The United Nations Security Council on Friday gave humanitarian efforts a blanket exemption from U.N. sanctions, addressing aid groups’ concerns about the impact of overcompliance with such measures on their work.
The measure, proposed by the United States and Ireland, passed with 14 votes in favor and one abstention by India.
“We must all do everything in our power to help humanitarian partners reach the world’s most vulnerable, regardless of where they live, who they live with, and who controls their territory,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council.
“To be clear, this is not related to the merits of the sanctions themselves,” she said. “Our goal is always to stop terrorists and human rights abusers by using a legitimate tool to maintain peace and security, but still allow lifesaving humanitarian efforts to continue for those in need.”
The United Nations said last week that it estimates that an extra 65 million people will need help next year, bringing the total to 339 million in 68 countries. It appealed for a $51.5 billion in aid money for 2023.
“This new protection for aid activities will, for some, be the difference between life and death,” Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council head, said of the sanctions exemption, adding that it “will make a real difference for millions of people by enabling humanitarians” to be more efficient and effective.
When humanitarian groups have been affected by U.N. sanctions, the Security Council has traditionally dealt with issues on a case-by-case basis. The resolution adopted on Friday broadly states that support for humanitarian efforts would not be a violation of any U.N. asset freezes.
It applies to U.N. bodies, international organizations, humanitarian groups with U.N. General Assembly observer status – like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – and aid groups working with the United Nations.
“We encourage states to put this humanitarian carve-out into practice, including through national laws and regulations,” said ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric.