On 17 October 2014, OFAC issued “Guidance Related to the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance by Not-For-Profit Non-Governmental Organizations.” This guidance describes OFAC’s policy of supporting the broader US Government approach to facilitating the provision of humanitarian assistance by non- profit, non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”). With regard to its licensing policies, OFAC states that it issues humanitarian-related general licenses where appropriate and prioritises applications for specific licenses from NGOs seeking to provide humanitarian assistance.
The guidance also clarifies the scope of US sanctions in certain contexts that NGOs may encounter in their attempts to provide humanitarian assistance in certain situations. First, OFAC notes that the provision of humanitarian assistance is not prohibited in countries not subject to comprehensive sanctions, provided that the NGOs are not dealing with sanctioned persons. Second, OFAC clarifies that armed groups that are commanded or controlled by a designated individual, but are not themselves designated, are outside the scope of OFAC’s sanctions on the commanding individual, and NGOs may make payments to the non-designated groups. OFAC does, however, suggest that the NFO conduct due diligence to ensure that the sanctioned commander is not profiting from the transactions. Finally, OFAC provides assurances that, if an NGO provides urgently needed humanitarian assistance in a region controlled by a sanctioned organisation, such humanitarian assistance that unwittingly ends of in the hands of the sanctioned group would not be a focus for OFAC sanctions enforcement.