First, let me express my gratitude to the organizers of today's event, the Permanent Missions of Australia, Finland, Greece and Sweden, for inviting me to participate in this discussion on United Nations Security Council sanctions. As a diplomatic participant and mediator in many situations over the years, I have noted the crucial role that sanctions play, not least for the calculus of actors in and around a conflict. I welcome this timely and comprehensive high-level review of UN sanctions.
By virtue of Article 41 of the UN Charter, the Security Council wields one of its most persuasive instruments. Sanctions can deter non-constitutional changes, constrain terrorism, promote nuclear non-proliferation, defend human rights and support peaceful transitions. In almost all of the 25 cases where sanctions have been used by the UN, they have been part of an overarching strategy featuring peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding elements.
Since the mid-1990s, the Council has been using sanctions with increased regularity. Today, there are 15 sanctions committees, supported by 65 experts working on 11 monitoring teams, groups and panels, at a price tag of about – I think modestly - $32 million dollars a year.
We know that sanctions can work – when they are designed and implemented well and when they enjoy the support of Member States on and outside the Security Council.
Today's sanctions regimes are far more agile and more responsive than they used to be. Efforts to constrain armed groups are now more effective, because they are combined with measures banning the import or export of critical sources of financing such as timber, diamonds, even charcoal, as you know and wildlife exploitation, another horrible example.
Moreover, designation criteria that criminalize attacks against children and sexual violence in conflict send a strong signal on accountability – as we have seen in the Central Africa Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Sudan and Somalia.
In spite of this undeniable progress, however, we must not forget the complex challenges that continue to hamper our efforts to prevent conflict and build peace. I think of, for instance, the role of organized crime and corruption, I think of porous borders and I think of weak and failing rule of law and human rights institutions.
On another line of analysis, let us also remember that sanctions are not only punitive. Some sanctions regimes are designed to support governments and regions working towards peaceful transition. In Libya, sanctions continue to help transitional authorities recover state assets and prevent the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. In Liberia, the arms embargo on non-state actors continues to provide the Government with protective support.
In Guinea-Bissau, the sanctions regime is acting as a deterrent against post-electoral violence by encouraging key local actors to respect the results.
Steps are also being taken to assist peaceful and benign governments whose countries are still under sanctions. The Secretary-General recently dispatched an assessment mission to Somalia to explore how the United Nations and others can help the Federal Government comply with the partial lifting of the arms embargo.
The international partnership for the implementation of sanctions has never been broader. Today the United Nations cooperates not only with Member States and regional organizations, but also with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) , the International Maritime Organization (IMO), INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization, as well as with broad parts of the financial sector.
Previous sanctions review efforts have improved, no doubt, the UN sanctions architecture and made sanctions measures more targeted. During the 90’s, I saw the damaging effect myself on the population of the wide-reaching sanctions in Iraq, something the regime highly exploited. More than 10 years since the last review of UN sanctions, we have considerable experience to draw on as we strive to take the sanctions instrument to the next level.
Let me stress three specific points as you begin your work.
First, we need to promote a better and wider understanding of Security Council sanctions: how and why they are imposed and under what conditions they can be lifted. Too many actors in the international arena are still unfamiliar with the role sanctions can play in the service of peace.
And to be frank, there are also those who are skeptical of the utility of sanctions. This is largely because sanctions have too often been used as a substitute for, rather than an integral part of, a larger strategy.
Also, as I hinted earlier, when sanctions are not properly targeted, regimes have sometimes been able to blame sanctions for home grown economic and social problems.
As we increasingly see the limits of some of the other tools in our toolbox, we simply must find ways to make the most effective use of this charter-based instrument.
I welcome the efforts of sanctions committees to promote understanding and transparency by consulting neighbouring states in open formal meetings. This was done to good effect recently with respect to the Central African Republic and Yemen .
The second issue I would like to highlight, is the need to strengthen UN support for the design, implementation and adjustments of sanctions regimes. The Secretariat is working closely with the Security Council, not least through the Security Council Affairs Division of the Department of Political Affairs.
In the field, peacekeeping missions like UNMIL and UNOCI in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, assist in monitoring the arms embargos. Here at Headquarters, the Special Representatives on Children and Armed Conflict and on Sexual Violence in Conflict interact, as you know, regularly with sanctions committees and panels on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
It is also important to assess when there should be some distance between those working on sanctions issues and those working on related peacemaking and political initiatives. This requires an understanding of sanctions and their interplay with other means outlined in Chapter VI of the UN Charter - in particular Articles 33 and 34 recommended for reading
This is also the case with regard to our humanitarian programmes, where respect for humanitarian principles and operations is required. There are no easy solutions to these tensions and dilemmas. We have to be aware of them and work through the difficulties together, when interests are competing and colliding. I recall this also from my experience as Humanitarian Relief Coordinator some time ago.
The third and final point I wish to highlight, is the need to ensure due process and fairness for individuals, entities and states subject to sanctions. 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 individuals and entities on sanctions lists and for removing them from such lists. Removal and sunset criteria could be important for broadening and deepening the necessary support for sanctions regimes in the future.
In closing, today’s meeting shows yet again that the United Nations is a living organization, constantly learning and adjusting, to make our world a safer and more secure place.
I wish you success in your endeavors and you can count on my support and the support of the Secretary-General in this important review process.
Thank you very much.