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The Charity and Security Network monitors U.S. and foreign government activities and a wide range of news sources to identify developments in national security policy that impact civil society and nonprofit organizations. We collect and disseminate relevant information on our website, via our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and through our biweekly email newsletter, which contains links to a variety of news articles. To read the most recent issues of our email newsletter or to subscribe, click here

Our staff also creates news pieces on events and developments of particular interest to our members that are not covered in other news outlets. Those stories can be found below, in revese chronological order. 

OFAC's FAQs Are Criticized as Misleading

Date: 
June 8, 2017

A list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) recently issued by U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) are intended to clarify its process whereby it removes people from its list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN).

According to OFAC, it removes hundreds of people and entities from the list each year, evidence, it says, that the list is not merely punitive but rather designed to motivate a change in behavior. A removal from the SDN list based on a thorough review that evaluations each request on its merits, applying consistent standards across all cases. Questions on the FAQ page address the entire de-listing process and include "Do I need to hire an attorney in order to file a petition for removal?" and "How long does the entire petition process take?" 

However, the questions and answers have been criticized as misleading. Although OFAC has in recent years de-listed hundreds of people and entities each year, that wasn't always the case. None were delisted in 2001 and 2002, for example, and just over 100 were delisted in 2009. In addition, despite OFAC's claim that the listings are geared to changing behavior, it seems unlikely given that the agency never reveals the specific reason for the listing. The agency also makes it difficult to hire an attorney to assist with a delisting application. A license from OFAC is required to authorize payments to a lawyer, and the license application process is lengthy and cumbersome. Most importantly, there is no relief for persons with names that are similar to a drug dealer or terrorist on the list, although financial institutions will likely refuse to deal with them. 

OFAC's de-listing procedures have long come under fire for the lack of due process and charities that are listed have the additional burden of having their funds frozen indefinitely. 

Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act Passes House, Could Affect Humanitarian Operations

Date: 
May 19, 2017

In a rare bipartisan moment, the House of Representatives approved HR 1677, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017 on May 16, 2017. Passed in a voice vote, the bill would authorize the President to expand sanctions that apply to the Syrian government to the Central Bank of Syria and to foreign persons that 1) provide material support to the government or Central Bank, 2) transfer arms or weapons to the government and 3) are responsible for human rights abuses against Syrians, including targeting civilian infrastructure for attack or hindering access for humanitarian assistance. It provides a limited waiver process for groups doing humanitarian or stabilization or democracy promotion, stating that U.S. policy shall “fully utilize the waiver authority…to ensure that adequate humanitarian relief or support for stabilization and democracy promotion is provided to the Syrian people.” However, exceptions described below may limit the benefits of the waiver provision. The bill also requires the President to develop a strategy “to ensure humanitarian organizations can access financial services to ensure the safe and timely delivery assistance to communities in need in Syria.” As the bill is considered by the Senate, nonprofit organizations should ask for a closer analysis to ensure that any law that emerges does not inadvertently narrow space for humanitarian operations from what is currently authorized.

Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Bill Would Address Drivers of Violent Conflict

Date: 
May 18, 2017

The Charity & Security network is one of 60 organizations signing on to a statement in support of a new bill before Congress that would ensure that the U.S. government has the most constructive and cost-effective tools to address the root causes and drivers of violent conflict.

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (S 1158), introduced May 17, establishes a Mass Atrocities Task Force, requires training for Foreign Service Officers in violent conflict and atrocities prevention, requires reporting from both the Department of State and Director of National Intelligence, and establishes the Complex Crises Fund. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the bill would ensure effective high-level interagency coordination on prevention, save money, protect our troops, continue congressional leadership and oversight, and build on bipartisan consensus. 

Contact your senators today to urge them to cosponsor this important bill. 

Senate Hearings Stress Value of International Aid, Highlight Nonprofit Banking Woes

Date: 
May 10, 2017

Two Senate committee hearings in early May highlighted the importance of philanthropy and international aid, as well as the challenges faced by nonprofits in accessing banking services to finance that aid. 

On May 3, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Multilateral, International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy and Environmental Policy held a hearing on "Global Philanthropy and Remittances and International Development." Speakers included InterAction CEO Sam Worthington and leaders in global philanthropy. Worthington described ways the U.S. government could improve partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including recognizing NGOs as donors, and leveraging private actors to give NGOs a diplomatic space in which to operate. He noted that 70 percent of international development response in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan is performed by NGOs. 

Worthington also advocated for de-banking regulations, explaining that banks implement de-risking measures that legitimately reduce the improper management of funds, but also increase the challenges for NGOs and households to transfer money internationally. Responsible NGOs should bot be categorized as high-risk by financial institutions, he said. 

At the same hearing, Una Osili, professor of economics and director of research for The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, said that cross-border philanthropy is subject to stricter oversight to reduce the risk of funds falling into the hands of terrorist organizations, but that these same regulations and reporting requirements constrict the ability of philanthropic actors to address global challenges. 

A May 4 hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations committee focused on "International Development: Value Added through Private Sector Engagement," with a panel of speakers from companies such as MasterCard, Coco-Cola and Starbucks. At the hearing, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) called foreign aid critical to promoting the power of democracy and the importance of human rights, creating a world that is safer for the U.S. Former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), honorary co-chair of Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, likewise noted that foreign assistance is critical to combating terror, aiding failed states and continuing improvements made in developing countries. 

Listen to the May 3 subcommittee hearing. 

Listen to the May 4 committee hearing. 

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