Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to appear before the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade and Finance. My name is Peter Gubser. I am president of American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), a position I have held since 1977.
ANERA’s mission is to reduce poverty and relieve suffering, thereby improving the lives of people in the Middle East. In cooperation with local institutions (community nongovernmental organizations [NGOs], charities, municipalities, cooperatives and branches of central governments), we formulate and implement social and economic development projects, and provide relief in response to emergency needs.
A nonprofit, charitable organization, ANERA is concerned with the long-term development needs of Palestinians, Israelis, Lebanese and Jordanians. ANERA assists grassroots organizations to provide their communities with crucial health care and community services in addition to increasing employment and educational opportunities for deprived groups of people. Through an in-kind program, ANERA assists medical clinics and hospitals in meeting their annual requirements of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and sends emergency shipments in times of conflict. ANERA is also a pioneer in developing and supporting Arab-Israeli cooperative projects such as Friends of the Earth-Middle East, which is the association of Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian environmental NGOs.
Since 1968, ANERA has helped provide the basic necessities of life to people adversely affected by war and conflict. Through these efforts and increasing public understanding of the region, ANERA promotes peace.
During the past ANERA fiscal year, we provided over $12 million to projects in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories. ANERA receives funding from 25,000 individuals throughout the United States, corporations, foundations, the United States Agency for International Development, and multilateral agencies of the United Nations.
As I mentioned, ANERA implements its projects with and through local institutions. Overseas we have a staff of thirty people based in Jerusalem and Gaza, two of whom are American, the balance being local citizens. I wish to emphasize the fact that our staff has broad and deep knowledge of the area. The staffers are not only technically very sound, they also well understand the society in which we work.
As I understand it, the subcommittee wishes to know how ANERA operates in an environment where terrorist organizations operate, especially where some operate as charitable societies.
Our overriding policy is that we only supply assistance to legitimate and capable institutions. This also means that we do not assist charities that are part of terrorist organizations. Just as others, ANERA has received the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Organization on this list or their charities are not eligible for ANERA assistance.
The role of ANERA’s able staff is to evaluate the capabilities and capacities of our local partners. The staff members assess accountability, governance, technical capacity, ability to reach intended beneficiaries and the like. During this process we establish that the institution is legitimate, capable, and eligible to receive ANERA’s assistance. Naturally, all relevant data about the local institution is collected in our files. In light of this assessment, staff develops and implements the projects under senior leadership guidance.
As a project matures and is completed, extensive fiscal and programmatic reporting is generated for ANERA’s purposes as well as for the purposes and requirements of ANERA’s donors. These reports consist of detailed financial reports on how ANERA’s funds were used as well as the contribution by the local institution. Thus we insure accountability on the part of the local institution and ANERA. In like manner, we measure the impact of the project: Was it completed? Does it produce the stream of benefits for the beneficiaries that was desired? Do the beneficiaries have access to these benefits? In this manner we continually evaluate and assess the projects from a fiscal and impact standpoint.
In sum, ANERA’s process of project development, assessment, and completion seek to assure that the funds are used properly. As a complement to this function, the process also assures that the funds are not used improperly, for terrorist purposes that are the subject of this hearing, for corrupt purposes, or just for purposes other than those for which they were intended.
Looking at these issues from another level, ANERA is a founding member of InterAction, the association of American NGOs (or otherwise known as PVOs – private voluntary organizations). InterAction has published standards to which ANERA subscribes. As a board member of InterAction, I would like to petition the subcommittee to allow me to append a prepared InterAction statement to my statement. And with the permission of the subcommittee,I will read a couple of the most salient portions of InterAction’s statement. Naturally I will be pleased to answer any questions the subcommittee members may have.
Prepared Statement By InterAction
For the United States Senate
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Subcommittee on International Trade and Finance
August 1, 2002
InterAction appreciates the opportunity to present this statement to the Subcommittee on International Trade and Finance of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
InterAction is the largest alliance of U.S.-based international development and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations. With more than 160 members operating in all developing countries, we work to overcome poverty, exclusion, and suffering by advancing social justice and basic dignity for all.
InterAction is greater than the sum of its parts, a force multiplier that gives each member the collective power of all members to speak and act on issues of common concern. InterAction convenes and coordinates its members so in unison they can influence policy and debate on issues affecting tens of millions of people worldwide and improve their own practices.
Formed in 1984, and based in Washington, D.C. with a staff of thirty-five, InterAction includes members headquartered in twenty-five states. Both faith-based and secular, these organizations foster economic and social development; provide relief to those affected by disaster and war; assist refugees and internally displaced persons; advance human rights; support gender equality; protect the environment; address population concerns; and press for more equitable, just, and effective public policies.
Reflecting both the generosity of the American people and their strong support for international development and humanitarian assistance, our members receive more than $3 billion in annual contributions from private donors. Neither InterAction nor its members bear lightly the responsibility of the trust the American people place in us. As such, members ascribe to InterAction’s Private Voluntary Organization Standards that help assure accountability in the critical areas of financial management, fundraising, governance, and program performance. Our PVO Standards are a public document, available on our web site at www.interaction.org. The PVO Standards define the financial, operational and ethical code of conduct for InterAction and its member agencies. The Standards are at the heart of members’ commitment to accountability to their donors and to transparency in their operations. They assure appropriate use of funds.
Among the standards are requirements for audited financial statements, annual filing of Form 990 with the U.S. Government, annual reports, board approval of operating budgets, accountability for use of funds from the moment they are received until they are used in a project or for services, truth in advertising (including no material omissions), control of all fundraising activities conducted on their behalf, and defined procedures for evaluating, both qualitatively and quantitatively, their programs and objectives. The guidelines, which are part of the Standards, recommend that member organizations meet the standards of the National Charities Information Bureau and the Philanthropic Advisory Service of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Many members are among those charities rated by the Better Business Bureau.
Given their fiduciary responsibility for the funds they receive, InterAction members have long-established procedures to prevent theft, embezzlement, and other diversions of funds and supplies. Increasing care is taken in vetting new employees, in their training, in their supervision, and in creating environments in which they will consider themselves genuine team members.
In the post Cold War era insecurity has become a growing menace to the operations of NGOs, particularly those disaster response agencies trying to assist refugees, internally displaced persons and others exposed to death and injury in civil conflicts. Both governments and non-state actors have ignored their obligations to permit humanitarian organizations to have access to the victims of war. Indeed NGOs, United Nations agencies, and the Red Cross Movement have seen their personnel killed, injured, raped, taken hostage and otherwise abused in growing numbers. In this environment humanitarian organizations have been compelled to pay increased attention to personal and organizational security.
With generous support from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance or OFDA, InterAction developed the curriculum for a one-week course in NGO security, which has become the foundation for courses currently being offered by its members as well as by unaffiliated NGOs and commercial firms. Thousands of NGO employees have taken part in these trainings. The courses put heavy emphasis on security awareness, threat assessment, and personal comportment. In addition, InterAction developed guidelines for development of individual agency and post security plans. This framework is incorporated in OFDA’s own guidelines for those preparing project proposals. With further support from OFDA, a Security Seminar for CEOs was staged in September 2000 to encourage agency heads to institutionalize security awareness in their organizational cultures. At the request of the CEOs, InterAction researched good practices in the provision of security for national employees of InterAction members operating abroad, developing a set of Essential Steps on the Security of National Staff, which is now being incorporated in our PVO Standards.
InterAction members are well aware of their obligation to see that resources entrusted to their care are not stolen or diverted by anyone, including terrorists. The enhanced security measures they have adopted are intended in large measure to stiffen their defenses against misuse of their names, funds and other property.
Disaster Response NGOs are obliged to remain neutral in conflict situations. Like the Red Cross movement, their employees are unarmed and often work in areas where substantial elements of the local population are suspicious, resentful and violent. It is imperative that the NGOs avoid identification with belligerents. Most subscribe to the Code of Conduct developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies together with leading NGOs engaged in disaster relief. The Code of Conduct requires humanitarian agencies to maintain high standards of independence.
Thank you once more for the opportunity to inform the Subcommittee about InterAction, its members, and our collective efforts to insure that resources provided by donors are not diverted or otherwise misused.
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