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  • Jeffrey Feltman (right), Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, with Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization), at the Security Council meeting on general issues relating to sanctions.
Jeffrey Feltman (right), Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, with Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization), at the Security Council meeting on sanctions. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Security Council Briefing on the Evolution of United Nations Sanctions, Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman

Mr. President,

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Security Council on the issue of UN sanctions -- an indispensable Charter-based instrument for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Today's discussion is set against a backdrop of unprecedented challenges for the international community, including this Council. As the Secretary-General stated in this year's General Debate: it may seem as if the world is falling apart, and turbulence is testing the multilateral system.
Overcoming our common peace and security challenges requires a Council united in purpose and action; Member States fulfilling their international obligations; an effective UN system delivering as one; and a full range of supportive partnerships.
This is certainly the requirement when we speak about the effective implementation of United Nations sanctions.
Mr. President,
The Security Council has a long history of employing sanctions. The Council has established 25 sanctions regimes in total; the first dating back to 1966, when the Council imposed sanctions on Southern Rhodesia, and the most recent in Yemen this year.
UN sanctions have been used to support conflict resolution efforts, prevent the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and counter terrorism.
Security Council sanctions, together with UN peacekeeping and political efforts, have made a critical difference in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Liberia, Libya, and Sierra Leone, amongst others.
UN sanctions, in short, work.
In fact, the regularity with which the Council has turned to this instrument is testimony to its efficacy. Today, we have 15 sanctions regimes -- the highest number in the history of the Organization.
Moreover, UN sanctions are also fairly economical. The total cost of supporting the 15 sanctions regimes is a comparatively modest cost of under $30 million a year.
Mr. President,
This Council has also shown its ability to continuously innovate and adjust its sanctions regimes.
The most significant transformation was the shift from comprehensive to targeted sanctions. Since 1994, all new sanctions regimes have been targeted, comprising travel bans; asset freezes; arms embargoes; bans on the trade of commodities (diamonds, coal, wildlife products, charcoal); restrictions on items, material, equipment, goods and technology related to nuclear ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction programmes, as well as bans on the export of certain luxury goods.
In 1999, the Council introduced another important innovation, with the establishment of its sanctions monitoring group on Angola. Today, 11 monitoring groups, teams and panels with a total of 66 experts work world-wide in support of the Security Council and its sanctions committees.
At the direction of the Council and its sanctions committees, expert panels regularly cooperate with international organizations, such as INTERPOL, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on issues related to travel bans; and with national authorities and the private sector on asset freezes.
I would like to thank INTERPOL Secretary-General Jürgen Stock, who is here with us today, and his predecessor Ronald Noble, for the excellent cooperation we received from INTERPOL. We look forward to building on this partnership to further enhance sanctions implementation.
Over the last decades, Mr. President, the Security Council has calibrated the designation criteria of its sanctions regimes, to clearly identify the kind of behavior or actions it seeks to modify.
Designation criteria have evolved to include human rights violations, targeting of civilians, hate speech, sexual violence in conflict and even wildlife poaching.
To ensure that sanctions designations meet human rights standards, the Council established the Focal Point for De-listing in the Secretariat, and the Office of the Ombudsperson for the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee -- both are important parts of this Council’s sanctions history.
The Council has also mandated some UN field missions to monitor certain aspects of sanctions regimes, cooperate with expert panels, and provide assistance to national governments.
Mr. President,
The Council's achievements on UN sanctions thus far allow us to see clearly what more needs to be done.
Work is required to raise the awareness of all Member States that UN sanctions are supportive not punitive. They are not meant to cripple states but to help them overcome instability, address massive human rights violations, curb illegal smuggling, and counter terrorism.
Some Member States already do understand this and have requested the Security Council to adopt, fine-tune or strengthen targeted measures, to support their fragile political transitions and national reconciliation efforts. Many others request the Council to strengthen targeted measures to help protect against terrorism and other illicit activities. These governments offer valuable information on listed individuals and entities, and in a few cases even put forward listing requests for consideration.
More work is also needed to provide assistance to Member States implementing UN sanctions. This will clearly take effort and resources.
And some more work is needed to take into greater account the rights of individuals, entities and Member States designated for targeted measures.
Mr. President,
Everyday, DPA's Security Council Affairs Division provides substantive and administrative support to the sanctions committees and expert panels; as well as engage the wider UN system in support of UN sanctions.
This effort is central to the work of my department, and I would like to take a few minutes to brief you on steps taken to properly perform this important responsibility.
Just in this last year you would have noticed several changes, these included: standardizing the methods and formats of communication among sanctions committees, the Secretariat, and expert panels; re-launching DPA's roster of experts on sanctions; revamping the expert recruitment process; and establishing induction programmes for Chairs, delegates and experts.
In December 2013, DPA conducted the first Inter-Panel Coordination Workshop. The aim of the workshop was to fulfill the call, in many Council resolutions, for expert panels to work closely together and exchange best practices. At last year’s workshop, we focused on enhancing cooperation amongst arms and finance experts working on sanction regimes in Africa. This year, we intend to focus on enhancing the engagement between experts and the UN system.
This year, DPA also led two assessment missions on sanctions issues, one on the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia and another on the termination of sanctions in Liberia. These assessment missions strengthened the understanding of the two Member States on what is expected of them by the Council on sanctions issues, as well as enhanced coordination within the UN system to support sanctions implementation in these countries.
On 31 October this year, DPA completed the harmonization of the format of all committee sanctions lists and officially launched the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List. The list is being translated into all six official UN languages, and along with a redesigned subsidiary organs website, will be launched by April 2015.
All these initiatives are intended to support your efforts to effectively design, implement and evaluate UN sanctions. DPA is your committed partner in this effort, as is the UN system as a whole.
Mr. President,
This year, the UN system conducted its own internal review of UN sanctions, alongside the State-led High Level Review of UN Sanctions.
An internal interagency working group, chaired by me, brought together 20 UN departments and offices, agencies, funds and programmes working on peace and security, humanitarian, human rights, legal, protection and development issues.
It is clear from our internal review process that the UN Secretariat needs to develop clear and coherent system-wide policy and guidance to support UN sanctions implementation. This should be done within existing mandates and resources, and with due regard for principles applicable to humanitarian actors.
Regular briefings, trainings, and the sharing of expertise on sanctions issues with UN entities in Headquarters and the field is also needed. This is especially important at the outset of a new sanctions regime, and particularly when it coincides with the establishment of a new UN field mission.
We also concluded that the UN system possesses the technical capacity in several key areas to assist Member States in implementing UN sanctions.
These capacities, however, need to be better coordinated in-house, better leveraged by the sanctions committees and better utilized by the Member States. In some cases, additional financial resources may be required.
Our internal review process also generated several proposals for the consideration of the Security Council.
First, the Security Council may wish to consider increasing the use of assessment missions to take stock of the impact and effectiveness of UN sanctions. Periodic assessments should also be undertaken to evaluate the continued relevance of sanctions measures.
Second, where appropriate, the Security Council should consider expanding the relevant designation criteria to address specific human rights violations such as the use of children for extremist agendas, the role of mid-level commanders in facilitating human rights violations, gross violations of women’s rights committed by extremist groups, sexual violence, other forms of gender-based crimes and targeted attacks against women, and failure to comply with the responsibility to protect.
Third, all UN sanctions resolutions should have a clear and standardized "listing/de-listing framework". Such a framework should include clear designation criteria and the requirement for detailed statements of case. In addition, narrative summaries should be publicly available, bio-metric information should be sought (to reduce false positives); and a clear reference should be made to the relevant de-listing mechanism.
Fourth, the Council should continue its efforts to further strengthen due process when considering the designation of individuals and entities.
In 2006, the Secretary-General outlined four elements: the right to be informed; the right to be heard; the right to be reviewed by an effective review mechanism; and the need for periodic reviews, especially regarding the freezing of assets. These elements are consistent with the Security Council’s continuing efforts to improve the fairness and transparency of the sanctions procedures.
Finally, given that expert panels have been in use for a considerable amount of time, the concept and practice of expert panels (including the Office of the Ombudsperson) should be subject to a comprehensive review with the aim of enhancing this important tool of the Council.
Likewise, the Focal Point for Delisting, established in the Security Council Affairs Division, should also be carefully reviewed and optimized.
Mr. President,
UN sanctions have proved to be an effective complement to other Security Council instruments and actions.
We know it is not perfect, but there is also no doubt that it works.
It has to be continuously improved, and the UN system stands ready to support the Security Council in its effort to do so.