Recent OFAC General Licenses Facilitate Earthquake Relief Efforts in Türkiye & Syria
CAF America recognizes the timeliness of the recent OFAC General Licenses for Humanitarian Aid—specifically in enabling more rapid, localized, and impactful grantmaking to charity partners on the front lines of disaster response.
February 7, 2023
Already torn apart by a decade of war that has left millions of people displaced and homeless, the humanitarian situation in Syria could not be more dire. Since the beginning of the conflict, supporting charitable activities within Syria and assisting displaced Syrians in bordering countries has been deemed extremely high risk for US donors and foundations. Any work funded in the country and region must comply with severe sanctions enacted by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
The world watched as two powerful earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria during the early morning of February 6, 2023, causing devastation across the region. As recovery efforts scale up, our team at CAF America is thankful for a significant change OFAC recently made to its sanctions regime that will make funding response and relief for this disaster feasible.
In late December last year, OFAC issued new General Licenses that permit funding for humanitarian relief in otherwise forbidden jurisdictions within Syria. These licenses specifically authorized several activities across Syria that will allow donors to provide humanitarian relief for Syrians affected by the earthquake. The activities donors are now able to support include:
- Projects to meet basic human needs, including disaster, drought, or flood relief;
- Food, nutrition, or medicine distribution;
- The provision of health services;
- Assistance for vulnerable or displaced populations, including individuals with disabilities and the elderly;
- Environmental programs.
However, it is important for donors to understand that the risk of giving in Syria is still substantial. Sanctions relating to individuals listed as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) and a lack of national charitable regulations are still in effect. That being said, it is now easier to aid those affected by the earthquake in Syria, and there are many good organizations that meet regulatory requirements and need donors’ support. It is critical for donors to work with a trusted grantmaker with an in-depth understanding of the international regulations, sanctions and inherent risks of donating to Syria in this time of crisis.
CAF America set up the “Türkiye and Syria Earthquake Relief Fund” to support organizations driving humanitarian relief efforts in Türkiye and Syria; we will also be updating this resources page with information about our partner organizations and their response work.
You can learn more about the new OFAC regulations by listening to our latest podcast discussing the General Licenses (recorded prior to the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria), or read the new regulations in depth via the US Treasury.
About the author:
Emily Allyson is a Senior Validation Associate on the grant services team at CAF America where she reviews organizations in high risk countries to determine risk and eligibility. A graduate from George Washington University, Emily studied Arabic and International Affairs. Her passion for non-profit law and the Middle East has allowed her to push the boundaries of advocacy and risk management in some of the world's most complicated countries in regulatory compliance.