On 17 October 2014, the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a short guidance paper on the provision of humanitarian assistance by not-for-profit non-governmental-organisations. The guidance is intended to clarify the reach of US sanction legislation and its enforcement with respect to the provision of humanitarian assistance.
In the paper, OFAC reaffirms its commitment to facilitating humanitarian assistance, and refers in brief to a number of possible situations faced by NGOs when providing assistance abroad. The guidance confirms that providing assistance within countries not subject to comprehensive sanctions (e.g Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, or Côte d’Ivoire), even if this includes to individuals or entities under the command or control of a Specially Designated National (SDN), is not per se prohibited.
OFAC urges NGOs to employ due diligence to avoid SDNs from profiting from aid in the area, however does recognise that some humanitarian assistance may unintentionally end up in the hands of sanctioned groups or persons. In such cases, OFAC provides the reassurance that ‘[s]uch incidental benefits are not a focus for OFAC sanctions enforcement’.
Finally, the guidance states that, should an NGO find itself in the position where dealing with an SDN is necessary to ensure the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance, such issues should be addressed on a case-by-case basis through discussion with OFAC.