On 9 December, the UN Security Council adopted a Resolution that will introduce a horizontal humanitarian carve-out across all UN sanctions regimes.
As an elected member of the Security Council, Ireland, together with the US, initiated and led negotiations on this landmark Resolution, which will help to ensure that crucial humanitarian assistance can be delivered to parts of the world, even where UN sanctions are in place. The Resolution was adopted with the support of 14 of the 15 members of the Security Council (one abstention) and with co-sponsorship by over 40 States.
Currently there are 15 UN sanctions regimes covering 14 countries and two entities (al Qaeda and ISIL/Da’esh). These countries include some of those most affected by humanitarian crises. The UN has assessed that over 800 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat, and some 339 million people will require humanitarian aid next year to survive.
Speaking after the adoption of Resolution 2264, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, T.D., said:
“Throughout our term on the UN Security Council, the protection of the humanitarian space has been a priority for Ireland. We have used our role as an elected member to deliver on one of the longstanding demands of the humanitarian community. Today’s Resolution will ensure that humanitarians can work in some of the most complex environments, without fear of inadvertently falling foul of UN sanctions regimes.
“Until now, criticism of adverse impacts on humanitarian work has undermined the legitimacy of sanctions in the eyes of the public. Today’s Resolution will allow the Council to focus on sanctions as an effective tool for the maintenance of peace and security, and for counteracting terrorism, while ensuring that humanitarian actors can continue their vital work unimpeded in some of the most challenging environments.”
Minister Coveney added:
“Almost one third of people in need of humanitarian assistance globally are in the 14 countries subject to UN sanctions regimes. The adoption of this Resolution strengthens the ability of humanitarian organisations to continue working in a principled, needs based manner in these challenging complex humanitarian emergencies. It will support them in scaling up critical operations to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance. All of this at a time where the world is facing a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs.
Ireland and the US, as co-penholders, listened carefully to all Council members in negotiating this Resolution. We are happy that we have struck a balance between responding effectively to the concerns that humanitarian actors have consistently and clearly raised for several years, while ensuring that there are safeguards against aid diversion. With this Resolution, we diminish the unintended consequences of sanctions, without diminishing UN sanctions themselves.”
Note to Editor:
Supporting principled humanitarian action and preserving humanitarian space has been an overarching priority for Ireland during our time at the United Nations Security Council. No more so than in our work on ensuring that UN Sanctions regimes do not result in unintended, and negative, consequences on the delivery of principled humanitarian assistance where they are in effect.
As such, Ireland has played an important role in the introduction of new humanitarian language into multiple UN sanctions regimes, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Mali, ISIL (Da’esh) Al Qaida, and Haiti. In December 2021, in response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Ireland was to the fore in delivering a new humanitarian carve out to the Security Council’s 1988 Taliban sanctions regime, thereby ensuring that humanitarian actors could scale up their operations without the unintended negative effects they faced under the existing sanctions regime against members of the de facto authorities.
Resolution 2664 introduces a carve-out for the provision of humanitarian assistance, and other activities that support basic human needs, from the scope of asset freezes imposed by UN sanctions.
Humanitarian carve-outs are also sometimes called exemptions. It means that humanitarian actors do not need to take any action (e.g., do not need to apply for a licence) in order to benefit from the protections therein; legitimate humanitarian work is automatically exempted from UN sanctions asset freezes.
There are currently 15 UN sanctions regimes, of which three have humanitarian carve-outs (751 Al-Shabaab (Somalia), 1988 (Afghanistan) and 2653 (Haiti)). Today’s Resolution however introduces a horizontal carve-out across all regimes, ensuring consistency and protection for all humanitarian actors working where UN sanctions are operative.
The Resolution includes strong safeguards to counter aid diversion. It provides for annual briefings by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) to UN Sanctions Committees on the implementation of the resolution. It also requires that humanitarian operators strengthen their risk management and due diligence strategies.
The 1267 ISIL (Da’esh) Al Qaida sanctions regime is unique among UN sanctions as it is not geographically limited. The resolution foresees a decision in two years on whether to continue applying the resolution to this regime, an additional precaution to ensure that the resolution is not being used as a loophole to fund terrorism.
This Resolution will provide certainty to international commercial service providers such as banks, shipping companies, and insurance providers which humanitarian and UN agencies rely on to deliver on their mandate of saving lives. It will reduce the ‘chilling effect’ felt by humanitarians over the course of the past two decades who faced impractical levels of compliance in donor risk agreements, and the fear of individual penalisation when it comes to the delivery of principled humanitarian assistance.