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.
The April 2013 UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai, highlights concerns about laws and regulations that quash freedom of assembly and association around the world. The report focuses on access to financial resources for civil society groups, which is often restricted under the guise of countering terrorism, and the right to hold peaceful assemblies. After reviewing international legal framework protecting these rights, he notes that restrictions must pass a “proportionality and necessity” test, to ensure that laws and regulations are not overbroad and do not arbitrarily restrict civil society. Counterterrorism justifications and the Financial Action Task Force are given close scrutiny.
On May 8, 2013 the United Nations held a high-level meeting about applying a human security framework in response to today’s complex global challenges. In his opening remarks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, “The human security approach recognizes the links between peace, development and human rights,” and he called for expanding partnerships with civil society in translating this approach into practical actions. Representatives from civil society shared their perspectives in a policy paper that offered recommendations for how a human security framework could be applied to the UN’s work, especially in peacebuilding and conflict prevention efforts. The first-ever General Assembly resolution on human security, passed in September 2012, was also highlighted at the event held at the UN’s headquarters in New York.
At a May 2, 2013 press conference the State Department denied that U.S. law played a role in preventing humanitarian assistance from getting to the people trapped on al-Shabaab-controlled territory, despite the findings of a May 2013 report jointly produced by the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSnet) and the United Nations that found restrictions on humanitarian assistance was one of the factors contributing to a response that was “was mostly late and insufficient.” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell instead blamed al-Shabaab for its “inhumane” blocking of humanitarian assistance, a factor also noted in the report.
A drastic reduction in humanitarian assistance, widespread conflict and drought combined to make the 2011 famine in Somalia the most deadly in the past 25 years, a May 2013 study finds. Commissioned by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSnet), the study estimates that between October 2010 and April 2012, nearly five percent of the region's population and 10 percent of its children died because of severe food shortages. It also noted “that limited access to most of the affected population, resulting from widespread insecurity and operating restrictions imposed by several relief agencies, was a major constraint.” [p. 5] The presence of al-Shabab, a group on the U.S. terrorist list, in famine affected areas made legal restrictions an issue for aid groups.
FATF Holds First Consultation with Civil Society on Anti-Terror Financing Rules and Protecting Nonprofits
The consultation and dialog between the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and twenty civil society representatives from around the world that took place on April 24, 2013 in London was the first time the inter-governmental financial body has formally met with nonprofits (NPOs) to discuss its standards for governments anti-terrorist financing rules for NPOs and the need to protect nonprofits from both abuse by terrorists and the adverse impacts of poor governmental implementation of FATF’s NPO standards. After the meeting FATF issued a statement saying it “will continue working on this issue.” Civil society groups attending, including the Charity & Security Network, committed to an ongoing, positive role of input and dialog. Specific input into the update of the “Best Practices Paper on Combating the Abuse of Non-Profit Organisations” and the upcoming typologies study will be the focus of work going forward.
On April 1, 2013 the Department of State moved to dismiss a lawsuit by Americans living in Israel who sued in November 2012 to stop foreign assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, alleging that U.S. aid has been conducted without proper oversight or compliance with procedures required by Congress. The State Dept. told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the suit should be dismissed because the case involves a “political question” of foreign policy that is “properly reserved to the political branches of government” and that the plaintiffs lack standing because they have not suffered any injury.
With nearly seven million people inside Syria in need of humanitarian assistance and another one million refugees in neighboring states, food shortages and a lack of medical supplies are taking a serious toll. In late March 2013, two bills were introduced in Congress that would boost humanitarian aid and give support to Syrian opposition forces. In the Senate the Syria Democratic Transition Act of 2013 calls for increased humanitarian aid and providing vetted opposition groups with non-lethal military equipment and training on human rights and international laws. In the House the Free Syria Act of 2013 would provide humanitarian and economic aid to Syrians displaced by the conflict and up to $150 million in military and non-lethal security assistance to “appropriately vetted” opposition groups.
On April 16, 2013, a Minneapolis-based bank announced that it would open an account to facilitate money transfers to Somalia. The banks had gradually curtailed money transfers to the region after al-Shabaab was put on the terrorist list, fearing they could be subject to sanctions. A starting date has not been set, but U.S. Bank said it will open an account with Dahab-shil, a local money service business, “soon.” Minnesota-area lawmakers including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) welcomed the move and also reintroduced a bill (H.R. 1694) that streamlines regulations governing money services businesses (MSBs). The bank’s announcement comes more than a year after the last bank stopped conducting the transactions, leaving the large Somali diaspora in Minnesota with few alternatives for sending money to family living in the war-torn East African country.
Syrians living in opposition-controlled areas continue to bear the brunt of the violence and have received a fraction of the assistance they need, according to aid groups working in the region. Security constraints and lack of access to much of the northern and central parts of the country have hampered aid delivery and only a handful of international aid groups, many working covertly and at great risk, reach these areas. On April 5, 2013, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the “absence of humanitarian assistance could have catastrophic consequences” for the people of Syria for years to come. The two year conflict has displaced nearly four million Syrians across the country and forced over a million more into crowded refugee camps in neighboring states.
On April 4, 2013, Chiquita Brands International sued the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), seeking to block the release of documents related to payments the company made to terrorist groups, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia. The Department of Justice had fined Chiquita $25 million in March 2007 after the Cincinnati-based company admitted paying millions to Colombian terrorist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to protect their business interests in the country. The resurfacing of this case serves as a reminder of the issue of unequal enforcement of anti-terrorist financing laws. Several U.S. charities have been shut down on the basis of much less evidence than the direct payments to which Chiquita admitted.