdish militants intensified on Wednesday as the government launched a new wave of airstrikes in northern Iraq and a blast temporarily crippled a key oil pipeline in southeastern Turkey. (WSJ http://on.wsj.com/1KAkzd0)

Asia

China’s widespread crackdown on rights lawyers and activists over the past three weeks has fueled growing concerns that President Xi Jinping is using the law as a tool to mute dissidents and those who defend them in court. (VOA http://bit.ly/1MtVpiz)

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence for an influential opposition leader and an aide to a former prime minister for his role in mass killings during the country’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OOL2Fb)

Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday registered for November elections to keep her seat in parliament and challenge the ruling military-backed party. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OR3g)

The Americas

The jaguar is being defeated by a ruthless, modern-day warrior: Powerful drug cartels are carving up its Central American natural habitat. In some areas, particularly in Honduras and Guatemala, the big cats are at risk of disappearing entirely. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1Db5EGe)

Organisers of the 2016 Rio Olympics are facing a serious challenge to clean polluted waters for sailing and windsurfing events. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Db5ONZ)

Concerns of a humanitarian emergency in Haiti are mounting as a growing number of Haitians returning to their country from neighboring Dominican Republic are living in rapidly growing tent cities with little resources. (CNN http://cnn.it/1D96S58)

The Brazilian government plans to use drones to strengthen its fight against slave labor in rural areas, the Labour Ministry has said. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1MtVrqE)

Opponents of President Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-implemented policy to cut carbon emissions from power plants are planning to use an unlikely and potentially potent weapon against him: the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that saved Obamacare. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1gmGfzq)

…and the rest

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde says the world economy is recovering but fragile and “faces some downside risks.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OF46)

Aid agencies have no problem agreeing that gender-sensitive programming is a good idea, but few have come up with concrete methods for evaluating the impact it has on those it is supposed to be helping. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Dbeyn6)

Western Union Co plans to invest more in its compliance and monitoring systems in a renewed effort to combat fraud and money laundering, a senior executive said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1DbePXf)

Opinion/Blogs

Unpacking Obama’s Message to the African Union (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1OOQTKK)

Why Local Content in Extractive Sector Won’t Work Without Home Grown Human Capital (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1Db4E4N)

Obama probably won’t be invited to speak at the African Union again any time soon (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1OOGEWD)

Did Malaysia merit its human trafficking upgrade? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Db5mzh)

Secret aid worker: sexual harassment and discrimination in the industry (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Db5L4J)

Analysts: Obama’s Africa Trip Underscores Drive for Foreign Policy Legacy (VOA http://bit.ly/1DP50Jo)

Will Kenya’s Heightened Security Leave With Obama? (RFI http://bit.ly/1DP6inK)

Africa Will Grow Faster When Private Sector Finally Steps Up (East African http://bit.ly/1DP6rHX)

South Africa: Rebranding Condom Campaign – Will It Work This Time? (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1DP6HH1)

5 things needed to turn the SDGs into reality (Devex http://bit.ly/1h5mIDO)

The Politics Behind Mobile Money in Ethiopia (CFI Blog http://bit.ly/1h5mInb)

Humans of Lagos offers a glimpse at daily life in the West African mega city (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1h5mHzz)

Zimbabwe’s Opportunity to Join the African Economic Success Story (CSIS Prosper http://bit.ly/1OOQTu0

Discussion

comments…

Corruption plagues South Africa’s asylum system

OXFORD, 22 July 2015 (IRIN) – In South Africa, asylum seekers and refugees in need of documentation often have no choice but to pay for it. So says a new report exposing how corruption and bribery have permeated nearly every level of the country’s asylum system: from border crossings, to queues outside refugee reception offices, to what takes place inside those offices.

The report, carried out by the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, together with Lawyers for Human Rights, surveyed more than 900 respondents, the majority of them asylum seekers, and found that nearly a third had experienced corruption at some stage in the process.

“It is corruption everywhere,” said one respondent interviewed outside Marabastad Refugee Reception Office (RRO) in Pretoria, which according to the report is the most corrupt of the country’s five RROs. “They ask for money. You pay, but they don’t help you. If you can give R2,000 to R5,000 (US$162 to $404) you can get [refugee] status.”

South Africa is a major destination for migrants and asylum seekers from all over the continent. In 2014, it received over 86,000 asylum applications, according to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, more than twice the number received in the UK. But just under one in 10 of those applications were approved – the lowest approval rate in the world. 

Previous studies have documented the many inefficiencies of a system that has struggled to cope with the sheer volume of applications, but until now reports of corruption were mainly anecdotal.
Speaking to IRIN in 2013, an interpreter employed by the Department of Home Affairs at Marabastad said that asylum seekers were routinely asked for money in exchange for a positive outcome on their applications. 

“No one gets a permit without money,” said a refugee IRIN interviewed queuing outside Marabastad in 2012.

The ACMS report, entitled Queue Here for Corruption: Measuring Irregularities in South Africa’s Asylum System, suggests that corruption sometimes begins at border crossings – 13 percent of respondents said that border officials asked them for money – but that it is more prevalent during asylum application and renewal processes that usually require multiple visits to an RRO.  

Twenty-two percent of respondents said they were asked for money while queuing outside an RRO, usually by security guards or brokers claiming to have connections with staff inside. At Marabastad, more than half of the respondents experienced corruption in the queue, and 31 percent reported being asked for money in exchange for being assisted once inside the office.

Not everyone can afford to pay bribes. Some respondents, particularly those trying to access services at Marabastad, failed to even get inside and had to return several times. Asylum seekers unable to renew their permits before they expire are liable for fines, a system that opens up another opportunity for corruption, with fines often being paid directly to RRO staff, according to the report.

“The multiple entry points of corruption increase the risk that asylum seekers will remain undocumented and at risk of arrest and detention… processes [that] themselves create multiple opportunities for corruption,” notes the report, which asserts that corruption has flourished in South Africa’s asylum system partly as a result of the government’s decision to close down several RROs in recent years despite continued demand for their services.

New asylum applications are now only accepted at three RROs: in Pretoria, Musina (near the border with Zimbabwe) and Durban.

 “A situation in which demand exceeds capacity creates opportunities for corruption. It also risks creating an asylum system that offers protection only to those with the financial means to purchase it,” says the report.

Very few respondents attempted to report their experiences of corruption, and those who did were sometimes told to go back to their own countries. The Department of Home Affairs’ counter-corruption unit sometimes responds to individual allegations of corruption but is dependent on asylum seekers to provide details without fear of reprisals.

“I think the department [of home affairs] takes the view that it’s a few bad apples in the system, and it’s basically the migrants themselves who are instigating the corruption, and I think this report shows it’s more of a systemic, structural problem that they need to address,” said Roni Amit, a senior researcher with ACMS, and the author of the report.

She told IRIN that while South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has often characterised virtually all asylum seekers as economic migrants, its failure to root out corruption has probably resulted in more economic migrants abusing the asylum system while those in genuine need of protection are often unable to access it.

The home affairs department couldn’t be reached for comment, but speaking to local newspaper Business Day on Wednesday, the department’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said the report’s criticisms of the counter-corruption unit were “disingenuous” as it had exposed syndicates, not just individuals.

Tshwete pointed to the large numbers of asylum applications that South Africa receives relative to EU countries with more resources. “The context is very important,” he said, adding that the department was serious about combatting corruption.

Amit said that attempts to arrange a meeting with the home affairs department to present the findings of the report had not received a response.

ks/ag

Speeches: Energizing Balkan Development and Integration

As prepared

Dobar Dan, Dubrovnik!

Thanks, Lara, it’s great to be back. Thanks to Minister Vesna Pusic and all our Croatian hosts for gathering us in this beautiful, historic place. Croatia has come so far since this forum began ten years ago – now a member of both NATO and the EU, today Croatia is a net exporter of regional and global security and development, from Afghanistan, to Kosovo, to West Africa. The United States is grateful for the strong alliance between our two countries.

As we sit here in this Dalmatian paradise, it is hard to believe how far the whole region has come. Just twenty years ago – a little over three hundred kilometers from here – the tragedy of Srebrenica was unfolding while the world stood by and watched. Tomorrow, we will honor the victims and remember the horrific cost of a Europe divided. But we must do more than that. Memory is not enough. We owe it to those who lost their lives in the Balkan wars to ensure that history never repeats itself – that we bury, once and for all, the hatred, criminality, greed and despotism that flourished here, and build in its place a Balkans whole, free, prosperous, and at peace.

So today, I want to appeal to leaders and citizens alike across this region to finish that job, and to resist the forces seeking to unwind the progress you have already made. That will require Balkan leaders and citizens to do three things: first, complete the democratic map of this region by finally turning the page on old hatreds and new rivalries; second, kick-start prosperity and growth by connecting the countries of the region with new roads, rail-links, ports, and energy infrastructure; and third, join forces to make the Balkans a no-go zone for today’s most pernicious threats to strong statehood and individual liberty: violent extremism, corruption and criminality, and the sleazy autocrats and oligarchs who come bearing gifts that promote their own interests, not yours. As you tackle these issues and do so together, the United States and the rest of the Trans-Atlantic community will stand with you.

Let’s start with the democratic map. The countries of this region have made great progress. Today, three Western Balkan states are NATO members, two are EU members, four have EU Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAA) in effect, one more is on the path towards one, and three more aspire to join NATO. And yet, despite all this progress, in this region, too much time is still wasted feuding instead of building.

Take Bosnia-Herzegovina. Twenty years after Dayton, it is unconscionable that the unity of the state is still publicly questioned by those seeking to block reform and putting IMF assistance at risk. The EU has offered Bosnia-Herzegovina a membership perspective, and last month activated its SAA, but politicians continue to put ethnic and party interests ahead of the basic social, economic, and political reform needed to advance.

The United States joins the EU, the IMF and the World Bank in urging Bosnia-Herzegovina’s leaders to make crucial reform decisions now, or risk being left behind for another twenty years.

Our message to Macedonia is equally tough: every opportunity for unity and prosperity awaits you; NATO and EU membership await you. But the major political forces must stop squabbling and get on the path to democratic reform sketched out by EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn with US support, and then move on to settle the name issue with Greece. Again, don’t squander this moment.

Meanwhile, with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini’s strong, patient guidance, Kosovo and Serbia are making progress in healing their past wounds and creating the arrangements to live as good neighbors. But the job is far from finished. We want 2015 to be the year that advances the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue so the EU can open chapters for Serbia and sign the SAA for Kosovo. But that will take courageous decisions in both Pristina and Belgrade. Again, together with the EU, America says: seize this moment and we will help.

It is not just governments that need to act. Civil society, independent media, and private citizens all need to make their voices heard and shape necessary reforms. They need to keep asserting their rights to freedom of expression, representation and peaceful assembly.

This brings me to the second set of challenges: regional development, integration, and energy security to promote prosperity and growth. The countries of this region will only reach their full potential when they replace old rivalries with cooperation, and embrace regional projects that bring jobs, investment and clean business practices to the whole region.

The United States strongly supports Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Berlin Process, and we have reached out to the EU to see how we can bring the International Financial Institutions, U.S. development assistance, private investment, and risk insurance to key road, rail, port, and energy projects.

We are also working closely with EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic and Energy and Climate Commissioner Arias Canete to advance crucial energy projects that will turn this region into the energy powerhouse it should be for all of Central Europe. These include investments in Krk Island LNG, key interconnectors to Hungary, Bulgaria, and Serbia, and new offshore exploration all along the Adriatic.

As we redouble our efforts to bring growth to the entire region, we must also be vigilant defenders of our democratic values. We stand for free trade, free markets, and free peoples. We gain strength when our governments are clean and serve their people. We aspire to set the global gold standard for religious and ethnic tolerance and pluralism. In everything we do, we must support the sovereign right of nations to chart their own democratic futures; we must root out the cancer of corruption that eats away at livelihoods, democracies, and security; and we must work together to halt the spread of violent extremism and foreign fighters.

Corruption remains a major impediment to progress in this region. It is the cancer that saps strength from our democracies and drives up unemployment and civil unrest. More than that, it opens vulnerabilities that autocrats, petro states, and violent extremists exploit. All those who seek to stir up trouble here find an easy gateway when dirty money can buy corrupt politicians and undercut democratic governance and the rule of law.

To improve rule of law and close space for anti-democratic forces, we are partnering with Central and Eastern Europe as a part of the Emerging Donor Challenge Fund.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, we are supporting a network of civil society organizations in their push to implement a new whistleblower protection law, and we are partnering with Romania to train prosecutors in identifying, investigating, and trying corruption cases.

In Macedonia, we are partnering with Slovenia to train civil servants in internal auditing and financial management to increase accountability and efficiency in the public sector.

In Serbia, we are helping the government explore energy supply options to diversify energy sources, strengthen its economy, and prevent energy from becoming a weapon of political influence and corruption.

In Albania, we are partners in building a regional network to counter violent extremism, and we commend the recent regional conference in Tirana on this subject.

The issues before us – democracy, prosperity, and values-based governance – are not new. We’ve been working on them here and throughout the Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe for more than two decades. But today, with severe security challenges to Europe’s south and in its East, this region sits in the balance.

Either the work of the last twenty years can be completed with wise decisions by courageous leaders and people pushing for a better life, or this region can fall prey once again to the risks, hatred, and outside interference that brought it grief so many times before. And as you make that choice, other nations with similar struggles from Tunisia to Ukraine will watch to see if you succeed, and if you can help show them how it’s done. The United States continues to stand with its partners in the Trans-Atlantic community in support of a Balkans finally whole, free, at peace and prosperous. The choices ahead are yours.

Thank you.

Sixth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between the European Union and Montenegro

3. The SA Council noted with satisfaction that continued, overall progress in the context of the accession negotiations had been made. The SA Council welcomed the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference which had taken place earlier the same day and noted that, overall, twenty negotiating chapters had now been opened, while two chapters had been provisionally closed. 

4. The SA Council reviewed the state of Montenegro’s preparations for accession, particularly in the light of the Commission’s 2014 Progress Report, encouraging Montenegro to continue working on challenges and shortcomings identified during the preparations for accession, as well as further developing the necessary administrative capacity. The SA Council particularly welcomed the revisions of the Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24 made by Montenegro in February 2015. 

5. Concerning the Copenhagen political criteria, the SA Council acknowledged efforts made by Montenegro, while noting a need for continued further efforts as regards, in particular, the effective implementation of reforms in a number of key areas, inter alia, in order to be able to register further tangible results in the fight against corruption and organised crime.   

6. With further particular regard to the political criteria, including the protection of human, civil and political rights as well as of social and economic rights, the defence of the rights of LGBTI persons, the protection of women’s rights and gender equality, the protection of the rights of persons belonging to minorities, the SA Council generally welcomed progress made while encouraging Montenegro to step up efforts and address remaining shortcomings, ensuring that the reform momentum would be maintained and strengthened. 

7. The SA Council recalled that, in line with the new approach for the chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights and justice, freedom and security, both these areas were now being addressed early on in the negotiations, The assessment of the progress of Montenegro in the implementation of the now revised Action Plans for chapters 23 and 24 confirmed that many activities were being conducted according to the deadlines set, but also that some important measures had been delayed. The SA Council encouraged Montenegro to pay further attention to the development of more tangible results and track records in the area of rule of law, in particular with regard to organised crime and corruption cases. 

8. With regard to judicial reform, the SA Council welcomed that the main part of the legislative work had been completed. It was noted that reforms now had reached the stage where pro-active institutions with appropriate resources would be required to bring about expected results and to ensure the full implementation of reforms. The SA Council noted that further sustained efforts would be needed for this step and encouraged Montenegro to continue and intensify its implementation efforts.

9. With regard to the accountability and integrity of the judiciary, the SA Council welcomed the recent adoption of four new laws expected to strengthen the independence and the professionalism of the judiciary. Continued efforts should be devoted to furthering these reform efforts, as well as on generally increasing the efficiency of the judiciary. The SA Council also looked  forward to the formal establishment of the new Special Prosecutor’s Office, expecting it to cooperate effectively with the police and to adopt a pro-active approach. The need to provide this new body with adequate resources was also underlined. 

10. The SA Council looked forward to Montenegro developing an initial track record of investigations, prosecutions and final convictions in cases of corruption and organised crime. In this regard, the SA Council looked forward to the timely establishment of the new Anti-Corruption Agency, expected to be fully operational by January 2016, while noting the onus on existing bodies to ensure the effective implementation of the relevant legislation already today. The importance of carrying out effective financial investigations, including seizure and confiscation of assets,  in parallel to criminal investigations of, particularly, organised crime was also underlined. Furthermore, the SA Council underlined the importance of ensuring a more pro-active approach with regard to the domestic handling of war crimes in line with humanitarian law and the jurisprudence of the ICTY, to ensure the quality of indictments, as well as to guarantee access to justice and reparation for the victims of war crimes.

11. In the field of the public administration, the SA Council welcomed, inter alia, the on-going efforts to strengthen the mechanism for the implementation of the overall public administration reform strategy, and encouraged Montenegro to prepare for the full implementation of the new law on general administrative procedures. Generally, the SA Council underlined the importance of administrative capacity in view of the future effective implementation and enforcement of the EU acquis, and strongly encouraged Montenegro to pursue and accelerate the reform process to achieve a more efficient public administration. 

12. The SA Council noted some challenges that Montenegro had been facing, in particular with regard to the so-called “Audio recordings Affair”, as well as the need to effectively guarantee the freedom of media. The SA Council called for further efforts to be devoted to resolving these issues. With regard to media freedom, the SA Council called for an urgent follow up on the recommendations by the commission monitoring the authorities’ actions in the investigations and prosecutions of cases of violence against the media, as well as for full support for the commission’s work. 

13. The SA Council commended Montenegro for its continued strong commitment to regional cooperation and its constructive role in maintaining regional stability. It also welcomed the active participation, and co-initiation, of Montenegro in numerous regional initiatives in South Eastern Europe and the good neighbourly and bilateral relations it entertained with other enlargement countries and EU Member States. The SA Council encouraged Montenegro to continue working towards finding mutually acceptable solutions to the pending border issues with other countries of the Western Balkans, and looked forward to the signing of the border agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

14. The SA Council warmly welcomed Montenegro’s full alignment with Council decisions and EU declarations in the area of foreign, security and defence policy, and in particular with the EU positions on Ukraine. 

15. Concerning the economic criteria, the SA Council welcomed that Montenegro’s growth recovery had continued in 2014 and supported the government’s efforts to improve the fiscal situation, and to reduce the informal economy. Montenegro’s submission in January 2015 of its first Economic Reform Program (ERP) as part of the enhanced dialogue with the European Commission on economic governance was also welcomed. The SA Council invited Montenegro to ensure a close and timely follow-up to the policy guidance provided in the joint conclusions of the Economic and Financial Dialogue, adopted on 12 May between the EU ECOFIN Council and the Western Balkans and Turkey. The SA Council, however, noted that Montenegro faced certain challenges in economic competitiveness, that external imbalances needed to be reduced and that the unemployment rate remained very high. 

16. Welcoming steps already taken, the SA Council encouraged Montenegro to continue efforts to improve economic competitiveness through further diversification of the economy, by broadening the export base, and through continued improvement of the business environment. 

17. The SA Council welcomed the continued progress made by Montenegro in aligning its legislation and capacity with European standards, EU acquis and in implementing its commitments under the trade and trade-related provisions of the SAA. The SA Council noted the importance of generally strengthening Montenegro’s administrative capacity, in order to adequately tackle challenges in a number of areas. In most areas, there had been some progress, and in some cases a high level of alignment could be welcomed, even if much remained to be done. The SA Council encouraged Montenegro to make further efforts, devoting particular attention to a number of issues which had been identified in the various areas under review.

18. The SA Council reviewed the situation with regard to pre-accession financial assistance, provided by the EU through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA I and II). It welcomed in particular Montenegro’s ratification of the Framework Agreement and the submission of the request for entrustment of budget implementation, which paved the way for the start of the implementation of IPA II. The SA Council encouraged Montenegro to continue its efforts regarding the sector approach and the strengthening of its multi-annual strategic planning capacity, and welcomed progress made in preparing the action plan for the management of the future cohesion and structural funds. 

19. The SA Council also examined the state of bilateral relations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). It welcomed in this regard entry into force, on 1 December 2014, of the Protocol to the SAA in order to take account of Croatia’s accession to the EU, which had been applied on a provisional basis since 1 July 2013. The SA Council also welcomed Montenegro’s continued positive track record in implementing its obligations under the SAA, including its trade related provisions, since the entry to force in 1 May 2010, while noting that further alignment still was required with regard to State aid procedures. 

20. The SA Council noted Montenegro’s active participation in a number of EU programmes, and warmly encouraged Montenegro to continue this participation also for the future.

21. Finally the SA Council had an exchange of views concerning recent developments in the Western Balkans region.

Speeches: Testimony on the President's FY16 Budget for Europe and Eurasia

As prepared

Chairman Rohrabacher, Ranking Member Meeks and members of this subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here today to testify on the President’s FY16 budget request for Europe and Eurasia. I’d also like to express my deep appreciation for your strong bipartisan support for our efforts to expand and deepen a “Europe, whole, free and at peace.”

Today, against the backdrop of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, that vision is more under threat than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Over the past year, your support for our assistance efforts; Member and staff-level consultations with our offices; and increased Congressional visits to Ukraine, Moldova, the South Caucasus, the Balkans, and across Europe have helped assure Allies and partners of the United States’ commitment to sovereignty, democracy, peace and prosperity as cornerstones of our national interest and national security. Bipartisan support at home has been a source of strength in our efforts and we are committed to build on this spirit of cooperation.

Through the Support for Eastern European Democracy (SEED) Act of 1989 and FREEDOM Support Act (FSA) of 1992, Congress has generously appropriated over $27.5 billion under those and successor accounts since FY 1990. Last fall marked the 25th anniversary of the start of SEED-funded assistance to support democracy, political pluralism and economic reform in the post-Communist space of Europe, and the 22nd anniversary of our FSA-funded assistance to Eurasia and Central Asia.

The results have demonstrated the transformational power of U.S. assistance to help unleash freedom, security, and prosperity across a region once shackled by totalitarianism, hostility, and economic stagnation. Since 1990, 12 former assistance countries have joined NATO; 11 have joined the EU. In Central Europe, 11 former SEED assistance countries have graduated to donor-country status. Today those former consumers—beneficiaries—of our assistance are paying it forward. They have become full-fledged partners in opening the way for their eastern neighbors and those globally who strive for democracy, rule of law, open markets, and human dignity—whether in Ukraine; in Afghanistan; in efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL; in confronting violent extremism; or in combating Ebola.

While the success of our assistance has been significant, the map of a free, democratic, market-based Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia remains incomplete. Progress is worryingly uneven. Corruption, chronically high unemployment, democratic backsliding, suppression of media and civil society, ethnic tension, and protracted conflicts still afflict many states across the region. Georgia and Moldova need help in their quest to implement their Association Agreements with the EU, move closer to Europe, and counter Russian pressures. Malign Russian influence, inter-ethnic tension, and backsliding on democracy are exposing new vulnerabilities of EU and NATO aspirants in the Western Balkans as we have seen with the unfolding political crisis in Macedonia. Transnational threats from organized crime to foreign fighters plague our partners, undermine their security and inhibit their growth potential. And, of course, the fate of our 23-year assistance effort is being tested in Ukraine. As Assistant Secretary Nuland said in January, “Ukraine’s frontline for freedom is ours as well.”

In light of the current crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s attempt to shred the values on which the post-Cold War order is based, we are redoubling our focus and assistance objectives in FY16 that have been at the core of our mission since my office’s creation: working toward the goal of a “Europe whole, free, and at peace” and fostering stable, prosperous, free-market, and pluralistic democracies across the region.

Our request reflects the tough budget environment we are in and competing global challenges we face. The FY16 request for the Europe and Eurasia region is $953.3 million. For Central Asia, our FY16 request is $155.7 million. My testimony today will first focus on Europe and Eurasia, after which I’ll cover Central Asia.

First on Europe: U.S. assistance will focus on five broad strategic objectives reflected in our FY16 budget request: first, keeping faith with countries as they chart their political and economic futures in the face of bullying from outside actors; second, supporting countries in their pursuit of Euro-Atlantic integration when they seek it; third, bolstering countries’ efforts to combat corruption, build rule of law, and foster clean, transparent, accountable governance that delivers for their people; fourth, deepening and expanding democracy, political openness, civil society, and free, independent media; and fifth, rolling back transnational threats that rob the region of its prosperity and undermine its security. Of course, today’s budgetary climate limits our ability to respond effectively to all the region’s needs but we are committed to addressing the region’s most pressing challenges as effectively as possible within our means.

Let me address each of these five objectives.

First, we are committed to supporting the sovereign choice of countries to determine their own political and economic destinies. That right is a core principle of democratic governance. Today that struggle is most dramatically seen in Ukraine. In the past year, Ukraine began to forge a new nation on its own terms—signing an Association Agreement with the EU, holding free and fair elections—twice—even as violence raged in the east, and undertaking deep and comprehensive economic and political reforms.

As Secretary Kerry said in Kyiv in February, the United States will “be steadfast in standing with the Ukrainian people who have not for a moment forgotten the better future that they’re fighting for.” We are working with the EU and international community to support Ukraine as it fights to right its economy, secure its borders against Russian and separatist aggressors, and deliver better public services and opportunity for its citizens. Since the crisis began, the U.S. government has committed approximately $471 million in assistance for Ukraine. In addition, the United States provided the Ukrainian Government with a $1 billion loan guarantee in May 2014 and a second $1 billion U.S. loan guarantee last month. If Ukraine continues making concrete progress on its reform agenda and if conditions warrant, the U.S. Administration will work with Congress to consider providing an additional $1 billion loan guarantee in late 2015.

Our assistance to Ukraine targets three broad reform areas:

  • Advancing and consolidating economic, anti-corruption and energy reforms: The United States supports Ukraine’s efforts to carry out the economic reforms needed to make its IMF and World Bank programs a success and place the country on a path toward growth. We are helping Ukraine address issues such as gas market and Naftogaz reform, government debt, tax policy, banking sector reform, agriculture reform, pension reform, adherence to international investment standards, access to finance and anti-corruption measures, local economic development, export promotion and trade policy, and other measures that increase economic opportunities for citizens. Additionally, our support measures are aimed at reducing Ukraine’s energy dependence on Russia.
     
  • Supporting national unity, political confidence-building and special status in the east: The United States supports an inclusive, consultative, and transparent constitutional-reform process, combating corruption, decentralization efforts, reforming judiciary, elections in the east, and other institutional reform priorities of the Ukrainian Government, which will lead to the full implementation of the Minsk package and Ukraine’s ultimate political restoration. We will continue to support the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission as well as targeted, value-added OSCE extra-budgetary initiatives.
     
  • Reforming and building the capacity of the security sector: The United States is helping Ukraine deepen the capacity of its law enforcement—including an expansion of a patrol-policing program piloted in Kyiv—border services, and military forces to perform their duties effectively and efficiently. In response to Russia’s aggressive actions, we committed about $199 million in State and DoD funding since the start of the crisis to provide training and equipment to help Ukrainian forces better monitor and secure their borders, operate more safely and effectively, and preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity. In addition, we have committed over $61 million in humanitarian assistance to help meet the needs of Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. We also have committed over $13 million to mitigate deepened social tensions and provide other transition support to conflict-affected individuals.

As the United States and international community renew our investment in Ukraine, we are engaging all stakeholders to ensure that U.S. assistance is targeted most effectively using the right mix of resources and authorities. This includes working closely with the Ukrainian government to ensure that U.S. assistance supports their reform agenda, and we have deployed expert technical advisors to key ministries to help them implement reforms. We also continue to reach out to Ukraine’s civil society, private sector, and public to ensure that their voices are heard. Together with the Defense Department, we have stood up a European Command-led joint defense commission with Ukraine to better understand Ukraine’s defense needs and build a strong foundation for sustainable reform to help Ukraine’s forces better address today’s challenges and prepare for tomorrow’s. Finally, in Kyiv and capitals throughout Europe and Eurasia, we are working closely with other international donors to avoid duplication and ensure complementary efforts.

Today the EU is strengthening its ties with some of the countries of the former Soviet Union through its Eastern Partnership Program. The United States strongly supports the right of these countries to move closer to the EU through the signing of EU Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements. Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova have signed Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements.

And just as we are supporting Ukraine in its efforts to pursue clean, democratic accountable governance and closer ties with the EU, we are assisting Georgia and Moldova to do the same. As Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine grow closer to the EU, get visa-free travel, and increase exports of their goods, services, and ideas into the world’s largest market, we are by their side, strengthening their sovereign defense and helping them reform.

Our assistance is based on a core principle that all countries have the right to determine their own future and to realize that future free of external pressure. Russia has chosen to ignore this basic principle, insisting on an outdated notion of spheres of influence and its right to interfere—including through military means—in the affairs of the countries it calls its “near abroad.”

Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea and other aggressive acts in Ukraine represent the most serious challenge facing the United States and its Allies in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Russia has sought to derail the European integration of Moldova and Georgia. Russia has introduced trade barriers and threatened to cut off gas supplies to Moldova. It has deported some Moldovan migrant workers and threatened to expel others en masse. Russia also has undermined Georgian and Moldovan sovereignty and territorial integrity by expanding its purported “borderization” of, and signing so-called “treaties” with, the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, signaling support for Transnistrian independence, and stoking ethnic and cultural divisions in Moldova and Georgia by issuing Russian passports throughout the region. Assistance will further our goals to increase economic resilience, energy independence, and media independence throughout the region.

Second, our support serves as a force multiplier in service of greater Euro-Atlantic integration for all countries in the region that seek it. As mentioned previously, U.S. assistance programs strongly support Ukraine’s, Moldova’s, and Georgia’s European choice—our requests for Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine represent two thirds of the entire request for the EUR Bureau.

But our assistance objective is not limited to the post-Soviet space. We continue to champion Euro-Atlantic integration –whether the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo; pushing ahead with progress in Serbia and Albania in meeting EU standards; or encouraging Macedonia and Greece to work to resolve the name issue so that Macedonia can take its place in NATO. We must continue to offer all those who aspire to Euro-Atlantic standards a political, economic and moral hand in their efforts.

Our FY16 resources in the Western Balkans will help these countries integrate into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions and reduce these countries’ vulnerabilities to external pressures. U.S. assistance will continue to support critical rule-of-law reforms, counter corruption and support a business-enabling environment, all of which are central to stabilization and integration efforts. We support initiatives that tackle regional challenges relating to trade and integration with European energy frameworks, transnational crime—including through information sharing and investigative journalism —and corruption, amplifying civil society’s counter-corruption campaigns.

U.S. assistance is focused on the reforms needed to advance accession to the EU, implementation of the normalization agreements between Serbia and Kosovo, and the new EU reform initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is intended to revive the EU accession process and lead to progress on socioeconomic and government-functionality reforms. In Kosovo, our assistance represents a continued investment in the development of a truly multi-ethnic democracy, where all citizens can have faith in their government and where energy security is assured.

Third, we are working to help countries, civil society, and the private sector in Eastern Europe and the Balkans at all levels—local, regional, national, and international—strengthen rule of law and combat the scourge of corruption. The reason is simple. As Vice President Biden said at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year, “Corruption is a cancer… it is like kryptonite to the functioning of democracy. It siphons away resources. It destroys trust in government. It hollows out military readiness. And it affronts the dignity of [our] people.”

Our FY16 budget request will build up justice-sector projects, support clean reforms emphasizing accountability and empower civil society across the region, all aimed at rooting out corruption. In this, we will build on recent progress. For instance, in Albania, we are supporting a justice sector project that is increasing transparency and accountability by introducing audio recording of all court sessions in every courtroom of all district and appellate level courts; in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we are supporting a network of civil society organizations in their push to implement a new Whistleblower Protection Law; and, in Ukraine, we are providing technical assistance and mentorship as Ukrainians stand up a new Anti-Corruption Bureau and reform the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Combating corruption requires action from the top – working with the international organizations such as the EU, UN, OSCE, and Council of Europe, through the justice sector and commitment at the political level to hold the corrupt accountable. But it also requires grassroots efforts from the bottom to stimulate public demand for transparency and integrity through the media and civil society. It will require engagement by multiple donors in the sectors in which corruption is prevalent such as public administration, education, health care, and law enforcement, among others. But such a campaign cannot be successful without political support—in governments, in civil society, and among citizens— within the host countries. Where those conditions exist, the United States will work with partners at all levels to enhance their work.

Fourth, we are working to reverse the worrying trend of democratic-backsliding and attempts to close the space for political pluralism, public discourse and democratic dissent. While we have seen citizens across the region stand up and demand legitimacy and accountability from their governments, we have also seen peaceful demonstrations quashed by brazen leaders grasping to maintain power. In a growing number of countries, leaders are placing restrictions on the space for civil society and media in order to silence their critics, and to tip the scales of public support in their favor.

Over the last year, we have witnessed the disturbing trend of leaders learning from one another and adopting global “worst practices” for restrictive civil space. These worst practices include: requiring NGOs to jump through bureaucratic hoops to register their organizations and projects, the creation of blacklists of NGOs and journalists who are branded as “foreign agents” without their approval or consent; and, increasingly, incarcerating activists and demonstrators. Often, this is done on the false pretense that the country’s security is being jeopardized by the civic activity by its own citizens. Reversing these trends requires innovative thinking to ensure that countries in Eurasia, the Balkans and Central Europe continue on the path to democracy. Our FY16 request for democracy funding is $221.9 million, an increase of $81 million above FY15.

Our assistance is aimed at empowering citizens to engage with their governments, whether through civil society, independent media, the justice sector, or through democratic political party activities. Where possible, we engage with government institutions that are open to reform. Where such openings do not exist, we concentrate on the non-governmental sector.

We are supporting civil society and independent media as they shine a light on democratic and good governance challenges in the Balkans, such as NGO monitoring of public spending and fact-checking; focus on countering democratic backsliding, particularly in Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, reinforcing efforts to build democratic institutions, and strengthening justice sector capacity; and support those brave activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens in countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus, in line with the President’s Stand with Civil Society initiative, who wish to hold governments accountable to their international obligations and live up to the democratic principles often enshrined in their constitutions.

Fifth and finally, U.S. assistance also has an important role to play in addressing serious challenges that threaten the region’s security as well as our own—including Russian aggression along its broader periphery, ongoing disputes in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia, simmering ethnic tensions and organized crime and illicit trafficking, violent extremism and the tide of foreign fighters traveling from Europe to Syria and Iraq, and weapons of mass destruction proliferation. Peace and Security programs represent 27 percent of the total FY16 request for Europe and Eurasia and Central Asia, and are up by $48.6 million or 20% over FY14 levels.

In response to the crisis in Ukraine, the President announced, and Congress funded, a $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative to enhance our defense posture in Europe and bolster the defense capacities of Allies and partners, such as Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. We also are working in all three states on training and targeted equipment provision for police and border protection services, technical assistance on legislation, and improving regional and international law enforcement cooperation.

More broadly, U.S. security assistance in the region is contributing to defense reform, military modernization, understanding of U.S. doctrine and tactics, and interoperability with U.S. and NATO forces. The United States will continue to make strategic investments in defense reform with our Allies and partners, notably Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and the Baltic states. NADR-supported programs will help destroy conventional weapons stockpiles in the Western Balkans and Ukraine, and strengthen export controls throughout the region.

As we address these five strategic areas within today’s tough budget climate, we look at how best we can leverage donor resources in order to stretch our assistance dollar. Throughout the region, we work with a very broad range of actors to further assistance priorities and multiply the effects of non-governmental efforts. The EU, in particular, is playing a significant role as a donor. U.S. and EU assistance programs are complementary. And, today, we are working with “emerging donors” of Central and Eastern Europe to bring their transition experience, best practices and economic support to the Balkans and post-Soviet space.

Turning to Central Asia, the region and its challenges have grown in importance. The region is critical in creating connectivity for the transition in Afghanistan; the countries remain an important front in the fight against terrorism and extremism, as well as transnational organized crime and narco-trafficking. And Russia’s actions in Ukraine underscore the need to continue our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the Central Asian countries, advocate for greater regional economic cooperation and push for progress on a range of human rights issues across the entire region.

Toward these ends, our goals in Central Asia are:

  • a more secure and stable region that that is not a safehaven for extremist or terrorist activity;
  • greater regional economic cooperation that promotes greater prosperity and stability across the region, including creating a constituency for peace and economic progress in Afghanistan;
  • more democratic, accountable and inclusive governance.

In pursing these goals, we face some similar challenges to those in Europe—such as pressure from Russia, attempts to close the space for political pluralism, public discourse and democratic dissent, and corruption—but we also face a different set of challenges, which include declining remittances from migrant laborers in Russia, the transition in Afghanistan, and the rise of threats from extremist groups like ISIL. While the Kyrgyz Republic continues to work to consolidate its democratic gains since the 2010 revolution, we face backsliding there and in several countries. Human rights records remain flawed. And access to objective information and Internet freedom remains limited in many of the countries. Censorship has intensified as countries pass new laws and restrictions on online speech. Inter-ethnic tensions, lack of sufficient economic opportunities, and impending leadership transitions pose challenges to stability in the Central Asian states.

Given these dynamics, the President’s FY 2016 budget request for Central Asia is more critical than ever before. The request of $155.7 million, $6.3 million higher than 2014, recognizes the important strategic role the United States continues to play in supporting sovereignty and independence, security and stability, governance and human rights, and economic development across the five Central Asian countries, and the potentially transformational effects of regional economic cooperation.

U.S. assistance will create economic growth programs, particularly in Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, to increase job opportunities and expand trade. In the Kyrgyz Republic we also will continue efforts to consolidate its democracy and border programs to counter transnational crime, narco-trafficking, terrorism and extremism. Our assistance throughout the region will also support increased access to objective information and the development of independent media. Regional assistance programs will continue to promote a regional energy market, facilitate trade and transport, ease border and customs procedures, and connect businesses and people.

We support and complement these assistance programs with high-level bilateral dialogues with each of the Central Asian states. To maximize the effectiveness of our limited resources, we coordinate our assistance with the European Union and other donors, and partner with the private sector. Without internal economic and political reform, including better governance and increased respect for human rights, these countries cannot achieve long-term stability and prosperity.

As Secretary Kerry said when he testified before this committee a little over a month ago, “…our budget proposals aren’t just a collection of numbers—they’re the embodiment of our values…” For 25 years, our assistance in Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia has extended those values—the root of our strength—toward our ultimate goal of completing a “Europe whole, free, and at peace” and a safer, more open and more democratic Central Asia.

Along the way, our assistance has improved the lives of millions. This budget request is a continuation of that mission. We are aware of the very real resource constraints affecting foreign assistance. And we are committed to working diligently, effectively, and imaginatively with the resources provided by the American people in the service of our values and our national interests to increase democracy, stability and prosperity throughout the region.

Thank you for this opportunity and your bipartisan support. I look forward to your questions.