In an April 2016 report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published a variety of recommendations for “the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.” The report came in response to a request from the Human Rights Council, which recognized the vital role of civil society in encouraging good governance and contributing to the creation of peaceful democratic societies.
The report includes contributions from all types of actors, from Member States to human rights institutions to diverse civil society organizations, and reflects examples of good practices from all regions across the globe. The report also discusses the reasons for protecting civil society space, including among them the mandates of international human rights law, enhanced social cohesion and minority participation, greater citizen engagement in decision-making, and increased business and economic success based on transparency and access to information.
Principled humanitarian action can be restricted by sanctions in regimes in a number of ways, notably via UN sanctions programs and state-level laws criminalizing the provision of material support of terrorism. When humanitarian organizations need to pay taxes, registration fees or checkpoint fees to access populations in need, they may run afoul of these laws if they are paid to a terrorist organization or its affiliate. Other humanitarian aid activities that potentially violate counterterrorism provisions include visits to detainees, first aid training and provision of assistance, just to name a few.
The term “humanitarian exemption” can relate to two different concepts, as described in a new briefing paper by the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, Understanding Humanitarian Exemptions: UN Security Council Sanctions and Principled Humanitarian Action. These exemptions can apply to listed individuals who need humanitarian assistance or to humanitarian organizations and actors. The latter allows these actors to “deliver their services without the risk of contravening those regimes,” the paper explains. Read more.
A new article on the Open Democracy media platform highlights the important advocacy work of the Global NPO Coalition on FATF and discusses how nonprofits can harness the Coalition's recent successes to open space for civil society around counterterrorism financing laws and policies. The Charity & Security Network co-chairs the Global Coalition.
The article coincides with the opening of a one-week public consultation of FATF's Recommendation 8 and the Interpretive Note. The piece notes that FATF was relatively unknown until the Coalition began to engage the global standard-setting organization four years ago. Since then, it has "mobilized support from 123 organizations in 46 countries, representing a diverse range of non-profits," the article states. As a result, "FATF has revised its guidance to remind governments that civil society organizations are not all vulnerable to exploitations, and that governments should assess actual risks in partnership with civil society, rather than fast-tracking restrictive one-size-fits-all laws."
The Coalition has also spoken out on the problem of FATF recommendations being used "to stifly the very actors who are most likely to challenge extremist ideologies within communities," the article notes. Civil society groups must now use these successes to push back against counter-terrorism finance laws that restrict the work of nonprofits, and inhibit human righs and civil liberties. The article cites specific examples of restrictive laws in places like India and Sierra Leone.
For the Charity & Security Network, the next step will be to bring U.S. law in line with the newer FATF language on using a risk-based approach and being careful not to restrict freedoms of association and assembly.
To learn more about our advocacy on this issue, visit our FATF page.