Financial Access Overview

In recent years, access to financial services has become increasingly difficult for civil society organizations that must conduct international financial transactions in order to operate overseas where their work is needed most. Financial institutions may delay, or refuse to make, transfers between organizations. Sometimes, nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are turned away as customers or have their accounts closed. Remittance services that facilitate fund transfers between diaspora populations and their families are threatened by the international banking system’s growing unwillingness to provide these services.

The U.S. government has said that banks should not “de-risk” but that policy has not been translated into concrete action or regulatory standards that remove current disincentives for banks to provide services to international NPOs. As a result, money will be taken out of transparent, regulated channels, making life more difficult for legitimate NPOs and easier for terrorist financiers. 

On February 7, 2017, we released a comprehensive report on Financial Access for U.S. Nonprofits. It represents the first empirical data on the subject and
includes perspectives from stakeholders as well as observations and recommendations. 

 

Infographic: FROM DONOR TO RECIPIENT: FINANCIAL ACCESS OBSTACLES FACING U.S. NONPROFITS
created by InterAction's Together Project

Featured Resources

Derisking Conference Report Identifies Priority Measures

Interfering with the financial access of nonprofits operations designed to address post-conflict reconstruction or counter violent extremism "may in fact hinder other components of counterterrorism efforts," states a new conference report generated from a UK-Swiss meeting aimed at taking stock of existing initiatives, analyzing remaining obstacles and identifying future priorities. Read the full report. 

CGD Report Takes Stock of the Current State of Derisking

Date: 
November 1, 2018
Author: 

Over the past three years, progress has been made with the problem of derisking and the situation has stabilized so that no country is at risk of losing access to international payments services. At the same time, the problem has not yet been resolved, according to a report from the Center for Global Development(CGD), Policy Responses to De-Risking: Progress Report on the CGD Working Group's 2015 Recommendations

Report: UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Warns of "Chilling Effect" on Humanitarian Aid

Date: 
October 4, 2018

A UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights has criticized counter-terrorism laws for imposing “chilling effects on the provision of humanitarian aid for people desperately in need of help.” Agnès Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, released her report on August 7th 2018, entitled Saving Lives Is Not A Crime. The paper focuses on the criminalization of humanitarian services and actors due to counter-terrorism activities, anti-migration policies, and the outlawing of sexual and reproductive rights in some countries.

Report: Nonprofits Face Steep Banking Obstacles with Work in Syria

Date: 
September 17, 2018

A combination of US counter-terrorist financing law and international sanctions set the stage for humanitarian aid delivery challenges in Syria. On top of that, the largest Syrian banks are sanctioned by the various countries, including the US, and the banking system outside of government control has collapsed. The countries bordering Syria (Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan) present additional challenges in the form of regulatory requirements and financial systems. All of this has created "a complex environment for aid agencies wishing to move funds for humanitarian purposes into the country, or through neighbouring states supporting regional humanitarian efforts," according to a new report from the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute and The Humanitarian Forum, The impact of bank de-risking on the humanitarian response to the Syrian Crisis

GAO Report Builds Upon CSN Research on Financial Access for Nonprofits

Date: 
September 20, 2018

In a study of implementing partners of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department humanitarian assistance projects in four high-risk countries—Syria, Somalia, Haiti and Kenya—the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that most experienced banking access challenges, including denials and delays of fund transfers, problems opening accounts, increased fees and an account closure. Read more

ODI's Study of West Bank and Gaza Civil Society Finds "A Humanitarian Sector in Debt"

Date: 
September 11, 2018

A paper published by the Humanitarian Policy Group of the Overseas Development Institute, A humanitarian sector in debt: Counter-terrorism, bank de-risking and financial access for NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza, reveals the crippling effects that bank derisking has had on local humanitarian and development organizations in the West Bank and Gaza. This study draws on findings from interviews conducted in 2017 - 2018 and investigates the various coping strategies that Palestinian civil society members are using to compensate for lack of financial access and growing debt in a place where humanitarian assistance is crucial.

UNOSC Issues Terror Financing Risk Assessment Guidance

July 31, 2018

A guidance manual issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in June 2018 provides a methodology for member states conducting terrorist financing risk assessments. The document, Guidance manual for Member States on terrorist financing risk assessments, notes that terrorist financing needs to be countered in an efficient manner, emphasizing the importance of coordination and cooperation among financial intelligence units, law enforcement entities and intelligence services.
Read more 

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