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May 18, 2022

The Impact of Foreign Sanctions Listings under US, UK, and EU Law on Nonprofits

When foreign governments impose restrictive measures upon civil society groups, including by designating them as terrorist organizations or other sanctions, it can create uncertainty among the US-, UK-, and EU-based partners of such organizations as to their own legal risk exposure. This memorandum therefore sets out to summarize the legal consequences under US, UK, and EU law of foreign sanctions applied to the partners of nonprofit organizations registered in those same jurisdictions.

Among the activities considered in this memorandum in which US, UK, and EU nonprofits might engage with foreign-listed partners are:

  1. funding, donations, and other financial transactions, whether as a donor or recipient,
  2. business relations, including the provision of goods and services,
  3. coordinated programming or activities (e.g., jointly conducting research, producing reports, hosting events and trainings, engaging in advocacy, etc.),
  4. public statements of support,
  5. direct communications with staff, and
  6. hosting content produced by the organizations and their staff (e.g., on social media platforms).

As explained in more detail below, neither US, UK, nor EU law would restrain a US, UK, or EU nonprofit from activities in partnership with an actor designated only by a foreign sovereign. US, UK, and EU nonprofits may therefore engage in financial transactions, business relations, coordinated programming, communications, content-sharing, and other activities with foreign-designated organizations without incurring liability in their home jurisdictions. However, nonprofits should be aware that their operations outside of their home jurisdiction—including in the sanctioning jurisdiction—may be subject to other applicable laws. It should also be noted generally that the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions that member states are obliged to implement domestically.1

It must further be cautioned that sanctions programs are subject to rapid change based on geopolitical circumstances. Additionally, sanctions enforcement authorities often coordinate their efforts; designation by one authority may indicate that other authorities soon will announce a corresponding designation. Because they are tailored to address particular foreign policy and national security interests, sanctions programs directed toward particular actors vary in substance and scope. Thus, while there are similarities between and among the different regimes, the analysis under each sanctions program is fact-specific, and each particular transaction must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Read the full analysis here