SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, good afternoon, everyone. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Minister Baird here in his new capacity as the foreign minister. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with him briefly in the past, but today we had a chance to go over the very rich substantive agenda that our two countries are working on together, both bilaterally, regionally, and globally.
Before I get into that, however, I would like to comment on the famine situation in Somalia. As you may know, Dr. Jill Biden will be leading a delegation of high-level American officials, including AID Administrator Raj Shah and Assistant Secretary Eric Schwartz from the State Department, to Kenya to see firsthand over this weekend the situation, because as the situation in Somalia and East Africa so clearly illustrates, we all need to be responding to the very human tragedy that is unfolding.
The United States, through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, is working with the international community and governments in the Horn of Africa to address the short-term immediate needs in the region. But at the same time, we will continue to press our implementation of our Feed the Future initiative to mitigate the long-term effects of prolonged drought and food shortages in the future. I would like publicly to express our deep appreciation to Canada for the Canadian Government’s and the Canadian people’s strong partnership and extensive aid in the region.
In certain areas of Somalia where access has been possible, including parts of Mogadishu, and in the refugee centers hosted by Ethiopia and Kenya, we are saving many Somali lives. However, al-Shabaab militants have deliberately blocked the delivery of food assistance in an area of south central Somalia which is under direct or indirect control of al-Shabaab. And that also includes some areas of Mogadishu and its environs.
It is particularly tragic that during the Holy Month of Ramadan, al-Shabaab are preventing assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Somalia, namely children, including infants and girls and women who are attempting to bring themselves and those children to safety and to the potential of being fed before more deaths occur. I call on al-Shabaab to allow assistance to be delivered in an absolutely unfettered way throughout the area that they currently control so that as many lives as possible can be saved.
Now to my meeting with the minister – and I want to express, on behalf of myself and certainly our government, our appreciation for your friendship to the United States. We also are aware of how well known you are for your candor and your ability to cut to the heart of any issue. That was most welcome in our meeting today, and we were able to cover many of our shared goals and commitments.
We are bound together in so many obvious ways, of geography and commerce, culture, values, but it is worth noting that 300,000 people and $1.7 billion in goods and services cross our border every single day. So as close neighbors who work, trade, and interact with one another, we are seeking ways to create jobs for our own citizens, Canadians and Americans alike. Therefore, it’s critical that we ensure our border remains a safe, vibrant connector of people, trade, and energy. And today, the minister and I discussed other ways to expand trade and investment; for example, by reducing unnecessary regulations that get in the way of our businesses doing business.
We also discussed our joint efforts to expand security around the world. I am greatly appreciative of Canada’s contributions in Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers have suffered some of the highest casualty rates of any coalition partner. And Canada continues to help the Afghan people take responsibility for their own security.
We also appreciate Canada’s contribution to enforcing UN Security Council Resolution 1973 in Libya. And I was very interested in hearing Minister Baird’s impressions from his recent trip to Benghazi.
We also talked about how Canada and the United States can expand our cooperation throughout the Western Hemisphere by leveraging our resources to support economic development, citizens’ safety, and good governance with our neighbors to the south.
Prime Minister Harper has long emphasized his intentions to expand Canada’s engagement in the Americas and the Caribbean, and Canada showed its extraordinary commitment to the people of Haiti in its great outpouring of relief following the earthquake. And there’s much we can do to make sure that our borders to the south are secure, and that means helping Central American countries strengthen their policing and rule of law and reducing corruption. This is – these are areas where Canada’s expertise can make a real difference.
So among the many things we discussed, those are some of the issues that we are working on, but our work continues. I am grateful for the minister’s strong commitment to our robust alliance and our unwavering friendship, and I look forward to continuing our work together.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, and thank you for the warm welcome here at the State Department. Our two countries continue to enjoy one of the closest friendships and the most prosperous partnerships in the world. Not only do we share a border; we also share people-to-people ties like no other countries on earth, and increasingly intertwined economies, which is why, under the leadership of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we remain focused not only on important bilateral issues, but also on global ones as well.
Secretary Clinton and I see eye to eye on the evolving situations in both Libya and in Syria. In Libya, we remain committed to the NTC and its vision for a free Libya in a post-Qadhafi era. In Syria, we stand united in condemning the actions of the Asad regime and backing calls of the Syrian people for true and meaningful reform.
Closer to home, we discussed the path forward on the shared border initiative. Our government recently received a strong mandate from Canadians to create jobs and to secure the global recovery. To that end, even stronger cooperation between Canada and the United States simply makes sense. We must speed up legitimate trade and travel between our two countries while also enhancing security and protecting our citizens’ privacy.
(Speaking in French.)
I would close by thanking Secretary Clinton for her tireless dedication and innovative approach to global diplomacy, and of problem-solving in the international scene. Canada and the United States share very similar core values in our international relations. I know we will continue to work together in a variety of areas to accomplish great things. We are and we will continue to be great partners. Thank you, merci beaucoup.
MR. TONER: We have time for two questions on each side today. The first one goes to Elise Labott of CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask you about Syria. You said and the President said months ago that if President Asad cannot lead a transition, he should get out of the way. You’ve said he’s lost legitimacy. If you look at the situation on the ground, particularly in Hama, it’s dire. There are tanks inside the country, and basically, nobody has heard from a lot of their people inside the country. I was wondering what more it’s going to have to take for the United States to call on President Asad to step down? What kind of levers can you push to stop the violence and get him out of the way? And what about the sanctions on the oil and gas sector that you had spoken about? What can the U.S. do to stop this tragedy? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think your description is all too accurate. We’ve seen the Asad regime continue and intensify its violent assault against its own people this week. Sometimes you lose sight of the incredible tragedy unfolding on the streets by just looking at the numbers which are so numbing, but the shooting death of a one-year-old recently by the Syrian regime’s tanks and troops is a very stark example of what is going on.
We think to date, the government is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 people of all ages, and the United States has worked very hard to corral and focus international opinion to take steps toward a unified response to the atrocities that are occurring. We stand fully behind the UN Security Council presidential statement, which was agreed to last evening, which condemns the widespread violation of human rights and the use of force against civilians by Syrian authorities. And we call, along with the UN Security Council, on the authorities to end all violence against affected towns, comply with their obligations under applicable international law, allow immediate and unfettered access for international humanitarian agencies and workers.
As I’ve said before and as others in our government have said, President Asad has lost his legitimacy to govern the Syrian people. We continue to support the Syrians themselves in their efforts to begin a peaceful and orderly transition to democracy. I met on Tuesday with a group of U.S.-based Syrian activists and members of the Syrian American community to express our solidarity and sympathy for all Syrian victims of the Asad regime’s abuses. The activists reaffirmed the internal opposition’s vision of a transitional plan for a Syria that will be representative, inclusive, and pluralistic, for a new united Syria with a government subject to the rule of law, and fully respectful of the equality of every Syrian irrespective of sect, ethnicity, or gender. And I encouraged the activists to work closely with their colleagues inside Syria to create such a unified vision.
So we are seized of the concerns posed by what is happening in Syria, and we know that it’s taken time to pull together a broader international coalition to speak out against what is happening in Syria, but we are committed to doing all we can to increase the pressure, including additional sanctions, but not just U.S. sanctions, because frankly, we don’t have a lot of business with Syria. We need to get Europeans and others. We need to get the Arab states. We need to get a much louder, more effective chorus of voices that are putting pressure on the Asad regime, and we’re working to obtain that.
QUESTION: Do you think that there’s not enough international outrage about this? I mean, the U.S. has had trouble at the United Nations pushing for even stronger condemnations, such as a resolution. I mean, are you hampered by what you can do by the lack of international will on this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say this, Elise. We are working very hard to increase that international will. What happened last night in the Security Council could not have happened a week ago. So in effect, other governments, other people’s voices are starting to be heard, and we think that’s essential.
MR. TONER: Next question goes to Paul Workman of CTV.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, first of all, I’m wondering if we could talk about the Keystone Pipeline and why the delays in coming to a decision and what concerns you might have about the importation of what’s been called “dirty oil” into the United States.
And for Minister Baird – and both of you, actually – on Somalia, first of all, did you talk about military action against al-Shabaab? And on Libya, would either of you accept to have Qadhafi stay in the country if he steps down? And what do you think of this latest report that he may want to join with the Islamists in order to drive the rebels out?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will answer your first question, and I will let the minister answer your next three. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: That’s called a partnership. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are reviewing TransCanada’s permit application for Keystone XL Pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canadian border. As you know, this includes analysis and assessment of multiple factors, as well as reviewing hundreds of thousands of comments that have been received during the public comment period. We are leaving no stone unturned in this process and we expect to make a decision on the permit before the end of this year.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: On the Keystone Pipeline, this is obviously tremendously important to the future prosperity of the Canadian economy. We had a good discussion about it, and I respect that the Secretary is the decider, so she listened respectfully. We’re pleased that there’s a – the recent announcement about the process, that there will be some public consultation, and obviously look forward to a decision on this. It is a very important project not just for our government, but I think for Canadians and the future of the Canadian economy.
I think while we’re deeply concerned about al-Shabaab’s actions in Somalia at this time, we’re not contemplating military action. Obviously, both countries have an experience from that, some 16, 17, 18 years ago.
With respect to Colonel Qadhafi staying in Libya, I believe when I visited Benghazi the bottom line of the NTC was that he and his family had to leave power. Certainly, we’re supportive of that as a minimum. At the end of the day, though, a post-Qadhafi Libya should – those decisions should be made by Libyans themselves, but I appreciated the comments of the NTC when I visited Benghazi in that regard.
MR. TONER: Next is Kirit Radia of ABC News.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you very much to you both. Madam Secretary, before I get to my question, I’d like to just follow up on Elise’s question, because I –
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) I warned John before we came out here that two plus two did not equal four. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, Canada is double the allies. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That’s right. But I would like to ask you just about whether or not to call on President Asad to go, why not do that?
My question was about Somalia, following on your comments. The recent UNICEF appeal for $300 million has only yielded a couple million dollars contributed so far. What are you saying to allies, to other countries around the world, to try to get them on board? And recently this week, several officials have suggested that the U.S. would be open to some sort of agreement working with al-Shabaab, or elements of it that would be willing to cooperate if they were to allow some aid in. What can you tell us about that? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, as to the follow-up on Syria, I think I’ve said all I can say, that we are working around the clock to try to gather up as much international support for strong actions against the Syrian regime as possible. I come from the school that actions speak louder than words.
Now with respect to Somalia and al-Shabaab, I want to put this in the broader context. Millions of people are suffering, and those millions of people are in Ethiopia and Kenya; they are in parts of Somalia that are not controlled by al-Shabaab. So there is more than enough work for the international community to do to help save lives without even having to worry about the al-Shabaab controlled areas. So of course, I urge a response to the UN’s appeal.
The United States is now approaching half a billion dollars in support for famine relief, and we have communicated, I have spoken directly with Prime Minister Meles. We have spoken with the Kenyan Government. We are working with a lot of the UN and multilateral organizations as well as the NGOs to try to better organize to deliver the food stuffs that are necessary, particularly to save children’s lives from this famine that they’re encountering.
With respect to al-Shabaab, what the United States has done in the last week is to make it clear our understanding of how difficult it will be to get aid into the al-Shabaab controlled regions. Therefore, we know that al-Shabaab imposes taxes on people who try to bring aid to assist in saving lives from this drought and famine. We know that they make money from kidnapping those who are attempting to provide humanitarian relief. We know how difficult this is. Therefore, we don’t want to add to the difficulty.
If people from the UN or from other organizations are trying to get food into the al-Shabaab controlled region, the United States will not be imposing the penalties that are called for under our laws, particularly, as you know, the Patriot Act, which talks about any material support that goes to terrorists. And if it inadvertently does go to al-Shabaab, we think, unfortunately, the situation calls for us to offer some room for more maneuverability in trying to get the food in. At the end of the day, the best way to get food into those areas is for al-Shabaab to actually care about the people under their control.
MR. TONER: The next question is (inaudible) from Radio-Canada.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. (In French.)
And for Madam Secretary, I’d first like to follow up on my colleague’s question regarding Keystone and what your concerns are for the environmental impact of the extraction of oil from the oil sands. And the question I asked the minister on the differences, really also, and policies between the actions in Libya and the ones in Syria. Can you explain those differences, please?
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Listen. I mean, obviously, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973, which gave a significant amount of leeway for allies to come together and to tackle the challenge that we saw on the ground, we’re there very actively protecting civilian lives.
The situation in Syria, the actions of the Asad regime are obviously abhorrent. The way they’ve acted in recent weeks and months, even in the last 48 hours in Hama is absolutely disgraceful. Regrettably, we don’t have the same amount of international support at the UN for this, so I think in the absence of that, what we’ve got to continue to do is to work with like-minded allies. And there’s not a – there’s no country, I think, who can single-handedly tackle this challenge. We’ve got to work aggressively with others.
I think recently Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom have toughened up our sanctions, and we had a good discussion today about what we could do going forward.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Ah, excuse. Do you want to do the French answer? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I would only add to John’s comments about Syria versus Libya. As he pointed out, the response from the international community was very different with respect to Libya, not only with, first, UN Security Council Resolution 1970, but then 1973. You had a call for action to protect civilians from the Gulf States, from the Arab League. So I think that there may be many reasons for it, but the step that we did see made last night in the Security Council is the first step of what we hope will be continuing steps to try to unite the world in both our rhetorical outrage, but in actions that will send a very clear message to the Asad regime, the insiders there, that there’s a price to pay for this kind of abuse and attacks on their own people.
With respect to Keystone, we are planning to issue the final environmental impact statement this month. Then once that final statement is issued, interested in federal agencies on our side, including the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, under our laws have a 90-day period to review and provide their views on whether a permit should be issued. We think it’s critically important to hear the publics’ views, and so the State Department in September will host public meetings in all six of the states through which the Pipeline will pass.
We’ve been clear from the beginning that the safety of the Pipeline is one of our highest priorities. We have not only conferred with the EPA, but also with an organization called the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Association. And we have worked diligently to ensure we have full understanding of all of the consequences, including the very important point that the minister made to me about energy security and what that means for our two countries. And we have worked with the applicant, with TransCanada, to develop a set of conditions above and beyond what is required by law to ensure that if the permit is issued, the project will be as safe as it could possibly be.
But because I am very conscious of the role that I play and that the State Department plays, that is as full an explanation as I can provide.
Thank you all very much.
MS. FULTON: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Today, to address the emerging humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, we have four briefers to speak to you today about a number of areas and initiatives. We have with us Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, who is the assistant secretary for African affairs. We have Dr. Reuben Brigety, who is the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. We have Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg from the U.S. Agency for International Development. And we have Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the bureau – excuse me, at the Agency for International Development. Nancy is an addition to the lineup, so an extra special guest we have with us today.
I’m going to turn it over to each of the speakers in that order to give remarks, and then we’ll open it up for questions following that. So I’d like to turn it over to Assistant Secretary Carson.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you. Good afternoon. We in the United States Government have been responding to the evolving humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa for some time, and my colleagues and I will provide you with additional details on this situation.
However, I wanted to underline the importance that we attach to providing an appropriate and timely response in full partnership with the international community. Severe drought, poor infrastructure and insecurity have had a debilitating impact on the welfare of millions of people in this region, especially in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. This crisis has resulted in severe malnutrition, acute hunger, and rising levels of starvation. It has generated extraordinary refugee flows across thousands of miles in East Africa.
The current crisis in the Horn has long-term and short-term implications. It threatens the lives of those at risk, especially young children and women. And it also endangers the hard-won development gains and the future prospects of millions of people throughout East Africa and the Horn. Today, over 11 million people are in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa. In Kenya, an estimated 3.6 million people have been affected. This includes refugees, rural pastoralists, and urban poor who are unable to buy adequate food because of escalating prices.
In Ethiopia, at least 4.5 million people are in need of assistance. Almost 3 million people need assistance in Somalia. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees already in Kenya and in Ethiopia, new arrivals are coming in at staggering daily rates. Many of these most recent refugees are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition, and there may be many more in need of assistance in Eritrea, where a repressive regime fails to provide data on the humanitarian needs of its own people. The free flow of information is what allows people to make early choices that can help avert catastrophe. We urge the Government of Eritrea to cooperate with the UN agencies and other international organizations to address the issue of hunger and food shortage in that country.
The State Department and USAID have been working with the international community and governments in the region to respond to food, water, shelter, and sanitation needs of affected populations. As we work to address the short-term immediate needs in the region, we will continue to implement our Feed the Future initiative as part of our long-term strategy to mitigate the effects of prolonged drought and food shortage in this area in the future. The Feed the Future program is intended to increase agricultural productivity, shift away from rain-fed agriculture, promote better storage techniques, employ modern farming methods, and utilize science and technology to assist populations in adapting to increasing erratic weather patterns throughout the Horn of Africa. By investing in and working closely with regional governments, we hope the Feed the Future program will help reduce regional vulnerabilities to these types of humanitarian crises in the future.
An especially complex and difficult component of the Horn of Africa’s humanitarian crisis is the high number of Somali refugees flowing into both Ethiopia and Kenya. This is a result of three overlapping and intersecting problems. The first is the extreme climate-induced drought that has prevailed intensely for the past two years and cyclically for more than 50 years. The second is the absence of a functioning central government in Somalia for over two decades. And the third is the presence of the anti-Western terrorist organization Al-Shabaab in south central Somalia. Al-Shabaab’s activities have clearly made the current situation much worse. In January 2010, Al-Shabaab prohibited international humanitarian workers and organizations from operating in their areas of control. And its continued refusal to grant humanitarian access has prevented the international community from responding to and mitigating some of the cumulative and most disastrous consequences of the drought in south central Somalia.
We have seen the recent reports that Al-Shabaab claims that it will finally allow international humanitarian aid into areas under its control. We are consulting with international organizations that have worked in these areas to verify if there has been any real change in Al-Shabaab’s policies that would allow us and others to operate freely and without taxation imposed for humanitarian deliveries. Al-Shabaab’s current policies are wreaking havoc and are not helping Somalis living in the south central part of that country.
The drought and humanitarian crisis in the Horn will not end next week or next month. As this crisis and its humanitarian needs expand, the international community and host governments will be called upon to do more to respond to the immediate and critical humanitarian assistance needs in the Horn of Africa. We recognize the measures that the countries in the region are putting in place, and we applaud our partners who have already responded generously to the appeals for assistance. As we look for ways to implement more comprehensive approaches, we hope potential donors will increase food, shelter, and financial contributions as part of a focused campaign to meet the critical needs of the region.
I will now turn the podium over to my colleague, Dr. Reuben Brigety. Thank you.
DR. BRIGETY: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. My name is Reuben Brigety. I’m the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for the State Department’s refugee programs in all of continental Africa. Thank you for coming today.
I returned Sunday night from Kenya and Ethiopia, where I visited the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya and in the Dolo Ado region of Ethiopia. In both countries, the State Department arranged for representatives of other embassies to accompany us, reflecting not only the high-level attention that our government is giving this emergency but also the multilateral approach we take to assisting refugees. These efforts are critical to saving lives and maintaining access to safe asylum in the neighboring countries of Somalia, even as they themselves struggle with the drought that may indeed be the worst in 60 years.
You have undoubtedly heard about the staggering rates of malnutrition amongst new arrivals in the refugee camps, up to 50 percent global acute malnutrition in Ethiopia, for example, reflecting the even more grim state of affairs for children inside Somalia. Humanitarian assistance experts expect this crisis to get worse before it gets better.
We have heard troubling reports from inside Somalia that the combined daily arrival rates of 3,200 new refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya could rise still more dramatically as the situation in Somalia grows increasingly desperate.
With enough human and financial resources, however, the international community can together address this refugee emergency. During my visit to Dadaab, the prime minister of Kenya announced that the government would open the already completed extension of one of three Dadaab camps to new refugees. It is the strong view of the Ethiopian and the Kenyan governments that the international community must do more to deliver food and other humanitarian assistance inside Somalia. The Kenyans and Ethiopians see this as a means of stemming the refugee flows even as they insist that they will not prevent anyone fleeing Somalia from crossing their borders. We understand the urgency of providing assistance to people inside Somalia and we welcome the continued generosity and support of the governments in the region that continue to host refugees in need.
Thank you very much, and I am pleased to turn the podium over to my colleague, Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg.
MR. STEINBERG: Thanks, Reuben. I too am just returning from the Horn of Africa, where I had a chance over the past week to visit Djibouti, Sudan, and Ethiopia to review the response of the United States Government and the rest of the international community to the tragedy of 100,000 Somali men, women, and children who are driven from their homes and in the refugee camps in Ethiopia, driven there by drought and violence.
We witnessed the sight of families stumbling into the camps through the bitter Ogaden desert and receiving their first nutritious meals in months. In most cases, that exodus took a week to ten days of walking through the desert. It was heart-wrenching. These numbers that we’re describing in Somalia are amplified by even greater numbers of people fleeing to Kenya in search of food, water, and security as their crops and their livestocks wither and the longstanding conflict continues.
As Johnnie said, the number of people in the Horn of Africa affected by this tragedy is staggering – more than 11 million in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia in need of emergency life-saving assistance. The international community has responded to this recent surge. We are racing to keep up.
But at the same time, it’s important to remember that we’ve long been preparing for this tragedy. As long ago as last summer, USAID-supported Famine Early Warning System Network, which we call FEWS NET, predicted this crisis, and in August of last year we started pre-positioning food and other supplies in Djibouti, in South Africa, and elsewhere in the region. Since October of last year, the United States Government has provided assistance to 4.4 million affected people, a total of $383 million of life-saving food, supplies, and other necessary aid, including 348,000 metric tons of food.
As we look ahead, the USAID response along with our partners in a whole-of-government effort, is focused on three interlocking challenges. In the short run, we’re going to continue our support of an aggressive and coordinated international response to the immediate humanitarian emergency. I am going to London tomorrow – actually, this evening – to coordinate with all of the major donors who are operating to respond. We’re having a meeting where we’re going to be discussing this issue and seeing what more we can do.
At this very moment, Raj Shah, the administrator of USAID, is on his way to Kenya, where he will visit the Dadaab refugee camp as well as the Wajir region in northern Kenya that is equally suffering from these problems.
Our response, again, is going to be primarily focused on food and water, but at the same time, we’re focused on health and disease so that we can prevent outbreaks in the refugee camps and other areas.
Our second prong, however, is to help communities confront the drought and extreme food insecurity. In Ethiopia, for example, we’re providing a safety net program that provides cash and work for food. And the work involves digging wells, creating medical clinics, nutrition education and sanitation. As a result of those programs, about 7.5 million Ethiopians are not among those who are currently in need of international aid.
Equally important, we are working throughout the region to create sustainable food security by strengthening agriculture and rural development. President Obama’s innovative and forward-looking Feed the Future initiative, which Johnnie Carson has described in detail, is already at work improving agricultural production, boosting markets, building infrastructure, bringing innovation, addressing the entire value change, and bringing women into the process of development. American food security and emergency assistance experts with vast experience in the region are working together with our international counterparts to pursue a coordinated, aggressive, and comprehensive response to the short-, medium-, and longer-term approaches. Again, the 11 million people in need of assistance in the eastern Horn deserve nothing less. And with that, I’d like to ask our assistant administrator for democracy, conflict, and humanitarian assistance, Nancy Lindborg, to say a few words.
MS. LINDBORG: Thanks, Don. And good afternoon. I want to underscore that, as I think all of us know, drought is not new for this region. This region suffers cyclical droughts and through the years have – it has experienced significant suffering. However, 20 years ago we established something that Don mentioned called FEWS NET, the Famine Early Warning System. And this is – which is a USAID funded initiative – works closely with the UN to identify in advance rainfall conditions, does extensive analysis of historical and current rainfall cropping patterns, livestock health, market prices, and malnutrition rates. As a result, this enabled us to know as early as last October that we would be facing record low rainfalls. And we along with the international community, were able to preposition supplies and prepare to respond.
In addition, there has been significant work in the – particularly in Ethiopia that has enabled communities to be much better prepared to withstand severe drought. And as a comparison, in 2002, 2003, which was the last time Ethiopia had a serious drought, there were 15 million Ethiopians who required humanitarian assistance. This year it’s 4.5. As serious as that number sounds, it represents a significant step forward in establishing community resilience. This ability to be better prepared and to have those early warnings, coupled with, as Don described, the Feed the Future initiative that builds productivity, will continue to enable that region to withstand the ravages of drought.
Specifically, however, in Somalia, we’ve been unable to reach some of the most affected populations. We have, however, been able to reach 1.5 million people in the more accessible areas of Somalia and been able to move forward with significant aid that provides therapeutic feeding, critical health treatments, clean water, proper sanitation, hygiene education, and supplies to help the prevention of disease. I traveled to Hargeisa at the end of May both to underscore our commitment to the people of Somalia as well as ensure that we were providing as much assistance as we could.
We know that there’s a severe and unabated humanitarian crisis in southern Somalia, and aid workers are unable to reach reliably 61 percent of people in need due to the risk, the insecurity, and the inaccessibility through the presence of armed groups, like Al-Shabaab. As you know, since January 2010, the United Nations World Food Program has unable – has been unable to operate in southern Somalia because of the extremely dangerous conditions. This is true for other international and nongovernmental organizations as well. It’s no coincidence that the Somalis who have the greatest need are living in the areas that are the most insecure. We are, however, as Ambassador Carson noted, very encouraged to hear that aid groups are now being asked to help in some of these insecure areas.
We are working aggressively with other donors and the humanitarian community to test the possibility of delivering assistance in these previously inaccessible areas and are working closely to identify means of assistance. We call on the international community to continue to step forward with the assistance needed throughout the region. As Don said, we expect the conditions to deteriorate, especially if the fall rains are not as good as they need to be, and this requires all of us to be working aggressively to meet the needs of the region. Thank you.
MS. FULTON: Okay. I’d like to open it up for questions. If you would help our briefers out, please just identify yourself and let us know who it is that you would like to ask the question. Do you want to go first, Michelle?
QUESTION: Yeah. I have two questions. Michelle Kelemen, NPR. The first one for Dr. Brigety. You talked about this extension at that one camp, but the Kenyans have been reluctant to open this, they’re worried about the influx of Somalis, they talk about concerns about terrorism. What are you telling them about that? Are you offering them any sort of assurances? And then I have one other question following up either for you, Ms. Lindborg, or for Johnnie Carson about whether U.S. sanctions on Al-Shabaab are complicating. I know you talk about the complications coming from the Al-Shabaab and the insecurity, but are U.S. sanctions preventing USAID agencies in going in?
DR. BRIGETY: Michelle, thank you very much for that question. As of last Thursday, the Government of Kenya has publicly decided to open the second camp. The camp is called Ifo II. I was standing next to Prime Minister Raila Odinga as he made that announcement to an international press gathering in Dadaab last Thursday. This is – as you’ve mentioned, this is a development that the international community has been requesting for some time. We welcome the Kenyan Government’s decision to open that camp. It is our understanding that while previously, the Government of Kenya saw opening the camp as essentially a security risk, only inviting more refugees in, they have recognized that, certainly over the last year or so, that there have been flows of refugees that have come unabated and, as they say, in increasing numbers just in the last several weeks.
Thus what has developed over the last several months is essentially a series of spontaneous settlements on the outskirts of the camps of Ifo, where refugees are settling in an unorganized way, in a way in which they aren’t properly registered. And that was seen by the Government of Kenya finally as an even greater security threat, having these large numbers of people that are coming in an unorganized way and filling them in an unorganized way, which is part of the reason why they decided to open up Ifo II.
We continue to work with the Government of Kenya. We are – continue to be strong partners with them. We welcome, as I say, this decision to open a camp and we look forward to their increasing cooperation as this crisis unfolds. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: In response to the second question, U.S. sanctions are not the issue or the problem. The issue and the problem is Al-Shabaab. International organizations such as CARE, Save the Children, UNICEF, the WFP, don’t have sanctions. But it is those organizations that have been equally denied an opportunity to operate in south central Somalia. We call on all of those in south central Somalia who have it within their authority to allow refugee groups and organizations to operate there to do so. But the issue is Al-Shabaab. It’s not sanctions. Organizations do not – such as the ones I just mentioned – don’t have sanctions, but they’ve also been barred.
MS. FULTON: Thanks. Next question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Jill Dougherty from CNN. I wanted to follow up on the – testing the possibility of – excuse me – delivering this aid. Can you give us a better idea, Ms. Lindborg, of how this is being done? Do people go into the field? Are they talking to Al-Shabaab? What exactly is going on?
MS. LINDBORG: Under the auspices of the UN, they are testing what might be possible. The – clearly, what we all are hoping for is the ability to deliver assistance without some of the punitive conditions and the insecurity that have resulted from the Shabaab control over the last year or year and a half. So there are probes already being made, there are discussions underway, and we hope to have more information in the next week.
QUESTION: The probes? Is that discussion or –
MS. LINDBORG: Well, I think you saw in the media that UNICEF went last week with an expedition into the Baidoa. There are opportunities to work in select areas where there isn’t the impediments created by tolls, by taxing, by threats of insecurity, and by kidnapping. So where one is able, where we as the international community are able to provide assistance and ensure that it’s reaching those who are desperately in need, we are fully prepared to do so.
MS. FULTON: Next question. Right here.
QUESTION: Yeah. I will have – one question with – for – to Mr. Carson. You know Somalia – in 1992, there was a similar situation and the international community, including the United States, responded in a bigger way. What’s the next plan, apart from sending some donations to Somalia? Is there any other plan from the U.S. Government toward Somalia? Is there any (inaudible) you are going to provide Somalia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Let me say that the Horn of Africa has faced over the years a number of cyclical droughts. And indeed, back in the late 1980s, we saw another major drought situation occur. After that, I think my colleagues have pointed out that the FEWS NET program was established to be able to monitor and to warn about droughts. We also started working with various governments to improve their ability to adjust to extreme climatic conditions, to change crops, to be able to store and protect more food and to do a number of other things. The United States over the last decade has been one of the largest and continues to be one of the largest suppliers of humanitarian support and assistance to the region. We continue to work with governments throughout the region, and we hope that our Feed the Future program will contribute to better protection of people against droughts in the future.
MS. FULTON: Next question?
QUESTION: Another question for Assistant Secretary Carson. George Zornick from The Nation magazine. Last week our magazine reported on the existence of a CIA-run prison in Mogadishu. Is this something that you or the State Department was aware of, the existence of this prison?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: I will not comment on any issues related to the CIA or to intelligence matters.
QUESTION: Can you say whether you’ve been working with the recognized officials of Somalia to brief them on what’s happening there?
MS. FULTON: We’re going to stick to briefing on the situation – the emerging humanitarian situation in the Horn today. So next question in that vein.
QUESTION: The World Health Organization yesterday issued a warning that 9 million people are at risk of cholera and measles outbreak in the region, and it has been aggravated by fast movement of the people who are exposed to the drought. And is there a clear picture that what has been done?
MS. LINDBORG: Hi. I – also in response to the previous question, we’ve looked very closely at the famine in ’92, and what we’ve learned is that there are several very important and critical steps that we, the international community, need to take. And the first is ensure that we’re able to address public health issues more effectively, including exactly the kind of communicable diseases that are most prevalent, especially when you have populations that are moving and populations that are malnourished. So it’s cholera, it’s measles, it’s diarrhea, it’s all these diseases that we need to effectively address and very quickly enable vaccinations and health treatments to reach.
Secondly, we need to ensure that there’s improved access of food. There are – there is availability of food in some of the markets. The inflation rate is so high that those – many families are unable to afford the food. And thirdly, one needs to get food in, especially therapeutic food for those who are at most risk, through high malnutrition, of reaching fatalities. We remain very concerned about the situation and are working very closely with the international community to ensure that we get the right approaches in quickly, based on what we know from past famines and past drought situations.
MS. FULTON: I think we have time for about two more questions.
QUESTION: Camille Elhassani from Al-Jazeera English Television. I had a question about Eritrea. You – Mr. Carson, you’ve called for them to provide the data so that you know what the situation is there. Has there – have you seen refugees from Eritrea moving into neighboring countries, and do you have an expectation that they are going to cooperate so that you and the other international community can help them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Eritrea is a closed and increasingly reclusive country, and its government has not been particularly helpful in sharing data and information about the severity of the food shortages or the drought in its country. Because it is a part of the Greater Horn of Africa, we assume that conditions in Eritrea are probably quite similar to the drought conditions that we are seeing in other places – in Ethiopia and in Kenya, Djibouti, and in Somalia. Because we don’t know what’s happening, our understanding of the situation is limited, but we encourage them to be more open about their needs and the needs of their population.
MS. FULTON: Thank you. Last question, Brad.
QUESTION: Yes. I think for Mr. Steinberg. You said you’re going tomorrow to a donors conference in London. Could you just explain what you aim to accomplish there? Will there be new funding talked about, new plans about reaching new groups? What is this consolidated approach going to be?
MR. STEINBERG: Yeah, indeed. Once a year, the major development ministers from the OECD countries get together to coordinate to talk about larger development issues, to reflect on the state of what we’re doing. We have decided, as of yesterday at the request of the United States Government, to use that as an opportunity to draw us together to talk frankly about two issues – one, the situation in Southern Sudan and how we can promote an aggressive comprehensive response to the very exciting events in Juba with its independence, but secondly, to address the situation in the Horn of Africa.
We suspect that a number of ministers will come with new ideas, with new proposals for assistance. This is, as we’ve said, a rapidly changing environment, and we’ve already received very strong indications of international support coming together. We will also, in the Horn with Administrator Shah’s visit there, be coordinating with our partners UNHCR, OCHA, UNICEF, the World Food Program in particular, to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive response to what is, at present, one of the true impending disasters that we’re all facing.
QUESTION: Can I ask a Sudan question while we have Johnnie Carson here?
MS. FULTON: If you want.
QUESTION: There’s – I mean, there’s a letter going around today with a lot of activists talking about much tougher action against Sudan, including the possibility of drone strikes or cruise missile strikes to prevent ethnic cleansing going on in Southern Kordofan and Abyei, and I wonder if you’ve received these recommendations, whether you have any concerns about – what are your latest concerns about what’s going on in those two regions?
MS. FULTON: Would you indulge us?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Just –
MS. FULTON: Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: — very, very briefly, only to say that we remain very focused on Sudan and the need to encourage both parties, North and South, to complete all of the elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that have not yet been resolved. These issues are Abyei, they are also oil and transitional financial arrangements, they also include the need to resolve issues related to citizenship, and five, issues related to border demarcation. It is important that both sides resume their discussions as quickly as possible to move towards a resolution of all of these issues.
We also remain deeply concerned about the continuing violence that we have seen in Southern Kordofan, and we urge the Government of Sudan to move as quickly as possible to stop the violence that is being perpetrated by its soldiers, and to align itself, again, with its commitments under the global – under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
MS. FULTON: Thank you.
MR. STEINBERG: Can I –
MS. FULTON: Oh, yes.
MR. STEINBERG: — just comment very, very quickly? Because USAID is indeed launching, in a whole-of-government approach, a very aggressive response to the humanitarian crisis that we’ve talked about here with about 180,000 people driven from their homes, both from Abyei and from South Kordofan. We do, as Assistant Secretary Carson said, have a very serious access problem, and in – especially in the Nuba Mountains. And we have called aggressively, both bilaterally but also multilaterally, on the Government of Sudan to open up access to those regions, to allow humanitarian workers in, to, as Assistant Secretary Carson said, to cease the violence that is occurring now, and to reach a permanent solution to the question of the SPLM’s North role in that region.
MS. FULTON: Okay. With that, I’d like to thank our briefers and thank you, everyone, for joining us today.
Remarks by Ambassador Rice at the Security Council Stakeout on the Humanitarian Situation in the Horn of Africa
Ambassador Rice: Good morning. While the issue in the Council today has been climate change, I’ve made a statement in that regard already and I wanted to say a few words about the UN’s declaration of famine in parts of Somalia today. It goes without saying that the situation is grave, over 11 million lives at risk, and in need of assistance. This is indeed a crisis situation, and one that has been exacerbated quite directly by the refusal of al-Shabaab to allow critically needed humanitarian assistance to reach over 60 percent of the people who need it most, over the course of the last year and more. The United States has been and remains the largest donor of bilateral humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa, contributing this year alone already $459 million, including an additional $28 million that Secretary Clinton just announced today. We will continue to focus on this issue and to provide the support that we can, but clearly this is a global challenge, and it is one that requires the concerted effort and support of the wide range of donors that are in a position to assist. We will be supportive of the United Nations as its agencies and funds and programs do the essential work of providing for and supporting those most in need. Thank you.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, will any of the money that the United States has pledged to fighting the drought go to Somalia?
Ambassador Rice: Yes.
Reporter: Mark Bowden, the humanitarian coordinator of the UN, just gave a press conference and he said that the U.S., two years ago, was the number one donor to Somalia and has now fallen to seventh or eighth—pretty much tied to anti-terrorism restrictions on where the funds can go. I know you gave the Horn of Africa number but is he correct about this?
Ambassador Rice: I can’t tell you if he’s correct. I can tell you that the United States remains the largest bilateral donor to the crisis in the Horn and the epicenter of the crisis in the Horn is, of course, Somalia. We have provided support and will continue to provide support to the refugees that have reached Ethiopia and Kenya among others, but our support has gone to Somalia as well and will continue to do so. The challenge has been access for the humanitarian agencies, particularly in the south and the central region, and it’s been blocked deliberately as a matter of policy by al-Shabaab. And al-Shabaab is principally responsible for exacerbating the consequences of the drought situation by preventing its own people from being able to access critically needed assistance.
Reporter: But they’ve lifted the restrictions?
Ambassador Rice: They say they’ve lifted the restrictions, after two years of starving their own people. We’ll see if those restrictions are in fact, as a practical matter, lifted on the ground. Neither the United States nor others in the international community are prepared to pay bribes or taxes to al-Shabaab, while it starves its own people.
Reporter: How will the U.S. transmit its aid? Is it through the UN and other groups?
Ambassador Rice: We typically provide our assistance through a variety of non-governmental organizations, and international organizations including UN agencies. UNICEF is among those that have been consistently active in that area, including within Somalia—it is one of the major recipients and, of course, WFP and others, UNHCR in the camps, and, of course, a range of NGOs.
Reporter: To clarify, will the aid get into the areas are being held by al-Shabaab? Will the United States send aid to those areas which arguably need it the most?
Ambassador: The issue—this is not complicated—aid will go where the humanitarian workers can gain access. The reason the aid hasn’t gone in sufficient quantities into south and central Somalia, is because al-Shabaab has prevented those most capable of delivering large quantities of aid from having access. And when they have had access they’ve taxed them, harassed them, killed them, kidnapped them—so that’s the problem. The question is whether al-Shabaab will finally, in the face of a massive famine, and the worst disaster in the region in, perhaps, 60 years, allow its people to access the critical humanitarian resources and food that they need. Thank you very, very much.
Ambassador: …just tabled this morning a draft resolution to establish the interim security force for Abyei as requested by the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan, consistent with the interim security agreement that was reached between the parties on Monday in Addis Ababa. The Council will begin consultations on this draft resolution which reflects the mandate proposed to the Council as agreed by the two parties and that calls for the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian National Defense Force personnel under the United Nations flag, and we are looking forward to discussions with Council members in order to swiftly adopt a resolution authorizing this new interim security force for Abyei so that the agreement that both parties have reached which is obviously urgent and fragile can be implemented immediately and effectively.
In addition, as we have been saying in the Security Council and many other venues during the course of the last couple of weeks, we are gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan, the fighting that has transpired there in particular. We are deeply concerned about attacks on and threats to and intimidation of UN personnel, obstructions to freedom of movement and access for humanitarian goods; allegations and indeed verified reports of aerial bombardment and other attacks against civilian personnel. This too remains a subject of discussion within the Council and attention, but we wanted to in particular to move forward in establishing the interim security force for Abyei so that that very important agreement can be implemented.
I’m happy to take a couple questions.
Reporter: Thank you. There is an impasse in the Council regarding the Syria situation. Would you accept a Presidential statement rather than a draft resolution if you can get consent of Russia and other opposing countries to the draft resolution? Thank you.
Ambassador: The United States has been exceedingly clear and consistent in our condemnation of the violence against peaceful protesters in Syria. We think it’s past time that there be a real and credible political reform process underway in Syria and that those who are seeking to express their aspirations and ambitions peacefully be respected and not face violence. And in that context, we have been very clear that we think it is past time for the United Nations Security Council to speak clearly and on the basis of principle as our government has, as many other governments have, and as the Human Rights Council in Geneva has. And so we very strongly support a draft Security Council resolution on Syria. We think it’s time, past time indeed, for the Council to act on it, and we think that the Council should speak with one voice and be clear in condemning what are obviously very irresponsible and unacceptable actions taken by the Government of Syria.
Reporter: On that subject, or a similar subject, Ambassador, do you think it is appropriate to have the Security Council make an expression of concern about the political situation in Syria in the resolution and the (INAUDIBLE) mandate?
Ambassador: We think the Security Council should speak clearly and unequivocally about what is transpiring internally in Syria and that’s why we have supported a resolution to that effect. We also think that there needs to be a credible renewal of the mandate on UNDOF and that that mandate renewal needs to account of recent developments on the Golan Heights and on the area between Israel and Syria.
Ambassador: No, we think that the resolution on the Golan Heights ought to focus principally on what is happening in the Golan Heights, and I think that it will. But at the same time, as I’ve said now three times this morning, or this afternoon, I think it’s vitally important that the Council speak clearly and unequivocally about the atrocities and abuses that are occurring inside of Syria.
Reporter: On Sudan, you said that you hoped that this resolution will be adopted swiftly. Is it possible that it could happen this week? And on the situation in Southern Kordafan, do you think a similar deployment might be advisable for the Security Council to authorize an interim force to go into Southern Kordafan?
Ambassador: Well, with respect to the resolution we tabled today, we haven’t even begun consultations on it so it’d be premature to speculate about when exactly it might be adopted. This will be, I think it’s important to note, the first establishment of a new peacekeeping operation in quite some time. And indeed that will undoubtedly require careful consideration in various capitals, including our own. So while we’ll move swiftly, I don’t think it realistic to be…to assume it will happen overnight.
With respect to Southern Kordafan, as you know, the parties are very much engaged in discussions about trying to affect a cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of forces from Southern Kordafan. That agreement hasn’t been reached and I wouldn’t want to presume or prejudge that it will occur or that indeed it will call for any particular kind of United Nations presence. As you know, there is, in UNMIS, now a significant contingent of UN personnel in Southern Kordafan.
Reporter: On the Darfur peace agreement, I know there was a meeting yesterday, is there some- it seems that most of the rebel groups have not..have spoken actually against the document. I wanted to know you know whether you think this will actually bring peace to Darfur. And on the Libya presidential statement that’s been pending for some time, this was told that the U.S. had proposed that, you know language to the effect that member states recognized the Transitional National Council as a legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people. The U.S. hasn’t recognized the TNC. How is it consistent that U.S. would be proposing that as an amendment and essentially killing the the PRST?
Ambassador: We have stated, the United States has stated, that we view the TNC as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people. That is been our stated policy now. I think the statement was made on or about June 9th. Now, so there’s no discrepancy there. And that is the basis of U.S policy. With respect to Darfur, we heard a briefing, as you know, from the Qatarian negotiator as well as Joint Special Representative Bosolay yesterday. We are of the view that that agreement represents a step, an important step, forward. Obviously, in and of itself it is not sufficient to end the conflict in Darfur, but we think it was a, an important step and we have supported it.
Reporter: Ambassador, the 4200 troops – that will be 4x higher than the current UN force in Abyei, why is that necessary? And Khartoum has agreed to this accord because it places Abyei in the North. Is that the understanding of the international community?
Ambassador: To your latter question, the answer is no. There is no such assumption or understanding. That is not the view of any recognized international entity. But nor is it the substance of the agreement, the interim security agreement, for Abyei. The purpose of that is to allow for the withdrawal of forces. At this stage that means the forces of the government of Sudan, which are now occupying Abyei , and that that area would become demilitarized and administered in a joint fashion and that would persist pending resolution of the critical underlying issues, which as you know, are not yet resolved. You had a first part to your question though.
Reporter: 4200, 4x higher than the current…
Ambassador: 4200. The draft resolution that we tabled reflects the composition and the mandate that the two parties themselves have requested that they believe is necessary to effectively implement their agreement in Abyei. It also reflects the contribution that the Ethiopian defense forces have said they are prepared to make. And I think it also reflects input and assessment from UN personnel, who were…who were engaged, if not directly than on the margins of, these negotiations. Ultimately, it’s obviously up for the Security Council to decide the strength and the mandate of any UN mission. But the United States, in tabling this draft, has sought to remain faithful to the agreement reached by the parties, which we understand was hard won and inherently fragile. And we think that the Council ought to give very, very serious consideration to the…to the request of the parties, both in terms of the mandate and composition of the force. Thank you very much.
Presidential Memorandum–Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs Related to Libya and Cote d’Ivoire
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
SUBJECT: Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs Related to Libya and Côte d’Ivoire
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2(c)(1) of the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (the “Act”), as amended (22 U.S.C. 2601(c)(1)), I hereby determine, pursuant to section 2(c)(1) of the Act, that it is important to the national interest to furnish assistance under the Act, in an amount not to exceed $15 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund, for the purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs, including by contributions to international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations and payment of administrative expenses of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the Department of State, related to the humanitarian crises resulting from the violence in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.
You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.