García, Warren, and 73 Members of Congress Urge Treasury and State to Ensure COVID-19 Aid Reaches U.S.-Sanctioned Countries

November 17, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC - Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led a bicameral letter signed by 73 Members of Congress to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting the issuance of a worldwide temporary general license to allow coronavirus-related humanitarian trade to flow to U.S. sanctioned countries. Previous Administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have issued similar licenses to address humanitarian crises as need arose around the world.

“The COVID-19 pandemic knows no borders. It is in our humanitarian and national security interest to ensure relief supplies, even basic items like soap and syringes, reach those who need them. Issuing a temporary general license is one of several actions we must take to make sure that happens. Our country’s policies should not cause needless suffering to vulnerable communities in sanctioned countries,” said Congressman García.

"Countries all around the globe are on the frontlines of the fight against this pandemic," said Senator Warren. “We shouldn't keep them from the critical supplies they need to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

"It's welcome news that over 70 Members of Congress are calling for the issuance of a worldwide temporary general license to facilitate international humanitarian relief efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic. Even where technical exemptions are in place, the fear of secondary sanctions has had a chilling effect on humanitarian transactions by governments, financial institutions and relief organizations. Such a license could help slow the spread of COVID-19 globally and reduce the suffering of millions," said Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Manager for Middle East Policy at Friends Committee on National Legislation.

“The scale of the pandemic internationally dwarfs the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond,” said Joel Charny, Executive Director at Norwegian Refugee Council USA. “A temporary general license for humanitarian trade would greatly ease the ability of sanctioned countries to obtain desperately needed medical supplies and allow them to meet the needs of vulnerable people, thereby relieving some of the burden on the overstretched humanitarian sector.”

“We applaud Senator Warren and Representative García for their leadership in calling for a worldwide temporary general license. Such a measure would have important impacts on humanitarian assistance by 1) ensuring that the delivery of Coronavirus-related aid is not impeded by lengthy approval procedures and 2) giving assurances to banks and suppliers that working with humanitarian groups is permissible. This temporary general license would also give the incoming Biden administration a much-needed jump start on addressing the pandemic at the global level,” said Daniel Jasper, Asia Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator at American Friends Service Committee.

"The global Coronavirus pandemic is far from over, and it has never been so important for humanitarian organizations to be able to respond and adapt quickly to meet global health and humanitarian needs. Unfortunately, strict sanctions make that sort of flexibility very difficult in some of the locations and countries that most need our support,” said Bruce Guenther, Disaster Response Director, Mennonite Central Committee. “A worldwide temporary general license would be welcome assurance from Treasury that items essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19 would not be subject to sanctions, and would allow organizations like Mennonite Central Committee to better respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers around the world.”

"Although current rules allow for some exemptions for humanitarian purposes, they are too narrow and burdensome to provide for the huge demands that the COVID-19 pandemic requires. A temporary general license will provide the needed flexibility for NGOs to provide necessary medical, sanitary and food aid so that public health can be protected. This is in the U.S. interest as well as the world's. Such a general license would be in keeping with President-elect Biden's statement to recommit to human rights around the world,” said Paul Carroll, Director of Charity and Security Network.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Endorsing Organizations: Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), J Street, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Foreign Policy for America, Amnesty USA, Just Foreign Policy, Alliance for Peacebuilding, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Action Corps, Peace Action, Pax Christi USA, National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action, PRBB Foundation, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, Presbyterian Church USA, Zakat Foundation of America, Global Ministries of the Christian Church, Samuel Rubin Foundation, Churches for Middle East Peace, Center for International Policy, Win Without War, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, Demand Progress, Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, Charity & Security Network, New Israel Fund, KINDER USA, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Peace Direct, Norwegian Refugee Council USA