The Charity and Security Network monitors U.S. and foreign government activities and a wide range of news sources to identify developments in national security policy that impact American charities and foundations. We collect and disseminate this information - with a focus on its impact on civil society and nonprofit organizations.
Countering violent extremism (CVE) plays a prominent role in the second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the State Department’s policy roadmap, released April 28 by Secretary of State John Kerry. While the CVE strategy, as outlined in the report, emphasizes the importance of a free and functioning civil society, it echoes the rhetoric from the February White House Summit on CVE and the September 2014 presidential memorandum, which focuses on restrictions imposed by foreigh governments and does not address the global impact of U.S. restrictions on civil society. Despite this the report presents yet another potential opening to create dialogue around this issue.
Improvements in peace are ultimately dependent on decreases in corruption, concludes a new report by the Institute for Economics & Peace, Peace and Corruption 2015. Although the report found that keeping corruption under control is essential for building and maintaining peaceful societies, there is no indication of the causal relationship between peace and corruption. Read more.
Seventy nonprofit organizations (NPOs) from 28 countries submitted joint comments April 24, 2015 on the draft Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Best Practices Paper (BPP). The comments stressed that the final Best Practices Paper should guide governments on how to take a risk-based and proportional approach to protecting NPOs from terrorist abuse. The Transnational Nonprofit Working Group on FATF (Working Group) hopes that a consultation process between FATF and the NPO sector can be formalized so that NPOs are not again put in the position of trying to comment in a short time frame on a draft that has not been made publicly available.
In a message at odds with the Obama administration’s Stand for Civil Society initiative, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, William Brownfield, told a Dec. 8 conference in South Asia that, because an unspecified portion of charitable dollars are diverted to terrorist financing, countries must “strengthen charitable regulations.” The statement was made in Bangladesh, where a week earlier the cabinet approved a highly restrictive civil society law that places tight limits on finances and activities of nonprofits. Media reports on the speech interpreted it as praise for the restrictive new law. The U.S. Ambassador’s subsequent comments to the press were equally negative and lacking in any reference to the positive contributions of the nonprofit sector in countering violence. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders issued a statement on Dec. 12 calling on the government of Bangladesh to repeal the new law. The incident raises concerns that more South Asian governments will impose severe restrictions on civil society, with the appearance of U.S. support.
(Updated) The Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) approved a “terrorist” list of 83 groups on Nov. 15, 2014 that ranges from armed terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram to American and European Muslim humanitarian and rights groups, including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS).
The Charity & Security Network released a statement on Oct. 28, 2014 that analyzes the Department of Treasury's Oct. 17, 2014 Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance by Not-for-Profit Non-Governmental Organizations and concludes that "much more needs to be done to address U.S. legal restrictions on nonprofit organizations responding to humanitarian crises." Noting that the Guidance states that it has no legal force, the Network notes that it is "mostly clarification of current policy, rather than an effort to address systemic problems." The Network calls for more dialog on the issue with a representative group of nonprofits that addresses licensing barriers for both humanitarian and nonprofits engaged in peacebuilding support and other important activities.
On Oct. 17, 2014 the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance by Not for Profit Non-Governmental Organizations, intended to provide clarification for nonprofits seeking licenses for activities that would otherwise be prohibited by economic sanctions programs. The document states it “does not have the force of law” and does not include key proposals made by nonprofits, such as clear standards for nonprofit licenses and timelines for decisions on license applications. It does not address the needs of development, peacebuilding, human rights or other types of nonprofit programs abroad. The licensing process has been criticized by nonprofits for being slow and non-transparent. The Guidance is a step in the right direction but more will need to be done to address problems nonprofits have experienced, most glaringly seen in the Somalia famine of 2011. For an analysis see the Charity & Security Network statement calling for stronger administration policy to facilitate U.S. nonprofits' ability to work in global hot spots.
UN Releases Report on Impact of Multilateral Organizations Impact on Civil Society, Freedoms of Assembly and Association, Cites FATF
The UN has released the report of Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of assocation, that "addresses concerns about the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of multilateral organizations," generally defined as groups made of up of three or more countries. The key finding is that "mulitaleral institutions find themeslves caught between civil society's demands for real civic participation and inclusiveness and pushback from Governments which are uncomfortable with, or are threated by, citizen involvement." The Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) recommendations for anti-terrorist financing regulation are criticized for creating a "wave of new restrictions worldwide on funding for civil society." Kiai cites FATF as an example of multilateral organizations that poes a "serious, disproportinate and unfair threat to those who have no connection with terrorism, includnig civil society organizations."
UN Resolution on Foreign Fighters Recognizes Civil Society’s Role in Conflict Prevention and Need to Respect Human Rights
The comprehensive UN Security Council Resolution 2178 Condemning Violent Extremism, Underscoring Need to Prevent Travel, Support for Foreign Fighters, passed on Sept. 24, 2014 under Chapter VII, making compliance mandatory for UN member states. It requires them to take a number of steps to address the problem created by 13,000 foreign fighters from over 80 countries that have joined terrorist groups, including travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, surveillance and more. It specifies that these measures must be consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law. UNSR 2178 also highlights the role civil society can play in addressing violent extremism and its drivers, noting that solutions must be comprehensive and not just law enforcement oriented. However, the former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and countering terrorism, Prof. Martin Scheinin, posted a blog criticizing the Resolution as overly vague and broad, potentially opening the door to abuse by governments seeking to suppress human rights or political opposition.
On Sept. 24 the White House released two documents that are intended to increase protections for the rights of civil society organizations/nonprofits to operate freely, consistent with the rights of association, assembly and expression. The first document is a new Presidential Memorandum -- Civil Society that directs federal agencies operating internationally to engage and work with civil society representatives, facilitate exchanges between governments and civil society and oppose unde restrictions on them. A separate Fact Sheet: US Support for Civil Society announces additional programs, including "enhancing efforts with other governments and within intergovernmental bodies to proetect civil society while combatting terrorist activity." This includes supporting civil society engagement with the Financial Action Task Force. A detailed summary of both documents will be posted soon.
For a full summary and analysis click here.