November 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2014
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Expected Council Action

At the initiative of Council President Australia, the Council is scheduled to be briefed on sanctions in November, most likely by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and incoming Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock. A resolution is a potential outcome. 

Key Recent Developments

At a 28 May briefing in the Trusteeship Council chambers, Australia, Finland, Germany, Greece and Sweden—in partnership with the consultancy Compliance and Capacity International and the Watson Institute at Brown University—launched the High Level Review of United Nations Sanctions (HLR). The goal of the HLR is to enhance the effectiveness of UN sanctions through better integration and coordination, both within the UN system and with external institutions and legal instruments.

The HLR has proceeded through a series of meetings held by three working groups, with participation by member states, the Secretariat and UN agencies and civil society. The first working group has assessed integration and coordination within the UN system (e.g. sanctions committees, expert groups, the Secretariat, the Ombudsperson, peacekeeping operations and special political missions). The second working group has focused on linkages between UN sanctions and external institutions and instruments (e.g. arms control and disarmament agencies, financial and economic regulatory bodies, and international criminal justice institutions). The third working group has examined sanctions in relation to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, regional organisations and implementation issues, and relevant emerging threats. It appears that the final outcome document for the HLR will not be published prior to the Council event in November. At press time, the chairs of the three working groups were due on 31 October to brief the Secretariat and UN member states on the findings of the HLR.  

On 23 October, the Council held its fifth annual debate on working methods (S/PV.7285 and Resumption 1). Kimberly Prost, the Ombudsperson, and Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), briefed the Council. Each advocated the extension of the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson from the 1267 Al-Qaida sanctions regime to the other UN sanctions regimes.  (Bensouda also suggested the creation of a working group on international tribunals.) Council members emphasised due process and transparency in their sanctions-related remarks. Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen (Norway), speaking on behalf of the group of like-minded states on targeted sanctions, made recommendations regarding due process, information sharing, transparency and delisting processes.        


The High Level Review of United Nations Sanctions has several notable precedents. Much of the early work was state-led, involving the governments of Germany, Switzerland and Sweden: the Bonn-Berlin Process, resulting in the 2001 report, Design and Implementation of Arms Embargoes and Travel and Aviation Related Sanctions; the Interlaken Process, resulting in the 2001 report, Targeted Financial Sanctions: A Manual for Design and Implementation; and the Stockholm Process, resulting in the 2003 report, Making Targeted Sanctions Effective: Guidelines for the Implementation of UN Policy Options. Building on these efforts, the Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, set up in April 2000, transmitted its final report on 18 December 2006 (S/2006/997). On 30 April 2007, Greece sponsored a symposium at the UN on enhancing the implementation of UN sanctions (S/2007/734). Other studies have been undertaken by civil society actors, such as the white paper by the Watson Institute of Brown University, Strengthening Targeted Sanctions through Fair and Clear Procedures, transmitted to the General Assembly and the Security Council on 19 May 2006 (S/2006/331).                   

Key Issues

The core issue is the relative lack of effectiveness of UN sanctions to date. Closely related issues are: assessing what measures would most improve UN sanctions design and implementation and then determining how these components could be most usefully incorporated within a Security Council resolution.   

On the sanctions management side, an immediate sanctions-related issue is the upcoming process of the appointment of Council sanctions committee chairs.


Options for sanctions design and implementation the Council may wish to consider include:

  • making pre-authorisation evaluation processes (i.e. strategic objectives and unintended consequences) a standard component of sanctions design;
  • analysing options to make more frequent use of secondary sanctions in response to chronic non-compliance;
  • authorising incremental due process reforms to enhance the functioning and legitimacy of UN sanctions;
  • creating a subsidiary body of the Council or a mechanism within the Secretariat to improve the coordination and integration of sanctions implementation;
  • undertaking more frequent field missions by the chairs of sanctions committees to improve implementation and compliance;
  • increasing the transparency of sanctions committees while also augmenting public outreach and information dissemination;
  • systematically incorporating a consultation process for sanctions committees with member states directly affected by sanctions regimes;
  • examining the possibilities, in conjunction with the Secretary-General, for increasing the resources available to the Secretariat for administration;
  • reforming the process of the appointment of sanctions committee chairs and subsequent transition processes between the outgoing and incoming chairs (S/2014/393 and S/2012/937); and
  • instituting a mechanism requiring consultation between penholders and  sanctions committee chairs prior to drafting sanctions resolutions.  
Council and Wider Dynamics

Council dynamics on sanctions are multifaceted, complex and in some contexts ambiguous. The history of the Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, which deliberated over the content of a final report for several years before the Council eventually decided the Working Group had exhausted its mandate and merely took “note with interest of the best practices and methods contained in the Working Group’s report”, illustrates some of the difficulties facing efforts to reform UN sanctions.

One potential divide among Council members apparently relates to differences regarding innovation in the types of sanctions measures, such as the recent authorisation of naval interdiction of illicit charcoal exports and arms imports with resolutuion 2182 on Somalia. Another aspect of sanctions where there seems to be a range of perspectives among Council members concerns national sovereignty and to what extent this should limit the scope of UN sanctions (e.g. the positions of China and Russia compared to the other three permanent members regarding natural resource management). A third area where the positions of Council members apparently diverge is due process. This is also an issue on which there seems to be a wide gap between the positions of certain P5 members of the Council (e.g. Russia and the US) and other Council members and UN member states, particularly the group of like-minded states on targeted sanctions, which has advocated extending the mandate of the Ombudsperson to all sanctions regimes (S/PV.6964).

Where there appears to be sufficient common ground among Council members is a shared recognition on two points: UN sanctions are not as effective as they should and could be, and there are technical reforms that could be made to improve implementation. The resolution which may be adopted in November will most likely focus on efficiency, consistency and effectiveness of implementation through better coordination and integration.       

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Security Council Meeting Records

23 October 2014 S/PV.7285 and Resumption 1

This was the fifth annual open debate on working methods.
10 May 2013 S/PV.6964 This was the semi-annual briefing by the chairs of its counterterrorism-related committees.
Security Council Letters
12 December 2007 S/2007/734 This letter transmitted the report from a symposium organised by Greece, “Enhancing the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Sanctions”.
19 May 2006 S/2006/331 This letter transmitted the Watson White Paper, Strengthening Targeted Sanctions Through Fair and Clear Procedures.
Notes by the President of the Security Council
5 June 2014 S/2014/393 This was a note by the President of the Council that proposed measures to improve the effectiveness and continuity of the work of the Council subsidiary bodies.
17 December 2012 S/2012/937 This presidential note stated that Council members supported a process of selection of chairpersons of subsidiary organs, with the participation of all members, in a “balanced, transparent, efficient and inclusive way.”
18 December 2006 S/2006/997 This was a note by the President of the Security Council transmitting a letter from the Chairman of the Informal Working Group of the Security Council on General Issues of Sanctions and enclosing the report of the Informal Working Group.


Enrico Carisch, Sue Eckert, and Loraine Rickard-Martin, High Level Review of UN Sanctions Background Paper.

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