3 August 2017
8018th Meeting (AM)

Full Support of Member States Key to Effective Sanctions Regimes, Assistant Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Effective implementation of sanctions required support from all Member States, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council today, emphasizing that when used effectively, they should lead to comprehensive political strategies for preventing and peacefully resolving conflicts.

“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” said Assistant Secretary-General Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, echoing a sentiment expressed by many delegates as the Council considered the subject of enhancing the effectiveness of United Nations sanctions.  Having evolved over the years from comprehensive to more precise and targeted measures, sanctions were increasingly used to counter terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Tailored and calibrated measures were also used to deter unconstitutional changes of government and the illicit exploitation of natural resources that funded the activities of armed groups.

The 13 current Security Council sanctions regimes continued to play a key part in maintaining international peace and security, he said, while adding, however:  “Even the best designed United Nations sanctions resolutions are not self-implementing.”  While adopted in New York, they were implemented mainly at border crossings, ports and airports, as well as in banking and financial institutions, he said, noting that they required the support of myriad partners.  They remained flexible and subject to regular review, adjustments and terminations.

While the Council had adopted 26 sanctions regimes since 1966, it had terminated 15 to date in 2016 alone, including the measures previously imposed on Iran, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.  Reviews of such regimes had also resulted in the strengthening of responses to growing and emerging threats, he said.  In Libya, the Council had expanded prohibitions on the export of petroleum products, and in the Central African Republic, it had adopted the designated sanctions criteria for acts of sexual violence.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members noted that each sanctions regime was unique and required particular tailoring, agreed that all such measures required the full support of Member States to be effective.

The representative of the United States said that when sanctions lacked wide support, they remained meaningless and degraded the Council’s credibility.  When Member States failed to comply with sanctions levelled against an aggressor, the Council lost credibility.  “If widespread support is the way to do sanctions right, the way to do them wrong is unfolding before us,” she noted, pledging that her country would act to defend human rights around the world.

Ethiopia’s representative warned against politicizing sanctions and applying double standards in their design and implementation.  The fervour with which the Council implemented sanctions must remain steady in all cases, he said, emphasizing that the Council must never shy away from strengthening sanctions in cases that call for it.

Many Council members echoed the Assistant Secretary-General, welcoming the evolution of sanctions from broad to more precise measures, while stressing that more remained to be done in mitigating their unintended humanitarian consequences.

Senegal’s representative pointed out that sanctions regimes were mostly imposed on developing countries, particularly in Africa, and increasingly targeted the illicit exploitation of natural resources.  He called for strengthening cooperation among the Council, its sanctions committees and affected Governments to ensure such measures were applied to ensure that natural resources would support development rather than fuelling conflict.

The Russian Federation’s representative emphasized that sanctions must be directed at those who caused crises and never at civilians.  Furthermore, restrictive measures should not be used to bring down undesirable regimes for economic reasons.  Unilateral restrictions contravened international cooperation and violated State sovereignty, he underlined, adding:  “It is no secret that some people want to see certain outcomes.”

Bolivia’s representative rejected unilateral sanctions as illegal actions extending the domestic legislation of one State to another.  Sanctions should be a measure of last resort, to be applied when there was a clear threat to international peace and security, or when an act of aggression was eminent.

Echoing a similar sentiment, China’s representative said that Security Council decisions on sanctions must be part of an overall political package since such measures were not an end in and of themselves.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uruguay, France, Italy, Sweden, Japan and Egypt.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:48 a.m.


TAYÉ-BROOK ZERIHOUN, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, just as causes of conflicts were complex and interlinked, the responses to them must be effective and mutually reinforcing.  “Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” he added, emphasizing that, at their most effective, sanctions must contribute to a comprehensive political strategy to prevent and peacefully resolve conflicts.  The current 13 Security Council sanctions regimes continued to play a role in preventing conflict, countering terrorism and constraining the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  The Council had adopted tailored and calibrated sanctions measures to deter unconstitutional change of Governments and the illicit exploitation of natural resources which fund the activities of armed groups.

Security Council sanctions were also a flexible instrument, subject to regular review, adjustments and terminations, he continued.  In 2016, three sanctions regimes — Iran, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia — were terminated.  While the Council had adopted 26 sanctions regimes since 1966, it had also terminated 15 regimes to date.  Reviews of sanctions regimes had also resulted in strengthening responses to growing threats, he said, adding that, in Libya, the Council had expanded prohibitions on the export of petroleum products, and designation of criteria was adopted for acts of sexual violence in the Central African Republic.

Effective sanctions required broad-based support from all Member States, he stressed, adding:  “Even the best designed United Nations sanctions resolutions are not self-implementing.”  The diversity and complexity of targeted United Nations sanctions regimes had imposed considerable implementation burden on countries.  Sanctions committees continued to meet with stakeholders on the ground to hear their challenges.  “Sanctions are adopted in New York, but they are mainly implemented at border crossings, ports and airports, as well as in banking and financial institutions,” he added.

Since 2014, the Inter-Agency Working Group on United Nations Sanctions, comprising 26 Organization entities, had worked to ensure system-wide support to sanctions.  Meanwhile, the Security Council Affairs Division had continued to play a key role in supporting the nine sanctions monitoring groups, team and panels, which comprised 59 sanctions experts.  The critical importance of support to those individuals was highlighted with the killing of Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp, who were members of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Group of Experts.  He called for full accountability for those crimes and stressed the need to reassess the security arrangements governing the work of sanctions experts.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that sanctions turned words into tangible actions against those who threatened international peace and security.  They were not the first resort, nor a measure that could ever be taken lightly, he said, adding:  “We know that they work.”  Noting that the Iran deal had not been forged from sanctions alone, and that victory over Da’esh would not come about from the work of the 1267 Committee alone, he said sanctions must sit alongside other tools, such as direct political dialogue, negotiations and peacekeeping efforts.  It was important that they remain fit for purpose, although there were challenges to building the political commitment for effective follow-up to recommendations for improving sanctions regimes.  For such measures to be effective, it was essential that all States fully implemented them.  It was not good enough for a majority of countries to implement sanctions, he said, stressing that a chain was only as strong as its weakest link.  There could be no “ifs” and no “buts”; sanctions were obligated under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.  The work on some of the most important sanctions dossiers, including on North Korea [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], needed improvement, particularly as the number of States reporting on the implementation of those sanctions still fell far short of where it needed to be.  There was no clearer reminder for strengthening sanctions capabilities than the North Korean case, which was a State that continued to threaten not just the region, but the entire world.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said his delegation supported Security Council sanctions, which were important preventive measures that helped to sustain or restore international peace and security.  Sanctions should be designed with the aim of modifying behaviour and whenever possible, they must be subjected to pre-assessment on their probable impact from a humanitarian point of view, as well as enforcement and efficacy.  Every sanction regime was unique and carefully tailored to address specific and clear objectives, although there was always room for improvement and the dissemination of best practices.  Throughout the sanctions phase, every effort should be made to continue with diplomacy and mediation for Member States to comply with Security Council resolutions.  Just as vital was the timely sharing and management of information between the Council, Member States, regional or subregional bodies and technical bodies.  Further, States needed to be helped to understand and upgrade legal procedure and enact new domestic legislation in keeping with United Nations standards.

LIU JIEYI (China) said that, under the provisions of the United Nations Charter, sanctions were a peaceful means of conflict resolution and played a positive role in maintaining international peace and security.  Some sanctions regimes had served their purpose and had been lifted, although, at the same time, there must be awareness that some faced problems that should be cause for serious consideration by the Security Council.  Its use of sanctions must be in full keeping with the provisions of the Charter, entailing prudent deliberations when imposing them, he emphasized, adding that their imposition should be predicated on exhausting all non-coercive means.  Security Council decisions on sanctions must be part of an overall political settlement package, as such measures were not an end in and of themselves.  Sanctions must be part of an overall political package and should be advanced holistically, while the implementation of resolutions should be not selective.  The Council should enhance the relevance of sanctions to avoid negative impacts and focus on the key issue at hand, he said, stressing that they should not affect normal, legal trade relations nor exacerbate humanitarian situations on the ground.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said sanctions were one of the most important tools at the Security Council’s disposal and must be part of a broader political strategy aimed at managing and preventing conflicts.  Sanctions had, however, evolved significantly in recent years, he added, noting the effectiveness of targeted sanctions.  If used appropriately and in a targeted manner, sanctions had the potential to exert pressure on individuals whose attention the Council was seeking.  Sanctions must include clear objectives, he added, emphasizing that they must be reviewed and tailored in a timely manner.  More often than not, however, arguments took place on the overall effectiveness of sanctions.  That remained a counterproductive practice.  To achieve desired objectives, it would serve well to look at each sanctions case individually.  If a particular situation warranted the lifting of sanctions, the Council must not hesitate to take that action.  It must also never shy away from strengthening sanctions in cases that call for it.  “What really matters here is the reality on the ground,” he added.  He opposed the politicization of sanctions and the application of double standards in their design and implementation.  The fervour with which the Council implemented sanctions must not be different from one case to another.

VASSILY ALEKSEEVICH NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that restrictive measures could not be an end to themselves.  It was the Council alone that had the right to impose sanctions.  Such actions must be restrictive in terms of time and must have clear criteria for drawdown.  Their focus must be targeted at those who cause crises and never on civilians.  Restrictive measures must not be used to bring down undesirable regimes for economic reasons.  As seen from experience, that was likely to lead to mass chaos and endless civilian suffering.  Sanctions must never be used against diplomatic or consular representatives.  That would be a clear violation of the Vienna Convention.  Each sanctions regime was individual and unique and what was useful for one may well be counterproductive for another.  He stressed that those decisions must be made solely by Member States.  “It is no secret that some people want to see certain outcomes,” he added, expressing regret over the application by some Member States of unilateral restrictions.  Such measures countered international cooperation and violated State sovereignty.  He also stressed the need to examine the outcome document of the Council’s Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, which had made a significant contribution to improving the work of the 15-nation body.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said that prohibitions and restrictions imposed by the Security Council had been recognized as the most powerful non-military response to threats to global peace for more than 50 years.  The current practice of introducing more precise, targeted sanctions continued to seek to strike a balance between sought results and possible unintended socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences.  Along with the developments in sanctions’ design and calibrating their nature and scope, the issue of enhancing their effectiveness and efficiency required sustained attention by the Council.  He outlined two major challenges in making them more efficient:  lack of will and outright obstruction or evasion of the existing sanctions.  While the deficit of political will and abuse of veto right merited a separate debate, he underscored the need to restrain from giving assistance to any State against which the United Nations was taking preventive or enforcement action.  In that respect, the Council had to explore ways of further strengthening the role of respective committees in identifying possible cases of non-compliance and determining appropriate course of action.  Outreach activity, including awareness-raising and dialogue with relevant international and regional organizations, was important, as well.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) stressed that sanctions should only be considered once all other means of peaceful resolution of disputes had been exhausted.  Further, sanctions should only be imposed after their long- and short‑term impacts had been evaluated.  Sanctions should not be an end in themselves and should be a measure only of last resort, when there was a clear threat to international peace and security or when an act of aggression was eminent.  He expressed concern that there was a dangerous trend towards the proliferation and imposition of unilateral sanctions.  Such measures were categorically rejected by his delegation as illegal acts that extended the domestic legislation of one State over another.  Such actions were not only illegal, but they were actions that sought to usurp the function of legal bodies such as the Security Council.  Any measure that was unilaterally adopted by one State over another State outside the framework of the Council was contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.  When sanctions were imposed, there must be due process and respect for international law.  The design of sanctions should be fair and transparent and include procedures that clearly laid out conditions for States.  Further, every effort should be taken to limit the humanitarian impact of sanctions.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said it was important that the Security Council work to improve the effectiveness of sanctions.  Each sanctions regime should be seen as an instrument through which the Council could achieve a goal and used in conjunction with other tools, such as mediation and dialogue.  When designing sanctions, it was imperative that specific goals were established so that it would be clear when sanctions could be lifted.  Sanctions should also be designed with a view towards reducing the adverse impacts on civilian populations.  Uruguay supported the proposal to conduct a comprehensive, global review of sanctions, such as the one that had taken place on the peacebuilding architecture.  He underscored the need for strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and other institutions such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), as well as regional financial institutions.  He went on to stress the need for further cooperation between States in the implementation of the provisions of various sanctions regimes, which were often inhibited due to the lack of national capacities or political will.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) noted that, with 13 active regimes, sanctions had become an important tool for the Security Council.  Although they were not an end in themselves, sanctions regimes were important given their contributions towards targeting terrorists groups or individuals and by supporting those States threatened by a lack of security, the presence of armed groups, political shortcomings, the existence of weapons, as well as violations of human rights.  He recalled that sanctions implemented in the 1990s were sometimes pursued an indiscriminate manner, although they had now significantly evolved.  Since then, the Council had worked to ensure that sanctions targeted, as precisely as possible, those that directly undermined the stability of States and that they did not have a negative impact on populations.  He highlighted that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the sanctions regime and arms embargo had been continuously adapted to reflect the evolving situation in that country since 2003.  It was critical to continue to improve the function and transparency of sanctions regimes, while it was also crucial that sanctions and embargoes be fully respected and implemented by all stakeholders present on the ground.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said sanctions, which were being used with increasing regularity and growing in their complexity, had to strike the right balance between achieving desired results and managing potentially harmful and unintended socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences.  United Nations sanctions had significantly evolved over the years and their effectiveness depended on clarity and harmonization with the measures and actions of regional and national partners.  Integrating sanctions work into other United Nations systems was crucial to improving the overall global security architecture.  Greater focus must be placed on harmonizing efforts of regional and subregional stakeholders.  In most sanctions regimes currently in place, it was evident that cooperation was critical in their effective implementation.  Most sanctions regimes were applied to developing countries.  It was therefore essential to pay special attention to those nations’ needs particularly through technical assistance that could ensure the appropriate dissemination of information.  Noting that natural resources were being increasingly targeted by sanctions regimes, particularly in Africa, he said that strengthening dialogue and cooperation between the Council, sanctions committees and affected Governments would strengthen national economies and ensure natural resources were used for development rather than to fuel conflict.

MICHELE SISON (United States) said sanctions required patience and were among the most important tools that the United Nations had at its disposal.  When implemented swiftly and effectively, sanctions could have widespread positive impact.  The United States and Russian Federation had worked together in formulating sanctions against Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  Because the Security Council spoke with one voice, those sanctions were showing real results on the ground.  By the same token, when sanctions lacked wide support, they remained meaningless and degraded the credibility of the Council making the next threat to peace and security more likely.  And yet, the Council had been unable to come together to agree on several issues including a format to discuss cross-cutting issues relating to sanctions.  “When it does this, the Council shoots itself in the foot,” she said.  “If wide-spread support is the way to do sanctions right, the way to do them wrong is unfolding before us.”  When Member States failed to comply with sanctions levelled against an aggressor, the Council lost credibility.  The Council continued to threaten but failed to follow up and had closed its eyes to repeated violations.  She said the United States would act to defend universal human rights from Venezuela to Zimbabwe and from Crimea to Syria.  It was a promise of a people no longer able to conceal their impatience.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said more needed to be done, including in the area of assessing and reviewing progress on sanctions implementation.  Sanctions must never be an end in itself.  They were a useful tool to support political processes, negotiations and dialogue.  He stressed the need to ensure coherence and establish a periodic review which could have an impact on the design and implementation of sanctions regime.  Input from Member States would help the Council adjust its approach and improve the management of socioeconomic and humanitarian unintended consequences.  He called for constant and effective dialogue with Member States.  The Secretariat and sanctions committees must engage in more outreach activities and provide Member States with a platform to express their perspectives.  United Nations bodies could also be useful in providing Member States with clarity, guidance and assistance.  Review processes must ensure an appropriate balance between implementation and what the Council had initially agreed upon.  He warned that when the Council was perceived in lacking coherence there could be an issue of legitimacy spilling over to real results on the ground.

CARL SKAU (Sweden) recalled that in the mid-1980’s, his country introduced economic sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa, that were essentially unilateral in nature, but with strong political symbolism.  Since then, Sweden had been engaged in processes aimed at making sanctions more effective and transparent.  His delegation believed that United Nations sanctions, when properly applied and well-calibrated within a broader political strategy, could serve as a versatile tool for responding to security challenges.  The evolution from comprehensive to targeted sanctions had largely addressed many concerns about unintended consequences and adverse effects.  Sanctions could never be successful in isolation, he warned, adding that they must always be part of a broader political strategy, featuring elements of peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding.  The common obligation to implement decisions by the Council coexisted with obligations to respect fundamental human rights.  By further improving fair and clear procedures, the Council would render the sanctions tool more effective and legitimate, thereby enhancing the authority of the Council and the United Nations as a whole.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that sanctions were tools to achieve specific political objectives, including the restoration of peace after civil war, prohibition of support for terrorists, disarmament of armed groups and denuclearization.  Sanctions must never be tools for punishment, however.  They must have clear goals and exit strategies.  Each sanctions regime generally had its own internal exemption clauses or mechanisms to minimize unwanted adverse effects.  To that end, the evolution in the way the Security Council used such measures was a welcome one, he continued, adding that the periodic review of sanctions in each sanctions committee could be useful.  Once the Council decided to take certain sanctions measures, they must be fully implemented in order to be effective.  That could be challenging and complex, and may require both time and capacity-building for Member States.  Neighbouring countries had a particularly vital role to play in ensuring that the sanction measures were effective.  He also emphasized that sanctions must be fully implemented by each Member State before the Council discussed their effectiveness.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), Council President for August, spoke in his national capacity, highlighting that Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter had granted the Security Council the mandate to take different measures to confront any threats to international peace and security without the use of force.  Despite the use of the word “sanctions” to describe such measures, he recalled that the Charter did not make any reference to that term.  As such, the Council had the responsibility of rectifying the use of that commonly used term and its punitive measures.  The Council had made significant progress in developing the concept of sanctions; moving from comprehensive measures to smarter and more effective measures, benefiting from the knowledge gained from previous experiences.  As a result, the international community had been able to mitigate the negative impacts of such sanctions, including on civilians and States that were not party to conflicts.  The unique nature of the threats to international peace and security made it necessary to adopt sanctions regimes that were tailor-made and in line with the nature of the situation.  Maintaining the same approach and considering sanctions from a narrow perspective would not help achieve the desired results.  Identifying adequate dialogue mechanisms, monitoring lessons learned and taking into consideration the views of every party were efforts that should not be undermined, underestimated or ignored by the Council.

For information media. Not an official record.