Have US counter-terrorism laws hampered international aid efforts?

UN officials last year complained that US restrictions designed to stop terrorists in Somalia from diverting aid were hurting humanitarian operations. The US reduced its funding to Somalia in 2009 after its office of foreign assets control (Ofac), part of the Treasury department, voiced concern about aid falling into the hands of al-Shabaab, designated by the US as a terrorist organisation. The cut contributed to a shortfall in funding that meant only two-thirds of the $900m needed for humanitarian aid for Somalia in 2009 was raised, UN officials said last year. Analysts say the WFP has been caught between cuts in US funding and pressure from al-Shabaab. “WFP has been put into an impossible position with both sides playing politics with humanitarian assistance and preventing it from doing what it should be doing,” said Sally Healy, assistant fellow of the Africa programme at Chatham House, the international affairs thinktank. In response to concerns from humanitarian groups, the state department on Tuesday said it was issuing new guidance. “We hope this guidance will clarify that aid workers who are partnering with the US government … are not in conflict with US laws and regulations that seek to limit the resources or to eliminate resources flowing to al-Shabaab,” said a senior US administration official. “In essence, what we’re doing here is working to reassure humanitarian assistance organisations and workers that good-faith efforts to deliver food to people in need will not risk prosecution.” The official made it clear, however, that the US wants procedures to ensure that funds are not diverted to al-Shabaab. 

Leave a Comment