The April 2013 UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai, highlights concerns about laws and regulations that quash freedom of assembly and association around the world. The report focuses on access to financial resources for civil society groups, which is often restricted under the guise of countering terrorism, and the right to hold peaceful assemblies. After reviewing international legal framework protecting these rights, he notes that restrictions must pass a “proportionality and necessity” test, to ensure that laws and regulations are not overbroad and do not arbitrarily restrict civil society. Counterterrorism justifications and the Financial Action Task Force are given close scrutiny.
On May 8, 2013 the United Nations held a high-level meeting about applying a human security framework in response to today’s complex global challenges. In his opening remarks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, “The human security approach recognizes the links between peace, development and human rights,” and he called for expanding partnerships with civil society in translating this approach into practical actions. Representatives from civil society shared their perspectives in a policy paper that offered recommendations for how a human security framework could be applied to the UN’s work, especially in peacebuilding and conflict prevention efforts. The first-ever General Assembly resolution on human security, passed in September 2012, was also highlighted at the event held at the UN’s headquarters in New York.
At a May 2, 2013 press conference the State Department denied that U.S. law played a role in preventing humanitarian assistance from getting to the people trapped on al-Shabaab-controlled territory, despite the findings of a May 2013 report jointly produced by the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSnet) and the United Nations that found restrictions on humanitarian assistance was one of the factors contributing to a response that was “was mostly late and insufficient.” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell instead blamed al-Shabaab for its “inhumane” blocking of humanitarian assistance, a factor also noted in the report.
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.
The consultation and dialog between the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and twenty civil society representatives from around the world that took place on April 24, 2013 in London was the first time the inter-governmental financial body has formally met with nonprofits (NPOs) to discuss its standards for governments anti-terrorist financing rules for NPOs and the need to protect nonprofits from both abuse by terrorists and the adverse impacts of poor governmental implementation of FATF’s NPO standards. After the meeting FATF issued a statement saying it “will continue working on this issue.” Civil society groups attending, including the Charity & Security Network, committed to an ongoing, positive role of input and dialog. Specific input into the update of the “Best Practices Paper on Combating the Abuse of Non-Profit Organisations” and the upcoming typologies study will be the focus of work going forward.