InterAction’s ‘Together Project’ to Protect Vulnerable NGOs

Together Project Expert Briefing held at InterAction. Photo By: InterAction
Coalition to Advocate for NGOs Experiencing Discrimination Due to Religious Faith or Operating Principles

In January 2017, in partnership with a group of founding members (list below) and supported by leaders across our community, InterAction launched the Together Project. This endeavor represents a hub of advocacy and solidarity for U.S. based NGOs that provide vital development and humanitarian relief around the world and confront discrimination or targeted prejudicial regulations in the U.S. due to their operating principles or religious faith. The Together Project enables us to share information and develop strategies in response to shrinking civil society space experienced by these NGOs.

Through the Together Project, InterAction actively represents its members, particularly organizations that are most vulnerable to any direct attacks, or indirect impacts of laws, regulations, or policies that have a chilling effect on their ability to function. The most recent activity of the initiative was supporting the testimony of InterAction CEO Sam Worthington at a Senate Hearing on International Development last week. In his testimony (PDF), Worthington discussed the impact of bank de-risking on humanitarian organizations. He explained that “We operate in the neediest parts of the world and unfortunately, those are the countries that are most often associated with ‘risk’ regarding anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terror… Banks’ efforts to ‘de-risk’ themselves can lead to ‘de-banking’ of NGOs, making it more difficult for NGOs to put the philanthropy of the American public to its intended purpose in deeply poor communities abroad.”

The Together Project protects the ability of all international development and relief organizations to access financial services and respond to changes in the regulatory environment as they provide services in diverse locations, including conflict and high-risk areas. As outlined in Worthington’s testimony, these impediments are, in part, caused by an unforgiving regulatory environment and an inaccurate risk perception and risk calculation on the part of the financial services sector, exacerbated by a growing volume of hate speech within U.S. public discourse. The Together Project brings attention to these issues, educates relevant policymakers and officials, convenes and facilitates conversations to explore and identify solutions, connects NGOs with each other, and builds solidarity.

InterAction fosters a cooperative environment among its members to facilitate closer collaboration and information-sharing with our more vulnerable members. Through this initiative, InterAction will facilitate a “Together Project Working Group” to address common issues, and tackle risk assessment and mitigation strategies. The new working group will be open to all InterAction members and will actively engage a diverse array of organizations, across different faith-based and non-sectarian perspectives.

For more information about the Together Project or to join the upcoming working group, please contact Princess Bazley-Bethea at pbazleybethea@interaction.org.