GENEVA (31 March 2020) – A UN human rights expert called for the immediate lifting of international sanctions to prevent
hunger crises in countries hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The continued imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and, to a lesser degree,
Zimbabwe, to name the most prominent instances, severely undermines the ordinary citizens’ fundamental right to
sufficient and adequate food,” said Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
“These countries are already under stress and cannot handle the additional burden of sanctions. As the world exhibits
new bonds of solidarity in response to the pandemic, it is now a matter of humanitarian and practical urgency to lift
unilateral economic sanctions immediately.
“With connectivity among States more apparent than ever, it is clearly in the interest of all States, even those
imposing sanctions, to immediately terminate such aggressive policies that weaken our institutional capacity to cope
with the spreading pandemic,” Elver said.
The UN expert reminded that sanctions often cause significant societal disruptions that are exacerbated in the midst of
this global health crisis. “History has shown that unilateral economic sanctions generally have dramatic and detrimental
impacts on economic, social and cultural rights. As a result, the wellbeing of the civilian populations becomes severely
The Special Rapporteur also urged the international community to pay particular attention to the situation of civilians
trapped in conflict settings, and notably those already experiencing acute violations of their rights to food, such as
in Yemen, South Sudan, Gaza, Syria and in refugee camps worldwide.
“Food assistance must reach the population in conflict zones without discrimination and to the maximum available
resources,” Elver said.
“If the international community is serious about the fight against COVID-19 and the eradication of food and nutrition
insecurity, States need to refrain at all times from direct and indirect interference with access to food,” the expert