June 23, 2021

On June 17, 2021 the U.S. Treasury Department issued three general licenses to allow greater access for populations in Iran, Syria and Venezuela to supplies that will help them combat COVID-19. This is a welcome development as it aligns with a commitment the Biden administration made early in its tenure to address the unintended consequences of sanctions, including negative impacts on the global pandemic response, in the course of a multi-agency review of U.S. sanctions policies.

In late 2020, the Charity & Security Network endorsed a letter spearheaded by Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and signed by 73 members of Congress calling on the Departments of State and Treasury to issue a worldwide temporary general license to ensure sanctions do not impede the global pandemic response. In March 2021, the Charity & Security Network joined 55 organizations in a letter to President Biden reiterating this call for a global temporary general license, among other policy recommendations to address the negative impacts of sanctions.The Biden administration should be commended for issuing these licenses, as they mean that urgent supplies like masks, testing kits, vaccines and related equipment will be more readily available to these nations.

However, this is only a simple and modest step towards addressing a far wider range of unintended consequences associated with sanctions. As the administration continues its review with an eye for addressing the impacts of sanctions on humanitarian aid, it should pursue more comprehensive policy shifts, from issuing a global temporary general license for both COVID-related aid and humanitarian aid in general, to ending the use of broad-based sanctions that impact entire populations. As Rep. Garcia stated on social media in response to the new licenses, “Our policies shouldn’t cause needless suffering to vulnerable communities.”

The Charity & Security Network will continue to monitor these developments and advocate for meaningful changes to U.S. sanctions policies.