Washington, D.C., Dec 20, 2022 — The Charity & Security Network (CSN) applauds today’s announcement by the Department of Treasury that implements clear plans to expand protections for a range of activities that will provide life-saving aid, basic societal programs such as health and education capacity, and the tools and processes necessary to resolve conflicts and conduct peacebuilding activities, and build toward sustained stability in areas under US sanctions. The announcement unveiled a number of new or amended General Licenses and four accompanying Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) designed to meet basic human needs, specifying the types of activities and financial transactions that are permitted in areas where sanctions exist.
“The Charity & Security Network, a community of nearly 200 civil society organizations around the world that work to save lives, promote peace and protect human rights, is greatly encouraged by today’s announcement and looks forward to working with the US government as it implements these important protections,” said Paul Carroll, CSN’s Director.
“Today’s announcement is a welcome follow-on to last week’s momentous action in the United Nations Security Council that established expansive protections for humanitarian programs under UN sanctions regimes,” said Ashleigh Subramanian-Montgomery, the Associate Director of Policy & Advocacy of CSN. “The United States and Ireland were the leaders of the multilateral effort at the UN, so it is fitting that the US is quickly and substantially moving forward to address humanitarian exceptions in its own sanctions programs,” Subramanian-Montgomery stated.
CSN advocates on behalf of humanitarian, peacebuilding, and human rights organizations and has worked for years to raise awareness of and call for changes that would better facilitate needed aid to populations in conflict and disaster-impacted areas. Such aid is too often blocked as an unintended but dire consequence of how sanctions are applied. Financial transactions that are needed to support the delivery of aid are routinely denied due to banks’ perceptions that they are prohibited and deemed too high risk. Thus, life-saving humanitarian assistance cannot reach communities and civilians who need it in a timely manner, and sometimes, at all. Moreover, NGOs themselves are often forced to slow or halt implementation of programs because of uncertainty about the legality of activities since the constellation of laws that underlie sanctions have substantial criminal penalties. These historic licensing exceptions and authorizations are a welcome and much needed step forward, as more of the status quo would have meant continued suffering, poverty, destruction, and even death as a result of delayed or denied aid and assistance. Enshrining core humanitarian, peacebuilding, and other protections across sanctions regimes means more saved lives and improved livelihoods on the ground.
Today’s announcement demonstrates that the Biden administration is following through on its commitments. Last year the Treasury Department published a review of US sanctions programs that identified the need to better protect civil society programs that provided life-saving assistance and important critical capacities. In its Press Release, the Treasury Department stated that the new or amended General Licenses authorize “certain humanitarian transactions in support of nongovernmental organizations’ (NGOs’) activities, such as disaster relief, health services, and activities to support democracy, education, environmental protection, and peacebuilding; and the provision of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices…” Further, “Treasury is issuing these GLs across sanctions programs that did not previously have humanitarian exceptions, implementing a new standardized baseline set of authorizations across OFAC-administered programs.”
General licenses are detailed documents issued by the Treasury Department that provide the legal authority to engage in otherwise prohibited activities in sanctioned areas. This new standardized baseline moves from a system in which too often life-saving activities are prohibited by default unless complicated case-by-case permissions are granted, and instead shifts to a new norm in which such activities are by default permitted. CSN and fellow civil society organizations have long called for the issuance of a Global General License and applaud the Treasury Department’s historic and monumental efforts and leadership in this regard.
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.