Select Committee on International Development Second Report


6. The UN Charter defines sanctions as the "complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio and other means of communications, and the severance of diplomatic relations"[3] with a nation that threatens international peace and security. Sanctions can also, however, be targeted at various other entities, ranging from individuals to regions as a whole. They can also vary in scope, targeting different types of goods and services, ranging from restrictions on flights or arms imports to restrictions on all forms of economic and trade activity. The most wide-ranging sanctions are "comprehensive economic sanctions" which limit the transfer of all goods and services to the target state. Since 1990 comprehensive economic sanctions have only been imposed by the UN in three cases: Iraq, Haiti and Yugoslavia. Today only those imposed on Iraq remain in place.

7. Sanctions can also be imposed by bodies operating at a number of different levels: national, regional and international. At a regional level, sanctions have been imposed by the EU, the OSCE and by other, non-formalised groups of states, such as the contact group in the case of Yugoslavia and regional heads of governments in the cases of Burundi and Sierra Leone. At international level, the most widely adopted sanctions are those imposed by the United Nations.

8. The UN Security Council, under Article 41 of the UN Charter, may call upon member states to apply measures not involving the use of armed force in order to maintain or restore international peace and security (i.e. to impose sanctions). The UN not only imposes sanctions, adhered to by the majority of countries, but also plays a leading role in the provision of humanitarian relief to such targeted states. At times, these twin roles — of maintaining international peace and security, and its various commitments to development and the upholding of human rights can appear contradictory, a dilemma reflected in the Secretary-General's 1998 Annual Report on the Work of the Organisation, "The international community should be under no illusion...humanitarian and human rights goals cannot easily be reconciled with those of a sanctions regime."[4] Specific proposals for improving UN sanctions regimes are discussed below.

3   UN Charter, Chapter VII, Article 4, Back

4   Kofi Annan, Partnerships for a Global Community, Annual Report on the Work of the Organisation, 1998, UN, New York, p.21 Back

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