Foreign Assistance in EritreaWhile primary U.S. objectives in Eritrea continue to focus on democracy and human rights, regional stability, and counter-terrorism, the U.S. Government's ability to advance these goals through foreign assistance programs was severely circumscribed with the departure of USAID in late 2005 at the order of the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) and by restrictions placed on the movement of all foreigners, including diplomats, within the country. Since 2005, the GSE has "de-registered" and ordered the departure of many of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which had been operating within the country, including several administering USAID-funded programs. At the end of 2006, only nine international NGOs continued to operate in-country, down from a high of forty in 2002. The UN development agencies, to date, have been able to operate with a reasonable level of effectiveness in the country. UNICEF and NGO Catholic Relief Services continue their implementation of projects in the areas of water and sanitation, health and nutrition, which were funded in prior fiscal years through U.S. foreign assistance. The U.S. Embassy operates no military assistance programs given the lack of interest by the GSE, and in 2006, the Mission in consultation with CENTCOM closed its Security Assistance programs.
Over the course of FY 2006, relations between the GSE and the United States continued to deteriorate. A United States-led initiative to re-energize talks between Eritrea and Ethiopia for a final resolution over their boundary dispute failed, as both parties refused to engage constructively. The GSE's stance on counter-terrorism, originally supportive of U.S. goals in 2001, has become increasingly unfavorable to U.S. interests, including Eritrea's provision of material support, men and arms, to the Somali Council of Islamic Courts in 2006.
The government's abuse of its citizenry, egregious human rights violations, and the absence of civil liberties persist. The government grants its citizens no political freedoms, controls all media in-country, and has progressively tightened its grip on the economy by consolidating control in all sectors within the GSE and the sole political party, the Peoples' Front for Democracy and Justice. Eritrea was designated for the third time in 2006 as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) for severe restrictions on its citizens' religious freedom. (Source: Congressional Budget Justification FY 2008)