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An important little detail – UN makes universal humanitarian carveout in its sanctions programs

Just so we’re all clear and no one can complain otherwise… here’s the UN’s PR…




Adopting Resolution 2664 (2022), Security Council Approves Humanitarian Exemption to Asset Freeze Measures Imposed by United Nations Sanctions Regimes

The Security Council today decided to provide a “humanitarian carve-out” — a standing humanitarian exemption — to the asset freeze measures imposed by United Nations sanctions regimes.

Adopting resolution 2664 (2022) (to be issued as document S/RES/2664(2022)) by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (India), the 15-member organ decided that the provision, processing or payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources or the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance or to support other activities that support basic human needs are permitted and are not a violation of the asset freezes imposed by that organ or its sanctions committees.  It also decided that this provision will apply to the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida sanctions regime for a period of two years from today and expressed its intention to decide on the extension of its application prior to the date on which that regime would otherwise expire.  It further called upon all States to cooperate fully with the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee and its Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team established by its resolution 1526 (2004).

By the text, the Council requested that providers use reasonable efforts to minimize the accrual of any benefits prohibited by sanctions to designated individuals or entities, including by strengthening risk management and due diligence strategies and processes.  In emphasizing that paragraph 1 of the resolution’s text shall supersede any previous resolutions which conflict, it clarified that paragraph 1 shall supersede and replace paragraph 37 of its resolution 2607 (2021) and paragraph 10 of its resolution 2653 (2022); paragraph 1 however of its resolution 2615 (2021) shall remain in effect.  It further decided that paragraph 1 of this resolution shall apply to all future asset freezes imposed or renewed by the Council in the absence of an explicit decision to the contrary.

Also by the text, the Council requested the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator to provide a briefing for each relevant Committee on the delivery of humanitarian assistance and other activities to support basic human needs 11 months from today and every 12 months afterwards.  It further requested relevant providers to assist the Emergency Relief Coordinator in preparing such briefings by providing relevant information as expeditiously as feasible and within 60 days of any request from the Coordinator.

By further terms, the Council directed its Committees on sanctions implementation to assist Member States in this resolution’s proper understanding and full implementation through the issuance of Implementation Assistance Notices.  It further directed these Committees to monitor implementation including any risk of diversion.

The Council also requested the Secretary-General issue a written report on the unintended adverse humanitarian consequences of that organ’s sanctions measures within 9 months and include recommendations on ways to minimize and mitigate such consequences.  The Council expressed its intent to consider further steps as necessary to minimize and mitigate unintended adverse consequences and decided to remain seized of the matter.

Following the adoption of the resolution, several Council members commended that organ for its timely action as others underscored the need to address other areas concerning the use of sanctions.

The Council listened to the concerns and issues raised by States and non-State representatives and demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that all its imposed measures are consistent with international human rights law and international humanitarian law, the representative of Albania praised.  It is a clear example of how the Council can swiftly and effectively respond.

The speaker for the Russian Federation welcomed the reflection of her country’s suggestions, including the need to assess potential humanitarian consequences prior to the imposition of a sanctions regime.  The issue of secondary unilateral sanctions is not addressed, she noted.  As Council resolutions are the only legitimate ones, any use of unilateral coercive measures is an invasion of that organ’s prerogatives, she stressed.

The greatest legal and political risk to humanitarian agencies does not come from the Council’s sanctions but rather the unilateral sanctions, some of which create great chaos and disaster, her colleague from China added.  The Council must establish a clear arrangement for existing sanctions and review and lift such measures in a timely matter.

Explaining her country’s abstention, India’s speaker voiced her concern over the misuse of humanitarian carve-outs by terrorist groups to raise funds and recruit terrorist fighters.  Under no circumstances can the garb of humanitarian cover be used by such groups to expand their activities and facilitate their political mainstreaming, she emphasized before expressing hope that the resolution’s shortcomings will be corrected in the future.

This is not a panacea — it will take time to have an effect, and more broadly, there remains more work to do on other aspects of the Organization’s sanctions, the representative for Ireland acknowledged.  “However, for today, we can rest assured that the Council has taken decisive action in response to the appeals by humanitarians worldwide,” he said as a co-penholder.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Norway and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 10:39 a.m.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), introducing the draft resolution, said “we must all do everything in our power to help humanitarian partners reach the world’s most vulnerable regardless of where they live, who they live with and who controls their territory.”  Through the proactive outreach of the United States, the United Nations community and non-governmental organizations shared that second-order impacts of some of the Organization’s sanctions created an impediment to providing humanitarian assistance in the field.  This, she stressed, is not related to the merits of sanctions themselves as the Council has repeatedly reached consensus in upholding their use as an effective foreign policy tool to constrain bad actors, terrorists and human rights abuses.  Spotlighting several of her country’s bilateral efforts to address the concerns of the humanitarian community, she underscored that community’s request to do more by providing a clear, standard carve-out of humanitarian assistance and activities to meet basic human needs for all United Nations sanctions regimes.  The draft resolution is impartial, makes sense and will save lives around the world; it is what the humanitarian community has asked for, she emphasized, while urging all to vote in favour.


The Security Council then adopted the text as resolution 2664 (2022) by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (India).


FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), speaking in explanation of position after the vote as co-penholder, said the text will diminish unintended consequences without weakening the Organization’s sanctions themselves.  It safeguards humanitarian action to assist people in contexts where the Council has also imposed sanctions and demonstrates that organ’s ability to respond to those in greatest need.  While the Council never intended to impede the work of humanitarian actors, its sanctions have not always harmoniously coexisted with the need to ensure that legitimate humanitarian activity is uninterrupted.  The text, he commended, provides certainty and clarity for humanitarian actors, donors and implementing partners alike by confirming in one, horizontal resolution that the provision of humanitarian aid is permitted.  This is not a panacea; it will take time for its effect to be implemented by States and operated by all relevant stakeholders, he stressed.  More broadly, there remains more work to do on other aspects of the Organization’s sanctions, including due process.  “However, for today, we can rest assured that the Council has taken decisive action in response to the appeals by humanitarians worldwide,” he said.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) noted her delegation has been unequivocal in its support throughout the development of the resolution.  With humanitarian needs around the world soaring, the Council is working together to support their delivery.  Sanctions are a core part of the Council toolkit, and have been rightly used to address threats to international peace and security, from violent gangs in Haiti to extremist groups like Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaida.  She affirmed that the resolution ensures that when sanctions are carried out by specified organizations, they do not violate United Nations asset freezes, and will help save lives by providing clarity, so that humanitarian providers can continue to help the most vulnerable.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), noting the deleterious effects of sanctions, said it was high time to improve the way the Council makes use of its coercive power to address threats to international peace and security.  “Brazil is proud to be a member of the Security Council at this moment when it decides to take action to help those in need,” he emphasized, noting that the resolution will allow humanitarian providers to carry out their essential activities in more predictable conditions.  Above all, it will benefit millions of civilians who have had the misfortune to live under sanctions regimes, he added.  Moreover, the resolution is on par with recent developments in international jurisprudence, he pointed out, noting that the International Court of Justice has recently made a case for the need to safeguard humanitarian needs even in circumstances when sanctions are in place.

TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) said that the humanitarian community has consistently called attention to sanctions’ unintended negative consequences on principled humanitarian action, as well as the consequent humanitarian cost for people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.  Supporting today’s resolution, she emphasized the need to ensure that sanctions are well-designed and recalled her country’s consistent advocacy for broad humanitarian exemptions in such regimes.  It is welcome that the Council’s practice on this issue has developed during 2022.  The carveout contemplated by today’s resolution is effective, covers all sanctions regimes and will provide clarity to all relevant actors.  She added that Member States must now take the necessary steps to implement the resolution in their domestic legal systems, which will help save lives and alleviate the suffering of those affected by armed conflict.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), noting her delegation’s vote in favour of today’s resolution, said Council-imposed sanctions should be applied very carefully.  Their use as a punitive weapon is unacceptable, she said, adding that the Council must make decisions on humanitarian issues, then those decisions must be free from the politicized attitudes of individual States.  She welcomed the fact that some suggestions from the Russian Federation are reflected in today’s resolution, including the need to assess potential humanitarian consequences prior to the imposition of a sanctions regime.  However, the issue of secondary unilateral sanctions is not addressed.  She went on to say that for the Russian Federation, Council resolutions are the only legitimate ones, and that the use of unilateral coercive measures is an invasion of the 15-member organ’s prerogatives, which undermines the norms and principles of international law.

GENG SHUANG (China) noted that sanctions are a unique tool of the Council, which should approach the issue in a prudent and responsible manner and avoid abuses that could have negative humanitarian implications.  In February, his delegation called for a standing sanction mechanism for certain humanitarian agencies and assistance.  Ireland and the United States responded with the proposed resolution and his delegation participated in improving the text.  The text should dispel the worries of providers of assistance, he said, also expressing hope that countries will scale up humanitarian assistance.  At the same time, the international community should pay attention to any negative impact of unilateral sanctions on humanitarian operations.  The greatest legal and political risk to humanitarian agencies does not come from Council sanctions, but from unilateral sanctions of some countries, he pointed out, adding:  “In reality, those sanctions often create great chaos and disaster and exacerbate humanitarian crises.”  He called for the Council to establish a clear arrangement for existing sanctions and review and lift such measures in a timely manner.  Further, the just-adopted resolution should not lead to a permanence of some sanctions, he stressed.

ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania), noting her country’s vote in favour, described the text’s adoption as a milestone development in making the Council’s sanctions regime more effective by minimizing potential unintended consequences and strengthening its legitimacy.  This is a clear example of how the Council can swiftly and effectively respond to the concerns and issues raised by States and non-State representatives on the undesired effects that sanctions might have on the provision of humanitarian assistance.  The Council not only listened but also demonstrated, through action, its commitment to ensuring that all of its imposed measures are consistent with international human rights law and international humanitarian law, she stressed.  She also reiterated the importance of sanctions as a tool for the maintenance and restoration of international peace and security.

MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said as humanitarian needs rise around the world, the international community must do all it can to ensure aid reaches those in need, while ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent any possible misuse of humanitarian assistance.  The resolution is an important step in ensuring that humanitarian aid is not inhibited by sanctions regimes.  His country’s humanitarian aid comes from the Government and from many charitable organizations.  However, he recognized that while most aid providers worldwide are covered by the resolution, some genuine humanitarian organizations may be left out.  It may be necessary to regularly review how the resolution is being implemented on the ground, and to adjust it as needed, he said.

RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) voiced concerns about proven instances of terrorist groups taking full advantage of humanitarian carve-outs and making a mockery of sanctions regimes, including that of the 1267 Committee. There have also been several cases of terrorist groups in her region, including those listed by the Council, reincarnating themselves as humanitarian organizations and civil society groups precisely to evade those sanctions, she said. Those terrorist organizations use the umbrella of the humanitarian assistance space to raise funds and recruit fighters. The garb of humanitarian cover intended to be provided by those exemptions under no circumstances should be misused by proscribed terrorist groups to expand their terror activities in the region and beyond, she emphasized. More importantly, such exemptions must not facilitate mainstreaming of terror entities in the political space in their region. As thorough diligence and extreme caution in implementation of the resolution is an absolute must, India had sought in the text of the resolution a proactive role for the 1267 monitoring team coupled with robust reporting standards and mechanisms. Voicing regret that those concerns were not fully addressed in the final text, she expressed hope that that shortcoming will be corrected in the future as the Council reviews implementation and feedback from the monitoring team on the adopted resolution.

United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Press Release

and one from the US State Department:

UN Security Council Adopts Resolution Establishing Humanitarian Carveout across UN Sanctions Regimes



DECEMBER 9, 2022

Today’s adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2664 is a critical step to enabling the unimpeded delivery of food, medicine, and humanitarian aid, while upholding robust sanctions – critical to driving our foreign policy goals.  The UN Security Council adopted this Resolution, which the United States co-drafted with Ireland, to create a carveout across UN sanctions regimes that protects humanitarian assistance and other activities that meet basic human needs.  Through the adoption of the Resolution, the UN Security Council is sending a clear message that sanctions will not impede the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance by reputable humanitarian organizations.  This Resolution includes safeguards to protect against abuse and evasion by sanctioned persons and entities, including by establishing reporting requirements to ensure detection and mitigation of possible aid diversion.

By providing exceptions for humanitarian activities across UN sanctions regimes, the Resolution provides much-needed clarity to the international community, humanitarian assistance providers, and critical commercial service providers, which will help facilitate the delivery of aid and goods that are critical to saving lives around the world.  This goal is more important than ever as the world faces unprecedented levels of humanitarian need, with some 339 million people in need of humanitarian aid and nearly 50 million people on the verge of famine.  We are committed to supporting life-saving humanitarian efforts, providing more than $17 billion in bilateral humanitarian assistance in FY 2022.

The adoption of this Resolution is a significant reform to UN targeted sanctions, and consistent implementation by Member States is key to its success. As I announced during the UN General Assembly High-Level Week in September, the United States will incorporate humanitarian authorizations across our domestic sanctions programs. We look forward to working with other Member States and humanitarian actors to ensure aid continues to reach those in need, while maintaining the integrity of sanctions that help promote global peace and security.

U.S. State Department Press Release


State Department Statement

United Nations Press Release

UNDOCS page for UNSC Resolution 2664 (future – text not posted yet)

Categories: Humanitarian Aid Licenses UN Updates


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