The Latest News

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 Assistance by Not for Profit Non-Governmental Organizations, intended to provide clarification for nonprofits seeking licenses for activities that would otherwise be prohibited by economic sanctions programs. The document states it “does not have the force of law” and does not include key proposals made by nonprofits, such as clear standards for nonprofit licenses and timelines for decisions on license applications.  It does not address the needs of development, peacebuilding, human rights or other types of nonprofit programs abroad.  The licensing process has been criticized by nonprofits for being slow and non-transparent.  The Guidance is a step in the right direction but more will need to be done to address problems nonprofits have experienced, most glaringly seen in the Somalia famine of 2011.

October 17, 2014

The UN has released the report of Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of assocation, that "addresses concerns about the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of multilateral organizations," generally defined as groups made of up of three or more countries.  The key finding is that "mulitaleral institutions find themeslves caught between civil society's demands for real civic participation and inclusiveness and pushback from Governments which are uncomfortable with, or are threated by, citizen involvement."  The Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) recommendations for anti-terrorist financing regulation are criticized for creating a "wave of new restrictions worldwide on funding for civil society." Kiai cites FATF as an example of multilateral organizations that poes a "serious, disproportinate and unfair threat to those who have no connection with terrorism, includnig civil society organizations."

September 26, 2014

The comprehensive UN Security Council Resolution 2178 Condemning Violent Extremism,  Underscoring Need to Prevent Travel, Support for Foreign Fighters, passed on Sept. 24, 2014 under Chapter VII, making compliance mandatory for UN member states. It requires them to take a number of steps to address the problem created by 13,000 foreign fighters from over 80 countries that have joined terrorist groups, including travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, surveillance and more. It specifies that these measures must be consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law.  UNSR 2178 also highlights the role civil society can play in addressing violent extremism and its drivers, noting that solutions must be comprehensive and not just law enforcement oriented.  However, the former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and countering terrorism, Prof. Martin Scheinin, posted a blog criticizing the Resolution as overly vague and broad, potentially opening the door to abuse by governments seeking to suppress human rights or political opposition.

September 26, 2014

On Sept. 24 the White House released two documents that are intended to increase protections for the rights of civil society organizations/nonprofits to operate freely, consistent with the rights of association, assembly and expression.  The first document is a new Presidential Memorandum -- Civil Society that directs federal agencies operating internationally to engage and work with civil society representatives, facilitate exchanges between governments and civil society and oppose unde restrictions on them.  A separate Fact Sheet: US Support for Civil Society announces additional programs, including "enhancing efforts with other governments and within intergovernmental bodies to proetect civil society while combatting terrorist activity."  This includes supporting civil society engagement with the Financial Action Task Force. A detailed summary of both documents will be posted soon.

September 18, 2014

A group of 11 civil society groups and experts joined the Charity & Security Network in a Sept. 15, 2014 submission to the UN Human Rights Commission recommending that the U.S. takes steps to make counterterrorism rules for nonprofits consistent with international human rights standards.  The submission is part of the HRC's Universal Periodic Review process.  Stakeholders filed comments and the HRC's review will take place in the spring of 1015. The comments highlighted restrictions on speech and association of peacebuilders that want to engage armed groups to reduce conflict as well as barriers the Department of Treasury's licensing process creates for humanitarian assistance to civilians in many conflict zones.