Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 160 - 179)



  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 to sanctions.

Mr Worthington

  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.

Mr Robathan

  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 militia.

Mr Worthington

  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.

Mr Robathan

  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 process.
  (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 poorer there.

Mr Khabra

  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 add something?
  (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.

Mr Rowe

  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 engagement.
  (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.

Ann Clwyd

  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 Government—and I use that term loosely, the two Kurdish Governments—have 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 it?
  (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 seen—and perhaps this is again going further down your list of questions—is 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 986.
  (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.

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