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Study: Counter-Terrorism Laws Cripple Humanitarian Aid Networks

Case studies of Somalia and Palestine reveal cuts in donations, barriers to programming, and climates of fear

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Global counter-terrorism laws are hampering vital humanitarian aid work by cutting off funding, halting projects, and creating climates of fear and "self-limitation," a new independent study finds.

Published last week, and reported by the Guardian Tuesday, the report was commissioned by the UN for the Norwegian Refugee Council and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and examines the impact of laws like the 2011 US Patriot Act, focusing on their effect on Somalia and Palestine as case studies reflecting global trends.

Sanctions and counter-terrorism measures targeting Al-Shebab in Somalia led to a severe drop in aid to that country, in part because of the intimidation of organizations who believed their reputations to be vulnerable, especially Islamic aid organizations, the study shows.

After Al-Shebab was listed as a terrorist organization in 2008, aid to Somalia tanked 88 percent, and counter-terrorism measures worsened "an already polarized environment in which humanitarian actors are not perceived as neutral, impartial or independent," the report finds, noting that the structural impacts of these developments will "stretch into the future."

Approximately 3.6 million people in Somalia depend on aid for their survival, IRIN Africa reports.


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In Gaza, "the parameters of humanitarian action have, for the most part, been shifted so that programs are designated firstly to avoid contact with or support to the designated group (Hamas), and only secondly to respond to humanitarian needs," states the report. As a result, humanitarian aid work and funding in Gaza are decreasing, with many NGOs afraid to accept donations.

In one case, food could not be delivered to thousands of families because the donor did not wish to share the list of beneficiaries with the ministry of social affairs.

80 percent of the 1.6 million people living in Gaza depend on humanitarian aid, according to Oxfam International.

Aid groups have long-complained about the paralyzing effects of counter-terrorism laws on vital relief work as the so-called Global War on Terror drags into its 13th year.

Jehangir Malik of Islamic Relief declared at a 2010 meeting about the issue: “At times I feel that we are so crippled that we should really be honest with our donors, and say, you know, pull out altogether and return everybody’s money to the respective donors."


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