Sanctions not enough, official tells UN Security Council

The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, says sanctions are not an end in themselves but should be part of a comprehensive political strategy for it to be effective.

DiCarlo told the UN Security Council on Monday that to be effective, sanctions should be part of a comprehensive political strategy, working in tandem with direct political dialogue, mediation, peacekeeping and special political missions.

According to her, UN Security Council sanctions are no longer the “blunt instrument” they once were, having transformed since the 1990s into “a vital tool” that minimises negative consequences for civilians, and States that are not directly being targeted.

“There are currently 14 Council sanctions regimes in place around the world.

“These sanctions measures support conflict resolution in Libya, Mali, South Sudan and Yemen.

“They deter unconstitutional changes of government in places like Guinea Bissau and curb the illicit exploitation of natural resources that fund the activities of armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

“They also constrain the proliferation activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the terrorist threat posed by the Islamist terrorist groups (ISIL), Al-Qaida and their affiliates.’’

In recent years, the Security Council has tried to avoid adverse consequences for civilian populations and third-party States, DiCarlo said.

In the case of arms embargoes, for instance, exemptions are routinely granted for the import of non-lethal equipment necessary for humanitarian relief.

In the case of travel bans, exemptions are provided for medical or religious reasons or to participate in peace processes; exemptions for assets freezes allow payment for food, utilities or medicines.

The Security Council has also created standing humanitarian exemptions in Somalia and Afghanistan, as well as case-by-case exemptions in Libya, Yemen and DPRK.

Sanctions are also “continually adjusted” in response to changes on the ground, the political chief said, highlighting how the Council terminated sanctions against Eritrea, and significantly narrowed down the terms of an arms embargo in the CAR.

As a result of these changes, only one Member State reported facing “special economic problems” arising from Council sanctions in the last decade.

The last 10 years have also shown that sanctions can do more than limit the influx of arms and ammunition or the financing of armed groups. Almost all regimes now try to uphold international humanitarian standards.

In 2020, for example, humanitarian obligations helped release abducted women and children from military bases in South Sudan; In the DRC, it opened space to negotiate the release of children by armed groups.

Sanctions have also become more targeted, with more than 50 individuals and entities placed on lists.

Also speaking at the meeting was Martin Griffiths, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, who said that sanctions were a fact of life in many humanitarian relief operations, affecting our operations directly and indirectly.

He said that UN sanctions were designed to limit unintended consequences, and he welcomed the Council’s signals that they are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences.

Griffiths also highlighted the exemptions approved for Afghanistan, saying they allowed operations to continue.

The humanitarian chief explained that sanctions could be smart and targeted, but compliance is always a daily element in the work of the UN and its partners.

“They can impact our logistics, our finances, our ability to deliver. They can lead to humanitarian projects delaying or stalling. And some can threaten the well-being of whole swathes of civilian society,” he said. 

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