This Week at State: March 23, 2018

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This Week at State: March 23, 2018

Did you miss key foreign policy developments this week? We’ve got you covered. Each week, DipNote recaps the latest U.S. Department of State highlights spanning a wide range of global issues, events, and initiatives in one blog post.

Here are key moments from This Week at State:

Secretary Tillerson Gives Farewell Remarks to State Department Employees

On March 22, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave farewell remarks to the Department of State. In thanking Department employees around the, Secretary Tillerson emphasized the values of honesty, integrity, and respect.

“I must thank each and every one of you for the role you play in enabling the State Department to lead our foreign policy efforts and conduct the steady diplomacy and – that is the work of the department on behalf of the American people. None of this is possible without your daily contributions, from the mail room to the seventh floor and all points in between.”

 - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

United States Honors the 2018 International Women of Courage

On March 23, Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert honored 10 women from around the world with the 2018 International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award. Established in March 2007, the annual award recognizes women around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in acting to bring positive change to their societies, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.

First Lady of the United States Melania Trump poses for a photo with the 2018 Secretary of State's International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awardees during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on March 23, 2018. The 2018 awardees are Roya Sadat of Afghanistan, Aura Elena Farfan of Guatemala, Dr. Julissa Villanueva of Honduras, Aliyah Khalaf Saleh of Iraq, Sister Maria Elena Berini of Italy (nominated by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See), Aiman Umarova of Kazakhstan, Dr. Feride Rushiti of Kosovo, L’Malouma Said of Mauritania, Godelive Mukasarasi of Rwanda and Sirikan Charoensiri of Thailand.

First Lady Melania Trump attended the ceremony and delivered remarks about the courage these women have demonstrated and the inspiration they ignite for people to continue to aspire to change their societies.

President Trump Takes Action to Target China’s Economic Aggression

On March 22, President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum targeting China's economic aggression. The memorandum directs the Administration to consider a range of actions to respond to China’s acts, policies, and practices involving the unfair and harmful acquisition of U.S. technology. It also proposes for public comment adding 25 percent additional tariffs on certain products that are supported by China’s unfair industrial policy in sectors including aerospace, information communication technology, and machinery. For more information, read this fact sheet.

Deputy Secretary Sullivan Highlights U.S. Commitment to Humanitarian Assistance

On March 22, Deputy Secretary Sullivan delivered remarks on U.S. humanitarian assistance efforts around the world. At the U.S. Institute for Peace, the Deputy Secretary underscored the United States’ role as a global leader in assistance and said, “Helping those in need is and always has been one of our country’s core values and very much in our national interest. How we assist people in times of conflict, distress, and natural disasters reflects how we see the world and is integral to how we execute our foreign policy."

State Department’s Director of Policy and Planning Discusses Recent JCPOA Meetings

On March 21, Brian Hook, the Director of the Secretary’s Office of Policy and Planning Office spoke with members of the press about his recent meetings in Berlin and Vienna on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Deal.

Director Hook shared that the United States met with our European allies to discuss progress on the six areas that the President identified in his January 12 statement on the Iran Nuclear Deal, where he called on our allies to take stronger steps with the United States to confront Iran’s other malign activities, which includes “cutting off funding to the IRGC and constraining Iran’s missile development program, countering Iran’s cyber aggression, its maritime aggression, asking other countries to pressure Iran for all of its human rights violations.”

United States Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for Venezuelans

On March 20, Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert commented on United States efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans. In a press statement, she said, “Effective immediately, the United States is increasing humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans in Colombia who were forced to leave their country due to the ongoing crisis created by the Maduro regime. The U.S. Agency for International Development is providing this new initial assistance, totaling $2.5 million, in partnership with the Colombian government. The funds will go to humanitarian organizations that provide Venezuelans with emergency food and health assistance in impacted border areas.”

Department of State Inaugurates New Regional Antiterrorism Training Facility in Jordan

On March 22, the Department of State and the Government of Jordan inaugurated a new regional counterterrorism training facility south of Amman.  The new Jordanian Gendarmerie Training Academy was funded, constructed, and equipped through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program.

When fully operational, the new training center, part of a larger Gendarmerie training facility, will double ATA’s regional counterterrorism training capacity in Jordan in hard skills such as crisis response, explosive incident countermeasures, post-blast investigations, and tactical medicine. For 30 years, the Government of Jordan has proven itself a steadfast partner of the ATA program and has contributed significantly to U.S. efforts to advance the counterterrorism capabilities of law enforcement agencies in the region. Through the ATA program, Jordan has become a regional training hub where ATA has trained not only Jordanian police but also police from at least 21 other nations.

Thirteenth Global Counterterrorism Forum Coordinating Committee Meeting Occurs in Japan

The Thirteenth Coordinating Committee Meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), co-chaired by Morocco and the Netherlands, took place in Tokyo, Japan on March 20, 2018. Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador-at-Large Nathan A. Sales representing the United States briefed GCTF members on the priorities for and activities of the GCTF’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter (FTF) Working Group, which the United States co-chairs with Jordan. Ambassador Sales presented an update on the United States-Netherland’s co-led Initiative to Address the Challenge of Returning Families of Foreign Terrorist Fighters, and introduced a new initiative co-led by the United States and Morocco, The Initiative on Improving Capabilities for Detecting and Interdicting Terrorist Travel through Enhanced Terrorist Screening and Information Sharing.

Concern Over the Situation in Afrin, Syria

On March 19, Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert conveyed the United States’ concern about the situation in Afrin, Syria. In a press statement, she said, “It appears the majority of the population of the city, which is predominantly Kurdish, evacuated under threat of attack from Turkish military forces and Turkish backed opposition forces. This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs.”

Spokesperson Nauert added, “The United States does not operate in the area of northwest Syria, where Afrin is located. We remain committed to our NATO ally Turkey, to include their legitimate security concerns. We also remain committed to the Defeat ISIS campaign and our Syrian Democratic Forces partners in eastern Syria. The fighting in western Syria over the last two months, including in Afrin, has distracted from the Defeat ISIS campaign and provided opportunity for ISIS to begin reconstituting in some areas. This is a serious and growing concern. We call on all actors in Syria to remain focused on this significant threat from ISIS.”

United States Condemns Attack at Kabul University

Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert released a statement on March 21 condemning the attack that occurred this week at Kabul University killing at least 28 people and injured many others.

“This shameful attack on a peaceful gathering to celebrate Nowruz has marred the new year with pain and tragedy. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims who were injured and killed, and we mourn all those who lost their lives in this senseless attack.The United States stands with the people of Afghanistan, and we remain firmly committed to supporting the Afghan people’s efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity for their country.”

-Spokesperson Heather Nauert

World Water Day 2018 Forum Seeks To Increase U.S. Private Sector Participation To Build a More Water-Secure World

To commemorate World Water Day, March 22, 2018, the U.S. Department of State held a public-private forum, co-hosted with the U.S. Water Partnership, to look at how the U.S. government could better support U.S. companies to deploy water solutions in key countries to meet growing water needs.  By 2025, nearly two-thirds of the world’s projected eight billion people will be living under water-stressed conditions, including roughly a billion people who will face absolute water scarcity—less than 264 gallons per person per year. In response to this growing crisis, the U.S. government in 2017 released the first U.S. Global Water Strategy, a comprehensive roadmap involving more than 17 U.S. government agencies and departments. The Strategy’s goal is to create a more water-secure world by building capacity, mobilizing resources from all sectors, promoting science and technology, and engaging diplomatically and through partnerships with governments, finance partners, NGOs, consumers, research institutions, and especially U.S. private sector technology and service firms.

Senior Bureau Official Donald Y. Yamamoto Travels to Washington and Minnesota

Senior Bureau Official in the Bureau for African Affairs, Ambassador Donald Y. Yamamoto, traveled to Washington and Minnesota from March 19–23, to meet with various members of the African diaspora. His meetings included a visit to the African Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest, meetings with African business and immigrant communities, and a tour of Alaffia headquarters to learn more about products made from fair trade shea butter from Togo. Ambassador Yamamoto discussed the impact of these diaspora communities and their important contributions to the U.S. economy, as well as their work and investments in their countries of origin on the African continent.

United States Recognizes Nowruz

This week, millions of people around the world celebrated Nowruz, an ancient tradition that marks the beginning of spring and a new year. On March 19, President Donald J. Trump released a statement on Nowruz.  Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan also released a statement on the occasion. In the statement, the Deputy Secretary wished the people of Iran and everyone who celebrates this wonderful tradition -- including in many communities in the United States – a happy Nowruz.

Follow the State Department on Twitter and Facebook for additional information and updates.

Editor’s Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.