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Counter-terrorism and humanitarian action

Time (GMT +01) 13:00 15:00

Sara Pantuliano - Head of the Humanitarian Policy Group, co-author of the Policy Brief, ‘Counter-terrorism and humanitarian action.’

Kate Mackintosh - independent consultant and co-author.

Jehangir Malik - UK Director, Islamic Relief.

Mona Sadek - Deputy Head of Mission, International Committee of the Red Cross.

Mike Wooldridge - BBC World Affairs correspondent


This event has been scheduled to launch the publication of new HPG research on the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on humanitarian action.  In a Policy Brief to be published on the day of the event – HPG documents the profound effects that counter-terrorism legislation has on humanitarian action, eroding the ability to provide humanitarian assistance in a neutral and principled manner.  The application of counter-terrorism laws to humanitarian operations is challenging principled humanitarian action. Complying with conditions in donor funding agreements and curtailing operations in areas controlled by designated individuals or groups has affected the ability of humanitarian organisations to provide assistance according to the principles of neutrality and impartiality. Whilst preventing material support to terrorist acts is an important objective, the steps many states are taking to achieve this are having an unnecessarily adverse impact on efforts to provide life-saving assistance to those caught up in conflicts.

The authors will discuss the newly published research, focusing on some of its key findings:

  • Counter-terrorism measures are having a significant impact on humanitarian organisations, as they include provisions which can criminalise humanitarian action.
  • Humanitarian funding is increasingly being made conditional on assurances that it is not benefiting blacklisted entities and that greater security checks are being placed on local partners and implementing actors. The co-option of humanitarian actors into counter-terrorism efforts directed against one party to a conflict can undermine the principles of impartiality and neutrality.
  • Counter-terrorism measures increase operating costs and administrative procedures which can delay the response to humanitarian crises.
  • Dialogue is urgently needed between NGOs, UN agencies, humanitarian donors and governments to ensure that counter-terrorism objectives do not undermine humanitarian commitments.