ICRC President: "The humanitarian carveouts have allowed people to benefit from life-saving assistance"

Speech given by Mirjana Spoljaric, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, at the Side Event in New York on Humanitarian Carve Outs for UN Sanctions Regimes: The Impact and Implementation of Resolution 2664
Statement 24 May 2023 United States of America

Madam Chair,

I would like to thank the Permanent Missions of Ireland and the United States for convening this event and for their leadership.

Resolution 2664 was a landmark development in the delivery of humanitarian action.

The Security Council said in no uncertain terms that even when States decide to impose sanctions, humanitarian activities must be allowed and facilitated as required by international humanitarian law.

The humanitarian carveouts to UN sanctions have allowed people living in the most difficult circumstances to benefit from life-saving assistance.

At the same time, where humanitarian carveouts are not yet fully implemented, the ICRC continues to face barriers.

In some places, because of sanctions-related barriers, difficulties remain in obtaining parts and materials to prevent water supply systems from collapsing. Without efforts to stabilize critical infrastructure in humanitarian settings, recovery becomes exponentially more difficult, or even impossible.

We understand that the adoption of Resolution 2664 required a level of trust from Member States.

With over 160 years of operating in countries affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence, the ICRC knows the critical importance of preserving neutral, impartial and independent space in the most difficult settings.

This experience has allowed us to put robust systems in place to ensure that our activities reach their intended recipients.


Just as UN sanctions are implemented by Member States, so too must the humanitarian carveout.

Significant progress has been made at the national and regional levels to implement the resolution, but much work remains to be done.

Firstly, I urge all States to fully implement Resolution 2664 without any delay.

The ICRC offers technical assistance in these implementation efforts, and we are working with States to that end.

Secondly, autonomous sanctions pose the same unintended barriers to humanitarian action as UN sanctions.

Whether the sanctions are multilateral or unilateral in origin, the effect on humanitarian action is no different. States should consider incorporating the provisions of Resolution 2664 into their sanctions regimes.

This is the only way to align sanctions with States' obligations under IHL rules governing humanitarian activities. Some States have already begun doing so, and are to be commended.

Finally, States must extend the political will demonstrated in the area of sanctions to the closely-related area of counter terrorism regulations.

Tens of millions of people live in areas under the control of armed groups, including those designated by States as terrorist groups. ICRC works with many of these populations facing devastating consequences of conflict and violence.

With the inclusion of the 1267 al Qaeda-Islamic State sanctions regime in the humanitarian carveout, the Security Council recognized that the imperative for unimpeded humanitarian action exists equally in contexts where actors designated as terrorists operate or are in control.

As it stands now, counter-terrorism penal legislation may encompass humanitarian activities protected by IHL, preventing humanitarian personnel from assisting those most in need.

Principled humanitarian actors must be able to operate without fear of prosecution for simply carrying out their life-saving work, no matter where it takes place.

Excellencies: It is crucial to use this moment as an impetus for further action to enable neutral and impartial humanitarian space, as foreseen by IHL, to benefit millions in dire need.

Thank you. 

Media contact:

Yuriy Shafarenko, ICRC New York, +1 917 631 1913, yshafarenko@icrc.org