January 2006 Monthly Forecast


Council Working Group on Sanctions

The lack of a settled, generic policy on both the implementation of targeted sanctions and the working methods of the sanctions committees is not surprising given the Council’s traditional situation-specific approach to issues. But this approach has not precluded Council members in the past from establishing general principles to guide their approach to issues. In the sanctions context, an initial start in this regard was made in recommendations agreed by the Security Council’s Working Group on General Issues Related to Sanctions.  The Working Group, first established by a Note of the President in 2000 (S/2000/319), was asked to examine a number of issues with a view to improving the effectiveness of sanctions and transparency in the work of the committees.  A number of these issues were set out earlier in a Note by the President of the Council on 29 January 1999 enumerating practices to improve the work of the sanctions committees (S/1999/92).  The issues before the Working Group included:

The Working Group’s (WG) mandate was expanded and extended to 31 December 2005 by a Note of the President of the Council, dated 23 December 2004 (S/2004/1014).  This had followed a report by the then Chairman contained in a Note by the President of 21 December 2004 (S/2004/979), in which it was recommended that the WG continue its efforts to agree on the outstanding issues which had prevented the Council from adopting a comprehensive sanctions policy.  The report also noted that the WG’s prior work had not taken into consideration the increased sanctions activity of the Security Council after 11 September 2001.  Hence, the expanded mandate of the WG, inter alia, included the following issues:

So far, a number of the recommendations in the draft paper prepared by the Working Group in 2002 are being implemented in an ad hoc manner by some sanctions committees. But they have never been reviewed, debated and approved by the Council itself.  However, without a Council-endorsed policy, even at the level of guidelines, implementation is erratic and varies from committee to committee.   These inconsistencies contribute in varying degrees to a lack of cooperation by some member states with the sanctions committees.

The Council has also benefited from the work on targeted sanctions facilitated in recent years by the Swiss, German and Swedish governments—the Interlaken, Bonn-Berlin and Stockholm processes—in the design of its sanctions measures, including a requirement that the sanctions committees assist states in achieving optimum capacity to implement the sanctions measures.

While the Working Group had completed most of its work some time ago, it has been stymied in providing a final report to the Council for consideration due to disagreement among the five permanent members over a few outstanding issues.  It seems that some members are reluctant to agree to a set policy which might limit their flexibility in dealing with emerging trends.  Among the unresolved issues is whether, as a matter of policy, sanctions should be for a specific duration and renewable by a decision of the Council depending on whether the target of the sanctions has complied.   There are strongly opposed views on this issue, partly due to experiences over the years in arriving at consensus in the Council as to when the target of sanctions has complied with the Council’s demands, and being able to reach agreement on the lifting of such sanctions.  This problem is more acute when the action required of the target is not made sufficiently clear in the resolution.

There have been renewed efforts to reach agreement on the non-contentious issues in the Working Group.  It would seem worthwhile for these agreed upon issues to be reported to the Council and subsequently approved.  Not only will some guidelines facilitate more effective action by the Council, they will also create greater transparency in the work of sanctions committees and consistency in their procedures, foster greater coordination among them, and make the broader UN membership aware of what to expect when sanctions are violated.  A course of action that includes the progressive establishment of a clearer sanctions policy would enhance the integrity of the sanctions process and help provide credibility to the Council’s stated resolve to enforce its own sanctions measures.

The current mandate of the Working Group expires at the end of 2005. At the time of writing, it appears that the Council will renew it for another year. In that context, the Council may also wish to address the need to improve the capacity of the UN Secretariat to facilitate the work of the sanctions committees and the monitoring mechanisms.  In as much as there has been a significant increase in the work of the sanctions committees and of monitoring mechanisms in recent years, the Secretariat’s capacity has not kept pace.  

UN Documents

 Selected Notes by the President of the Security Council

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