The Burden of the Unintended: The Humanitarian Consequences of Sanctions and the Role of the Red Cross Red Crescent

Schaar, J.
Publication language
Date published
01 Apr 2021
Swedish Red Cross
Research, reports and studies

When imposing sanctions, states have the obligation to act in accordance with international law. But sanctions remain a problematic instrument of international policy, despite the replacement of broad and blunt trade sanctions with more precise, targeted sanctions. Research generally finds them ineffective in reaching their political objectives. Frequent enforcement of simultaneous UN, EU and unilateral sanctions lead to serious unintended and gendered effects on the welfare of civilian populations.

The operational space of humanitarian organizations is constrained, despite humanitarian exceptions and exemptions. Sanctions lead to increased repression and violations of human rights, rather than the opposite. This report provides recommendations directed to the Red Cross Red Crescent on how to achieve a strategic shift in the focus and nature of accountability, away from humanitarian organizations and their actions, to states and their responsibility to prevent excessive hardship of civilian populations under sanctions.