Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 760 - 779)



  760. One of the other areas that has struck me during this investigation is the sheer viciousness of some regimes in that they undermine sanctions by punishing their people and although we have looked for ways of giving humanitarian exemptions we have not always been that successful. Has the Foreign Office had any further thoughts on how we can protect the most vulnerable people in a regime from the regime itself when we impose sanctions?
  (Mr Hain) We have and it is an important question which I know exercises the Committee as it does Ministers and officials in the Foreign Office and in DFID. If we take the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, for example, members will have seen that there is, as it were, an energy for democracy exemption from the sanctions, if I can put it that way, with convoys of oil right now going into two states in Yugoslavia which are controlled by the opposition.


  761. Is that a specific exemption? Oil of all kinds is embargoed, is it not, to Serbia, if we may call it that now?
  (Mr Hain) Yes.

  762. And this is a specific exemption for heating oil to parts of Serbia?
  (Mr Hain) It is the opposition-run municipalities of Nis and Pirot which are specifically to receive heating oil and energy assistance because we are very well aware of the freezing winter setting in and also of the fact that those areas are opposed to Milosevic's brutal rule. That is a clear example where we are able to address humanitarian relief where we can but also there is, as it were, an advantage in being opposed to a dictator's brutal policies.

  763. This is sanctioned by the UN?
  (Mr Hain) It is an overall UN sanctions regime.

  764. It is sanctioned by the United Nations itself?
  (Mr Hain) These are European Union sanctions.

  765. They are not UN sanctions?
  (Mr Hain) No, they are European Union sanctions. I apologise if I misled the Committee on that point. This is an agreed policy decided by the European Union.

  766. So they have decided on this exemption.
  (Mr Hain) Indeed, that is actually happening this week, the lorries are going in.

  767. I saw the pictures of lorries lined up. How do we describe this? Is this a humanitarian effort or a political effort or both?
  (Mr Hain) It is a humanitarian effort but we are able to deliver it because of the added opportunity of a political bonus and a political factor too in that we are not giving support to Milosevic and the regime that surrounds him; we are actually rewarding those who are opposed to his brutal rule.

  768. You see the difficulty we are getting into here?
  (Mr Hain) Of course.

  769. Because the humanitarian effort has traditionally been one given regardless of who is in charge of that particular area. It is for humanitarian relief and therefore relief of the suffering of people. This is quite different, is it not? This is the relief of some people whom we wish to support so it must be categorised as political.
  (Mr Hain) There was always an humanitarian exemption to the oil embargo in the case of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

  770. So we can supply it to Belgrade then?
  (Mr Hain) If what you are saying, Chairman—and I do not object to this line of enquiry at all because it is an important issue—that the world is a messy place and sanctions need to be applied and exemptions organised in a way that allows us to maximise humanitarian relief whilst at the same time achieve the change which ultimately will be for the benefit of the people in humanitarian terms of getting rid of oppressive policies or changing them in some final way, then that is something to be welcomed.

  771. It is certainly changing the normally accepted definition of humanitarian relief, I am sure you will agree.
  (Mr Hain) What it is saying is humanitarian relief always has to be looked at in the context of what it is possible to deliver. For instance, some of the considerable amounts of humanitarian relief applied under the "oil for food" programme in Iraq under the United Nations sanctions has been siphoned off by the regime. Do we therefore not supply it? There are constant questions and judgments to be made here but in this particular case we wanted without in any way allowing Milosevic's regime to be further sustained to give humanitarian relief where we could in freezing winter conditions.

  772. Let us put it this way; there are 800,000 refugees in Serbia apart from the normal inhabitants of Serbia who are suffering from a) lack of power because of the NATO bombing and from b) lack of fuel to heat themselves in the absence of electricity because of the European Union sanctions and the bombing of bridges over the Danube, and surely humanitarian relief in those circumstances should go to all those people who are lacking in warmth and may die from hypothermia wherever they are in Serbia? That would be the humanitarian objective but you are saying that is not your objective; your objective is simply to help those who you think may help you.
  (Mr Hain) No, if I may say so, that is a very pejorative way of putting it. Our objective is to maximise humanitarian relief and indeed there have always been humanitarian exemptions to sanctions and the European Commission Humanitarian Office actually provided humanitarian aid in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but what we do not want to do is undermine the whole of European sanctions by provision of aid in such a way that it is raked off by President Milosevic and his regime or Army or security forces who have terrorised the people in the area under his control and neighbouring regions. We do not want to do that and this is a clear-cut example where we can maximise humanitarian relief and minimise leakages of support which sustain a brutal regime.

  773. How can you be certain that this heating oil delivered to the municipalities which you regard as worthy of your support does not get taken over by Milosevic's regime?
  (Mr Hain) I am sure the Committee will appreciate that we are not in a perfect world and nothing is absolutely watertight and nothing can be 100 per cent certain but the European Union has taken a judgment, which I support, that this is an initiative which is worthy of our support and one which we ought to progress.

Mr Khabra

  774. Does that mean that in certain situations political considerations take precedence over humanitarian objectives no matter what the consequences are to the ordinary people?
  (Mr Hain) As a general question nobody takes political decisions, certainly not this Government, regardless of the consequences to ordinary people. I remember exactly the same argument being used in terms of sanctions against South Africa, that black people would suffer if you boycotted. For example, those who worked on the Cape wine fields would suffer, black people often in exploitative conditions, if there are embargoes on South African wine.

  775. But we did not condone apartheid at that time.
  (Mr Hain) The point I am making is that those of us who were strongly supportive of sanctions against South Africa and who eventually were vindicated by the change that occurred, always had it argued against us that black South Africans would suffer (and undoubtedly some did) but we always in response to your general question as a matter of principle consider the humanitarian impact of any sanctions before sanctions are undertaken and if the imposition of sanctions had a disproportionate effect in terms of humanitarian consequences or negative humanitarian consequences that would be taken into account and might possibly or would probably block the progression of sanctions.

Mr Worthington

  776. This whole business of innocents suffering, it is not just within that particular state. I am thinking of instances like Burundi where if you are going to make sanctions effective there may be suffering occurring in neighbouring states and the issue comes up—and I am wondering what the Foreign Office's thought is on this—of whether some form of compensation could be paid to those who are in neighbouring states to them so that they do not suffer so that they can play their part in making those sanctions effective. Has the Foreign Office had any thoughts on the issue of compensation for neighbouring states?
  (Mr Hain) I realise it is an issue which is an important one as part of all this debate. In the South African context a country like Tanzania suffered very badly through taking a strong stand against the apartheid regime and it was never compensated for that. It is very difficult to envisage how there might be straightforward compensation as part of the sanctions policy, however the international financial institutions when deciding on how they might support particular countries in the various ways they are able to, take account of the impact on their economies of neighbouring disputes and other factors. So I think there is a mechanism to at least address the problem, if not in the exact direct causal way that might be suggested.

  777. Which is what is happening in the case of Kosovo with Macedonia and Albania and so on.
  (Mr Hain) Indeed.

  778. But again that is a European example where we seem to have given more priority to compensation there than we have in an African context. I am not aware that in any African situations that there has been any compensation paid or compensation considered or that the international financial institutions have been sympathetic.
  (Mr Hain) I think that my Honourable Friend mentioned the example of Burundi which has been desperately affected by the conflict in the Great Lakes region. I think this is a matter that international financial institutions will want to address in an African context as elsewhere.

  779. Let me finally return to the question of the analytical capacity of the UN Secretariat. If we are going to have "smarter" sanctions we have got to have "smarter" people applying those sanctions. We cannot just do it in a blanket way, set up mechanisms and leave them to go on. It certainly seems to me, having looked at this issue, that we need a building up of a UN capacity or some capacity that is looking at the impact of sanctions and tweaking them, adjusting them in the ways that you were suggesting earlier. What are your thoughts on that?
  (Mr Hain) I am very sympathetic to that point of view and I would be very interested in any recommendations from the Committee to that effect. I think in the case of Angola, Ambassador Fowler is certainly a very "smart" person for whom I have the highest admiration, his dedication is unquestioned, but he is more frustrated by the lack of "smartness" amongst the international community and the countries that have voted for the sanctions that he is seeking to implement. I know that the Department for International Development in collaboration with the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs is committed to strengthening the analytical capacity of the UN Secretariat so it can make progress on those sorts of issues.

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