Security Council Subsidiary Bodies: An Overview

The Security Council can take action to maintain or restore international peace and security under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Sanctions measures, under Article 41, encompass a broad range of enforcement options that do not involve the use of armed force. Since 1966, the Security Council has established 26 sanctions regimes, in Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Iraq, Angola, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Eritrea, Liberia, DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan (2), Lebanon, DPRK, Iran, Libya (2), Guinea-Bissau, CAR, Yemen and South Sudan, as well as against Al-Qaida and the Taliban (2).

Security Council sanctions have taken a number of different forms, in pursuit of a variety of goals. The measures have ranged from comprehensive economic and trade sanctions to more  targeted measures such as arms embargoes, travel bans, and financial or commodity restrictions. The Security Council has applied sanctions to support peaceful transitions, deter non-constitutional changes, constrain terrorism, protect human rights and promote non-proliferation.

Sanctions do not operate, succeed or fail in a vacuum. The measures are most effective at maintaining or restoring international peace and security when applied as part of a comprehensive strategy encompassing peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peacemaking. Contrary to the assumption that sanctions are punitive, many regimes are designed to support governments and regions working towards peaceful transition. The Libyan, Liberian and Guinea Bissau sanctions regimes all exemplify this approach.

Today, there are 16 ongoing sanctions regimes which focus on supporting political settlement of conflicts, nuclear non-proliferation, and counter-terrorism.  Each regime is administered by a sanctions committee chaired by a non-permanent member of the Security Council. There are 12 monitoring groups, teams and panels that support the work of the sanctions committees.

The Council applies sanctions with ever-increasing cognisance of the rights of those targeted. In the 2005 World Summit declaration, the General Assembly called on the Security Council, with the support of the Secretary-General, to ensure that fair and clear procedures are in place for the imposition and lifting of sanctions measures. The establishment of a focal point for de-listing, and the Office of the Ombudsperson to the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee are examples of this approach in practice.