By Faith Kerubo
Financial terrorism has become a significant concern in today’s world, with terrorist organizations exploiting financial systems and resources to support their activities. While the term “financial terrorism” may have varied interpretations, it generally encompasses illicit fund movements, money laundering, and the financing of terrorist groups.
In this article, we will explore the implications of financial terrorism and its relevance to civil society organizations (CSOs), particularly those involved in peace and security initiatives, including prevention, and countering violent extremism (P/CVE).
Recent security reports indicate a surge in attacks in Kenya’s Garissa and Lamu counties, which experts attribute to counter-offensives in Somalia. These operations have forced the extremist group al-Shabaab to seek refuge in neighboring countries, leading to an increase in illicit trade and smuggling across the Kenya-Somalia border. This situation highlights how terrorist organizations, such as al-Shabaab, exploit smuggling networks and illicit trade to finance their operations. Additionally, they may seek funds from sympathizers and manipulate unwitting CSOs to support their activities.
To effectively address the risks associated with financial terrorism, CSOs involved in P/CVE efforts must be aware of potential vulnerabilities within their organizations. Weak controls, lack of transparency, and inadequate oversight can make CSOs susceptible to exploitation by terrorist organizations for financing purposes. Therefore, conducting thorough risk assessments is crucial to identify these vulnerabilities, including areas such as transportation, storage facilities, and communication networks that can be misused by terrorists.
CSOs should familiarize themselves with anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) laws to prevent terrorist activities. Investing in capacity building, establishing internal reporting mechanisms, maintaining open communication channels, and collaborating with relevant authorities are essential steps in combating financial terrorism.
Furthermore, CSOs can play a proactive role in advocating for policies and regulations that strike a balance between preventing terrorism financing and protecting the legitimate activities of civil society. This can be achieved through grassroots engagements with communities, consultations with policymakers, and contributing to the development of effective AML/CTF frameworks.
CSOs must remain vigilant and adapt to the evolving nature of financial terrorism. Technological advancements, such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI), have provided new avenues for terrorist groups to exploit financial systems. Therefore, staying informed and implementing measures to prevent the misuse of financial systems for terrorist activities is paramount. Even the slightest piece of intelligence can save an entire country or region from extensive damage caused by terrorists.
By understanding the risks associated with financial terrorism and taking proactive measures, CSOs can contribute significantly to mitigating the threat and safeguarding societies. Together, we can create a future where terrorist organizations find it increasingly difficult to finance their destructive activities, ultimately reducing the chances of our children and the next generation being involved in perpetuating societal ills.
Faith Kerubo Ombese is Research and Finance officer at Epuka Ugaidi organization