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ARE EMBARGOES AND ECONOMIC SANCTIONS STILL ETHICALLY ACCEPTABLE, DO THEY STILL WORK, AND ARE THEY SUITED TO ACHIEVING THEIR PURPOSE IN AN EVER MORE GLOBALISED WORLD?

Resolution adopted by the 104th Inter-Parliamentary Conference by 834 votes to 245, with 159 abstentions
(Jakarta, 20 October 2000)


The 104th Inter-Parliamentary Conference,

Reaffirming the principles and objectives of the United Nations Charter and the role played by the United Nations in the maintenance of peace and security,

Recalling that during the 1990s, the use of sanctions, and particularly economic sanctions under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter became much more frequent than in previous decades, and also recalling Article 1.3 of the United Nations Charter,

Considering that the international community has now acquired sufficient experience in this field to move on to evaluating such measures,

Welcoming the discussions on this matter in the United Nations and the Security Council in particular, and commending the remarkable research and thinking done in this connection at the initiative of some governments and by non-governmental organisations,

Convinced of the need to safeguard the universality of measures taken by the United Nations and to remove all obstacles to it, and concerned that the outcome of economic sanctions applied by the United Nations is not always successful and that some sanction regimes are strongly contested, which is arousing growing scepticism and mistrust about an instrument that is meant to be used by the Security Council to ensure international peace and security,

Mindful that the application by member States of sanctions adopted by the Security Council often leaves much to be desired,

Aware that economic sanctions have humanitarian repercussions, which are aggravated in a globalised world characterised by economic inter-dependence, and have contributed more than anything else to undermining public support for sanctions,

Underscoring that comprehensive sanction regimes in particular have a negative impact on living conditions in the country they are aimed at which tends to go beyond the bounds of the acceptable, given that they strike the population indiscriminately, whereas their purpose is to induce the government (or, as the case may be, certain non-State players involved in a conflict) to respect the resolutions of the Security Council,

Considering that the undesired effects on the population are increased greatly when comprehensive sanctions are applied for an indefinite period, or when they are imposed on developing countries, which lack the necessary resources to contain these effects,

Mindful of the negative impact that economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations have on third party States which are trading partners of the State under sanctions, and in particular on neighbouring countries, which often suffer considerable losses and receive insufficient assistance from the rest of the international community despite the provisions of Article 50 of the United Nations Charter,

Stressing the need to distinguish clearly between sanctions adopted by the Security Council and those used by States, acting unilaterally or together, as an instrument of their foreign policy,

Underscoring that, while the United Nations Charter does not challenge the sovereign right of each country (or group of countries) to decide with which other countries it maintains economic and trade relations and hence to interrupt such relations with another country as it sees fit, in order to mark its disagreement with the policy conducted by a given country, it is no less true that:

(a) Economic sanctions of this type can never be binding on third party countries or their nationals,

(b) The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly are competent to assess these sanctions from the point of view of international peace and security, in conformity with Articles 34 and 35 of the United Nations Charter,

(c) Unilateral sanctions inflict unwarranted suffering on the people of the countries concerned, particularly women, children and the elderly, who are increasingly affected by them,

Deploring the use of unilateral sanctions as an instrument to advance foreign policy and ulterior objectives,

Noting that the status in international law of the instrument of economic sanctions - whether imposed by the United Nations or by States - does not cover the whole range of their collateral consequences, as far as humanitarian requirements and the negative impact on third countries are concerned,

1. Considers that economic sanctions should be avoided as far as possible but that they may be a useful and legitimate instrument to enable the Security Council to ensure international peace and security and, that whenever they have to be imposed, they should be carefully devised and properly implemented;

2. Stresses that the principle of international solidarity must apply both when implementing sanctions and in minimising their humanitarian repercussions and economic impact on third countries;

3. In order to make the United Nations sanctions more effective and just and to ensure that they are universally accepted and applied, makes the following recommendations, in particular:

(a) The establishment of economic sanctions by the Security Council must be based on a clear concept of all the resources at the Council's disposal to get a recalcitrant State to respect its resolutions, and sanctions should not be an easy answer adopted instead of other measures which would be more appropriate under the circumstances but require a greater effort by the international community;

(b) The design of the sanctions themselves must be considerably improved:

  • Objectives must be clearly defined and realistic, which implies that objective criteria for the partial or full lifting of sanctions must be stipulated at the outset;

  • The activities subject to restrictions must also be defined as precisely as possible, in order to avoid any ambiguity as to the scope of sanctions and thus facilitate their application, particularly when arms embargoes or financial restrictions are involved;

  • Comprehensive economic sanctions are to be avoided as far as possible because they inflict suffering on too many innocent persons; the preferred solution is targeted sanctions which directly affect the political leaders of the country in question; such approaches are particularly suited to financial sanctions (e.g. freezing bank accounts abroad), travel restrictions and arms embargoes;

  • Regardless of the type of sanctions, the Security Council must assess the undesired impact of the sanctions it intends to impose, evaluating both their humanitarian impact on the population of the country concerned and their economic impact on other countries, particularly neighbouring ones;

  • Provision should be made from the start for humanitarian exceptions in order to protect the most vulnerable groups in the country concerned;

  • A mechanism should be established to compensate third countries for the losses suffered;

  • Sanctions must be imposed for a given duration, in order to guarantee that their prolonged application is supported by the same majority in the Security Council as the initial decision required for their introduction;
(c) Once introduced, the sanctions must be closely monitored by the Security Council, which requires considerable strengthening of the UN Secretariat's sanctions management capacity; such monitoring must cover three aspects:
  • The achievement of the sanctions' objectives, i.e., the extent to which the country concerned complies with the relevant Security Council resolutions;

  • The application of sanctions by the UN member States required to apply them;

  • The development of undesired consequences of sanctions for the population of the country concerned and for third party countries;
(d) The Security Council must take into consideration the results of the monitoring of sanctions; more particularly it must be prepared to adapt if need be the sanction regime initially adopted (depending in particular on the behaviour of the country concerned) and to take the necessary accompanying measures (particularly to offset undesired effects); recorded violations of sanctions, particularly arms embargoes, must be made public and those responsible identified, whether States or other entities;
4. Calls on the Security Council to lift the United Nations sanctions of a global economic nature, including those imposed on Iraq, and to reassess all other sanction regimes currently in force in the light of the principles set above;

5. Urges all States to comply with the sanctions imposed by the United Nations and to adopt the necessary legislation in order to penalise violations of sanctions, and of arms embargoes in particular;

6. Invites regional and sub-regional organisations to contribute to the implementation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations, by seeking harmonised application of sanctions by their member States, by cooperating with the sanctions committees of the Security Council in monitoring the application of sanctions by these States, or by other means;

7. Calls on States to exercise the utmost circumspection when using economic sanctions within the framework of their foreign policy, to remain attentive to the humanitarian repercussions of such measures, which may be enormous, as can be seen from the case of Burundi, and to refrain in any event from actions which are contrary to the will of the international community, as expressed by the United Nations General Assembly or Security Council;

8. Categorically opposes the adoption, by a State (or group of States), of laws or other measures with extraterritorial effect which are aimed at obliging third party States or their nationals to apply economic sanctions adopted by it, as occurred in the case of Cuba;

9. Demands that medicines and foodstuffs be systematically excluded from any multilateral or unilateral sanctions imposed on any country;

10. Urges States to envisage the elaboration, within the framework of the United Nations, of an instrument of international law codifying the humanitarian standards to be respected when economic sanctions are introduced, whether by the United Nations or by States, and providing for possibilities of appeal to a juridical body;

11. Calls on parliaments and parliamentarians to exercise fully their legislative function and their right of oversight vis--vis their governments with regard to questions relating to economic sanctions.

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