November 26, 2022

U.S. continues to strengthen ties with Africa with focus on beating COVID-19, protecting refugees, finding peace in South Sudan and Ethiopia, and countering hate speech

President Joe Biden departs the Oval Office to board Marine One on the South Lawn, Thursday April 21, 2022, en route to Joint Base Andrews for his trip to Portland and Seattle. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)
President Joe Biden departs the Oval Office to board Marine One on the South Lawn, Thursday April 21, 2022, en route to Joint Base Andrews for his trip to Portland and Seattle. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 10:17 am

The United States and Africa continued to strengthen ties last week and this week with a focus on beating COVID-19, helping refugees from Africa and around the world, finding peace in South Sudan and Ethiopia, countering hate speech, protecting fisheries and increasing diplomatic ties with African countries such as Senegal.

On June 17, for instance, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Senegalese Foreign Minister Aïssata Tall Sall in Washington, D.C., “to reaffirm the United States and Senegal’s commitment to mutual security and prosperity.” 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 2022. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

“The Secretary and Foreign Minister discussed the devastating impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on food security in Africa and U.S. leadership to mobilize a global response to the crisis,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. 

“The Secretary commended Senegal’s own leadership in responding to COVID-19 and commitment to combatting pandemic complacency. The Secretary expressed U.S. interest in deepening cooperation with Senegal on maritime issues and climate change while stressing the need for continued Senegalese leadership to resolve regional security challenges,” Price added.

United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken also met with Ambassador Michael Hammer as he took on his role as Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa to deal with a cornucopia of crises, from Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict to instability in Somalia to a vicious drought affecting millions of people and killing at least one person every minute in the region.

Secretary Antony Blinken (Right) meets with Ambassador Michael Hammer in Washington DC as he takes on his new role as U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa

“Appreciated meeting with Ambassador Hammer again as he takes on his role as Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa. His appointment reaffirms our abiding commitment to diplomatic efforts in the region,” Blinken tweeted on Saturday, June 18.

Michael Hammer replaced Ambassador David Satterfield as U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa. Satterfield was on the job for a few months after he replaced Jeffrey Feltman last year.

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The meeting between Blinken and Hammer took place before an attack by a rebel group in Ethiopia’s Oromo region Sunday left at least 200 people dead, according to witnesses. The massacre appears to be ethnically motivated as victims belong to the Amhara ethnic group and witnesses allege that the Oromo Liberation Army is responsible for the attack.

The Oromo Liberation Army is labeled as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government. However, it denied responsibility for the massacre and instead blamed a militia aligned with the regional government supporting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Ethnic-based violence has been an ongoing and monumental issue in Ethiopia for many decades. However, this is one of the most devastating attacks in recent years.

President Joe Biden meets with Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to discuss Cuba, Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

On Monday, June 20, United States President Joseph R. Biden Jr. recognized the millions of refugees around the world Monday and stated that “as Americans, protecting and welcoming refugees is part of who we are.”

“Today, on World Refugee Day, I join people around the world in recognizing the strength, resilience, and humanity of the millions of refugees forced to flee violence, persecution, and war,” said a statement from Biden.

The President also praised humanitarian workers, generous communities, and both private and public workers that are essential to supporting these vulnerable people.

“According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 100 million people are now forcibly displaced, more than at any other time in history,” said Biden.

While President Biden discussed the growing number of refugees being forced to flee from the war torn nation of Ukraine, he did not specifically mention the continent of Africa or any of its nations.

Worldwide, USAID rolled Out U.S. government-facilitated pediatric COVID-19 vaccines. For instance, on June 18 and 19, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with COVAX, delivered the first two U.S.-facilitated shipments of Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccines to Mongolia (302,400 doses) and Nepal (2.2 million doses). These pediatric vaccines are part of President Biden’s commitment to donate COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries around the world.

As people died around the world, American companies such as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson refused to share their wavers with African nations and other nations around the world as requested by the World Health Organization. Instead, the multi-billion dollar worth companies decided to sheep some COVID-19 vaccines rather than share their technologies or allow other nations to learn to manufacture their own vaccines.

The latest step seems to fit into that tactic, openly pretending to help the world, but in reality, doing nothing to share the waivers with them to manufacture their own drugs.

Below are key remarks and statements on U.S.-Africa ties and interactions last week and this week

Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in South Sudan

Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 20, 2022

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Madam President. Thank you SRSG Haysom, Ms. Mudawi for your comprehensive briefings today. SRSG Haysom, thank you for raising the possibility of a Council visit to Juba, which my delegation will consider. But in the meantime, we look forward to the sanctions panel visiting Juba by the end of the year. Thank you, Ms. Mudawi, for your messages to the Council which we will give great consideration to. And I want to thank and appreciate in particular, Ms. Merekaje for sharing her insights and her very important recommendations with this Council. Thank you.

The United States finds itself once again deeply disturbed to hear about another incident of brutal violence impacting civilians in South Sudan, including women and children. We are particularly appalled by the horrific crimes in Leer County, Unity state, where – as we heard – earlier this year, armed youth from Koch and Mayendit counties reportedly under orders from County Commissioner Koang Biel and Mayendit County Commissioner Gatluak Nyang killed 72 civilians, raped over 60 women and girls, and assaulted humanitarian workers.

We learned from the UNMISS press statement on April 25 that some civilians were burned alive, while others – including a child – were beheaded. Two survivors of sexual violence recounted being raped and gang-raped repeatedly.

Horrifically, these incidents of gender-based violence are all too common – and continue to increase in South Sudan with impunity. According to recent UNMISS reports, the incidence of conflict-related sexual violence in the first quarter of this year increased – increased by 125 percent compared to the same timeframe last year.

My delegation wants to be clear: those involved in planning, directing, or committing any acts involving sexual and gender-based violence can be subject to UN sanctions. The two permanent Member States – China and Russia – that routinely block sanctions nominations, place unwarranted holds or blocks on reappointments of sanctions experts, and generally seek to weaken the Council’s ability to effectively wield the sanctions tool should be mindful of the human costs of their actions.

In keeping with international law, we join others in calling on the South Sudanese officials in government to hold to account all those responsible for committing violations and abuses in Unity state, and we stress that it is the primary responsibility of the Government of South Sudan to ensure the protection of its civilians, including women and children.

We know peacekeepers have a critical role to play here as well, and we commend SRSG Haysom and UNMISS for the rapid deployment of peacekeepers. Their swift engagement at the local, state, and national level to restore calm in Unity has saved lives.

But as the SRSG reminds us, no lasting and just peace will be possible without political progress. In that vein, the United States shares the Secretary-General’s concern regarding the slow implementation and completion of critical elements of the Revitalized Agreement before the end of the transitional period in February 2023. And we call on the Government of South Sudan to fully implement the Revitalized Agreement, including finalizing security arrangements, completing an inclusive constitution drafting process, establishing and resourcing transitional institutions, and ensuring as we heard from our civil society speaker, a free and open civic space for elections.

A we also just heard, South Sudan is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in its history and 8.9 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The United States provides about $1 billion every year to support life-saving humanitarian assistance to the South Sudanese people. We join others in urging the international community to continue providing support to the people of South Sudan, who depend on the delivery of essential and life-saving humanitarian assistance.

And let me join others in categorically condemning attacks on humanitarian workers that provide this life-saving assistance. No humanitarian worker should face threats of violence for simply trying to do their job. We call on South Sudanese officials to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers and organizations, and as Mr. Haysom noted, reduce bureaucratic impediments to delivering humanitarian assistance instead of putting new ones in place.

Finally, Madam President, although there has been some improvement over the last year, the United States remains concerned about the increase in violations of the status-of-forces agreement over the reporting period. This includes continued obstructions to UNMISS’s freedom of movement; the imposition of undue taxes, fees, and restrictions on UNMISS and its contractors; and the arrest of two UNMISS personnel in clear violation of the status-of-forces agreement arrest and detention procedure. We remind the Government of South Sudan that it has primary responsibility for ensuring the safety, security, and freedom of movement of UN personnel and assets and that all violations of the status-of-forces agreement are unacceptable.

More than ever, the people of Sudan – and the team at UNMISS – need our unified support on this Council to move toward peace, justice and free and fair elections. Thank you, Madam President.

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USAID Rolls Out U.S. Government-Facilitated Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccines Worldwide

United States Agency for International Development
Press Release
June 20, 2022 

On June 18 and 19, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with COVAX, delivered the first two U.S.-facilitated shipments of Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccines to Mongolia (302,400 doses) and Nepal (2.2 million doses). These pediatric vaccines are part of President Biden’s commitment to donate COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries around the world.

During the second Global COVID-19 Summit in May, the U.S. announced our commitment to expand our dose donation types to include boosters and pediatric doses to accelerate global vaccine coverage and meet partner countries’ demand for pediatric doses to vaccinate 5 to 11 year-olds. In collaboration with COVAX, USAID will now continue to ship pediatric doses to partner countries around the world that have requested them.

USAID supports countries to address the public health impacts of COVID-19 by reaching high vaccination coverage among the most at-risk populations (i.e. health workers, the elderly, and immunocompromised people) first. Given the ready availability of global COVID-19 vaccine supply, USAID is working with interested partner countries to expand vaccination to additional groups, including children.

Expanding vaccination to children can present countries with opportunities to reach higher risk populations, such as grandparents; increase community acceptance; and contribute to positive norms for COVID-19 vaccination uptake.

In addition to supporting pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, USAID continues its decades-long commitment to support essential immunization to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Statement from Ambassador Katherine Tai on the Groundbreaking Fisheries Outcome

Office of the United States Trade Representative
Press Release
June 17, 2022 

“Today WTO Members took a positive step forward to protect our fisheries resources for future generations by agreeing to the first ever multilateral trade agreement with environment at its core. The Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies prohibits subsidies to those engaged in IUU fishing, for fishing overfished stocks, and for fishing on the unregulated high seas.
 
“These strong disciplines target the worst activities that lead to the depletion of fish stocks; further, the Agreement contains strong transparency provisions that will add significant understanding of the universe of fish subsidies. This agreement will also take a step forward in the fight against forced labor on fishing vessels, with an IUU discipline that covers fishing related activities that may be associated with such practices. 
 
“With a commitment to also continue negotiations to build on these disciplines with additional provisions on subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, the United States will continue to pursue more ambitious disciplines in the future, including enhanced transparency with respect to forced labor, shining a light on this egregious practice and with the aim of improving the lives of fishers and workers.” 
 

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Pride Reception

Remarks
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, D.C.
June 17, 2022 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first let me say I’m just going to drop the microphone and leave it to these two, because who wants to follow that?  (Laughter.)

It is so wonderful to see everyone here.  And as Jessica said, there’s something wonderful about just being back in this room, in the Ben Franklin Room.  We haven’t had a chance to use it very much because of COVID in recent years, but to see it filled with all of you, to feel the energy in this room that you’re bringing to it, is a powerful thing.

And in some ways, it’s very appropriate that we’re here with Ben Franklin.  He was our nation’s first diplomat, as I think all of you know.  He charted the Gulf Stream, he pioneered electricity, he authored America’s first treaty, he helped forge a new ethos of self-government.  And virtually none of this did he do while sober.  (Laughter.)  So I know that’s not going to be an issue here tonight.

But first, Happy Pride, everyone.  (Cheers.)

As you’ve heard, this is our first in-person Pride reception in far too long – six years – and I’m thrilled that we’re finally able to do it, because Pride Month is all about love, authenticity, justice, equality, and those are very much worth celebrating.

Jessica, thank you for that introduction.  But mostly, thank you for your tireless efforts already as our special envoy to stand up for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world, to tackle discrimination and violence wherever we find it.

We spent some time together this week.  I would not want to be in the way of Jessica Stern.  (Applause.)  I’m so glad that I’m on her team.  (Laughter.)

And I also want to say a few words about a few other people.  Uzra Zeya – Uzra, are you here somewhere?  There.  (Applause.)  Uzra, as I think most of you know, is our under secretary of state for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, and she is leading our efforts to defend rights around the world, including for LGBTQI+ persons.

And Michael, thank you, thank you, thank you for your extraordinary leadership of glifaa.  You’ve done a remarkable job.  We’re very, very pleased that you’re now off on a mission very soon to Luxembourg, but to you, to everyone from glifaa’s board and membership who is here, thank you, thank you, thank you.

We’re here tonight because, first and foremost, Pride Month is about supporting and celebrating LGBTQI+ persons everywhere, including in the workplace.  And simply put, we wouldn’t be able to do our work without you – and we wouldn’t want to.  You’re dedicated public servants, incredibly talented diplomats, cherished colleagues and teammates.  You make our country safer; you make our foreign policy stronger.  And we want to do everything we can to make sure that this department, the State Department, always recognizes your worth, supports you and your families, and is a place where you can bring your whole self to work every single day.

Now, to do that, we need to be honest about the work it’s taken to get where we are today, and you’ve heard reference to some of it.  For a long time, LGBTQI+ people couldn’t live openly and still get a State Department security clearance.  In contrast – in contrast – this week and this weekend, Diplomatic Security agents marched with glifaa in the DC Pride Parade.  (Applause.)  That in and of itself is a pretty remarkable journey.  And it’s thanks in large part to glifaa, and to all the people who stood up and fought for America’s foreign affairs agencies to be better.  That took courage.  It took resilience.  And it’s achieved real results.

But again, as you’ve heard, there’s still a lot of work to do.  The work is ongoing, and in a sense, it always will be.  We can’t ever become complacent in advancing equity in our workplace.  And especially now, it is so critical that we reaffirm our shared commitment to an America where all people are treated with equal respect and equal humanity, and where all kids know that they’re perfect just the way they are.  (Applause.)  At the same time, we’re also working very closely with glifaa to see to it that when an LGBTQI+ officer serves overseas, they can do so with their partner.  That is a priority for me and for all of us.  (Applause.)

So we here at State have another responsibility as well.  It is our job – and it’s quite literally Jessica’s job – to stand up for human rights all over the world.  And the fact is, again, as you’ve heard, the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons are vulnerable or actively violated in far too many places.  Homosexual status or conduct is still illegal in 70 countries around the world.  That’s about a third of the world’s countries.  In some, it’s punishable by death.  And in too much of the world, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, or simply gender non-conforming means that you’re going to be dealing with violence, you’re going to be dealing with harassment, targeted by the police or security forces, denied education, denied employment, denied equal access to the justice sector or to healthcare, experiencing profoundly isolating social exclusion.

These are human rights abuses – and the United States fights for human rights.  Human rights are indivisible.  Whenever one group of people is targeted, all vulnerable groups are less safe.  And whenever one group’s rights are protected, societies as a whole become both more free, more prosperous, more secure.  This is the “inescapable network of mutuality” that Dr. Martin Luther King talked about when he said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  That’s why it’s not just enough to stand up for LGBTQI rights at home. We have to continue and we will continue to stand up for equal rights everywhere, in partnership with local activists and local communities.

Human rights are also central to our support for democracy around the world, because any system in which some groups are treated as “less than” – as second-class citizens with fewer rights and protections – is fundamentally flawed.

Wednesday, as you heard, President Biden signed an executive order to advance LGBTQI+ equality at home and abroad that includes direction to this department, to the State Department, along with other relevant agencies, to develop a plan to promote an end to the profoundly harmful and medically discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” around the world and to ensure that our foreign – (applause) – and to ensure, to ensure, that our foreign assistance dollars do not fund it.

At the Human Rights Council, we are supporting renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for another three years, so that this vital work to protect people facing violence and discrimination continues.

We’ll keep supporting marriage equality and legal recognition for same-sex relationships around the world.

And this year, we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the State Department’s Global Equality Fund.  With support from Congress, from other countries, private sector partners, we have provided more than $100 million to LGBTQI+ organizations in more than 100 countries.  (Cheers.)

We will continue to find ways to advance this work around the world.  And I have a pretty good feeling I can count on everyone in this room to help us do that – (laughter) – because many of you have been pushing us to do more and to do better for a long time.

So as Mike noted at the outset, this is the 30th anniversary of glifaa’s founding.  I think probably all of you know the backstory, but for the few of you who don’t:  David Buss was a Foreign Service officer.  He was posted to the Seychelles.  David Larson was there with the Peace Corps.  They became great friends.  Eventually, they fell in love.

As a result, David Larson was removed from the Peace Corps for his, quote, “inappropriate lifestyle.”  David Buss learned that the State Department was investigating him because of his sexuality.  He also learned that other people at State and USAID were going through the same ordeal.

So the two Davids invited some of those colleagues over for brunch one weekend back in 1992.  They included Bryan Dalton, Danny Hall, Jan Krc, Eric Nelson, John Schneider.  That’s how glifaa was born.

This story reminds us that powerful moments are often rooted in necessity, but also – also – in love, in friendship – and sometimes brunch.  (Laughter.)

It’s a story about who we were but also who we’ve become.

And I just want to thank everyone who has courageously carried forward that legacy, the legacy that glifaa’s founders began all those years ago.  We will continue to march together.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Remarks at a UN General Assembly Informal High-level Meeting to Mark the Commemoration of the First International Day for Countering Hate Speech

Jason Mack
Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
New York, New York
June 20, 2022

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President and Madam Special Adviser.

The rise in hate speech recognized in resolution 75/309 on “Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech,” represents a threat to the values and principles that we are working to exemplify and promote. The impact of hate speech on communities and individuals can be devastating when it leads to targeting and exploiting the vulnerable with violence, exclusion, and discrimination.

Today, new technologies and means of communication can spread divisive rhetoric and ideologies on a global scale. If left unaddressed, hate speech can fray our social fabric and can precede wide scale human rights violations. While taking steps to address hate speech, the United States considers freedom of expression, whether exercised offline or online, a critical component of a vibrant, functioning democracy. For this reason, it is enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution. Respecting freedom of expression enables the open exchange of information, robust public debate, and an independent press that are vitally important for free and secure democratic societies. Like the U.S. Constitution, international law enshrines the rights to freedoms of opinion and expression in both Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In the United States, we have long believed the strongest weapon against hateful speech is more speech that promotes tolerance and unity.  We recognize that suppressing the expression of such ideas doesn’t make them go away. In fact, banning intolerant or offensive speech can be counter-productive, often significantly raising the profile of the offensive speech as well as forcing hateful ideologies to fester in dangerous ways.  We have learned through our own experience that banning offensive speech is not useful in promoting a vibrant democracy, in respecting human dignity, or in creating space for change.

To combat the spread of toxic expressions of hatred, we deploy a robust array of policies to reach out to affected communities, provide conflict resolution services, and enhance dialogue. We also condemn hate speech at the highest levels of our government. Additionally, recognizing that individuals of racial, ethnic, and other minorities and vulnerable groups are often the targets of hate speech, we celebrate our diversity as a nation, our heritage, and our need to deliver the promise of America for all Americans, through activities such as the commemoration of emancipation with Juneteenth; last month’s dedication to Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage; and this month’s focus on LGBTQI+ Pride.

Respecting freedom of expression fosters societies that are more informed, resilient, stable, and tolerant; where individuals are better able to participate meaningfully in political decision-making and hold governments accountable; where people can peacefully air grievances and have their voices heard; where there is space for the broadest possible diversity of voices, viewpoints, values, interests, and ideas. Our belief in the freedom of expression requires us to address hate speech not with repression, but with more speech, not less. This may take many forms, but two of the most essential are truth-telling – standing up and responding to hate speech with facts – and promoting education to counteract the negative effects of hate speech.

We advise citizens to know the origin of their information, including the viewpoint and motivation of the source, and seek out multiple sources. The public is best served by thinking critically about their own assumptions and biases and by considering how others may try to influence and manipulate them with an aim to divide and spoil social cohesion. One of the best defenses against hate speech and disinformation is a free and transparent news media environment, which is why the United States actively engages with our allies and partners to strengthen independent media. We build global resiliency to disinformation through support for investigative journalism and related training.

Whether Member States, civil society and human rights defenders, the private sector, media and internet corporations, faith leaders, educators, and those individuals affected by hate speech, youth, or simply as individuals, we all have the moral duty and vital role to speak out firmly against instances of hate speech and reject any calls to violence.

Thank you.

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USAID Convenes Global Leaders And Experts To Discuss COVID-19 Vaccination Progress

United States Agency for International Development
Readout
June 17, 2022 

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Rebecca Chalif:‎

Yesterday, USAID convened a meeting of senior health officials from donor and partner countries, and top COVID-19 experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, Africa CDC, and COVAX to discuss the COVID-19 Global Action Plan Line of Effort 1 to get shots in arms. Executive Director of USAID’s COVID-19 Task Force Jeremy Konyndyk chaired the meeting. 

The meeting opened with remarks on the state of the global COVID-19 vaccination effort from Global Lead Coordinator for the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership Mr. Ted Chaiban. The participants then discussed three key issue areas related to accelerating broad-based COVID-19 vaccination efforts while maintaining a strong focus on high priority and at-risk populations: coordinating global supply, evaluating global targets, and lessons and best practices for country acceleration.

Global Supply

Due to the ample global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, many recipient countries’ health systems are struggling to keep pace with the rate of dose donations, and are eager to avoid letting doses expire before they can be administered. Participants noted that countries should seek to maximize the volume of doses administered rather than pursue a zero-wastage standard. Participants also reviewed current practices around bilateral and multilateral vaccine donations, considered lessons and best practices, and discussed how donor countries can better align their future COVID-19 vaccine donations with forecasted demand. There was broad recognition of the importance of COVAX as a multilateral platform for coordinating in-kind vaccine donations, and several countries noted the difficulty posed when donors donate bilaterally without coordinating through the COVAX mechanism. 

Evaluating Global Targets

Given the evolving global landscape, participants explored how the global community can address the need for intermediate targets in addition to differentiated targets for certain sub-populations in an evidence-based manner. Participants acknowledged that countries will achieve vaccination goals on different timelines, stretching into 2023. Participants noted the importance of ensuring that populations at highest risk of hospitalization and mortality, including individuals over 60, immunocompromised people, and healthcare and other frontline workers, are prioritized, even as efforts to reach broad-based coverage are sustained. Participants also discussed considerations for pediatric and adolescent vaccination, and how to assess prioritization and cost-benefit considerations in countries with large youth populations.  

Lessons and Best Practices for Country Acceleration

Participants observed that accelerating progress toward priority population coverage and broad-based coverage will require a multi-pronged approach: integrating COVID-19 vaccination efforts into existing health  platforms, supporting national and sub-national campaigns and mobile vaccination efforts, and emphasizing tailored campaign and outreach efforts targeting high-priority populations. Officials from Ghana and the Africa CDC presented lessons on successful strategies for accelerating COVID-19 vaccination coverage. Participants also presented and discussed successful strategies for generating demand for COVID-19 vaccines among high priority populations, including the individuals over 60, immunocompromised people, and healthcare and other frontline workers. Looking forward, participants noted that lessons from the current pandemic will be vital to building permanent capacity to integrate adult vaccination more fully into national immunization platforms.

At the conclusion of the forum, participants reaffirmed commitments to maintain and increase political will to rapidly and equitably deliver COVID-19 vaccines and accelerate resources and technical assistance to help all countries accelerate vaccination coverage as soon as possible, with a focus on reaching high priority populations.

Statement by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Juneteenth

United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2022

On June 19, or Juneteenth, the United States commemorates the day in 1865 that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the emancipation of more than 250,000 African Americans who were enslaved in the state. Although the Emancipation Proclamation legally abolished slavery in Confederate states in 1863, African Americans in areas still under Confederate control were not free until this momentous day two years later.

That very same year, in 1865, my great-grandmother Mary Thomas was born as the child of a slave. Even though I am only three generations removed from her, I have had the remarkable honor and privilege of representing to the world what the United States can be if we fully live up to our values and ideals. Throughout our nation’s history, African Americans have made vital contributions to our collective progress and to our guiding aspirations for a freer, fairer world.

Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the freedom and justice that was long overdue, as well as an opportunity to humbly recognize how much further we collectively still have to go. Even though slavery is America’s original sin, the United States is not the only heir of slavery. Other countries share this shameful history with us, and, outrageously, modern slavery persists all over the world to this day.

Together, at the United Nations, we have an opportunity and responsibility to advocate for the vulnerable and end slavery everywhere. Let us celebrate these historic, hard-fought freedoms by doing everything in our power to ensure that everyone, everywhere can enjoy these freedoms as well.

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Senior U.S. Officials Discuss Strengthening the Chemical Weapons Convention with Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
June 17, 2022 

Under Secretary of State Bonnie Jenkins and Assistant Secretary of State Mallory Stewart met with Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Fernando Arias and thanked the Director-General for his outstanding leadership of the Organization.  The Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for the OPCW and the norm against the use of chemical weapons, and commended the independence, professionalism, and dedication of the OPCW Technical Secretariat staff.  They also discussed the OPCW readiness to provide assistance and advice in case of chemical weapons use in Ukraine.

Leadership of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, senior officials at the Departments of Defense, and Commerce, and the National Security Council also met with Director Arias during his two-day visit.  They discussed the future of the Organization in anticipation of the completion of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile destruction in 2023, how to counter disinformation about chemical weapons, as well as the timeline for the opening of the new OPCW ChemTech Centre whose expanded laboratory and training capabilities will help the OPCW adapt to rapid changes in the chemical weapons science and technology landscape.

For more information on the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, please visit www.state.gov/t/avc.

Statement by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2022

On June 19, we honor the courageous survivors of sexual violence around the globe, and we urge all countries to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of these horrific crimes. We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to this violence. We must renew our collective commitment and determination to address conflict-related sexual violence with purpose and vigor.

Less than two weeks ago, on June 6, I spoke before the UN Security Council to condemn the bone-chilling accounts of Russian soldiers raping Ukrainian women — and then killing them in cold blood. Multiple reports have cited soldiers breaking down doors to basements, killing women in front of their own children, and even filming their disturbing actions in the process.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia are among the many, many places where sexual violence has reportedly been used as a weapon of war. We know that for every case reported, countless others go entirely undocumented or addressed. Sexual violence harms people of all ages and genders, and especially women and girls.

Together, we must continue to deliver vital trauma-informed and comprehensive support services for all survivors, and we must work to end such ruthless acts of violence everywhere. Today, we recognize those who have survived these unimaginable acts of violence, and we commit — for them and alongside them — to work with the international community to better prevent and respond to these horrifying acts of violence.

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Advancing Peace and Eliminating Sexual Violence in Conflict

Press Statement
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
June 19, 2022

For more than a decade, the United States has joined the global community in recognizing June 19 as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict (IDESVC). We remain deeply committed to preventing and responding to all forms of gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, which disproportionately impacts women and girls, and protecting and supporting survivors. The United States recognizes that respect for the rights and dignity of women and girls, in all their diversity is essential to promoting global peace, security, democracy, and economic prosperity.

The world faces a number of pressing issues that disproportionately impact women and girls, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, food insecurity, and conflict and humanitarian emergencies around the world. The international community has been inundated with devastating reports of conflict-related sexual violence from across the world, including in Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Syria. We have seen how conflict and crisis exacerbate gender inequality and increase women and girls’ vulnerability to gender-based violence, online and offline. Increased violence impedes women’s ability to participate meaningfully in the social, political, and economic sectors of life, causing cycles of poverty, marginalization, and insecurity.

The United States is taking concrete steps to ensure our efforts to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence are survivor-centered and trauma-informed. As illustrated in the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, the Administration is committed to developing and strengthening comprehensive gender-based violence policies, services, and prevention efforts. Later this year, the United States will release an update to the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, which will address conflict-related sexual violence, among other policy priorities.

Additionally, through the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security, the Department of State is working to promote the participation of women in decision-making and conflict resolution, protection of the human rights of women and girls, access to aid, and safety from violence, abuse – including conflict-related sexual violence – and exploitation around the world. We recognize that we cannot effect sustainable change on our own, so the United States works closely with multilateral partners and allies, including the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Elimination of conflict-related sexual violence is both a moral and strategic imperative. Empty calls for action and expressions of concern are not enough. On this International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, the international community must take real action and coordinate efforts to prevent and respond to all forms of gender-based violence so that the support we provide is survivor-centered and truly advances justice and accountability for such crimes.

Laurence R. Helfer Elected to the UN Human Rights Committee

Press Statement
Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
June 17, 2022 

We extend our congratulations to Professor Laurence R. Helfer on his election today to serve as an independent expert on the UN Human Rights Committee for the 2023-2026 term.   Professor Helfer is a distinguished scholar, lecturer, and professor of international human rights law, and will bring to this Committee a determined passion to protect and promote civil and political rights.

The Human Rights Committee is an important treaty body established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the United States views it as a key venue in which American values and perspectives are indispensable.  Professor Helfer is known globally as a tireless advocate for human rights, and the United States applauds his election.

On Key

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