Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 18 MAY 1999
MR TONY BRENTON, MR EDWARD CHAPLIN, MS ELIZABETH
WILMSHURST AND MR TONY FAINT
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
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.
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
(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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
(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