Economic sanctions - when they work and when they don't
Press release issued: 9 May 2007
Economic sanctions used in isolation are unlikely to force major policy change by regimes and are sometimes counterproductive, but can be of substantial value when combined with other policy instruments, suggests a report published today by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee.
The report, The Impact of Economic Sanctions, is the result of an inquiry for which Dr Eric Herring, Senior Lecturer in International Politics in the Department of Politics at Bristol University was Specialist Adviser to the Committee.
Economic sanctions are a traditional tool of foreign policy and have been used extensively in the past. The UK currently applies sanctions against a number of individuals, organisations and states and recent political debate in Europe and the United States has highlighted the possibility that there may be calls for sanctions against other countries or groups.
The report looks at the purpose and effectiveness of economic sanctions, including financial sanctions as well as trade and commodity sanctions. It also considers whether UK Government policy in this area is coherent and effective.
Key findings from the Committee’s report include:
- comprehensive sanctions are likely to result in severe suffering among the general population, with Iraq being a prime example;
- the Government should review its current sanctions policy on Burma, with a view to deciding whether it is worth continuing;
- on targeted commodity sanctions, including diamonds, the Government should continue to work for improvements in UN monitoring and enforcement capabilities;
- the Government should ensure objectives are always clear and realistic and an exit strategy is developed before sanctions are imposed;
- the Government should be more active in promoting systematic monitoring and independent expert review of sanctions policy;
- the costs to British business arising from compliance with UK sanctions policy are relatively minor.
Regarding the current cases of North Korea and Iran, any attempt to intensify weak UN sanctions while the US emphasizes unilateral coercive measures appears to be a recipe for failure in bringing about nuclear disarmament by North Korea and full international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities.
The Committee endorses the Government’s support for the recent agreement with North Korea and the phased lifting of sanctions as part of a comprehensive deal. On Iran, the Committee advise the Government to make every effort, bilaterally and through the EU, to persuade the US to commit fully to involvement with the EU’s proposed Framework Agreement. In both cases, a greater emphasis on economic, diplomatic and security incentives is more likely to be effective.
Further informationDr Herring has been Specialist Adviser on Economic Sanctions to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs since July 2006.
The full report is available from Wednesday 9 May at http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_economic_affairs.cfm