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

NPOs Urge U.S. Government to Increase their Support for the Crisis in Yemen

September 10, 2015

A number of U.S. nonprofit organizations (NPOs) joined together to send two sign-on letters to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), urging the government to support conflict resolution in Yemen and form a comprehensive strategy to prevent the escalation of the ongoing conflict there.

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.

Charity & Security Network Calls Treasury Guidance for Humanitarian NGOs a Disappointment

October 28, 2014

The Charity & Security Network released a statement on Oct. 28, 2014 that analyzes the Department of Treasury's Oct. 17, 2014 Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance by Not-for-Profit Non-Governmental Organizations and concludes that "much more needs to be done to address U.S. legal restrictions on nonprofit organizations responding to humanitarian crises." Noting that the Guidance states that it has no legal force, the Network notes that it is "mostly clarification of current policy, rather than an effort to address systemic problems."  The Network calls for more dialog on the issue with a representative group of nonprofits that addresses licensing barriers for both humanitarian and nonprofits engaged in peacebuilding support and other important activities.

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. The document states it “does not have the force of law” and does not include key proposals made by nonprofits, such as clear standards for nonprofit licenses and timelines for decisions on license applications.  It does not address the needs of development, peacebuilding, human rights or other types of nonprofit programs abroad.  The licensing process has been criticized by nonprofits for being slow and non-transparent.  The Guidance is a step in the right direction but more will need to be done to address problems nonprofits have experienced, most glaringly seen in the Somalia famine of 2011. For an analysis see the Charity & Security Network statement calling for stronger administration policy to facilitate U.S. nonprofits' ability to work in global hot spots.

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.

CIVICUS Report on State of Civil Society 2014

July 17, 2014

The State of Civil Society Report 2014, released annually by CIVICUS, outlines the global trend of governments limiting civil society organization's power.  This year's report also details the increase in civil unrest and protests occurring around the world.  The report authors attribute this civil unrest to growing trend of the economic elite colluding with politically powerful individuals to make self-serving policies that restrict the space in which non-profits can operate.

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