The international humanitarian aid community and charitable organizations in the U.S. applaud the introduction of the Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act of 2013 (HAFA) (H.R. 3526) and thank Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) for their leadership on this critical issue.
We call on Congress to pass this legislation quickly. Some aspects of U.S. counter-terrorism laws have had the unintended consequence of discouraging, delaying and obstructing life-saving humanitarian assistance to men, women and children in great need who have the misfortune of living in areas where terrorist groups operate. And they limit efforts to end armed conflicts that cause much misery.
Through the speedy passage of HAFA, Congress can take an important step to ensure the responsible and efficient delivery of humanitarian aid, facilitate programs that work to end armed conflict, and prevent future slowdowns in aid and peace-building caused by existing laws and bureaucracy.
The Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act provides a limited authorization for responsible humanitarian aid organizations to deliver lifesaving aid to civilians living in areas under the control of groups on U.S. sanctions and terrorist lists. It provides for multiple safeguards to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches the most vulnerable people, without benefitting sanctioned and terrorist groups. HAFA also appropriately rebalances the current risk of legal prosecution that organizations responding to human suffering face if they operate in areas where such groups are present.
This bill strengthens national security by helping civilian populations become less dependent on terrorist entities and provides a counterpoint to terrorist propaganda by demonstrating the good will of the American government and people.
As organizations committed to helping people survive and recover from disasters and conflicts, we are committed to delivering assistance impartially and effectively. Ensuring that aid reaches only vulnerable civilians is critical to our humanitarian mission. Current law forces us and our donors to choose between helping people survive disasters and avoiding criminal prosecution, as was the case in Somalia from 2010 to 2012. With HAFA, we can focus on doing what we are called to do: helping people survive and overcome adversity, no matter where in the world they live.