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27 Aug, 2007 03:18

U.S. follows Russia's lead on NGOs issue

The U.S. is going to screen its aid recipients, to ensure it is not giving away money to terrorists.

From now on, agencies that are applying for funds through the United States Agency for International Development will have to submit extensive details about their key employees, but not everyone is pleased with the new rules.

The Bush Administration's new anti-terrorism screening policy is raising concern amongst non-governmental organizations and aid groups. The U.S. Agency for International Development, which dispenses non-military foreign aid through NGO's, will, for the first time, require aid recipients to file detailed information on employees to check if there are links to terror groups or entities.

“It  would require all of the recipients of the U.S. aid funds to provide certain kinds of personal information about employees and, as we read the notice, the beneficiaries of the organizations,” stated Maurice Middleberg from Global Health Council, Washington D.C.

The anti-terror effort, know as the Partner Vetting System, will use U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the screening process. According to the newly proposed guidelines, NGO's that refuse to share employee data with the federal government may loose their funding.

“I think it will be very different from the kind of ”damn it“ reaction ”the world opinion“, so to speak, had towards similar measures by Russia a couple of years ago. There was a lot of indignation about how NGO can be scrutinized and controlled, the way the Russian government suggested. I do not think we will see anything like it, anything similar, to what we saw a couple of years ago, when the outcry was general,” commented Viktor Linnik, the Editor of Slovo newspaper.

A growing number of NGO's who depend on the U.S. aid funding are challenging the Bush Administration's new measure. The agencies cite violations of privacy rights and lack of Congressional authority associated with the newly required screenings.

“We believe that our members, which are organizations devoted to ensuring that the poor and developing nations get access to healthcare, should remain focused on their work and should not be impeded in carrying out their work through some administrative regulations,” added Maurice Middleberg.

The new NGO screening program is set to go in effect on Monday, barring any delays. According to federal documents, as many as 2,000 organizations may be involved in the terror screening process. But growing outrage from international relief and development groups may soon find the proposed regulations challenged in the U.S. Federal Court.