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Report Sanctions

As representatives of the United Arab Emirates, the topic of sanctions was extremely interesting and important for us. For this reason, we were all very excited when Ms. Tatiana Cosio entered the room. We could hardly have found a better expert than Ms. Cosio with her long-lasting experience in the field of sanctions to explain the topic to us. For the last 20 years, she had been working for the United Nations, of which 17 were spent concerning sanctions. Already the amount of time was impressive. Furthermore, we had to imagine what had happened in the world during the last 17 years and how the use of sanctions had changed during that time. In the 1990s, more sanctions were imposed than ever before. All these things made us even more curious to hear the upcoming briefing.

Ms. Cosio belongs to the staff of the United Nations Secretariat. The Secretariat, as one of the main organs of the UN, has the main task to assist the other organs, organizations and programs in all matters, including the administration of their programs and policies. Due to this, the Secretariat has to have a detailed knowledge about all issues currently under discussion in the UN. The Secretariat has about 9000 employees; the majority works in New York, and the rest in other UN offices like Geneva and Nairobi.

At the time of the briefing, Ms. Cosio was working for the Al-Qaida/Taliban Sanctions Committee. The committee was founded in 1999, based on Security Council Resolution 1267 with the aim of monitoring the implementation of the sanctions imposed against the Taliban for harboring Usama bin Laden. All states are asked to inform the committee about actions they have taken. Furthermore, other groups of experts and a Monitoring Team had been established to support the work of the Committee.

Ms. Cosio started her presentation with a short overview of the reasons for the use of sanctions. She told us that sanctions were imposed when norms of international law had been violated by state actors. In addition, there could be situations where aggression or repression had taken place. Ms. Cosio stressed that sanctions should not be considered a punishment. Rather they should be seen as an attempt to affect a certain country which has to fulfill some demands. Specifically, this meant that sanctions were designed to change the behavior of a certain country or to prevent or stop it from taking certain actions.

But at which moment sanctions should be imposed? According to Ms. Cosio, this question should be combined with the decision on the type of sanctions. Thereby, a difference had to be made between comprehensive economic sanctions on the one hand and targeted sanctions on the other hand. She explained to us that there had been a lot of arguing about this topic: the humanitarian impact of sanctions and their effectiveness in general had caused concerns. Especially in the case of comprehensive economic sanctions there was a certain danger that the population of the state would suffer because of the sanctions, even if they were targeting the elite or the leaders of the respective country. Furthermore, sanctions could strengthen black markets. For these reasons, more targeted sanctions are imposed today.

Ms. Cosio underlined that the Member States of the UN were responsible for the implementation of sanctions. This was at the same time one of the biggest problems, as not every state had the resources or was willing to implement all measures linked to sanctions. On the other hand, the Security Council alone was not able to guarantee for the implementation of sanctions. To sum up these problems, one could say that the cooperation of all Member States within the UN had to be improved and be made more effective. This meant especially the coordination of resources and actions taken.

In the end of her presentation, Ms. Cosio informed us about the sanctions against Al-Qaida and the Taliban. This topic had been put on the international agenda immediately after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. One of the first reactions of the UN had been to establish the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). This Committee was to monitor the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001). The list of terrorists had become very relevant for the work of the CTC. It was a rather new instrument concerning sanctions. To be mentioned on the list meant in the first place isolation and later other measures, she explained. Each state had the right to put people to the list and to provide other information. In general, Ms. Cosio described the work of the Committee and the sanctions against Al-Qaida and the Taliban as difficult. She said that these measures were necessary, but very limited.

With her presentation, Tatiana Cosio gave us a very good overview about both the development of sanctions and the current situation. It was followed by a lively discussion. Especially the list of terrorists set off several questions. She explained that each Member State could put names on the list. Another question was how and under which criteria a name could be withdrawn from the list. Ms. Cosio admitted that it was not very easy to be withdrawn from the list. According to her, a regular monitoring system should be created to control the use of the list and to make it as efficient as possible.

Maarit Vuorimäki