Select Committee on International Development Second Report



1. The overall purpose of this Report is not to comment on the merits of sanctions as a tool of foreign policy, nor to justify or condemn their use against particular regimes, but rather to assess the impact of sanctions on target regimes in humanitarian/developmental terms and to examine existing proposals to reduce both unintended consequences and unwarranted harm (paragraph 4).


2. The fact that NGOs were not allowed the opportunity formally to provide input into the Government's review of sanctions must be regarded as a lost opportunity (paragraph 11).

3. We remain concerned that the Government has published insufficient information to allow for an informed debate on international sanctions policy — both within domestic civil society and within multilateral organisations of which the UK is a member. There is still a need for a comprehensive public statement by the Government of its sanctions policy. We recommend that the Government use the opportunity of its response to this Report to make such a statement in a Command Paper (paragraph 12).


4. The Committee is concerned at the lack of reliable information on the humanitarian impact of sanctions on Iraq. Relief programmes will not be effective in the absence of such information on the nature and causes of humanitarian distress in Iraq (paragraph 24).

5. UNICEF estimated that, if the substantial reductions in child mortality achieved throughout Iraq in the 1980s had continued into the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under five in the country as a whole in the eight year period from 1991 to 1998 (paragraph 27).

6. The UN panel concluded that "the gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is indisputable and cannot be overstated." Despite concerns about accurate information, there can be no doubt that conditions inside Iraq have declined appreciably since 1990. Evidence suggests that Iraqis are lacking essential goods and services such as potable water, nutrition and healthcare as well as longer term requirements such as education and social stability (paragraph 32).

7. Jeremy Carver, Partner and Head of International Law at Clifford Chance, argued that "It is not the imposition or maintenance of international sanctions, but the policies of the Iraqi government which are the primary cause of this suffering (paragraph 33).


8. There is a clear consensus that the humanitarian and developmental situation in Iraq has deteriorated seriously since the imposition of comprehensive economic sanctions. Whilst details are often difficult to come by or to verify, even those who wish to maintain these sanctions accept that children, the ill, the vulnerable in Iraqi society are suffering. It is as obvious that Saddam Hussein and his ruling elite continue to enjoy a privileged existence. Sanctions have clearly failed to hurt those responsible for past violations of international law. The deterioration of infrastructure, the limited supply of food, the absence of drugs all affect the poor to a disproportionate degree.

Not all this humanitarian distress is the direct result of the sanctions regime. There is a tendency to blame all such distress on sanctions in the absence of clear evidence. Moreover, it appears that Saddam Hussein is quite prepared to manipulate the sanctions regime and the exemptions scheme to his own ends, even if that involves hurting ordinary Iraqi people. The responsibility for the plight of the Iraqi people must ultimately lie with the Iraqi leadership.

This does not, however, entirely excuse the international community from a part in the suffering of Iraqis. The reasons sanctions were imposed in the first place were precisely the untrustworthiness of Saddam Hussein, his well documented willingness to oppress his own people and neighbours, his contempt for humanitarian law. The international community cannot condemn Saddam Hussein for such behaviour and then complain that he is not allowing humanitarian exemptions to relieve suffering. What else could be expected? A sanctions regime which relies on the good faith of Saddam Hussein is fundamentally flawed.

We do not intend to set out a foreign policy agenda for our relations with Iraq. It is clear from the resolution recently presented to the UN by the United Kingdom Government that there is a desire to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people. Whatever the wisdom of the original imposition of sanctions, careful thought must now be given as to how to move from the current impasse without giving succour to Saddam Hussein and his friends. Any move away from comprehensive sanctions should go hand in hand with measures designed to target the real culprits, not the poor of Iraq but their leadership. Possibilities include a concerted attempt to target and either freeze or sequester the assets of Saddam Hussein and those connected to him, and the indictment of Saddam Hussein and his close associates as war criminals. To bring to justice Saddam Hussein is also a humanitarian imperative and this should be done without delay.

We find it difficult, however, to believe that there will be a case in the future where the UN would be justified in imposing comprehensive economic sanctions on a country. In an increasingly interdependent world such sanctions cause significant suffering. However carefully exemptions are planned, the fact is that comprehensive economic sanctions only further concentrate power in the hands of the ruling elite. The UN will lose credibility if it advocates the rights of the poor whilst at the same time causing, if only indirectly, their further impoverishment (paragraphs 38 to 42).


9. We criticise the United Nations for not protesting immediately on the imposition of draconian sanctions against Burundi. The UN has a duty to monitor regional sanctions regimes and intervene when human rights are ignored or humanitarian needs neglected. We recommend that such a mechanism be implemented as soon as possible (paragraph 46).

10. It is essential that no sanctions regime should be imposed without accompanying measures to ensure that humanitarian goods and services are exempted from its provisions (paragraph 47).

11. The experience of Sierra Leone raises questions about the delegation of authority to police UN or other sanctions regimes to regional or sub-regional bodies. The UK, as a leading member of a number of sanctioning organisations, should ensure that whenever responsibility for the enforcement of sanctions is delegated to regional or sub-regional authorities, that those authorities should respect the provisions of the resolution and international human rights, including provisions for the exemption of humanitarian goods and services. If they fail to do so, then their authority to enforce sanctions should be rescinded. The Government should not support any sanctions regime — UN, EU or regional — that does not make adequate provision for the exemption of humanitarian goods and services (paragraph 49).

12. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government give an account of its policy towards regional sanctions regimes, including means by which the Government could provide assistance to developing countries to build their capacity to design, implement and monitor regional sanctions regimes in accordance with humanitarian principles (paragraph 50).

13. The Committee recognises that sanctions, unless carefully targeted, have the capacity to kill more children than armed warfare (paragraph 54).

14. International human rights instruments provide widely accepted principles of conduct in international affairs against which decisions to impose sanctions should be measured and justified (paragraph 56).

15. The Committee is concerned at the disproportionate impact of sanctions on certain groups in society (paragraph 59).

16. The Committee recommends that all sanctions regimes should be accompanied by regular independent impact assessments. Sanctioning states and organisations should, as a matter of policy in the course of resolutions, affirm that vulnerable populations should be spared the adverse consequences of sanctions (paragraph 59).


17. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government provide the Committee with details of existing measures taken to implement financial sanctions and a strategy for the relevant government departments to improve the effectiveness of such implementation, including the potential for the use of interdiction software. We are not convinced that enough effort is being expended by the United Kingdom Government to introduce effective procedures to implement financial sanctions. The United Kingdom is a world financial centre and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. If the United Kingdom does not take financial sanctions seriously, this fatally weakens the prospects for effective international action (paragraph 71).

18. The Committee recognises the importance of information gathering in the implementation of sanctions. Financial sanctions will not be viable in the absence of timely and accurate information on the targeted states and individuals. In its review of sanctions, the Government fails to address the issue of information gathering. We believe that the most appropriate level at which to coordinate and direct financial sanctions is at the international level (paragraph 77).

19. At present, the UN Secretariat lacks the ability to gather the necessary information and the quality of national reporting to individual sanctions committees is poor. We consider it totally unacceptable that there is no individual or organisation within the United Nations with overall responsibility for targeting financial sanctions, for example against those who continue to enrich themselves while their people suffer. We recommend that the United Kingdom argue and gather support for the establishment of a properly staffed and financed sanctions unit within the United Nations to receive and coordinate information on financial sanctions enforcement and to press national governments to implement such financial sanctions promptly and effectively, in line with UN resolutions. In addition, an Office of Foreign Assets Control, on similar lines to that in the USA, should be set up in the United Kingdom (paragraph 78).

20. The Committee recommends that the Government, in its response, include an assessment of the implication of off-shore financial centres for the implementation of financial sanctions regimes (paragraph 81).

21. The Committee has heard very little evidence of any efforts being made to identify and seize hidden Iraqi assets such as those described by the Iraqi opposition groups (paragraph 83).

22. The Committee welcomes the work of the Interlaken Seminars in elaborating a model law for the implementation of UN financial sanctions. In its response, we recommend that the Government give details of what, if any, aspects of United Kingdom law need to be changed to bring it into line with the Interlaken model law on the implementation of UN financial sanctions (paragraph 86).

23. We recommend that there be a concerted international effort, sponsored by the United Nations, to introduce by a target date in all countries the necessary legislation for the implementation of UN sanctions regimes, including financial legislation. For developing countries, donors should consider how they can assist in this important aspect of capacity building (paragraph 89).

24. The Committee believes that although serious difficulties remain in the tracking of financial transactions and location of financial assets, targeted financial sanctions appear to be workable. It is apparent that major efforts will need to be expended to ensure that the international community as a whole, and individual member states in particular, acquire the necessary technical expertise to implement and enforce such sanctions (paragraph 91).

25. We reiterate our recommendations made in previous reports that the Government tighten controls on arms brokers and introduce end-use controls and push for similar measures to be adopted throughout the EU (paragraph 97).

26. The failure to enforce effectively the sanctions regime against UNITA is a scandal which must be urgently addressed by the international community (paragraph 98).

27. We are concerned that, as a whole, the quality of national reporting to sanctions committees remains low, thereby reducing the effectiveness of sanctions regimes. We welcome the Minister's assurances that the Government will be giving an extra priority to intelligence gathering in regard to sanctions regimes imposed by organisations of which the UK is a member. We request details of the further action, procedures and resources dedicated to intelligence gathering with regard to sanctions regimes. The UK, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has an important role to play in encouraging other member states to be more active in the monitoring and enforcement of UN sanctions regimes (paragraph 100).

28. The Committee very much welcomes the initiative of Ambassador Fowler in establishing the expert studies and commends the Government for supporting the initiative. This does not address, however, the more general problem of the lack of capacity of the sanctions committees to monitor and enforce sanctions regimes effectively. The UN must provide the human and financial resources necessary for the sanctions committees to do their jobs properly. We also ask the Government, in its response, to spell out what proposals it is putting to the UN to improve the capacity of sanctions committees. In addition to improving the capacity of sanctions committees, there is also a need to improve the capacity of countries surrounding a targeted state to monitor and restrict cross border trade in prohibited goods and services (paragraph 101).

29. We trust that the Government will actively support and participate in the German Government's attempt to elaborate what has been described as "the next step" of smarter sanctions: arms embargoes and travel sanctions (paragraph 102).

30. We welcome the publication of the draft Bill to ratify the United Kingdom's commitment to the international criminal court. We trust that the Bill will be included in the legislative programme of the next session to ensure that the United Kingdom is one of the first 60 states to ratify the agreement so as to bring it into force (paragraph 103).

31. The sudden withdrawal of development assistance can often have a similar or greater impact to the use of traditional sanctions. Full consideration should be given to the humanitarian/developmental impact of withdrawing government-to-government development assistance (paragraph 109).

32. The Committee requests that the Government provide the Committee with details of all countries to whom it has suspended development assistance for political reasons. This list should be updated annually in the Department for International Development's Departmental Annual Report (paragraph 110).

33. The Committee welcomes DFID's use of development partnerships to encourage good governance, respect for human rights and the elimination of corruption (paragraph 112).

34. We believe that the provision of oil — described as humanitarian by the Minister — solely to municipalities controlled by opponents of Milosevic serves to undermine fatally the impartiality and neutrality of humanitarian assistance. It is one thing to support principled humanitarian aid but quite another to use the risk of diversion as an excuse to supply such assistance solely to one's political allies (paragraph 117).

35. More generally, we agree with the views of Dennis MacNamara and others on the danger that the definition of humanitarian, as opposed to developmental, assistance is too tightly drawn. The result is an effective embargo on what are in fact humanitarian requirements (paragraph 118).

36. The "dumping" of humanitarian assistance which undermines local production, is unacceptable and should have been avoided through prior impact assessments (paragraph 120).

37. The humanitarian response to the imposition of sanctions must take account of local procurement and of the local economy in the provision of humanitarian assistance (paragraph 120).

38. Sanctions regimes must take account of issues such as the level of economic development in the country targeted and groups that are likely to be disproportionately affected by the imposition of sanctions. Furthermore, sanctions regimes should be sufficiently flexible so as to allow for fine-tuning in response to any unforeseen adverse humanitarian consequences (paragraph 121).

39. The Committee endorses the findings of the Note by the President of the Security Council on the Work of the Sanctions Committees and recommends that a standing list of life-saving supplies be agreed, in consultation with national, international and non-governmental providers of humanitarian aid, for exemption from sanctions regimes (paragraph 127).

40. The Committee further recommends that other means of expediting the delivery of humanitarian goods and services be considered including institutional exemptions for members of the UN system, their non-governmental implementing partners, and international members of the ICRC and IFRC, coupled with increased end-use monitoring (paragraph 131).

41. The Committee agrees that whenever sanctions are imposed, serious thought must also be given to, and preparations made for, a future in which they have been lifted (paragraph 133).

42. The Committee believes that sanctioning organisations have an obligation to ensure that targeted states are adequately reintegrated into the international community once sanctions have been lifted to ensure that the long term humanitarian impact on the population is minimised. We recommend that once sanctions have been lifted donors — bilateral and multilateral — should agree a coordinated strategy for post-sanctions reconstruction. We invite the Government, in its response to this Report, to provide the Committee with details of any preparations it is making for the eventual lifting of existing sanctions regimes such as those imposed against Iraq (paragraph 136).

43. The Committee is concerned that, in many cases, existing mechanisms for monitoring the humanitarian/developmental impact of sanctions are inadequate. We recommend that all sanctions regimes should have provision for an ongoing system of monitoring their impact. To this end, use should be made of existing expertise in the field — from UN organisations, ECHO and other governmental and non-governmental organisations (paragraph 138).

44. The Committee agrees that serious thought must be given to exit strategies from sanctions regimes. The Committee requests that, in its response to this Report, the Government provides an assessment of the merits of placing a time limit on the application of sanctions regimes (paragraph 141).


45. The current debate on the future of sanctions is a welcome product of the renewed international commitment to the political, economic and social rights of the poor. We are convinced that these rights are infringed by the blunt instrument of comprehensive economic sanctions. To target sanctions against those truly responsible, to gather the necessary intelligence and invest in the required technology, require an internationally coordinated investment of both money and effort. The United Kingdom must take a lead by putting in place a system which can target and monitor sanctions effectively, instead of the present, somewhat casual approach. As importantly, the United Nations should convene an international conference to ensure a global commitment to a fairer and more effective sanctions policy (paragraph 142).

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