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The us Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act

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Maintaining Humanitarian Space in us Legislation

image of Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies

United States (us) counter-terrorism measures – including the us Code on material support, sanction regimes and donor restrictions – have the unintentional affect of constraining humanitarian action. Under current us law, incidental financial transactions with designated entities, even when necessary for the provision of purely humanitarian aid, are prohibited. Engagement to ensure the protection of civilians, gain access to vulnerable populations, ensure staff security or coordinate the implementation of humanitarian programmes that could be considered “training […] or expert advise” would similarly be subject to individual criminal liability under us jurisdiction. In contexts where designated entities are present, humanitarian actors are potentially faced with undermining their impartiality and neutrality by choosing beneficiaries on criteria other than needs alone, or compromising the principle of humanity by choosing not to provide assistance in certain areas despite potential greater needs there. Passage of the House Resolution 3526, otherwise known as the Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Action, would decriminalize incidental financial transactions with designated entities, but it would do little to change the legal challenges to a range of other types of humanitarian engagement for the provision of assistance and protection to civilians. It would also not change us donor restrictions that often prevent any direct engagement with designated entities.

Affiliations: 1: Research Associate, Global Public Policy Institute,


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