Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 18 MAY 1999
MR TONY BRENTON, MR EDWARD CHAPLIN, MS ELIZABETH
WILMSHURST AND MR TONY FAINT
100. Yes. Obviously, prior to 1991, Iraq was considered
to be a middle-income country by the OECD, but that certainly
would not be the case now. And I wondered if I could ask you about
Iraqi Kurdistan, because, as we know, Iraq is split into two;
one is under the regime of Saddam Hussein, and the north is not
under that regime. Why can we not lift sanctions against Iraqi
Kurdistan, because they, after all, are not the baddies, they
are not under that regime; is not there an argument that could
be advanced that Iraqi Kurdistan should be exempt from sanctions?
(Mr Chaplin) It
is an argument which is occasionally advanced, but I think one
thing on which all members of the international community, without
exception, will agree is the importance of preserving the territorial
integrity of Iraq. And although it is perfectly true that an area
of northern Iraq is not under central government control, nevertheless,
certainly the UK Government's position is that the territorial
integrity of Iraq should be preserved. And to start lifting sanctions
on one part of a sovereign country would give a message, very
strongly, in the other direction. It would also be impossible
to implement, because that would mean monitoring an internal border
between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. So I do not think it would
be practical, even if it were politically desirable, and certainly
this Government would take the position it was not politically
desirable to do it either. Things do work better in Kurdistan,
precisely because the Baghdad regime does not have control; so,
for example, the distribution problems, which I was describing
earlier, in government-controlled Iraq, on the whole, do not exist
in the Kurdish autonomous zone, and the humanitarian situation
is significantly better, as shown in the various reports from
101. You, Mr Chaplin, had a sort of fastidious approach
to not intervening in parts of a sovereign country; well this
does not seem to be consistent with sanctions against UNITA, for
example, or, for example, what is happening in the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia, we seem to be quite anxious to intervene in parts
of a sovereign country?
(Mr Chaplin) Not
my area, I am happy to say.
(Mr Brenton) In the case of Angola,
the actions against UNITA, it is against, really, an organisation
and a political movement rather than a part of the country. And
for the FRY the answer is that the sanctions that have been imposed
are actually imposed on the whole country.102. Yes, but special
ones, in particular areas?
(Mr Brenton) No,
I do not think so. I think the economic actions are against the
whole ofthere is an exception, actually, that Montenegro
is treated separately for air flight purposes.
Chairman: I think we are going to go, more and more,
into parts of sovereign countries.
Mr Rowe: It raises all sorts of exciting things,
that we could bring sanctions against the IRA.
103. Yes, exactly. Anyway, I do want to ask this
question about the fact that universal food rationing was in Iraqi
Kurdistan as part of the "oil for food" programme, Mr
Chaplin, I believe, and this has resulted in the programme undermining
the price of locally-grown wheat, so that the farmers are being
undermined, they cannot grow the wheat in their areas at the price
which is being distributed by your kindly, humanitarian organisation;
and this does not seem to be very productive in helping the local
(Mr Chaplin) DFID
may want to take some of the detail of that question, but it is
certainly a problem which has been recognised and which we have
been talking to the UN about for some time. And one of the proposals
which we hope to include in a resolution is to change the arrangements
so that local purchase can be allowed, and that would certainly
help stimulate, one hopes, local production and it would also
provide better value for money, under the "oil for food"
programme because the local cost, one would hope, would be less
than the cost of importing grain, and so on, from outside.104.
DFID ought to, and Tony Faint and I have discussed this question
about food aid and its impact on local agriculture in other circumstances
than sanctions imposition, but we ought to have known about this,
should we not?
(Mr Faint) Do you
mean we ought to have done it earlier?105. No; we ought to have
known that if you distribute wheat at price X you are going to
undermine the farmers' price, at price Y?
(Mr Faint) Yes;
well, it depends on the market dynamics in a particular situation.
I think most of Iraq is probably not a major producer of staple
foods, but in the north they do produce a lot of wheat, and I
think it is undoubtedly true that there has been a serious disincentive
and economic effect on the production of wheat in the north, and
that is what we want to try to remedy, by introducing local purchase,
which might actually have the opposite effect and give the economy
a bit of a stimulus. But it depends on the supply balance within
any given country as to whether it is reasonable to import food,
and also how you want to go about distributing or marketing it;
if it is handed out free then that is more of a problem than if
it sold at some kind of market-related price.106. Yes; but what
intrigues me is, DFID, presumably, was asked, because you say
you have worked together very strongly on this, as to what effect
distributing wheat would have in Iraqi Kurdistan on the price
of wheat, and, therefore, either you did not know it or, alternatively,
your voice was not listened to: which was it?
(Mr Faint) I am
not sure that I can answer that question in a great deal of detail.
My impression is that this problem about depressing the local
market in the north of the country has really only just been appreciated
as a serious one, and we are trying to remedy it now; that is
my understanding.107. Yes, I see. How can governments ensure that
restrictions in dual-use goods do not adversely affect the supply
of humanitarian goods and services? We have in mind that amylnitrate,
which is used in the treatment of angina, has been banned in Iraq
on the grounds that one of the ingredients can be used to produce
explosives; on that basis, you should ban sugar?
(Mr Brenton) I cannot
speak for amylnitrate. There is a procedure for dealing with dual-use
goods, in which I personally was involved, and we do go to some
trouble to make available to Iraq dual-use goods, on the understanding,
and this is monitored, that they are used for the proper use,
rather than diverted to military ends. The procedure is slightly
bureaucratic and could no doubt be made better, as all bureaucratic
procedures can be made better, but there are procedures there
precisely to meet this problem.
108. On the dual-use goods question, we have also
heard about, in Burundi, the lack of disposable syringes, fuel
for sterilisation and kerosene for fridges resulted in only half
a targeted 190,000 children receiving vaccinations, and that was
because of restrictions on the import of dual-use goods having
a humanitarian impact. How is DFID consulted by the DTI when they
are looking at granting licences for dual-use goods, in terms
of any humanitarian impact that could occur from them? As I understand
it, the FCO is consulted on the licensing of dual-use goods but
DFID has to go via the FCO and is not consulted directly; is that
(Mr Brenton) In
the licensing procedure that I was involved in, DFID were involved,
they were consulted, and there is a sort of freemasonry of paper
flying around Whitehall on these things.109. As I understand it,
they are not direct consultees, the FCO is, but DFID actually
goes via the FCO, and, in which case, I was wondering how you
input your knowledge into that, to make the case that some goods
are going to have a major humanitarian impact if they are not
(Mr Brenton) This
is highly technical. Would it be simpler if I wrote to the Chairman
of the Committee, explaining how we deal with dual-use goods.
The philosophy is that we are keen that goods which are important,
it is important for humanitarian reasons that they get to people
in Iraq, we are keen that they should get there too. There are
constraints, we do not trust the Iraqi regime, we need to be sure
that they will be used for humanitarian purposes rather than diverted
for military purposes, and there are procedures in place to ensure,
to the best of our ability, that that happens. Now, precisely
how it happens, within Whitehall is a set of checks and balances,
which I am very happy to write to you about.
Chairman: Yes, would you write.
110. Can I specifically ask though exactly what the
DFID input is into that, to make sure that they can input directly
into those decisions about the effect on the humanitarian situation
on the ground?
(Mr Brenton) Yes, I will
make sure that point is covered.
Dr Tonge: Chairman, just on a medical note, really.
I do not think amylnitrate is a very good drug for angina, it
is glyceryl trinitrate which is used for angina; amylnitrate is
used for more recreational activities, in my experience.
Mr Worthington: Do you enjoy it?
111. I have never tried it, Tony; but there is time
left. And I do not think glyceryl trinitrate can be used to manufacture
(Mr Brenton) You
are well outside my area of expertise.
Dr Tonge: I do not know, I just think the Save the
Children Fund ought to be challenged there, I think they are getting
their nitrates muddled up.
112. What is the Government's policy with regard
to supporting regional sanctions imposed on or by developing countries
to which it contributes; for example, the sanctions imposed on
Burundi between 1996 and 1999?
(Mr Brenton) Tony
has already spoken to the Burundi point. Our general view is that
if the regional countries see sanctions as the way to solving
a regional problem, and provided that there is a general UN assent
that this is the right route, then we are keen that the regional
problems find regional solutions, if they can. In the case of
Burundi, as Tony has said, it became clear, once the regime had
been imposed, that it was causing humanitarian problems, and that
we and others reacted to those problems by looking for humanitarian
exemptions, and, finally, the continuation of that process was
the lifting of the whole regime. It depends very much on cases;
but, in general, in a complicated, interlinked world, if particular
regions can find solutions to their own problems that is obviously
a good way of tackling them.And should donors continue to provide
developing countries with ODA, even if they are the subject of
sanctions regimes; and did DFID continue to provide assistance
to Burundi during the imposition of regional sanctions, and, if
(Mr Faint) Because
of the variation in different sorts of sanctions regimes, I do
not think it is possible to generalise totally, but in extreme
cases, like that in Iraq, we obviously would not be engaged in
any development assistance programmes there. I think, in general,
the kinds of circumstances that lead to a sanctions regime of
any great extension are quite likely to call into question whether
development aid can be effectively used in that country. If you
have an arms embargo in place, it is probably because there is
a war going on, and it is fairly unlikely, in that situation,
that longer-term development aid will be able to have any beneficial
effect. So, in practice, I think, on development aid, the answer
is that we would rarely be, in fact, the international community
would rarely be providing development aid when a sanctions regime
is in place. I think we might do one of two things. Certainly,
if there was a humanitarian problem, I think there is a general
acceptance that humanitarian aid is, in principle, perfectly legitimate
to provide in circumstances of sanctions, so long as it can be
targeted on vulnerable groups, it does not go to the regime, it
goes to people in need, it will often be provided through UN agencies
and NGOs. And a second area where we might be continuing to provide
some form of aid would be, I suppose, in the broad area of civil
society, we might still want to provide support for civil society
organisations in a country, as was done, to some extent, in respect
of South Africa during the apartheid era.
114. Do you mean local NGOs?
(Mr Faint) Yes,
through NGOs, and training may well be appropriate, in order to
try to build for the future after the sanctions regime has come
to an end. One would, I think, always want to avoid, in those
circumstances, channelling assistance through the government,
or the regime.
115. Sanctions, as we have discussed, when in place
for prolonged periods, can have a devastating effect on the economy
of the country concerned. How good are the target states at rejoining
the global economy once sanctions are over; have you got any examples?
(Mr Faint) I suppose
this is a particular case of a general phenomenon. Countries which
are performing or behaving badly will, from time to time, come
out of that phase, a new government may take power, or there may
be a policy reversal; there may have been some damage or devastation
to the country in the meantime. And the general approach of the
international community is, I think, to take this in stages. First
of all, you may already have some humanitarian activities in place.
When there appears to have been a policy change, or a change of
government, there would normally be some form of assessment mission,
which would often be led by the IFIs, or sometimes by the United
Nations, and that would probably be followed by a donor meeting
of some kind, where the international community would attempt
to raise resources on the basis of an assessment and advice from
the international organisations, and to divide tasks and determine
how to carry forward the task of reconstruction in the medium
term. So that is the sort of general approach, and I think it
would apply if a sanctions regime had actually created serious
damage to an economy or infrastructure. I think probably that
would only be the case exceptionally, that an actual sanctions
regime had created that kind of damage, because, probably, first
of all, it would have to be a comprehensive sanctions regime,
including comprehensive trade sanctions, and there are not very
many of those, and, secondly, also probably would have to have
lasted for rather a long time before it would have the effect
of seriously damaging the economy of a country. But, if that happened
and then the circumstances changed, the international community,
I think, would react in that way.
116. Before I ask my questions, can I just say that,
clearly, the choice of whether a country is behaving badly or
not depends very heavily on its strength in the international
world, does it not? China is behaving disgracefully, and nobody
does anything but fall over backwards and say how lovely they
are, really. Is that not actually the reality of the thing, that
if the international community can get away without very much
damage to itself it will impose sanctions, and if it cannot it
(Mr Brenton) There
is an effectiveness test. It is quite difficult to think of a
sanctions regime against China which is actually going to really
significantly change China's behaviour; whereas it is much easier
to imagine a sanctions regime against even, eventually, Iraq,
I am sure, which will change its behaviour. There is no point
in doing something if it is not going to work.
117. That is a wonderful reply. Incidentally, Zimbabwe
is an example of sanctions having a very, very distorting effect
on the trade and industry of that country, and which it took a
very long time to recover from, and still really has not?
(Mr Faint) Do you
mean the illegal declaration of independence?
Chairman: The effect of the sanctions is actually
to perfectly protect the markets; therefore, you have got a lot
of companies growing up, specialising in goods and services, which
would not otherwise have emerged, and those have been protected
right through till the present day. But, still. Andrew Rowe, you
have got some further questions.
118. The Government states that the sanctions regimes
should have effective arrangements for implementation and enforcement
by all states, especially by neighbouring countries. Does the
Government have any arrangements for improving the capacity of
developing countries to implement and monitor sanctions?
(Mr Brenton) The
answer is that we are working on it. DFID, I think, have some
thoughts, and are engaged in one or two places. But, Tony, do
you want to comment.
(Mr Faint) There are certainly some
issues here regarding capacity-building, and I think that one
can identify two areas of that. First of all, we have already
discussed the extent to which the United Nations system has the
capacity to assess situations on the ground and monitor the implementation
of sanctions and monitor the humanitarian impact. And we do intend,
following the review, DFID intends to see whether it can do something
to strengthen the capability of the United Nations system, in
particular to assess and monitor humanitarian impact, and we plan
to do that in collaboration with OCHA, the Office for the Co-ordination
of Humanitarian Affairs. The second area, which I think it is
quite difficult to get at, but we are going to try, is capacity
in developing countries to implement sanctions, and to implement
the humanitarian exemptions that may go with a sanctions regime.
And, here, the sorts of activity I think that would lead us towards
would probably be institutional strengthening, for example, building
more effective Customs and Excise departments and processes, possibly
also in relation to the work of the police forces, we are certainly
working around the world to build the capacity of police forces
to carry out their tasks in a properly civilianised and properly
humane manner. So those are the two areas that we are now going
to look at, and I would not want to claim that we have got very
far with either of those things yet, we are just emerging from
the review. We had quite an interesting seminar last December,
it was sponsored by the ODI, and we got together quite a group
of experts in the field and we had an interesting discussion;
the report is going to be published, actually, there has been
a bit of delay in publishing the report, but we are expecting
it to come out shortly.
119. We have a draft.
(Mr Faint) You have
got a draft; good. And, as a result of those discussions, we are
going to see whether we can strengthen the activities we carry
out in the capacity-building area, both for the United Nations
and for some selected developing countries, probably those where
we already have fairly strong links and an active aid programme.