Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)




  220. You seem to be arguing for the lifting of sanctions in the north. If this is so, how can we square this with the United Nations stated aim of maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq as a whole? Perhaps you are not really asking for the lifting of sanctions.
  (Mr Saunders) I certainly would not say we were.

  221. It would upset those making money out of it, would it not?
  (Mr Saunders) Quite possibly, quite probably.

  222. Sanctions are a good thing from the Kurds' point of view from what you are telling me.
  (Mr Saunders) I believe that is the case. I think the imposition of sanctions has actually allowed the development of the northern communities without any doubt at all and that is a good thing. From the humanitarian missions that went into the north immediately after the Gulf War there was absolute devastation. This was a terrible, terrible place to be. Over the last nine years—and I am not saying it is a wonderful place to be now—there has actually been a substantial improvement in the living conditions of most of the people.

  223. Are you not also therefore citing a case of jealousy and resentment of either the centre and the south against the north and therefore exacerbating the problems of the civil war in Iraq?
  (Mr Saunders) That is quite possible. I am aware that both the KDP and the PUK are in frequent discussion with the Government of Baghdad and both the KDP and PUK do predict a reunification of Iraq in the future. Whether it is the near future or the mid term who knows but they are trying to place themselves effectively so that come that event the impact is going to be as positive as is possible.

  Chairman: I am going to ask Oona King to lead us on dual-use goods which you also touched upon.

Ms King

  224. I recognise that you are very aware of the adverse impact that restrictions on dual-use goods do have on the provision of humanitarian relief. In my own experience in Burundi it was particularly frustrating and devastating to see that either fridges were not available even if the medicines had got through and when they were available that kerosene was not available. Given that, could you explain to us how the current process works for exempting dual-use products which could be used for humanitarian relief and how do you think it could be improved?
  (Mr Saunders) Items are presented to the Sanctions Committee for approval. If there is unanimous approval then those items can be imported into the country. If there is not unanimous approval then that item is blocked or put on hold.

  225. So some form of qualified majority voting would be your preference?
  (Mr Saunders) It would be helpful, yes.
  (Ms Bhatia) I would also like to make the point not only to have a system of qualified voting but even to have a bit more transparency on how the decisions are made within the Committees and a little bit about the voting structures because there really is not any information on how the Committee make their decisions. There really is not very much transparency on that.

  226. Were you saying earlier that there are very explicit political reasons, that it just gets entirely bound up in the political wrangling that is going on and there are just vetoes for that reason as opposed to a subjective use of humanitarian aid?
  (Ms Bhatia) I think you could say there are many examples that would illustrate that, yes.

  227. So how do you think governments can ensure that restrictions on dual-use goods do not adversely affect humanitarian relief?
  (Ms Bhatia) The members on the Sanctions Committee who have a responsibility for seeing which goods are dual use or not are actually representatives of the member governments. Often that means that you are not going to have the same officials on the Committee and the non-permanent Committee members of the Security Council revolve so therefore you are not going to have the continuity. I think perhaps there has to be greater recognition that many of the humanitarian goods needed by civilians are in fact dual use and I think that is more the case when you have prolonged sanctions regimes where you need to go beyond the immediately humanitarian relief of medicine or food. If we come back to Iraq a clear case is the need for materials for water sanitation and basic goods that you need to maintain the civilian infrastructure.
  (Mr Saunders) Yes.

Mr Rowe

  228. In Burundi we were told incomes fell dramatically throughout the early 1990s. Per capita incomes fell from $180 in 1992 to $134 in 1997 and poverty now affects over 60 per cent of the population as opposed to 32 per cent in 1990. Should donors continue to provide developing countries with overseas development aid, even if they are the subject of sanctions regimes?
  (Mr Bowden) We believe that governments should continue to engage with key elements of the aid programme. I think that I would argue that there should be more conditionalities in aid that go with that, but one of the things that concerns us is not just the growth of poverty but the collapse of service structures and service delivery structures because of the lack of engagement of external donors. I think this also relates to the question you were posing earlier that service provision of health care is far more dependent on external, voluntary NGOs than on the government's own capacity to deliver services. Services have diminished and are in danger of collapsing almost entirely because of a lack of external engagement. I think the problem that is now being faced in Burundi is that now the sanctions are over it has been very much more difficult to get external donors to re-engage with the aid processand to reintegrate Burundi into some sort of international economic framework.

  229. There is something very odd, is there not, about saying, "You are a rotten lot but we will intervene to give you certain goodies that we think you ought to have." It is a terribly murky area, is it not? If they are that that rotten should they not be encouraged to collapse faster?
  (Mr Bowden) I think it depends what you mean by collapsing. Surely what you are trying to achieve is a political change not a total collapse of the infrastructure of the country which would do untold harm to the population of the country.


  230. It does not apply in Kosovo. We are busily destroying the infrastructure.
  (Mr Bowden) Then there will be a major rehabilitation programme.

Mr Rowe

  231. You talked earlier about carrots. Are you suggesting that instead of having a sanctions regime what you should actually say is, "If you get rid of your present government we will give you all sorts of things."
  (Mr Bowden) I would not put it quite in those terms but I would say, "If you abide by certain rules, if certain things happen, we will look at providing support specifically to basic services", on the basis that you have to be quite clear when you are looking at service provision. For example, in Burundi the sort of problems that exist there include the fact that service has not been provided equally to the different ethnic groups in Burundi. So I think you have to apply conditions as to how you will provide support to make sure there is a degree of equity in terms of service provision. But I think you are going to get far further if there is a positive engagement in getting the sort of changes that we are trying to get than just by denying people access to resources.
  (Dr Collinson) There are a few issues I would like to raise in relation to that question. First, I have heard the United Kingdom Government and DFID state that development assistance in general is not appropriate in countries suffering conflict, and this is something that I assume that they would apply to the case of Burundi. The reason that worries ActionAid is the narrow definition of development aid and the distinctions that that statement assumes between different forms of assistance. I think that there are often very good reasons for structural assistance and balance of payments support and so on direct to the government to be suspended for a period of time for reasons related to the imposition of sanctions and so on, but that does not mean that development assistance or a broadly defined understanding of humanitarian assistance should not continue. I think the challenge is to provide that assistance—and here I include all forms of assistance that will help communities survive in the short term and the longer term, which address the full extent of people's needs—the challenge is to find alternative channels for providing that assistance and to use INGO channels, and so on. I do think that during the period that sanctions were imposed on Burundi there was assistance going in through NGOs, and the activities of NGOs were very crucial in providing social support to poor communities in Burundi. But, I think it was the UN or the UN regional co-ordinator who brought out a report at the end of December last year where they complained very bitterly that the donors had not been doing as much as they could. I would like to quote, they say: "The response of donors to the 1998 consolidated appeal for Burundi equalled just one-third of the funds requested, the vast bulk of that in the form of food aid". And, they say "Even in the light of the limited support received by the consolidated appeal process generally, this lack of response is startling." Since the sanctions have been lifted there has been a resumption or an increase in these forms of assistance that have not gone directly to the government. But, I think we are also concerned about the fact that there has as yet not been a resumption of more structural forms of aid that might address the very serious and worsening macro-economic situation in Burundi, which is really causing serious damage to the economy to the extent—I spoke to a member of our Burundi staff yesterday who said—the formal economy is disappearing in Burundi, or words to that effect.

  232. This is a different question because what you are saying is that it is conceivable that the imposition of a sanctions regime has led to an unwillingness of international donors to come in. I accept that but it seems to me what you are talking about now is a post sanctions operation. What I am concerned about is is it realistic given this amazing word fungibility? The reason why sanctions are imposed is because the regime is unattractive, probably very corrupt and rather good at getting its hands on what is provided. Nothing you have said this morning gives me the impression that the international NGOs in those situations are capable of preventing the misappropriation of assistance. Is it not unrealistic for a country subject to sanctions to be given assistance with particular programmes when you cannot be sure that you can stop them going to the corrupt regime which is the reason for the sanctions in the first place?
  (Mr Bowden) To answer your question specifically, I think that you can ensure that discrete programmes will get to targeted areas if you are clear in your definition of what you are trying to achieve. I would not agree to general funding to the Ministry of Health in Burundi but I would agree a programme that funded the use of government health services because it is important to have a programme that includes the use of government health services and support of them so long as it was very clear that the condition on which health care assistance was given was that it was equally accessible to all groups within the population. You can work through NGOs and other international organisations to see that that is applied. It is not always the case that ministries of finance or treasuries will use the money very fungibly because, for example, immunisation programmes have come to a halt because there is no money coming in at all. You can fund an immunisation programme and keep that going. I think you have a responsibility to keep those sorts of activities going which can only be kept going through a government service in a discrete way well monitored by the international community and NGOs. Those are precisely the sort of things that need to be kept going whatever because the long-term damage to the population and the difficulty of getting services going again afterwards is far greater if you ignore them.

Ms King

  233. On the point about emergency assistance and development assistance, in Burundi it was quite obvious. You would go to a feeding camp and babies came in and went out when they got them up to a certain weight and would be back in again because the programmes of putting in clean water and wells were not in process because they came under development assistance. I believe that was not the British Government's intention when it said it was going to restrict development assistance but it is an outcome. Do you think it is as simple as changing definitions or are we talking about a more holistic approach and recognising the interaction and the escalator approach between development and assistance? In terms of finding the solution at the moment is this the tack you are taking saying to governments can you change the definitions? Is that what you are saying?
  (Dr Collinson) I do not think definitional changes can ever really work unless there is a real commitment to the substance of what those definitions imply. Certainly our experience in Sierra Leone was that emergency assistance was rather narrowly defined and that meant, in that case, that a number of programmes ceased that were serving the broader needs of the community and they would broadly fall under the heading of humanitarian, but were obviously also absolutely essential to development needs. I think it is an issue of whether there is a true understanding of the inter-linkages between short term and longer term needs and the different forms of assistance that are appropriate in situations of really extreme vulnerability sometimes in these countries and these situations. On the other hand, and this is something that I am not saying that we have the answers to, but there are now very serious questions also about the more traditionally understood forms of development aid and whether that should resume to Burundi because, although it is very good to see more assistance going in through alternative channels and so on, if you do have a collapse of the formal economy, then those other kinds of measures are totally undermined if there is soaring inflation and people cannot afford anything and the economy is collapsing. I think it is also important to pay attention to the role of what is usually understood as development aid as well. I think our position is that the sanctions in Burundi have now been lifted in the region and it seems curious that development aid freeze could not be lifted at the same time and now this is being linked to the peace agreement in the Arusha process. There are definite concerns in the region that linking the resumption of structural forms of aid to an agreement at Arusha might even distort the peace process itself because of the complexities involved in that peace process. I think this is an area which I would very much recommend the Committee take up with the Government if they can at a later stage.

  Mr Rowe: Why do you think the Government wants to continue to use sanctions as an instrument of international diplomacy?

Ms King

  234. It is cheaper than war.
  (Mr Bowden) I think as we have not been involved in discussions with the government on sanctions it is a bit difficult for us to answer why. You take us into the realms of guesswork. I think that part of the answer must be because it seems to be an easy option. I understand that there is some discussion of actually being rather smarter in the use of sanctions. For example, one of the concerns that I know has affected Africa is looking at how arms have been funded through the diamond trade. I think there are possibilities to work more closely with industry and the mining interest to actually bring greater control on the income side and to limit the support of the flow of arms through better targeted sanctions on goods.

Dr Tonge

  235. I wanted to ask about targeting sanctions, smart sanctions. There is quite a good paper from the United Nations Association which we were sent suggesting all sorts of ways of screwing horrible regimes into the ground and certainly arms control and control of arms brokering in particular was a suggestion. Have there been any examples of smart sanctions being successfully applied? Are there any things that we can actually quote?
  (Mr Bowden) It is a slightly different area but I think it does apply and that is the case of Somalia where far more emphasis is being given to smart conditionalities of aid with local communities. It is slightly different because there is not a government as such.

  236. I was going to say who do you impose sanctions on in Somalia.
  (Mr Bowden) You impose sanctions on groups and communities and again humanitarian assistance is not denied anybody but you have to meet certain conditions if you are to get longer term aid in a specific area. So I think that has been quite positive action in getting some groups to formalise their government relationships, to formalise their approach to them and to recognise the minimum they have to meet in terms of qualifying for assistance. So that is one example. I know there is discussion about using smarter sanctions to deal with arms purchases in Africa specifically in the Great Lakes region and to look at how that might relate to the diamond trade coming out of the Congo.

  237. Do you think it is feasible if there is a really foul regime to target their foreign bank accounts and limit their travel or limit any education and training they and their families may receive? Is it possible that that could be done?
  (Ms Bhatia) This whole issue about how you implement smarter sanctions has been discussed at an inter-governmental level through the Interlaken process. Essentially the debate there is how you impose this financial pressure. We are not experts on the subject but I think one of the questions we would certainly want to ask is why has it not been possible to target specific individuals?

  238. Absolutely.
  (Ms Bhatia) There has not been any Security Council Resolution that says you can target the bank accounts of particular leaders and their families and associates and we would want to ask why.

  239. We all know they have got them and it does seem strange that we cannot do that.
  (Ms Bhatia) Surely that is a very effective means of financial pressure directly on the regime to target individuals.
  (Dr Collinson) I have a very brief follow-up to that question. One of the conclusions that came out of the research that we commissioned on the Burundi situation was that so-called smart sanctions were not likely to be imposed in that situation, certainly not the freezing of financial assets, and that that option was not open to the regional governments that were imposing the sanctions. There was some discussion as to whether a travel embargo might have been more effective. Certainly one of the comments I got back from one of our Burundi staff on that issue was that then you would stop the Government attending the peace process in Arusha, but that could probably have been got around. I think a concern of ours is that if the UK and other governments are looking more and more at smart sanctions as a way out, and as a way of avoiding humanitarian exemptions to sanctions, we do not want that to result in less attention being paid to how humanitarian exemptions can work in situations of comprehensive embargoes and so on, because we are likely to see those continuing, certainly when it comes to regional sanctions. I repeat the point that we do not want the discussion or debate being diverted into smart sanctions and away from some of the still very key areas relating to humanitarian exemptions.
  (Mr Saunders) Following up the last point and quoting from the paper of Claude Bruderlein it says: "Whereas comprehensive sanctions need only limited knowledge about the target, targeted financial sanctions significantly increase the need for qualitative information and analysis of the targets' financial and economic profile." I would agree with that. I would also agree that you need the same qualitative information and good analysis of that information if you want to ensure that exemptions are well applied and are having the least negative impact on your non-target population within the country. I think it is really following Sarah's point.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 10 February 2000