Don’t let sanctions block aid convoys, UAE says

Economic and trade sanctions can deter charities from sending food and medicine to global hotspots

People receive food rations distributed by the Afghan Charity Foundation in Kandahar. EPA
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The UAE on Monday said that international sanctions can stop aid reaching those in need and urged the UN Security Council to address the impacts of such asset freezes as well as economic and trade curbs.

Speaking in New York, the UAE’s deputy UN ambassador Mohamed Abushahab said sanctions were a “valuable and useful tool” against terrorists and militias but they can also cause unintended consequences.

“Ill-conceived or ill-implemented sanctions can have a severe humanitarian impact,” Mr Abushahab told the 15-nation Security Council.

“The UAE believe sanctions measures should not prevent humanitarian actors from undertaking their essential work or humanitarian assistance from getting to those in need.”

The meeting, an event scheduled by Russia, which holds the council’s rotating presidency for February, comes amid growing worries that sanctions have deterred charities from operating in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and other countries.

Billions of dollars in Afghan central bank reserves and foreign development aid have been frozen to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Taliban, which swept back to power in mid-August as western forces exited the impoverished country.

The Security Council in December adopted a humanitarian exemption to UN sanctions tied to Afghanistan, but banks and aid groups remain wary of breaching the scheme even as the country edges towards famine.

Similar issues have prevented aid from reaching North Korea, said Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s political chief.

“De-risking policies and over-compliance are probably two of the most important problems humanitarian actors face,” Ms DiCarlo said.

“In trying to abide by a wide range of applicable measures, these actors sometimes adopt an overly broad interpretation of what is required by sanctions regimes, often in contradiction with the interpretation of humanitarian actors.”

Updated: February 07, 2022, 5:47 PM