Treasury Denies Request for General License for Aid to Somalia

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December 20, 2011
The Department of Treasury has rejected a request from InterAction, an association of over 200 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that provide aid and development services around the world, to issue a General License that would authorize U.S. NGOs that receive no funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide famine relief on the same terms as NGOs that do receive such funds. Treasury's letter says it will give priority consideration to applications by individual NGOs that apply for specific licenses to work in al-Shabaab controlled territories in Somalia. This process has a reputation for inefficient, lengthy and burdensome response from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. A General License would eliminate the need for this process for NGOs that stay within the terms in the license.
Treasury's letter to InterAction, sent in November 2011 in response to an August request, says the situation in Somalia "does not lend itself to a broad general license" because al-Shabaab has threatened and carried out violent attacks against innocents and aid workers" so that the "situation does not lend itself to a broad general license." In contrast, Treasury issued a General License for humanitarian aid in Syria in September 2011. 
The need for increased aid in Somalia remains. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis says the famine continues and that thousands are in danger of being cut off from aid by the conflict between al-Shabaab and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the oncoming rainy season. Many face food and drug shortages