The Charity & Security Network joined over 70 organizations in an April 23, 2020 letter to President Donald Trump, Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for relief from sanctions programs during the Covid-19 pandemic.  It notes the “critical state of the health infrastructures and economies of these sanctioned locations, and how, without immediate intervention, millions of people face severe economic hardship, infection, and death.”  In addition to calling for emergency universal exemptions for humanitarian goods, the letter calls for “reporting protocols that monitor the impact and human cost of sanctions” and suspension of “broad-based and sectoral sanctions that cause significant economic damage and leave populations more exposed to sickness and disease, food insecurity, and other humanitarian emergencies.”

Six minimum criteria for effective humanitarian safeguards requested are:

1) Aid necessary for the treatment of COVID-19;

2) Equipment used in the recovery from the disease;

3) Goods required to address simultaneous needs and issues exacerbated by the pandemic such as food security, water supply, civilian energy infrastructure, and other health-related needs such as medical kits and equipment;

4) Necessary training required for the use of medical and humanitarian equipment; and,

5) Communication and partnerships with non-sanctioned organizations and individuals. (These exemptions would be necessary for contexts such as North Korea where a specific license is required for partnerships with non-sanctioned organizations and individuals).

6) Transactions and communications ordinarily incidental and necessary to accessing civilian populations in need of assistance.

The letter clearly states that sanctions relief should not be limited to specific countries or specific types of sanctions programs.  Relief measures should include countries like Iran and Venezuela, areas that are controlled by non-state armed groups on the terrorist list and places like Gaza and Yemen where U.S. security partners have imposed restrictions.  The letter notes that “The swift spread of COVID-19 to every corner of the globe clearly shows that an out-of-control epidemic in just one country is a public health threat for all of us.”

The letter also points out that U.S. government action should address the “reluctance of financial institutions, as well as other entities within supply chains, to carry out transactions required for the delivery of this aid.”

Read the full letter here.