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The U.N. Security Council will vote on Friday on a proposal by Ireland and the United States to give humanitarian efforts a blanket exemption from U.N. sanctions, addressing aid groups’ concerns about the impact of such measures on their work.

Ireland’s U.N. Ambassador Fergal Mythen said ahead of the vote that the 15-member Security Council had an important opportunity “to comprehensively deal with the unintended humanitarian consequences of U.N. sanctions regimes.”

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 draft resolution to be voted on Friday broadly states that support for humanitarian efforts would not be a violation of any U.N. asset freezes.

“The provision, processing or payment of funds, other financial assets, or economic resources, or the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance or to support other activities that support basic human needs … are permitted,” reads the draft.


If adopted, it will apply to U.N. bodies, international organizations, humanitarian groups with U.N. General Assembly observer status – like the International Committee of the Red Cross – and aid groups working with the United Nations.

“With needs at record levels globally, it is critical all efforts are made to remove obstacles to reaching communities with assistance,” said Amanda Catanzano, acting vice president of Policy and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee.

“The shift in power in Afghanistan last year underscored the urgent, overdue need for this kind of clarity during an emergency,” she said. “We cannot predict the crises of tomorrow, but we can act now to create universal clarity.”

A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes – by the United States, Russia, China, Britain of France – to pass in the council. Diplomats expected the measure to be adopted.

The draft text stresses that sanctions are an important tool “in the maintenance and restoration of international peace and security, including in support of peace processes, countering terrorism, and promoting non-proliferation.”

The Security Council has more than a dozen sanctions regimes in place.

One of the toughest U.N. sanctions regimes targets North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. U.N. experts have said that while challenging to assess accurately, “there can be little doubt that U.N. sanctions have unintentionally affected the humanitarian situation” there.