October 7, 2022

Tag: EnterpriseEurope2

Miscellaneous

Press Releases: U.S. State Department and USAID Supported Initiatives to Counter Violent Extremism


Countering the violent extremism that is driving today’s terrorist threats and stemming its spread is a generational challenge. Lasting victories over terrorism and the violent extremist ideologies that underpin it are not found on the battlefield, but rather in mindsets, and within communities, schools, and families. The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are committed to countering today’s threats, and building capacity and resilience to prevent tomorrow’s challenges. Together with international partners, including governments, the United Nations, regional organizations, civil society, and the private sector, the United States is helping prevent the spread of violent extremist ideologies and networks worldwide.

The U.S. Department of State and USAID are supporting a wide range of programs and other initiatives to advance the themes of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), with particular attention to topics discussed during the February 19 ministerial meeting at the Department of State. The United States will continue to advance ongoing and planned CVE efforts through robust programming and coordinated implementation described herein totaling approximately $188 million.

1) Improving and Sharing Analysis of Violent Extremism

  • In Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, ongoing programs focus on strengthening understanding of the local drivers of violent extremism. This includes research and trend analysis that focuses on gender and governance through “Regional Violent Risk Assessments” in Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and Uganda. The United States is also supporting civil society practitioners and partner governments to share the latest research on CVE through workshops, online trainings, and in practice.

2) Developing Skills, Expertise, and Strategies to Counter Violent Extremism

  • Efforts in West Africa, working with the Economic Community of West Africa and in the Horn of Africa, working with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, focus on developing national, multi-stakeholder strategies to address violent extremism. This includes providing and supporting trainings and exchanges of best practices among government practitioners and civil society leaders.
  • New initiatives in North Africa and the Sahel will build capacity among community and government leaders to counter violent extremism locally with a variety of tools, including counter-messaging strategies. These efforts will help partners amplify and build networks of credible, independent, non-violent voices to build resistance to violent extremists’ efforts, challenge the appeal of violent extremist narratives, and to promote tolerance in local communities around the world.

3) Promoting the Role of Civil Society Leaders, Especially Youth and Women, in Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism

  • Assistance for projects that build the resilience of youth susceptible to recruitment and radicalization to violent extremism provide youth a sense of belonging. This includes projects that focus on building technical skills and providing vocational training, as well as offering opportunities for civic engagement and leadership training.
  • Support for activities that build networks of youth, women, civil society, and private sector leaders who can provide counter-narratives and counter-messaging through community-based efforts, the arts and media, sports, and culture.
  • Support for CVE projects for women, including helping women assess signs of recruitment and radicalization to violent extremism in their families and communities, and extending support to women’s organizations that develop prevention strategies and promising CVE activities. Programs seek to create safe spaces for dialogue between women community leaders and law enforcement, promoting community cohesion and community-based solutions to security concerns.
  • In partnership with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s Women and Extremism Initiative, convene CVE experts for a high-level “Women and Extremism” event in Washington, D.C., with a follow-on exchange program to build a network of researchers and practitioners that focuses on the role of women in CVE.
  • Organizing a series of educational and cultural exchange projects and alumni projects on CVE-related themes, including interfaith dialogue, tolerance and diversity, minority integration, community service, outreach to at-risk youth, encouraging responsible citizenship and democratic participation, private and charitable sector engagements, and promoting peace and security. These efforts will build a global network of youth who are working in their own community to counter violent extremism to share experiences, good practices, and support each other to expand collective impact against violent extremism.
  • Supporting economic opportunity for women and youth through innovation and entrepreneurship training and mentorship, such as the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) program. GIST uses startup boot camps, interactive webinars, global competitions, and an online network to deliver programing that includes training, mentorship, peer-to-peer support, and access to financing. In November 2014, GIST launched www.GISTnetwork.org which is an online marketplace that allows technology entrepreneurs from across the globe to find mentors, share information, and solicit investments. GIST Net is a public-private partnership developed by the State Department and actively seeks the participation of women and encourages participants to share knowledge and pay forward success. For example, in Jordan, over half the 30 startup boot camp participants – and the winners – were women innovators.
  • Investments in science, technology, education, and math (STEM) education, through the NeXXt Scholars Program, which provides young women from 47 Muslim-majority countries, alongside their American counterparts, with professional development, leadership and intercultural communication training, and mentoring, while studying STEM at 38 U.S. women’s colleges. Support for STEM education to young women in volatile regions can advance women’s empowerment and boost a country’s enhanced economic development and growth. To date, this initiative has involved 73 NeXXt Scholars from countries including Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

4) Strengthening Community-Police and Community-Security Force Relations as Ingredients for Countering and Preventing the Spread of Violent Extremism

  • Support for community-oriented policing and community engagement projects to counter and prevent recruitment and radicalization in the Balkans, South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel offer professional and cultural competency training to local law enforcement, and encourage engagement with vulnerable communities, emphasizing relationship and trust-building activities as well as communal problem solving. These projects support the implementation of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum’s (GCTF) Good Practices on Community Engagement and Community-Oriented Policing as Tools to Counter Violent Extremism.
  • The creation of an expert-led technical working group to study the relationship between security force-community relations and the prevalence of violent extremism will engage civil society, government, and multilateral partners. The group will develop a set of principles and recommendations for practitioners, public officials, and civil society, by examining common practice, empirical research, and case studies.

5) Building Community Resilience to Recruitment and Radicalization to Violent Extremism

  • Ongoing efforts to build community resilience to recruitment and radicalization to violent extremism include projects to promote inclusive peace and reconciliation and encourage tolerance and respect of religious minorities. Continuing activities include dialogue across religious, sectarian, and ethnic lines, conflict resolution training, and working with community leaders and members to peacefully resolve problems together.
  • Projects to build resilience among youth susceptible to recruitment and radicalization to violent extremism include encouraging youth to be catalysts for inter- and intra-faith cooperation in their communities, and enabling youth to become active advocates by providing technical skills and training, as well as offering opportunities for civic education, community service, and empowerment.
  • Provision of support services to low-risk offenders, coupled with the strengthening of public and youth-serving organizations that offer positive alternatives to violence. Services include life skills training, internships, employment placements, and entrepreneurship training to help prevent youth delinquency and reduce recidivism.

6) Promoting Counter-Narratives, including through Strategic Communications

  • Expansion of innovative public diplomacy efforts to support counter-narratives and counter-messaging to mitigate recruitment and radicalization to violent extremism in key countries through social media and other information technologies and platforms.
  • Support for alternative narratives and counter-messaging efforts that include: 1) amplifying the voices of victims/survivors of terrorism and former violent extremists and training them on ways to broadcast their message; 2) emphasizing the negative impact of violent extremism on families and communities; and 3) utilizing widely accessible technologies such as the internet, smartphones, radio, television, and SMS for maximum message dissemination to vulnerable communities.
  • Support for a series of online media training programs and “tech camps.” The U.S., in partnership with governments and private sector organizations, will help mobilize people to actively and vigorously contest ISIL’s online activities. The media/tech camps will provide training and knit together influential community and religious leaders to enhance their use of technology to more effectively counter ISIL’s narrative and propaganda.

7) Elevating the Role of Religious Voices and Promoting Educational Initiatives to Build Resilience against Extremist Recruitment

  • Support to amplify non-violent religious voices will: 1) mobilize religious leaders from conflict areas and encourage them to lead projects emphasizing peace, tolerance and coexistence at the community level; and 2) train religious leaders on conflict resolution and implementation of peace-building initiatives.
  • Coordination of a meeting of religious leaders to positively engage young people and identify ways to empower youth with greater technical skills and training, as well as civic education and community service, and encourage them to become advocates for religious tolerance. Additional projects will support evidence-based critical thinking and values-oriented education interventions among at-risk student populations, including projects designed to support the implementation of the GCTF’s Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism.

8) Preventing Radicalization of Violence in Prisons and Rehabilitation/Reintegration of Violent Extremists

  • Support to the UN Inter-Regional Crime Research Institute (UNICRI) and the GCTF to lead ongoing efforts to build international capacity to address prison deficiencies, the risk of recruitment and radicalization to violent extremism in prison settings, and the danger of recidivism upon release. These projects aim to provide training to detention officials on recognizing and mitigating the signs of radicalization, working with known incarcerated terrorists on disengagement, and implementing prison management practices to separate known terrorists from prison populations.
  • Work with governments to help shape corrections sectors so that a safe, secure, and humane prison system will make inmates more resilient to radicalization to violence.
  • The U.S. is seeking to provide funding for a series of country-specific workshops focusing on rehabilitation and reintegration of foreign terrorist fighters hosted by the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law.
  • Utilize the International Corrections and Prison Association Annual Conference in October 2015 in Australia, the largest international corrections event of the year with more than 70 countries represented, to organize a workshop on classifying violent extremists, conducting intelligence operations on violent extremist threat groups, and counter-messaging and rehabilitation programs.
  • Organize a regional conference on managing violent extremists, focusing on Central America in Summer 2015 in El Salvador and convene senior-level corrections personnel and experts from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Latin America to address trends among violent extremist prison populations and current effective methods for managing extremists in prison.

9) Engaging the Private and Charitable Sectors to Support Community-Led Solutions Globally to Create Opportunity and Address Violent Extremism

  • Support efforts to promote transparency and fight corruption through the Global Enterprise Registration (GER) platform that seeks to stem corruption by making business registration more transparent. This platform is free and publically available, allowing an entrepreneur to access general information worldwide, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to register a business in the 26 countries who have fully registered. Knowledge of processes and requirements can lessen the likelihood of bribery by allowing governments to see global standards for online business registration, and facilitates the adoption of best practices. And in doing so, GER enables a country to simplify its registration process, thereby encouraging more businesses to enter the formal economy and driving economic growth.
  • Support to women to engage in the formal economy in order to create jobs and economic opportunity. The Women’s Entrepreneurial Centers of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) project establishes physical entrepreneurial community centers tailored to a country’s specific economic concerns and built in a safe and centralized location. WECREATE Centers will provide women‎ access to a wide variety of resources, from mentorship and networking opportunities, to sector-specific programming and access to childcare. Importantly, WECREATE will engage men and boys in the process, providing specific education and resources on understanding the value of supporting women and girls and how entrepreneurship can create opportunity for their families and communities. WECREATE opened its first Center in Pakistan in February. Additional efforts in Zambia, Kenya, Cambodia, and Vietnam are currently underway.
  • The Resilient, Entrepreneurial, And Dynamic Youth (READY) Initiative teaches at-risk youth between the ages of 18 to 30 how to code, places them in a pre-arranged online internship with a technology company, and prepares them for online employment upon completion of the program. This low-cost pathway to virtual employment offers vulnerable youth a positive alternative and enables them to become productive members of society. The first six-month pilot program will be funded by the Department of State’s Special Representative for Muslim Communities and reach 25 individuals in Egypt.
  • Following the CVE Summit, the U.S. will continue the dialogue on fostering economic opportunities for vulnerable communities through a series of roundtables working with key partners, including:
    • Entertainment Roundtable: In partnership with the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, CVE experts, leaders in the global entertainment and media industry, and content creators and technology experts will meet to explore ways to counter violent ideologies and promote positive narratives.
    • Philanthropic Roundtable: Leading foundations will come together to identify ways to fund community-led initiatives that build resilience, provide opportunities, and counter terrorist narratives.
    • Technology Roundtable: Technology companies and related industry groups will discuss their role in addressing terrorists’ use of digital media and social networking platforms to recruit and radicalize. Leaders will discuss how to (1) help communities better understand and leverage key communication platforms; (2) assist community efforts to develop and distribute counter-narrative content, including short form videos; and (3) strengthen the “terms of use” and treat violent extremist content with the same zero tolerance approach as bullying.
    • Economic Drivers Roundtable: Leading economists, political scientists, think tank experts, and policy analysts will convene to further delineate the economic drivers of extremism, such as lack of access to opportunity, unemployment, income, limited access to finance for entrepreneurs, and skills training. Experts will brainstorm policy tools to address these drivers. Following an initial roundtable, a second roundtable including government officials, donors, industry, chambers of commerce, and leading international and local private sector companies from the Middle East and Africa could determine best practices for addressing job scarcity, financial inclusion, underemployment, and skills training in these regions toward shaping concrete programs.

10) Strengthening Multilateral Initiatives to Counter Violent Extremism

  • In partnership with the UN and by supporting the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate projects on CVE, support for counter-radicalization technical assistance efforts focused on identifying particular causes and dynamics of radicalization, as well as specific high risk locations within countries and cities.
  • Support for the GCTF’s CVE Working Group and the Forum’s broader CVE priorities through providing political and financial support to advance the implementation of the relevant GCTF good practices, including those related to addressing violent extremism. Together with relevant GCTF partners, the U.S. will support new CVE Working Group efforts aimed at advancing the issues raised during the CVE Summit. The U.S. will host a GCTF event on February 23-24 on community engagement in the context of the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon. This practitioner-level workshop will allow for in-depth discussions on a key Summit theme and include officials and experts from the GCTF members as well as select non-members.
  • Support to the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre, which provides assistance for capacity-building efforts with member states and strengthens the UN’s counterterrorism expertise.
  • The U.S. plans to support the secondment of two FBI subject matter experts to INTERPOL headquarters in Lyon, France. The secondees will support the development of INTERPOL’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter Fusion Center in order to address the growing threat posed by individuals traveling to conflict zones to support or directly engage in terrorist activity.
  • Support for the Geneva-based Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, a public-private fund to support local, community-level initiatives aimed at strengthening resilience in communities at risk of radicalization and recruitment to violence (e.g., women’s engagement and empowerment, youth outreach, media, education programs, and vocational training).
  • Support for Hedayah, the international center of excellence on countering violent extremism in Abu Dhabi, to make training more accessible and enhance collaboration among governmental and civil society leaders on countering violent extremism.
  • Support for the International Institute of Justice and the Rule of Law in Malta, which offers rule of law-based training to lawmakers, police, prosecutors, judges, corrections officials, and other justice sector stakeholders on how to address terrorism and violent extremism within a rule of law framework.
  • Support to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for tailored CVE programs, training seminars, and regional initiatives in conjunction with other multilateral fora, including the GCTF.

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edu, Miscellaneous

East Asia and the Pacific: Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong

On February 2, Counselor Tom Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne led a U.S. delegation to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong in Pakse, Laos. The Friends of the Lower Mekong, a donor coordination group, came together with the countries of the Lower Mekong to discuss the connection between water resources, energy needs and food security. Accompanying Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne were representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy.

The health of the Mekong River is essential to the economic growth and sustainable development of the region. In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60% of the protein intake for the entire country. The river irrigates the “rice bowl” in Vietnam, where more than half of the nation’s rice production is concentrated in the provinces that make up the Mekong delta. In Laos, Thailand, and Burma, the Mekong is an important artery for transportation, a water source for aquaculture and agriculture, and a generator of electricity.

Meeting participants discussed the challenges of ensuring a future in which economic growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems. The meeting brought together senior officials from Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam alongside representatives from the United States, the Mekong River Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union, and the governments of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

At the meeting, the U.S. delegation announced several new initiatives, including the launch of USAID’s Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative (SMEI). Through the SMEI, the United Stateswill promote the use of alternative energy and low-emission technologies. The delegation also announced that the Department of State will organize and send a Sustainable Energy Business Delegation to the region later this year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will provide technical assistance on hydropower management. In conjunction, Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne announced that the State Department will contribute $500,000 in support of a Mekong River study on the impacts of hydropower on the community and environment.

The Friends of the Lower Mekong will also work together to strengthen the capacity of Lower Mekong countries to more effectively implement social and environmental safeguards such as environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental analyses. The U.S. government, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the Government of Australia plan to jointly develop a Regional Impact Assessment Training Center at the Asian Institute of Technology Center in Vietnam.

Under the auspices of the Lower Mekong Initiative the United States is continuing successful projects like Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) to provide technical assistance to the region on land and water use management, renewable energy, and infrastructure development. $1.5 million will be spent on SIM projects in the Mekong region this year.

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Miscellaneous

Biggest…NGO Coalition…Ever

Action2015 formally launches today. This is a collection of all the major development and environmental NGOs and advocacy groups, plus thousands of smaller ones, that are banding together to raise the profile and help maintain an ambitious agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Talks later this year. “We span environmental, development and human rights movements. We are united in our focus to make 2015 a huge breakthrough moment for people and planet,” says the coalition. #Action2015 is the hashtag for launch day events around the world on January 15. http://bit.ly/1E1aphK

The Ebola News We’ve been waiting for…A new study found Ebola could come to an end in Liberia by June, if the trend toward better hospitalization and preventive care continues. (VOA http://bit.ly/1AQbt76)

More humanitarian interventions in 2015? U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos suggested more intervention in humanitarian emergencies as she said some states were aggressively asserting sovereignty rights to stop action being taken to protect civilians. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1IJTTDr)

2015 economic growth prediction cut…The World Bank, citing stagnation in Europe and Japan and a slowdown in China, downgraded its forecast for the global economy this year. It also reported that world economic growth came in below expectations in 2014. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IJTPUa)

This is cool…MTN-Qhubeka will become the first African team to compete in the Tour de France after race organizers selected the South African outfit among the wild cards invited to take part this year. (AP http://yhoo.it/1CkpQ3g)

Ebola

Even as his country registered 19 new Ebola cases over a 24-hour period, Sierra Leone’s president is predicting there will be zero new confirmed cases by the end of March. (AP http://yhoo.it/14VUqGb)

A new study by the United Nations Development Program finds the Ebola epidemic is dramatically setting back prospects for economic development in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The study urges recovery plans for West Africa’s three Ebola-affected countries to begin now and not to wait until this deadly disease is contained. (VOA http://bit.ly/1KJRrAF)

Eighty percent of people phoning a toll-free Ebola help number are prank callers, the head of the Ebola Call Centre in Sierra Leone Reynold Senessie said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/14VKJHM)

UNDP has helped the Liberian government pay thousands of Ebola workers. Over $1 million dollars in cash payments were distributed across the country in January alone. http://bit.ly/1syhNzP)

Africa

Malawi President Peter Mutharika has declared half the southern African country a disaster zone after torrential rains over the past few days killed at least 48 people and left around 70,000 homeless. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/14VKT1z)

Nigeria’s military on Wednesday said that soldiers had repelled a new Boko Haram attack after a two-hour gun battle in the restive northeast. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IJZDNu)

South Sudan’s conflict could cost regional nations Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania a combined $53 billion if it lasts another five years as they deal with refugees, security needs and other spillover effects, a report said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Afc1AL)

The U.S. Embassy in Uganda says U.S. Special Forces in Obo, Central African Republic, have handed over a Lord’s Resistance Army commander who is charged with war crimes to Ugandan troops. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IJTvVI)

Tanzania has banned witchdoctors to try and stem a surge in murders of albinos, whose body parts are sold for witchcraft, officials said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/14VK8FZ)

Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan on Wednesday urged Nigeria to hold peaceful elections next month, warning that violence could be a set-back to progress across Africa. (AFP http://yhoo.it/14VKwEu)

Nigeria’s electoral agency said that next month’s elections will go ahead in three northeastern states worst hit by Boko Haram violence but there was little prospect of voting in militant-held areas. (AFP http://yhoo.it/14VKEUq)

Heavy flooding in Mozambique has killed 10 people and displaced nearly 20,000 more, the government disaster management office said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IJZHga)

Nigeria has re-registered around 10 million voters wrongly struck off the roll a year ago due to technical glitches, leaving Africa’s most populous nation with an electorate of 68.8 million, the electoral commission said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Afc1jX)

Madagascar’s president has accepted the resignation of his prime minister and government amid mounting public frustration about regular power cuts and a failure to deliver on promised improvements to daily life. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Bq323N)

MENA

Syrian refugee families will resort to increasingly drastic measures to survive unless the world does more to help, the U.N. refugee agency said, as it released a study showing that one in six Syrian refugees in Jordan live in “abject poverty” (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Afc67j)

The United Nations gathered Libya’s rival factions for talks in Geneva Wednesday, amid warnings they could be the last chance to halt intensifying fighting for the country’s main cities and oil wealth. (AFP http://yhoo.it/14VK9JS)

The wife of a Saudi blogger who was publicly flogged for “insulting Islam” called for his release. (AFP http://yhoo.it/14VKD2P)

Asia

Four passengers aboard a Bangladesh bus were burned alive on Wednesday when anti-government protesters threw a petrol bomb at the packed vehicle, taking the death toll from a bloody nation-wide blockade to 18. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1IJTVeL)

The World Bank said Wednesday the Philippines can eliminate poverty within a generation as sustained economic growth in recent years has translated into more jobs and higher incomes. (AP http://yhoo.it/14VK5tA)

Authorities were investigating Wednesday how more than 100 bodies, many of them children, ended up floating in an offshoot of the Ganges River in northern India. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IJTocE)

World sea piracy fell to its lowest level in eight years in 2014, but ship hijackings rose due to attacks against small tankers off Southeast Asia’s coasts, a global maritime watchdog said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/14VUqpn)

Authorities in a north Indian state suspended 23 officials Wednesday in a crackdown on illegal liquor sales, as the death toll among villagers who drank from a bad batch of cheap alcohol climbed to 38. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IJZHwK)

Rights groups in Cambodia called on the United Nations to investigate alleged rights abuses against villagers living at the sites of two large hydropower dam projects. (VOA http://bit.ly/1KJRnkx)

Hun Sen, Cambodia’s tough and wily prime minister, marked 30 years in power Wednesday, one of just a handful of political strongmen worldwide who have managed to cling to their posts for three decades. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IJTSzB)

The Americas

A group of ambassadors and the U.N. special representative in Haiti said that President Michel Martelly has their support through a period of political flux that many observers worry could set the troubled country back. (AP http://yhoo.it/14VKJaJ)

Opinion/Blogs

The TTIP trade deal will throw equality before the law on the corporate bonfire (Guardian http://bit.ly/1AfbMWl)

Islamic Reformation, the Antidote to Terrorism (IPS http://bit.ly/1ygU1sZ)

Ten Reasons Why 2015 Is a Crucial Year for Africa (Africa Progress Panel http://bit.ly/1AQbfge)

For the moment, Russia is the winner in the global geopolitical struggle (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1Bq1QgW)

How an argument over gasoline became a matter of national security in Egypt (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1Bq29IB)

Research/Reports

As economic losses from disasters rise around the world, more effort is needed to reduce the risks from extreme weather and earthquakes in every area, from infrastructure to health, the United Nations disaster prevention chief said. (TRF http://yhoo.it/14VUx4g)

A human ‘ring of gold’ will be formed outside St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday to mark the start of a new campaign encouraging couples to tie the knot with Fairtrade wedding bands. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1yjCJK7)

Discussion

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Miscellaneous

FACT SHEET: The President’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 14, 2014

Today in Rangoon, Burma, President Obama announced a significant expansion of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) at a town hall with 400 youth from the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

YSEALI is the President’s signature initiative to strengthen leadership development across ASEAN, deepen engagement with young leaders on key regional and global challenges, and strengthen people-to-people ties between the United States and Southeast Asia.  Deepening collaboration with young leaders is a critical element of the United States’ rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and of cultivating an ASEAN community.  Recognizing that over 65 percent of ASEAN’s population is under the age of 35, YSEALI is a critical investment in the next generation of Southeast Asian leaders.

YSEALI Fellowship

The YSEALI Fellowship will bring 500 exceptional young leaders from ASEAN countries to the United States on an annual basis, to further develop their professional and leadership skills in priority areas including entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, environment and natural resources management, and civic engagement.  These emerging leaders, aged 18-35, will build on their ideas and experiences while further cultivating their skills to lead their region and the world.

The 500 YSEALI Fellows will be divided between the YSEALI Academic Fellows and the YSEALI Professional Fellows.  YSEALI Academic Fellows will engage 250 current or recently graduated students from ASEAN member countries in five week institutes at pre-eminent U.S. universities and colleges.  The institutes will include an academic residency, leadership development, an educational study tour, local community service activities, and opportunities to engage with American peers.  The program will conclude in Washington, D.C. to allow for networking with policy makers, government representatives, businesses, and think tanks.  YSEALI Professional Fellows will enable 250 young leaders from ASEAN to work directly with American counterparts in non-profit organizations and state and local government offices across the United States for five weeks to enhance their practical expertise, leadership skills, and professional contacts to address challenges and create new opportunities in their home communities and countries.  Fellows will also travel to Washington, D.C. to engage with counterparts from other regions, as well as policy makers, government representatives, and other leaders.   Upon returning home, Fellows will connect with their peers across the region through the larger YSEALI and U.S. exchange alumni network.  This network will help young leaders build on their U.S. experience and address regional and local issues through grant competitions, regional workshops, and other opportunities.  In 2015, a YSEALI summit will take place in the Asia-Pacific region.

More information on how to become a YSEALI Fellow is available at https://youngsoutheastasianleaders.state.gov.

YSEALI Regional Networks

The YSEALI Fellowship is part of a broader suite of programs and engagements that support the goals and aspirations of young ASEAN leaders.  YSEALI Generation Regional Exchanges cultivate a regional network for ASEAN youth to collaborate on solving common challenges and creating new opportunities.  In 2014, over 300 emerging leaders benefited from professional development workshops focusing on mentoring, hands-on training, and the tools necessary to successfully make a positive impact in their communities.  The next YSEALI Generation Regional Exchange will be held in Singapore December 3-7, 2014, and will concentrate on workforce readiness.  Working in partnership with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, participants will examine ways governments, businesses, civil society organizations, and young people can help new job seekers build skills in high demand by international employers. YSEALI Generation Regional Exchanges are also being planned in Cambodia and Vietnam, and will focus on developing young leaders’ professional skills and understanding of the environment, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement.  Approximately 100 YSEALI members from across ASEAN will participate.

Since the President launched YSEALI nearly a year ago, more than 10,000 young people from ASEAN have become members of the YSEALI Network.  YSEALI virtually connects leaders from across the region and offers an array of resources, networking opportunities, and trainings.  The web-based platform encourages young people across the region to collaborate on tackling issues of shared concern, providing them with an avenue to further their own development through courses on leadership, entrepreneurship, and professional skills.  The YSEALI website regularly updates network members about upcoming events, courses, resources, and opportunities.

Youth Action and Leadership Development

The United States is expanding YSEALI Seeds for the Future grants to support young Southeast Asian leaders’ most promising and innovative ideas for civic engagement, education, entrepreneurship and economic development, and environment and natural resources management.  This groundbreaking grant competition helps match entrepreneurial emerging leaders with their peers in other Southeast Asian countries, and encourages them to work together to solve regional challenges in partnership with the United States.  To date, one third of the over 60 international teams that competed to receive funding are in the process of implementing their solutions.  The next competition will open in early 2015, featuring a per-team maximum award of $20,000.  More information is available online at www.youngsoutheastasianleaders.state.gov.

Science, Technology, and Entrepreneurship

Through the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellows Program, the United States is developing a cadre of young science leaders that can effectively influence the policymaking process at national and regional levels.  In its first year, seven scientists participated in the program.  ASEAN has approved a cadre of 16 to participate over the next four years.  Fellows are embedded within a government office in their home country for one year and work on a variety of tasks to increase their understanding of the governance and policy process.  The program also trains the fellows to develop strong leadership skills and awareness of ASEAN goals and objectives.

The ASEAN Economic Community promotes skilled labor mobility to increase job opportunities and people-to-people connectivity across the region.  In the Lower Mekong countries — Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam — skilled workers are in high demand by the private sector but in short supply.  The United States is addressing this problem through the new Connecting the Mekong through Education and Training (COMET) program.  This five-year (2014-2019) program will help universities and vocational education centers increase the number of skilled youth in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, accounting, and tourism through targeted curriculum and training that directly meets the demands of local employers in high-growth industries.  COMET will leverage the interest and commitment of private sector partners, such as Google, which will provide technical services, training, and IT solutions over the life of the program.

Civic Engagement

The United States encourages youth to give back to their local communities, strengthening civil societies in their home countries.  In August 2013, the United States and Malaysia launched the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program, which encourages young volunteers (18-30 years old) from all ASEAN countries to serve in the region, while enhancing cross-cultural ties and understanding among ASEAN youth.  Over five weeks, volunteers learn about community development and form lifelong friendships with peers from across ASEAN.  Nearly 150 youth have participated to date in programs in Malaysia; the next programs will take place in Cambodia, the Philippines, and Burma.  The ASEAN Youth Volunteers Program is funded through a $1.4 million grant from the United States, in partnership with the Government of Malaysia, the ASEAN Secretariat, and the University Kabangsaan Malaysia.

Thailand’s Khon Kaen University, with support from the United States, has established Southeast Asia’s first Center for Civil Society and Non-Profit Management to support and cultivate young civil society leaders.  This innovative non-profit school will serve up to 140 university students and 40 practicing civil society leaders each year from throughout the Lower Mekong sub-region, offering coursework to build their non-profit management skills.  Over the next three years, the University will develop Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs as well as executive certification (non-degree) programs, thus creating professional career paths for young leaders in Southeast Asia who want to give back to society through work in the non-profit sector.  The school also will serve as a regional hub for coordination, best practice exchange, and networking among civil society leaders.

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