The Role of UN Security Council Sanctions in Maintaining International Peace and Security

The United Nations Security Council has a crucial role in maintaining and restoring international peace and security, through the use of sanctions measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. These sanctions measures, outlined in Article 41, encompass a wide range of enforcement options that do not involve the use of armed force. Since 1966, the Security Council has established 30 sanctions regimes, targeting countries and organizations such as Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Iraq, Angola, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Lebanon, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Libya, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, Yemen, South Sudan and Mali, as well as against ISIS (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Types of Sanctions

  • The Security Council has employed a variety of sanctions measures to achieve different goals. These measures have ranged from comprehensive economic and trade sanctions to more targeted measures such as arms embargoes, travel bans, and financial or commodity restrictions.
  • The Security Council has applied sanctions to support peaceful transitions, deter non-constitutional changes, constrain terrorism, protect human rights and promote non-proliferation.

Effectiveness of Sanctions

  • Sanctions do not operate, succeed or fail in a vacuum. They are most effective at maintaining or restoring international peace and security when applied as part of a comprehensive strategy encompassing peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peacemaking.
  • This is contrary to the assumption that sanctions are always punitive, as many regimes are designed to support governments and regions working towards peaceful transition. The Libyan and Guinea-Bissau sanctions regimes all exemplify this approach.

Ongoing Sanctions Regimes

  • Currently, there are 14 ongoing sanctions regimes in place which focus on supporting political settlement of conflicts, nuclear non-proliferation, and counter-terrorism.
  • Each regime is administered by a sanctions committee chaired by a non-permanent member of the Security Council. There are 10 monitoring groups, teams and panels that support the work of 11 of the 14 sanctions committees.

Rights of Targeted Individuals

  • The Security Council is increasingly aware of the rights of those targeted by sanctions measures.

In the 2005 World Summit declaration, the General Assembly called on the Security Council, with the support of the Secretary-General, to ensure that fair and clear procedures are in place for the imposition and lifting of sanctions measures. Examples of this approach in practice include the establishment of a focal point for de-listing, and the Office of the Ombudsperson to the ISIS (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.

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