Global Governance Centre
13 September 2021

Time to act: Harmonizing global initiatives at the sanctions-counterterrorism-humanitarian nexus

Love them or hate them, sanctions look set to remain a favored tool of foreign and security policy for the European Union (EU) and others around the world for the foreseeable future. In spite of this, global developments in their use over the past two decades have – once again – put a spotlight on their humanitarian impacts, as well as the ways they can hinder the ability of humanitarian organizations to carry out their work effectively. In particular, the phenomenon of “over-compliance” among private and not-for-profit sectors – also known as “de-risking” and the “chilling effect” – has become so entrenched that many vulnerable and fragile countries and populations around the world can now be considered “unbanked” and consequently face serious impediments in accessing basic healthcare and essential goods.

In her new article, in the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) working paper, Erica Moret diagnoses a crisis point regarding the global use of international sanctions. She argues that the resulting collateral damage inflicted on civilians has, in large part, stemmed from the interface challenge created by an increasingly complex and overlapping regulatory framework of U.S. as well as EU sanctions. This would have prompted risk averse financial institutions to withdraw from entire jurisdictions. Based on a review of more than 40 multi-stakeholder initiatives and research projects set up over the past decade to create viable humanitarian channels for financial transactions, and complemented by semi-structured interviews with over 30 practitioners from various relevant backgrounds, she identifies seven practical recommendations to improve the interface management between governments and private actors such as financial institutions.


Dr Erica Moret is a Senior Researcher at the Global Governance Centre & the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies. She is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of International Relations/ Political Science, IHEID & Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA), Sciences-Po,  Coordinator & co-founder of the Geneva International Sanctions Network (GISN) and Associate Editor for the Journal of Global Security Studies (JoGSS).


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