Background Document Topic Index

September 11, 2015

Here you will find background information on a variety of topics, including humanitarian access, financial access and remittances, material support, U.S. Treasury Department licensing and more. 

You can also go directly to pages containing featured background documents

[Under construction - please check back later for a complete list of documents and links]


Humanitarian Access


Financial Access and Remittances


Mapping Listed Terrorist Groups and Humanitarian Crises

August 1, 2016

The U.S. government maintains two lists containing entities (State's Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) & Treasury's Specially Designated Nationals (SDN)) it believes engage in terrorist activity. It is illegal to provide these groups with material support which is defined broadly in the law to include tangible goods like food or clothing, medical services, and training in conflict mediation. 

But the laws designed to starve the terrorists also make it nearly impossible for humanitarian actors to reach or offer assistance to civilians living in territory controlled by a blacklisted group. That means that in conflict zones or natural disaster areas where these groups are active, providing medical services or distributing non-medicinal necessities such as clean water, tents, blankets, food can be prohibited.

Impact on Women: Counterterrorism Laws and Policies Restricting Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Work

August 19, 2015

A new C&SN Issue Brief examines the impact on women of counterterrorism laws and policies restricting peacebuilding and humanitarian work. It looks at the disproportionate effect that armed conflict has on women, shines a light on the role women are taking in these global hot spots to improve their lives and their communities, and explains how empowering legislation would allow U.S.

Summary: FATF's June 2015 Best Practices Paper

July 9, 2015

After draft updates and significant input from the nonprofit organization (NPO) sector, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released its revised Best Practices Paper (BPP) in June 2015. The long-awaited revision incorporates almost all of the changes requested by NPOs with a new emphasis on taking a risk-based approach and avoiding a one-size-fits-all regulatory scheme.

The Financial Action Task Force and Human Rights

October 16, 2013

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an intergovernmental body that sets anti-terrorist financing and anti-money laundering standards that it uses to assess the adequacy of laws and regulations in nearly every country in the world. Since 9/11 it has increased its focus on regulation of financial services and charities.

A PDF of this Factsheet is Available Here. 

OFAC Licenses for Humanitarian Aid

July 29, 2013

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the U.S. Department of Treasury is tasked, in part, with ensuring that money from U.S. persons and entities does not fall into the hands of terrorist groups. An array of sanction laws have been enacted that make it a crime for money to go to certain countries (for example, Iran and Syria) and certain organizations (for example, Hamas and al-Qaeda). OFAC has the authority both to enforce these laws, by freezing the assets of any U.S. group or individual who violates them, and to provide exceptions to these laws through licenses. 

Problems with Humanitarian Access Persist in Syria

July 10, 2013

July 2013

Syria - Background

Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, a mostly peaceful mass street protest has transformed into a destructive and deadly civil war pitting the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against the Alawite-dominated security forces of President Bashar al-Assad.  With the conflict raging across much of the country and difficulties getting international aid to civilians inside Syria, the humanitarian situation is described as “catastrophic” and continues to deteriorate at a rapid pace.

Somalia: The 2011 Famine and its Response

July 10, 2013

July 2013

Somalia- Background

Before the first government to be internationally recognized in two decades came into power in early 2013, Somalia had been a country without an effective government since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. Since then, two decades of conflict, severe weather, and the lack of basic services and infrastructure have contributed to major food shortages for almost half of the country’s ten million people.  Amidst the rampant insecurity and shortages, humanitarian efforts were further complicated by U.S. restrictions that prohibited aid delivery to the nearly two million civilians living in areas of the country controlled by al-Shabaab, a militant group that operates in southern Somalia, during the 2011 famine.

Negotiating for Aid Delivery in Mali

July 10, 2013

July 2013

Mali- Background

4.3 million people in Mali, a West African nation in the heart of the Sahel, are experiencing a humanitarian crisis following the collapse of the country’s central government in March 2012 and a foreign military intervention against armed militant groups in early 2013.  The conflict uprooted thousands of people, and according to Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), over 170,000 Malians are refugees in neighboring countries, and another 270,000 were forced to abandon their homes in the north to seek safety in southern Mali.