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Philippines: Journalists’ killings: UN experts urge Philippines president-elect to stop instigating deadly violence

6 June 2016 - 7:08am
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Philippines

GENEVA (6 June 2016) – Two United Nations independent experts on summary executions, and on freedom of expression today urged Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte to stop instigating deadly violence immediately. The experts strongly condemned Mr. Duterte’s recent statements suggesting that journalists are not exempt for assassination.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Duterte reportedly stated that most journalists killed in the country have done something wrong. ‘You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong,’ the President-elect said, suggesting that victims were partly to blame for their fate.

“A message of this nature amounts to incitement to violence and killing, in a nation already ranked as the second-deadliest country for journalists,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Cristof Heyns. “These comments are irresponsible in the extreme, and unbecoming of any leader, let alone someone who is to assume the position of the leader of a country that calls itself democratic.”

For the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom opinion and expression, David Kaye, “justifying the killing of journalists on the basis of how they conduct their professional activities can be understood as a permissive signal to potential killers that the murder of journalists is acceptable in certain circumstances and would not be punished.”

“This position is even more disturbing when one considers that Philippines is still struggling to ensure accountability to notorious cases of violence against journalists, such as the Maguindanao massacre,” the human rights expert added.

Mr. Duterte is further reported to have questioned the legal guarantees to journalists who are perceived to have made defamatory comments. ‘That can’t be just freedom of speech. The constitution can no longer help you if you disrespect a person,’ the President-elect stated.

“Such provocative messages indicate to any person who is displeased by the work of a journalist or an activist, for example, that they can attack or kill them without fear of sanction,” Mr. Kaye stressed.

The President-elect has also been reported as promising to pay bounties to police and military officials for every drug lord they turn in. ‘I’m not saying that you kill them, but the order is dead or alive,” Mr. Duterte reportedly said in a televised news conference.

“Talk of ‘dead or alive’ has no role to play in any state that claims to uphold human rights in law enforcement,” Special Rapporteur Heyns stressed, while recalling the limits imposed by international instruments on the conduct of law enforcement forces.

“Intentional lethal use of force may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life and not for common policing objectives,” he said. “The President-elect fools no one when he says he is not calling on people to be killed.”

UN Special Rapporteurs Christof Heyns (South Africa) and David Kaye (United States of America) are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Learn more, log on to:
Summary execution: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx Freedom of expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Philippines: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/PHIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms Brenda Vukovic (+41 22 917 9635 / bvukovic@ohchr.org) or write to eje@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

World: Global Profits, and Peril, from Child Labor - Governments Should Impose Mandatory Restrictions

6 June 2016 - 5:44am
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia, Mali, occupied Palestinian territory, Philippines, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, World

(Geneva) – Governments should better regulate businesses to prevent child labor in global supply chains, Human Rights Watch said in a video released today, in advance of the World Day against Child Labor, June 12, 2016. Child labor in global supply chains is the theme for the World Day in 2016.

Millions of children risk pain, sickness, injury, and even death to produce goods and services for the global economy. Human Rights Watch has documented hazardous child labor in agriculture, mining, the leather and apparel industry, and other sectors.

“Consumers usually have no way of knowing whether the food they eat, the clothing and jewelry they wear, or other products they buy were made with child labor,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Companies shouldn’t profit from the exploitation of children.” The video features children working in gold mines in the Philippines and Tanzania, weaving carpets in Afghanistan, and toiling in tobacco fields in the United States and agricultural settlements in the West Bank. Richard, a 13-year old working in a Tanzanian gold mine, says: “I don’t like mining at all. I’d like to go to school full time.”

In today’s global economy, businesses often rely on complicated supply chains. Raw materials may be produced in multiple countries, processed or assembled into finished goods in another, and consumed in markets across the globe. Children may be exploited at any stage of the supply chain, but child labor is most common in the early stages of production.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 168 million children are involved in child labor globally, including 85 million who are engaged in hazardous work that jeopardizes their health or safety.

Human Rights Watch has documented hazardous conditions for children mining gold in Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, and the Philippines. An estimated one million children worldwide work in small-scale, labor-intensive mines and 15 percent of the world’s gold is sourced from artisanal mines. Children risk death and injury climbing into unstable mine shafts and carrying heavy bags of ore. They also may suffer irreversible brain damage from handling mercury, a highly toxic substance used to process gold that is exported to refineries in Dubai and Switzerland.

Tanneries in Bangladesh, which export more than US$1 billion worth of leather each year to countries around the world, often employ children, some as young as 11. Some of these children become ill from exposure to hazardous chemicals and have been injured in horrific workplace accidents.

An estimated 70 percent of child laborers work in agriculture, which is often hazardous due to pesticide exposure, work with sharp tools or heavy machinery, and long hours spent laboring in extreme heat. Human Rights Watch found that Palestinian children often work in hazardous conditions on Israeli agricultural settlements in the West Bank, growing and harvesting crops that are exported to the US and Europe.

Human Rights Watch has also documented hazardous conditions for children working on tobacco farms in the United States and Indonesia that supply international cigarette manufacturers. In both countries, at least half of the child tobacco workers interviewed had experienced nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness, symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.

Existing international standards related to businesses and child labor are voluntary. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, among others, spell out human rights responsibilities of businesses, but have no enforcement mechanism.

Human Rights Watch calls for binding international standards that would require businesses to carry out due diligence – measures to ensure their operations respect human rights and do not contribute to human rights abuses – throughout their supply chains to prevent child labor and other human rights abuses. On May 30, representatives of governments, trade unions, and employer organizations began discussions regarding the possibility of new ILO standards on decent work in global supply chains at the International Labor Conference in Geneva.

“When standards are voluntary, some companies take them seriously, but others simply ignore them even though the lives and safety of children and other workers are at stake,” Becker said. “Governments should impose mandatory rules on businesses to make sure they address child labor and other human rights abuses throughout their supply chains.”

Indonesia: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (31 May - 6 June 2016)

6 June 2016 - 4:05am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, Fiji, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines

INDONESIA

On 2 June, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck 79 km off the southwestern coast of West Sumatra province at a depth of 72 km.
Authorities reported that the quake damaged a hospital and 912 houses in West Sumatra and Bengkulu provinces.
At least 30 people were injured including some during evacuation. Local governments, the Indonesian Red Cross and NGOs provided assistance to the affected communities.

912 houses damaged

BANGLADESH

On 1 June, the Bangladesh Humanitarian Coordination Task Team launched a Joint Response Plan seeking US$12 million to provide assistance to over 430,000 people affected by Tropical Storm Roanu.
Roanu made landfall on the southern coast of Bangladesh on 21 May bringing heavy rain, winds of over 100 km/h, and storm surges of up to 2.7 metres.

>430,000 people targeted for assistance

PHILIPPINES

Sporadic incidents of armed conflict and insecurity continue to displace hundreds of families in Mindanao. As of 3 June, at least 500 families (2,900 people) in Butig municipality, Lanao del Sur province fled their homes due to a military operation on a non-state armed group. In a separate incident, insecurity in Pagalungan municipality, Maguindanao province displaced 240 families (1,200 people) on 21 May. Local authorities and humanitarian partners distributed relief packs and medicines in Lanao del Sur.

FIJI

In western Fiji, many villages remain without electricity after Tropical Cyclone Winston struck in February affecting 40 per cent of the population. As a result of the power outages, many water pumps are not operational and there are renewed requests for emergency water deliveries.
Many of the same villages had already suffered water shortages as a result of El Niño-related dry weather last year and similar dry conditions have now returned.
From March to August, below average rainfall is forecast for Fiji.

MYANMAR

In May, an estimated 3,900 people fled their homes following heightened tensions and conflict between armed groups in northern Shan State. As of 3 June, some 3,400 people remain displaced. Authorities and local organizations have provided food and non-food items.

In Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, and Kyauktaw townships, Rakhine State, about 1,880 people are still displaced following fighting between the Myanmar Military and Arakan Army. Immediate needs are being met by local authorities and civil society. International organizations also provided non-food items as well as water and sanitation support.

5,280 people displaced

World: Asia and the Pacific: Community engagement in humanitarian action June 2016 update

6 June 2016 - 3:45am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines, World

These bi-monthly updates seek to support growth in innovative policy, practice and partnerships in humanitarian action to better engage with disaster-affected communities across Asia and the Pacific. Readers are encouraged to forward this email through their own networks.

BRIEFING PAPER: Are You Listening Now?

CDAC Network asks 'when agencies launch communication efforts to reach people in crisis, or to bring in feedback, how are their efforts received by populations? Are the agencies themselves able, or willing, to adjust their programmes to the feedback they are getting from populations?' Read more

EVALUATION: Community feedback in shaping humanitarian response.

One year on, the UK-funded Nepal Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project Evaluation seeks to understand the use and added value to key stakeholders of the common service feedback mechanism developed after the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake. Read more

VIDEO: Award winning BBC Media Action series features stories from communities around Bangladesh.

People taking action to make themselves and their families and friends more resilient to the effects of extreme weather and other disasters. View here

ANIMATION: Using animation to help communicate feedback trends in Nepal.

Learn about community feedback in Nepal through animations. Communities provide responses on issues of food security and livelihoods, reconstruction, protection and more. View here

TRAINING: Philippines community engagement training “101”.

In April 2016, through the Community of Practice representing more than 40 multi-sector organizations, participants were trained on communication, accountability, community participation and common service partnerships. Read more

WHS: The World Humanitarian Summit: winners and losers.

For all the talk of putting people affected by crises “at the centre” of humanitarian action, the subject didn’t feature much at the summit, having largely been left out of the Secretary-General’s report framing the summit’s priorities, despite being a big theme in the preceding consultations. Read more

Philippines: OCD pushes for disaster–resilient communities campaign

5 June 2016 - 11:25pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

Miriam P. Aquino

SAN FERNANDO CITY, June 5 (PIA) - The Ilocos Region with its four provinces- Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte- are among the most common areas visited by disasters, and the government has been doing all means to protect the people and the environment, according to the Office of Civil Defense.

Regional Director Melchito Castro of OCD in the Ilocos, said aside from the fact that the Philippines is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire or the West Pacific Basin and being the most active among the seven tropical cyclone basins in the whole world, the region also forms part of the Manila Trench, thus validates the reason why it is prone to various types of disasters.

The region is frequented by typhoons and is not spared from earthquakes, he said.

The national government, Castro said, seeks all possible ways to address these conditions through the help of all concerned agencies, particularly the Office of Civil Defense which commonly holds chairmanship in the different regional disaster risk reduction and management councils or DRRMCs.

Castro said the four provinces in the region has formed their own Provincial DRRMCs which maintain active partnership and involvement with the different line-agencies and various sectors in performing their tasks to effectively implement disaster preparedness and mitigation activities as smoothly as they can.

In an aim to strengthen disaster advocacies and raise people’s awareness on making communities disaster-resilient, the OCD partnered with the Philippine Information Agency in the region to come up with the “DRRM Caravan” in all the four provinces of the region.

It was launched in the Province of La Union on April 26. The Pangasinan leg took place on June 1. The DRRM Caravan will be brought to Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte this June.

This activity enjoined the participation of all the information officers from the different line-agencies and local government units of the province and members of the media.

Lectures on Republic Act 10121, otherwise known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System, operating procedures on DRRM information communication flow, the role of media and information officers in emergency management and public storm warning system, were imparted to the participants. (VHS/MPA/PIA1 La Union)

Philippines: El Nino Advisory No. 15 / La Ñina Watch

4 June 2016 - 10:54pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

1. SITUATION OVERVIEW

a. On-going El Nino in decaying stage; possibility of La Nina on the rise.

b. The current El Nino continues to weaken in the tropical Pacific. Majority of climate models suggest that El Nino is in its decaying stage, returning to ENSO-neutral condition by mid-2016.

c. Meanwhile, the possibility of a developing La Nina is favored during the second half of 2016. With this current state, La Nina Watch is now in effect. A La Nina event is characterized by a persistent cooler than average sea surface temperature anomalies (below -0.5 °C) over the tropical Pacific.

d. Rainfall assessment for the month of April showed that most parts of the country received way below to below normal rainfall except for the provinces of Compostela Valley, Agusan del Sur, North Cotabato, Pangasinan, Cavite, Rizal, and Metro Manila where above normal to near normal rainfall were observed. Further analysis showed that twenty-three (23) provinces were affected by dry spell while twenty-eight (28) provinces, mostly from Mindanao, experienced drought conditions in April.

e. Most parts of the country experienced warmer than average air temperatures due to the prevalence of ridge of high pressure area (HPA). The highest daytime temperature in the country was recorded at 40.1°C (Apr. 27) in Isabela State University-Echague. Two warmest daytime temperatures that surpassed their historical extremes were also observed: Malaybalay (36.4°C on Apr. 15, 2016 topped 36.2°C on April 24, 1998) and General Santos (39.4°C on Apr. 16, 2016 beat 39.0°C on April 5, 1988).

f. The month of May marks the weakening of the easterlies and gradual start of southwest windflow. Other weather systems that are likely to affect the country for May are the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), easterlies, low pressure areas (LPAs), ridge of HPAs, and zero (0) or one (1) tropical cyclone to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility. Afternoon or early evening thunderstorm activities are also expected to increase during the period.

Philippines: MILF camps transformation to productive, civilian communities continues

4 June 2016 - 10:48pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

MUNAI, LANAO DEL NORTE, June 5 – Despite initial uncertainties with regard the continuation of the Bangsamoro peace process with the upcoming change of administration, the planned transformation of the six previously acknowledged Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camps continues as outlined in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro particularly in its Normalization Annex.

Earlier last week, the Department of Agriculture (DA) together with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and other government agencies including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), turned over farming assistance to beneficiaries in Camp Bilal here in Munai, Lanao del Norte, including farm tractors, three carabaos and provisions for agriculture farm inputs totaling 600 bags of corn seedlings and 1,000 pieces of fruit-bearing tree seedlings.

“This is in compliance with the provisions of the CAB, particularly the Annex on Normalization, as part of the confidence-building measures that are undertaken through the joint task force for the six acknowledged MILF camps with the end in view of transforming these areas into peaceful and productive communities,” said Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel member Senen Bacani.

The six previously acknowledged MILF strongholds included Camps Abubakar, Omar, Badr, Rajamuda, Bushrah, and Bilal.

“It’s our fervent hope that this assistance with the Department of Agriculture will help very much in gradually transforming the communities in the six MILF camps into [the] peaceful and productive communities we have envisioned in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, ” said Bacani, who co-chairs with MILF panel member Abhoud Lingga the Joint Task Forces on Camps Transformation, which coordinate and facilitate socio-economic projects and programs for the camps and their communities.

“We believe that peace will not be achieved by talking alone but by action. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may be delayed but we must continue to push for the economic development of the Bangsamoro communities because development is a responsibility of every single leader,” he added.

Col. William Alunday, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade of the Mechanized Infantry Division, Philippine Army and Carlota Madriaga, Operations Division Chief of DA Regional Field Office X, were in attendance during the event and served as coordinators for Camp Bilal.

Ensuring the continuity of the process to the next administration

At the two-day special meeting between the GPH and MILF panels in Malaysia, the parties issued the Declaration of Continuity of the Partnership of the GPH and MILF in the Bangsamoro Peace Process that “seeks to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in the next administration”. They also signed the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Project Board of the Mindanao Trust Fund for the Six Previously Acknowledged MILF Camps (MTF-RDP Camps Project).

The TOR provides management guidelines for quick-impact socioeconomic projects that will be funded by the Mindanao Trust Fund Reconstruction and Development Programme (MTF-RDP).

The MTF-RDP is a “multi-donor funding facility managed by the World Bank to be managed from January to December 2016 in accordance with the rules and regulations of the World Bank with technical assistance from the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) – Community and Family Services International (CFSI).”

Incoming Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza vowed to continue the momentum of the Bangsamoro peace process once the new administration takes over on June 30.

“In my capacity as Presidential Peace Adviser-Nominee to President-Elect Rodrigo R. Duterte, allow me to welcome with positive note the forging in Malaysia of the declaration of continuity in the search for sustainable peace between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Dureza said in a statement which was read during the special meeting in Kuala Lumpur of the GPH and MILF negotiating panels.

“We intend to continue with the gains and build on those already done and achieved. The roadmap that we will traverse hereon will take policy guidance and direction from the new President when he assumes office on June 30, 2016,” the statement continued.

Support from International Community

Meanwhile in Cotabato City, representatives from the different international non-government organizations gathered in a one-day activity workshop on socio-economic survey on the six acknowledged MILF camps conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in partnership with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).

Project Coordinator Mr. Koji Demizu said that the objective of the socio-economic survey is “to contribute [to] the successful implementation of the Normalization Annex by knowing/getting socio-economic profiles and in-depth information of socio-economic needs/aspirations of the selected communities.”

Demizu explained that the activity aimed to gather and consolidate ideas and solicit recommendations in terms of interventions and assistance needed in line with the results/findings and recommendations from the socio-economic survey conducted last September 2015 up to February 2016 from the invited participants, most of which came from the international community such as The Asia Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF, UNDP, and the International Monitoring Team.

The JICA-spearheaded socio-economic survey detailed the recommended economic opportunities that the different invited agencies can help develop in order to help uplift the lives of the people in the six municipalities covered by the study, namely: Barira, Matanog and Buldon of Maguindanao; Kapatagan, Balabagan and Marogong of Lanao del Sur.

The Normalization Annex is part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) under which the MILF and GPH agreed to intensify development efforts of rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the Bangsamoro addressing the needs of MILF-BIAF members, Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) and poverty stricken communities. (OPAPP)

World: REACH 2015 Activity Report

4 June 2016 - 8:18am
Source: REACH Initiative Country: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Croatia, Greece, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Philippines, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, Vanuatu, World

Foreword

In recent years, humanitarian actors have come under growing strain to provide an adequate response to populations affected by crisis. On the one hand, the frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters has increased, while conflict-related crises are becoming more protracted and characterised by shrinking humanitarian space and access. On the other, the rise in humanitarian need has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in available resources, putting additional pressure on humanitarian actors. In this context, it is paramount for humanitarian action to be effective in its targeting and delivery mechanisms, requiring above all a capacity to develop a thorough and timely common understanding of crisis-affected populations. Despite a number of efforts made in this direction in the framework of the humanitarian reform and the transformative agenda, the timely availability of quality evidence to inform joint humanitarian planning and action remains a challenge.

REACH was created in 2010 as an independent initiative of IMPACT, ACTED and UNOSAT, with the aim of enhancing the availability of timely and quality information on crisis-affected populations, and to promote the effective use of evidence by humanitarian actors. In its first phase of development, between 2010 and 2014, REACH progressively acquired credibility through the design of innovative technical tools and the successful implementation of a number of assessments that enabled evidence-based planning and response by humanitarian actors, first in Kyrgyzstan, then in Libya, and by 2015 in 18 countries. This gradual growth was based on partnerships established primarily at country level with a variety of humanitarian stakeholders, and through a first global partnership with the Shelter Cluster.

By 2015, REACH has grown to become a leading international humanitarian assessment and information management initiative, repeatedly contributing to addressing humanitarian information gaps and to promoting evidence-based, and thereby more effective, humanitarian responses. In the course of 2015 REACH was able to consolidate the tools and products built over the years, while in parallel strengthening a number of flagship programs, notably on displacement and assessing hard-to-reach areas, and reinforcing and expanding its global and county level partnerships.

Going forward, we believe that REACH can play a catalytic role in promoting a systematic application of evidence-based planning by humanitarian actors, by further developing its actions, its global and country level partnerships and its advocacy at the policy level. In the context of the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, REACH intends to contribute to the evolution of a humanitarian architecture which not only is aware of the importance of evidence, but also has the capacity to effectively collect and use it in a systematic, predictable and shared manner.

Through this yearly report, we are happy to share some of REACH’s achievements and lessons learnt for 2015. We would also like to warmly thank all our staff members and our partners for their engagement and support over the past years. We look forward to your continued collaboration with REACH.

World: Country Reports on Terrorism 2015

4 June 2016 - 5:07am
Source: US Department of State Country: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, China - Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region), China - Macau (Special Administrative Region), Colombia, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, occupied Palestinian territory, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), World, Yemen

Strategic Assessment

The global terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffuse. Terrorist groups continued to exploit an absence of credible and effective state institutions, where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked, justice systems lacked credibility, and where security force abuses and government corruption went unchecked.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remained the greatest threat globally, maintaining a formidable force in Iraq and Syria, including a large number of foreign terrorist fighters. ISIL’s capacity and territorial control in Iraq and Syria reached a high point in spring 2015, but began to erode over the second half of 2015. ISIL did not have a significant battlefield victory in Iraq and Syria after May. At the end of 2015, 40 percent of the territory ISIL controlled at the beginning of the year had been liberated. In Syria, local forces expelled ISIL fighters from several key cities along the routes connecting the two ISIL strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul, and reclaimed about 11 percent of the territory ISIL once controlled. These losses demonstrated the power of coordinated government action to mobilize against and confront terrorism.

ISIL’s loss of territory it governs and controls in Iraq and Syria in 2015 also diminished funds available to it. ISIL relies heavily on extortion and the levying of “taxes” on local populations under its control, as well as a range of other sources, such as oil smuggling, kidnapping for ransom, looting, antiquities theft and smuggling, foreign donations, and human trafficking.

Coalition airstrikes targeted ISIL’s energy infrastructure – modular refineries, petroleum storage tanks, and crude oil collection points – as well as bulk cash storage sites. These airstrikes have significantly degraded ISIL’s ability to generate revenue. The United States led the international effort, including through the UN, to confront ISIL’s oil smuggling and its antiquities dealing, delivering additional blows to its financial infrastructure.

Toward the end of 2015, ISIL fighters conducted a series of external attacks in France, Lebanon, and Turkey, demonstrating the organization’s capabilities to carry out deadly plots beyond Iraq and Syria and also exposing weakness in international border security measures and systems. These attacks may also have been staged in an effort to assert a narrative of victory in the face of steady losses of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Along with ISIL, al-Qa’ida (AQ), and both groups’ branches increased their focus on staging mass-casualty attacks. This included attacks on international hotel chains in Burkina Faso,Mali, and Tunisia; other popular public locations; and the bombing of a Russian passenger plane. These plots were designed to undermine economic security, damage fragile economies, diminish confidence in governments, and foment further discord along religious and sectarian fault lines.

In 2015, ISIL abducted, systematically raped, and abused thousands of women and children, some as young as eight years of age. Women and children were sold and enslaved, distributed to ISIL fighters as spoils of war, forced into marriage and domestic servitude, or subjected to physical and sexual abuse. ISIL established “markets” where women and children were sold with price tags attached and has published a list of rules on how to treat female slaves once captured. Boko Haram has also abducted women and girls in the northern region of Nigeria, some of whom it later subjected to domestic servitude, other forms of forced labor, and sexual servitude through forced marriages to its members.

Although ISIL did not claim responsibility, it was likely responsible for several attacks involving chemical-filled munitions in Iraq and Syria, including a sulfur mustard attack in Marea on August 21, 2015. The United States worked with the counter-ISIL coalition to dismantle this chemical weapons capability, as well as deny ISIL and other non-state actors access to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN)-useable materials and expertise through interdictions and strengthening the ability of regional governments to detect, disrupt, and respond effectively to suspected CBRN activity.

While ISIL lost significant territory in Iraq and Syria during the second half of 2015, the group made gains in Libya amidst the instability there. According to open-source reporting, ISIL’s branch in Libya was estimated to have up to 5,000 terrorist fighters. The group expanded its territorial control in Sirte and its surrounding coastline. It also conducted attacks in Libya’s oil crescent and in Sabratha, near the border with Tunisia. However, ISIL also suffered losses in Libya in confrontations with militia groups, in particular in the eastern Libyan city of Darnah.

ISIL’s branch in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula (ISIL Sinai Province or ISIL-SP) increased its attacks against Egyptian security forces and become more sophisticated, exemplified by ISIL-SP’s multi-pronged attack in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid in July. The group also claimed responsibility for an operation that brought down Russian Metrojet 9286 in October 2015 that killed 224 passengers and seven crew members.

On January 26, 2015, ISIL publicly announced the establishment of an affiliate, known as ISIL Khorasan (ISIL-K), in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At year’s end, the group had focused the majority of its attacks against Afghan government and civilian targets, although the group has also claimed a small number of attacks in Pakistan’s settled areas. ISIL-K gained a small foothold in southern Nangarhar province in Afghanistan, but was significantly challenged by the Afghan government, Coalition Forces, and the Taliban, and had little support among the region’s population.

ISIL-aligned groups have also emerged in other parts of the Middle East, Africa, the Russian North Caucasus, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, although the relationship between most of these groups and ISIL’s leadership remained symbolic in most cases. Many of these groups are made up of pre-existing terrorist networkswith their own local goals and lesser capabilities than ISIL.

In March, the Nigeria-based terrorist group Boko Haram declared its affiliation to ISIL. During 2015, Boko Haram killed thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands in the Lake Chad Basin region of Africa. Regional military forces made progress during 2015 in degrading the group’s territorial control, in particular following the election of Nigerian President Buhari, but Boko Haram responded by increasing its use of asymmetric attacks. Of particular concern, Boko Haram continued and even increased its practice of using women and children as suicide bombers.

Beyond affiliated groups, ISIL was able to inspire attacks in 2015 by individuals or small groups of self-radicalized individuals in several cities around the world. ISIL’s propaganda and its use of social media have created new challenges for counterterrorism efforts.Private sector entities took proactive steps to deny ISIL the use of social media platforms by aggressive enforcement of violations to companies’ terms of service. Twitter reported in 2015 that it had begun suspending accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist attacks, primarily related to support for ISIL.

While AQ’s central leadership has been significantly weakened, the organization remained a threat and continued to serve as a focal point of inspiration for a network of affiliated groups, including al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM); al-Nusrah Front; al-Shabaab, and al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent. The tensions between AQ and ISIL escalated in a number of regions during 2015 and likely resulted in increased violence in several parts of the world as AQ tried to reassert its relevance.

AQAP remained a significant threat to Yemen, the region, and to the United States, as efforts to counter the group were hampered by the ongoing conflict in that country. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Yemen also exploited the political and security vacuum to strengthen its foothold inside the country. Efforts by French and regional military forces – notably Chad and Niger – have significantly degraded the capacity of AQIM and al-Murabitun in northern Mali and across the wider Sahel. However, in 2015, these groups reverted to asymmetric warfare using remnant groups still located in northern Mali. AQIM increased its attacks on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. Toward the end of the year, AQIM also directed attacks on hotels in Mali and Burkina Faso.

In East Africa, al-Shabaab continued to commit deadly attacks in Somalia, seeking to reverse progress made by the Federal Government of Somalia and weaken the political will of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troop contributing countries. In the first half of 2015, al-Shabaab launched attacks across the border in northern Kenya, including one against a university in Garissa in April that left nearly 150 people dead. While attacks in Kenya decreased in the second half of 2015, al-Shabaab reportedly maintained access to recruits and resources throughout southern and central Somalia.

Regional forces from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda continued to contribute troops to AMISOM in 2015 despite a number of mass-casualty attacks by al-Shabaab that killed hundreds of AMISOM soldiers. With U.S. support and in partnership with Somali forces, AMISOM maintained pressure on al-Shabaab and weakened the group’s territorial control in parts of Somalia. In particular, a coordinated operation by Ethiopian and Kenyan AMISOM forces pushed al-Shabaab from major strongholds in southern Somalia in the second half of 2015. However, al-Shabaab increased its attacks on AMISOM forward operating bases, resulting in increased AMISOM troop casualties and stalled offensive operations.