Measures intended to protect the world from terrorism intensify the difficulties for humanitarians in those same areas where terrorists operate. States have found it difficult to create a way for counterterrorism measures and humanitarian principles can co-exist, according to a new research briefing report from the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, Suppressing Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Supporting Principled Humanitarian Action: A Provisional Framework for Analyzing State Practice.
Medical care for wounded combatants is compromised by counterterrorism laws and policies, according to a new report from the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, Medical Care in Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law and State Responses to Terrorism.
Your village was just attacked by an armed extremist group. You husband decides to take up arms to fight the terrorists and is ultimately killed. You’re left with three young children, your elderly mother, and no income. You can’t grow food because you can’t get water. You can’t get water because the road to the river is blocked by the armed extremists, who still threaten your village. They’ve started going after the widows, demanding to be fed and housed by them, under threat of rape or even death.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Before the first government to be internationally recognized in two decades came into power in early 2013, Somalia had been a country without an effective government since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. Since then, two decades of conflict, severe weather, and the lack of basic services and infrastructure have contributed to major food shortages for almost half of the country’s ten million people. Amidst the rampant insecurity and shortages, humanitarian efforts were further complicated by U.S. restrictions that prohibited aid delivery to the nearly two million civilians living in areas of the country controlled by al-Shabaab, a militant group that operates in southern Somalia, during the 2011 famine.