The Latest News

House Subcommittee Examines Remittances

July 20, 2017

The Terrorism and Illicit Finance subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services held a hearing July 18 to examine the regulations surrounding money service businesses (MSBs), or remittances, and the important role they play in impoverished communities overseas, to learn about informal remittance systems and potential terror finance exploitation of remittance networks. 

Among those testifying at the hearing, "Managing Terrorism Financing Risk in Remittances and Money Transfers," was Scott Paul, senior humanitarian policy advisor at Oxfam America, who emphasized the important role that remittances play in sustaining at-risk communities. "Remittances give people agency over their own lives," Paul noted. Matthew Oppenheimer, president and CEO of Remitly, testified that a recent survey of their customers revealed that "nearly all are using our service to send money intended to pay for the basic needs of their family members - housing, food, water, electricity, medical care, and education - basic things we take for granted in the United States but can be unattainable for millions living abroad." 

The hearing also touched on the issue of de-risking, and whether it forces charities and remitters into less transparent, unregulated money transfer channels, thus making the anti-terror finance regime ineffective. The subcommittee will seek to find ways to streamline remittance regulations in a way that will keep legitimate funds in legitimate channels, subcommittee members said. 

In his written testimony, Paul said, "[A] strategy that aims to maximize remittances, keep them within the formal financial system, and curb illicit financial flows will achieve the twin aims of poverty alleviation and combating the financing of terrorism. To do this, remittance services must be accessible, affordable, and accountable - both to law enforcement authorities and to the families sending and receiving money." 

Bipartisan Atrocity and Genocide Bill Introduced in House, Companion to Senate Effort

June 28, 2017

A bipartisan group of 28 members of the House of Representatives joined Senate colleagues in supporting efforts to end genocide and mass atrocities by filing the Elie Wiesel Atrocities and Genocide Prevent Act  of 2017 (HR 3030) on June 22, 2107. The bill is an important step toward practical and effective approaches to preventing and ending violence and armed conflict that is fueling suffering by millions of people around the world. House bill text   The press release from lead sponsors Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Joe Crowley (D-NY), says the bill, “with its “companion legislation to S. 1158, would establish an interagency Mass Atrocities Task Force to strengthen the U.S. Government’s atrocity prevention and response efforts. The legislation encourages the Director of National Intelligence to include atrocity crime information in his or her annual report to Congress; authorizes training for U.S. Foreign Service Officers on early signs of atrocities and transitional justice measures; and authorizes the Complex Crises Fund to support programs to prevent emerging or unforeseen crises overseas."

A summary of the bills from the Friends Committee on National Legislation is here and Five Reasons to Support it are here. Over 60 organizations, including the Charity & Security Network, have signed a statement supporting the bill.

OFAC's FAQs Are Criticized as Misleading

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

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

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.