Humanitarian Access Overview

May 24, 2011

 

Headlines & Opinion

2014

2013 & 2012

2011

2010

Resources

Reports 

World Refugee Day 2017

Two groups of panelists examined the global refugee crisis at a World Refugee Day event at New America June 19. 

The first panel looked at how refugees resettle in US cities and become integral members of their communities, as well as innovations that are helping to integrate these newcomers. The second panel examined the role of the Syrian diaspora community in assisting those affected by the crisis in their home country. A number of organizations have distributed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Syria and its neighbors. For more information and a recording of the event, click here

Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act Passes House, Could Affect Humanitarian Operations

Date: 
May 19, 2017

In a rare bipartisan moment, the House of Representatives approved HR 1677, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017 on May 16, 2017. Passed in a voice vote, the bill would authorize the President to expand sanctions that apply to the Syrian government to the Central Bank of Syria and to foreign persons that 1) provide material support to the government or Central Bank, 2) transfer arms or weapons to the government and 3) are responsible for human rights abuses against Syrians, including targeting civilian infrastructure for attack or hindering access for humanitarian assistance. It provides a limited waiver process for groups doing humanitarian or stabilization or democracy promotion, stating that U.S. policy shall “fully utilize the waiver authority…to ensure that adequate humanitarian relief or support for stabilization and democracy promotion is provided to the Syrian people.” However, exceptions described below may limit the benefits of the waiver provision. The bill also requires the President to develop a strategy “to ensure humanitarian organizations can access financial services to ensure the safe and timely delivery assistance to communities in need in Syria.” As the bill is considered by the Senate, nonprofit organizations should ask for a closer analysis to ensure that any law that emerges does not inadvertently narrow space for humanitarian operations from what is currently authorized.

UK Study Addresses Conflict between Humanitarian, Counterterrorism Goals

A new study from Chatham House and the Royal United Services Institute in the UK finds that humanitarian objectives are often stymied by counterterrorism laws designed to prevent assistance or funds going to non-state armed groups. Humanitarian Action and Non-state Armed Groups: The UK Regulatory Environment asserts that to resolve this conflict, the UK government needs to adopt a clear, unified approach to reconciling its humanitarian and counterterrorism priorities. 

The report also addresses the global phenomenon of bank de-risking and its impact on humanitarian aid organizations. The report authors urge the UK government to move proactively to counter this trend and to engage in international dialogue aimed at finding solutions. 

Read more

UK Study Seeks Reconciliation of Humanitarian, Counterterrorism Goals

Date: 
May 11, 2017

A new study from Chatham House and the Royal United Services Institute in the UK finds that humanitarian objectives are often stymied by counterterrorism laws designed to prevent assistance or funds going to non-state armed groups. Humanitarian Action and Non-state Armed Groups: The UK Regulatory Environment asserts that to resolve this conflict, the UK government needs to adopt a clear, unified approach to reconciling its humanitarian and counterterrorism priorities. 

The report finds that the licensing system under sanctions regimes is opaque and ineffective, recommending that the UK government seek humanitarian exemptions, as well as simplify and expedite its domestic licensing system. It also notes that although the government cites prosecutorial discretion in asserting that there is no need for additional guidance around potential criminal penalties for incidental payments to listed groups, "prosecutorial discretion is insufficient comfort for humanitarian actors anxious to avoid breaking the law and the wide offences have a 'chilling effect'." 

Two UK government has dismissed recommendations to explore the possibility of introducing exceptions to counterterrorism legislation for humanitarian activities. It argues that legislative change would create a loophole open to exploitation. The Chatham House study recommends that this option should be explored further, with consideration of foreign laws and international instruments. 

The report also addresses the global phenomenon of bank de-risking and its impact on humanitarian aid organizations. The report authors urge the UK government to move proactively to counter this trend and to engage in international dialogue aimed at finding solutions. 

Read the full report

Article Highlights Impact of Counterterrorism Laws on Humanitarian Aid

A new article in The Guardian highlights the negative impact of counterterrorism laws on the delivery of humanitarian aid, particularly in acute crises such as those unfolding in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen. Listed terrorist groups operate in three of the four countries. 

The article notes that although laws in the UK and U.S. are not currently being used to prosecute well-meaning humanitarian organizations, the laws have a "chilling impact" on organizations that say they need clear guidance from governments. Experts say that these organizations have the right under international humanitarian law to negotiate with non-state parties to a conflict to access populations in need. 

Read the article

Treasury Releases Informational Licensing Guidance for Humanitarian NGOs

October 17, 2014

On Oct. 17, 2014 the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released a document titled Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance by Not for Profit Non-Governmental Organizations.

The two-page document provides some clarification of the status quo without making substantive changes called for by the nonprofit sector or committing to specific actions OFAC may take to address systemic problems with its licensing system. It does not address the problems the State Department's involvement in licensing creates, including delays and politicization of humanitarian decisions.

In addition, the document clearly states that it is for informational purposes only and does not have the force of law. It does not address the needs of development, peacebuilding, human rights or other types of nonprofit programs abroad.

While clarifications from OFAC are welcome, the overall thrust of the document is to restate existing policies and provide assurances that have no legal force.  The most positive view is that it is a good beginning for a dialog between OFAC, the State Department and the nonprofit sector on the next phase of improvements needed.

For background information see U.S. Civil Society Submission to the UN Human Rights Commission, Sept. 15, 2014, describing human rights problems with the licensing system.

Treasury’s Informational Licensing Guidance for Humanitarian NGOs Falls Short

Date: 
October 24, 2014

On Oct. 17, 2014 the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistnace by Not for Profit Non-Governmenal Organizations, intended to provide clarification for nonprofits seeking licenses for activities that would otherwise be prohibited by economic sanctions programs.

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