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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Millennium Development Goals: The September 2010 U.N. High-level Meeting


Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

Marian Leonardo Lawson
Analyst in Foreign Assistance


From September 20 to 22, 2010, heads of state and government convened at United Nations (U.N.) Headquarters for a High-level Plenary Meeting to review progress toward the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are a group of measurable development targets agreed to by 189 U.N. member states—including the United States—as part of the 2000 Millennium Declaration. The Goals, which governments aim to achieve by 2015, include (1) eradicating extreme hunger and poverty; (2) achieving universal primary education; (3) promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment; (4) reducing the under-five child mortality rate; (5) reducing the maternal mortality rate; (6) combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases; (7) ensuring environmental sustainability; and (8) developing a Global Partnership for Development.

Since 2000, governments have worked to achieve the MDGs with mixed results. Experts generally agree that while some MDGs are on track to be met, the majority of Goals are unlikely to be achieved by 2015. Many have also found that progress toward the Goals is unevenly distributed across regions and countries. India and China, for example, have made considerable progress in achieving the MDGs, while many countries in Africa have failed to meet almost all of the Goals.

President Barack Obama supports the MDGs and attended the September High-level meeting. In July 2010, the Administration published The United States’ Strategy for Meeting the Millennium Development Goals, which identifies four “imperatives” for achieving the Goals—innovation, sustainability, measuring outcomes, and mutual accountability.

Members of the 112
th Congress may be interested in the MDGs and the September High-level meeting from three primary perspectives. First, Congress may wish to consider the MDGs in the context of authorizing and funding broader U.S. development assistance efforts. Second, members may wish to be aware of the commitments made by the United States at the High-level meeting. Additionally, Congress may consider conducting oversight of international progress toward the MDGs, including U.S. efforts and the future of the Goals.

While evidence of MDG effectiveness in advancing global development is uneven a decade after the Millennium Declaration, the international community—and many policymakers in the United States—continue to use the Goals as a paradigm for development assistance. This raises a number of overarching questions for Congress about the role and future of the MDGs, including 
·         In what areas, if any, have the MDGs been successful? 
·         Are the MDGs practical? 
·         What is the role of U.S. foreign aid in the MDGs? 
·         Who is accountable for MDG progress?
This report will be not be updated further. 


Date of Report: December 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R41410
Price: $29.95

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American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat


Jerome P. Bjelopera
Analyst in Organized Crime and Terrorism

Mark A. Randol
Specialist in Domestic Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism


Between May 2009 and November 2010, arrests were made for 22 “homegrown,” jihadistinspired terrorist plots by American citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States. Two of these resulted in attacks—U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan’s alleged assault at Fort Hood in Texas and Abdulhakim Muhammed’s shooting at the U.S. Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock, AR—and produced 14 deaths. By comparison, in more than seven years from the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes (9/11) through May 2009, there were 21 such plots. Two resulted in attacks, and no more than six plots occurred in a single year (2006). The apparent spike in such activity after May 2009 suggests that at least some Americans—even if a tiny minority—continue to be susceptible to ideologies supporting a violent form of jihad.

This report describes homegrown violent jihadists and the plots and attacks that have occurred since 9/11. “Homegrown” and “domestic” are terms that describe terrorist activity or plots perpetrated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States. The term “jihadist” describes radicalized individuals using Islam as an ideological and/or religious justification for their belief in the establishment of a global caliphate, or jurisdiction governed by a Muslim civil and religious leader known as a caliph. The term “violent jihadist” characterizes jihadists who have made the jump to illegally supporting, plotting, or directly engaging in violent terrorist activity.

The report also discusses the radicalization process and the forces driving violent extremist activity. It analyzes post-9/11 domestic jihadist terrorism and describes law enforcement and intelligence efforts to combat terrorism and the challenges associated with those efforts. It also outlines actions underway to build trust and partnership between community groups and government agencies and the tensions that may occur between law enforcement and engagement activities. One appendix provides details about each of the post-9/11 homegrown jihadist terrorist plots and attacks. A second appendix describes engagement and partnership activities by federal agencies with Muslim-American communities. Finally, the report offers policy considerations for Congress.

There is an “executive summary” at the beginning that summarizes the report’s findings, observations, and policy considerations for Congress.



Date of Report: December 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 135
Order Number: R41416
Price: $29.95

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Criminal Prohibitions on the Publication of Classified Defense Information


Jennifer K. Elsea
Legislative Attorney

The recent online publication of classified defense documents and diplomatic cables by the organization WikiLeaks and subsequent reporting by the New York Times and other news media have focused attention on whether such publication violates U.S. criminal law. The Attorney General has reportedly stated that the Justice Department and Department of Defense are investigating the circumstances to determine whether any prosecutions will be undertaken in connection with the disclosure.

This report identifies some criminal statutes that may apply, but notes that these have been used almost exclusively to prosecute individuals with access to classified information (and a corresponding obligation to protect it) who make it available to foreign agents, or to foreign agents who obtain classified information unlawfully while present in the United States. Leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction and whether suspected persons may be extradited to the United States under applicable treaty provisions.

This report will discuss the statutory prohibitions that may be implicated, including the Espionage Act; the extraterritorial application of such statutes; and the First Amendment implications related to such prosecutions against domestic or foreign media organizations and associated individuals. The report will also provide a summary of pending legislation relevant to the issue, including S. 4004.



Date of Report: December 6, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R41404
Price: $29.95

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Friday, December 17, 2010

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Background and Policy Issues


Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

U.S. ratification of the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereafter referred to as CRC or the Convention) may be a key area of focus during the 112th Congress, particularly if the Barack Obama Administration seeks the advice and consent of the Senate. CRC is an international treaty that aims to protect the rights of children worldwide. It defines a child as any human being under the age of 18, and calls on States Parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure that children’s rights are protected—including the right to a name and nationality, freedom of speech and thought, access to healthcare and education, and freedom from exploitation, torture, and abuse. CRC entered into force in September 1990, and has been ratified by 193 countries, making it the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. Two countries, the United States and Somalia, have not ratified CRC. The President has not transmitted CRC to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.

Despite widespread U.S. support for the overall objectives of the Convention, some past and current policymakers have raised concerns as to whether it is an effective mechanism for protecting children’s rights. The Clinton Administration signed the Convention in February 1995, but did not submit it to the Senate primarily because of strong opposition from several Members of Congress. The George W. Bush Administration opposed CRC and expressed serious political and legal concerns with the treaty, arguing that it conflicted with U.S. laws regarding privacy and family rights. The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 has focused renewed attention on the possibility of U.S. ratification. The Administration has stated that any decision to pursue ratification of CRC will be determined through an interagency policy review. Perhaps more than other human rights treaties, CRC addresses areas that are usually considered to be primarily or exclusively under the jurisdiction of state or local governments, including education, juvenile justice, and access to healthcare. Some of these conflicting areas will likely need to be resolved by the executive branch and the Senate before the United States ratifies the Convention.

The question of U.S. ratification of CRC has generated contentious debate. Opponents argue that U.S. ratification would undermine U.S. sovereignty by giving the United Nations authority to determine the best interests of U.S. children. Some are also concerned that CRC could interfere in the private lives of families, particularly the rights of parents to educate and discipline their children. Moreover, some contend that CRC is an ineffective mechanism for protecting children’s rights. They emphasize that countries that are widely regarded as abusers of children’s rights, including China and Sudan, are party to the Convention. Supporters of U.S. ratification, on the other hand, hold that CRC’s intention is not to circumvent the role of parents but to protect children against government intrusion and abuse. Proponents emphasize what they view as CRC’s strong support for the role of parents and the family structure. Additionally, supporters hold that U.S. federal and state laws generally meet the requirements of CRC, and that U.S. ratification would strengthen the United States’ credibility when advocating children’s rights abroad.

This report provides an overview of CRC’s background and structure and examines evolving U.S. policy toward the Convention, including past and current Administration positions and congressional perspectives. It also highlights issues for the 112
th Congress, including the Convention’s possible impact on federal and state laws, U.S. sovereignty, parental rights, and U.S. family planning and abortion policy. In addition, the report addresses the effectiveness of CRC in protecting the rights of children internationally and its potential use as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.


Date of Report: December 6, 2010
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R40484
Price: $29.95

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Friday, December 3, 2010

International Parental Child Abductions



Alison M. Smith
Legislative Attorney

International child custody disputes are likely to increase in frequency as the global society becomes more integrated and mobile. A child custody dispute between two parents can become a diplomatic imbroglio between two countries. Since 1988, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Convention” or “Convention”) has been the principal mechanism for enforcing the return of abducted children to the United States. While the treaty authorizes the prompt return of the abducted child, it does not impose criminal sanctions on the abducting parent. Congress, to reinforce the Hague Convention, adopted the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 (the “Act”) to impose criminal punishment on parents who wrongfully remove or retain a child outside U.S. borders.

However, the Hague Convention is not always applicable in such cases. Signatory nations do not have to automatically return a child to his or her place of habitual residence, as discretionary exceptions exist that enable the child to remain with the removing parent. Also, procedures and remedies available under the Convention differ depending on the parental rights infringed. Courts must determine whether a particular order confers a right of custody or a lesser right of access. For example, federal courts disagreed on what type of right a ne exeat, or “no exit,” order granting one parent the right to veto another parent’s decision to remove their child from his home country confers. The U.S. Supreme Court resolved the circuit split by finding that such an order confers a right of custody, thus triggering enforceability under the Convention. However, it is important to note that this decision was limited to ne exeat orders. As such, courts will have to address which side of the access-custody line any other arrangements may fall.

This report will discuss the applicability of the Hague Convention and current U.S. laws, both civil and criminal, which seek to address the quandary of children abducted by parents to foreign nations. In addition, pending legislation, including H.R. 3240 and H.R. 3487, is discussed.



Date of Report: November 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R4S21261
Price: $29.95

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