The UN’s Department of Political Affairs recently published this list of “13 things to know about UN sanctions.” If you scroll down on the link above, you’ll also see some great sanctions graphics.
United Nations Sanctions Primer
1. Since the creation of the United Nations, the Security Council has established 25 sanctions regimes. They have been used to support conflict resolution efforts, prevent the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and counter terrorism.
2. “UN sanctions have proved to be an effective complement to other Security Council instruments and actions. We know it is not perfect, but there is also no doubt that it works,” Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman told the 15-Member of the Council in the 25 November briefing.
3. There are currently 15 sanction regimes, the highest number in the history of the Organization.
4. UN sanctions are fairly economical. The total cost of supporting the 15 sanctions regimes is less than $30 million per year.
5. The first United Nations sanctions regime was established in 1966 when the Security Council imposed sanctions on Southern Rhodesia. By a vote of 11 to 0 – with four abstentions – the Council declared an international embargo on 90 per cent of Rhodesia’s exports, forbade the UN’s then 122 Member States (there are now 193) to sell oil, arms, motor vehicles or airplanes to Rhodesia.
6. The most recent sanctions were applied against Yemen this November. The UN Council ordered a freeze of all assets and a global travel ban on Saleh, the rebel group’s military commander, Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi, and the Houthi’s second-in-command, Abdullah Yahya al Hakim.
7. In 1999, the Council established its first sanctions monitoring group on Angola.
8. There are now 11 monitoring groups, teams and panels with a total of 66 experts working in support of the Security Council and its sanctions committees.
9. Expert panels regularly cooperate with international organizations, such as INTERPOL, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on issues related to travel bans, and with national authorities and the private sector on asset freezes.
10. DPA underscored in today’s briefing that UN sanctions are meant to be supportive not punitive. They are not meant to cripple states but to help them overcome instability, address massive human rights violations, curb illegal smuggling, and counter terrorism.
11. The DPA’s Security Council Affairs Division provides substantive and administrative support to the sanctions committees and expert panels; as well as engages the wider UN system in support of UN sanctions.
12. This year, among its other activities on sanctions, DPA let two missions on sanctions issues, one on the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia and another on the termination of sanctions in Liberia. The aim was to strengthen these countries’ understanding of what the Council expects on sanctions issues and to enhance UN coordination on how the Organization can support implementation in these countries.
13. In 2006, the Secretary-General outlined four elements to improve the fairness and transparency of the sanctions procedures: the right to be informed; the right to be heard; the right to be reviewed by an affective review mechanism; and the need for periodic reviews, especially regarding the freezing of assets.
Let me add three things of my own:
14. A recent UN high level review on sanctions took place between May – October 2014 (thus the reference to the 2006 document in #13 is a bit dated). The background paper on the High Level Review website is well worth reading, as are the reports from the 3 working groups. See for example this briefing on Working Group 1, that included Security Council members.
15. Technical assistance remains an important but controversial topic. Australia proposed a resolution on technical assistance in November, 2014 but due to opposition by Russia, China and Argentina, the resolution was not put to a vote. The basis of the opposition, as I understood it from statements during the Security Council session, was largely due to concern over an expansion of the Secretariat’s policy making role. To put it differently, more technical assistance managed by the Secretariat might result in less Security Council authority. Nonetheless, implementation gaps in sanctions remain a serious bar to sanctions effectiveness. As sanctions become more sophisticated, so too do techniques of evasion, and for UN sanctions to be effective, there is no question that common ground will need to be identified to assist states, particularly, but not exclusively those states in whose territories individual and entities are targeted, neighboring states, and regional hegemons.
16. There is growing support to expand the Ombudsperson’s jurisdiction to other sanctions regimes. Currently, her office reviews delisting requests from the 1267 Al Qaida regime. Individuals and entities listed under other regimes only have access to a focal point, who has far less powers. If these proposals continue to gain momentum, there will be a significant improvement to the due process procedures noted above. See an overview of developments in this debate here.
Do you have anything else to add to the list? Please use the comments box to chime in.