What's In Blue

Posted Mon 24 Nov 2014

Resolution and Briefing on Sanctions

Tomorrow, 25 November, the Council is scheduled to hold a briefing and vote on a draft resolution on sanctions. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock are the expected briefers. After four meetings at the expert level, bilateral discussions over the weekend between the penholder Australia and Russia, and the circulation of four drafts, the draft resolution was expected to be put into blue as of press time. A silence procedure was not utilised, apparently due to irreconcilable differences remaining among Council members on one or two points in the draft text. (After the story was published, a decision was made to postpone a vote on the resolution with the intention of continuing negotiations on the draft in an effort to achieve consensus at a future date.)

The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to establish a Policy and Coordination Unit within the Security Council Affairs Division (SCAD) of the Department of Political Affairs. The purpose of the unit would be to identify best practices, manage the roster of experts and consolidated list of sanctioned individuals and entities, identify and mobilise experts within the UN system to assist with sanctions implementation and support efforts by the Council and subsidiary organs to provide guidance and technical assistance to member states on sanctions implementation.

During negotiations, the proposal was opposed by China and Russia, apparently due to concerns that the Secretariat could become a de facto policymaking body challenging the authority of the Council. In effect, according to this line of thinking, the unit could also side-step the consensus-based decision making of the sanctions committees, therefore potentially reducing the utility of one mechanism for individual committee members to block action. As a compromise, additional language was included requesting SCAD to consult regularly with the Council to ensure the unit’s activities are consistent with the goals of the Council. However, it is unclear whether this will be sufficient to satisfy the concerns of the two permanent members opposing the proposal.

The draft resolution also requests the Secretary-General to increase cooperation with relevant international, regional and inter-governmental organisations. These include Interpol, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the International Air Transport Authority, the World Customs Organisation and the Financial Action Task Force. In response to objections voiced by China and Russia, the request was modified to “in coordination with the Security Council and upon its request”, thus potentially reducing the Secretary-General’s latitude within a UN sanctions context in pursuing cooperation with other organisations. A proposal made by Russia to include an operative paragraph stating that regional and national sanctions contravene international law, inflict economic damage on member states, are counter-productive to conflict resolution and undermine international cooperation was rejected by the penholder (and presumably would have been opposed by three permanent members and numerous other elected members who also belong to regional organisations that authorise sanctions measures).

In order to improve implementation of sanctions, the draft resolution encourages Special Representatives of the Secretary-General to ensure that field missions understand their role in sanctions implementation and speak with one voice when dealing with the authorities of the host state. The draft resolution also calls upon peacekeeping and other field missions to share information with sanctions committees and expert groups, within their mandate, while preserving their confidentiality. At least one elected member opposed language in an earlier draft encouraging Special Representatives to engage with authorities of the host state on implementation of sanctions, apparently on the basis that this may compromise other roles, such as good offices and mediation, which require a degree of impartiality.

During the negotiations, there was discussion regarding the process for the appointment of members of the expert groups supporting sanctions committees. It seems Argentina proposed using the procedures currently in place for the 1540 committee on non-proliferation, whereby the Secretariat proposes a short-list of candidates and the committee takes an active role in selecting the Group of Experts. (In sanctions committees, the Secretariat proposes a specific slate of candidates which the committee can then approve prior to appointment by the Secretary-General.) The proposal for a more active role by sanctions committees in the selection of expert groups was supported by several elected members, but was then dropped due to opposition by the US. As a compromise, the text encourages the Secretariat to continue discussing the process with the Council.

In order to mitigate one of the current weaknesses in UN sanctions implementation – inadequate state institutional capacity, particularly in developing countries – the draft resolution includes provisions regarding technical assistance for member states. Upon the request of member states, it directs SCAD to assist member states and encourages further engagement with relevant UN offices, programmes and specialised agencies. The draft also encourages member states to communicate to SCAD problems associated with the implementation of UN sanctions. A proposal made by Jordan calling upon the international community to consider creating a special voluntary fund for technical assistance was also included.

The draft resolution includes several transparency-related provisions, particularly with respect to the sanctions committees: directing sanctions committees to maintain and publish a document consolidating all of the measures currently in force; calling upon sanctions committees to consult regularly with states to communicate expectations regarding cooperation, information sharing and implementation requirements; and encouraging sanctions committees to brief member states on their work and publish the text of these briefings on the committees’ website.

As a follow-up mechanism, the draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to present a report to the Council by 25 November 2015 and every two years thereafter. This report would cover implementation challenges reported by member states, discuss how the Council has addressed the coordination of sanctions regimes with other peace and security mechanisms, and provide recommendations for improving coordination within the UN system and support to member states. The bi-annual report by the Secretary-General was initially opposed by China during negotiations, but appears to have been retained within the text after considerable support was expressed by the elected members of the Council.

Tomorrow’s briefing, held at the initiative of Council president Australia, draws in part upon the High Level Review on UN Sanctions (HLR) initiative launched on 28 May. The HLR had five state sponsors – Australia, Finland, Germany, Greece and Sweden – and included the participation of representatives of the Secretariat, UN member states and civil society. Its initial findings were conveyed at a briefing for the Secretariat and member states organised by the permanent representatives of the five member states sponsoring the HLR on 31 October.

During tomorrow’s briefing, Feltman is likely to discuss the UN Interagency Working Group on Sanctions, which was created in response to the HLR and which he chairs. Stock may focus on Interpol’s assistance in the implementation of UN sanctions, particularly targeted travel bans. He could also highlight how sanctions can address emerging threats through enhanced cooperation among international organisations.

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