Protecting charities from terrorists … and counterterrorists: FATF and the global effort to prevent terrorist financing through the non-profit sector


What role has FATF played in the global effort to counter terrorist financing through the non-profit sector? How have advocates for the sector responded and what do these developments tell us about FATF’s operations and influence? This article reflects on the emergence and evolution of FATF Recommendation 8, initially introduced as Special Recommendation VIII after the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001. We show how the breadth of that recommendation elicited a response in the form of a "transnational advocacy network" among those within the non-profit sector. The resulting process of dialogue and the recent change in the text of the recommendation provide important lessons for scholars and practitioners concerned about FATF's accountability and authority.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    In February 2012, FATF consolidated the “40 + 9 recommendations” on AML and CFT into a revised “40 Recommendations.” In that transition, SRVIII became R8 and the text remained identical. Consistent with FATF usage, we refer to “SRVIII” in citing the recommendation prior to 2012 and “R8” after that. The text of R8 was only revised in 2016.

  2. 2.

    When Special Recommendation VIII was adopted in 2001, FATF’s membership comprised 29 governments and 2 regional organizations [7]


  1. 1.

    FATF. (2015a). FATF takes action to tackle de-risking. Accessed 28 Feb 2017.

  2. 2.

    Keck, M. E., & Sikkink, K. (1999). Transnational advocacy networks in international and regional politics. International Social Science Journal, 51(159), 89–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    FATF. (2012). International standards on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation: the FATF recommendations (updated June 2016). Paris: FATF. Accessed 7 Sept 2016.

  4. 4.

    G7. (2001). Statement of the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors: action plan to combat the financing of terrorism. Washington, DC.

  5. 5.

    Biersteker, T. J., Eckert, S. E., & Romaniuk, P. (2007). International initiatives to combat the financing of terrorism. In T. J. Biersteker & S. E. Eckert (Eds.), Countering the financing of terrorism (pp. 234–259). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Romaniuk, P. (2014). The state of the art on the financing of terrorism. The RUSI Journal, 159(2), 6–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    FATF. (2002a). Annual report 2001–2002. Accessed 8 Sept 2016.

  8. 8.

    FATF. (2002b). Self-assessment questionnaire: FATF special recommendations on terrorist financing (SAQTF(02)EN).

  9. 9.

    FATF. (2002c). Combating the abuse of non-profit organizations: international best practices. Accessed 7 Sept 2016.

  10. 10.

    MENAFATF. (2005). Best practices issued by the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force concerning the charities [sic.]. Accessed 8 Sept 2016.

  11. 11.

    APG. (2011). Typologies report: NPO sector vulnerabilities. Accessed 8 Sept 2016.

  12. 12.

    Hayes, B. (2012). Counter-terrorism, 'policy laundering' and the FATF: Legalizing surveillance, regulating civil society. Transnational Institute/Statewatch. Accessed 7 Sept 2016.

  13. 13.

    Charity and Security Network. (2013). Restrictive laws: how the FATF issued to justify laws that harm civil society, freedom of association and expression (issue brief no. 107). Washington, DC: Charity & Security Network.

  14. 14.

    Council on Foreign Relations. (2002). Terrorist financing: Report of an independent task force. New York: Council on Foreign Relations.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. (2016). NGO law monitor: Saudi Arabia. Accessed 7 Sept 2016.

  16. 16.

    Gunaratna, R. (2002). Inside Al Qaeda: Network of terror. New York: Berkley Books.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Abuza, Z. (2003). Funding terrorism in Southeast Asia: the financial network of Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya. Contemporary Southeast Asia, 25(2), 169–199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Kohlmann, E. (2006). The role of Islamic charities in international terrorist recruitment and financing (DIIS Working Paper No. 2006/7). Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies.

  19. 19.

    Roth, J., Greenberg, D., & Willie, S. (2004). Monograph on terrorist financing: Staff report to the commission. Washington, DC: National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Brisard, J.C. (2002). Terrorism financing: roots and trends of Saudi terrorism financing. Report prepared by JCB Consulting for the President of the Security Council United Nations. Accessed 8 Sept 2016.

  21. 21.

    Eckert, S. E., & Biersteker, T. (2010). (Mis)measuring success in countering in financing of terrorism. In P. Andreas & K. M. Greenhill (Eds.), Sex, drugs, and body counts: The politics of numbers in global crime and conflict (pp. 262–263). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Passas, N. (2006). Setting global CFT standards: a critique and suggestions. Journal of Money Laundering Control, 9(3), 281–292.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Wittig, T. (2011). Understanding terrorist finance. London: Palgrave.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Rietig, K. (2016). The power of strategy: environmental NGO influence in international climate negotiations. Global Governance, 22(2), 269–288.

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Guinane, K. (2002). Anti-terrorism law could impact non-profits. Non-Profit Quarterly. Accessed 1 Sept 2014.

  26. 26.

    OMB Watch. (2003). The USA patriot act and its impact on nonprofit organizations. Accessed 1 Sept 2014.

  27. 27.

    Sidel, M. (2007). More secure, less free? Antiterrorism policy and civil liberties after September 11. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Treasury Guidelines Working Group of Charitable Sector Organizations and Advisors. (2005). The principles of international charity. Accessed 1 Sept 2014.

  29. 29.

    Ramos, E. et al. (2004). Handbook on counter-terrorism measures: what U.S. nonprofits and grantmakers need to know. Day, Berry & Howard Foundation on behalf of Independent Sector, InterAction and the Council on Foundations. Accessed 1 Sept 2014.

  30. 30.

    Macrae, J., & Adele Harmer, A. (Eds.). (2003). Humanitarian action and the ‘global war on terror’: a review of trends and issues (HPG Report 14). London: Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute.

  31. 31.

    Sidel, M. (2010). Regulation of the voluntary sector: Freedom and security in an era of uncertainty. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Quigley, N., & Pratten, B. (2007). Security and civil society: the impact of counterterrorism measures on civil society organisations. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  33. 33.

    Commission of the European Communities. (2005). The prevention of and fight against terrorist financing through enhanced national level coordination and greater transparency of the non-profit sector (COM (2005) 620 final). Brussels: European Commission.

  34. 34.

    Matrix Insight. (2008). Study to assess the extent of abuse of non-profit organisations for financial criminal purposes at EU level. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  35. 35.

    Bloodgood, E. A., & Tremblay-Boire, J. (2010). NGO responses to counterterrorism regulations after September 11. International Journal for Not-for-Profit Law, 12(4) Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  36. 36.

    Howell, J., & Lind, J. (Eds.). (2009). Civil society under strain: Counterterrorism policy, civil society and aid post-9/11. Sterling: Stylus Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    INTRAC. (2006), Assessing the implications of counter-terrorism measures for non-governmental organisations. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  38. 38.

    Sen, K. with Morris, T. (2008). Civil society and the war on terror. Oxford: INTRAC.

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    ICNL & WMD. (2008). Defending civil society: A report by the world movement for democracy. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  40. 40.

    Cortright, D. et al. (2011). Friend not foe: opening spaces for civil society engagement to prevent violent extremism (2nd ed.). Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  41. 41.

    CTITF Working Group. (2009). CTITF working group report: Tackling the financing of terrorism. New York: United Nations Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

    Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Scheinin, M. (2006). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (UN Report A/61/267). Retrieved from:

  43. 43.

    Charity and Security Network (n.d.) About us. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  44. 44.

    Guinane, K., Dick, V., & Adams, A. (2008). Collateral damage: how the war on terror hurts charities, foundations and the people they serve. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  45. 45.

    Warde, I. (2007). The price of fear: The truth behind the financial war on terror. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    de Willebois, E.V.D.D. (2010). Non-profit organizations and the combatting of terrorism financing (World Bank Working Paper No. 208). Retrieved from

  47. 47.

    Modirzadeh, N. K., Lewis, D. A., & Bruderlein, C. (2011). Humanitarian engagement under counter-terrorism: a conflict of norms and the emerging policy landscape. International Review of the Red Cross, 93(883), 623–647.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Pantuliano, S. et al. (2011). Counter-terrorism and humanitarian action: tensions, impact and ways forward (Policy Brief No.43). London: Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute.

  49. 49.

    Mackintosh, K., & Duplat, P. (2013). Study of the impact of donor counter-terrorism measures on principled humanitarian action. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  50. 50.

    Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation et al. (2013). To protect and prevent: outcomes of a global dialogue to counter terrorist abuse of the nonprofit sector. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  51. 51.

    Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182. (2010). Research studies – volume 2 terrorism financing, charities, and aviation security. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  52. 52.

    Drezner, D. W. (2008). All politics is global: Explaining international regulatory regimes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Sharman, J. C. (2011). The money laundry: Regulating criminal finance in the global economy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Aamo, B.S. (2012). Presentation of the priorities for the Norwegian presidency (2012–2013). Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  55. 55.

    FATF. (2013a). Consultation and dialogue with non-profit organisations. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  56. 56.

    FATF. (2013b). Best practices: combating the abuse of non-profit organisations (Recommendation 8). Limited update.

  57. 57.

    FATF. (2014). Risk of terrorist abuse in non-profit organisations. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  58. 58.

    FATF. (2015b). Outcomes of the plenary meeting of the FATF, Brisbane, 24–26 June 2015. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  59. 59.

    Global NPO Coalition on FATF. (n.d.). Timeline. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  60. 60.

    European Center for Not-for-Profit Law. (2016). A string of successes in changing global counter-terrorism policies that impact civic space. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  61. 61.

    FATF. (2013c). Methodology for assessing technical compliance with the FATF recommendations and the effectiveness of AML/CFT systems. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.

  62. 62.

    Lewis, D. (2016). Post to Twitter feed. Accessed 10 Sept 2016.

  63. 63.

    Uncivil societies: illiberal governments are blocking activists from receiving foreign cash. Liberal ones should not join in. (2014, 13 September). The Economist. Retrieved from

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter Romaniuk.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Romaniuk, P., Keatinge, T. Protecting charities from terrorists … and counterterrorists: FATF and the global effort to prevent terrorist financing through the non-profit sector. Crime Law Soc Change 69, 265–282 (2018).

Download citation