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US tries to head off UN plan to reform sanctions

In the past Field Exchange has published a number of pieces on the impact of international economic sanctions of food security in countries like Iraq, Cuba and Haiti (Issues 4 and 9). The developments summarised below may therefore be of interest to our readers. (Eds.)

Concerned about the humanitarian impact of sanctions on civilian populations, the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, set up a special committee last April to examine sanctions policy. The committee was due to recommend a shift towards so called 'smart sanctions' that are more clearly defined and better targeted. But the US, which is intent on maintaining tough sanctions against Iraq, with the backing of Britain, will almost certainly succeed in cutting out two key recommendations; one setting a time limit on sanctions and the other introducing majority voting on sanctions committees.

Critics claim that sanctions usually fail to undermine the targeted regimes and that the criteria for imposition and lifting of sanctions are too vague. In a draft copy of its report the committee says "sanctions regimes, in particular the security council resolutions that enact them, must be carefully designed, clearly establishing their goals, identifying the targets, tailoring the type of sanctions imposed so that they are adequate to the situations specifying clear criteria that need to be satisfied in order for the sanctions to be suspended or lifted."

Other committee recommendations include; targeting the finances of leaders rather than the general population; greater punishment for countries found to be breaking sanctions; and a "carrot-and-stick" approach which would see a gradual lifting of sanctions in response to partial compliance with UN resolutions. The committee also states; "Sanctions regimes should be designed to minimise the potential for adverse humanitarian impacts and to maximise the ability for humanitarian goods and services to reach civilian populations."

The committee recommends that food, medicine and medical supplies be excluded from sanctions regimes.

Guardian, Friday 9th February 2001, page 17 - Ewen MacAskill Diplomatic editor

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US tries to head off UN plan to reform sanctions. Field Exchange 12, April 2001. p13. www.ennonline.net/fex/12/us

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