Barriers to Charity
Safeguarding Humanitarianism in Armed Conflict: A Call for Reconciling International Legal Obligations and Counterterrorism Measures in the United States
A June 2012 report by the Charity & Security Network- Safeguarding Humanitarianism in Armed Conflict: A Call for Reconciling International Legal Obligations and Counterterrorism Measures in the United States- examines how the international humanitarian obligations of the U.S. conflict with domestic counterterrorism measures when applied to charities seeking to aid civilians in areas of armed conflict. While the negative impact of these measures has been criticized as a matter of policy and subjected to Constitutional challenges, significantly less attention has been paid to how they stack up against the international humanitarian obligations of the U.S. This report fills that gap.
Read the report online (no download necessary) or
After a review of U.S. counterterrorism laws impacting charities, the report explains the legal framework of international humanitarian law (IHL), focusing on provisions that address civilian relief operations during situations of armed conflict. It then analyses how current U.S. counterterrorism laws and enforcement policies, particularly the broad prohibition on material support to terrorism, do not adequately incorporate these provisions and are inconsistent with humanitarian principles and obligations. CSN urges the U.S. to work with the nonprofit sector to better incorporate international humanitarian law principles and concepts into U.S. law and enforcement policy.
Headlines & Opinion
- VIDEO: Aid Experts Discuss Challenges Working in Conflict Zones with Terrorist Groups
- EU: Time to Examine Counterterrorism Policies
- Why Fight Terrorism with One Hand Tied Behind our Back?
- Internal Investigator Finds that UN Counterterror Measures Chill Humanitarian Aid
- Provision that Criminalizes Conflict Resolution Training Ignored by Senate Committee
- House Judiciary Committee Discussion of Humanitarian Exemption to Material Support
- Americans Support Foreign Policy that Targets Terrorism's Roots
- Saudis No Example for Rules on Charities
- Diverse Group of NGOs Meet with Obama Admin on New Rules for Charities
- Amendment to State Secrets Laws would Expand Barriers to Humanitarian Aid
- Heavy Sentences in Holy Land Trial Send Chilling Message to US NGOs
- Holy Land Conviction Raises Concerns and Questions for US NGOs
- IMPACT: Counterterrorism Measure on Charities and Donors After 9/11 (printable handout)
- CSN Report: How the Work of Charities Counters Terror
- Terrorism "Toolkit" for Charities
- Legal Rulings Diminish Charitable Giving and Impact
- Recommendations to Obama Transition Team
- Book: Countering the Politics of Fear
- Book: Regulation of the Voluntary Sector
- Book: Civil Society Under Strain
- Report on State of the Humanitarian System: Politicization of Aid Disrupts Aid Delivery
- Friend Not Foe- Opening Spaces for Civil Society Engagement to Prevent Violent Extremism
- UN Report shows that Security Measures that Restrict Humanitarian Access Hurt Civilians
- NGOs Threatened by Harsh Legal Constraints
- Laws Stifle NGO Activity and Debate on Policy Matters
- Americans Adverse to Government Supporting Muslim Charities
As counterterrorism measures continue to evolve, the UK Charity Commission has begun collecting information for developing a toolkit for charities on how to deal with terrorism legislation and related measures in their sector. They are requesting charities and NGOs to submit examples of situations and issues affecting them that the Commission should examine and possibly include in the toolkit. More information is available from British Overseas NGOs for Development
A disturbing pattern is emerging in the licensing process the Department of Treasury uses to allow or block humanitarian aid to civilians in conflict zones controlled by terrorist groups or state-sponsors of terrorism. The maze of laws and regulations that govern such licenses lack any clear standards that incorporate humanitarian principles. The result is a set of decisions that are inconsistent on humanitarian grounds and appear to be motivated by political or foreign policy considerations.
How humanitarian principles are put into practice in the world’s most complicated or protracted crises is one of the major themes raised in an October 2012 report by the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Overseas Development Institute. Based on case studies conducted in Afghanistan, the DRC, Pakistan and South Sudan, Tools for the job: Supporting Principled Humanitarian Action examines the various restrictions and opportunities groups meeting the needs of vulnerable communities face while trying to adhere to the principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality. Recommendations include reforming “counterterrorism measures that encroach on humanitarian action,” and implementing safeguards to separate humanitarian assistance activity from any political or military agenda.
The disquieting trend of governments encroaching on the rights of civil society was discussed by a panel of experts at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Aug. 14, 2012. Front and center was the concern that oppressive dictatorial and near-dictatorial regimes across world are criminalizing freedom of assembly and speech, and imposing a morass of regulations aimed at stifling the work of nonprofits.
An article in the September 2011 issue of the International Review of the Red Cross identifies how humanitarian contact with listed terrorist groups for the purpose of reaching and protecting vulnerable civilian populations is prohibited by the United States and the United Nations Security Council. Humanitarian engagement under counter-terrorism: a conflict of norms and the emerging policy landscape argues that these prohibitions foster an environment where aid groups are fearful their humanitarian action will result in criminal prosecution or lead to closure of the organization. As a result, many have begun scaling back operations in places deemed too legally risky.
Political and military agendas have negatively affected the ability of aid groups to respond to the tremendous need in Somalia, says a comprehensive evaluation of humanitarian action in the country between 2005 to 2010. Produced by DARA, the report finds that anti-terror legislation and security-related policies have shrunk the space and capacity of humanitarian actors “to respond impartially and proportionately.” At the same time, these same polices have helped make Somalia one of the most dangerous environments for humanitarian operations. In 2008, nearly two-thirds of all aid workers fatalities around the world occurred in Somalia. More than two decades of conflict, combined with frequent natural disasters, have displaced millions of Somalis in recent years.
A small number of Minneapolis-area Somali money transfer shops have reopened amid heightened scrutiny from banks, reports the Minnesota Star Tribune on Jan. 25, 2012. Though the amount transferable is limited to $500, the services are the only means many Somali-Americans have available to send remittances to family living in Somalia, a country lacking a functioning government or banking system, and plagued by drought and civil strife for almost 20 years. The inability of nearly 70,000 Somalis that live in the state to send money home had drawn strong criticism from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and other Minnesota legislators. At the end of December, the state's 14 Somali money transfer shops were shut down after the last Minnesota bank to wire money to Somalia closed their accounts.