Washington, D.C., September 7, 2021 — Today, a broad coalition of 46 humanitarian, peacebuilding, human rights and faith-based organizations sent a letter to President Biden and other key leaders in the administration calling for a swift conclusion to the administration’s sanctions policy review, for the results of the review to be made public, and for significant and structural changes to U.S. sanctions policy.

“It’s been over seven months since the start of this review, and so far the posture from the administration has been mostly discouraging,” said Paul Carroll, Director of the Charity & Security Network. “Despite a raging pandemic and a global rise in conflict and humanitarian crises, President Biden has yet to take meaningful steps to mitigate the impacts of sanctions on pandemic response, humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding programs. Despite lip service about its ‘constant dialogue’ with civil society stakeholders, we’ve heard very little back from the administration in months after multiple requests for meetings. Our concern is that this lack of engagement will translate into a policy review that does not address the full scope of the harm sanctions are inflicting around the world or avail itself of the deep expertise and experience of practitioners in the field.”

Early on in the review, administration officials said that they expect to take steps throughout the course of the review to mitigate the harmful impacts of sanctions, particularly on humanitarian trade. In June, the Treasury Department issued three general licenses for Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, clarifying what types of aid related to addressing the pandemic are permissible in those three countries.

In late August, Treasury also issued a specific license for U.S. government employees, contractors, and grantees conducting humanitarian activities in Afghanistan. Other than these very limited steps, no proactive actions have been announced to address the harmful impacts of sanctions. However, the administration has rolled out new sanctions on a regular basis throughout the review process.

“We are urging the administration to act quickly. The pandemic and climate change are making the humanitarian situation dangerous for people around the globe,” said Dan Jasper of the American Friends Service Committee. “Sanctioned countries are among the most vulnerable and humanitarian actors need to respond quickly. The administration needs to remove barriers to this life-saving work and lift economic sanctions that threaten human lives and global security.”

“Organizations like ours have spent decades building relationships and negotiating access in sanctioned countries,” said Annie Loewen, director of disaster response for Mennonite Central Committee U.S. “We know the need, we have the capacity to respond, and yet we often find ourselves limited or delayed by U.S. sanctions. Humanitarian organizations should not need to ask for permission to save lives anywhere in the world. We hope the forthcoming policy review will provide answers to the organizations who have long been asking the U.S. government for additional clarity and support.”

Read the full text of the letter here.


The Charity & Security Network is a resource and advocacy center working to promote and protect the ability of nonprofit organizations to carry out peacebuilding, humanitarian, and human rights missions and to advance national security frameworks that support rather than impede this work. Learn more about the Charity & Security Network’s work at www.CharityAndSecurity.org, and follow us on Twitter: @CharitySecurity.