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.
Two important events surrounding the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) are expected in the coming months, both with a big impact on nonprofit organizations (NPOs).
Following the June FATF Plenary in Australia, the NPO sector can now expect a revision of the Recommendation 8 Interpretative Note (IN). At the same time, the FATF will begin its periodic evaluation of the U.S. in late 2015. The results of that evaluation will likely shape U.S. counterterrorism laws and policies affecting NPOs going forward.
A number of U.S. nonprofit organizations (NPOs) joined together to send two sign-on letters to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), urging the government to support conflict resolution in Yemen and form a comprehensive strategy to prevent the escalation of the ongoing conflict there.
The 2008 criminal conviction of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and five of its leaders for providing material support to Hamas, a listed terrorist organization, is being challenged in an Aug. 10, 2015 petition seeking a new trial based on new evidence. Although the government admitted that no HLF funds went to Hamas, at trial it argued that the local charity committees HLF worked with were controlled by it. However, these committees have never been placed on the U.S. terrorist list. The new petition presents sworn statements from people directly connected to the local charities that state they were independent and not controlled by Hamas or any other group. A decision on whether to grant an evidentiary hearing is not expected for several months. HLF itself, which was convicted without representation at trial, is not part of this petition and remains unrepresented. Background information on the HLF case can be found here.
CSN Letter to National Security Council Asks for Humanitarian, Peacebuilding Focus in Civil Society Review
In an early August letter to the National Security Council (NSC), the Charity & Security Network asks that federal agencies engaged abroad seize an opportunity to examine rules and policies that affect U.S. nonprofit organizations (NPOs) operating in global hot spots, where their work is badly needed.
Pursuant to the Presidential Memorandum – Civil Society of September 23, 2014, agencies engaged abroad are required to “review their internal regulations, policies, and procedures to ensure that programmatic requirements do not inadvertently impede civil society operations.” In addition, the signatories to the 2013 Joint Statement on the Promotion of Protection of Civil Society agreed “to lead by example to promote laws, policies, and practices that expand the spaces for civil society to operate in accordance with international law.” The regulatory review required by the Presidential Memorandum creates an opportunity to “lead by example,” states the August 4 letter to Laura Schulz, Director for Global Engagement at NSC.
The UN and its Member States should ensure respect for International Humanitarian Law and secure humanitarian access, according to an outcome report issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross and InterAction.
The largest group of U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to date has responded to the Obama administration’s new “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) strategy.
A long-awaited final Partner Vetting System (PVS) final rule was issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) June 26 (Partner Vetting in USAID Assistance, 80 Fed. Reg. 36693). The rule, which establishes a pilot project in five countries, requires many grant applicants to submit detailed personal information on key employees to USAID for comparison with intelligence databases. It is dismissive of concerns raised by nonprofit organizations (NGOs) and others in response to the proposed rule issued in 2013.
The Charity & Security Network, joined by 42 civil liberties, human rights and racial justice organizations, has signed onto a letter expressing grave concerns about a proposed bill that would create a division devoted to “countering violent extremism” (CVE) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The office would be headed by a new Assistant Secretary and supported by a career Deputy Assistant Secretary, and the bill allocates $10 million annually from the budget of the Office of the Secretary of DHS to this new program.
H.R. 2899, The Countering Violent Extremism Act of 2015, was introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (D-TX) June 25. A hearing on the bill was held July 15 in the House Committee on Homeland Security, followed by bill markup. Representatives from DHS did not attend the hearing, while many observers have speculated on the reasons for its absence. The bill passed out of committee that evening on a voice vote.
As part of its program to promote global implementation of its anti-terrorist financing and anti-money laundering recommendations, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will be conducting an evaluation of U.S. compliance in late 2015 and early 2016. FATF is expected to review the evaluators' report and make any recommendations in October 2016.
On July 6, 2015 the Charity & Security Network and the Council on Foundations submitted a detailed memo to the FATF Secretariat that provides the evaluation team with background information on U.S. counterterrorism laws, the impacts on nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and how this compares to FATF standards. It found that U.S. law fails to meet the FATF criteria of a risk-based approach, proportionality, protection of legitimate NPOs and consistency with human rights and humanitarian law. In a cover letter, the groups asked that the FATF evaluation team meet with representatives of the NPO sector as part of the evaluation process. The outcome of the report, and the recommendations, could provide an important opportunity for the U.S. to make its laws more civil-society friendly.
The Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) June 2015 update of its Best Practices Paper (BPP) incorporates almost all of the changes requested by the nonprofit organization (NPO) sector. With a new emphasis on a risk-based approach to counter-terrorism financing (CTF) regulation and specific mention of freedom of association, assembly and expression, NPOs are hailing this as long-awaited victory.
This latest BPP revision, which offers guidance on FATF Recommendation 8, on laws relating to NPOs, states at its outset that FATF recognizes “the vital importance of the NPO community in providing charitable services around the world, as well as the difficulty of providing assistance to those in need, often in remote regions.” It also recognizes the efforts of NPOs to promote transparency in their work and “to prevent misuse of the sector by those wishing to support terrorist financing and terrorist organisations.” Read more