WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Ranking Member Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) together held a hearing of the Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing this week focused the United States’ role in helping developing nation’s address terror financing.

The international community has sought to strengthen the financial, law enforcement, and legal systems of developing countries in order to better prevent the financing of terrorism and other illicit financial flows. The hearing examined the extent to which technical assistance is coordinated; successes and failures of the current assistance-delivery regime; and ways to improve the provision of such assistance.

“Throughout the lifetime of this Task Force, one fact has remained consistent: combatting terror finance is and must continue to be an international effort,”said Fitzpatrick. “The countries of today’s world are more interconnected than ever been before?—?especially when focusing on the financial system and the global trade system. With this much integration, the weakest link in the system becomes the target for exploitation by criminal organizations and terrorist groups. We must identify how the international community is addressing this issue, how efficient the U.S. is when delivering technical assistance to developing nations and how coordination between U.S. agencies and international partners can be improved.”

“ISIS, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups are constantly seeking new ways to fund their efforts. Weak financial institutions in the developing world are a breeding ground for corruption and a prime target for terrorist financiers,”said Lynch. “The United States must continue to expand robust and effective technical assistance to developing nations in order to investigate and prosecute terrorist financiers and prevent legitimate financial institutions from being exploited.”

Testifying at the hearing were:

  • Ambassador Robert M. Kimmitt, Senior International Counsel, WilmerHale
  • Mr. Clay Lowery, Vice President, Rock Creek Global Advisors and Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Mr. James W. Adams, former Vice President, East Asia and Pacific Region, World Bank
  • Mr. William F. Wechsler, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

“The world’s financial system, once entered, provides borderless, near seamless opportunity for our enemies to use the system to fund insidious operations designed to inflict near- and long term harm on the United States,” said Kimmitt.

“Given their weaker institutional capacities and systems, it is perhaps inevitable that developing countries, particularly lower-income developing countries, would become preferred targets for criminal and terrorist actors,”noted Adams. “Gaps in bank supervision capacities and weak technical skills make these countries attractive targets; moreover governance and corruption issues within government bureaucracies can often undermine even the efforts of honest governments in these areas.”

Key Takeaways from the Hearing:

  • No body or other institution is charged with facilitating, on a global level, the provision of training and technical assistance relating to methods to combat terror financing and money laundering.
  • The United States and the international community have sought to strengthen the financial, law enforcement, and legal systems of developing countries in order to better prevent the financing of terrorism and criminal activity.
  • Governments extend “technical assistance” and “capacity building” bilaterally; multilateral institutions and, in some instances, non-government organizations also deliver assistance in these areas.
  • Building on previous findings, the task force will continue to hold hearings with U.S. terror financing officials and global counterterrorism experts to identify weaknesses in current policy, while working to ensure terror groups are unable to financially support their operations.