UNSC Members Call for Reducing Unintended Consequences of Sanctions

Rafael Ramirez, rotating president of the Security Council for February
“We are aware that sanctions regimes have unintended consequences and that they have often generated more destabilization and suffering than they have alleviated.” – Rafael Ramirez, Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the UN

By Lyndal Rowlands | for Shanghai Daily,

UN sanctions should achieve their objectives with limited unintended consequences, UN Security Council members said here Thursday during an open debate on the work of sanctions committees.

“We are aware that sanctions regimes have unintended consequences and that they have often generated more destabilization and suffering than they have alleviated,” said Rafael Ramirez, the permanent representative of Venezuela to the UN, who holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of February.

Sanctions, which were effective in bringing an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa, have also caused widespread suffering in Iraq and Haiti, said Ramirez.

“The human cost of the sanctions imposed on Iraq between 1991 and 1998 was counted at more than a million people in that country,” he said. “The comprehensive sanctions of the United Nations on (Haiti) have severely undermined the future of the Haitian people for generations.”

The United Nations has moved from comprehensive sanctions to more targeted sanctions in recent years in order to reduce the impact on civilian populations, but even targeted sanctions can have unintended consequences, according to Ramirez.

Sweden’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, agreed that sanctions can have unintended consequences.

“Sanctions have to be designed to avoid unintended consequences, including burdens on neighboring states, limiting legitimate trade, and negative humanitarian impact on civilian populations,” he said.

Meanwhile, council members also raised concerns that sanctions have often gone on for years without a clear means to meet their objectives.

Ramirez said that nine of the 16 sanction committees have existed for more than 10 years, including sanctions against Iraq which have lasted for 26 years, and sanctions against Somalia and Liberia which have lasted for 24 years.

“Sanctions need to have clear objectives and clear criteria for suspension or termination,” said Skoog. He also said that sanctions would not work if they were not part of a broader political strategy.

“First and foremost, sanctions can never be successful in isolation,” said Skoog. “They must always be part of a broader political strategy.”

For his part, the Chinese permanent representative to the UN, Liu Jieyi, said that the Security Council should advocate and promote a culture of peace by using diplomatic means such as mediation to resolve crises.

“(The Security Council should) refrain from threatening or use of the sanctions at will,” said Liu. “The council should pay more attention to the views of the affected countries to enhance the rationality of its decision making.”

Representatives from some of such countries as Iran and Eritrea were also given the opportunity to address the council during the debate. One of their requests was to have earlier access to reports written about them.

While sanctions against Iran have recently been lifted after the historic nuclear deal with the United States, another country that may soon have sanctions relief is Liberia.

Liberia’s sanctions were initially imposed during the height of violence instigated by former Liberian President Charles Taylor and more recently have been targeted at natural resource management, David Pressman, the U.S. alternative representative to the UN, told the council.

The United Nations is poised to lift sanctions against Liberia, which was one of three most effected by Ebola, in the first half of 2016, he said.

Currently, there are 15 Security Council sanctions regimes against countries and non-state actors including Iraq, Liberia, Somalia, Eritrea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Islamic State, the extremist group that is also known as ISIL or Da’esh, and Al-Qaida.

The sanctions cover different objectives including political settlements to conflicts, nuclear non-proliferation, and counter-terrorism.

Gerard van Bohemen, the permanent representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, said that sanctions are one of the few tools that the 15-nation Security Council has, short of using force.

“They can and do have a useful impact, whether that is constraining the flow of arms into a conflict, incentivising individuals to refrain from activities that jeopardise prospects for peace, or signalling to a belligerent state that their actions will not be tolerated,” he said.

Rafael Ramirez: “With Girma Asmerom Eritrean Ambassador in UN, after the debate on sanctions committees. With Africa always!”