Emergencies

Sanctions

Non-Paper on Policy Issues Affecting UNICEF Humanitarian Action in Complex Threat Environments
Community of Practice on Programming in High Threat Environments

The UN Security Council imposes sanctions to enforce international law. Much of the practice evolved from 1990-onwards, when the UNSC imposed sweeping sanctions against Iraq. This economic embargo continued in force for thirteen years and was criticized as being blunt, unfair and punitive by many observers. The impact of Iraqi sanctions on the population, in particular on children, was widely documented and denounced56. The extent to which sanctions achieved their original goal was also questioned, in the Iraqi case as well as in others. The growing controversy over Iraq sanctions led to relevant developments for humanitarian assistance. The first was research and advocacy around the humanitarian impact of sanctions. The second consisted of steps by the Security Council to mitigate the negative impact of the sanctions on the Iraq population (the so-called "Oil for Food Program"). The third was an evolution towards more "targeted sanctions" and more sanctions oversight, management and enforcement measures.

Each sanctions regime within the Council has its own sanctions committee, traditionally chaired by an elected member (among members of the Security Council). The Council often creates Panels of Experts / Monitoring Groups to investigate sanctions enforcement and other aspects of the sanctions regimes. Working as independent experts, the members of these panels report on a regular basis and have time-bound appointments.

Major controversy has arisen over sanctions that directly name individuals and companies8. While they are considered positively for being well-targeted, these sanctions have several major problems, including the lack of due process for listed persons. Individuals who have been listed often complain about the lack of mechanism to appeal a listing. Therefore, on 17 December 2009, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1904 in which it authorizes the establishment of an ombudsperson. Individuals and entities seeking a de-listing will therefore be able to present their cases to an independent and impartial officer. Another often cited problem with targeted sanctions is lack of regular updating. For example, in December 2009, the media reported that at least forty-two dead persons and sixty-nine defunct companies are among the 500 names on the UN's list of alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters.

Looking for support?
To request support, further guidance or resources for learning on sanctions, contact EMOPS' Humanitarian Policy Section.
To request support from UNICEF staff in Country and Regional Offices, post a query on the Community of Practice discussion forum.
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