Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 240 - 255)



Ms King

  240. I wanted to clarify what you said in relation to smart sanctions in relation to Burundi. You said that in this context—the context being the far-reaching social and economic consequences of reduced foreign reserves, currency depreciation, inflation, etcetera—it is important to note that so-called smart sanctions were simply not an option for those countries imposing sanctions against Burundi. Are you saying that it was not an option for them because the regional country, ie Rwanda, was not a country that would be in a position to freeze bank accounts?
  (Dr Collinson) Yes.

  241. If that is the case presumably that has a huge impact on the regional basis for sanctions if that is the way the trend is. How do you see that being addressed? Is it better from your point of view that we should move away from a regional approach in any event or do you subscribe more to the "African solutions to African problems" approach?
  (Dr Collinson) I think that statement was from the consultants' report and was not ActionAid's own words. I know there are some Burundi staff who do think some more targeted approach might have been possible, for example a flight ban, but it is not entirely clear how effective that would have been.

  242. This is from your Chief Executive. It is quoting something he said in this context.
  (Dr Collinson) Okay. In any case I think what is crucial to recognise is that that was the decision taken by the regional governments. Certainly in the Sierra Leone case I think that the intention was to exert maximum pressure and the way that that was understood in the region was a comprehensive embargo. They wanted to take decisive action in a way that all the pressure they could bring was brought to bear. I think that is particularly likely when it seems that the more sophisticated forms of sanctions are less likely to be put into place effectively and quickly by the region themselves.

  243. Surely it would be your preference that we would move towards a sanctions system if that is going to the case? Sanctions are always going to be less risky and are almost a minimal risk to those countries imposing them. Is it not your preference that we move towards sanctions that in theory target the elite as opposed to the poorest?
  (Dr Collinson) Absolutely, yes, when that is possible.

  244. So you welcome this move?
  (Dr Collinson) I welcome it but I do not want discussion of it to detract from equally important discussions about how to deal with comprehensive embargoes when they are imposed, because I do believe they will continue to be imposed, perhaps not always, but they are still an issue.

  Chairman: We do not want to complicate the issue! Tony Worthington?

Mr Worthington

  245. I want to check out what I am hearing. We have talked about sanctions and that has led us repeatedly to talk about Burundi and Iraq. But I heard you talking earlier about conditionalities and that means that you do not just have sanctions but all sorts of other pressures which are applying to different nations. If you look at Africa you could think of Somalia, the Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, Angola, the Congo, and there must be others, where the relations between those states and the outside world have conditionalities around them. Is that how you think we really should think not of sanctions just as a separate arena but as a whole set of conditionalities including what we call sanctions and that is a more profitable way of looking at things?
  (Mr Bowden) Yes, that would certainly be my personal view. I think that for a number of reasons the problems that we are dealing with in a number of countries in Africa are now very complex. Not just are they complex they tend to be regional so a sanction tends to be based on the country. A lot of the problems that may exist frequently have a regional dimension and therefore the application of sanctions in itself may not be the most appropriate tool. I would also say that we have created in many instances through sanctions pariah states where we have only sticks to beat them with but when things get worse in that country we have not got any other means by which we can apply pressure. This is the one shot option. They have already been made pariahs, they have no aid, they have sanctions but if things continue to get worse how then can you exert influence, which is why you need to have more weapons in the armoury if I can put it that way, to be able to look at more positive conditionalities that will re-engage people and make them see why they should be more constructively involved in change. I would argue therefore that we do need to give far more thought to positive conditionalities that can be used effectively and can be used regionally as well as just nationally.

  246. Let us take Nigeria as an example which is a very big important country. Do you think the negative actions and negative sanctions or conditionalities which have been applied to Nigeria have had any influence in causing the military to return to democracy?
  (Mr Bowden) You have got me on the one country that I am very weak on and I really would not be able to give you a judgment one way or the other from my perspective.
  (Dr Collinson) The only point I wanted to add to the general point was that we should not lose sight of the role of more traditional forms of constructive diplomacy. This is what is at the heart of the region, in the Burundi case, is trying to achieve in Arusha and certainly ActionAid's position is that any sanctions regime, whether it is targeted or not, and any enforcement action needs to be flanked by a very constructive political process and traditional forms of diplomacy which keep the channels of communication open.

Dr Tonge

  247. I think everyone's gut reaction to the sort of situation that we have seen in Iraq and indeed in Yugoslavia in the last couple of years is that they want to go in and take out the person who is responsible for starting all this. We are well on the way to setting up an International Criminal Court. Do you think there is any way the United Nations could set up some sort of hit squad or unit that could actually target those individuals who are flagrantly abusing human rights within their own countries and take them out? I do not mean go in and kill but go in and take them out and try them in an international court.
  (Ms Bhatia) I think there is a wider discussion taking place within the United Nations about how you can bring together all of these issues we have been talking about on sanctions. I think OCHA is trying to advocate for a sanctions process and monitoring unit, the idea being that you have one unit which would oversee the implementation of all UN sanctions. That is one idea. Talking about human rights violations more broadly, there have been other discussions about having human rights monitors to go in when we have sanctions.

  248. We do but it is all so cumbersome.
  (Ms Bhatia) The idea is that it needs to be brought together. We need to have some comprehensive way of bringing it all together.


  249. Is the United Nations capable of doing that? Are you not asking too much of international organisations?
  (Ms Bhatia) No, I do not think so.

  250. Have they got the capacity?
  (Ms Bhatia) I think there is always room to improve capacity.
  (Mr Bowden) One of the brighter aspects recently—and I have to admit to being suspicious of its effectiveness in the past—has been the tribunal over the genocide in Rwanda where there is a process of special investigators because I think that what you are arguing for requires not so much a human rights monitoring approach but a special investigative approach using police and other means to actually identify—

  251. But that is after the event unfortunately.
  (Mr Bowden) That is after the event and perhaps there is more of a case for setting up some standing group to look at this during the event because I think it is a totally different approach than that which has taken place on human rights monitoring and therefore you would need some special prosecutors with a standing special prosecutors' office with the resources to undertake investigations and international powers to freeze bank accounts.


  252. Thank you all very much for coming and going through this difficult issue with us. Just one final quick question, Mark Bowden. You referred to the cessation of aid to Zanzibar when you started. This is the first time I personally have heard of this. Was this co-ordinated by any organisation such as the United Nations or the OECD? Has this been accompanied by any other political sanctions or other actions against Zanzibar?
  (Mr Bowden) As I understand it, it was co-ordinated by the main bilateral donor group. The UN is not part of it but because the UN funding is dependent on external assistance from the main bilateral donors there is virtually no aid going to Zanzibar. The main bilateral donors in Tanzania have all agreed not to give assistance to Zanzibar on the basis of the current political problems on the two islands. There is political action that has taken place—two initiatives, one by the Commonwealth Secretariat and another by the OAU—to try and get some resolution to the political problem and what is seen as human rights abuses of opposition parties in Pemba in particular.

Mr Worthington

  253. Is this on a religious basis?
  (Mr Bowden) It is a split between the two islands. The majority party got in by a very narrow majority of one vote and it was assumed that that was a rigged election. Well it was! And essentially there have been problems with the government of the islands since then and I think part of it has been an unwillingness for donors to engage in any bilateral assistance programme to Zanzibar.

  254. So this is collusion between the aid agencies and the Tanzanian Government against Zanzibar?
  (Mr Bowden) The Zanzibar Government is part of a union and it has a separate government in Zanzibar. I do not think it is exactly collusion. The Tanzanians have accepted it. It is up to the donors as to how they want to operate. Again we feel (and we have undertaken a study to look at this) that immunisation services have more or less collapsed and the number of patients seen in health facilities has collapsed dramatically over the last few years. We think it is another case where we are using the model of the pariah state and creating Zanzibar as a pariah which has again not brought about any political change that we can see in Zanzibar but has done very serious damage to the population. It is another example of where aid was so important in the running of the services that its unilateral withdrawal—

  255. That is a very important point. Perhaps you will keep us informed about that when you have finished your study. I think the Committee would be very interested to hear what the outcome is. Dr Collinson?
  (Dr Collinson) I just wanted to make one very brief point which I wanted to make earlier which was to perhaps recommend that the Committee look at a proposal that came from OCHA, and this was with specific reference to the Burundi situation, that the UN Security Council be encouraged to set up a regional sanctions advisory committee. Our view is that that committee should not only have responsibility for the humanitarian aspects of sanctions but should encourage more effective political engagement of the UN in situations of regional sanctions in the future.

  Chairman: Thank you all very much indeed both for your evidence this morning and for the painstaking written evidence you have given us. It is a most important and difficult subject. Thank you very much indeed.

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