Abstract: UN Special Rapporteur Calls for End to Attacks on Civil Society

Date: 
May 14, 2019

In her report to the Fortieth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on the role of measures to address terrorism and violent extremism on closing space (Advance Unedited Version, A/HRC/40/52, February 18, 2019), Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin urgently calls for action to be taken against the increasingly aggressive efforts to close civil society space, ostensibly in the name of counterterrorism. In doing so, she makes connections between several seemingly unrelated topics, including the role of international bodies like the Financial Access Task Force (FATF), increased dangers to journalists, the lack of cohesive definitions of terrorism and violent extremism, the useful vagueness of “material support” and de-risking of charities (particularly Muslim charities).

Experts Warn UN Security Council of Threats to Humanitarian Operations, Violations of International Law

Date: 
April 16, 2019

Just days after the UN Security Council passed a comprehensive resolution on counterterrorist financing, it held an informal session to hear about strengthening the rule of law in maintaining international peace and security, focusing on international humanitarian law (IHL). The UN’s Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, and IHL experts from the International Committee of the Red Cross and Harvard Law School explained increased threat to aid operations by both states and non-state armed groups that ignore protections and standards afforded by IHL. In response, the UN’s meeting summary notes that “Council members stressed the need to protect aid workers and ensure that the humanitarian space remains impartial, neutral and free from politicization.”

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New UN Counter Terrorist Financing Resolution: Vague Safeguards for Civil Society Puts Focus on Implementation

Date: 
April 3, 2019

The UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2462 to “Combat, Criminalize Financing of Terrorists, Their Activities” on March 28, 2019 that is binding on all member states and can be enforced by UN sanctions. Sponsored by France, Resolution 2462 is the results of intense behind-the-scenes negotiations, including efforts by civil society to include clear safeguards for humanitarian and peacebuilding activities as well as cautions against further bank derisking of nonprofit organizations. It is the first comprehensive UN resolution on countering financing of terrorism (CFT), incorporating a patchwork of previous resolutions and broadening CFT efforts to address new threats and improve investigation and enforcement activities.  Notably, Resolution 2462 requires member states to take international humanitarian (IHL), human rights law (IHRL) and refugee (IRL) law into account and make CFT efforts consistent with these existing legal obligations. These safeguards, which are weaker than what civil society proposed, will require civil society engagement at both the UN and member state level to build understanding of what IHL, IHRL and IRL require and advocate for appropriate implementation. This engagement will be a major factor in how Resolution 2462 impacts civil society, as there are no clear enforcement mechanisms for violations of these human rights and humanitarian standards. Read a full summary of Resolution 2462 here.

Summary of UN Security Council Resolution 2462 on Counter Terrorist Financing

Date: 
April 4, 2019

The UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2462 to “Combat, Criminalize Financing of Terrorists, Their Activities” on March 28, 2019. It is binding on all member states and can be enforced by UN sanctions. Sponsored by France, Resolution 2462 is the results of intense behind-the-scenes negotiations, including efforts by civil society to include clear safeguards for humanitarian and peacebuilding activities as well as cautions against further bank derisking of nonprofit organizations (NPOs). It is the first comprehensive UN resolution on countering financing of terrorism (CFT), incorporating a patchwork of previous resolutions and broadening CFT efforts to address new threats and improve investigation and enforcement activities.  Notably, Resolution 2462 requires member states to take international humanitarian (IHL), human rights law (IHRL) and refugee (IRL) law into account and make CFT efforts consistent with these existing legal obligations. These safeguards, which are weaker than what civil society proposed, will require civil society engagement at both the UN and member state level to build understanding of what IHL, IHRL and IRL require and advocate for appropriate implementation. This engagement will be a major factor in how Resolution 2462 impacts civil society, as there are no clear enforcement mechanisms for violations of these human rights and humanitarian standards.

Abstract: 2019 State of Civil Society Report

Date: 
April 2, 2019

CIVICUS’s "State of Civil Society Report 2019: The Year in Review" is an urgent, clear call to action for all those who participate in or rely on the work of civil society organizations (CSOs) throughout the world. Noting the increasing criminalization of assistance to migrants as an example, CIVICUS Secretary General Lysa John says civil society confronts a “rising tide of global mean-spiritedness, a public compassion deficit.” She calls for a global campaign to restate and protect the right to humanitarian action, based on a new narrative that is clear on what civil society stands for and envisions ambitious but achievable change.

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Mercy Corps Study Gives Youth a Chance

Date: 
June 5, 2018

Increasing access to secondary education and civic engagement opportunities pulled Somali youth away from supporting violent groups, according to an April 2018 Mercy Corps report, If Youth are Given the Chance.The report assesses the impact of these two common approaches for reducing youths’ level of support for armed violence.

Mercy Corps surveyed over 1,000 young people from violence-affected regions in Somalia -- Somaliland, South Central Somalia, and Puntland. The extremist militant group that acts as a proxy for Al-Qaeda in the volatile Horn of Africa, Al-Shabaab, has sustained a decade-long insurgency there by exploiting the fragility of the nation. The catastrophic aftermath of the recent Mogadishu Bombing (October 14, 2017) showcases Somalia’s vulnerability to violence. The report argues that there is a large pool of exacerbated youth in Somalia that is fresh for recruitment and susceptible to indoctrination.

CSIS Database of Legislation on the Definition of Terrorism

May 29, 2018

To better understand the impact of counterterrorism legislation and legal frameworks on the work of civil society, the Center for Strategic and International Studies created a database of countries' laws defining terrorism and penalties associated with committing or supporting acts of terrorism. Anecdotal evidence suggests that overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism have given governments license to crack down on civil society within the bounds of its laws. 

CSIS's ultimate goal is to develop evidence-based solutions that enhance the resilience and sustainability of civil society and broaden constituencies for human rights. The database was developed as a first step in this process. It includes counterterrorism legislation, anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism legislation, criminal codes, NGO laws, and any other relevant domestic legislation that bears on the way the country defines terrorism and punishes those responsible for terrorist acts. CSIS is particularly interested in capturing how counterterrorism laws infringe on fundamental human rights, including freedom of assembly, association, and/or expression. This information will be used to develop recommendations to safeguard the legitimate space for peaceful civil society actors, while addressing the real threat of terrorism.

Access the resource: Aligning Security with Civic Space 

ICNL Journal: Barriers to Cross Border Philanthropy

March 31, 2015

The March 2015 issue of the Journal of Not-for-Profit Law features 

an important article by Douglas Rutzen, President and CEO of the International Center for Not for Profit Law.  In Aid Barriers and the Rise of Philanthropic Protectionism Rutzen provides a historic overview of the decline in operational space for civil society, beginning in September 2001.  The article categorizes and surveys the constaints on the inflow of philanthropic funds to an alarming number of countries.  These constraint categories are:

  • counterterrorism/anti-money laundering
  • requirements for prior government approval for foreign contributions
  • stigmatization of international funding rhought "foreign agents" legislation
  • caps on international funding
  • mandatory routing of funding through government controlled channels
  • burdensome reporting requirements
  • restrictions on activities supported by international funding
  • restrictions on funding from certain donors or countries
  • taxation on international funding

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