Barriers to Charity

Barriers to Charity Overview

April 26, 2011

Headlines & Opinion




"Terrorism" Toolkit Will Offer Guidance to Charities

July 20, 2009

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

Remaking Humanitarian Action by Letting Go of Old Norms

April 22, 2016

Despite significant progress in saving lives, caring for wounded and feeding hungry people in more places than ever before, “the humanitarian system is struggling to keep pace with the growing demands of more frequent and more enduring humanitarian crises and the changing nature of conflict,” according to an April 2016 report by the Overseas Development Institute, Time to Let Go: Remaking Humanitarian Action for the Modern Era.

New Study: UK Humanitarian Aid in the Age of Counterterrorism: Perceptions and Reality

April 13, 2015

In March 2015 the Humanitarian Policy Group released UK Humanitarian Aid in the Age of Counterterrorism: Perceptions and Reality, which explains the tensions between British international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and other stakeholders regarding the negative impact of counterterrorism laws on their aid work. These nonprofit organizations, which aim to provide relief to the most vulnerable in high-risk conflict zones, struggle to effectively carrying out their tasks due to government and donor country counterterrorism efforts.

ICNL Journal: Barriers to Cross Border Philanthropy

March 31, 2015

The March 2015 issue of the Journal of Not-for-Profit Law features 

an important article by Douglas Rutzen, President and CEO of the International Center for Not for Profit Law.  In Aid Barriers and the Rise of Philanthropic Protectionism Rutzen provides a historic overview of the decline in operational space for civil society, beginning in September 2001.  The article categorizes and surveys the constaints on the inflow of philanthropic funds to an alarming number of countries.  These constraint categories are:

  • counterterrorism/anti-money laundering
  • requirements for prior government approval for foreign contributions
  • stigmatization of international funding rhought "foreign agents" legislation
  • caps on international funding
  • mandatory routing of funding through government controlled channels
  • burdensome reporting requirements
  • restrictions on activities supported by international funding
  • restrictions on funding from certain donors or countries
  • taxation on international funding

These are often justified by arguments about state sovereignty, transparency and accountability, aid effectiveness and national security.

The article provides plenty of examples, then reviews the international law framework meant to protect freedoms of assembly, association and expression. It concludes by noting the outcome of the debate on these issues "will shape the future of civil society, and global philanthropy, in many countries for decades to come."


Report: Uncharitable Behavior and Banks That Drop Nonprofit Customers

January 14, 2015

A new study by UK financial expert Tom Keatinge examines the problems UK charities are experiencing with access to financial services for their international operations. U.S. charities face the same kinds of barriers, and a similar study is needed on the problems they face. The Press Release from Demos, which published the study, said the report:

- Reveals challenges NGOs face in securing and transferring funds due to the counter-terrorism regulation fears of banks

- Calls on banks, charities, and government bodies to improve dialogue on resulting financial restrictions and impact on charitable activity

- Critical aid struggling to reach conflict zones such as Syria

The full text of the study can be found here.

Treasury’s Informational Licensing Guidance for Humanitarian NGOs Falls Short

October 24, 2014

On Oct. 17, 2014 the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released  Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance by Not for Profit Non-Governmental Organizations, intended to provide clarification for nonprofits seeking licenses for activities that would otherwise be prohibited by economic sanctions programs.

Treasury Releases Informational Licensing Guidance for Humanitarian NGOs

October 17, 2014

On Oct. 17, 2014 the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released a document titled Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance by Not for Profit Non-Governmental Organizations.

The two-page document provides some clarification of the status quo without making substantive changes called for by the nonprofit sector or committing to specific actions OFAC may take to address systemic problems with its licensing system. It does not address the problems the State Department's involvement in licensing creates, including delays and politicization of humanitarian decisions.

In addition, the document clearly states that it is for informational purposes only and does not have the force of law. It does not address the needs of development, peacebuilding, human rights or other types of nonprofit programs abroad.

While clarifications from OFAC are welcome, the overall thrust of the document is to restate existing policies and provide assurances that have no legal force.  The most positive view is that it is a good beginning for a dialog between OFAC, the State Department and the nonprofit sector on the next phase of improvements needed.

For background information see U.S. Civil Society Submission to the UN Human Rights Commission, Sept. 15, 2014, describing human rights problems with the licensing system.


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