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UN Report from Mozambique's Former Minister for Education: "sanctions have so far proved blunt" (26 Aug 1996)

For some strong general comments on economic sanctions and their impact on
children, see Graša Machel, "Impact of Armed Conflict on Children", 26
August 1996 (although note that the report's Iraq comments ignore the
numerous problems with SCR 706).

In 1993, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and subsequently the
General Assembly (1) requested a report on the impact of armed conflict on
children.  Then-Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali appointed Machel as
the expert responsible for the report.  Machel was "Mozambique's first
post-independence Minister for President of the Foundation of
Community Development and Chairperson of the National Organization of
Children of Mozambique...and was awarded the 1995 Nansen Medal in
recognition of her outstanding contributions on behalf of refugee children"

1.  General Assembly Resolution 48/157, A/Res/48/157, 20 December 1993,
2.  For biographical information, see

See below for the sanctions section.

Main Url:
Full Text: gopher://
* Note that the full text includes the reporting mandate

E.  Sanctions

127. The present report focuses on armed conflict, but a closely-related
issue that also has a serious impact on children is the imposition of
economic sanctions.  In recent years, economic sanctions have been seen as a
cheaper, non-violent alternative to warfare.  In his follow-up report to "An
Agenda for Peace" (A/50/60), the Secretary-General of the United Nations
recognized that sanctions raise the ethical question of whether suffering
inflicted on vulnerable groups in the target country is a legitimate means
of exerting pressure on political leaders.  Since 1991, under Article 41,
Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the international
community has collectively imposed sanctions on Iraq, the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Haiti.
In addition,
countries can and have employed bilateral sanctions.  In the post-cold war
era, it seems likely that sanctions will play an increasingly important part
in international policy.  Governments are reluctant to commit troops and
funds to international military intervention and see sanctions as a safer
recourse that can be applied at lower cost to the embargoing power.  While
not necessarily the case, sanctions also appear less deadly than military
action for the population of the target country.

1.  Humanitarian exemptions

128. In theory, most sanctions regimes exempt critical humanitarian supplies
from general embargoes.  In practice, sanctions have so far proved blunt
instruments.  Humanitarian exemptions tend to be ambiguous and are
interpreted arbitrarily and inconsistently.  They often cause resource
shortages; disrupt the distribution of food, pharmaceuticals and sanitation
supplies; and reduce the capacity of the public health system to maintain
the quality of food, water, air, and medicine.  Delays, confusion and the
denial of requests to import essential humanitarian goods cause resource
shortages.  While these effects might seem to be spread evenly across the
target populations, they inevitably fall most heavily on the poor.  Those
with power and influence will usually have ways of acquiring what they need,
while the general population struggles to survive with what remains.  While
adults can endure long periods of hardship and privation, children have much
less resistance, and they are less likely to survive persistent shortages.
Studies from Cuba, Haiti and Iraq following the imposition of sanctions each
showed a rapid rise in the proportion of children who were malnourished.  In
Haiti after 1991, for example, one study indicated that the price of staple
foods increased fivefold and the proportion of malnourished children
increased from 5 to 23 per cent. 30/

129. Even when exemptions are permitted, the conditions applied may be
unacceptable to the Government in power.  Indeed, those Governments and
authorities against which sanctions are imposed are rarely personally
affected and may be precisely those less responsive to the plight of their
people. Iraq since 1990 has experienced the most comprehensive regime ever
imposed. In order to mitigate some of the effects on health and nutrition,
the Security Council adopted resolution 706 (1991) to permit the use of
frozen Iraqi funds to purchase food and medicine, stipulating that these
supplies had to be purchased and distributed under the supervision of the
United Nations.  The Iraqi Government considered these conditions
unacceptable and only started to discuss them in 1995.  Meanwhile, the
situation for children has

Over the past five years, infant mortality is thought to have tripled. 31/
The "oil-for-food" procedures contained in Security Council resolution 986
(1995) present an opportunity to mitigate the negative impact of
sanctions on Iraqi children.  To take full advantage of this opportunity,
however, all currency generated through oil sales should be dedicated to
humanitarian and civilian purposes.

130. In the interests of children, the international community should cease
to impose comprehensive economic sanctions without obligatory and
enforceable humanitarian exemptions and agreed mechanisms for monitoring the
impact of sanctions on children and other vulnerable groups.  Any measures
taken should be precisely targeted at the vulnerabilities of the political
or military leaders whose behaviour the international community wishes to
change.  These actions could include an arms embargo, the freezing of all
corporate and individual overseas assets, the stopping of certain kinds of
economic transactions, the suspension of air links and other forms of
communication and the isolation of countries from the rest of the world
through cultural, academic and economic boycotts.

2.  The need for child impact assessments and monitoring

131. Sanctions should be judged against the standards of universal human
rights, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The primary
consideration must always be the potential human impact, which should
influence the imposition and choice of sanctions, the duration, the legal
provisions and the operation of the sanctions regime.  Sanctions should not
be imposed without advance assessment of the economic and social structure
of the target country and the ability of the international community to
sustain continuous monitoring.

132. Monitoring systems make it possible to assess the impact of the embargo
on health and well-being.  At minimum, such assessments should measure
changes in access to essential medicines and medical supplies (especially
items that may serve both civilian and military purposes such as chlorine
for water purification or lab reagents for health screening and testing),
water quality and quantity, the nutritional state of children and the infant
mortality rate.

133. When targeted sanctions are imposed, humanitarian exemptions should be
formulated with clear guidelines.  At the same time, in order to help
vulnerable groups, the established agencies should formulate appropriate
humanitarian assistance programmes.  If essential humanitarian goods are
denied to the population, the sanctioning powers have a responsibility to
assure new sources of supply.  When the Security Council imposes sanctions,
it should also simultaneously provide resources to neutral, independent
bodies to monitor the situation of vulnerable groups.  In the event that the
position of children deteriorates, the United Nations should assume
responsibility for redressing the situation.

134. Since many of the effects of sanctions, particularly the health impact,
may only become evident over a period of years, no sanctions regime should
be allowed to continue indefinitely.  When the Security Council imposes
sanctions, it should also clearly define the circumstances under which they
should be lifted.  If the sanctions fail to produce the desired result
within a predetermined period, they should be replaced by other measures.

3.  Specific recommendations on sanctions

135. The expert submits the following recommendations on sanctions:

(a) The international community should ensure that whenever sanctions are
imposed they provide for humanitarian, child-focused exemptions.  The
international community should establish effective monitoring mechanisms and
child impact assessments.  These must be developed with clear application

(b) Humanitarian assistance programmes of the United Nations specialized
agencies and of NGOs should be exempt from approval by the Security Council
Sanctions Committee;

(c) A primary concern when planning a targeted sanctions regime should be to
minimize its impact on vulnerable groups, and particularly children.
Sanctions or other measures taken by the Security Council should be
precisely targeted at the vulnerabilities of those whose behaviour the
international community wishes to change;

(d) The Security Council Sanctions Committee should closely monitor the
humanitarian impact of sanctions and amend sanctions immediately if they are
shown to cause undue suffering to children.

Nathaniel Hurd
Iraq Sanctions Project (ISP) Associate
Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)
162 Montague Street, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel.: 718-237-9145, x 21
Fax: 718-237-9147
Mobile: 917-407-3389
Personal E-Fax: 707-221-7449

*The contents of this message may contain personal views which are not the
views of ISP, unless specifically stated*

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