The report, “Assessing the impact of sanctions on humanitarian work,” has been released by the Geneva Graduate Institute in partnership with the World Council of Churches (WCC), ACT Alliance, Caritas Internationalis, and World Evangelical Alliance.
“The humanitarian impact of sanctions is enormous,” stated the special rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures Prof. Alena Douhan at the meeting. “Humanitarian organizations should not be at risk of not being able to do their important work due to the secondary sanctions,” said Douhan.
“Everything that increases rather than reduces tensions – including maximum pressure sanctions – or that prevents people-to-people encounters, is a conflict risk and an obstacle to peace,” said Marianne Ejdersten, communication director of the WCC. “And everything that prevents a compassionate humanitarian response to the suffering of others is contrary to Christian principles of love and care for one’s neighbour in need.”
“Hope and trust is in the nature of our faith, even in the midst of the most discouraging circumstances—therefore we must renew and strengthen our commitment and the efforts together, both for peace and for supporting the most vulnerable,” said Ejdersten.
Dr Marianna Leite, ACT Alliance global advocacy and development policy manager, highlighted recommendations of the report, as advocating for broader humanitarian exemptions from sanctions, and collaborating with UN bodies and other civil society organizations on preserving humanitarian space.
“You heard very compelling examples today – I do hope they stick with you and you remember voices of those people, when you are thinking about sanctions,” said Leite. “Sanctions affect the people’s realities deeply – they are not just a policy measure.”
Other panelists at the event included Wissam al-Saliby, director of the World Evangelical Alliance Geneva office; Mr Karam Yazbeck, Regional coordinator of the Caritas Middle East and North Africa, and Ms Maja Liechti, member of the student research team of the Geneva Graduate Institute. Panel was moderated by Floriata Polito, Human rights and humanitarian policy advocacy officer of the Caritas Internationalis.
The research team, composed of Paul Hausmann, Elodie Pearson, and Maja Liechti, has worked on the report that also addresses the potential impact of intensifying advocacy for humanitarian sanction exemptions, coordinating advocacy efforts with other organisations, and developing a unified message, as well as collaborating with relevant UN bodies to coordinate advocacy measures.
The report’s key recommendations include advocating for more general humanitarian exemptions; collaborating with relevant UN bodies to coordinate advocacy measures; and engaging in multi-stakeholder consultations with sanctioning governments. The report also includes resources for sanctions-affected humanitarian actors to navigate and document sanctions and their impact.
The issue of the negative impacts of international sanctions was addressed at the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, notably in the Statement “The Things That Make For Peace.”