Sanctions by the UN

Sanctions by the UN

Some think the let-down of UN peacekeeping and peace enforcement in the 1990s caused an improved dependence on sanctions. This can be viewed as a procedure of forced negotiation and which signifies a negative form of action that can be used for both discouraging and compelling. For example, a war which is seen as over may start soon and the struggles made by the peacekeeping force post the war might suffer a setback. So it may be required to impose or sometimes even re-impose sanctions on a state or sub-state who act like the leaders of a revolutionary organisation, and to try and force them to obey with a cease-fire or peace agreement that was already in place.

Sanctions against Growing Impunity

As long as the execution of collective security is concerned, sanctions are the “first line of attack” according to Inis Claude, Jr. The members of the UN are supposed to obey the sanctions as per the article 25 of the Charter and they are also obligated to follow decisions of the Security Council. United Nations realised in the post-Cold War time that it required to refine and better the application of sanctions to face the growing “culture of impunity” that was prevalent in the conduct of petty war criminals and governments, who broke the norms and decisions of the international community.

  • Sanctions add up to the core of a collective security system of an organisation like the United Nations and offer a sequence of measures that can be made functional against international lawbreakers.
  • These sanctions were known as ‘smart sanctions’.
  • Sanctions are restrictions on economic measures like trade and finance.
  • They involve freezing of foreign assets of targeted elite groups and even leaders.
  • It has the power to action the break of relations with the international community by air and sea, like in the case of Libya and Afghanistan.
  • Sanctions can enforce travel restrictions on the leaders under the scanner and their families too.
  • These smart sanctions affected only the real culprits of the issue and the burden on the general public was not very big.
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International Concern

However, many of the developing countries object to the smart sanctions because they feel that these sanctions are used to help the dominant interest of bigger players like United States especially against countries recognised by Washington as problem creating states.   Initially economic sanctions were considered as gentle means of trying to force an international representative to obey the will of the international community. The application of economic sanctions against a society can be quite upsetting in terms of the effects it may have on innocent civilians so to counter this, the need for ‘smart sanctions is very important.

Paradox of Sanctions

Sanctions can be rather naive in terms of their effects and this is an issue that Annan refers to as the “paradox of sanctions.” But a dictatorial administration may intentionally use the effects of sanctions in order to gain the compassion of international public opinion. For example, like in the case of Iraq, where UN decided for compassionate reasons to provide assistance to Baghdad in the form of the “oil for food” program. This permitted Iraq to sell its oil abroad under the conditions supervised by the UN, to buy food and medical supplies. Some of the revenue earned from the trade of Iraqi oil was used to pay claims against the Iraqi government that was created due the Gulf war. To show dissent in the delay of the sanctions regime which was in place for more than a decade, Iraq in order to put pressure on the UN, every now and then suspended the sale of oil. UN was smart enough to make provisions to phase out the “oil for food” program after the Second Gulf War. In 1990s, UN decided to stop governments and warlords who were breaking the law from making profit from the sale of gems like diamonds and emerald. The governments and the warlords would sell precious minerals like cobalt and Colton, timber, elephant tusks, drugs and sometimes even loot the banks to make money to buy weapons. A typical case was the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The resources got from such sale allowed international lawbreakers to purchase weapons and small arms that permitted the continuation of prolonged provincial conflicts.

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Fight Against Arms Purchase

This was the reason that UN tried to enforce “smart sanctions” against political leaders and warlords in states like Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo in order to prevent them from making profits from sale of diamonds etc.  In 2000, the Security Council called for a series of meetings of the representatives of worldwide diamond industry like the World Diamond Council created by the major diamond company DeBeers in order to deal with the global trade in illegal uncut diamonds.  This made life difficult for groups like the RUF and UNITA (The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) and they found it difficult to profit from the sale of diamonds. The only way to regulate the trade of illegal diamonds was to control their export to the outside world through a system called International Certificate of Origin.

The Response to Sanctions

Even though UN had set up an international administration that might successfully control the sale and trafficking of illegal diamonds, there has been strict opposition against this. For example, India which is a huge diamond processing centre, debated and argued that setting up of any international rule should not hamper the legal diamond trade.  Russians were also of the opinion that this international law will affect the legal diamond market.  However, the Security Council has approved resolutions that have imposed sanctions regimes on Sierra Leone and Angola to control the export of “blood” diamonds.  South Africa, another leading centre of diamond mining activities initiated a resolution which passed at the 55th session of the General Assembly.    As per the resolution, South Africa has set up an international certificate of origin scheme to figure out the difference between illegal diamonds and legal ones. But it is possible to evade the international law by selling diamonds through third world countries which are not covered by this ban. For example UNITA has traded its diamonds through Burkino Fasa, and Sierra Leone has traded through Liberia. To stop this kind of smuggling of diamonds UN has imposed sanctions against sale of diamonds from countries like Liberia which is channel for export of illegal diamonds and has also given the rebels in Sierra Leone weapons in exchange.

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The Ground Reality

But controlling of smuggling of diamonds is difficult. About $3 billion worth of diamonds are smuggled into Antwerp which does a total business of about $23 billion per year.  Apart from regulating the blood diamonds smuggling, UN is also dealing with the looting of a country like through rebels and also by invading armies and multinational corporations as in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These lootings also had an influence in the needless extension of the conflict there. Third world Countries which obey the UN sanctions in good trust may suffer economic loss without being suitably compensated by the international community. This is mostly so because the UN has significantly extended the number of sanctions regimes that it had introduced in the decade following the end of the Cold War. This had led to the weakening of sanction regimes.  Article 50 of the UN Charter is vague as to how states have to be compensated. Finally to conclude, the 1990s has been known as the “sanctions decade,” as efforts were made to improve their application because their usage was as “blunt instruments” in the past.