Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 119)



Ann Clwyd

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 the Secretary-General.


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 of—there 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 population?

 (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.

Tess Kingham

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 the case?

 (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 licensed?

 (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.

Tess Kingham

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?

Dr Tonge

111. I have never tried it, Tony; but there is time left. And I do not think glyceryl trinitrate can be used to manufacture explosives.

 (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.

Ann Clwyd

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 yes, why?

 (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.

Ann Clwyd

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.

Mr Rowe

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 will not?

 (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.

Mr Rowe

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.

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