Counter terrorism and humanitarian action

21 February 2011

The events of 9/11 have furthered widespread concern among governments on the ability of ‘terrorist’ groups, in an increasingly globalised world, to launch attacks on their national territories. This had led to a series of policies that seek to curtail the legitimacy, support and finances of these groups. These include the criminalisation of providing ‘material support’ to proscribed organisations. This has created widespread concern among humanitarian organisations that feel their engagement with these groups for humanitarian purposes, such as negotiating access or advocating respect of IHL, may be adversely affected by these policies. Furthermore, the criteria for proscription are vague and often based on political prerogatives, with adherence to these policies subsequently forcing agencies to de facto take sides. This meeting explored the extent to which the ‘criminalisation of aid’ has affected humanitarian space in various settings, and discussed appropriate and possible responses.