Bahrain hosts GCC symposium on combating terror-funding in non-profits

Published November 23rd, 2015 - 12:36 GMT

Bahrain and the rest of the world have stepped up the war on terror funding as high-level officials met in Manama on Saturday. They discussed ways to prevent charitable donations from falling into the hands of terrorist organisations during a workshop held at the Ritz Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa. It was organised by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) in co-operation with the GCC General-Secretariat and the US Government. Participating delegates represented Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, the US, Canada, the UK, Italy, the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), World Bank, the United Nations, and the Countering Violent Extremism Community Policing (COVEXCOP) Belgium. 

During the workshop, several recommendations were discussed such as conducting a realistic evaluation of the non-profit organisations sector and identifying the dangers of exploiting these groups.

Participants also urged these organisations to be part of the official financial sector to avoid the risk that pushes them into other means. “(Participants) stressed not to disrupt the regulatory measures for legitimate charitable activities, which aim to promote transparency, integrity and public confidence in the management and work of all non-profit organisations,” read a statement. “The need for continuous communication with non-profit organisations (is essential) to ensure they improve their performance.

“As well as raise awareness among workers in this sector on the risk of the misuse of charitable work as a cover for terrorist financing and steps that can be taken to avoid it through awareness activities for the community in co-ordination with charities and non-profit organisations.”

Delegates also stressed the importance of introducing preventive systems to protect non-profit organisations from abuse.

“(They) agreed that the systems should not only be punitive but financial monitoring authorities of non-profit and voluntary organisations must be able to prosecute those organisations and their employees in the event of the violation of regulations,” added the statement. “And apply laws such as dissolving the board of trustees, imposing financial sanctions or revoking the licence in the event of non-compliance with the law.

“This is in addition to bolstering the implementation of procedures that impose appropriate penalties in the event of non-compliance with the applicable regulations and laws.”

Participants want non-profit organisations to make their financial statements public and verify the identity of beneficiaries.

The workshop also focused on implementing standards to prevent the exploitation of the charity sector to finance terrorist activities.

“This is all the more relevant given the threat posed by Islamic State, foreign terrorist fighters and other terrorist groups,” added the statement.

The workshop, titled ‘Charitable Donations; Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Violent Extremism’, was an implementation of the recommendations of the Manama Declaration on Combating the Financing of Terrorism held in Bahrain in November last year.

Recommendations

*Commitments made at the Manama Meeting on Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) last year, where countries pledged to strengthen the international CFT regime by implementing the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), increasing international co-operation and taking proactive action to disrupt terrorist financing. ‘

* The need for comprehensive action in preventing and countering violent extremism (CVE) in co-operation with both governmental and non-governmental actors.

* Commitment to international CVE best practices, including, but not limited to, those put forth by the UN, and coming out of the international CVE Summit process and the by the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF).

* Commitment to fully and appropriately implementing FATF Recommendation 8, which calls for countries to use a risk-based approach to ensure that NPOs cannot be misused by terrorists.

* The assertion that regulatory measures, such as those implemented by central banks, should promote transparency, integrity and public confidence, not disrupt or discourage legitimate charitable activities.  The recognition of the importance of charitable and humanitarian services to provide assistance to people in need all around the world.

* The idea that by sharing good practices and lessons learned in the development of risk-based approaches, effective, targeted and proportionate financial investigative techniques to address specific TF threats and engagement with the non-profit sector and community leaders, the workshop fulfilled the 2014 Manama Meeting’s call for multilateral initiatives that contribute to the strengthening of the global CFT regime.

* Commitment to building a healthy charitable sector that protects against exploitation by terrorist groups, and engages NPOs and community leaders to raise public awareness about the importance of legitimate charitable contributions.


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