To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are planning to assist the actions of NGOs in relation to vulnerable populations by leading an international initiative to establish secure and protected licensed financial routes in order to finance humanitarian and reconstruction work in sanctioned areas, such as Syria.
The Government is supporting NGOs to provide vital humanitarian services in Syria. The Government is also working domestically and internationally, with both the banking sector and NGOs, to ensure payment channels are available and secure.
The Government recognises the difficulties some NGOs are facing in accessing banking services in the UK. Indeed, the Government has received representations from a wide range of organisations and individuals who have been affected by bank account closures, including from the charitable sector.
This is a global problem, with the Government taking steps to address this internationally and domestically. The UK put the issue on the G20 agenda in 2015, which led to an Action Plan being undertaken by the Financial Stability Board, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF), the International Monetary Fund and other relevant bodies. As a result of this initiative, FATF has amended the global AML/CTF standard relating to non-profit organisations, to ensure that banks take a risk-based approach to managing the risk of criminal and terrorist exploitation of this sector. In addition, FATF has produced guidance to support the effective and proportionate management of money laundering/terrorism financing risks by correspondent banks and money service businesses providing similar services.
Domestically, the Government has encouraged the banking sector to develop new due diligence guidance specifically for smaller NGOs in the charitable sector and will support the banks in the development of a common understanding of the due diligence requirements to help minimise the impact on smaller NGOs.
HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation also published guidance on 19 October 2017 for charities and NGOs to raise awareness and promote compliance with financial sanctions.
For the longer term, in order to continue dialogue with the NGO community on banking access and payments in high risk jurisdictions, including Syria, a Government-NGO Working Group has been established to better understand concerns and explore possible solutions. The group is currently examining the specific challenges faced in getting aid into hard-to-reach communities.