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Impact of unilateral sanctions on health-related SDGs


20 September 2023




This side event seeks to raise awareness and encourage discussion on the impact of unilateral sanctions on health-related Sustainable Development Goals.

Background and purpose

Unilateral coercive measures and various types of unilateral sanctions have both direct and indirect impact on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural, and undermine national capabilities towards their effective protection and promotion, as well as for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, due to their complexity and overlapping nature, they create a climate of uncertainty and fear which often results in over-compliance and zero-risk policies with compounded adverse effects.

In her thematic and country-specific work, the Special Rapporteur has repeatedly stressed how various types of unilateral sanctions, including economic, financial and trade restrictions of all sorts, including targeted ones, cause significant disruptions with serious repercussions on all aspects of peoples’ lives, their human rights and well-being with the detrimental effects on the right to health and other health-related rights. She has also raised questions about the scope of existing humanitarian carve-outs provided for in sanctions’ regulations, and the challenge in their effective implementation due to the diverse sanctions-induced financial and operational disruptions, as well as the growing levels of over-compliance.

In this context, the Special Rapporteur organised a side-event during the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council and invited participants to reflect and discuss on the impact of UCMs and over-compliance on the right to health and all health-related SDGs.

The outcome of this side-event, in the form of an evidence-based assessment and related recommendations, will assist the Special Rapporteur to: i) further expand on the issues addressed in her thematic report; ii) collect stakeholders’ experiences on the impact of unilateral coercive measures on health-related SDGs and national efforts towards the achievement of health-related targets; and, iii) further explore, based on factual information, specific challenges and avenues to address them.

Issues in focus
  • Identify the specific health-related SDGs that are affected by unilateral sanctions. Explore how and to what extend unilateral sanctions affect the healthcare system, including the access to health services, vaccination, prevention of deceases, tests, medicine, medical equipment.
  • Highlight the situation of persons in vulnerable situations, including persons with disabilities, those suffering from rare and severe deceases, children, women, older persons, those living in poverty who are disproportionately affected by unilateral sanctions, but who are at the same time the priority focus of stakeholders’ initiatives under the 2030 Development Agenda framework.
  • Discuss how countries under sanctions address the sanctions-induced challenges in healthcare and how they ensure the development of appropriate conditions to ensure realize positive strides concerning the underlying determinants of health (nutrition, clean water and sanitation, access to energy and healthy environment, labor environment, emergency responses, among others).
  • Discuss the impact of unilateral sanctions, secondary sanctions and overcompliance on the right to health in emergency situations. Highlight the role of international and local humanitarian actors in providing life-saving services and humanitarian assistance to people living under sanctions and the challenges they face in this regard.

The side event featured panel presentations by the invited experts, followed by Q&A session.


Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at:
[email protected] and +41 22 917 94 88

Information about the SR and the Mandate

The Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights is part of the Special Procedures mechanism of the Human Rights Council. Special Rapporteurs are independent human rights experts mandated by the Council to report and provide advice from specific thematic or country-specific perspectives.