Anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism funding measures may overburden CSOs


CSOs concerned about the potential impact of new measures combating money laundering and terrorism funding 

New measures to combat terrorism funding and money laundering have caused confusion among civil society, who also have raised concerns that these measures may increase the administrative burden on CSOs and may impact on their ability to fundraise. In addition to these concerns, CIVICUS Monitor’s partner said that there is a lack of awareness on the implications of this piece of legislation among CSOs.

The measures, outlined in Law 83/2017 of 18th August 2017 on the measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, include the creation of a central register called the Registro Central do Beneficiário Efetivo (RCBE - Central Register of Effective Beneficieries). The RCBE is “a database that seeks to gather sufficient, accurate and up-to-date information about the person or natural persons who, even indirectly or through a third party, have ownership or effective control of the entities subject to it”. Among other entities, associations, civil society organisations and foundations are required to submit information that includes the identification of managers, directors and officers responsible for the management and administration of the entity and identification of the beneficial owners.

Although the RCBE entered into forces in October 2018, the first phase of reporting information started on 1st January 2019. Organisations are required to report information until 30th June 2019 - a deadline extended from 30th April 2019. Sanctions for failing to do so range between 1,000 and 50,000 euros.

The Register was introduced by Law No. 89/2017, that transposed Directive 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of money laundering or terrorist financing, and approves the Legal Regime of the RCBE, provided for in article 34 of Law no. 83/2017, of 18 August 2017.

Particularly, CIVICUS Monitor’s civil society partners raised concerns that the Register does not make a distinction between the non-profit sector and other entities, thus creating uncertainty among the civil society on the impact of its implementation. For example, in 2018, the Portuguese Platform of Non-Governmental Organizations for Development (Portuguese NGDO Platform) sent a letter to the body entrusted to supervise the duties applicable to non-financial entities under the Law no. 83/2017, the National General Inspector of Autoridade da Segurança Alimentar e Económica (ASAE - Economic and Food Safety Authority), complaining about the lack of clarity “resulting from the content and form of compliance with the obligations arising from Law 83/2017”. The Portuguese NGDO Platform said that given the specific work of the Non-Governmental Organizations for Development (NGDOs), it is uncertain who should be considered as beneficiary owners and it stressed “the enormous difficulty in identifying a specific group and beneficiaries of these entities”. A copy of the letter has been shared with the CIVICUS Monitor and the Portuguese NGDO Platform said these concerns are still present.

Similar concerns were also raised regarding the implementation of the law on the fight against terrorism and money laundering – Law No. 83/2017, of 18th August 2017. In the mentioned above letter to ASAE, the Portuguese NGDO Platform expressed “on a preliminary basis its extreme concern about one of the main novelties introduced by the recent legal framework approved for the prevention and combating of the FT/BC [finance of terrorism and money laundering]: the inclusion of Non-Profit Organisations among its recipients.”(translated from Portuguese). Especially burdensome and worrisome for CSOs is the requirement stipulated in Article 146 of the Law No. 83/2017related to the “Duties of non-profit organisations” that requires the registration of personal details of donors contributing value equal to or greater than (euro) 100”, that will have severe implications on the privacy of donors and may discourage donations. It is still unclear whether this information will be in the public domain.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) told CIVICUS Monitor that the regulation for the implementation of the law on anti-money laundering (Law No. 83/2017) is currently under discussion. Hence several CSOs, including the Platform NGDO, are mobilising to ensure that the concerns of civil society on the negative consequences of the law on the sector, including the administrative burden, are addressed.

Cooperation Forum: lack of clarity on the consultation process between government and CSOs 

According to information received by the CIVICUS Monitor research partner, there is a lack of clarity on the 2019 Cooperation Forum,the main consultation hub for exchanging information between the government and civil society organisations working in international development. The Forum is held once a year, usually towards the end of the summer (July-August), however, according to CIVICUS Monitor research partner, the new date for 2019 has not been announced yet. Although the National Development Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs created two working groups to enhance the consultation process following the last Forum (held in July 2018), but local SCOs told CIVICUS Monitor that these working groups have not been functional.

CSOs have requested repeatedly that the Cooperation Forum should be strengthened to allow for a more meaningful dialogue and effective cooperation between the CSOs and the government.


LGBTI and gender identity school discussion sparks debate 

In April 2019, a school lecture on gender equality and identity delivered by a LGBTI CSO, Ex Aequo association, sparked a heated debate in the Education Committee in the parliament on the topic of gender equality and identity. Another controversy was also sparked by the school’s request that students pay a donation of 50 cents to participate in the discussion, the money were to be provided to the LGBTI association. Ex Aequo association explained that an application for donations that were to pay for the travel costs of the association's volunteers was submitted to the school, but that the school’s decision to ask students for the donations was “unfortunate and had repercussions”.

The lecture was organised in a primary school in Barreiro in March 2019 with the objective to promote gender equality and "raise awareness of different sexual orientations “ with the view to reduce bullying in schools. The initiative was organised in the framework of the Referencial da Educação para a Saúde, the Health Education Reference Framework established in 2017, which addresses gender identity. However, the Partido Social Democrata (PSD - Social Democratic Party) deputy, Bruno Vitorino, perceived the lecture as controversial as it was addressed at children and reacted with harsh criticism in parliament and over social media. Vitorino reportedly intended to send a request to the Ministry of Education to "find out in which schools these kinds of debates on gender equality are being promoted and who "accompany and supervise" [them]" (Translated from Portuguese)

In response to Bruno Vitorino’s publication on his Facebook page of 8th March 2019, harshly criticising the school session with the LGBTI CSO, members of the Left Bloc political party, Joana Mortágua and Sandra Cunha, submitted a complaint against the PSD deputy Bruno Vitorino to the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (CIG). The PSD's parliamentary leader, Fernando Negrão stated that the complaint is an attack on "freedom of expression" and democracy, and in his turn, Negrão sent a letter to the President of the Assembly of the Republic (parliament) to complain about it.

The Social Democrat parliamentary leader told reporters: “Freedom of expression is sacred, and the day a Member feels unable to speak for fear of complaints that may come from other Members, then there we will be killing democracy."

CSOs told the CIVICUS Monitor that similar negatively-charged discussions on gender issues are expected as national elections approach in October 2019. CSOs complained of lack of government support to counter the anti-gender issues campaigns, despite the available supportive laws. “This is very discouraging but public policy is on our side” ILGA Portugal told CIVICUS Monitor.

The Ex Aequo network association, which promoted the school gender equality and identity lecture, reportedly held 135 sessions in schools in 2018 and has 126 planned for this year. The association is "a network of support, isolation and activism" for young LGBTI individuals between the ages of 16 and 30.

Nick Lorgat, one of the leaders of The Ex Aequo network association said: "I think this reaction shows the need to talk about these issues."