i. Several Gulf countries expressed strong fears that the Montreaux Initiative could be used to facilitate foreign intelligence gathering services. Owing to the strong political and military ties between Gulf countries and the United States, these countries felt that their continued involvement with the Montreaux Initiative could not be received favourably by the United States. In any event, most of the Gulf countries were allies with the United States in the fight against terrorist since September 2001 attacks. Therefore, they did not want to feel betrayed by the Montreaux Initiative.
ii. Representatives from the United States were categorical that their country could not support the initiative if it brought on board Palestinian charities (especially Hamas and those affiliated to it). In the war against terror, the United States had blacklisted several Palestinian charities and their associates across the globe (ICG 2003, p. 29-32). Some of these charities were openly supportive of outlawed groups such as Hamas, which was regarded to be a leading Islamist group in Palestine. Accordion to the United States, allowing such like charities to be represented in the Montreaux initiative was tantamount to endorsing their violent and terrorist activities, contrary to the charter of the Montreaux Initiative.
iii. The United Kingdom expressed strong objections to some of the previous recommendations arguing that they did not state explicitly how the initiative was going to deal with the issue of political Islamist groups. The United Kingdom also argued that it was impossible for the Montreaux Initiative to be non-political and only follow the humanitarian principles in its actions. This, in the UK’s view was because the issue of charity has important political implications for the involved organization as well as the recipients (Jonathan, 2008).
Upon deliberations and negotiations, it was agreed that the Montreaux Initiative would stick to its original mandate of facilitating confidence building among Western countries. This meant that the initiative would not involve itself in any matters that could be construed as attempts to blacklist or white list any Islamic charity. Nor would the Montreaux initiative attempt to influence decisions taken by any government to either ban or register any charitable organization. However, the initiative could encourage governments to strengthen their laws on charity to accord suspected organizations and individuals a fair hearing in the war against terrorism. It awes further agreed that a common assessment process be instituted to pave way for a future directed mechanism for providing certificate of compliance. This would in the long run contribute to improvement of governance and transparency of Islamic charities as well as the external environment around them (in the context of the global war on terrorism).
It was observed that the Montreaux recommendations did not talk about the need for Islamic charities to conduct background checks on their donors. In essence, the initiative paved way for the Islamic charities to receive funding from anonymous donors (some of whom could be outlawed groups). This could be dangerous to the objectives of the Montreaux initiative as some of the anonymous donors could be individuals and organizations keen to use charities for money laundering or terror financing. Accordingly, it was agreed that future meetings be held to discuss the issue of donor identity, with particular emphasis on the significance of encouraging transparency in the flow of funds into and out of the accounts of Islamic charities and the recipients (Jonathan, 2008).
In October 2007, an exclusive meeting for the Core Team was held in London. Interpal, the pro-Palestinian Islamic charity organised the London meeting with the aim of reviewing progress and chatting a way forward since the previous year’s meeting in the same city. During the meeting, it was revealed that delegates from Switzerland had began negotiations with the United States Treasury. The purpose of these negotiations was to agree on ways through which Gulf countries would support the Montreaux Initiative without fear of backlash from the US. For a great majority of charities based in the Gulf, funding is obtained from Western countries, with the United States being the largest source. Therefore, the funds have to pass through the US financial system, and can easily be held up if the United States suspects foul play on the part of charities. The meeting also revealed that the board of trustees was working on developing a compliance indicator software, which would hopefully be funded by the government of Switzerland. Overall, the core team expressed its faith on the Montreaux initiative principles and pledged to rally the support of as many stakeholders as possible in its activities and operations.
In the same month, a meeting was convened for lawyers involved in cases relating to Islamic charities delivering aid to Palestine. It was agreed that due to the neutrality principle, the Core Team could not be involved in the meeting because its deliberations were more of advocacy rather than confidence building. The meeting made clear that a number of Islamic charities in many European countries were facing difficulties in raising funds and channelling them to recipients even in dire situations. In this regard, the participants agreed to jointly initiate a clearing house of information, and to also put in place a necessity plan to cater for the long-term needs of the affected charities with the aim of creating a win-win situation.
During the last week of October 2007, a planning meeting was held in Lausanne. In this meeting, it was agreed to document a historical narrative for the Montreaux Initiative, detailing core events, milestones, achievements and challenges since the initiative’s conception. The meeting also discussed a strategy for long-term improvement of the image of Interpal, one of the many Islamic charities that did not enjoy good relations with Israel and the United States. The meeting was adjourned with all members having reached a consensus that if all the Montreaux principles were adhered to by the stakeholders as outlined, substantial success would have been achieved in the confidence building process. It was however agreed that the Montreaux Initiative had a major obstacles to overcome to be accepted as a legitimate organization in the West because each country had their own framework for fighting terror.
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