28 March 2012
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Charities and NGOs targeted in "war on terror"
Carters, a Canadian law firm, has published an excellent report examining the impact of anti-terrorism initiatives in the United States and international organisations on charities and non-profit organisations (see Report (pdf)). In 2002, the US issued "Anti-Terrorism Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S. Based Charities", calling for new "due diligence" practices including the checking of all staff against the US, UN and EU terrorist lists (see US Guidelines (pdf)). It also recommends that organisations certify that they will not "employ or deal with" anyone on these lists.
With the stated aim of "globaliz[ing] steps that have already been taken in the United States", the US administration is now attempting to get international organisations to adopt its standards and recommendations (this is what is known as "policy-laundering"). The first port-of-call for the US was the Financial Action Task Force, FATF [link], a multilateral policy-making organisation with 31 member countries that has extended its mandate from money-laundering to terrorist financing. In 2002, the FATF published "International Best Practices for Combating the Abuse of Non-Profit Organizations" (see FATF Guidelines (pdf)).
Targeting charities and NGOs
The thesis promoted by the US is that terrorist organisations use laundered money for their activities and that charities are a potential conduit for terrorist organisations. The US "National Money laundering Strategy" of 2003 thus proposes increased surveillance of domestic charities by various law enforcement and security agencies as well as the close monitoring of charities based in other countries, especially in "conflict zones". One of the 'Six Key Objectives' of the Strategy is "establishing and promoting international standards to be adopted by countries" and "ensuring that countries throughout the world consistently implement these international standards" (see US Strategy (pdf)).
Carters links these new objectives to the US administration's hostility toward NGOs that are critical of US foreign policy. Its singles out "NGOwatch", an initiative launched in early 2004 by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy (AEI) and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, "two of the most influential and well-funded think tanks serving the current American administration". To mark the launch of www.ngowatch.org [link], the AEI held a conference entitled NGOs: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few. A central focus of these initiatives was:
to expose funding, operations and agendas of international NGOs and particularly their alleged efforts to constrain U.S. freedom of action in international affairs and influence the behaviour of corporations abroad.
On 3 January 2005 The Guardian newspaper reported that two organisations in the UK set up to help the Palestinian people have had their bank accounts abruptly closed without explanation. Both groups claim that their targeting is political. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a long established group, had its account closed by the Alliance & Leicester Bank in July 2004. Zoe Mars, the treasurer for the PSC, said that at the end of 2003 the group sent £750 to a medical charity in Palestine. Five months later it got a letter from its bank saying the transaction had been interrupted by the US treasury, which wanted more information on the transfer. The money eventually went through, but raises important questions about the surveillance of financial transactions by the US government and whether there is an appropriate legal basis for its actions (see Guardian report and U-turn over Palestinian help group).
The UK Charities Commission has issued a statement and operational guidance on "Charities and Terrorism", both of which are concerned solely with the investigation of alleged links between charities and terrorist organisations. There is no guidance for organisations who maybe unfairly or unjustly targeted or sanctioned.
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