The POMED Wire

Proposed Cuts to Foreign Affairs Budget Meet Resistance

AP

On March 4, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney confirmed that the Trump administration will propose “fairly dramatic” cuts to the foreign aid budget in order to help offset the proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending. The United States spends just over $50 billion each year on the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), compared to at least $600 billion on the Pentagon annually, Reuters reported. Mulvaney said that the budget “prioritizes rebuilding the military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities, protecting the nation and securing the border,” and that the subsequent cuts would represent “the largest proposed reduction since the early of the Reagan administration.”

Capitol Hill responded with bipartisan concern over the cuts. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “very concerned by reports of deep cuts that could damage efforts to combat terrorism, save lives, and create opportunities for American workers.”  Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Ranking Democrat on the same committee, called the proposal “shortsighted and dangerous.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said “foreign assistance is an insurance policy,” and a budget “that basically destroys soft power” would

North African Leaders Plan Libyan Political Summit

Daily News Egypt

North African diplomats are planning to hold a summit in the near future to try to find ways of reconciling Libya’s competing factions, and to stem the tide of violence and instability wracking the beleaguered country. During a meeting in Tunis between the foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria last week, the diplomats declared the importance of “Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and argued against foreign intervention or military action in Libya.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi will come together with Libyan parties in order to refresh the peace process, amid concern that the extremist violence seen in Libya will spillover North African borders to nearby nations. Doubts have been expressed regarding the Algerian president’s ability to engage in the upcoming summit after he was forced to postpone his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel due to “acute bronchitis.”

According to Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jihnaoui, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who exercises power over much of Libya’s East, is expected in Tunis in coming days. A recent meeting in Egypt between internationally recognized Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Haftar resulted in

Amnesty International Finds Growing Abuses by Tunisian Security Forces

by Samantha Parks

A new Amnesty International report alleges that security measures taken by Tunisian authorities in the name of counter-terrorism often have been arbitrary, discriminatory, and disproportionate, leading to human rights violations reminiscent of the Ben Ali era, albeit on a much lesser scale. The report describes ill-treatment perpetrated by the police since January 2015, including 23 cases of torture.

At the release event for the report in Tunis on February 10, Amnesty’s North Africa Research Director Heba Morayef stated, “The fact that abuses are being committed in the name of security has meant that the scale of human rights violations in Tunisia today has thus far gone unaddressed by the Tunisian authorities.” She added, “This report exposes how entrenched impunity has fostered a culture in which violations by security forces have been able to thrive.”

Tunisia has been under a state of emergency for four and a half of the past six years, first in response to post-uprising unrest and then since July 2015 in response to several major terrorist attacks. The state of emergency is regulated by a 1978 decree and gives the Minister of Interior the power to restrict certain rights, such as freedom of …

Freedom House Finds Continued Decline in Global Freedom

On January 31, Freedom House released its annual Freedom in the World Report. A panel discussion, featuring David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent of the New York Times; Tamara Wittes, Director for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; and Arch Puddington, Distinguished Fellow for Democracy Studies at Freedom House and main author of the report, examined the general decline in freedom and the reciprocal relationship it has with changes in global order.

Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 (45 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 49 (25 percent) Not Free. This is the 11th consecutive year of decline in freedom, which Puddington described as a discouraging development in an era dominated by new media, the internet, and a global civil society. One result that set 2016 apart from past years was that the declines were concentrated in countries ranked as Free; nearly a quarter of the countries that registered a decline were in Europe. One of the largest questions to come out of these findings was whether democracies will continue to advocate for freedom around the world.

Puddington began by outlining a steady erosion of democratic institutions in the United States. He …

An MCC Compact for Tunisia

February 1, 2017

by Samantha Parks

On December 13,  the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) announced it had selected Tunisia as eligible for significant funding to “encourage economic growth and reduce poverty.” The MCC cited the “opportunity to work with Tunisia as it consolidates its recent democratic gains, takes on a significant policy reform agenda, and combats poverty and inequality challenges.” While the MCC has not released further details, on December 15, the Tunisian Minister of Industry and Commerce Zied Laadhari announced that the MCC agreed to negotiate a four-year, $400 million grant.

In 2004, the MCC was established as an independent U.S. foreign assistance agency designed to deliver aid using different criteria and processes. It awards funding to developing country governments that demonstrate a commitment to reform and good governance. MCC grants, known as compacts, support economic growth and governance projects that are proposed and implemented by countries selected by the MCC board. After selection by the MCC, a compact-eligible country completes a report that identifies the binding constraints to growth that “are the most severe root causes that deter households and firms from making investments […] that would significantly increase incomes.” The compact-eligible government then develops its own grant …

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