Biden Administration To Review Possible Sanctions Relief In Response To Covid-19

As the Biden administration seeks to assert its leadership in the Coronavirus pandemic’s global management, they are expected to review existing economic sanctions for possible relief to help with the worldwide response in combating the coronavirus pandemic. This review was motivated after an attempt last year by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to clarify humanitarian assistance exceptions to U.S. sanctions during the coronavirus crisis.

This review process shall be led by the State, Treasury and Commerce Departments, in consultation with the Health and Human Services Secretary and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator. They shall review existing US and multilateral sanctions and determine if they prevent nations from effectively responding to the pandemic. The secretaries then will make recommendations to the president, through the national security adviser and Covid-19 response coordinator, for any approach changes.

Countries currently under US sanctions include Iran, North Korea, Syria and African countries such as Sudan and Somalia. Outcomes from the review shall guide how to facilitate medical deliveries to these jurisdictions.

Why is this important for your organisation?

Sanctions are restrictions on economic and business activity involving certain countries, individuals, entities, industries or types of activities, put in place by governments (e.g. UK, EU, US) and international  bodies (e.g. the UN) using laws and regulations. This is with the aim of; changing the behaviour of a target (e.g. Syria), supporting a peace process and restricting the financing of weapons by the combatants and preventing weapons from falling into the wrong hands and disrupting terrorist operations.

However, under certain circumstances such as humanitarian grounds, as in this case, they can be reviewed and perhaps lifted, albeit temporarily. Nonetheless, countries, entities, industries should develop control frameworks that will help them identify, investigate and report sanction breaches given the business and reputational risk it carries. Some of the things which can be done include:


  • Consistent and accurate updates on the latest sanctioned individuals, institutions or governments. Websites such as The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI),  EU Sanctions, Office of Foreign Assets and Controls (OFAC) and your relevant local sanctions requirements are valuable in this regard.
  • Adoption of stringent and rigorous internal compliance controls in the area of governance, sanctions risk assessments, sanctions screening and investigation of potential matches etc. is key to detect and prevent potential breach or circumvention.
  • Training and awareness programs that are relevant and appropriate for employees’ particular roles.

Learn more here.

Register your interest to download the programme brochure

Register your interest