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NZ Statement on Sanctions in UN Security Council
United National Security Council
General issues relating to sanctions
Statement by the New Zealand Deputy Permanent Representation, Mr Trevor Hughes
Monday 17 April 2000
May I first congratulate you and your delegation for bringing this very important matter to the Security Council this month in this open format.
I would also like to thank Under-Secretary-General Prendergast for his valuable introduction to today's debate.
As others have observed, the Council's recourse to sanctions, which are specifically provided for under Article 41 of the Charter, has increased dramatically in recent years. The increasing frequency with which sanctions are being used has helped to highlight some serious shortcomings. The Secretary-General has on more than one occasion drawn attention to deficiencies in their application and also to the unintended harm they may inflict on innocent and vulnerable people, most recently for example in his report for the Millennium Summit, "We the Peoples."
It is easy to see why sanctions have become an instrument of choice. Their imposition represents a useful, low-cost middle course of action, somewhere between diplomatic censure and the use of force, by means of which the Security Council may address a serious threat to international peace and security. The problem is however that sanctions, and comprehensive sanctions in particular, can be a blunt instrument. The mechanisms for enforcing them have too often been lacking or have not been uniformly implemented. There has been little reliable information on or monitoring of their actual effects. Sanctions have had a limited record of success in achieving the goals for which they were imposed. Compliance has often been inadequate or uneven, the economies of neighbouring countries can be impacted adversely, and black markets and smuggling in banned goods or commodities can flourish.
In the case of comprehensive trade sanctions imposed on authoritarian regimes in particular, we have seen how the unintended effects can be manipulation and profiteering by the elite who thus escape any adverse impact on themselves and may even exploit the situation to their own advantage. On the other hand, sanctions can cause serious humanitarian distress for ordinary people, and if sustained over a long period of time, severe damage to the local infrastructure. In addition there is ample evidence of numerous structural, processing and administrative problems which impede the effectiveness of sanctions. New Zealand believes the Security Council needs to develop, as a priority, a more focused and refined approach to reduce the unintended consequences of sanctions, especially the incidence of humanitarian suffering.
Mr President, let me say at this point that the aim of sanctions is not in question. New Zealand supports the use of sanctions as a legitimate instrument, provided for by the Charter, for dealing with threats to international peace and security. Rather it is their effectiveness and their unmoderated side-effects on innocent civilians and neighbouring countries that is at issue.
In its Presidential Statement S/1999/92 of 29 January 1999, the Security Council offered a number of practical proposals for improving the work of the sanctions committees. Welcome as these were, they do not go far enough. More needs to be done.
We are grateful for the work done recently by Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and others, to investigate the feasibility of developing better targeted "smarter" sanctions regimes. We endorse these efforts and urge the Security Council to improve the overall efficacy of sanctions by taking a more graduated, two-pronged approach to sanctions in future.
First, the trend away from general trade sanctions towards a more selective approach needs to be accelerated, with greater efforts made to identify a limited range of goods and services that would target the interests of the regimes and elites identified as responsible for threats to peace and security. These could include financial sanctions such as the freezing of assets, bans on foreign travel and the imposition of more precisely defined and better monitored arms embargoes.
Secondly, the procedures for approving humanitarian exemptions to sanctions regimes should be overhauled and streamlined. For example, lists of exempt foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, medical and other humanitarian supplies should be better defined and agreed, and decisions on dual-use goods made more transparent. UN agencies as well as humanitarian organisations should also be able to apply directly to the sanctions committees for exemptions. The Secretariat should establish a dedicated unit to maintain the necessary data-bases and process applications and notifications electronically. The sanctions committees should be able to draw on special expertise to identify the profiles of their targets and design the scope of proposed targeted sanctions accordingly. Clear exit strategies identifying the actions required to suspend or remove sanctions should be built into mandates in order to clarify the inducements for compliance. There should also be mechanisms in place to monitor and assess regularly the impact of sanctions. The possibilities for better border control measures should also be explored.
Mr President, these are but a few of the measures which my delegation believes could improve the current effectiveness of sanctions regimes. Furthermore, up to now the international community has depended on existing structures and resources to manage the application and enforcement of sanctions. This approach has entailed very little financial cost to the membership, but in some cases it may have contributed to devastating suffering and long-term degradation for civilian populations, far in excess even of the kind of damage which might be inflicted by armed conflict or war. This situation poses, as the Secretary-General has said, a moral dilemma for the United Nations which has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable and weak.
While these are complex and challenging issues, increased effectiveness lies in the hands of the Security Council and the General Assembly. As we have suggested, the Council should focus on designing better targeted sanctions regimes with clear objectives and exit strategies, regular reviews and stronger institutional support, including the provision to the Secretariat and Member States of the necessary technical expertise and advice to make sanctions work better. Finally, for its part the General Assembly might consider adopting a separate budget with adequate resources for implementing sanctions mandates and supporting the sanctions committees, along the same lines as the budgets established for peacekeeping operations and the International Tribunals.
Thank you, Mr President.
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