Examination of witnesses (Questions 160
TUESDAY 25 MAY 1999
SAUNDERS and DR
160. You can say that about India and no sanctions
are imposed on India.
(Mr Bowden) No. It was the fact that basically there
was no engagement with health officials and health services in
the broader public health and policy debates and they were not
able to go to UN conferences on health, there were excluded from
regional meetings, and particularly in the area of nutrition,
which I am involved in, they were clearly very much behind a lot
of the advances that were taking place in the development of nutrition
strategies and immunisation.
Dr Tonge: I would disagree that that was due
161. Could we bring in Dr Collinson to give
her point of view?
(Dr Collinson) I had two points and one was to return
to an earlier point, so perhaps I will save that for the moment.
On the South Africa issue the only thing that I would have to
add, and this has some relevance to the conclusions of the research
that we had commissioned on Burundi, was the importance of internal
political support or not for the sanctions to be maintained and
the nature of that internal political support. Certainly that
was a crucial issue in the South Africa case, the extent of support
for the sanctions to remain in place within the country and the
impacts on the domestic politics of the country.
162. Are you saying they worked then?
(Dr Collinson) In the South Africa case. Also, in
the Burundi case there was a very strong argument, particularly
after the formation of the partnership government arrangement
in Burundi for the sanctions to be lifted at that point, because
at that point the internal support for sanctions to be maintained
in Burundi disappeared more or less, except for some of the extreme
163. Can I be clear about what I am interpreting
here? You might make a case for sanctions having been successful
in a South African instance. You could make a case as well for
Libya, ultimately there being some success there. You seem to
be saying that in the African context, where there is intense
poverty and where there is conflict, sanctions have not worked
and indeed have been counter productive.
(Mr Bowden) Yes, I think that is a very good summary
of what we are saying. I certainly accept Sarah's view that, while
there is some internal understanding of why sanctions are being
imposed, and indeed some support for them internally and they
may have some better effect, frequently they have lasted too long,
that certainly in poor African countries where there is conflict
it is very difficult to make sanctions effective and that by and
large they provide support precisely to those groups that you
are trying to have an impact on.
164. I am sorry to return to this but it is
very germane to our discussion. It seems to me that there is a
certain contradiction in what we are being told. It is your opinion
that sanctions against South Africa had an impact on the political
(Mr Bowden) Yes.
165. This ties in with what Dr Tonge was saying:
did the poor in South Africa get poorer under sanctions, and were
they poorer in relation to what were then called the front line
states? Was it sanctions that made them poorer? Has there been
any research on that?
(Mr Bowden) I am not aware of any research on that.
I think it would be very difficult to substantiate. There were
a number of other factors to do with the South African economy
that made people poorer as well. I do not know how far you could
say that sanctions in the South African case made people poorer.
We have evidence in Burundi that sanctions have made the poor
166. Can I ask a question with regard to sanctions?
Does it also depend on the political strength and system which
does exist in a country where sanctions have been in force because
the poor political system within a country cannot withstand the
pressure of sanctions? What are your views on that?
(Mr Bowden) I think the case we are trying to make,
which centres mainly around Burundi, is that where you do not
have a strong or well developed government the effect of sanctions
is to further weaken government and to give more credence to alternative
systems of government and more support for them, so you get the
development of cronyism. The state tends to be more supported
and more directed by the people who are engaged in financing the
breaking of sanctions and gives more power to those. That is clearly
going to happen more where you have very weak structures of government.
Where you have stronger government it may that you have a different
response to sanctions.
(Dr Collinson) In the case of Burundi I think it is
important to remember that the aim was to put pressure on the
Government. That is why the sanctions were imposed. It is important
to recognise the context in which the sanctions were imposed and
to think about what the alternatives might have been. Here I am
talking about the very early stages of when the sanctions were
imposed by the regional governments, that at the time there were
also discussions of military intervention in Burundi and so on.
So it is important to consider the balance of different options
that seemed open to the region at the time. Certainly in Burundi
we are talking about a complex conflict and, while there was definite
concern to put pressure on the Government of Burundi, one can
argue about the effectiveness in the longer term of sanctions
which target one party to a complex conflict. What we have seen
more recently is that some of the more extreme parties to the
conflict on the other side for example have not been brought so
effectively into the peace process by the sanctions, partly because
the sanctions were targeting the other side as it were. That underlines
the importance of a constructive diplomatic effort around any
sanctions to make sure that there is a very close linkage and
no drift away from the core objectives of the sanctions so that
there are higher political standards as well as humanitarian standards
in these situations. If you could forgive me I would like to return
to an earlier question on humanitarian exemption arrangements
and how humanitarian impacts can be minimised. There are a few
things I would like to mention that are important to bear in mind
in this context broadly around the fact that just having humanitarian
exemptions will not necessarily minimise all the greatest impacts
on the most vulnerable members of the society that one is concerned
with. In the Burundi case we have seen an almost complete collapse
of the macro-economic situation, so although it has been possible,
and certainly became progressively more possible, to bring humanitarian
goods into the country, there were all sorts of other effects
on the broader economy which made it very difficult for poor people
in the country to access medicine and food and agricultural inputs
and so on, related to price rises. In Burundi, after summer 1997,
there was so much sanctions busting going on that in fact most
goods were getting into the country. That draws attention to the
importance of the freeze on donor financing to Burundi which is
still in place. A lot of the negative economic and social impacts
were less directly related to the embargo itself and more to the
freeze on donor financing which accompanied the sanctions regime
and which is still more or less in place, even though the regional
sanctions have been lifted. In the Sierra Leone case, humanitarian
exemptions, as I mentioned earlier, were written into the UN sanctions,
and into the ECOWAS sanctions against the country, but no humanitarian
goods got in. In fact, it was October that the UN sanctions were
imposed against Sierra Leone and it was February before a mission
was sent by the UN to assess the functioning of the humanitarian
exemptions and to assess the humanitarian situation in Sierra
Leone. In fact, the security situation made it impossible for
them to go in and see what the situation was on the ground.
167. I am concerned because we are running ahead
of the order of questions on which we have tried to order our
discussions. We are coming on to a section on humanitarian impact
of sanctions which we are already straying into, and then humanitarian
exemptions and the Iraqi oil for food programmes. I am anxious
to keep them in their compartments if we can because it helps
us to analyse your answers but Rita Bhatia, you would like to
(Ms Bhatia) First of all there is the point that humanitarian
exemptions do not always work and we have had experiences from
Burundi of that. There is a strong argument for saying they are
not often enough and I think that is particularly the case where
you have a prolonged sanctions regime and I know we are going
to be talking about Iraq later on in this discussion, but there
is a clear consensus around Iraq in terms of how effective some
of the provisions under 986 have been.
168. It seems to me that the international community
spends a lot of its time pretending at least that we should not
interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign nations and yet
every time we have a sanctions regime it is perfectly clear that
the reason for doing it is because we want to interfere in the
internal affairs of sovereign nations. I wondered whether our
witnesses felt that there was a serious contradiction in the imposition
of sanctions at all.
(Ms Bhatia) Multilateral sanctions are imposed under
Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which states that sanctions are an
acceptable means of dealing with aggression and threats to peace
and security. Very often the UN Charter is used as the backup
for the legal argument for why you are imposing sanctions, and
that is something that we all accept.
169. But the impression you are giving is that
at least in the case of Burundi and some of the other states the
threat of aggression has long since passed away before the sanctions
are even modified, let alone lifted. Is that a fair interpretation?
(Mr Bowden) Not entirely. What we are saying in the
context of Burundi and others is that we are faced with a very
complex political situation and a relatively blunt weapon, if
I can put it that way, for trying to deal with what is a complex
political situation. We are challenging the political effectiveness
of those sanctions in doing that. The issue which I think you
are raising is a rather broader one which is when is intervention
justified and how effective are sanctions as a means of intervention.
As Rita said, Chapter 7 is usually used as a justification for
sanctions. In many cases the UN is less and less willing to use
some of the other aspects of Chapter 7 in interventions and there
is a danger that sanctions become used because they involve less
from other governments outside states or parties to them and are
therefore just used as, "Well, we can always do sanctions"
rather than intervening in a more meaningful or constructive way.
That is the worry, that sanctions are used really as a means to
do something when people cannot find more constructive ways of
(Dr Collinson) I would agree with that. What we are
seeing is sanctions imposed sometimes with security objectives
in mind; certainly in Burundi there were political objectives
and there were political objectives related to the internal politics
of Burundi. The nature of those objectives made them open to a
lot of subjective interpretation, in terms of progress towards
achieving those objectives, by the different governments imposing
the sanctions. I think that is one explanation for the amount
of drift, as it were, that there was in that sanctions regime,
because there were different political interests in the region
attached to the political objectives at the heart of the sanctions
regime. Certainly there is a question about the legality of sanctions
which are not strictly related to international aggression and
so on. Certainly, I think the regional governments in that case
would have argued that the deterrent effect was important there,
that they were trying to deter future coups. They saw it as destabilising
to the region as a whole. So usually there is a way of finding
a way round that question and interpreting the issue as a threat
to international or regional peace and security.
170. I should like to ask Mr Saunders a particular
series of questions on the humanitarian impact of sanctions, because
you prepared a paper for the ODI on Iraq and Kurdistan which is
where your experience is confined to; is that right?
(Mr Saunders) Correct.
171. Can you, for the benefit of the Committee,
describe the cross-border trade? Can you describe how you think
sanctions are being busted? Can you tell us how the political
parties benefit and whether the money is redistributed in any
way to the population of Iraq and Kurdistan?
(Mr Saunders) There has always been considerable cross-border
trade. The term applied to cross-border trade has probably changed
in time. In times it could be called smuggling. In times it could
be legitimate trade, depending upon the current politics. One
of the criticisms of the paper which was prepared and presented
by the Save the Children Fund from a Kurdish point of view was
that there was insufficient emphasis on the importance of the
tradition of cross-border trade and the continuity of that trade
as regards the overall economy of the north of Iraq. It is something
that goes back generations. It is not something that has just
emerged as a result of sanctions or the regional hostilities that
were going on immediately prior to sanctions. Certainly since
the imposition of sanctions, particularly after the Gulf War and
the establishment of the safe haven, which was 1991, the Kurdish
Governmentand I use that term loosely, the two Kurdish
Governmentshave utilised the cross-border trade and taxed
vehicles and products that moved across the border and have used
that taxation in a way which I think most people would assume
to be a fair way of dispersing income to a population. There is
no doubt that individuals have benefited and enriched themselves.
That goes without saying. But the cross-border trade is the main
source of income of the KDP and the PUK Governments. Those two
Governments employ a large number of personnel in different ways.
They employ civil servants. Our paper estimated in the region
of 200,000 civil servants are employed out of a population of
3.2 million people. The families of those civil servants obviously
increase that number, so that let us say nearly a third of the
population benefit from a small salary or wage that is derived
from the two Governments from the income from taxation. Another
area where that money is dispersed is through the employment of
militia. They are referred to as Peshmerga militia in the paper.
Both Governments employ militia. These militia are paid and that
pay represents a very significant form of income for the families.
In many respects the Government do disperse the taxed income from
sanctions busting. In addition, the two Governments have established
education and health services. Those services were there prior
to sanctions, of course, but they maintain the education and health
services, social services, through this income.
172. How much smuggling goes on, do you think?
Can you describe the volume of the traffic and whether any kind
of UN policing goes on, any country policing? Does Turkey police
what goes across its borders to Iraq, because the smuggling presumably
eventually reaches the regime. Can you describe that?
(Mr Saunders) Yes. The north of Iraq benefits from
the trade and the majority of that trade is down to the south
and centre, so the Government in Baghdad is a beneficiary of that
smuggling and trade. I am not aware of any policing as such. Probably
there is. I am not aware of any increase either side of the border.
173. Are you saying that the countries through
which that trade continues are turning a blind eye to the smuggling?
(Mr Saunders) It would appear so.
174. Is the UN turning a blind eye to the smuggling?
(Mr Saunders) I am not sure.
175. Has anybody else got any views on that?
(Mr Saunders) It probably is.
176. Is that because it cannot do anything about
(Mr Saunders) Correct. I do not know whether it wishes
to do anything about it. I think one of the issues is that what
we have seenand perhaps this is again going further down
your list of questionsis that one of the major distinctions
in terms of vulnerable populations in Iraq at the turn of this
decade is that the north was totally and absolutely devastated.
There was an extreme humanitarian emergency in the north of Iraq
as a result of what is called the Anfal campaign and preceding
forms of hostility and so on. The south and centre were obviously
relatively well off. With the imposition of sanctions what we
saw was the emerging economy of the north and the development
of the north and the rapid destruction of infrastructure and social
structures in the south and centre. To block that trade would
have blocked the development capacity of the north and that is
a sizeable minority of the population.
177. Can I just intervene there? If the south
and the centre are suffering worse than the north because of this
cross-border trade, illegal as it may be, is it right that under
the 986 oil for food programme the north should still in theory
be receiving more than the centre and the south?
(Mr Saunders) In terms of 986?
178. As a per capita allocation.
(Mr Saunders) I am not sure that it is receiving more
than the centre and the south. I believe it receives about 13
per cent of the total humanitarian aid that is allocated through
(Ms Bhatia) I think the south and centre receive about
53 per cent of the allocations under 986. Iraq has 18 governates
and only four are in the north, so when looking at south and centre
you are looking at a larger proportion of the Iraqi population.
179. Yes, but it is the allocation per capita
that I understand, from evidence given to us, that the north gets
a greater per capita allocation than the south and centre. Mr
Saunders is saying that it does not.
(Mr Saunders) I am not certain that that is the case.