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Bi-weekly News & Opinion - April 11, 2024


C&SN Opportunity Spotlight

Consider registering as a C&SN Member (no financial commitment required) to receive our weekly Opportunity Spotlight Newsletter. There we share exclusive opportunities for civil society input, webinars, events, and working groups on key issue areas such as sanctions, material support, financial access, lawfare, and more.

Featured Resources

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Publishes Its AI Roadmap

According to the DHS, included in the roadmap are assurances that AI is responsible, rigorously tested, safeguards privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, avoids inappropriate biases, and is transparent and explainable to those it serves. The DHS is the first major U.S. government agency to substantially implement AI in its policies and plans. Read more at Mondaq. (Apr. 3)

UNRWA, Countering the Financing of Terrorism, and the Swing Back to Post-9/11 Hard Security Reflexes

Despite recent progress towards a more evidence-based implementation of countering the finance of terrorism (CFT), particularly when it concerns implications for the nonprofit sector, the allegations against UNRWA and subsequent international response may underline a return of post 9/11 hard security policies. Read Bibi van Ginkel’s report at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT). (Apr. 2)


Bringing Transparency to National Security Uses of Artificial Intelligence 

Faiza Patel and Patrick C. Toomey argue that exemptions for national security threaten to obscure some of the most high-risk uses of AI, including determining who is surveilled, who is questioned and searched at the airport, who is placed on watchlists, and even who is targeted using lethal force. Read the full op-ed at Just Security. (Apr. 4)

Civil Society

Are Sudan’s Civil Society Activists Being Targeted by Both Warring Sides?

According to local aid groups, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) - each vying for power in Sudan - are clamping down on civil society actors by arresting volunteers and obstructing access to humanitarian aid in order to maintain control over aid operations. Mat Nashed reports for Al Jazeera. (Apr. 1)

US-funded Radio Free Asia Closes Its Hong Kong Bureau Over Safety Concerns Under New Security Law

“Actions by Hong Kong authorities, including referring to RFA as a ‘foreign force,’ raise serious questions about our ability to operate in safety with the enactment of Article 23,” the President of RFA, Bay Fang said, referencing the new Hong Kong national security law, which activists fear will stifle civil society and the freedom of press. Kanis Leung reports for AP News. (Mar. 29)

Foreign Agents

Georgia Launches New Push to Adopt Russian-style Foreign Agent Law

Georgia’s ruling party is pushing ahead with plans to pass legislation tightening restrictions on civil society, despite widespread domestic alarm along with expressions of concern from the EU and U.S. The new law mirrors earlier draft legislation that was shelved in spring 2023 following widespread protests and comes as the country prepares for parliamentary elections in October. Mercedes Sapuppo writes at Atlantic Council. (Apr. 9)

Republika Srpska Moves Ahead With Proposed 'Foreign Agents' Law

Republika Srpsk, within Bosnia-Herzegovina, is going ahead with its controversial proposed law on "foreign agents," which aims to curb the work of nonprofit organizations financed from abroad. Read the full story at Radio Free Europe. (Apr. 4)

EU 'Dithers' As Foreign Agent Laws Spread Across Europe And Central Asia, Says Rights Watchdog

Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying European lawmakers have sat and watched as Georgia and Kyrgyzstan either adopted or declared an intent to adopt Russian-style legislation used to clamp down on free speech and civil society. Read more at Radio Free Europe. (Apr. 4)

Kyrgyzstan President Signs Russian-style ‘Foreign Agents’ Proposal into Law

Following months of warning and protest from civil rights groups, Kyrgyzstan President Sadyr Japarov on Tuesday signed a controversial law modeled on Russia's "foreign agents law", which nonprofit groups say will stigmatize them and create unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. Read the full story at Voice of America. (Apr. 2)

Financial Access

Dan Stipano Discusses the Bank Secrecy Act with Politico’s Morning Money Newsletter

The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) establishes program, recordkeeping and reporting requirements for financial institutions to ensure they have controls in place to deter and detect money laundering and other criminal acts. Davis Polk, partner at Dan Stipano, discusses the BSA with POLITICO. (Apr. 4) 

*Historically vague guidelines regarding BSA regulation have led to bank de-risking and impeded financial services for civil society groups working in conflict zones. 

Private Sector Consultative Forum, April 2024

As the FATF and the global network tackle current and emerging threats to the global financial system, close collaboration with the private sector and civil society is more essential than ever, according to FATF President T. Raja Kumar. Read the notes from the forum at the FATF. (Apr. 8)

Why Jan. 6 Looms over Banking

Rep. John Rose (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation that would repeal the section of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) that requires financial institutions to turn over suspicious financial information without a warrant. Republican lawmaker concerns over anti-money laundering rules follow the attacks on Jan. 6, 2021, after which FinCEN encouraged financial institutions to flag terms such as “Trump”, “Biden” or “Kamla” as potentially suspicious transactions. Read more at POLITICO. (Apr. 4)

Humanitarian Access

Much Aid Is Stuck at Gaza Borders. How Much Is Hard to Tell

Following a phone call between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the deadly attack on World Central Kitchen aid workers, Israel pledged to open up another border crossing in the north of the Gaza Strip. It has not yet said when that new crossing will open. James Hider reports for NPR. (Apr. 10) 

Israel Due to Respond to Court Petition on Gaza Aid Increase

Five nonprofit groups have taken the state of Israel to court, accusing authorities of restricting the entry of relief items and failing to respect their "obligations as an occupying power" to provide basic necessities to Gazans. Louis Baudoin-Laarman and Chloe Rouveyrolles-Bazire report for Al-Monitor. (Apr. 10)

Exclusive: UNRWA Restrictions Hamper Gaza Relief by Broader UN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently opened a series of new border crossings to accelerate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip, while at the same time ramping up efforts to dissolve the primary UN agency leading humanitarian response in Gaza. Colum Lynch reports at Devex. (Apr. 8)

First Food Aid in Months Reaches War-wracked Darfur

The WFP says “fierce fighting, lack of security and lengthy clearances by the warring parties” have made it  impossible for aid workers to provide help “to people trapped in Sudan’s conflict hotspots.” Lisa Schlein reports for Voice of America. (Apr 6)

Kirby: US Change in Policy on Israel Hangs on Protection of Aid Workers 

“What we need to see is more aid getting in, we need to see more effort applied to keeping humanitarian aid workers safe, and any change to our policy will be sort of hung on our assessment of the degree to which Israel complies with all of that,” said John Kirby, White House national security communications adviser, following the killing of World Central Kitchen workers by the Israeli military. Lauren Irwin reports for The Hill. (Apr. 4)

Israel Attempting to Circumvent UN Aid Efforts in Gaza

Israel has been working for months to create a parallel system for aid delivery in the Gaza Strip that excludes the UN and other international humanitarian organizations with a long-standing presence in the enclave, more than a dozen international and local aid workers have told The New Humanitarian. (Apr. 1)


EU Inserts Humanitarian Exception into Human Rights Sanctions Regime

Article 5 of Regulation (EU) 2020/1998 has been amended by Regulation (EU) 2024/1034 which outlines that sanctions should not impede funds or economic resources necessary to ensure timely delivery of humanitarian assistance. Maya Lester KC writes at Global Sanctions. (Apr. 9)

Talking to “the Enemy” Shouldn’t be Illegal

U.S. sanctions prevented the Foundation for Global Political Exchange from inviting members of Hezbollah and Hamas to a political dialogue based in Lebanon designed to facilitate critical discussion about the politics in the Middle East. Nicholas Noe and Joshua Andresen outline why it is important to dialogue with those with whom you disagree. Read more at Just Security. (Apr. 8)

New Sanctions Hit Remittances, Adding to Economic Hardships in Yemen

Months after the start of new U.S. sanctions targeting Yemen’s Houthi movement, ordinary Yemenis say they are struggling to access money transfers from outside the country that – after nine years of war and economic collapse – have become a lifeline for many. Hashed Mozqer reports for The New Humanitarian. (Apr. 3)

CEPR Sanctions Watch March 2024

The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s latest roundup of stories covering the impact of U.S. sanctions in Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and more. (Mar. 29)

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