Interview: US State Department to recruit more Arabs via newly appointed chief diversity officer

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Updated 08 April 2021

Interview: US State Department to recruit more Arabs via newly appointed chief diversity officer

Interview: US State Department to recruit more Arabs via newly appointed chief diversity officer
  • Farra said Arab Americans play significant roles in the Biden administration at various levels
  • Last week State Department spokesman Ned Price saluted Arab American Heritage Month, which began on April 1

CHICAGO: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected next week to name an individual who will be in charge of expanding “diversity, inclusion and outreach,” State Department representatives told an Arab News sponsored US radio show on Wednesday.

Principal deputy spokesperson at the US Department of State Jalina Porter and senior Syria desk officer at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Nadia Farra said the Biden administration is proud to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month (April) and views it as an opportunity to bring Arab Americans “to the table.”

During an interview on “The Ray Hanania Show,” broadcast live every Wednesday on the US Arab Radio Network in Detroit and Washington DC., Porter said that Arab Americans will be a part of the focus of the new chief diversity and inclusion officer, who will be named next week.

“It’s no secret that the Biden-Harris administration has been 100 percent committed to racial equity and it is, in fact, a strategic priority,” Porter said.

“At the same time, we are walking that talk when it comes to diversity equity inclusion. As we know, not even three weeks on the job Secretary Blinken rolled out a brand new office, the chief diversity, equity and inclusion role, which is going to be transformative. That is a huge commitment not only to the Arab American community but to all communities who are traditionally underrepresented in government. Diversity and inclusion make us stronger, smarter, more secure, more accountable, more creative.”

Last week State Department spokesman Ned Price saluted Arab American Heritage Month, which began on April 1.

“Like their fellow citizens, Americans of Arab heritage are very much a part of the fabric of this nation, and Arab Americans have contributed in every field and profession,” Price said.

“President Biden is going to give Arab Americans and those in the larger diaspora a seat at the table. If that wasn’t obvious right here with Nadia (Farra), I will use myself as an example,” Porter said. 

“Obviously, I am not Arab American, but as the first African American woman ever as a principal deputy spokesperson in an agency that is over 230 years old, I think that is kind of a huge deal that shows that maybe it took a little bit longer but we have so much more to do and so many places to go.

“Arab Americans fit along with that fabric. Your seat at the table is here. We welcome you to join us. We are treating this as a recruitment event as well. We have several avenues for you to serve, whether you are foreign service or whether you are civil service, or whether you want to be an appointee like me.”

During his first three months in office, Biden named nearly a dozen Arab Americans to various government posts, joining several career civil servants, such as Farra, who have been in government for more than a decade. Farra leads a team of six in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

“I want to make sure that I personally am shedding light on our Arab American communities. I want to say thank you, Nadia, and thank everyone for your service. It is so important that you are here,” Porter said in reference to all Arab Americans working for the US government.

“Representation matters. Your contributions before, during and what you do afterwards obviously always contribute to the fabric of American Democracy. I am glad to be a part of the transformation that we are going through now.”

Farra said Arab Americans play significant roles in the Biden administration at various levels.

“The roles that Arab Americans are placed in right now are incredibly influential and important, reporting directly to the president and the secretary of state and other departments’ leadership,” Farra said.

“Their expertise is based purely on educational and personal experience. They are put into roles where our leadership knows they will be objective and thoughtful, and be great counterparts to our foreign colleagues.”

Farra said that in the past Arab Americans were never recruited into government at this aggressive pace nor were they “pushed” by their immigrant parents to enter government service.

“The commitment is here (to Arab Americans) and it is here to stay. I can make that a personal promise to you. Not only will this conversation not end here, the conversation will be ongoing,” Porter said.

She added: “It is so important to reach audiences like our Arab American communities, audiences who are middle class, audiences who are traditionally underrepresented in our national security work force. It is really, really important that we make sure that everyone not only feels included but feels informed and that we are engaging in a way that is productive to our goals and puts American interests first and foremost.”

“The Ray Hanania Show” is broadcast live on the US Arab Radio Network on WNZK AM 690 in Detroit and on WDMV AM 700 in Washington D.C. and is viewable on the Facebook page of Arab News, which is a sponsor.

Visit www.arabnews.com for radio show information and podcasts of past programs.


Taliban shut down ministry for women

Taliban shut down ministry for women
Updated 16 sec ago

Taliban shut down ministry for women

Taliban shut down ministry for women
  • Militia bring back vice department

KABUL: The Taliban appeared on Friday to have shut down the government’s ministry of women’s affairs and replaced it with a department notorious for enforcing strict religious doctrine during their first rule two decades ago.
And in a further sign the Taliban’s approach to women and girls had not softened, the Education Ministry said only classes for boys would restart on Saturday.
In Kabul, workers were seen raising a sign for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the old Women’s Affairs building.
Several posts have appeared on Twitter in the last 24 hours showing women workers from the ministry protesting outside the building, saying they had lost their jobs.
No official from the Taliban responded to requests for comment.
Also on Friday, the Education Ministry issued a statement ordering male teachers back to work and said secondary school classes for boys would resume on Saturday.
Despite insisting they will rule more moderately this time around, the Taliban have not allowed women to return to work and introduced rules for what they can wear at university.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution saying that the Taliban need to establish an inclusive government that has “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women” and upholds human rights.
The resolution adopted by the UN’s most powerful body also extends the current mandate of the UN political mission in Afghanistan for six months and delivers a clear message that its 15 members will be watching closely what the Taliban do going forward.
The resolution also calls for strengthened efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to some 14 million Afghans needing aid and demands “unhindered humanitarian access” for the UN and other aid agencies. It also reaffirms “the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan ... and ensuring that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, to plan or finance terrorist acts, or to shelter and train terrorists” in the future.
Russian and China’s leaders urged the Taliban government to remain peaceful to their neighbors and combat terrorism and drug trafficking.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke via video link at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Putin said the organization, holding its meeting in Tajikistan, should “use its potential” to “stimulate the new Afghan authorities” in fulfilling their promises on normalizing life and bringing security in Afghanistan.
Xi said it was necessary to “encourage Afghanistan to put in place a broad-based and inclusive political framework” and to “resolutely fight all forms of terrorism” and live in peace with its neighbors.


France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal

France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal
Updated 17 September 2021

France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal

France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal
  • Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event
  • Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism

PARIS/CANBERRA/WASHINGTON: France said on Friday it had decided to recall its ambassadors in the US and Australia for consultations after Australia struck a deal with the United States and Britain which ended a $40 billion deal to purchase French-designed submarines.
Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event.
The US State Department and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism that it had not been warned, saying he had raised the possibility in talks with the French president in June that Australia might scrap the 2016 submarine deal with a French company.
On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap the $40 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership.
Le Drian described the decision as a stab in the back.
Morrison acknowledged the damage to Australia-France ties but insisted he had told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking on the deal.
“I made it very clear, we had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we’re faced with,” Morrison told 5aa Radio.
“I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need to make a decision on in our national interest,” he said.
Strained Australia-French ties come as the United States and its allies seek additional support in the Asia and the Pacific amid concern about the rising influence of a more assertive China.
France is about to take over the presidency of the European Union, which on Thursday released its strategy for the Indo-Pacific, pledging to seek a trade deal with Taiwan and to deploy more ships to keep sea routes open.


Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'

Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'
Updated 17 September 2021

Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'

Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'
  • "At the time of the strike, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport": McKenzie
  • He said he now believed it unlikely that those who died were Daesh militants or posed a direct threat to US forces

WASHINGTON: The US military said on Friday that a drone strike in Kabul last month killed as many as 10 civilians, including seven children, and it apologized for what the Pentagon said was a tragic mistake.
Senior US officers had said the Aug. 29 strike that took place as foreign forces completed the last stages of their withdrawal from Afghanistan targeted a Daesh suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to Kabul airport.
"At the time of the strike, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport," US General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, told reporters. "Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake."
He said he now believed it unlikely that those who died were Daesh militants or posed a direct threat to US forces. The Pentagon was considering reparations for the civilians killed, McKenzie said.
Reports had emerged almost immediately that the drone strike had killed civilians including children. A spokesman for Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers, Zabihullah Mujahid, had said at the time that strike had killed seven people.


Last six months have provided glimpse into catastrophic potential of climate disruption: UN deputy

Last six months have provided glimpse into catastrophic potential of climate disruption: UN deputy
Updated 17 September 2021

Last six months have provided glimpse into catastrophic potential of climate disruption: UN deputy

Last six months have provided glimpse into catastrophic potential of climate disruption: UN deputy
  • Time for us to raise our voices further and to join forces to accelerate action: Deputy secretary-general
  • “The most affected communities are the most vulnerable and marginalised in any country”: Mohammed

LONDON: The last six months have provided a glimpse into the catastrophic potential of climate disruption, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said on Friday.

Speaking at a virtual youth dialogue on climate just weeks before UN talks on the matter, Mohammed said storms, floods, drought-induced famine, raging wildfires and heat waves brought about by climate change are causing tremendous suffering to people worldwide.

“No one is exempt. Hurricane Ida here in New York caused devastating loss of life and widespread disruption and the most affected communities are the most vulnerable and marginalised in any country,” Mohammed said. 

“So the issue of inequality is very high on everyone’s agenda. Our window of opportunity to fight the climate crisis is rapidly closing. And that’s why the secretary-general has called for three major priorities leading to COP26,” Mohammed explained. 

She said the first priority would be to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial averages.

A new report from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on the Nationally Determined Contributions of all Parties to the Paris Agreement shows that the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7 degrees of heating.

The world is on a “catastrophic pathway” toward a hotter future unless governments make more ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the UN’s secretary-general said Friday.

“This is breaking the promise made six years ago to pursue the 1.5 degree Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement. Failure to meet this goal will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods,” Antonio Guterres said.

“We need a 45 percent cut in emissions by 2030 to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century. Today’s report implies an increase of 16 percent in emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 levels,” he added.

Mohammed said the second priority is to ensure that developed countries meet their financial commitments.

“That is why investing $100 billion per year in developing countries and ensuring that countries in need can access resources to protect their people against the impact of climate change is key,” she said. 

Mohammed said that the climate finance report also published on Friday by the OECD shows that this goal has not been reached either.

“We still have a gap of $20 billion. And let’s make it clear, the $100 billion is a handshake of the world’s commitment to financing these transitions so we can get to the 1.5 degree world. It is not the money that is needed for climate action. That runs into the trillions,” the deputy secretary-general warned. 

The third priority is the need for a breakthrough in adaptation and resilience, “ensuring that at least 50 percent of all climate finance is directed to it,” Mohammed said.

“While some donors honour this commitment, overall we are falling short with just 20 percent of global finance currently directed to adaptation solutions.”

Mohammed said that although countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden are leading the way, “we still need to see the multilateral development banks step up significantly.”

“It’s time for us to raise our voices even further and to join forces to accelerate action,” Mohammed told the forum. 


White House says US can roll out COVID boosters next week

White House says US can roll out COVID boosters next week
Updated 17 September 2021

White House says US can roll out COVID boosters next week

White House says US can roll out COVID boosters next week
  • In August, President Joe Biden said the government would provide boosters in the week of Sept. 20
  • Critics have said the Biden administration's booster plan is putting pressure on scientists

WASHINGTON: The United States is ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccine booster shots next week but will do so only if health regulators approve the plan, White House officials said on Friday.
In August, President Joe Biden said the government would provide boosters in the week of Sept. 20 to address waning vaccine immunity and the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“We’ve been working through the last few weeks, intensely with our partners, our governors, state, and local health officials, federal pharmacy programs, the community health centers to ensure that we are ready for next week,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zientz said at a briefing.
While some health officials, other countries and vaccine makers say boosters are needed, many experts disagree, including two top scientists at the Food and Drug Administration who are leaving the agency later this year.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters boosters will be available once the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approve the plan. Critics have said the Biden administration’s booster plan is putting pressure on scientists or getting ahead of their evaluations.
“We have always said that this initial plan would be contingent on the FDA and the CDC’s independent evaluation. We will follow that evaluation and their recommendations. We will make sure our final plan reflects it,” he said.
Murthy was among eight top US health officials including the FDA and CDC chiefs who have said boosters are necessary.
A panel of independent expert advisers to the FDA is debating whether Americans should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and was set to vote later on Friday.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet next week to discuss boosters.