Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at UNSC open debate "General issues relating to sanctions: preventing their humanitarian and unintended consequences"
I thank USG DiCarlo and USG Griffiths for providing their assessments of humanitarian aspects of sanctions that very much resonate with our own approaches.
Sanctions is an important tool that Security Council uses to deliver on its functions for maintaining the international peace and security. Sanctions give a strong response to peace threats, that is why they must be used with caution, be perfectly well-grounded and thoughtfully calibrated. Sanctions must never be used as a “punitive” tool.
International sanctions must properly reflect the situation on the ground and serve the interests of political process, whereas sanctions regimes must be regularly reviewed and adjusted all the way until fully lifted. We strongly call that UNSC-imposed restrictions should always remain targeted and flexible. We need to take greater heed of what the authorities of states under sanctions think, be more realistic when elaborating the so-called benchmarks and make sure that they do not turn into a mission impossible.
By our estimates, many of today’s UNSC sanctions regimes already fall behind the de facto situation, interfere with plans for state-building and socio-economic development. We can list the Central African Republic or Sudan as examples of this. Sanctions against Guinea Bissau also look absolutely anachronistic.
Collateral damage of sanctions must be taken seriously, as it devastates national economy, brings down living standards and well-being of the population. This problem grew even worse against the backdrop of fierce COVID-19 pandemic. We hear words that Security Council’s restrictive measures must not have a bearing on the life of ordinary people, but unfortunately when it comes to practical impact of such restrictions, they often trigger deterioration of socio-economic situation in countries that live under sanctions.
In this regard, we need to further improve the toolkit for SC-endorsed humanitarian exemptions, i.a. elaborate exemptions that humanitarian organizations could turn to on a permanent basis. We could consider making lists of items (to include commodity code listings rather than just titles) that under no circumstances should end up in banned lists. Besides, we welcome the practice that we had at the turn of 20th-21st centuries, when preliminary assessments of humanitarian consequences were made before imposing any sanctions.
So-called secondary unilateral restrictions that are introduced to supplement UNSC sanctions remain a serious impediment for full-fledged functioning of humanitarian exemptions. As there is a threat to encounter harsh national or even extraterritorial restrictions, contractors often refuse to make contracts to purchase UNSC-approved humanitarian assistance, and carriers refuse to deliver it. Also, there may be problems with cargo insurance, banks may report issues with transactions.
Such problems are clearly seen in DPRK. “Secondary” sanctions of major Western powers create a “toxic vibe” around Pyohgyang that discourages from cooperating with the DPRK even in the areas that are not touched by international restrictions. There is a reason why Russian and China propose concrete initiatives to overcome this malignant trend. If the Council truly cares for ordinary Koreans rather than geopolitics, it should support these proposals.
We cannot fail to mention the situation in Yemen, which is rightly called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Related sanctions, coupled with unwillingness of the involved actors to put stakes on anything other than armed force cause interruptions in food and fuel deliveries, which makes millions of people suffer from malnutrition and limited access to drinking water.
It is outrageous that third countries' banking systems profiteer from Libya's frozen assets that future generations of Libyans will need in the post-crisis era. It is inhuman when elderly or terminally ill people that pose no threat to security have to waste time waiting for a permit to go abroad. Such situations do not add to the authority of the Security Council, do they?
As for Afghanistan, SC resolution 2615 plays a critical role, because it stipulates that humanitarian assistance constitutes no violation of 1988 sanctions regime. Hopefully, this will help prevent a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.
We are convinced that UNSC sanctions machinery needs to be “humanitarized”. We should think of ways to minimize extensive interpretation of sanctions provisions (i.a. trough terminological adjustment); carry out a comprehensive impartial assessment of humanitarian consequences of restrictive measures; mandate the panels of experts operating within sanctions committees to monitor the impact of sanctions on the humanitarian situation; boost relevant expertise. The UN Secretariat and its structures, such as UN OCHA, should have an opportunity to report negative effects of sanctions right to the Security Council.
Russia traditionally proceeds from the understanding that UNSC sanctions are the only sanctions that are legitimate. Therefore, we have growing concerns over the use of unilateral coercive measures by separate states or groups of states. We consider this as an encroachment on the prerogatives of the Security Council that impedes maintenance of peace. We perceive UCMs as a violation of sovereignty and interference in the internal affairs of states. The inclination towards broader use of unilateral sanctions undermines the norms and institutes of the international law. It is especially unacceptable when some states, while demanding to observe their sanctions, impose restrictions on economic actors of third countries who operate within their national legislations. Such extra-territorial use of sanctions contradicts the basic norms of international legitimacy.
Examples are beyond numerous. The “war of sanctions” against Syria makes a very negative impact on the domestic situation in that country and exacerbates its socio-economic crisis. Broad sectorial restrictions against Belarus seek to ruin its competitive industries and destabilize the political situation. Another vivid example of discriminatory policy that brings UCMs is Cuba – a country that has lived under a blockade from its northern neighbor for more than 60 years by now.
Several years ago, Venezuela and its legitimate government were faced with true economic terror. Because of the effective measures, the government of Venezuela cannot transfer its annual assessed contribution to the UN regular budget, and therefore the country becomes illegitimately incapacitated at the General Assembly. Sanctions-related pressing negatively impacts the situation in Iran. The decision of some states to freeze Afghanistan’s governmental accounts in Western banks after the Taliban came to power impedes normalization of daily life of Afghan people. Also, we believe that attempts of some global stakeholders to use sanctions as leverage and exert pressure on Myanmar and Mali are inadequate.
Extraterritorial unilateral steps inflict immense damage on developing states, undermine their progress towards SDGs, run counter to the efforts mitigating the climate change. Amidst a pandemic, usage of unilateral restrictions is most inhumane. Our call to create “green corridors” for unimpeded movement of medical personnel and medications remains on the table.
The need for multilateral efforts and elaboration of collective approaches to reduction of unilateral sanctions becomes ever more urgent, as it can help avoid a complete loss of confidence in international institutions, disbalance of global economy, and long-term deterioration of socio-economic status of the people. At the very minimum, socio-humanitarian area must not be subjected to any restrictive barriers. Russia has been long speaking of it at the key multilateral platforms. In the international community, there is a broad club of like-minded states who reject the “philosophy of sanctions”. Russia traditionally co-sponsors resolutions on the negative impact of UCMs on the observance of human rights that are put forward to the General Assembly and Human Rights Council on behalf of the non-alignment movement. Our partners in the Group of Friends in Defense of the UN Charter stand at similar positions. We will hear from representatives of this Group later today.
As we were preparing this discussion, we saw that it raised keen interest of UN member states. We call on the Secretary-General and other high-ranking UN officials to stay focused on the issues that were addressed today, and speak up openly in favor of human-centric sanctions policies that should be oriented at upholding fundamental human rights.