Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 99)



80. Right; and is there a case for a United Nations standing list of goods to be exempted from sanctions regimes on humanitarian grounds, or should exemptions be simply tailor-made to suit individual cases?

 (Mr Faint) If I may start to answer that. One of the things that the President of the Security Council, in the Note to which we have referred on a number of occasions, refers to is the possibility of drawing up—

81. This is the guidelines, is it?

 (Mr Faint) Yes, that is right; it is called a Note by the President of the Security Council on the Work of Sanctions Committees, dated 29 January. He says that there should be some more work on the possibility of having some form of standard list of exemptions. I think there are perhaps two things to say about that. First of all, it is going to be fairly country- and situation-specific, as to what a list of exemptions should look like, so I think that such a list, if drawn up, and it looks as though the UN is going to have a go at doing that, would be only a guide to a particular set of circumstances. I think the second thing to say is, really, the thrust of our policy, since the review, is going to be to move away from the principle of having comprehensive sanctions regimes and lists, comprehensive or otherwise, of exemptions and towards a positive approach of targeting a limited number of areas where we think we can hit the regime and its supporters rather than the people. A list of exemptions would not be a central feature of the policy under that arrangement, but work is being done there.

82. Yes; so you are going to have to think of them each individually and tailor them to target them on the regime and not the people?

 (Mr Brenton) You are looking at positive lists of actions, rather than broad trade sanctions with a negative list of exemptions.

 (Mr Faint) Exactly.

83. Mr Edward Chaplin, you were making reference to the supplies of medical goods and food to Iraq and which is sitting around in warehouses, we understand, and anyway has not reached hospitals and clinics. Are there mechanisms for monitoring humanitarian exemptions to ensure that exemptions for basic foodstuffs and medicines are respected and that essential food and medical supplies reach those who need them most? It gives me sort of visions of you riding in on a Land-Rover, flying a flag, and going to the warehouse and taking these goods and services to the people you expected them to go to, with the Iraqi regime and its armies following you around. Is that what you expect to do?

 (Mr Chaplin) Would not that be great, if they would allow that to happen, allow the outside world to come and deliver the goods, but they do not, of course, the Iraqis insist on keeping control of the distribution system within the country, once the goods have actually arrived. But there is monitoring, quite detailed monitoring, there are a number of UN monitors within the country, as well as those who are specifically monitoring the export of oil and monitoring the import of goods on the borders, and those monitors, as well as the various UN agencies working in Iraq, contribute to regular reports by the Secretary-General to the Security Council, which will include the impact that the sanctions are having on the population at large and the success, or otherwise, of the delivery of humanitarian goods to the people who need them. So that is covered in a regular way, including by UN monitors on the ground.84. So the regime allows these people to wander around, does it?

 (Mr Chaplin) I would not say wander around, I should imagine their movements are fairly closely controlled; but, yes, they allow them to operate in Iraq.85. A number of non-governmental organisations have argued, in written evidence to the Committee, of which we have received quite a considerable amount, that the current mechanisms for exempting humanitarian goods and services from sanctions regimes are overly slow and bureaucratic, leading to delays in the provision of vital food supplies, fuel, medicines, seeds and sanitary facilities, this is the Save the Children Fund, in particular, saying this to us. Do you think the procedures allowing the provision of humanitarian supplies can be streamlined and speeded up?

 (Mr Brenton) I think they probably can, and I think this is an important conclusion from our own review, that these humanitarian exemptions need to be designed in to sanctions regimes from the beginning, so that they are there and they work slickly and efficiently from the moment the sanctions regime operates. The problem with the Iraq regime is that we have the regime and we are sort of bolting on extra bits of humanitarian adjustment, as the thing goes along.86. And somebody would make sure to inform the poor, wretched Customs officer that that is what he is supposed to be doing?

 (Mr Brenton) Yes; but, you are right, that is an aspect of sanctions regimes which does bear looking at again.

 (Mr Chaplin) But, in the case of Iraq, one of the proposals which we hope to see adopted soon is to delegate from the Sanctions Committee to the Secretariat responsibility for approving contracts for food and medicines, so it does not have to come to the Committee at all, because that is where some of the delays occur, and if it could all be done by the Secretariat and the results simply notified to the committee then that should help speed up the process.

Ann Clwyd

87. You say, in the Foreign Office evidence, that the Government accepts that the "oil for food" programme is not fully meeting the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and that you are looking at ways of improving it. Could you just run quickly through those ways you think of improving it, because it seems to me somewhat ironic that if you have got the programme and over half the medicines and medical supplies remain in the warehouses, what is your sanction to ensure that they do not remain in the warehouse; because if that programme is continuing it means more and more is going to remain in the warehouses, so how would you shake that out?

 (Mr Chaplin) I think the most recent report from the Secretary-General identified two main problems with the "oil for food" programme. One was a shortage of funds, because of the fall in the oil price, and partly because of the antiquated nature of the oil infrastructure; and the other was the operation of the programme itself, particularly distribution problems inside Iraq. As I think is mentioned in the memorandum, there are a number of ideas which we put forward to the Humanitarian Panel, which met from January onwards, one of three panels set up, disarmament, humanitarian and Kuwaiti issues, and we submitted a number of ideas to the Humanitarian Panel, most of which were adopted and which we hope to see reflected in the next Security Council resolution, on which, as I say, discussion should start in New York shortly. And that will include increasing the amount of money in the programme, by, for example, lifting the ceiling, at the moment there is a ceiling of just over $5billion every six months, that can be lifted. Another proposal is to bring the illegal oil exports, as we have already discussed, into the programme, so that the benefits from those exports come into the humanitarian programme. And, thirdly, to divert funds, which at the moment go to the Compensation Commission, or a portion of the funds which go to the Compensation Commission, because at the moment 30per cent of everything that Iraq exports, the value of that goes to the Compensation Commission, and our idea is that a portion of that should go, for a limited period, into the humanitarian programme to give it a boost. So those are ways of getting more money into the programme. And then we hope there are ways which the Council can agree of ensuring that those funds are used more effectively, we have talked a bit about speeding up the procedures in New York.

Distribution inside the country is difficult, because, as we have discussed, it is in the hands of the Iraqi Government; the Secretary-General has exhorted the Iraqi Government, in his last report, to ensure that there are better distribution arrangements, and, if the Iraqi Government were prepared to accept help, I am sure the international community would be delighted to help with those distribution arrangements. And if it is a question of transport, for example, which I do not think it is, but if it were a question of transport, no doubt the international community could help with that as well.


88. Have you brought these things to the attention of that nice Mr Tariq Aziz?

 (Mr Chaplin) Yes; these things are discussed in New York, and the Iraqis know, they are in the Secretary-General's report, which I expect the Iraqis have read. What impact it has on Mr Tariq Aziz or, more importantly, President Saddam Hussein is more difficult to say.

Mr Worthington

89. Mine is more a general point, and that is, in listening to you and talking about sanctions and the definition of sanctions, what we have been talking about this morning, in fact, is only really part of a much wider continuum, is it not? That if you define sanctions as using economic measures in order to stop bad behaviour and promote good behaviour then there is not just what you are doing, there are all the activities of the international financial institutions and the World Trade Organisation, which are exerting sanctions upon nations in order to alter their economic behaviour. Do you agree with that?

(Mr Brenton) It is a very different area from what I thought we were going to discuss here. Yes, the IMF does try to alter countries' economic behaviour, in exchange for IMF financial support; but, on the whole, you are not sanctioning a threat to international peace and security, which is fundamentally what the UN, and to a lesser extent the EU, is about. The IMF would say: "We will lend into good economic policies and not into bad ones." If I can put it this way, it is bribery rather than blackmail.90. I think there is more in it than appears, in that what we do, when we want to have financial behaviour changed, we have had a lead from the economic ministries; here, we are talking about sanctions, which are economic sanctions, but we are seeing a lead from the foreign services, the Foreign Office. And we are not, it seems to me, making really very, very much progress on the issue of smart sanctions, I do not get the impression that, as a world community, or an international community, we are much closer to being able to target the élites in an effective way. And I am wondering where the expertise is coming from?

 (Mr Brenton) No, I think we are. There has been rather a long, rather substantial, recent track record of sanctions regimes, as we have said, from which I think we have learned some lessons; as you pointed out earlier, they are not very surprising lessons, but it is actually quite a rare event, in my experience, in international behaviour, for any lessons at all to be learned. And the fact that we can now say, in the case of Libya, say, or actually in the case of Kosovo, our first target must be to hinder the abilities of the senior members of the regime to travel, try to target their bank accounts, try to target the sorts of bits of Libyan industry which they most directly profit from, is quite a substantial, intellectual step forward for the international community. And it is a matter now of demonstrating that those lessons really work, in particular cases.

Tess Kingham

91. I want to follow up this point about the international financial institutions. Where is the consistency of approach in the sort of carrot and stick mechanism that is used with countries that might be indulging in bad behaviour? I am thinking, in particular, of Morocco, which is still occupying Western Sahara, against all international thought and UN activities to try to get a referendum, and yet we have got the World Bank going in and giving very large financial packages of assistance, which helps to buoy up that regime at the very point when they are still occupying illegally another country. And the European Union also give them the highest amount of aid, as we saw in the evidence that we took at the beginning of this year. So how does the Foreign Office bolt into that process? Whereas, on the one hand, we might be looking at some countries and giving a very heavy stick approach; on the other hand, you have got countries that are overstepping the mark, in terms of what is internationally acceptable, and yet we are still co-operating and ensuring that they are getting large amounts of aid that is helping to buoy up that regime?

 (Mr Brenton) Quite a lot of this question is for Tony, and I will cheerfully pass it on to him. I will just say this. It is very much a matter of the particular case, and, in general, you will try to compartmentalise and take the minimum action which is consistent with achieving your objective; let us take a recent example, which was the Indian nuclear explosion, which is a rather good example, in many ways.92. Could you refer to Morocco, actually?

 (Mr Brenton) Morocco, I am afraid I do not know anything about.93. Unfortunately, that is the response I have had though, every time it has been brought up in this Committee to anybody from the Foreign Office, or wherever, this lack of consistency; it has been going for 20-odd years. So you are saying the minimum amount of activity to get the maximum amount of response; well that situation there has been going on since the seventies, at what point does it ratchet up a gear, at what point is there an interdepartmental look at these issues to try to ensure that a lot of pressure is put on a country to achieve its aims, or is it just merely whether it is strategically important for us at the time to do so or not?

 (Mr Brenton) No. Morocco, as I say, I know nothing about the particular details, but I am sure there are regular consultations between ourselves and DFID and other Government Departments with an interest in Morocco where we have to strike a balance between, first of all, our reaction to their international behaviour, to their occupation of Western Sahara, on the one hand, that is important; on the other hand, there are a lot of very poor people in Morocco, whose development we have an interest in fostering. We have an interest in helping potential British exporters to Morocco, to sell their goods. We have a whole bunch of varied interests with Morocco, and we have to find a policy which harmonises those various interests, so we cannot cut off all relations, because that disadvantages them developmentally, disadvantages us commercially, and it may not achieve the result, it would not achieve the result if it were just the UK. So it is a matter of taking the whole set of interfaces we have with Morocco and finding a balance between them.

Tess Kingham: Can I find out, in fact, do these meetings actually take place, are there ever any regular meetings between DFID, Foreign Office, DTI, etc, or whoever those parties would be, to, say, look at the situation in Morocco, in particular, and say: "What is happening here to push that process along?"?


94. Morocco is not even on your list, actually, which you have submitted to us?

 (Mr Faint) No, it is not the subject of sanctions. Just to add a little bit about the relevance of the IFIs to this, first of all, the IMF and the World Bank and that class of institution do have something in their charters which says they are supposed to take their decisions on economic grounds and not on political grounds. Now, generally speaking, you will not find the IMF and the World Bank providing assistance to countries which are the subject of international sanctions, because when they look at the situation they usually find that there are a lot more problems with the way these countries are conducting their affairs, on the economic side, in governance, which is regarded as very material to the prospects for successful development programmes these days. So I think there is a fair degree of coherence in the way the international system works, when you are talking about serious violators of international norms. In more specific cases of political problems, I guess it is true, the IFIs would not necessarily suspend or terminate their activities, if, on their normal criteria, the way they assess the conduct and performance of governments, they regarded their performance as satisfactory and they believed they could achieve something in terms of their development objectives, reduction of poverty and creation of economic growth and economic advance. So you may have put your finger on a kind of area where there is not 100per cent consistency in the way the community of international organisations works, but one does have to bear in mind that they do have these different aims, the World Bank and the IMF are trying to reduce poverty and create economic growth, they are not trying to solve all the world's political problems.

Chairman: Well, judging by the World Bank President's recent delivery, I would have thought we had to doubt that.

Dr Tonge

95. I want to go back to something, Mr Brenton, you said about exports to Morocco. How high on the list does this feature, when we are considering sanctions and the effects of sanctions on a particular country; the effect on British exports is quite high up the list, is it?

 (Mr Brenton) It is a consideration. I have to say, if you look at the list of places against which we have sanctions, it was not a very highly rated consideration. These are countries which, on the whole, are either involved in military conflict, so we impose an arms embargo more or less automatically, or have behaved so appallingly on the international stage that, even at some cost to British companies and British businesses, it is right that we participate in an international effort to change their behaviour.96. We do not export anything to Iraq?

 (Mr Chaplin) No; other than humanitarian goods, no.97. Do you think we have lost the plot with Iraq?

 (Mr Chaplin) Do you mean commercially, have we lost out?98. I mean in every way; the sanctions carry on and everyone busts them, and what is going on here?

 (Mr Chaplin) I have obviously failed to answer the question before. The sanctions are there for a purpose, which is to persuade Iraq to comply with various things that have been laid down by the Security Council; until they do comply then the sanctions should remain. There is some sanctions evasion, but it is not a major problem; there are ways in which we are hoping to address the main sanctions evasion, which Ann Clwyd has mentioned, about illegal exports to Turkey. But the question was about where commercial exports weigh in that scale; they do not weigh anywhere on that scale in the case of Iraq because there are comprehensive sanctions which everyone is supposed to comply with.


99. Just let me make clear, have we got sanctions against Morocco, or not?

 (Mr Brenton) No.

 (Mr Faint) No, there is no sanctions regime in force against Morocco.

Chairman: You are arguing there should be?

Tess Kingham: I was arguing about how do we decide how development is affected in countries when those regimes take certain actions, and I was questioning which countries the international community decides to impose sanctions on, because by imposing them or not imposing them both of those actions have an impact on the development of the country.

Chairman: Yes, okay; and I think it is just a sort of à la carte menu. Ann Clwyd, you wanted to ask a question.

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