Archive for the ‘U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’ category

USAID Shifts on Aid to Christians, Yazidis in Iraq

January 13, 2018

USAID Shifts on Aid to Christians, Yazidis in Iraq, Washington Free Beacon , January 12, 2018

Iraqi Christians attend a mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), some 30 kilometres from Mosul / Getty Images

USAID, responding to pressure late last year from Vice President Mike Pence, announced today that it is altering its policies in order to ensure that millions of dollars in U.S. aid appropriated by Congress reaches Iraqi religious minorities.

Pence, during an October speech at a dinner highlighting the plight of persecuted Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere, promised that the Trump administration would stop the State Department’s “ineffective” relief efforts that directed all the funds to United Nations, which has a religious-blind policy of disbursing the funds to all refugees in Iraq.

“The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith,” he said. “This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

Two months later, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) agreed to increase assistance to religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq, to enable them to return to their homes in areas liberated by ISIS.

“Following Vice President Pence’s remarks in October of last year, USAID renegotiated the terms of its agreement with the UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) so that $55 million of a $75 million payment will address the needs of vulnerable religious and ethnic minority communities in Ninewa Province [also called Nineveh], especially those who have been victims of atrocities by ISIS,” USAID announced.

USAID said the modified agreement ensures that the U.S. contribution to the fund will help the populations in liberated areas in Nineveh province resume normal lives by restoring services such as water, electricity, sewage, health and education.

The $75 million is the first installment of the UNDP FFS fund. The rest of the pledge will depend on the UNDP’s success in “putting in place additional accountability, transparency, and due-diligence measures,” USAID said.

USAID also announced that it is soliciting “innovative” ideas agency-wide to support the resettlement of ethnic and religious minorities in their ancestral homes in Iraq and that the results of that competition will be announced in early Spring.

The USAID announcement is eight months in the making and comes after lawmakers and human rights activists repeatedly argued their case to top officials at the State Department and USAID, which had resisted any change to their “religion-blind” policy of channeling most of the aid money to the United Nations.

That prior policy was “needs-based” and did not give priority to Christian and other religious minorities in Iraq, even though both the Obama and the Trump administrations have declared that both groups, as well as Shiite Muslims and others, have suffered genocide at the hand of ISIS.

ISIS’s campaign of murder, kidnapping, and enslavement decimated the Christian population in Iraq, which numbered between 1.4 million in 2002 and is now below 250,000, according to human rights groups who worked to chronicle the ISIS genocide in Iraq.

Catholic charities and activists who have spent years urging the Obama administration and now Trump administration to better assist minority religious communities in Iraq applauded USAID’s policy change and the United Nation’s commitment to help these communities with the funds.

The Knights of Columbus, one of the largest Catholic charities, and Aid to the Church in Need, another global Catholic charity, have sent millions of dollars in donations to the Catholic archdiocese in Northern Iraq, one of the few groups on the ground working to house and feed displaced Christians and Yazidis and help rebuild their homes.

“Vice President Pence deserves great credit for turning the ship of state in order to help save Iraq’s besieged religious minorities,” said Nina Shea, an international human rights attorney who directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Shea said the policy change now requires USAID to undertake the difficult task of ensuring that the troubled UNDP, which she said “has long marginalized these Christians and Yazidis, finally applies some of our funding to assist them in a meaningful way.”

“All of us committed to seeing their communities survive the cradle of Christianity will be monitoring the implementation in the months ahead,” she said.

Stephen Rasche, an attorney for the Catholic archdiocese in Erbil and the director of internal displaced people resettlement programs, in early October accused the U.N. of squandering U.S. taxpayer aid for reconstruction projects.

The aid programs are so mismanaged that some U.S. dollars are going to benefit Iraqis who took over areas that persecuted Christians fled even though the United Nations says the project is aimed at helping Christians, Rasche testified before a House Foreign Affairs panel Oct. 4.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained photos of United Nations Development Program projects in Christian and Yazidi towns in northern Iraq, showing “completed” school-rehabilitation projects that amounted to a thin coat of paint on exterior walls with freshly stenciled UNICEF logos every 30 feet.

Inside the building, the rooms remained untouched and unusable, lacking running water, power, and furniture, Rasche testified.

Several lawmakers and human rights activists for months have argued that U.S. agencies have a responsibility to intervene more directly and effectively.

Republican Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, and Chris Smith of New Jersey, along with Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, last fall sent a letter to USAID Administrator Mark Green arguing that these communities now face “dire conditions where they desperately need assistance if they are to survive.”

The concern prompted USAID counselor Thomas Staal, one of the agency’s top officials, to visit Iraq in early December to see how the U.S. and Iraqi government could improve its support for minority communities following the defeat of ISIS.

Staal met with government officials in Baghdad and United Nations officials who are implementing U.S.-funded stabilization programs in Anbar, Nineveh, and Salah ad Din provinces. He also sat down with leaders of outside groups and representatives from Christian, Yazidi, Sabean-Mandea, Kakai, Baha’I, Zoroastrian, and Jewish communities to hear their concerns and needs in the post-ISIS rebuilding.

During visits to Erbil and Kirkuk, Staal met with the archbishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church, and the Chaldean Church to discuss the aid the United States is providing. During a visit to Teleskof, he attended the rededication of the St. Gorgis Chaldean Church, a powerful symbol that survived ISIS attempts to eradicate Christian monuments and artifacts throughout Iraq.

Three and a half years ago, ISIS looted and burned the church and beheaded members of the congregation on its altar, Staal recalled in a blog post after his visit.

“I spoke to the congregation, and assured them that the United States stands with them. Americans stand with them in their hour of need, and we are committed to helping persecuted Iraqis continue to rebuild as they seek out that bright future,” he wrote.

Judicial Watch Sues State Department and USAID for Records about Funding and Political Activities of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation – Macedonia

April 20, 2017

Judicial Watch Sues State Department and USAID for Records about Funding and Political Activities of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation – Macedonia, Judicial Watch, April 19, 2017

(The Trump administration should confess judgment and order the Department of State and USAID to turn over the document. Will Obama administration holdovers in the deep state try to prevent that? — DM)

USAID website reports it gave $4,819,125 in taxpayer money to Soros’s Open Society Foundation – Macedonia between from 2012 to 2016 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for records and communications relating to the funding and political activities of the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia.  The Macedonia organization, part of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, received nearly $5 million from USAID from 2012 to 2016. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (No. 1:17-cv-00729)).

The suit was filed after both the U.S. Department of State and USAID failed to respond to a February 16, 2017, FOIA request seeking:

  • All records related to any grants, contracts, or disbursements of funds by the Department of State to the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia and/or any of the Foundation’s subsidiaries. This request includes all related requests for funding, payment authorizations, or similar records, as well as all related records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any official, employee, or representative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • Any records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any officer, employee, or representative of the Open Society Foundation -Macedonia and/or any of the Foundation’s affiliated organizations. This request includes responsive records of communication sent from or directed to U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Jess L. Baily.
  • All analyses or similar records regarding the political activities of the Open Society Foundation -Macedonia and/or any of the Foundation’s affiliated organizations.
  • All messages transmitted via the State Department’s SMART system sent from any U.S. Government employee or contractor operating under the Chief of Mission’s authority at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje that pertain to the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia and/or any of the Foundation’s affiliated organizations.

The USAID website reports that between February 27, 2012, and August 31, 2016, USAID gave $4,819,125 in taxpayer money to Soros’s Open Society Foundation – Macedonia (FOSM), in partnership with four local civil society organizations. The USAID’s website links to http://www.soros.org.mk, and says the project trained hundreds of young Macedonians “on topics such as freedom of association, youth policies, citizen initiatives, persuasive argumentation and use of new media.”

In February, Judicial Watch reported:

The U.S. government has quietly spent millions of taxpayer dollars to destabilize the democratically elected, center-right government in Macedonia by colluding with leftwing billionaire philanthropist George Soros, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. Barack Obama’s U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess L. Baily, has worked behind the scenes with Soros’ Open Society Foundation to funnel large sums of American dollars for the cause, constituting an interference of the U.S. Ambassador in domestic political affairs in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

***

Here’s how the clandestine operation functions, according to high-level sources in Macedonia and the U.S. that have provided Judicial Watch with records as part of an ongoing investigation. The Open Society Foundation has established and funded dozens of leftwing, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Macedonia to overthrow the conservative government. One Macedonian government official interviewed by Judicial Watch in Washington D.C. recently, calls it the “Soros infantry.” The groups organize youth movements, create influential media outlets and organize violent protests to undermine the institutions and policies implemented by the government. One of the Soros’ groups funded the translation and publication of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” into Macedonian. The book is a tactical manual of subversion, provides direct advice for radical street protests and proclaims Lucifer to be the first radical. Thanks to Obama’s ambassador, who has not been replaced by President Trump, Uncle Sam keeps the money flowing so the groups can continue operating and recruiting, sources in Macedonia and the U.S. confirm.

According to InsidePhilanthropy.com, Soros’ Open Society Foundation “may be the largest philanthropic organization ever built, with branches in 37 countries. While the Gates Foundation spends more money, OSF has a larger footprint worldwide thanks to its many local offices, including throughout Africa.” OSF’s budget will be around $930 million …”

The activities of Ambassador Bailey and USAID’s funding of the Open Society Foundation have recently come under Congressional scrutiny. On January 17, 2017, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) sent a letter to Baily asking him to explain the State Department’s relationship with Open Society Foundation. On February 24, 2017, Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and others called on the Government Accountability Office to conduct an investigation and audit of the Department of State and USAID’s activities in Macedonia, including funding of Open Society Foundation entities and potential interference in domestic Macedonian political affairs in potential violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

“The Obama administration seemed to bust taxpayer budgets in an effort to fund the Soros operation,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Trump State Department and USAID should get their act together and disclose the details of the Obama-Soros spigot.”