In December 2022, the United Nations Security Council (the ‘UNSC’) adopted a resolution which introduced a standardised humanitarian exemption across UN regimes according to which activities necessary for humanitarian assistance and other activities that support basic human needs are exempt from sanctions in the form of asset freezes imposed by the Security Council or by its Sanctions Committees. All UN sanctions regimes except the Afghanistan regulations will now include a standardised humanitarian exception to the asset freeze provisions.
The UK adopted The Sanctions (Humanitarian Exception) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 in order to implement the UN humanitarian exemption. The explanatory memorandum for these Regulations is available here.
Note that the humanitarian exception applies to the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida (United Nations Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 for a period of two years. The UN Security Council will consider renewal of the exception at that point. The exception is indefinite across the other UN sanctions regimes.
OFSI has also updated its charity guidance to reflect these changes.
The EU adopted Council Regulation (EU) 2023/331 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2023/338 which also implemented the UN humanitarian exemption in the EU.
The UN resolution along with the legislation adopted by the UK and the EU provide clarity and consistency for humanitarian providers and financial institutions through a standardised humanitarian exception to help to protect efficient and effective humanitarian aid delivery. Before these developments, there was no standardised humanitarian exception across UN sanctions regimes, and in the majority of cases, there was no exception at all.