General issues relating to sanctions: Preventing their humanitarian and unintended consequences- Security Council, 8962nd Meeting

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07-Feb-2022 03:24:16
Concerned by unintended negative impact of sanctions, speakers in Security Council urge action to better protect civilians, ensure humanitarian needs are met.

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Efforts must better mitigate the unintended negative impact of sanctions and curtail unilateral coercive measures that continue to negatively affect the very populations they are meant to protect, delegates told the Security Council today.

United Nations sanctions are no longer the blunt instrument they once were, but concerns remain, said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. As a prime example, she pointed to the continued difficulty in reviving the banking channel for humanitarian transfers to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, since its collapse in 2017. Various resolutions make it clear that sanctions are “not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian populations”, she stated.

Highlighting several areas for action, she said Member States can minimize the burden of additional due diligence and reporting requirements on humanitarian actors by keeping their domestic legislation as close as possible to Council language. Other vital actions include continued monitoring by the Council’s sanctions committees for possible negative consequences and increasing cooperation with humanitarian actors and the private sector. More can also be done to reduce the possible adverse consequences of sanctions, she said, recalling the world’s welcome of Council resolution 2615 (2021), which carves out a humanitarian exemption to the sanctions regime on Afghanistan.

Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said “humanitarian carve-outs, as we now have on Afghanistan, can allow us to continue our programmes for those at greatest risk”. Mitigating the humanitarian impact of sanctions requires the international community to continue reviewing the way sanctions are designed and implemented, he said, urging the Council and Member States to ensure that measures applicable in armed conflict do not impede the assistance and protection activities of impartial humanitarian organizations for persons who are not fighting.

“In all contexts, they should ensure that sanctions do not restrict the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights including the right to food, water, shelter and health,” he said. To prevent this, the Council and others imposing sanctions should include comprehensive humanitarian carve-outs from the outset rather than case-by-case authorization procedures. Welcoming proactive efforts, he cited the United States guidance that incidental payments and cases of aid diversion to Al-Shabaab in Somalia would not be a focus for sanctions enforcement. At the same time, humanitarian agencies can boost confidence by investing in risk management and due diligence, he said, noting that operations in north-west Syria are an example of a highly monitored activity.

In the ensuing debate, Council members highlighted some of the adverse effects of ongoing Council sanctions. Noting that 8 of the Council’s 14 sanctions regimes are imposed on African States, Gabon’s representative said the arms embargo on the Central African Republic is particularly alarming as the country continues to face an onslaught of attacks by armed groups and needs to defend its people. Calling on the Council to unconditionally lift that arms embargo, he said every situation should be subject to a detailed assessment, while international sanctions must be reversible and never have punitive purposes.

Some members exchanged differing views about unilateral sanctions. The Russian Federation’s delegate said unilateral coercive measures encroach on the sovereignty of States and undermine the norms of international law. Examples abound, from Belarus, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela to the “sanctions war” against Syria, which has worsened the socioeconomic situation in that country, he said. Emphasizing that the only legitimate sanctions are through the Security Council, he said attempts to leverage such measures against Myanmar and Mali are illegitimate. Unilateral sanctions wreak damage on developing countries, derailing their efforts to counter climate change and realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.

The United States delegate said unilateral sanctions are legal and effective in stemming threats when the Council remains deadlocked over certain pressing issues. While the United States prefers that the Council impose sanctions, some situations require countries to use leverage to address such threats as nuclear proliferation, corruption and human rights abuses, she said, concerned that some members are insinuating that such actions by nations — who have the right to impose their own measures — are unlawful.

Venezuela’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, raised several concerns, stressing that: “Today, we are seeing not only an unprecedented resort to unilateral sanctions, but also a new generation of such illegal measures, which are now crueller and much more destructive than ever before.” Indeed, States are weaponizing such illegal measures in the pursuit of geopolitical and economic goals. Calling on the Council to condemn the imposition and intensification of such measures, he said their negative impact continues to block the timely procurement of food, medicines, supplies, vaccines and other essential goods for civilian populations.

Member States facing sanctions shared their perspectives. While agreeing that Council embargoes have improved in recent decades, Mali’s delegate drew attention to the political, economic and financial measures the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed on his country in January. Emphasizing their disastrous humanitarian consequences, he said those sanctions have no legal basis and are a flagrant violation of the principles of solidarity and the pan-African ideal.

South Sudan’s delegate said sanctions have negatively affected its citizens, from banking challenges to rising consumer prices. Noting that South Sudan’s independence followed half a century of war, he said the Council should have resolved political problems through alternative tools rather than sanctions. Indeed, imposing sanctions without first exhausting better options only aggravated the situation, polarized the parties and pushed back the horizon of lasting peace, he said.

Echoing those concerns, Iraq’s representative said that despite their negative impact, “sanctions cannot be compared to the scourge of war and armed conflict”. Spotlighting the need to continue to follow up on the impact of sanctions on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and any related individuals, he said exemptions should be created to protect ordinary people from the impact of such measures. Welcoming the Council’s efforts to protect frozen Iraqi assets in various Member States, he urged all countries to promptly return those funds and allow them to be invested in Iraq’s sustainable development.

Also delivering statements were representatives of the United Kingdom, China, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, India, Norway, Brazil, Albania, Kenya, Ghana, France, Mexico and Sudan.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:43 p.m.

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