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Unilateral sanctions impinge on right to development - UN experts

11 August 2021


GENEVA (11 August 2021) – Many people around the world are being denied the right to development – both their countries’ economic improvement and their own personal development – because of unilateral coercive measures, independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council said today.

The experts called on countries that impose unilateral sanctions to withdraw or at least to minimize them to guarantee that the rule of law and human rights, including the right to development, are not affected.

“The precautionary principle should be applied by States when unilateral sanctions are taken to avoid any negative humanitarian impact on the whole scope of human rights, including the right to development,” the experts said. “The punishment of innocent civilians must end.

“The General Assembly has declared the right to development to be an inalienable human right, and it is recognized as such by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Arab Charter on Human Rights and a range of multilateral human rights declarations.”

Extraterritorial application of sanctions, secondary sanctions, national civil and criminal penalties aimed at implementing unilateral sanctions which result in over-compliance, exacerbate and expand their impact to every individual or company in targeted societies, third country nationals and companies, humanitarian organizations, donors and beneficiaries of humanitarian aid, the experts said.

“Sanctions hold countries back from development, they hold back people as well, and in a globalizing world, that hurts everyone,” the experts said.

“Sanctions make it harder for entire populations to stay healthy and hamper the transportation of goods needed for economic development, result in the waste of natural resources, undermine environmental sustainability and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” experts said. “Activities essential to every country’s development suffer when unilateral sanctions are imposed.”

The experts said people in targeted countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and Iran sink into poverty because they cannot get essential services like electricity, housing, water, gas and fuel, let alone medicine and food.

When U.S. sanctions block teleconferencing and data services in these countries and elsewhere, people are cut off from webinars and online meetings for information, exchanges, education and training, and doctors cannot consult medical data bases, said the experts.


*The experts: Ms. Alena Douhan, UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights; Mr. Obiora Okafor; Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity;Mr. Livingstone SewanyanaIndependent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

All communications, including those mentioned in this Press Release are available on the website of the OHCHR at

For more information and media requests, please contact Laura Pardo (+41 22 917 85 94/ [email protected]).

For media inquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact  Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9960 / [email protected]).
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