Have You Seen: CSN's Searchable Report Index

February 16, 2013

CSN has created a searchable Index of Reports containing over 150 papers and studies from the leading NGOs, think tanks, and academic scholars on the impacts of counterterrorism measures on humanitarian aid and peacebuilding activities.

The reports are grouped into themes like Aid Worker Safety, Anti-Terror Finance, Human Rights and Civil Liberties, Peacebuilding, and many more. To find out how you can have your paper added, contact us.

Policy Recommendations For Today's Foreign Assistance Challenges

February 10, 2013

InterAction’s 2013 Foreign Assistance Briefing Book provides a series of key recommendations for the 113th Congress and the Obama administration to improve the quality and effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance. Drawing on the experience and expertise of over 200 InterAction member organizations working across the developing world, the Briefing Book covers 18 key areas and succinctly outlines their perspectives and solutions to foreign assistance challenges.  These include:

  • Allowing humanitarian organizations to engage with all parties to armed conflict to assist civilians
  • Developing a clear and uniform set of operational guidelines applicable to all U.S. agencies affecting development assistance
  • Increasing the mandate, budget, and staff at State and USAID, and expanding dialogue with civil society on operational activities.

Filling a Critcal Gap: Track II Diplomacy

January 29, 2013

Track II Diplomacy is a form of peacebuilding that uses unofficial actors to convene and engage in dialogue to resolve conflict, explore deep conflict dynamics and set the stage for a more peaceful future.  Often conducted by NGOs like the Carter Center, Track II efforts focus on dialogue with influential private citizens, former officials or officials acting “off the record” within a conflict area.
But these efforts are hamepred by the “material support” prohibition which erodes the ability of NGOs to engage with listed terrorist groups without fear of criminal prosecution and economic sanctions. Peacebuilding organizations and citizens who practice Track II risk running afoul of the law for engaging with terrorist groups, even when it is solely for the purpose of negotiating peace and ending conflict.

Where Liberty Lies: Civil Society and Individual Rights after 9/11

November 19, 2012

The American constitutional system is traditionally understood to rely on the separation of powers and judicial review to protect liberty and impose legal restrictions on government action.  In the decade since 9/11, however, all three branches were often compromised in meeting these commitments.

By contrast, civil society has consistently advocated for constitutional and human rights in its testimonies before Congress, lawsuits filed at all judicial levels, educational programs and materials, and through its use of international mechanisms to pressure the U.S. to meet its legal and humanitarian obligations.

In a new paper, Georgetown University law professor David Cole makes the argument that civil society is “uniquely situated to play that checking role” in our society, and “in crisis periods may be the only institutional counterforce to the impulse to sacrifice rights for security.”

In Their Own Words

November 12, 2012

The spike in internal armed conflicts around the world has increased the need for humanitarian actors to engage with armed non-state actors (ANSAs) to protect civilans in harm's way.  In many instances, however, ANSAs are either unsure of or unwilling to meet their obligations to protect civilians under International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

In response, Geneva Call has developed a searchable database that brings together over 400 humanitarian commitments of ANSAs, notably on issues such as the protection of children in armed conflict and respect for the Geneva Conventions. It is designed to encourage ANSAs to make known their positions on the norms of IHL, and thereby to show publically their willingness to comply with these standards.

The database will be of great interest to researchers, governments and academics, but it may also encourage other armed groups to follow in the footsteps of those whose conduct seeks greater protection for civilian populations in armed conflict.

Holy Land Foundation Case Summary: Controversial “Material Support” of Terrorism Convictions

October 9, 2012

The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), a Texas-based charity with a mission of providing humanitarian aid in Palestine, was the largest Muslim charity in the United States until its closure in December of 2001. HLF had been legally operating for over a decade before it was designated and shut down by the Bush administration three months after 9/11. Its former officials were convicted of providing material support for terrorism on retrial in November 2008, and received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years. The case, the evidence, the procedure, and the convictions all highlight the precarious legal position of U.S. nonprofits trying to carry out humanitarian missions.

Americans’ Attitudes toward Terrorism and Foreign Policy Shifting

October 1, 2012

A recent report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows that Americans’ attitudes toward terrorism and foreign policy have changed significantly in the years since 9/11. Americans still want the United States to play an active part in world affairs, but are becoming increasingly selective about how and where to engage in the world. Given the difficulty and cost in lives and treasure in recent years, Americans are less inclined toward military intervention in conflicts around the world, and instead prefer employing less costly tools, like sanctions and diplomacy.

Al Haramain v. Treasury: Successful Constitutional Challenge to Unlimited Treasury Power to Shut Down Charities

October 1, 2012

In June 2012, the U.S. Solicitor General decided not to file a request for Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Al-Haramain v. Treasury. The appellate court opinion from September 2011 had upheld alower court’s ruling that said procedures used by the Department of Treasury to shut down the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation of Oregon (AHIF-OR) violated the organization's Fifth Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.  In February 2004, federal agents raided AHIF-OR's offices pursuant to a warrant as part of an investigation into financial crimes. The next day OFAC froze AHIF-OR's assets pending an investigation into whether or not the charity would be classified as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). 

Treasury Issues General License for Aiding Earthquake Victims in Iran

August 27, 2012

On August 21, Treasury issued a 45-day general license allowing American NGOs to raise and send funds to Iran for humanitarian relief and reconstruction activities.  More than 300 people were killed and thousands were left homeless from two earthquakes on August 11 that destroyed over 130 villages in the country’s northwest provinces.

“The people of Iran are suffering and we have it in our capacity to alleviate some of that suffering. It is the strength of the American people that we help those in need…We are now able to offer real help providing assistance to the people,” Rep. Dennis Kucinich said after the license was granted.  One week prior, Kucinich had organized a bipartisan group of Congressional Members urging the President to issue the license.

Safeguarding Humanitarianism in Armed Conflict

August 26, 2012

The latest report from CSN, Safeguarding Humanitarianism in Armed Conflict, says the space created by international humanitarian law (IHL) facilitating humanitarian action in situations of armed conflict has been severely and unnecessarily compromised by U.S. counterterrorism measures. 

This report argues that the U.S. should take the necessary steps to implement forward looking and sustainable rules for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are consistent with humanitarian principles and national values.
Download the Full Report
Download the Executive Summary
"This report...reminds us that the struggle to balance security and humanity through law is not a new one, and urges us to recall long-held rules and standards of international law as we engage in debates around counterterrorism."

 -- Naz Modirzadeh, Harvard/Brookings Project on Law and Security