Secretary Blinken’s Call with Dutch Foreign Minister Hoekstra

28 Feb

Office of the Spokesperson

The following is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra on the global response to Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine.  The Secretary applauded the Dutch cabinet’s decision to provide lethal and nonlethal military assistance to Ukraine and $22 million in humanitarian aid for those fleeing the war in Ukraine.  He reiterated his unwavering support for the Ukrainian people and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Secretary Blinken said Russia’s flagrant disregard for international law must be met with transatlantic unity to hold Russia accountable for its continuing aggression, including via the imposition of severe economic measures.

Rick Scott and Republicans Want To Raise Taxes on Americans

28 Feb

One week ago, Florida Senator and National Republican Senator Committee Chair Rick Scott rolled out Republicans’ plan, which calls for raising income taxes for over half of Americans—including seniors, retirees, and working families. A new study confirms the Republican plan would actually raise taxes on middle-income households by an average of $450,a stark contrast with President Biden and Democrats who are fighting to lower costs for families.

Tax Policy Center: Scott’s “Skin In The Game” Plan Could Raise Taxes By $100 Billion in 2022, Mostly On Low- And Moderate-Income Households

  • “More than 80 percent of the tax increase would be paid by households making about $54,000 or less, and 97 percent would be paid by those making less than about $100,000.”
     
  • “A minimum income tax for all households would effectively eliminate the refundable portion of tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned income Tax Credit.”
     
  • “TPC estimates that the lowest-income households—those making less than about $27,000 annually—would pay an average of nearly $1,000 more in taxes in 2022, reducing their after-tax incomes by nearly 6 percent. Low-income families with children would pay the most: Achieving Scott’s goal would slash their after-tax incomes by more than $5,000, or more than 20 percent.”
     
  • “A Scott-like plan would raise taxes on middle-income households by an average of $450.”

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5 Questions for Hill Republicans 

28 Feb

Congress is back in session, and as always, congressional Republicans owe their constituents some answers. 

Every Republican in Congress needs to make clear where they stand: 

Will you condemn the defeated former president for praising Putin as “smart” and “genius” while innocent Ukrainians are enduring bombs and missiles?
 
Why do Republicans in Congress – like your colleague Rick Scott – believe they should raise income taxes on over half of Americans, including seniors and retirees? Do you agree with Rick Scott’s plan?
 
Do you support Kevin McCarthy’s plan to reinstate Marjorie Taylor Greene to her committees if Republicans win majorities, even after she spoke at a white nationalist conference this weekend? 
 
What is your plan to combat inflation and to help lower prices for hardworking families? 
 
Why won’t Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee show up to do their job to vote on Fed nominees who can do the most to tackle inflation? 
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New Zealand and WHO: partnering for a healthier future

28 Feb

Geneva, 25 February 2022 – On the occasion of the Human Rights Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, Honourable Nanaia Mahuta, met for the first time with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. The objective of the meeting, which took place at the WHO headquarters, was to discuss New Zealand’s continued strategic, technical and financial support to the Organization.

“It is an honor to welcome the Honourable Nanaia Mahuta to WHO and to express my deep gratitude to New Zealand for its leadership in public health and invaluable support to WHO, including the pandemic treaty and increase in assessed contributions,” said Dr Tedros. “Not only has New Zealand helped to achieve great strides in the Pacific region, but also during the global COVID-19 pandemic, as one of the first COVAX funders and first dose donors. New Zealand may be a small country but it is big in heart, and an important player in the global health arena.”

As one of the founding members of WHO, New Zealand has been a long-standing and highly valued partner. During today’s meeting, the Honourable Minister and Dr Tedros discussed collaboration in the Pacific Region, including the COVID-19 response, with both re-affirming their commitment to partner for a healthier future.

WHO is grateful for New Zealand’s technical, financial and human resources support in a number of key areas, including the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases and emergency response. During the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand has had active engagement in the Pacific Joint Incident Management Team since the very beginning of the response – including embedding several staff within the WHO/Pacific sub-regional office and supporting critical coordination work. New Zealand is also a key contributor to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies, which provides WHO with the resources to respond rapidly to disease outbreaks and other health emergencies, saving lives and helping prevent unnecessary suffering.

Learn more about New Zealand’s financial support to WHO’s work.

The Ad Hoc Committee to Elaborate a UN Cybercrime Convention

28 Feb

Office of the Spokesperson

The first negotiating session of the Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) to elaborate a UN cybercrime convention will convene February 28-March 11 at UN Headquarters in New York.  This session will address the proposed scope, objectives, and structure for the convention as well as the mode of work for negotiations.  Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield will serve as the Representative of the U.S. Delegation.  Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs James A. Walsh will lead the U.S. delegation and introduce Ambassador (ret.) Deborah McCarthy as the U.S. lead negotiator during the AHC negotiations.  The United States will press for its priority cybercrime policy and legal objectives during these negotiations, including advancing efforts towards a fair, rights-respecting, criminal justice instrument focused on addressing cybercrime that is built on consensus and informed by experts.

For further information, e-mail INL-PAPD@state.gov or follow INL on Twitter at @StateINL.

Secretary Blinken’s Call with Central Asian Foreign Ministers

28 Feb

Office of the Spokesperson

The following is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with the Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.  Secretary Blinken strongly condemned Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine and expressed his unwavering solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

The Secretary also celebrated the 30-year anniversaries of bilateral relations between the United States and the countries of Central Asia.  He emphasized steadfast U.S. support for their sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and highlighted the value of C5+1 regional cooperation for our people.

U.S. Actions to Address Plastic Pollution

28 Feb

Office of the Spokesperson

The United States welcomes the historic opportunity at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2), February-March 2022, to start a process with other nations and stakeholders to fight plastic pollution.  The United States is already acting both domestically and internationally to address this global challenge.

Key U.S. programs are highlighted below.

National

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

  • National Recycling Strategy: EPA published the National Recycling Strategy November 2021 and reaffirmed the goal to increase the U.S. recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030.  The Strategy identifies strategic objectives and actions needed to create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective U.S. municipal solid waste recycling system.  Recycling has been an important component of the EPA’s decades-long efforts to implement the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and more recent efforts to pursue a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) approach, which aims to reduce the environmental impacts of materials across their lifecycle.
  • Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) program: EPA releases an annual report, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management:  Facts and Figures, to provide information on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling.  The report analyzes MSW trends in generation and management, materials and products, and economic indicators affecting MSW.
  • WasteWise Program: EPA works with businesses, governments, and nonprofit organizations to promote the use and reuse of materials more productively over their entire life cycles. Partners demonstrate how they reduce waste, practice environmental stewardship and incorporate sustainable materials management into their business model, including their waste-handling processes.
  • Trash Free Waters is a voluntary program that emphasizes stakeholder engagement to assist U.S. and international communities with addressing primarily land-based sources of marine litter. Within the United States, there have been more than 200 place-based projects that have been or are being implemented.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

  • DOE launched the Plastics Innovation Challenge in 2018 to coordinate the many initiatives across the department on plastic recycling, degradation, upcycling, and design for circularity. The goals of this program are to develop solutions that deliver greater than 50 percent energy savings, address greater than 90 percent of plastics, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than50 percent, and achieve at least 75 percent carbon utilization.  The work includes solving fundamental science challenges through research projects and Energy Frontier Research Centers, forging public-private partnerships such as the BOTTLE Consortia (bottle.org) and the REMADE Institute, and working with industry partners to reduce plastic waste through the Better Plants Program.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

  • USDA offers support and programs to increase the research, development and buyer/consumer awareness of bioplastics. Agricultural Research Service scientists developed a way for crop residues from cornstalks, straw, and sugarcane bagasse, combined with sustainable enzymes, to convert crop-derived sugars into compounds used in the sustainable manufacture of nylon plastics.  USDA’s BioPreferred Program works to increase the purchase and use of biobased products through federal procurement and a certification and labeling initiative.  The program’s USDA Certified Biobased Product label is a market development initiative to increase consumer and buyer recognition, and the purchase of bioproducts.

U.S. Department of Interior (DOI)

  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE): The BSEE Marine Trash and Debris Prevention standards require offshore energy companies to conduct annual training for all Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) employees and to adopt best practices to reduce marine debris.
  • National Park Service (NPS): NPS cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.  The NPS actively works with local, state, and other federal partners on beach clean-ups and educational products and programs to help make visitors aware of environmental impacts of plastics pollution and marine debris, and how individual choices and actions can make a difference.  Ocean Plastics – Oceans, Coasts & Seashores (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) 
  • S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS): USFWS manages more than 180 coastal national wildlife refuges and five marine national monuments across the United States.  USFWS, partners, and numerous volunteers, work to perform cleanups of plastic pollution on the reefs and beaches.  The USFWS also collaborates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others to remove fishing nets and plastic debris (more than 950 metric tons, since 1996) from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

  • Recycled Plastics for Food Packaging: FDA assists manufacturers in safely using recycled plastics for food contact articles.  The program helps divert plastic food contact articles from ending up in landfills or polluting the marine environment, while ensuring that the high-quality plastics previously used for food contact articles are safely used to produce new food contact articles.

National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA)

  • NASA funded a project to investigate the capability of using satellite remote sensing to detect microplastics in our oceans using hyperspectral remote sensing, an important capability of NASA’s upcoming PACE mission. Microplastics form when plastic trash in the ocean breaks down from the sun’s rays and the motion of ocean waves and can be carried hundreds or thousands of miles away from the source by ocean currents, making it difficult to track and remove them.  Researchers are also using current NASA satellite data to track the movement of microplastics in the ocean, using data from NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS).

National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)

  • NIST supports U.S. work on documentary standards, reference materials, and reference data and serves as a diverse stakeholder-convenor on manufacturing and technology innovation needs in the U.S. economy and conducts work on the thermal and mechanical properties of polymers at different stages in the recycling process, including studying depolymerization and degradation of polymers in both manufacturing and natural environments.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) Marine Debris Program

  • The NOAA Marine Debris Program  was established in 2006 to address the adverse impacts of marine debris on the U.S. economy, the marine environment, and navigation safety. To prevent marine debris, the Program forms partnerships across the United States and internationally through outreach and education initiatives and supports locally driven, community-based marine debris removal projects .

National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • NSF supports basic research that develops fundamental knowledge and engineering advances pertaining to recycling, polymer chemistry and physics, alternative materials, sustainable and circular processes, the fate and impact of plastic materials lost to the environment, and pollution mitigation, control systems, and remediation.

International

U.S. Department of State

  • CAFTA-DR and Panama Environmental Cooperation: The State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is working to strengthen solid waste management capacity, including addressing land-based sources of ocean plastic pollution with Central American Countries and the Dominican Republic under the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement.
  • Building Capacity for Environmentally Sound Management of Plastic Waste in West Africa: The OES Office of Environmental Quality has a grant with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to reduce plastic waste leakage into the marine environment through waste management capacity building initiatives in Senegal.
  • The S.-Singapore Third Country Training Program 2021 included a workshop focused on ASEAN’s plastic pollution challenge and the importance of promoting integrated solid waste management strategies for creating sustainable local and regional solutions.
  • Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI): The State Department awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to the Ocean Conservancy and its affiliated organization, GGGI, in 2017 to support work in combating marine debris, including ghost gear in the Caribbean region.  The State Department also awarded the Ocean Conservancy a nearly $1 million grant to assist Vietnam in its effort to address marine debris. The United States formally joined GGGI in 2020.
  • The United States led the process to establish the APEC Marine Debris Management and Innovation (MDMI) Sub-Fund in 2018. Through an initial U.S. contribution of $800,000 the State Department was able to generate additional contributions and replenishments from other APEC members.  Countries can apply annually for MDMI project funds to address marine plastic pollution.
  • Other recent State Department programs include: The 5-Gyres Asia Pacific Action Against Plastic Pollution; All Hands on Deck:  A Community-Based Marine Litter Reduction Program; Social Mobilization for Marine Waste Management in Vietnam; and Accelerating Efforts to Reduce Ocean Plastic in Vietnam.  These efforts focus on three key areas to address the broader issue of marine debris:  data, local and innovative solutions, and outreach.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

  • Clean Cities, Blue Ocean: Clean Cities, Blue Ocean  is USAID’s global, flagship program for implementing the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act and reducing the estimated 11 million tons of plastic that flow into the ocean each year.
  • Municipal Waste Recycling Program: USAID’s recently completed Municipal Waste Recycling Program , which ran from 2016-2021, worked to reduce land-based sources of ocean plastic pollution in four key countries—Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.  Through grants and technical assistance, the program introduced a variety of innovative and scalable approaches to reduce ocean plastic pollution, many of which are now being scaled by Clean Cities, Blue Ocean, local governments, or other actors.
  • Private Sector Partnerships: In 2019, USAID launched an agreement leveraging more than $100 million in a private-sector  investment strategy managed by Circulate Capital  and funded by multinational companies. USAID provides a $35 million, 50 percent loan-portfolio guarantee through the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which is used to incentivize private capital investment in the recycling value chain in South and Southeast Asia.

For more information on U.S. engagement at UNEA 5.2, please visit the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

State Department Announces 2021-2022 Fulbright Top Producing Institutions

28 Feb

Office of the Spokesperson

The U.S. Department of State is pleased to announce that the lists of more than 125 U.S. higher education institutions that sent the most Fulbright U.S. Students and U.S. Scholars abroad in academic year 2021-2022 are now available.  The lists of Fulbright Top Producing Institutions highlight the Fulbright Program’s strong institutional diversity and impact on American communities.

The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in collaboration with the Institute of International Education, compiles the lists, which are organized by Carnegie Classification.  The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes the lists in its online and print editions.

Topping this year’s lists of Research, Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Special-focus 4-year institutions that sent the most Fulbright U.S. Students abroad are Brown University (RI), University of North Georgia and CUNY Hunter College (NY), Bowdoin College (ME), and the California Institute of the Arts.  The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, State University of New York at New Paltz, and Middlebury College (VT) sent the most Fulbright U.S. Scholars in the Research, Master’s, and Bachelor’s degree categories.  Fulbright Students are recent college graduates, graduate students, and early career professionals. Fulbright Scholars are faculty, researchers, administrators, and established professionals.

Fourteen U.S. community colleges, one Tribal college, and three special focus four-year institutions also sent Fulbright U.S. Scholars abroad in 2021-2022 and are featured.  For a full list of the institutions by category, please visit the Fulbright Top Producing website .

For over 75 years, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 400,000 participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to challenges facing our communities and our world. Over 1,900 diverse U.S. students, artists, and early career professionals in more than 100 different fields of study receive Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants annually to study, teach English, and conduct research overseas. In addition, more than 800 U.S. scholars, artists, and professionals from all backgrounds teach or conduct research overseas through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program annually.

Interested media should contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at eca-press@state.gov.

49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

28 Feb

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Today the United States joins the UN Human Rights Council at the Council’s 49th regular session.  The U.S. return to that body fulfills a pledge made by President Biden and reflects the centrality of human rights to our nation’s foreign policy. The timing of this session could not be more appropriate.

Since the opening moments of Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine, reports of human rights abuses have been widespread.  Let there be no confusion:  Russia attacked Ukraine because Ukraine dared to pursue a democratic path.  Russia’s invasion has damaged and destroyed schools, hospitals, radio stations, and homes, killing and injuring civilians, including children.

On March 1, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will deliver remarks to the assembled Council and will use that opportunity to spell out clearly the threat posed by Russia, while noting that Ukraine is far from the only part of the world where the Council’s attention is needed.

Events in Ukraine only underscore the crucial importance of a credible human rights body dedicated to promoting the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and documenting human rights violations and abuses.

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva Ambassador Sheba Crocker will head the U.S. delegation at this session, supported by recently confirmed Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council Michèle Taylor.  Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya will join the delegation in Geneva February 28-March 1 for meetings with high-level counterparts and international humanitarian partners.