The initiative of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has challenged the premises of the Government's focus on possible terrorist abuse of charities and their consequences. It examines the impact of terrorism and counter-terrorism regulation and legislation on charities and voluntary organisations in the UK.
The report focuses on three areas: the impact of the Government's approach to terrorism and charities; the existing regulation of charities; and legal opinion on the implications of the UK's anti-terrorist finance regime on charities and other non-profit organisations.
The report notes that charities are determined to prevent any abuse of charitable status and takes issue with the Government's approach. Its key points include:
- The Government's approach is draconian, and could get worse, restricting charities ability to operate without dealing with the problem.
- So far, government's response shows no understanding of charities' experiences and is not based on evidence of activity within charities.
-There is no evidence that existing charity regulation is inadequate for the task of preventing terrorist abuse.
- Government's heavy handed approach could drive voluntary groups underground. It should be working to engage charities rather than alienating them.
- Government's approach to the terrorist threat has been carried out unilaterally, without proper consultation with charities.
The report also makes a number of recommendations on how government should take forward its approach to charities and the terrorist threat:
- Government should recognise the valuable role of charities in turning people away from destructive paths, such as terrorism.
- The independence of Charity Commission must be protected and its effectiveness in this area should be acknowledged.
- Government should not propose additional regulation of charities without taking existing regulation into consideration
- Government should promote charity led counter terrorism initiatives.
The report is being published in order to influence the Home Office/Treasury Joint Review into terrorist financing, which is due to be published shortly. It is the product of an advisory group, set up by NCVO and chaired by Lord Plant of Highfield.
Members of the Advisory Group: ACF- Association of Charitable Foundations, Al-Muntada Al-Islami Trust, BOND British Overseas NGOs for Development, Demos, Institute of Fundraising, Islamic Relief, Justice, Liberty, London School of Economics, Centre for Civil Society, Bates, Wells and Braithwaite, Muslim Aid, Muslim Association of Britain, Muslim Council of Britain, NCVO National Council for Voluntary Organisations, NICVA Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, SCVO Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, WCVA Wales Council for Voluntary Action. Observers: Charity Commission (Observer), OSCR (Observer), Northern Ireland Department for Social Development (Observer). Legal Advisors: Caoilfhionn Gallagher & Edward Fitzgerald QC (Doughty Street Chambers).
The report, 'Security and Civil Society the impact of counter-terrorism measures on civil society organisations' can be viewed at www.ncvo-vol.org.uk.