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| 1 minute read

OFAC Issues Fact Sheet on Provision of Humanitarian Assistance to Sanctioned Countries

On June 14, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) published a Fact Sheet: Provision of Humanitarian Assistance and Trade to Combat COVID-19 (the “Fact Sheet”).  The 14-page Fact Sheet provides a useful compendium of source materials issued by OFAC since the start of the pandemic in 2020 and includes relevant pre-pandemic information and materials. 

OFAC has long recognized that the imposition of economic sanctions on a foreign government can cause hardship to the country’s population. In an effort to ameliorate that hardship, OFAC has issued general licenses authorizing U.S. persons to provide certain humanitarian goods and services under specified conditions. This initiative, which predates the Covid-19 pandemic, has allowed the provision of agricultural products, food, medicine, and medical equipment to certain sanctioned countries. Additional authorizations, which vary by country, have permitted, among other things, sending personal, non-commercial remittances; assisting in the provision of telecommunication and internet services; environmental protection, wildlife, clean water, and sanitation projects; non-commercial development projects; educational activities; actions in furtherance of human rights and democracy-building; preservation of cultural heritage sites; and earthquake relief.

Since 2020, the U.S. government has issued a complex array of executive orders, regulations, general licenses, FAQs, guidances and other pronouncements with respect to humanitarian assistance related to Covid-19. These are organized and set forth in the Fact Sheet, with links to the source materials. 

The Fact Sheet describes the licenses and authorizations that have been issued with respect to six sanctioned countries, four of whom (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria) are embargoed. The other two countries (Russia and Venezuela), although not fully embargoed, are subject to broad sanctions. On a country-by-country basis, the Fact Sheet identifies the relevant OFAC instruments that allow various forms of humanitarian assistance. It does not break new ground, but it is a helpful resource.

As is always the case with OFAC sanctions and licenses, the devil is in the details. Any U.S. supplier of humanitarian goods and services that wishes to engage in business with a sanctioned country will need guidance from experienced counsel in navigating through this complicated area of sanctions law.


international, litigation, commercial litigation