Role of Sanctions Central to Briefings, Debate in Security Council, with Speakers Stressing Need to Build Implementation Capacity, Avoid Unilateral Action

25 November 2014
7323rd Meeting (AM)

Role of Sanctions Central to Briefings, Debate in Security Council, with Speakers Stressing Need to Build Implementation Capacity, Avoid Unilateral Action

Sanctions regimes have been proven to be a valuable tool for the maintenance of international peace and security, but continuous improvement was needed for better targeting, awareness, respect for rights and partnership, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council today.

“United Nations sanctions had proved to be an effective complement to other Security Council instruments and actions,” Jeffrey Feltman said in a Council meeting on the issue this morning that also heard from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) Secretary General, Jürgen Stock.

“We know that it is not perfect, but there is no doubt that it works.  It has to be continuously improved and the UN system stands ready to support the Security Council in its effort to do so,” Mr. Feltman added.

He said that sanctions, along with peacekeeping and political efforts, had made a critical difference in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Liberia and Sierra Leone, among others.  Today, there were 15 sanctions regimes, the highest number in the history of the Organization, which cost under $30 million to support.

To improve regimes, he said that an internal review had proposed that the Council consider increasing the use of missions to assess impact and effectiveness of sanctions; expanding designation criteria to address specific human rights violations; developing a clear and standardized listing/de-listing framework and further strengthening due process in that regard; and reviewing, in a comprehensive manner, the concept and practice of expert panels.

Surveying the history of United Nations sanctions and adjustment in their use, he said the most significant transformation was the shift from comprehensive to targeted sanctions since 1994, comprising travel bans, asset freezes, arms embargoes, bans on trade in specific commodities and restrictions on other selected items.  In 1999, the first sanctions monitoring group was established, on Angola.  Now, 66 experts were working with various groups, and those cooperated regularly with international organizations such as INTERPOL.

Designation criteria had been sharpened, and due process for listing and de-listing had been improved with a focal point as well as an Ombudsperson for the Al‑Qaida Committee.  Cooperation with United Nations field missions had also been enhanced.

Supporting sanctions regimes was a central effort of his Department, Mr. Feltman said, noting that in the past year it had effected, among other improvements, changes in communications between panels, re-launch of the roster of experts on sanctions, revamping of the expert recruitment process and the establishment of induction programmes for Chairs, delegates and experts.

This year’s internal review, he said, had been conducted alongside a State-led High-level Review of UN Sanctions, which had been launched in May.  It showed that coherent system-wide policy and guidance was needed within existing mandates and resources.  Regular briefings, training and sharing of expertise were also needed, as was more effective use of in-house technical capacities.

In his briefing, Mr. Stock said that INTERPOL, with its global cross-border network and modern tools, was well placed to address many practical aspects of United Nations sanctions implementation, including working with local authorities in conveying and obtaining necessary information.  A key mechanism in that effort was the INTERPOL-UN Security Council Special Notice, created in response to Council resolution 1617 (2005); it was an alert or request for cooperation from national police published and circulated in a standard, recognizable format to more than 25,000 authorized users in INTERPOL’s 190 member countries, including border control services. 

INTERPOL, he said, also regularly enhanced information available to sanctions committees and their experts on listed targets, including aliases, date and place of birth, identity documents, fingerprints and photographs.  INTERPOL’s database was available for various purposes in that context.  Attempted violations of travel bans resulted in alerts by National Central Bureaus, and the agency was increasingly involved in coordinating international law enforcement on asset freezing.  For arms embargoes, it helped trace the origin of trafficked weapons and, to help stem illicit exploitation of natural resources, it had provided specialized information from its network.

To advance cooperation with the Council on sanctions, he said, the next step could involve increased leverage of INTERPOL’s network, for example, through regional mechanisms for exchange of information with law enforcement officers.  Guidance on implementation could also be enhanced, along with training on use of Special Notices.  He was confident that the relationship between INTERPOL, the Council and the Department of Political Affairs would continue to grow stronger.

Following those briefings, representatives of Member States concurred that sanctions were an important tool for the Security Council when properly utilized.  Towards the goal of making them more effective and fairer, delegates underlined the importance of accurately targeted measures, of ensuring a credible process of listing and de-listing, of assistance to Member States to build capacity for implementation and of cooperation between committees and their expert panels with INTERPOL and other partners.

Stressing the need for Member States to fulfil their obligations vis-à-vis sanctions regimes, the delegate of the United Kingdom said that those who failed to do so should be named and pressured.  The representative of the Russian Federation, emphasizing along with China’s representative that sanctions should only be used as a last resort, spoke strongly against unilateral measures imposed by States.  “It is time to end the practice of ‘dictat’ in the international arena,” he said.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Nigeria, Lithuania, Chile, France, Argentina, Chad, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Jordan, United States and Australia.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.


MARTIN SENKOM ADAMU (Nigeria) said the United Nations 15 sanctions regimes, on their own, had been deemed insufficient for implementing their objectives.  The adverse humanitarian impacts of broad sanctions had been surmounted; by focusing on spoilers, targeted sanctions had addressed the unintended consequences of those wide-ranging measures and allowed the Council to concentrate on humanitarian and human rights aspects.  It was imperative that all actors involved in sanctions implementation adapt to the new threats to peace and security — meaning that new partnerships and strategies might be required to ensure their effectiveness.  The ongoing assessment of current practices provided a “springboard” for considering policy-oriented options that would enhance sanctions implementation.  As sanctions must be tailored, the Council should assess ground situations with a view to defining ways that engendered compliance.  While asset freezes and travel bans were integral to mandates, sanctions in Guinea Bissau should be given more impetus, for example, through monitoring by an expert panel.  He urged the Council to always ensure strict compliance with sanctions regimes.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said sanctions committees should actively engage with the concerned countries, consulting on the expectations and requirements regarding implementation, as well as responding to the needs that emerged during that process.  Ongoing interaction was necessary with the country “that gives the name to the sanctions committee”, and with immediate neighbours.  The wider United Nations membership should be informed and engaged, and towards that end, public briefings by sanctions committee chairs should be routine.  Reporting on implementation and dialogue with concerned countries should be used to identify national capacity, training and technical assistance needs.  Stronger sanctions implementation capacities could enhance countries’ ability to respond to wider security concerns.  Lithuania saw merit in establishing a dedicated unit within the Council division responsible for coordinating sanctions implementation.  Such a unit would also improve the use of technical assistance and capacity-building, in response to individual States.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said it was important to establish minimal principles for sanctions, although the particular nature of each situation should be considered on its own terms.  He welcomed efforts to better target sanctions and improve due process, but added that more work was needed in both areas.  The Office of the Ombudsperson should be extended.  His delegation recently saw first-hand the value of field assessment, he said, adding that coordination could be improved in all areas.  Professionalism among experts was also needed, and of particular importance was utilization of the experience of other international organizations such as INTERPOL.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) agreed that sanctions were a vital tool that had made a critical difference in many situations.  They must be designed to have maximum and targeted impact and must be implemented properly.  Sanctions committees, the Secretariat and expert groups must all work together to ensure that sanctions were directly supporting the Council’s political goals.  He pledged to study carefully Mr. Feltman’s proposals in that light.  It was important to remember, however, that it was also critical for Member States to carry out their obligations, and for assistance to be provided for that purpose along with the naming and shaming of States that did not implement sanctions properly.  On due process, he said it was important to tailor an approach to each regime.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France) said that targeted sanctions on extremists were important to differentiate them from moderates.  They could also assist States in restoring stability.  They were not an end in themselves, but were a means to reach a goal and should be used alongside political efforts while being constantly tailored to the context.  He welcomed increased use and evolution of sanctions, but said adequate procedural guarantees were needed in listing and de-listing.  In that context, he paid tribute to the Ombudsperson.  For universal implementation of sanctions, cooperation with INTERPOL and other organizations was vital, all the more so in light of the threat posed by international extremist fighters.  Better practices and support for Member States was also critical to stemming illicit traffic of various kinds.

MARIO OYARZÁBAL (Argentina) said that while the Council was increasingly aware of how to prevent sanctions from affecting populations at large, it must improve their administration, design and monitoring, with a view to bolstering effectiveness.  Such discussions should include all Member States.  Argentina had repeatedly stressed that international peace and security should take place in respect of the rule of law and due process, he said, citing resolution 1904 (2009) in that context, which had established the Office of the Ombudsperson as an impartial entity for evaluating requests related to the Al‑Qaida Sanctions Committee List.  The Ombudsperson’s mandate should be extended to all sanctions bodies and sufficient resources should be provided for its work.  Unilateral coercive measures — such as extra-territorial enforcement of trade laws — violated international law, he said, stressing that multilateral action through the United Nations allowed for responding to international peace and security threats.

BANTE MANGARAL (Chad) said sanctions helped to safeguard against terrorism, limit weapons circulation and protect children, calling them a “precious” tool for upholding international peace and security.  However, there were many gaps in their implementation, notably vis-à-vis respect for procedures and human rights in the context of listing and de-listing.  Better coordination was needed among the 15 sanctions committees, as well as those involved in sanctions enforcement, especially at the national level.  Financing was another impediment to implementation.  The Council must work to resolve those issues, especially in terms of sharing information throughout the Organization.  “We need more technical assistance and capacity-building for implementation,” he said, stressing that missions must be more involved and that coordination among certain United Nations entities could be enhanced.  Dialogue and mediation were useful in that context.

WANG MIN (China) said a small number of countries had acted in accordance with their national will by imposing unilateral actions, which violated sovereign equality among States and undermined Council sanctions.  The Charter’s authority over sanctions should be safeguarded, and the Council must adopt a prudent attitude by prioritizing mediation, good offices and negotiations.  Indeed, sanctions should be considered only after other measures had been exhausted; they should never be used to pursue “power politics”.  The Council should adhere to the overall direction of pursuing peaceful political settlement, and sanctions should not interfere with such efforts.  Sanctions should be tailored to specific situations and the implementation system should prioritize the relevance of the measures.  The Council should regularly assess results with a view to amending, suspending and ultimately lifting those measures.  China had taken a prudent approach to sanctions, pushing for more effectiveness to pave the way towards a political settlement.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) urged improved coordination at the Secretariat and awareness of sanctions among Member States.  She supported the creation of a policy and coordination unit in the Department of Political Affairs, which could identify and disseminate good practices to the sanctions committees, manage the consolidated list and mobilize expertise to carry out such measures.  Each sanctions committee should publish all measures taken under the applicable regime, while the various expert groups should receive administrative and technical support to carry out their work.  The Council and the committees would benefit from interaction with international and regional organizations.  As for targeted sanctions, she said listing and de-listing must be done with full transparency, guided by the principles of equality and respect for the law.  The Ombudsperson played a key role in ensuring the accuracy and legitimacy of the Al‑Qaida Sanctions List.  Persons and entities under other bodies should also receive due process and the Council should extend that mandate to other sanctions regimes.

PAIK JI-AH (Republic of Korea) said the use of sanctions had evolved and now helped resolve conflicts and address a wide variety of security challenges, including counter-terrorism, violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and weapons of mass destruction acquisition.  Yet the level of understanding of sanctions and the implementation capabilities of Member States, as well as the resources of the Secretariat, seemed to lag behind the Council’s decisions on the matter.  Their sanctions must be effective, for which the Council should improve Member States’ understanding of the obligations those incurred.  The sanctions committees should convene more open briefings in order to explain the sanctions regimes to the wider United Nations membership and facilitate exchanges.  There was a growing need to help Member States, which faced different challenges, in implementation, for which sanctions committees and the Secretariat had important roles to play.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said that the High-level Review showed both the importance of United Nations sanctions and the need for constant engagement with Member States.  The first condition for a regime’s effectiveness was full implementation of Member States, which required effective communication.  In addition, as the majority of sanctions regimes were in Africa, many States did not have the means to comply, and so capacity-building and technical assistance was needed.  Cooperation and coordination with regional States and organizations was also important, along with awareness programmes to show that regimes were not punitive but aimed at achieving worthwhile goals.  He called for better induction processes for sanctions committee chairs and associated experts to ensure they were adequately informed about the regimes.  Finally, he stressed that when a country was cited in a panel’s reports, it was critical to present the information to national officials and allow a response before publishing.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said sanctions were a harsh measure that should be used as a last resort in the face of a genuine threat to international peace and security and following a thorough assessment of the impact on populations.  They should be targeted and calibrated, and open to periodic adjustment.  There should always be a light at the end of the tunnel.  Implementation was not the problem in the way that had been discussed and additional bureaucratic mechanisms should not be established, particularly if those allowed the Secretariat to encroach on the Security Council’s area of responsibility and the exclusive purview of Member States.  Clarifications and other assistance on implementation could be requested in each particular case.  In addition, he categorically opposed subjective interpretations of Council sanctions and imposition of consequent unilateral measures.  “It is time to end the practice of ‘dictat’ in the international arena,” he said.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said coordination among the Council, the sanctions committees and Member States could be improved, as could technical assistance and capacity-building, which, when weak, obstructed the optimization of United Nations sanctions.  To help developing countries in Africa and the Middle East enforce the measures, the Council should devise a blueprint that would encourage the sanctions committees and the Secretariat to lay the basis for an institutional dialogue among assistance providers, donors and adversely affected States.  Jordan would welcome the establishment of a voluntary sanctions trust fund to foster such endeavours and engage recipient States.  He encouraged the Council to pave the way towards a structured approach for cooperation between adversely affected States — both targeted and neighbouring — and the sanctions committees.  A dialogue should be initiated to identify views and needs as a “considerable” number of countries implementing sanctions were failed or fragile States.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said the Council should be constantly evaluating sanctions’ effectiveness, stressing that the growing complexity of those regimes required more coordination in their enforcement.  “We need sanctions to be effective,” he said, citing their use against Al‑Shabaab, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS), illicit arms flows to Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, and in marginalizing spoilers.  Some viewed sanctions as unfair — as they might have a broader impact on their intended targets — or as illegitimate, because the Council lacked the authority to impose them.  Both critiques were flawed.  The Council had reduced the unintended humanitarian impacts through precision-targeting and humanitarian exemptions.  Those questioning the Council’s right to impose sanctions were often those violating international law and who saw little obligation to abide by collective standards.  To be effective, sanctions must be implemented.  The Council should encourage all parts of the United Nations system to enforce the measures, with field missions, force commanders, United Nations mediators and others working with sanctions committees.  It should help States in their enforcement efforts, perhaps by establishing a policy coordination unit in the Department of Political Affairs.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said that his country co-sponsored the high-level review of United Nations sanctions over the last six months, leading consultations on how the Organization could come together internally and with Member States to give effect to those regimes.   There was untapped potential in the Secretariat to identify best practices, mobilize expertise and support efforts by the Council and its sanctions committees.  A more interactive relationship between Member States and expert groups and the committees would break down barriers to cooperation.  Looking beyond the United Nations system, the Council’s relationship with INTERPOL provided a model for how the systems and networks of relevant international organizations could enhance the effectiveness of the Council’s sanctions measures.  More such partners were needed.  The resolution submitted by his delegation would improve Member States’ access to information and assistance on sanctions implementation, and enhance the transparency and responsiveness of the sanctions system generally, he said, calling for consensus adoption of the text. 

For information media. Not an official record.