December 21, 2022

OFAC issues and amends general licenses to implement new UN humanitarian carveout

The US and Ireland recently co-led the development of United National Security Council Resolution (“UNSCR”) 2664, which introduced a humanitarian carveout to the asset freeze provisions of United Nations sanctions programs.  Following the adoption of UNSCR 2664 by the UN Security Council on December 9, 2022, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control took the historic step of becoming the first country to implement these UN policies aimed at supporting the flow of legitimate humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations while still denying resources to designated persons.  To this end, on December 20, 2022, OFAC issued or amended general licenses in order to set a new standardized baseline of humanitarian authorizations across many of its sanctions programs, including programs that previously had no humanitarian exception.   The authorizations permit transactions in four categories:

  1. The official business of the US government;
  2. The official business of certain international organizations and entities such as the UN or the International Red Cross;
  3. Certain humanitarian transactions which support activities by nongovernmental organizations (“NGOs”), and;
  4. The provision of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices, including any related software updates or replacement parts for personal, non-commercial use. 

OFAC also issued four new Frequently Asked Questions (1105 – 1108) to further clarify the new humanitarian authorizations implemented across OFAC-administered sanctions programs.  FAQ 1105 provides a general overview of UNSCR 2664 and the actions taken by OFAC to implement the new authorizations in the US.  In FAQ 1106, OFAC confirms that financial institutions are permitted to provide banking services for newly-authorized humanitarian transactions and also discusses the diligence expectations for financial institutions seeking to engage in these activities.  FAQ 1107 relates specifically to the authorization of transactions involving “official business of certain international organizations” and provides suggestions on how to identify these international organizations.  Finally, FAQ 1108 emphasizes that the humanitarian authorizations implemented on December 20, 2022 do not restrict the scope of any preexisting humanitarian-related exception or OFAC authorization.

Department of Treasury Press Release | Department of the Treasury Recent Actions | FAQs 1105-1108