Photo: Ali Jarekji / Reuters
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Cash flows and compliance in crisis
In March-August 2015, our team conducted a rapid technical assessment involving informal money transfers to Syria. It was intended to assist humanitarian agencies operating inside the country who aim to reconcile two important goals: (1) to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of those who are affected by the conflict inside Syria and not benefiting from aid distributed in government-held areas; and (2) to minimise the risk that cash channelled in support of these efforts is neither derived from nor diverted to criminal or terrorist groups.
Given the changing nature of international sanctions and fluid financial regulatory context of the countries immediately surrounding Syria – Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – our focus was on developing simple but dynamic tools for humanitarian agencies to use in their internal risk management and action planning that, combined with highly specialist context analysis, should help facilitate the early stages of cash programming in the country.
Our first assignment on 'safer corridors' was triggered by the decision of UK and US banks to terminate banking services for Money Service Businesses (MSBs) between 2012-13. The goal was to collect more evidence of the problem affecting specific ethnic corridors, and to develop policy solutions that will allow the flow of diaspora and other cross-border transfers to continue to countries like Somalia in a cost effective and secure manner.
The team presented the findings in various open and closed fora, such as the Oxford University Africa Studies Centre, USAID Headquarters in Washington DC, and the Somalia Working Group at the United States Institute of Peace.
An Action Group on Cross-Border Remittances was established in London to enact the recommendations and continue the cross-sector, public-private dialogue on how to reconcile the important policy goals related to international remittances and funds transfers.