Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Speech to the Symposium on Enhancing the Implementation of Security Council Sanctions

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 30 April 2007

I am honoured to have this opportunity to address you on the important issue of Security Council sanctions.

It is particularly fitting that Greece has sponsored this symposium. We are all aware of Greece’s distinguished service during its recent two-year tenure on the Council, including the leadership it demonstrated in chairing the Côte d’Ivoire and Sudan committees, as well as the Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions. Greece’s determined and creative approach resulted in the adoption of a report containing important recommendations for improving the effectiveness of Security Council sanctions, which the Council took note of in resolution 1732. Greece has demonstrated that leadership in this area can bring positive results.

The legal basis for sanctions is contained in Article 41 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, under which the Security Council may seek to restore international peace and security by “measures not involving the use of armed force”. Indeed, if implemented effectively, sanctions can avoid the costs in blood and treasure that might otherwise ensue from the use of armed force. While not a solution in themselves, sanctions can play an effective role among the panoply of measures to prevent and resolve conflict.

Following the end of the cold war, a renewed sense of common purpose among members of the Security Council set the stage for more active and wide-ranging collective action. One of the foremost expressions of that newly revived political will was the establishment of sanctions regimes, starting with the measures imposed on Iraq in August 1990, which were the most comprehensive and long-lasting in the history of the United Nations. At the same time, the unintended humanitarian consequences caused lingering doubts regarding the efficacy of Security Council sanctions.

During the 1990s, the Council imposed sanctions on a number of targets for a variety of purposes: to restore a democratically elected Government; to reverse aggression; to respond to serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law; to counter terrorism; and most recently, to prevent nuclear proliferation and the spread of other weapons of mass destruction.

The Council reacted by shifting its focus from comprehensive economic sanctions and “stand-alone” arms embargoes to a combination of “smart” or “targeted” measures aimed at decision-making elites. These new measures include the freezing of financial assets, travel restrictions, aviation bans, and strictures on commodities, such as petroleum, diamonds and timber. They are meant to deny States the means with which to fuel conflict, while minimizing the effects on the general population. This effort to refine the sanctions instrument has been greatly assisted by Germany, Switzerland and Sweden.

The Council has also increased the use of humanitarian impact assessments, and established expert groups to monitor compliance with sanctions. Ambassador Fowler of Canada, who is with us today, deserves special mention for leading the effort to put in place a monitoring group on UNITA in Angola.

The Council has also sought to strengthen compliance by including in the mandates of peacekeeping missions the provision of assistance in monitoring arms embargoes. Two notable cases of this are UNOCI in Côte d’Ivoire, and MONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A more recent challenge to effective implementation of sanctions revolves around the issue of due process in the listing and “de-listing” of individuals designated for targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans. The Council has moved to address these concerns, and maintain confidence in the credibility and legitimacy of its measures, again with the assistance of Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, and in cooperation with the Watson Institute at Brown University. Further to the Council’s resolution 1730, the Secretariat has created a focal point for de-listing, which provides direct access of listed persons and entities to Committees.

Experience has shown that sanctions as a means of coercion, not punishment, can apply the necessary pressure on a target to change its behaviour. David Cortright and George Lopez, eminent experts on multilateral sanctions who are here with us today, have identified several cases in which sanctions resulted in partial compliance with the Council’s demands or helped to bring conflicting parties to the bargaining table. These cases include Libya, the former Yugoslavia, UNITA in Angola, and the Charles Taylor regime in Liberia. Peter Wallensteen of Uppsala University, who recently presented his study on Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia at the United Nations, has noted similarly that sanctions have had a restraining effect on their targets.

But as we know only too well, the implementation of sanctions faces a number of challenges. All too often, there is insufficient political will. States can lack capacity to enforce sanctions. And great difficulty has been encountered in exerting leverage on non-State actors.

To strengthen compliance and increase effectiveness, sanctions must be understood as a manifestation of the strong and unified political will of the international community. Their goals must be clear and unambiguous. And the goal posts must not be changed arbitrarily or without explanation in order to meet unstated political objectives.

Moreover, sanctions should include carrots along with sticks -- not only threats, but inducements to elicit compliance. The target must understand what actions it is expected to take. And partial or full compliance should be met by reciprocal steps from the Council, such as easing or lifting sanctions as appropriate. At the same time, targets must not be allowed to exploit real or perceived differences among those who impose sanctions. This would only hold the international community hostage to a target’s capricious or wily behaviour.

Non-compliance should be dealt with on an equal basis, and in a decisive manner. “Naming and shaming” in reports prepared by expert groups should be followed by effective action to deter any recurrence of violations.

There is ample evidence that sanctions have enormous potential to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security when used not as an end in themselves, but in support of a holistic conflict resolution approach that includes prevention, mediation, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. We should welcome the evolution of sanctions that has taken place: where once they were an often blunt and unfocused instrument, today they have become a more precise tool. Their increased use attests to their growing power. Our challenge is to ensure their credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the world as unassailable. Only by our combined efforts can we hope to realize the full promise of sanctions in the interest of global peace and security.

I look forward to working with you in that effort. I extend my full support to Greece in this important endeavour, and wish you every success at this symposium.

Thank you again for the invitation to participate.