Headlines & Opinion
- UN Humanitarian Chief Warns of Chilling Impact Created by Counterterror Meausres in Syria
- Bill Aims to Promote Medical Neutrality, Impose Penalties on Violators
2013 & 2012
- Humanitarian Access to Syrians Must be Respected by Assad and the U.S.
- UN Officials and NGO Leader Urge Changes to Counterterrorism Measures that Harm Humanitarian Action
- State Department Calls for Acceess to Civilians, Respect for IHL in Syria
- CSN Blog: Addressing the Potential Impact of Legal Restrictions on Organizations Providing Humanitarian Assistance in Syria
- State Dept Calls for Access to Civilians, Respect for IHL in Syria
- Somalia Famine Death Toll Higher than Estimated, Inadequate Aid Among Factors
- Access Barriers Mean Aid Trickling into Syrian Opposition-Controlled Territory
- Holding Armed Groups Accountable
- USAID, Treasury Plan Audits of Programs Related to PVS, Somalia Aid, and OFAC’s License Database
- Senate Appropriations Report Requires Treasury/USAID to Address Barriers to Disaster Response
- Crises in Africa Showcase Complexity of Humanitarian Access in Conflict Zones
- The Hill: How to Help Somalia by Gabor Rona of Human Rights First and Kay Guinane of CSN
- U.S. Senators Call For Reforming Laws that Impede Humanitarian Assistance in Somalia
- Counterterrorism Regulations and Humanitarian Access to the Famine in Somalia
- Al Shabaab and Somalia's Spreading Famine
- State Department Releases New Policy to Allow Famine Aid to Somalia, Treasury Department Releases Limited Guidance
- The President Must Address Life and Death Policy Matters in Somalia
- US to Ease Anti-Terrorism Rules to Help Somali Famine Victims
- Anti-Terror Law Hinders Aid Efforts to Somalia
- Mercy Corps’ Jeremy Konyndyk: Will the US Stand by as Famine Looms in Somalia?
- Index Guages Quality og Humanitarian Assitance of Relief and Recovery
- Now is a Good Time for a Good Faith Standard
- IN-DEPTH: Legal Roadblocks for US Famine Relief to Somalia Creating Humanitarian Crisis
- Section by Section Summary: Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act
- Negotiating for Aid Delivery in Mali
Feb. 22, 2012 telebriefing on Somalia featuring Allan Jury, Director of the U.S. Relations Office for the World Food Programme and Vincent Cochetel, Regional Representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Audio file & transcript available here.
Aug. 10, 2011 telebriefing on Somalia featuring Eric D. Johnson, Associate General Counsel at CARE USA, and Kay Guinane. Audio file & Transcript available here.
- OFAC: Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Private Relief Efforts in Somalia
- State Dept: Aug 2011 Press Briefing on Humanitarian Aid to the Horn of Africa
- The Impact of Counterterrorism Measures on Charities and Donors After 9/11 (Printable handout)
- State Dept: Aug 2011 Background Briefing on Somalia and Delivery of Humanitarian Assistance
- Brookings: Barriers to Access During Humanitarian Crisis
- MSF: Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed
- Sphere Handbook for Humanitarian Responders
- Talking to the Other Side - Humanitarian Negotiations with Al-Shabaab in Somalia
- Counterterrorism Measures Stifle Humanitarian Action, by UN OCHA and the NRC
- CRS: Syria Overview of the Humanitarian Response
- UN/USAID: Inadequate Aid Contributed to Higher-than_Estimated Deaths in Somalia Famine
- Protect Humanitarian Space in Somalia
- Report Focuses on Facilitating Principled Humanitarian Action
- ODI: Why Militaries and NGOs Interact to Protect Civilians
- Paper: IHL and IHRL Work Together to Protect Rights of Civilians
- ODI: Negotiating Humanitarian Access
- Deadly Combination: Disaster, Conflict and the U.S. Material Support Law
- ODI: Humanitarian Action Harmed by Anti-Terror Laws
- Oxfam: Military Policy in Somalia Has Failed
- Humanitarian Space Under Fire in Somalia (DARA)
- Save the Children & Oxfam: Inaction and Delayed Response to Famine Cost Thousands of Lives
- Humanitarian Forum: 10 Ways the International Community Can Address Somalia's Crisis
- Security Measures that Restrict Humanitarian Access Hurt Vulnerable Civilians
- Oxfam Report Finds that Lack of Access Leaves Civilians Vulnerable
- Report: Lack of Access Leaves Civilians Vulnerable
- Report: More Aid Reduces Terrorism Threat in Horn of Africa
- Report: "Freind Not Foe" Documents Negative Impacts of Counterterrorism Measures, Calls on Civil Society to Defend Positive Role
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos criticized counterterrorism laws that create a chilling impact on humanitarian organizations working in places like Syria. In a July 1 BBC 4 radio segment, Amos argued that overboard restrictions in the name of countering terror are exacerbating the crisis. “Our humanitarian response has been slowed down in some areas and stopped altogether, and ultimately, people will die” said Amos.
Adeso, the Global Center on Cooperative Security and Oxfam, released Hanging by a Thread: The Ongoing Threat to Somalia’s Remittance Lifeline, which details how bank account closures impact many Somalians who depend on remittances from friends and family abroad in order to fulfill basic survival needs and invest in small businesses. Remittances are handled by Money Transfer Operations (MTOs) who rely on banks to transfer the funds to Somalia.
Due to the poor financial regulation, the presence of terrorist-listed groups in Somalia and a strict regulatory environment, several principle banks have closed their accounts with MTOs that serve Somalia, essentially, curtailing the flow of remittances sent by family members to help Somalians overseas. In response to public pressure and collective campaigns, the U.S. government has taken modest steps to help the Somali remittance system, but it is “startlingly unprepared to manage the potential fallout” of account closures.
This report notes that failure to uphold the remittance system could result in black market and illegal money transfer systems that would increase the lack of accountability for transfer operators. It suggests practical steps that governments and actors within the international community should take to sustain the Somali money transfer system as well as the long-term solutions required to establish viable financial institutions within Somalia.
On Feb. 19, 2015, Adeso, the Global Center on Cooperative Security and Oxfam, released Hanging by a Thread: The Ongoing Threat to Somalia’s Remittance Lifeline, which details how bank account closures impact many Somalians who depend on remittances, in order to fulfill basic survival needs and invest in small businesses. Remittances are handled by Money Transfer Operations (MTOs) who rely on banks to transfer the funds internationally. Due to the poor financial regulation, the presence of terrorist-listed groups in Somalia and a strict regulatory environment, several principle banks have closed their accounts with MTOs that serve Somalia, essentially, curtailing the flow of remittances sent by family members to help Somalians overseas. In response to public pressure and collective campaigns, the U.S. government has taken modest steps to help the Somali remittance system, but it is “startlingly unprepared to manage the potential fallout” of account closures. In Australia and the United Kingdom the response has also be slow. This report notes that failure to uphold the remittance system could result in black market and illegal money transfer systems that would increase the lack of accountability for transfer operators. It suggests practical steps that governments and actors within the international community should take to sustain the Somali money transfer system as well as the long-term solutions required to establish viable financial institutions within Somalia. The report is a follow up to the 2013 report Keeping the Lifeline Open: Remittances and Markets in Somalia.
The Humanitarian Policy Group's Policy Brief 61 - Negotiating perceptions: Al-Shabaab and Taliban views of aid agencies - interviewed members of the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Shababb in Somalia as well as aid recipeients and workers to learn about the armed groups' perceptions of aid organizations, how that influences access to civilians in need and what needs to be done to improve the situation.
Over the last decade counterterrorism measures (CTMs) like the Patriot Act are having a direct and adverse impact on humanitarian action conducted by aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a July 2013 study finds. Commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the study, titled Study of the Impact of Donor Counter-Terrorism Measures on Principled Humanitarian Action, examines CTMs in the U.S., European Union and several other countries and determined that they unduly restrict aid programs, increase risks for aid workers, limit funding sources, and undermine partnerships with local NGOs. International pressure on governments from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to adopt overly-restrictive regulations of NGOs to prevent terrorist financing also draws scrutiny in the study. The release announcement said, "The major conclusion is that the humanitarian community and donor States need to work more closely together to better reconcile counter-terrorism measures and humanitarian action." In September NRC and OCHA will host an event in New York to initiate such discussions.
A number of peacebuilding, humanitarian and advocacy organizations, including the Charity & Security Network, have called on the U.S. government to do more in facilitating peace between Israel and the Palestinian territories. The letter urges that "all [U.S.] policy decisions moving forward be made through an atrocities prevention lens that emphasizes the equal protection of civilians on all sides, focuses on building long-term peace and stability, and avoids actions that are likely to lead to further civilian deaths."
The letter specifically calls for: 1) prioritizing a ceasefire agreement, 2) supporting an investigation into international humanitarian law abuses on both sides, and 3) supporting the end of the blockade of Gaza. According to the letter, "The protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law must be applied universally. When the U.S. fails to advocate for the protection of civilians or support accountability for possible violations of humanitarian law – as it did in voting against the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution calling for an investigation of violations of international law on all sides of the conflict – it undermines these core principles."
The Medical Neutrality Act of 2013 (HR 2033)is a bipartisan bill that makes medical neutrality a policy priority of the U.S. by withholding military assistance, including training and arms sales, to any government that restricts access to medical services.
An Oxfam report warns that Somalia is in a "severe crisis" which, without an influx of aid, may end up becoming even worse in the coming months. The current conditions in Somalia are an improvement over previous years, but remain far from acceptable. 50,000 children are severely malnourished, 1.1 million are displaced and only 30% of the population has access to clean drinking water.
Despite these troubling numbers, only 12% of Somalia's humanitarian funding needs have been met this year, a shortfall of $822 million. Without additional funding soon, there is "a very real risk that people still in need will not be reached and those already helped will fall back into crisis."