Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

UK humanitarian aid in the age of counterterrorism: perceptions and reality

Research report

Written by Sara Pantuliano, Victoria Metcalfe-Hough

Research report


For years, British humanitarian NGOs have criticised counter-terrorism laws for undermining their aid operations, and British Muslim NGOs have argued that they have been disproportionately affected by such laws. Banks have placed restrictions on the services they offer to various UK NGOs working in conflicts like Syria and Gaza while other NGOs have been hard hit by allegations of links to terrorism. All of this has affected the work of humanitarian organisations seeking to provide aid in high-risk conflict zones.

In the UK in particular, various factors have brought the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on the provision of international aid into stark focus: the scaling up of NGO activities to respond to complex crises like Syria, Somalia, Gaza and Iraq; increased restrictions on access to financial services for many NGOs, the UK government proposal to expand the powers of the Charity Commission and increased dialogue amongst British INGOs and government counterparts.

But who is to blame for the humanitarian fallout? This report looks at the issue from the perspective of aid agencies, banks, the UK government and the Charity Commission, and reveals how each has, in some way, contributed to the problem, and how they must work together to address it.

Victoria Metcalfe-Hough, Tom Keatinge and Sara Pantuliano