Throughout 2023, eruptions of conflict and multiple natural disasters in regions already burdened by violence and inequity compounded the turmoil experienced by millions. Yet, because conflict zones and politically unstable regions are often subject to some of the harshest global counter-terrorism (CT) regulations, civil society organizations (CSOs) operating in these regions often face nearly insurmountable challenges in supporting communities that are caught between being both the most difficult to reach and being the most in need – through no fault of their own. 

This is largely because overly broad national security measures create a complex and burdensome operating environment for humanitarian, peacebuilding, and human rights organizations. 

This is where the Charity & Security Network’s (C&SN’s) work begins. Since late 2008, we have protected nonprofits from these measures. Although 2023 saw almost unprecedented challenges for humanitarian responses, peacebuilding processes, and human rights work, in addition to continued shrinking civic space globally, C&SN led and contributed to a number of key achievements that best enabled civil society to thrive. Below are highlights of the work C&SN is most proud of undertaking throughout 2023.

C&SN Welcomes New Legal Analyst

At the start of 2023, C&SN welcomed Katherine Tomaszewski, a human rights lawyer, to serve as the organization’s Legal Analyst. Katherine provides invaluable legal expertise on international human rights and humanitarian law across all of C&SN’s issue areas. 

Resources, Clarity, & Advocacy on Sanctions 

Sanctions remain one of the most notorious impediments nonprofits face in implementing their work. This remains true in part because the use of sanctions continues to be politically expedient – even if not efficacious – and thus the number of sanctions issued by nations, especially the U.S., and multilateral institutions, such as the UN, is growing. Financial institutions (FIs) are often hesitant to execute transactions in sanctioned jurisdictions. This equates to an ongoing uphill climb for non-government organizations (NGOs) NGOs to implement their life-saving programs. 

Guidance on OFAC Regulations

In April, to help guide nonprofits in understanding the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) sanctions regimes and general licenses (GLs), C&SN issued Understanding OFAC’s 2023 Supplemental Guidance for the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance Under the New & Amended Dec. 2022 General Licenses. This guidance updates OFAC’s 2014 Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance by Not-for-Profit Non-Governmental Organizations, on which C&SN also provided analysis. Throughout the walkthrough C&SN issued, we outline what nonprofits need to know, highlight what activities are permitted, provide analysis on what activities and transactions are authorized under the new and amended baseline GLs the Treasury Department issued in Dec. 2022, and explored what needs to be done in the future to better protect civil society.

In June, C&SN prepared a summary and analysis of the four new Sudan GLs that OFAC issued in response to the conflict in the country, following President Biden’s Executive Order (EO) 14098 in May. These GLs authorize certain activities and transactions in Sudan, including General License 2 (GL 2), which authorizes NGO-related activities, such as providing humanitarian aid and peacebuilding programs.

Advocating for Continued Humanitarian Safeguards in Syria

In February, OFAC issued General License 23 (GL 23), to authorize transactions in support of aid and relief to Syria in the wake of the deadly earthquake. Although GL 23 helped facilitate aid to Syria, in part due to its strong language surrounding authorizations for FIs, and providing extra reassurances to nonprofits about what activities are permitted under the Syrian Sanctions Regulations (SySR), GL 23 included a sunset clause to end on Aug. 8. 

GL 23 was only active for a short six-month time period despite experts stating that rebuilding in Syria could take a generation

In July, Katherine Tomaszewski, C&SN’s legal analyst attended a regional meeting and working dialogue in Rome focused on “Exploring Positive Measures for a Sustainable Solution in Syria”. Amongst other topics, the convening addressed the impact of sanctions on Syria and the resulting banking and funding issues that stem from these policies, in addition to identifying practical solutions to keep the Syria humanitarian crisis a priority for policymakers in the U.S. and EU. Solutions included the extension of GL 23 and engagement at this regional meeting informed C&SN’s advocacy around the GL’s extension.

In parallel, throughout July, C&SN conducted extensive advocacy to U.S. government (USG) stakeholders, and engaged key financial sector actors and civil society partners, to advocate for the continuation of GL 23. Using evidence from these engagements and convenings, C&SN laid out the positive impacts of GL 23, the reasons for these impacts, and the importance of the licenses’ extension. In early August, C&SN sent a letter to the honorable Brian Nelson, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, urging OFAC to extend the authorization.

Unfortunately, the license was not extended, and Treasury instead released an OFAC Compliance Communiqué: Guidance for the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance to Syria and an amended Syria Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ 937). These underscored existing sanctions exemptions for nonprofit activity in Syria. C&SN responded by providing a resource that highlighted how humanitarian organizations and FIs can leverage language in the Compliance Communiqué, FAQ 937, and existing Syria GLs to continue making transactions to the country and unpacking how to navigate the complex SySR.

Wilton Park Sanctions Conference 

In May, C&SN’s Associate Director, Policy & Advocacy, Ashleigh Subramanian-Montgomery, participated in the “A New Code of Conduct: Taking Sanctions Reform Further to Advance Humanitarianism” conference at Wilton Park. A code of conduct, or guiding principles, and a checklist with minimum prerequisites for decision-makers imposing sanctions and for sanctions monitoring and review, was analyzed and discussed throughout the conference, culminating in an outcome report. This conference built on the 2022 Wilton Park Sanctions conference, “Sanctions, Incentives, and Human Security: Economic Statecraft and Humanitarian Crises”, which C&SN also participated in and which culminated, in a similar fashion, with an outcome report.

Financial Access 

One of the core challenges NPOs face while working in conflict zones and sanctioned areas, is that existing counter-terrorism measures (CTMs) create a chilling effect on FIs, who may de-risk their NPO clients working in these regions to avoid violating sanctions and overly burdensome anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures. This has been a key area of advocacy for C&SN for years, and 2023 yielded further progress in protecting and advocating for the rights of financial access of frontline NPOs.

Advocacy to the FATF

Alongside our partner the Human Security Collective (HSC), C&SN has co-led the Global NPO Coalition on FATF (FATF Coalition) since 2014 (with a short break in 2022). The Coalition advocates for measures of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), particularly Recommendation 8 (R.8), to be truly risk-based and not cause the undue burdens and restrictions on NPO operations that the implementation of CFT measures so often creates. 

In May, C&SN, in collaboration with the FATF Coalition, attended the Private Sector Consultative Forum (PSCF) at the headquarters of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna. The PSCF serves as FATF’s annual forum that convenes government, private sector, and FATF stakeholders to discuss ways to thwart and prevent terrorist financing (TF) and money laundering (ML). At this event, the FATF Coalition led a panel on “TF Abuse, NPOs and De-risking: Discussion on ensuring financial services for legitimate NPOs and the FATF’s ongoing work on updating its Best Practices Paper”, which was moderated by the former vice president of FATF. The FATF Coalition also organized a side event in which NPO representatives from across the globe showcased effective implementation of the “risk-based approach” (RBA) at country level, and presented solutions to financial access challenges that NPOs currently face. The side event was co-moderated by C&SN and HSC.

This year, the FATF undertook public consultations on the revisions to R.8 and its Interpretive Note (INR), and to the accompanying Best Practices Paper (BPP) on R.8 implementation, to take steps to address how over-application of R.8 negatively impacts NPOs. In August, the Coalition worked collaboratively to provide input on much-needed changes to R.8 / INR and the BPP. Great care was taken to provide input while also advocating for FATF changes at a fundamental methodological and systemic level, recognizing that these revisions are a necessary but not wholly sufficient way to address the unintended consequences R.8 has had on NPOs. C&SN contributed extensive input to the FATF Coalition submission.

Additionally, C&SN submitted organizational input on revisions to R.8 / INR, which were both submitted to FATF and shared with interlocutors at Treasury. FATF approved of the revisions to R.8 / INR and the Best Practices Paper at their Plenary in October, and the revisions to both R.8 / INR and to the Best Practices Paper were officially released in November. 

In September, C&SN attended the “Risk and Consequence: The Future of FATF Recommendation 8 for Financial Integrity and for Civil Society” global conference in Bonn, which was co-organized by the FATF Coalition. The conference unpacked how to maintain compliance with FATF regulations without diminishing capacity for civic space, and concluded with forward-looking panels and discussions on what the future holds for R.8 and civil society actors. C&SN moderated the “Update on recent studies pertaining to Recommendation 8 and the larger questions around its implementation” research panel. 

Supporting partner efforts on addressing the impacts of CFT measures on civil society, C&SN provided extensive input into the Amnesty International (AI) report, Weaponizing Counterterrorism: India’s exploitation of terrorism financing assessments to target the civil society, published in September. Additionally, in early November, C&SN partnered with Amnesty and Human Rights Watch (HRW) to release a statement urging FATF to call on the Indian government to stop prosecuting, intimidating, and harassing human rights defenders, activists, and NPOs in the country on the pretext of countering terrorist financing. Both Amnesty’s report and the joint statement were published ahead of FATF’s 4th Mutual Evaluation (ME) assessment of India, which kicked off later in November. 

New Frontiers in AML/CFT 

In June, C&SN attended a workshop in the Netherlands on “The Role of New Technologies in Anti-money Laundering (AML) and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT)”. It provided training to CSOs on the crossover of CT and CFT, and technology, covering specific topics such as CT and surveillance, CT and platform content moderation, CFT and financial access, CT and emergency powers, and CT in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) regulation. The convening fostered diverse perspectives on the use of technology in AML/CFT measures across all parts of the world.

The U.S.’ Upcoming NTFRA 

In December, C&SN provided written input to Treasury outlining key asks from the NGO community ahead of Treasury publishing their 2024 National Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment (NTFRA). The input requested that Treasury take into consideration three main points:

  1. The relationship between the issuance of United Nations Security Council Resolution  (UNSCR) 2664 and Treasury’s December 2022 baseline GLs, including highlighting that these historic sanctions exceptions do not amount to a greater risk of TF abuse; 
  2. The importance of including language in the NTFRA encouraging the financial sector to use reputable and reliable sources when conducting customer due diligence, to avoid using mis- and disinformation, and to reject “information” weaponized in the form of smear campaigns; and 
  3. The importance of including nuanced and accurate language around NGOs being at low to no risk of TF abuse – in alignment with statements echoed across Treasury reports – and including this language in the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) alerts. 


Since 2018, C&SN has tracked and countered troubling lawfare tactics used by politically motivated actors seeking to shut down or otherwise impede and undermine civil society, and has worked to support and protect nonprofits from these attacks. This work continued throughout 2023. 


In February, C&SN raised awareness around the lawfare attacks that led to the Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ), a U.S.-based activist network that provides fiscal sponsorship and fundraising services for a global alliance of peace and justice organizations, including those in Palestine, to be deplatformed, due to their support of the Palestinian NGO Samidoun. 

C&SN Roundtable: FCA and ATA Litigation and the Implications for Civil Society

In May, C&SN hosted a roundtable with civil society leaders and attorneys whose organizations have been the targets of lawfare attacks designed to impede their programs. The purpose of the roundtable was to educate and inform participants about the nature of politically motivated attacks and litigation and how to best prepare and defend against lawfare attacks on civil society. The aim of these suits is often to impose time-intensive labor and financial burdens on CSOs whose initiatives are deemed a threat to lawfare groups’ political agendas. Guest speakers spoke about their experience defending recent politically motivated and baseless cases brought against their organizations under the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), walking participants through what it was like defending the case, covering key aspects of getting the cases dismissed, and sharing what was important to their donors and supporters throughout the litigation. The roundtable also covered future implications for lawfare, including monitoring cases that may not implicate civil society at first glance, but that could have sweeping consequences for humanitarian and peacebuilding work, such as the Twitter v. Taamneh Supreme Court Case. The roundtable was held under Chatham House Rule.

See more on C&SN’s involvement in this case under the “Legal Analysis” section below.

Material Support

The U.S. prohibition on material support to terrorism statutes are in dire need of an update; absent this, they continue to impede the important work of peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance, and are routinely weaponized by lawfare and politically motivated groups, and those looking to shutter civic space and dissenting civil society voices and organizations. In 2023, C&SN continued our work to make reforms to these statutes, and to protect NGOs whose work is constricted by them.  

PeaceCon 2023 Presentation: Impacts of Material Support on Peacebuilding

In May, C&SN, in partnership with the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP), and the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), jointly presented at PeaceCon 2023 a session titled “The Tea on the Material Support Ban to Terrorist Organizations: It Undermines Peacebuilding – Time for a New Approach to Prevent Conflict and Address Violent Extremism.” Panelists included civil society actors from Afghanistan, Kenya, and Syria. C&SN provided a historical overview of the U.S. material support statute, while partner CSOs raised the problems it poses for peacebuilders looking to engage all sides of a conflict – with particular attention paid to the negative impacts on women peacebuilders and women-led peacebuilding organizations – and pathways for addressing these issues at a policy and legislative level. 

Material Support in Legislation

In November, C&SN urged President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken to ignore calls and proposed legislation in Congress to re-designate the Houthis in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), as this would impede any hopes of inclusive peace talks and effectively shut down the humanitarian aid programs underway there. It is these programs, run by a variety of NGOs, that are serving as the last line of prevention to avoid such catastrophes.

C&SN continued to closely monitor U.S. legislation with implications under the U.S. material support law and to educate policymakers on how broad material support language can impede humanitarian and peacebuilding operations for innocent civilians living in terrorist-controlled areas. C&SN also continued to advocate for legislative reform to the outdated material support laws for humanitarian, peacebuilding, and non-commercial development actors, that would more closely harmonize with the new and amended baseline GLs issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2022.  

Find more on our material support work under the “Palestinian Civil Society Under Attack” section below. 

Legal Analysis

This year, C&SN added new cases to its extensive list of litigation summaries, which cover key cases – often reaching the Supreme Court – dealing with national security laws that influence the operations of NGOs.

ATA: Twitter v. Taamneh

In February, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments on Twitter v. Taamneh. The case determined whether Twitter could be held secondarily liable under ATA for a shooting attack at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, for which the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility, because ISIS allegedly used Twitter’s services, i.e. its online platform. The Court’s decision could have had wide-reaching implications for NGOs, as under a broad interpretation of the ATA, NGOs could have potentially been held liable for “aiding and abetting” terrorist acts if any of their aid or services unintentionally ended up in the hands of individuals associated with terrorist groups. C&SN filed an amicus brief in this matter laying out these potential implications for the Court, which was referenced by Justice Kavanaugh in oral arguments. C&SN also developed a litigation summary to help NGOs understand the broad potential consequences the case could have for their operations

On May 18, the Supreme Court ruled that Twitter was not liable for aiding and abetting under the ATA. The ruling was an important victory for nonprofits, as SCOTUS’ opinion narrows the scope of liability under the ATA. As a result, it provides some assurances to NGOs providing humanitarian assistance or peacebuilding processes in areas where terrorist groups operate, who are concerned about defending against any allegations that their services would inadvertently support terrorist acts. 

Sanctions: Iran Thalassemia Society et al v. OFAC

In August, Iranian NGOs, Iran Thalassemia Society and EB Home, supported by other plaintiffs, filed suit against OFAC, requesting that the Federal District Court in Oregon enjoin the USG from imposing economic sanctions that have caused medical aid to Iran to cease.

This case demonstrates the direct and indirect consequences of OFAC sanctions policies on NGO operations and their chilling effect on financial and medical transactions that supply life-saving medical aid. The NGOs argued that the Trump era “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran prohibit the delivery of life-saving drugs and medical devices to this day, and have resulted in the death of over 600 Iranian Thalassemia patients and the pain and suffering of numerous epidermolysis bullosa (EB) patients. The NGOs assert that OFAC’s policies essentially extended economic sanctions to those who assist in providing medical assistance and humanitarian aid to Iran, which is prohibited under U.S. law. C&SN published a litigation summary of the case and has continued to monitor the case as it progresses. 

OFAC & The First Amendment: The Foundation for Global Political Exchange v. OFAC

On December 20, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed a lawsuit against Treasury’s OFAC, claiming that OFAC surpassed its statutory and regulatory authority and violated the First Amendment when it prohibited the Foundation for Global Political Exchange from including five prominent Lebanese political figures as speakers at a convening in Beirut, Lebanon, in early 2023. According to the complaint, OFAC reasoned that including these individuals as speakers would violate the agency’s regulations because it would provide them with “a platform for them to speak” and, therefore, a “service.” Hence, it was determined that if the Foundation included any of the five individuals as speakers, they would risk civil or criminal repercussions. 

The Knight Institute argues that OFAC’s prohibition constitutes “unlawful suppression of political speech”. C&SN published a litigation summary of the lawsuit which emphasized that OFAC’s determination to prohibit the inclusion of these speakers could have broad implications for public discourse under the First Amendment, and the results of this case could impact NGOs and the ability to associate with individuals or groups essential to humanitarian, peacebuilding, and human rights work. C&SN will continue to monitor this case as it unfolds in 2024.

Legislation Tracking

C&SN continued to track relevant legislation and actions taken by Congress that intersect with the organization’s portfolios of work. The team highlighted new legislation to track and monitor throughout the year on C&SN’s Congress page and further provided in-depth analyses as needed.

In April, C&SN applauded and published a statement when ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), Representative (Rep.) Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), introduced a bill that would repeal and replace the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the U.S. President broad and unchecked authority to employ military CT operations against “those responsible for 9/11” globally. The updated legislation would limit the scope of the 2001 AUMF to specific “terrorist hotspots,” include a sunset clause, and require reporting on a number of activities, such as “support [to] peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts, including through engagement with local civil society.”

In July, C&SN documented our opposition to an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Prohibition on Funding for and Removal of Sanctions Against the Taliban”, amendment (No. 56), introduced by Representatives Scott Perry (R-PA) and Eli Crane (R-AZ), would require an act of Congress in order to mitigate or waive any U.S. sanctions on the Taliban and Taliban-linked entities that were imposed on or prior to Aug. 18, 2021. This would accentuate and solidify sanctions placed on the Taliban – enabling them to exist into perpetuity. Further isolation of Afghanistan from the international community through an amendment like this would continue to impede the conducive operating environment CSOs need to implement life-saving programs and activities in the country, and would undoubtedly continue to harm the Afghan people.

In November, C&SN issued a statement opposing H.R. 6408, bipartisan legislation that would “revoke the tax-exempt status for any organization that provides financial support or resources to designated terrorist groups”. As the prohibition on material support to FTOs already exists and is applicable to U.S. nonprofits, this proposed legislation is redundant and unnecessary. Additionally, charitable organizations already undergo strict internal due diligence and risk mitigation measures and face extra scrutiny by the USG, the financial sector, and all actors necessary to operate and conduct financial transactions in such complex settings. This legislation presents dangerous potential as a lawfare weapon to be used against civil society in the context of Gaza and beyond.  

Influencing the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Architecture

Although some progress has been made in integrating human rights, rule of law (RoL), and intersectional gender-based approaches into CTMs, there is still a long road ahead to do this in a truly meaningful and equitable way. Many of the most powerful global counter-terrorism architectures – including the UN’s – continue to present heavy impediments to civil society work, have rapidly ballooning budgets and agendas, and are increasingly weaponized by states as a tool of repression and shrinking civic space. C&SN led and contributed to a number of efforts and initiatives throughout 2023 to push back on the harmful impacts of CTMs on civil society.  

Global Study on the Impact of Counter-terrorism on Civil Society & Civic Space

In June, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, published the first independent and landmark Global Study on the Impact of Counter-terrorism on Civil Society and Civic Space. C&SN led a number of processes to contribute to this study. Fiounnala’s mandate ended late this year and C&SN applauds and is grateful for the Special Rapporteur and her mandate team for advancing the rights of CSOs across the globe throughout her term, and for their leadership, partnership, and allyship.

In February, C&SN held a consultative roundtable with approximately 30 representatives from civil society who face negative and harmful impacts of CTMs in their contexts and operating environments. Civil society partners shared impacts from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Canada, Iraq, Kenya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the United States, and Venezuela. C&SN then collated this information and developed a submission for the Global Study. In collaboration with partners, we addressed several key areas where civil society and civic space is negatively impacted by CTMs. 

In May, C&SN co-hosted, alongside the Special Rapporteur and her mandate team, the North America Regional Consultation. This consultation fostered inputs for the Global Study from partners in the U.S. and Canada, and C&SN’s Associate Director, Policy & Advocacy, Ashleigh Subramanian-Montgomery, gave opening remarks alongside the Special Rapporteur. The consultation was held under Chatham House Rule.

Alongside partners, C&SN served as a representative of a number of coalitions and networks that co-sponsored the launch of the Global Study during UN High Level Counter-Terrorism Week in June, including the Security Policy Alternatives Network (SPAN), the CSO Coalition on Human Rights & Counter-Terrorism, and the Global NPO Coalition on FATF

At the side event, “From Policy to Practice: Implementation of the Global Study on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism on Civil Society & Civic Space”, during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee in October, C&SN’s Legal Analyst, Katherine Tomaszewski, gave an intervention from the floor. The event served to institutionalize the Global Study’s findings. Tomaszewski emphasized the importance of the inclusive methodology, including its focus on CT’s gendered impacts and its civil society-engaged-and-led process. She also encouraged member states and all stakeholders to implement the recommendations presented in the Global Study, and to incorporate appropriate safeguards in implementing CTMs to protect and support – rather than harm – civil society and civic space.

UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy 

The UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS) is a consensus document agreed to by all member states that serves as a global tool to enhance efforts to combat terrorism. 2023 was the Eighth Review of the GCTS, a process whereby intense negotiations and various rounds of technical language revisions over a three-month period culminate in member states’ adoption of the strategy. Upon adoption, member states are responsible for carrying out the implementation of the GCTS. 

One of the first steps of the GCTS Review is the release of the Report of the Secretary-General on Activities of the United Nations System in Implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (2023), which provides member states an overview of the UN’s progress and accomplishments towards implementing the GCTS. In March, the high-level “Civil Society Reflections on the 2023 Report of the Secretary-General on Activities of the United Nations System in Implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy” event was hosted at the UN by the Global Center on Cooperative Security. At this event, C&SN’s Associate Director, Policy & Advocacy, Ashleigh Subramanian-Montgomery, delivered remarks from the floor (1:25:05 – 1:29:20) highlighting the negative impacts overly broad and vague UN CTMs have on civil society and calling for action from UN member states to address this.

In April, C&SN, in partnership with ARTICLE 19 and the European Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ECNL), on behalf of the CSO Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism, hosted a Civil Society Organization (CSO) Town Hall, which serves as the only official engagement opportunity for civil society throughout the GCTS Eighth Review and Roadmap. C&SN’s Ashleigh Subramanian-Montgomery and ECNL’s Marlena Wisniak co-moderated the panel. Panelists included civil society actors from Cameroon, Mexico, and Sri Lanka, and panelists and civil society attendees stressed the importance of including civil society in this process and incorporating a human rights-based approach and an intersectional gender perspective in the GCTS. The Permanent Representatives of Tunisia and Canada, Ambassadors Tarek Ladeb and Bob Rae, opened and closed the event, respectively. 

Throughout the GCTS Review and Roadmap process, C&SN partnered with fellow CSOs to conduct several rounds of advocacy meetings with member states in New York, pushing for civil society and human-rights, RoL, and intersectional gender-based inclusion in the strategy. 

New UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism

In November, C&SN submitted input to Ben Saul, the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. This input provided an opportunity for civil society to make proposals to inform the work of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, and to inform the report he will present at the 55th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in March 2024. C&SN proposed continuing and new thematic issues, such as the implementation of the Global Study’s findings and recommendations, equitable partnerships, intersectional integration, and inequities around visas. C&SN made these suggestions while taking care to not legitimize the UN CT architecture.

Palestinian Civil Society Under Attack

Throughout 2023, Palestinian civil society continued to come under attack from dubious lawfare groups, spurious “material support” allegations, restricted civic space, and Israel’s relentless assault on Gaza, funded and backed by the U.S. Many of the challenges Palestinian civil society faces are relics of discriminatory norms and entrenched legal and policy frameworks stemming from the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT). C&SN continued our work to protect the work of Palestinian – and all civil society actors – throughout the year.

In April, C&SN endorsed a joint letter, signed by 104 CSOs and spearheaded by HRW, urging UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Under Secretary-General Miguel Ángel Moratinos not to adopt an overly broad definition of antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), language which has fueled politically motivated attacks against dissenting civil society in Israel and Palestine who do not fit a pro-Israel paradigm. 

In May, C&SN raised awareness about the ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and several U.S. citizens living in Israel against the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). In a win for civil society and a victory against broader lawfare attacks, this time being politically motivated groups targeting dissenting civil society operating in Palestine and Israel by way of disingenuous legal tactics deployed through the U.S. courts, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit.

In November, C&SN documented the increase in the weaponization of the U.S. material support statutes against U.S.-based Palestinian organizations and student groups. C&SN highlighted the material support allegations against American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and the National Students for Justice in Palestine (National SJP). These types of allegations, unaccompanied by evidence, constitute a dangerous precedent for not only the U.S. legal system and the state of free speech but also for charitable giving and operations in crisis contexts like Gaza. 

Ceasefire Demands & Upholding IHL in Gaza

On October 10, C&SN issued a statement urging respect for legal obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) to be upheld in Palestine-Israel at all times, emphasizing the protection of civilians, healthcare workers and facilities, and those delivering humanitarian aid. We highlighted that the targeting of civilians – or attacks that fail to discriminate between combatants and civilians – are strictly prohibited under IHL. The statement called for safe passage for humanitarian supplies to be delivered to civilians in Gaza, and, given the comprehensive blockade of Gaza, noted the imperative that clear allowances be made to ensure access for food, water, medicine, and other basic items. 

On October 20, C&SN closed its doors in support of the Global General Strike for Palestine. We joined over 500 organizations from 60 countries demanding a ceasefire, urging immediate and unfettered humanitarian aid and access to civilians in Gaza, advocating for IHL be upheld, and calling for world leaders, the UN Security Council (UNSC), and actors on the ground to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe. C&SN reiterated the call for a ceasefire in December. Likewise in December, C&SN raised awareness on the non-binding UN General Assembly Resolution overwhelmingly adopted during the “Emergency Special Session” on the crisis in Palestine-Israel, that called for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, humanitarian access and a hostage release, and upholding international law obligations, highlighting civilian protection and IHL. 

Guidance on OFAC Regulations

Finally, also in November, C&SN developed a walkthrough to provide analysis and clarification on OFAC’s Compliance Communiqué, Guidance for the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance to the Palestinian People. The walkthrough clarified the technical aspects of OFAC prohibitions and authorizations in Palestine.

Thought Leadership

C&SN continued to be a thought leader at the intersection of nonprofit rights and national security throughout 2023. 

Even the Treasury Department Admits Sanctions Don’t Work – Responsible Statecraft

C&SN’s Associate Director for Policy & Advocacy, Ashleigh Subramanian-Montgomery, published an op-ed underscoring the ineffective track record of U.S. sanctions regimes in meeting their stated foreign policy objectives and provided recommendations for solutions and accountability. Read the full article published in Responsible Statecraft.

“Ask an Expert” Sanctions Webinar Series

In response to requests from our beloved community, C&SN launched a three-part webinar series titled “Ask an Expert” where we brought together researchers, academics, lawyers, civil society advocates, UN experts, UN member states, and former OFAC and Commerce department officials to discuss some of the most prominent sanctions-related issues.

Human Impacts & Exploring Sanctions Termination

In October, C&SN hosted leading sanctions researchers to discuss the complex and devastating impacts sanctions have on human and economic development, human rights, and civil society, in addition to the humanitarian harms, the need for impact assessments, and how to move from sanctions relief to reconstruction. While sanctions policy debates and studies have examined the efficacy and implementation of sanctions, panelists unpacked the processes, causes, and consequences of the underexplored topic of terminating sanctions. Special case studies included: Afghanistan, Iran, and Venezuela.

Navigating OFAC/BIS Licensing & Sanctions 

The second in the “Ask an Expert” series took place in November and brought together sanctions attorneys to explore the confusing and technical nuances of navigating regulatory requirements under sanctions regimes implemented by both Treasury’s OFAC and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). It supported NGOs in understanding sanctions compliance and highlighted approaches, questions, and appeal processes (BIS) for GLs, specific licenses, and export licenses. Special case studies included: Afghanistan, Myanmar, North Korea, and Syria. Due to the sensitivity of the subjects discussed, this panel took place under Chatham House Rule and was not recorded. However, C&SN published a summary of the key points.

UNSCR 2664 at One Year

The final edition took place in December, where key stakeholders who helped secure landmark UNSCR 2664, which established a humanitarian carveout across UN sanctions regimes, joined C&SN. Panelists discussed the negotiations that led to the Resolution’s development and adoption, gave an overview of the decades of advocacy and research that laid the groundwork, analyzed the impacts and current state of play, and explored strategies for extending the 1267 regime after the initial two-year review period, which ends on December 9, 2024.