Sanctions Threaten The Global Response to COVID-19

Posted on: April 16, 2020, by :

The coronavirus pandemic threatens the lives of millions across the world – and even more will be lost in countries like Sudan unless sanctions are lifted urgently.

Like many countries in Africa, Sudan has scores of confirmed cases of coronavirus, with the government responding with strict curfews and restrictions. As is the case across the world, these necessary measures have had a devastating economic impact. Making matter worse, at the same time that people are losing jobs, people are also having to deal with price gouging and shortages of essential items.

But relief, support and supplies are being prevented from reaching the people of Sudan because of a strict sanctions regime that remains in place despite the global emergency.

Sudan is one of four countries unilaterally designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism, placing it under deep sanction. While this designation has not been agreed by the United Nations, or mirrored by trade blocs like the European Union, the influence of the US in global trade and finance means the impact of the sanctions is vast. At the most basic level, Sudanese living abroad cannot easily transfer money back home to their families, as so many in other expatriate communities do. Those difficulties in securing financial support extends from micro to macro level, with even the transitional government struggling to access necessary funding.

These barriers have severe consequences at the best of times. At a time of global crisis, they are devastating.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, there was an urgent need to consider the global sanctions regime. The effectiveness of sanctions as a tool against authoritarian regimes is deeply questionable. Many violent despots have been able to pass on the impact of international sanctions, living lives of luxury as their people wanted for even the most basic food and medicine.

In the case of Sudan, it was the people who suffered the impact of the sanctions against Omar Bashir’s regime. It was then the people of Sudan who rose up against Bashir, who brought him down. Now, as Bashir sits in a jail cell, it is once again the people of Sudan who suffer from his poisonous legacy.

Sudan is emerging from a revolution against 30 years of a dictatorship that brought the country to its knees. That situation is precarious enough without the pandemic.

The international community needs to rethink its sanctions strategy. Before then, it must take urgent action to ensure that the current sanctions regime is not threatening the global response to COVID-19. The coronavirus crisis is touching the life of nearly everyone around the globe. A global response cannot see low income countries like Sudan forced to face the crisis with their hands tied by an outdated sanctions regime.