Resources

Abstract: Why Shrinking Civil Society Space Matters

Date: 
November 16, 2017
Author: 

A new report from the European Foundation Centre and the Funders Initiative for Civil Society examines how the trend of shrinking civil society space affects development funders and actors. The report, Why Shrinking Civil Society Space Matters, is intended to develop better insight into the issue and to increase awareness of the threats to civil society and to discuss approaches that can enable a more effective response to reverse this trend. 

According to the report, a healthy civil society is key to increasing equality and reducing poverty in development work. The disturbing trend in restrictions on civil society's ability to operate, especially in developing countries, stems from a range of government measures, including constraints on freedom of assembly to imposing excessive red tape and limitations on foreign sources of funding. This can stifle the ability of INGOs to support local organizations, engage in advocacy work and carry out programs. 

Report Examines FATF Recommendations as Vehicle for Closing Civil Society Space in Nigeria

Date: 
August 24, 2017
Author: 

Prior to its revision in 2016, the Financial Action Task Force's Recommendation 8 referred to nonprofit organizations as "particularly vulnerable" to terrorist abuse. As a result, many countries implemented laws and policies designed to curb this perceived risk. As a result, NPOs have faced increased scrutiny and legal constraints, shrinking the space for charitable work. 

A report from Spaces for Change in Nigeria, Closing Spaces for Civil Society and Democratic Engagement in Nigeria,  examines the impact of Recommendation 8 on civil society in that country. The first part, Beyond FATF: Trends, Risks and Restrictive Regulation of Non-profit Organisations in Nigeria, is the product of systematic review of that country's legal framework for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism to understand the connection between Nigeria's implementation of Recommendation 8 and shrinking space for civil society there. The second part, Closing Spaces for Civic Engagement and Civil Society in Nigeria, assesses the effectiveness of these policies and created a database of closed spaces, highlighting 100 incidents of overbroad application of these laws. 

Report: Impact of Banking Restrictions on UK NGOs

Date: 
August 24, 2017
Author: 

Like their American counterparts, British NGOs working in or near areas where non-state armed groups are active increasingly face restrictions on their access to the financial system, according to a 2017 report from Chatham House, Humanitarian Action and Non-state Armed Groups: The Impact of Banking Restrictions on UK NGOs. This may include delayed transfers, the freezing of funds, and closure of bank accounts. 

The report, like many before it, tie the perception of NGOs as high-risk to the Financial Action Task Force's Recommendation 8. In addition, the global financial crisis has made banks subject to tougher regulatory and enforcement regimes, decreasing their appetite for risk. It notes, "Humanitarian NGOs generally accept the need for regulation and due diligence, but the current weight of compliance demands by their banking partners is often seen as disproportionate, resulting in a need to spend donor money on additional staff and due diligence tools, increased administration costs, aid delivery and financial transfer delays, and in some circumstances the closure of programmes to which funding cannot be delivered." 

Civic Space Compromised in the Americas

Date: 
June 21, 2017

In many countries in the Americas, people's rights to organize, protest or speak out are severely compromised, according to a new report from the CIVICUS, Charity & Security Network, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD), and the Rendir Cuentas initiative, Civic Space in the Americas

The report, which draws on research submitted to the CIVICUS Monitor, notes that civic space is seriously restricted in more than one-third of countries in the Americas. Obstacles to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association include threats to personal safety, denial of the right to protest, and surveillance and censorship. Between June 2016 and May 2017, the most serious abuses and violations included disruptions of protests through excessive force, violence against journalists (including killings) and censorship of the media, detention and criminalization of activists, and the introduction of legislative restrictions on civic space freedoms (including 19 such bills in the U.S.). Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, women, LGBTI people, migrants and other minority groups were particularly affected. 

Report Examines Impact of FATF on Civil Society

Date: 
May 23, 2017

Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendation 8 and FATF recommendations following evaluations add to the restrictions faced by civil society organizations, according to a new report from Bread for the World, The Impact of International Counterterrorism on Civil Society Organisations: Understanding the Role of the Financial Action Task Force

Asserting that the links between measures that fight the financing of terrorism and civic space are not known widely, the report aims to "inform civil society organisations and non-profit organisations (NPOs), but also political decision makers who are not familiar with anti-terrorism measures." Specifically, it explains the role of FATF in setting international standards that affect the way in which civil society organisations are regulated by nation-states, their access to financial services, and their obligations to avoid proscribed organisations and other groups deemed to pose a terrorism risk. 

UK Study Seeks Reconciliation of Humanitarian, Counterterrorism Goals

Date: 
May 11, 2017

A new study from Chatham House and the Royal United Services Institute in the UK finds that humanitarian objectives are often stymied by counterterrorism laws designed to prevent assistance or funds going to non-state armed groups. Humanitarian Action and Non-state Armed Groups: The UK Regulatory Environment asserts that to resolve this conflict, the UK government needs to adopt a clear, unified approach to reconciling its humanitarian and counterterrorism priorities. 

The report finds that the licensing system under sanctions regimes is opaque and ineffective, recommending that the UK government seek humanitarian exemptions, as well as simplify and expedite its domestic licensing system. It also notes that although the government cites prosecutorial discretion in asserting that there is no need for additional guidance around potential criminal penalties for incidental payments to listed groups, "prosecutorial discretion is insufficient comfort for humanitarian actors anxious to avoid breaking the law and the wide offences have a 'chilling effect'." 

Two UK government has dismissed recommendations to explore the possibility of introducing exceptions to counterterrorism legislation for humanitarian activities. It argues that legislative change would create a loophole open to exploitation. The Chatham House study recommends that this option should be explored further, with consideration of foreign laws and international instruments. 

The report also addresses the global phenomenon of bank de-risking and its impact on humanitarian aid organizations. The report authors urge the UK government to move proactively to counter this trend and to engage in international dialogue aimed at finding solutions. 

Read the full report

Brennan Center Report Examines CVE in the Trump Era

Date: 
May 11, 2017
Author: 

Although Trump's hostility towards Muslims has been well-documented in the press, countering violent extremism programs initiated during the Obama administration, while couched in neutral terms, set the stage for a focus xclusively on Muslims. 

This, despite the fact that empirical data show that violence from far right movements results in at least as many fatalities in the U.S. as attacks inspried by al Qaeda or the Islamic State, notes a March 2017 report from the Brennan Center for Justice, Countering Violent Extremism. In addition to stigmatizing Muslim communities as inherently suspect, it also creates serious risks of flagging innocuous activity as pre-terrorism and suppressing religious observance and speech, the report explains. "These flaws are only exacerbated when CVE programs are run by an administration that is overtly hostile towards Muslims, and that includes within its highest ranks individuals known for their frequent and public denunciations of a faith that is practiced by 1.6 billion people around the world," the report states. 

The report asserts that future CVE programs are unlikely to achieve security benefits, and meanwhile carry the risk of "damaging critical relationships between law enforcement and Muslim communities, further undermining the goal of preventing terrorism." As such, the report recommends a shift towards a framework that sees American Muslims as a source of strength rather than suspicion. 

Read the full report

Study Finds Insufficient Justification for PVS Rollout

Date: 
May 10, 2017

There is insufficient justification for a global rollout of the U.S. government's Partner Vetting System (PVS), according to a December 2016 Policy Paper from InterAction, Partner Vetting Independent Assessment: Insufficient Justification for a Global Rollout

Partner vetting is an additional due diligence procedure used by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State to ensure that foreign assistance does not inadvertently benefit terrorists or their supporters. The paper is primarily concerned with the role of U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the vetting system, and supports three general conclusions. First, implementation of the PVS pilot was not consistent enough to form the bases for a global program. Second, direct vetting wasn't sufficiently implemented. Third, the significant number of critiques could, if addressed, alleviate some of the negative consequences of PVS. Therefore, InterAction has recommended that the USAID and State extend the PVS pilot for another three years, and to implement direct vetting as well as the recommendations made in the policy paper. 

The recommendations include create a formal system to exempt vetting in certain circumstances, including humanitarian emergencies; exempt small sub-awards; exempt beneficiaries; and exempt awards for the sensitive work of democracy, rights and governance.

Read the full paper

 

Report: Countering Terrorism Financing’s Effects on Gender Equality & Security

Date: 
April 18, 2017

A new report prepared by the Duke Law International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) and the Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) looks at the effects of countering terrorism financing (CTF) measures on women’s rights organizing, women’s rights organizations, and gender equality globally, especially in areas of conflict or at risk of terrorism.  

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