Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 137)



Mr Rowe

120. And, actually, quite a lot of your aid programmes, anyhow, concentrate on trying to build Customs and Excise effectiveness, anyway, do they not?

 (Mr Faint) We are doing a fair amount of that around the world, in Africa, for example, yes.121. What arrangements have been made in the past to compensate states that were formerly major trading partners with the targeted state?

 (Mr Brenton) There is a general principle here, which is that it seems to us quite wrong that you should compensate countries for observing mandatory UN requirements. That said, obviously, some sanctions regimes do have a disproportionate impact on neighbouring countries, and there is a role for, in particular, the international financial institutions to help them deal with what is a particular part of their set of economic problems. So it is not a matter of direct compensation, it is a matter of the international financial institutions taking into account, in their programmes, the fact that countries are disproportionately affected by sanctions regimes that they are close to.


122. Just a minute, Mr Brenton. We have just been to Macedonia, and that is a neighbouring state to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, on which we have put draconian sanctions, have we not? That Macedonian state, we must call it FYR, the former Republic of Yugoslavia and Macedonia, has lost something like 80per cent of its trade. Are you really saying to me that it is their duty to bear this without any kind of assistance of the international community, because they are carrying out their United Nations duty?

 (Mr Brenton) There are no UN sanctions, of course, on Yugoslavia, this is not a UN case. Obviously, Macedonia, and it is not just Macedonia, a lot of countries in the region are suffering terribly because of events in Kosovo, and there are quite advanced plans to do a huge rebuilding exercise in that part of the world once we have won in Serbia. The Germans have proposed, I cannot remember what it is called, but anyway a major exercise—

 (Mr Faint) A stability pact.

 (Mr Brenton) A stability pact for south eastern Europe, which involves bilateral aid, multilateral aid, all of the big institutions, the EU, NATO, and so on, strengthening their links in various ways with the countries of the regions, precisely in recognition of the fact that the current war is doing a lot of damage down there.123. But you said there are no sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I have got a list here, a United Nations arms embargo is applied, in which we presumably are useful, the European Union, in which we are involved, I believe, has also applied visa restrictions, no government finance, export credits, etc, there is a long list here; so we are involved in the sanctions against Yugoslavia, are we not?

 (Mr Brenton) Yes, but the UN sanctions, which is the case I was addressing with Mr Rowe, are confined, as you say, to the arms embargo. So the economic effect of—124. To the arms embargo, yes. So we are involved in the European Union sanctions?

 (Mr Brenton) Yes.125. Does your argument apply to European Union sanctions, that the neighbouring states should carry out their duties in the way that you said the UN sanctions?

 (Mr Brenton) No, it does not, because, in the case of the UN, all states, virtually, are members, and part of the obligation of membership is to participate in whatever regimes the UN chooses to impose. Macedonia is plainly not a member of the EU, and therefore there is, as it were, a moral requirement on the EU to compensate Macedonia for the damage that is being done.

126. I see. I understand there was a meeting of aid donors, in Paris, was it not, Tony Faint?

 (Mr Faint) It was probably in Brussels, but there was a recent meeting of aid donors. What I would like to add to what Tony said is, this is really a general case of when a country which is undertaking development programmes and is compliant with international organisations, when it suffers a shock, an external shock, of any kind, it is quite normal for the international organisations to look at the economy and look at the effects of the shock and try to find means of enabling the country to continue with its development. And that is what, essentially, we have been doing in relation to the surrounding countries of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in the current crisis. And there has been a series of meetings, the European Union has made available some financial facilities, the IFIs have made available loans to Macedonia and Albania, balance of payments support has also been authorised, though I am not sure that it is actually passed yet, to Bulgaria and Romania, simply on account of the losses that they have suffered as against what would otherwise have been the case. I think the point really is, we do not recognise a formal, legal and automatic right to compensation for countries which are implementing sanctions, but, as with any other shock, if they have suffered an adverse shock and they are countries which are behaving well, the international community will try to find a means of remedying that.

Mr Rowe

127. Directly on this point, the original sanctions against Burundi, before they were suspended, were imposed in exactly the way that you would like, by a regional group of countries, rather than by the UN or the EU or anything like that. Now is part of the tacit support to countries in an area who are trying to bring to heel a country that is behaving badly that you would actually up the aid that they get, or in other ways compensate them for the damage that their imposition of sanctions might do to their own economies?

 (Mr Brenton) I think it depends very much on the circumstances. Tony has put it very well. If, as the result of an external shock, the economies in an area suffer, then, typically, this is not purely a political thing, it is a matter of routine, international financial institutions are there—128. But these are self-imposed shocks, because they do not have to put sanctions on, they, themselves, as a group, voted to put sanctions on Burundi; if that damaged their economies, would we feel any obligation to help them?

 (Mr Brenton) I think the answer to that is, it depends upon how sympathetic we are to—129. Yes, to what they are trying to do.

 (Mr Brenton) But the IFIs will not make the judgement on political grounds, they will, in general, make the judgement on economic grounds.

 (Mr Faint) But they will not, on the whole, provide support to countries which they consider to be behaving in an irrational and ill-judged manner, from an economic point of view. However, in the case of Burundi, I should think that most of the damage was to Burundi rather than to the regional states, because they are relatively large and Burundi is quite small.

Ann Clwyd

130. Can I raise what I think is an inconsistency in policy, and that is, when I asked about raising sanctions against northern Iraq, you said: "Well, we treat the country as an entity"; but, actually, that is not quite the case, is it, because, in the past, we have encouraged the Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein, when I say "we" you may want to say it is the Americans, but certainly there is plenty of evidence that the United States actively encouraged the Kurds in various uprisings. Secondly, the US Congress has a policy, which it passed last year, called the Iraq National Liberation Act, which is to fund the Iraqi opposition, with the intention, of course, of destabilising the regime. So if we, in that case, use one part of Iraq against another, why cannot we, in the same way, raise sanctions against the part of Iraq that we actually support and encourage, in some of their activities?

 (Mr Chaplin) I do not think I would accept your premise. I can only speak for UK policy, obviously, not for US policy. I do not think it has ever been UK policy to, as you put it, encourage the Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein's regime. When we got involved in northern Iraq, way back in 1991, with Operation Safe Haven, that was in response to a ruthless campaign being waged by Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish people, with hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring across the Turkish and Iranian borders; that is how we became involved, it was not part of that policy to encourage the Kurds to try to remove Saddam Hussein. And nor is it part of our policy to encourage any other group, whether inside Iraq or outside, to bring about a change of regime; our position has always been that that is for the Iraqi people to decide. The contacts that we have with Iraqi opposition groups take place mainly in London, and are confined to encouraging them to speak out about what is going on in Iraq, because it is important, in our view, that an alternative voice should be heard, and also to articulate their vision of what the future of Iraq should be. But we are certainly not in the business of providing any sort of assistance, military or otherwise, to these opposition groups, with the purpose of overthrowing the regime in Baghdad, it is just not part of our policy.131. Would you say there was a difference in policy then between the United States and ourselves?

 (Mr Chaplin) I think there are differences in the approach. I think Congress has very firm views, and it was Congress that voted the money, it is the US administration that has to decide how to spend that money, and I do not think they have reached precise decisions on that. So I do not think it would be true necessarily to say that they are even now arming Iraqi opposition groups, with the purpose of overthrowing Saddam Hussein.


132. Mr Chaplin, would you describe the actions we took in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Iraq, as interference in the sovereign affairs of a country?

 (Mr Chaplin) I might turn to our legal adviser here, but I think it was a case of overwhelming humanitarian necessity that brought about the intervention, I think that was the legal basis for it; but it was certainly with a humanitarian purpose that we involved ourselves, as you put it, in northern Iraq at that time.133. Yes; and, if it was humanitarian, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, what basis in law does that have?

 (Ms Wilmshurst) That is the basis in law.134. There is no written law?

 (Ms Wilmshurst) There is no written law, it is not in the Charter; but there has developed—135. There is an understanding?

 (Ms Wilmshurst) There has developed a doctrine in international law, yes.136. How fascinating.

 (Ms Wilmshurst) It is not universally agreed on.

Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for your help to the Committee this morning. I think we have learned a lot, and it sets us off, I hope, in the right direction, to review what we must do on humanitarian sections of the sanctions regimes. Thank you very much indeed.

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