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An idea for UK-based groups

The Labour Party in the UK is currently in the process of producing the
guidelines for its foreign policy. A couple of weeks ago, they produced
the 2nd edition of a consultation document, "Britain in the world". They
have invited submissions from interested groups. UK-based groups (& even
individuals) may want to consider sending comments on this consultation
document, regarding economic sanctions.

The document is 49 pages long. Although there are the expected
platitudes, it makes detailed and quite direct points. Of course, the vast
majority has little relevance to economic sanctions - major sections
on Europe, the international financial institutions &c. The major sections
that sanctions-based groups may want to comment on are "promoting global
social justice", "strengthening intl institutions" and "global security".
The only direct reference to Iraq / sanctions is in this latter section:
"in Iraq, we have diminished Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten his
neighbours .... we are continuing to work in the UNSC to see a resumption
of monitoring ... which could lead to a boost to the humanitarian help
given to the people of Iraq & the prospect of a suspension of sanctions"
(p.34). However, there are many other sections of relevance to sanctions,
such as those on international strategies of promoting women's &
children's rights, international humanitarian law, action through the
Security Council, and the linkages between conflict & poverty.

The 1st, shorter, consultative document was circulated in Feb 1999, as
part of the policy development process, with comments invited from groups
and individuals. Due to its relative obscurity, surprisingly few groups
took up the opportunity to make submissions. The 13 groups that did send
comments are formally listed in the document: they include a few of the
majors (Oxfam, BBC World Service), standard campaigning groups (Campaign
against Arms Trade, Pensioners for Peace) and a few specialist campaigning
groups (Tamil Eelam, UK Working Group on Landmines). Individuals who sent
formal comments are not listed, which makes me think that their views are
not particularly taken into account. The views put forward by these groups
are stated & analysed in the 2nd consultative document (albeit
indirectly: "many submissions commented upon..." &c), and occasionally
they are quoted - clearly, they were taken quite seriously if they sent in
'serious' comments.

In light of the responses to the 2nd consultation document, a 3rd
document will be produced; if approved by the National Policy Forum in
July, it will be put to the Party Annual Conference in September. It is
intended that, if approved, this document will form part of the Labour
Party manifesto for the next election. Basically, this is the stage at
which detailed comments on aspects of British foreign policy should be

This isn't really an opportunity to write "oppositional" comments, such as
wholesale critiques of British policy towards Iraq. But is could be an
opportunity to make direct, limited suggestions for the future principles
by which foreign policy is to be conducted. For what it's worth, I
recommend something along these lines: 
- that the UK has promoted the concept of "smart sanctions" as an
acceptable means of dealing with certain opponent states.
- that, with the proliferation of sanctions regimes internationally, this
is becoming a major element in foreign policy; and therefore should be
mentioned and elaborated in the 3rd document.
- that the proposals laid out by the government for future sanctions
regimes could go further in specific ways: eg there could be a public
acknowledgement that sanctions should be assessable by the standards of
international humanitarian law (this is not really the current
situation; at the moment, one cannot say that "sanctions are illegal
under the Geneva conventions" &c, as traditionally, this applies only in 
times of war); that there should be on-going monitoring of the effects of
sanctions on civilians; that there should be clear criteria for dual-use
goods in sanctions regimes; that the requirements of public accountability
demand that far more information is released by the government into their
actions on sanctions committees.

I recognise that this will have very little immediate impact on the
situation in Iraq, but it is an opportunity to have a voice in preventing
future sanctions regimes of this nature. 

Comments can be as brief or as long as you like, though should preferably
be under a page in length. Comments need to be put on to a standard
form. The document is not available on the web at the moment (only the 1st
edition is there, via; the 2nd edition is
substantially altered), but it can be ordered by phone, on 0870 590 0200.

I can provide more info if anyone is interested.
Best wishes

Glen Rangwala
Faculty of Social and Political Sciences
Free School Lane
Tel: 44 (0)1223 334535
Fax (shared): 44 (0)1223 334550
Home tel: 44 (0)1223 462187

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