Counterterrorism legislation is having a “qualitative impact on the work of peacebuilding organizations, their choices and freedom to choose where they work and with whom,” concludes a new report from Conciliation Resources, Proscribing peace: the impact of terrorist listing on peacebuilding programs. According to the report, this is due to a “combination of restrictions in funding, deliberate decisions not to take funds from particular donors, particularly US donors, but also due to self-censorship to minimise perceived legal or reputational risks.”

The report identifies the impact of terrorist listing on internal decision-making, the effectiveness of peacebuilding work, and the peacebuilding environment. Peacebuilding groups must establish relationships of trust built on independence, confidentiality and impartiality, but maintaining those principles while complying with legal restrictions is challenging. A lack of clarity surrounding these rules has created confusion and uncertainty for NGOs seeking to interact with listed groups, which has resulted in a “don’t ask-don’t tell” environment, increased compliance costs, a shifting of liability from donors to NGOs and decreased access to financial services, among other issues, the report explains. In addition, counterterrorism restrictions in donor contracts and partner vetting has made NGOs appear to be agents of government, risking their independence and therefore their ability to work effectively.

The report gives five recommendations for creating space for peacebuilders: create legal exemptions to allow contact with proscribed groups; make the public case for conflict prevention and peacebuilding; better understand the impact of terrorist listing on civil society in conflict settings; reassess the effectiveness of terrorist listing; and clarify the intention of the law through government-NGO dialogue.

In the UK, humanitarian, peacebuilding and development NGOs, and related umbrella groups, have come together to bring attention to these issues, and a dialogue process has emerged between NGOs and government.

Read the full report here.