Between 2004 and 2009, QACA played an increasingly critical role in making Qatar’s charitable sector more efficiency and competitive in the region. One of these roles was facilitation of information sharing and accreditation of overseas charitable partners. Under Qatar laws, it is required that charities present information about other organizations and associations with which they have formal working relationships. QACA conducted due diligence to ensure that the foreign partners of Qatari charities were lawfully registered in their countries and that they were engaged in legitimate activities (Jonathan, 2003). Most importantly, QACA sought to ascertain if the foreign entities were blacklisted or designated as sponsor of terrorism or money laundering. In conducting the due diligence, QACA worked closely with many stakeholders including law enforcing agencies and regulatory bodies in home countries. QACA also distributed notices to financial institutions in the country informing them of foreign and domestic partners for Qatari charities.
For ongoing monitoring of the activities of Qatari charities and their foreign partners, QACA implemented a system that allowed its staff to regularly inspect the legal and financial documents of the charities. In addition, the authority encouraged Qatari charities to request their foreign partners to provide required information as a way of ensuring transparency. In some cases, QACA turned down requests for registration whenever it was felt that certain charities or their foreign partners were not engaged in legitimate activities. For example, where it found that the supposed foreign partners were registered as a commercial entities rather than a charitable organization, registration was automatically declined. Registrations were also declined if the foreign partners were found to be from countries that lacked clear regulatory frameworks. This unique approach employed enabled it to ensure that Qatari charities operated lawfully and in accordance with international regulations (Abdul, n.d).
The second role that QACA played related to regulation of the fundraising activities of all charitable organizations registered or operating in Qatar. Unlike other countries, Qatar’s charitable associations do not operate like typical donors when handling requests for charities from abroad. Instead, they convert requests for funds into funding projects. They then conduct a fundraising campaign to support the specific cause. In so doing, some charities may abuse their powers to misappropriate charitable funds. QACA took a series of measures to protect the interests of donors and the public during fundraising. Among these measures were the series of awareness campaigns informing the public that charitable donations must be made through the right channels. In particular, QACA banned Qatari charities from arising money in public using collection boxes without approval. Only those charities and individuals approved could collect funds from the public. In addition, they were not allowed to empty the cash from the collection boxes without the supervision of QACA inspectors. Reports were made for each box, which served as basis for financial oversight and control (Jonathan, 2003).
QACA also made it mandatory for charities to obtain approval before launching media campaigns for overseas humanitarian missions or projects. Each media campaign had to have an identification code and license number serving as proof of QACA approval. In addition, involvement of the media in fundraising activities had to be done in accordance with the terms of reference stated in the campaign license. Under its mandate, QACA was authorized to take appropriate disciplinary and legal action against any individual or entity found collecting charity funds without following the law. Fear of disciplinary action compelled most of the charities to operate within the law.
QACA also took measures to protect charitable funds from being channeled away from the intended beneficiaries. It achieved this by communicating with banks and informing them to monitor movements of funds held in the accounts of charities. In addition, the authority sent memos to various mosques and religious leaders in the country asking them not to allow fund raising by individuals and groups not authorized by QACA. The authority also requested all charities to provide periodic reports with detailed descriptions and statistics of their foreign missions. For those charities with foreign operations or overseas partners, QACA conducted overseas visits to verify records and financial transactions of foreign operations. Through these foreign visits, QACA was able to obtain pertinent that it used to implement measures for avoiding future risks. It can be argued that the foreign visits conducted by QACA helped to boost the authority’s international reputation as a strategic partner in the global war against terrorism and terror financing. In essence, the various rules and regulations implemented by QACA are strongly related to the anti-terror laws, making the association the foremost player in Qatar’s involvement in the counterterrorism war.
Thirdly, QACA played a critical role in coordinating and facilitating relief efforts by charities during crises and disasters. Major local and foreign crises such as the earthquake in China, floods in Pakistan, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the Israel bombardment of Gaza in 2008 and 2009, and the Lebanon crisis are some of the instances during which QACA coordinated humanitarian activities by Qatari charities. During the crises, the authority organized several high level public appeals for funds and other forms of humanitarian assistance. The public and philanthropic donors responded favorably, which earned QACA increased reputation as an effective funds mobiliser.
GWOT in Qatar
1.2 Accomplishments of Qatar Authority of Charitable Activities between 2004-2009
Following the terrorist attacks of September 2001 in the United States, the international community led by the United Nations Security Council set stringent regulations for the global charity sector. This was in response to the revelation that certain charitable organizations had helped terrorist organizations to plan and finance the attacks. One of the measures taken by the UN Security Council was the strengthening of the role of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in fighting money laundering. Member states of the task force, as its affiliate institutions, are required to take appropriate measures to comply with the stated recommendations for combating money laundering and other financial crimes. Part of these recommendations (Special Recommendation VIII) refers to the regulation of not-for-profit organizations, which include charity groups and other non-governmental organizations. FATF requires member states to implement laws for regulating the activities of the not-for-profit sector.
Qatar is one of the several countries that have implemented the FATF recommendations on combating money laundering and terror financing. The government of Qatar established the Qatar Authority of Charitable Activities (QACA) in 2004 with a key mandate of developing, regulating, encouraging, supervising and supporting all types of charitable activities conducted by charitable organizations in Qatar. In addition to regulating fundraising by Qatari charities, QACA also directly supported humanitarian activities. Under the laws regulating charitable activities in Qatar, all charitable institutions and associations operating in the country are subject to control and supervision by QACA. In addition, individuals and entities authorized to raise donations or initiate charitable activities are also subject to supervision by QACA. Thus, QACA occupies a special position with regard to the regulation of charities in Qatar and by extension neighboring countries in the region.
Like similar organizations in other countries, QACA was responsible for approving prospects for charitable organizations in Qatar, keeping crucial documents and overseeing financial management. All charitable institutions (including those funded through royal foundations) are subject to rigorous accountability tests and thorough auditing by QACA. QACA specifies the legal requirements that must be met by organizations and individuals involved in charity activities in the country as well as their foreign partners. The association retains the right to deregister or dissolve any charitable organization that violates the law. It can also recommend prosecutions against entities and individuals suspected of violating the charity law. Under the law, no charitable group registered in Qatar can be part of another charitable group in another country without prior and explicit permission from QACA. Similarly, no charity can receive or send funds abroad without the approval of QACA.