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‘A humanitarian sector in debt’: counter-terrorism, bank de-risking and financial access for NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza

Working papers

Written by Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy

Global counter-terrorism measures have had adverse implications for financial access for local NGOs in the West Bank and, particularly, Gaza. Local organisations are not able to access funds via formal banking channels because of de-risking measures, with crippling effects on the Palestinian non-profit sector.

Financial access for Palestinian NGOs is blocked on three levels: international, regional and local. Internationally, regulatory requirements particularly in relation to anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing have prompted restrictions on the transfer of funds to NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas, which took control of Gaza following elections in 2006, is considered a terrorist organisation by a number of Western and Middle Eastern countries. Regionally, a number of Arab governments have placed restrictions on the transfer of funds to Palestinian NGOs to avoid any reputational threats related to engagement with Hamas. Locally, there is an administrative and bureaucratic burden placed on local organisations by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and Hamas in Gaza.

In the absence of financial access, Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza are surviving on borrowed funds and resources from within a community in dire need of assistance itself. As a consequence, the non-profit sector risks being unable to fulfil its role in providing timely and adequate assistance to the Palestinian people.

Based on interviews conducted in 2017 and 2018, this study looks at the impact of bank de-risking on local humanitarian and development organisations in the West Bank and Gaza. It investigates the coping strategies used by the Palestinian non-profit sector to compensate for the lack of financial access, and makes suggestions regarding how the adverse effects of bank de-risking can be reduced.

Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy