Washington, D.C. – The Charity & Security Network (C&SN) hosted the third and final of its sanctions webinar series, Ask an Expert: UNSCR 2664 at One Year, on Dec. 6, 2023. C&SN’s legal analyst, Katherine Tomaszewski, was joined by key stakeholders who led the development and negotiations, conducted decades of advocacy and research efforts, and ultimately succeeded in securing the adoption of landmark UN Security Council Resolution 2664

UNSCR 2664 established a humanitarian carveout – specific allowances for a range of humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding-related work – across UN sanctions regimes, including the UN’s 1267 counterterrorism regime, a more targeted and restrictive set of prohibitions.

During the 90-minute webinar, panelists discussed the years of civil society advocacy that helped support the resolution, reflected on the negotiations that led to the resolution’s adoption, analyzed the impacts and current state of play, and considered strategies for extending UNSCR 2664 as applied to the UNSCR 1267 regime after the initial two-year review period, which ends on 9 December 2024. Panelists also explored recommendations for key stakeholders based on the in-depth analysis and recommendations in the Interpretive Note for U.N. Member States published by Harvard Law School’s Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC).

The Advocacy Behind the Adoption of 2664 

Before its adoption in December 2022, civil society organizations advocated for a humanitarian carveout to UN sanctions regimes for over a decade. Bérénice Van Den Driessche emphasized the important impact of civil society-led coalition work, the documentation of the impacts of sanctions on humanitarian work by field teams, and transforming this documentation into a call to action from researchers, think tanks, and international organizations (IOs), and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). This ground-level context, in addition to training, and educational toolkits, was key to creating clear and actionable requests surrounding humanitarian carveouts that turned the large and often opaque issues around sanctions into feasible and tangible actions for member states. 

Van Den Driessche also stressed that documenting and educating member states on the existing expansive due diligence and risk mitigation measures that humanitarian organizations have in place created a greater sense of understanding about the actual risk of aid diversion and terrorist financing, which in reality is quite low. 

The Negotiations and the Importance of the US-Irish Partnership 

The U.S. and Irish Missions spearheaded bringing UNSCR 2664 to fruition within the UN. Alex Hoey noted that the Biden administration had prioritized establishing humanitarian carveouts to sanctions regimes so as not to hinder humanitarian aid to innocent civilians in sanctioned areas. This priority grew from the results of the U.S. Treasury Department’s 2021 Sanctions Review, which revealed the negative impacts of U.S. sanctions on civilian populations, specifically on humanitarian assistance and delivery. The U.S. began officially discussing the idea of a humanitarian carveout in July 2022 and partnered with the Irish, who had already been pushing for a humanitarian carveout to the UN sanctions regime. 

James Kirk spoke about the history of the Irish mission and its priorities to push for the protection of humanitarian space. Prior to UNSCR 2664, this involved advocating for relevant language around international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) in UN sanctions regimes, particularly those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Mali, and the 1267 regime. He noted that these building blocks helped shift the mindset of other Security Council members towards a sanctions policy that prioritized IHL and IHRL and paved the way for broader action through UNSCR 2664. 

Both Hoey and Kirk stressed the importance of the role that civil society played in their ability to draft the resolution and ultimately adopt it. Listening to civil society organizations, who are the most familiar with the true impacts of sanctions on the ground, and the actual hindrances of asset freeze measures on humanitarian aid, allowed them to not only communicate the need for this resolution but also draft a resolution that would make a positive difference in its implementation. 

The Obligations for Member States Under UNSCR 2664 

In 2023, PILAC published its Interpretive Note for UN Member States on UNSCR 2664, which sought to support UN Member States’ efforts to understand and implement certain key aspects of the resolution. 

Naz Modirzadeh spoke to the actors who are implicated by UN 2664 and their key obligations under the resolution. She stated that Member States bear most obligations under the resolution, including domestic implementation as well as the obligation to communicate these changes to the financial sector. Additionally, she underscored the obligations of the UN sanctions committees to develop and publish implementation assessment documents to convey to Member States how a specific sanctions committee reads its mandate, and how they interpret the carveout to apply within the specific sanctions regimes.

The Importance of Renewal of the 1267 Regime 

UNSCR 2664 creates a standing humanitarian carveout across all current and future UN sanctions regimes with the exception of the UN 1267 Sanctions Regime, which is specific to ISIL, Al-Qaida, and the Taliban. UNSCR 2664 only applies to this regime for a period of two years and will expire in December 2024 if not renewed by the UN Security Council. The 1267 regime is the largest sanctions regime maintained by the UN Security Council, and its renewal will be crucial for the future success and continuation of UNSCR 2664 as a whole. 

The Honorable Sue Eckert, a member of the UN 1267 Monitoring Committee, discussed the state of play surrounding UNSCR 2664 in the context of the 1267 regime, and the importance of affirmatively acting to ensure the renewal of UNSCR 2664 as applied to the 1267 regime. She noted that the monitoring team has received information generally indicating that this humanitarian carveout has made a positive difference, and underscored the importance of logging these successes and positive impact. Overall engagement via NGOs, domestic implementation, and reporting from all parties will be invaluable to the monitoring committees and the Member States as they decide whether to renew next December. 

The Future of UNSCR 2664 

The final round of questions to the panelists focused on the future of UNSCR 2664. The discussions centered around the harmonization of UNSCR 2664 with domestic and regional sanctions regimes, and the importance of messaging to financial institutions to ensure that humanitarian carveouts are both understood and implemented to prevent de-risking or hampering of humanitarian operations. 

Alex Hoey stated that the U.S.’ priority will be to ensure that 2664 as applied to the 1267 regime is renewed, as its renewal is critical to make sure that UNSCR 2664 remains a “viable tool” and to maintain “the integrity of the intention” behind UNSCR 2664, which is preventing sanctions regimes from hampering aid to civilian populations. 

Naz Modirzadeh noted the need to help states facilitate a domestic implementation of UNSCR 2664, especially states with less diplomatic capacity than larger states like the US, who almost immediately created the new and amended baseline general licenses to implement UNSCR 2664 domestically in December 2022. 

However, as Sue Eckert noted, domestic implementation may require addressing legal regimes outside of sanctions that may hinder the implementation of UNSCR 2664, such as the U.S. material support statutes and other legislation that creates a chilling effect on aid and peacebuilding in areas where designated terrorist groups operate. Starting points to address these important issues include multi-stakeholder dialogues, such as those held in the Netherlands, UK, and U.S., where financial institutions, NGOs, and government actors can come together to address the negative impacts of sanctions on humanitarian and peacebuilding work.

Stakeholders may also use existing resources that demonstrate the importance of civil society organizations in the development of humanitarian carveouts and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, such as the Financial Action Task Force’s Revised Recommendation 8 and Best Practices Paper. Overall, continued engagement and education will be crucial for paving the path forward for lasting and effective sanctions policies that prioritize humanitarian assistance and delivery and international humanitarian and human rights law.