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Boutros Boutros-Ghali on Sanctions (25 Jan 95)

Source: “Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization,
Supplement to an Agenda for Peace: Position Paper of the Secretary-General
on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations”, A/50/60
and S/1995/1, 25 January 1995,

E.  Sanctions

66.  Under Article 41 of the Charter, the Security Council may call upon
Member States to apply measures not involving the use of armed force in
order to maintain or restore international peace and security.  Such
measures are commonly referred to as sanctions.  This legal basis is
recalled in order to underline that the purpose of sanctions is to modify
the behaviour of a party that is threatening international peace and
security and not to punish or otherwise exact retribution.

67.  The Security Council’s greatly increased use of this instrument has
brought to light a number of difficulties, relating especially to the
objectives of sanctions, the monitoring of their application and impact, and
their unintended effects.

68.  The objectives for which specific sanctions regimes were imposed have
not always been clearly defined.  Indeed they sometimes seem to change over
time. This combination of imprecision and mutability makes it difficult for
the Security Council to agree on when the objectives can be considered to
have been achieved and sanctions can be lifted.  While recognizing that the
Council is a political body rather than a judicial organ, it is of great
importance that when it decides to impose sanctions it should at the same
time define objective criteria for determining that their purpose has been
achieved.  If general support for the use of sanctions as an effective
instrument is to be maintained,
care should be taken to avoid giving the impression that the purpose of
imposing sanctions is punishment rather than the modification of political
behaviour or that criteria are being changed in order to serve purposes
other than those which motivated the original decision to impose sanctions.

69.  Experience has been gained by the United Nations of how to monitor the
application of sanctions and of the part regional organizations can in some
cases play in this respect.  However, the task is complicated by the
reluctance of Governments, for reasons of sovereignty or economic
self-interest, to accept the deployment of international monitors or the
international investigation of alleged violations by themselves or their
nationals.  Measuring the impact of sanctions is even more difficult because
of the inherent complexity of such measurement and because of restrictions
on access to the target country.

70.  Sanctions, as is generally recognized, are a blunt instrument.  They
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 whose behaviour is unlikely to be affected by the plight
of their subjects.  Sanctions also always have unintended or unwanted
effects.  They can complicate the work of humanitarian agencies by denying
them certain categories of supplies and by obliging them to go through
arduous procedures to obtain the necessary exemptions.  They can conflict
with the development objectives of the Organization and do long-term damage
to the productive capacity of the target country.  They can have a severe
effect on other countries that are neighbours or major economic partners of
the target country.  They can also defeat their own purpose by provoking a
patriotic response against the international community, symbolized by the
United Nations, and by rallying the population behind the leaders whose
behaviour the sanctions are intended to modify.

71.  To state these ethical and practical considerations is not to call in
question the need for sanctions in certain cases, but it illustrates the
need to consider ways of alleviating the effects described.  Two
possibilities are proposed for Member States’ consideration.

72.  The first is to ensure that, whenever sanctions are imposed, provision
is made to  facilitate the work of humanitarian agencies, work that will be
all the more needed as a result of the impact of sanctions on vulnerable
groups.  It is necessary, for instance, to avoid banning imports that are
required by local health industries and to devise a fast track for the
processing of applications for exemptions for humanitarian activities.

73.  Secondly, there is an urgent need for action to respond to the
expectations raised by Article 50 of the Charter.  Sanctions are a measure
taken collectively by the United Nations to maintain or restore
international peace and security.  The costs involved in their application,
like other such costs (e.g. for peacemaking and peace-keeping activities),
should be borne equitably by all Member States and not exclusively by the
few who have the misfortune to be neighbours or major economic partners of
the target country.

74.  In "An Agenda for Peace" I proposed that States suffering collateral
damage from the sanctions regimes should be entitled not only to consult the
Security Council but also to have a realistic possibility of having their
difficulties addressed.  For that purpose I recommended that the Security
Council devise a set of measures involving the international financial
institutions and other components of the United Nations system that could be
put in place to address the problem.  In response, the Council asked me to
seek the views of the heads of the international financial institutions.  In
their replies, the latter acknowledged the collateral effects of sanctions
and expressed the desire to help countries in such situations, but they
proposed that this should be done under existing mandates for the support of
countries facing negative external shocks and consequent balance-of-payment
difficulties.  They did not agree that special provisions should be made.

75.  In order to address all the above problems, I should like to go beyond
the recommendation I made in 1992 and suggest the establishment of a
mechanism to
carry out the following five functions:
(a) To assess, at the request of the Security Council, and before sanctions
are imposed, their potential impact on the target country and on third
(b) To monitor application of the sanctions;
(c) To measure their effects in order to enable the Security Council to fine
tune them with a view to maximizing their political impact and minimizing
collateral damage;
(d) To ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups;
(e) To explore ways of assisting Member States that are suffering collateral
damage and to evaluate claims submitted by such States under Article 50.

76.  Since the purpose of this mechanism would be to assist the Security
Council, it would have to be located in the United Nations Secretariat.
However, it should be empowered to utilize the expertise available
throughout the United Nations system, in particular that of the Bretton
Woods institutions.  Member States will have to give the proposal their
political support both at the United Nations and in the intergovernmental
bodies of the agencies concerned if it is to be implemented effectively.

Nathaniel Hurd
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: 718-504-4224

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