The modern world can be characterized as a complex system of social connections ranging at different levels. One of the highest levels among them is the relationship between the countries. In general, this relationship aims at cooperation, but there are cases when certain countries act hostile regarding the neighboring ones. In cases of such hostility, the others may use different instruments to prevent it. One of the organizations, which are responsible for the economic, political and social regulations in the world, is the United Nations Organization. It was established after World War II in order to restrain the worldwide military tensions and maintain peaceful resolutions in the world. Thus, UNO uses mostly economic and social tools in order to achieve its aims. That is why most of the countries participate in it and rely on its decisions and resolutions in case of conflicts. The major task of the UN is preventing wars. However, if certain states favor destructive international politics, the UN may use sanctions. Such sanctions may be also introduced into separate countries, which want to oppose the negative activity of particular states. Therefore, this paper dwells on the topic of the nature of sanctions, the reasons for their introduction, and the mechanisms of their functioning. The analysis of these aspects leads to the understanding of the basic principles of worldwide regulation and interaction between the countries.
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Sanctions and their Origin
Before characterizing the impact of sanctions and their role in the world, one needs to understand their nature. Experts define sanctions as a tool, which is used by countries or international organizations with the aim of persuading the changes in a particular government or their groups. Sanctions force these stakeholders to change their policy by means of restricting the capabilities of their commercial activity such as trade, investment, and others. For instance, the gravest need for sanctions is justified in case certain countries perform the activities aiming to create weapons of mass destruction. Other similar reasons are associated with the violation of human rights or principles of international trade. Typically, sanctions aimed at undermining the economy of the target state. As a result, the deteriorated economy restrains any activity of the country creating internal political, social, and economic pressure. Consequently, an adequate leader or a leading group of such state refuses from the violations, which leads to international agreements and termination of international sanctions. At the same time, the extent and the term of the sanctions depend on the severity of the violation (Kolodkin). For instance, in some cases, they may affect a certain industry or financial operations performed by particular banks in the targeted country. The example of this is economic sanctions, which are the removal of customary trade and financial relations for foreign and security policy purposes. Likewise, the severest sanctions mean the break of any economic and political relations, which leads to the country’s isolation. Sanctions are implemented through the refusal of the economic, political or social stakeholders of the initiating state with its counterparts from other states. As a rule, sanctions have a strong basis and are thoroughly evaluated before their implementation. The reason for them is that the international organization or countries applying them should be assured that the implemented measure would affect the targeted state.
Furthermore, sanctions may vary in terms of their types. Thus, there are such types of sanctions as arms and related materials embargo, asset freeze, export/import restrictions, financial prohibitions, technical assistance prohibition, and other related measures. When applied, arms embargo prevents various weaponry and related devices from their import or export to and from the targeted state. Such sanctions may be imposed under the United Nations Act (UNA) or the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA). However, the import or export of non-lethal military gear used by human rights personnel might be an exclusion from this rule. Furthermore, assets freeze prevents business entities or governments from obtaining access to their financial accounts, which they may hold under jurisdictions of the initiating countries. These sanctions are especially influential when applied to the governments involved in corruption schemes, which create the outflow of the government finances offshore. The exceptions from these rules, as well as any financial sanctions, include the transactions with UN agencies and other international agencies protecting human rights or health (Types of Sanctions). Likewise, export and import restrictions are mainly targeted at affecting the countries industrial and economic sectors since they prohibit selling, buying or shipping the goods, which fall under sanctions. The exception from this rule may be food, fresh water, medical supplies or goods used for public health purpose or disaster relief. Furthermore, technical assistance prohibition restricts the targeted country from the obtainment of specified services and information related to the scope of products, which were or are banned. For instance, the UN may restrict access for engineers and other technical assistance to states, which are suspected in the development of nuclear weapons. Therefore, this type of sanctions is applied narrowly and does not affect the general population of the targeted country.
Along with the application of sanctions, there is a need for the protection of not guilty populations of targeted states. It is evident that the initiators of sanctions realize that they may drastically affect the non-protected populations of the targeted country. That is why the UN has introduced a variety of exceptions, some of which were mentioned above. Typically, these exceptions include goods, services, and economic activity directed towards the protection of human rights and the environment. Thus, in case the country has a restriction on financial transactions, the transactions financing the World Health Organization or the Human Rights Organization would be able to receive the money. Additionally, the UN and the countries favor the usage of specialized sanctions, which do not harm non-protected populations. The experts call such sanctions “smart” claiming that in contrast to the ordinary sanctions they tend to disproportionately damage innocent populations. In this respect, scholars claim that financial sanctions are more efficient than trade ones. The reason for it is that financial sanctions may target political elites directly, freezing the governmental assets without the influence on the population. Consequently, modern practitioners in the sphere of sanctions consider that financial restrictions have greater potential and are more humane when altered with war or trade sanctions.
UN and Countries under the Current Sanctions
Economic, political, and social relations between the states of the modern world have been aggravated by certain tensions. Therefore, one should consider the cases of application of different sanctions as well as the evaluation of their efficacy. Thus, one of the famous cases of the past is sanctions against South Africa, which almost led to its isolation. The reason for the introduction of sanctions was the policy of separating the races, which is one of the gravest violations of human rights.
The Afrikaner National Party came into power and implemented the policy, which promoted the racially stratified system. Consequently, this policy had been supported by about 300 laws officially introducing apartheid in the country. Moreover, the government of South Africa severely repressed the attempts of the citizens to protest against this policy. For instance, the governmental supporters killed hundreds of black students, who protested against apartheid in 1976. As a result, the introduction of sanctions by the US and the UK in 1986 was a serious measure deteriorating the power of the governing groups of South Africa. Therefore, the government dismantled the apartheid laws within the period of the following three years.
Furthermore, another famous example of sanctions is the embargo introduced by the US against Cuba in 1960. The reason for the introduction of sanctions was the fact that the Cuban government nationalized oil refineries, which belonged to the US. The details of nationalization indicate that the government of Cuba had to pay compensation fine since the refineries were the property of the US. As a result of the adoption of the embargo, the US had terminated all trade contracts, which resulted in the break of trade relations between the countries. Despite the embargo allowed trading goods, which were meant for the support of health and other medical issues, some claim that the embargo drastically affected this sector. For instance, Amnesty International reports that sanctions resulted in severe limitations to Cuba’s access to an international supply of medicines and medical equipment (The US embargo against Cuba). Additionally, despite there had been no restriction on the sale of medicine to Cuba, the US companies faced financial penalties for this activity. Therefore, the effect of the US embargo on Cuban non-protected populations was negative despite the opposite claims.
The given evidence allows assuming that sanctions may be particularly dangerous when imposed against countries with poor populations. As a result, there is an ethical question of whether sanctions are moral when implemented against less economically developed states. For example, sanctions against Cuba, Iran, and Libya violated the human rights of the poor communities in these countries. As a result, one presumes that the communities in Iran and Libya were at the danger of humanitarian catastrophe. The reason for this is enormously increased poverty, lack of medical supplies and experts in medicine, as well as problems with food and drinking water. Therefore, introducing sanctions against LEDC’s is unethical, and the international organizations should seek for other sources of influence.
Despite states and international organizations often use sanctions in order to influence peculiar processes in the world, there are cases when they are non-efficient. For instance, scholars claim that “economic sanctions are not efficient, and they are often imposed to show that sender country (the one, which sends sanctions) does not agree with the political situation in receiving country (the one that receives sanctions)”. Thus, it is obvious that countries with greater economic potential can impose more efficient sanctions against the receiving states. However, the severity of sanctions often negatively affects non-protected populations. Moreover, recent studies on the efficacy of international sanctions revealed their relative inefficiency. For instance, the study by Robe revealed that “only in 5% of all cases economic sanctions could be recognized as the reasons for political change.” However, despite they are proved to be not effective, it is evident that countries tend to use them at any time they can.
Moreover, in some cases, sanctions are dangerous for the states, which imposed them. For instance, the recent sanctions against Russia may drastically affect global energy security because this country is one of the largest oil and gas exporters. The reason for this is that the EU depends on the natural resources exported from Russia. In case of sanctions, the targeted state may sell its fossil fuels at higher prices because it sells it to the initiators of sanctions. Apparently, the EU cannot refuse from expensive goods because the other substitutes are even more expensive. For example, if the EU wants to substitute Russian oil with the one imported from the US, it has to create new industrial infrastructure. Such measures would lead the European countries to an enormous price for the end consumer. Additionally, experts indicate that sanctions against Russia do not have the impact that is intended a lot of the time regrettably those who suffer from sanctions are people in society in weak positions. What is more, the comparative studies of 150 sanctions practiced worldwide indicated that almost 5% of their total scope was effective. Consequently, in case of sanctions are not efficient, the international organizations and the countries of the world have to introduce new mechanisms of influence. Thus, scholars propose establishing a rational dialogue between the states instead of positioning them as an opposing force and imposing sanctions. For instance, when managing the crisis on the Korean peninsula, the US is advanced to enhance a friendly relationship with every country communicating with North Korea. This measure is important because the allies of North Korea may initiate or support the opportunity of having a perspective of the dialogue between the states. In this respect, the US is advised to consult with the Chinese government, which can support the US position of being the ally of North Korea. One more aspect aiming at the management of this problem may be a formal recognition of the government of North Korea. It would resolve the political tension and open the way for the discussions at governmental levels regarding the gradual establishment of democratic premises in North Korea.
Furthermore, there is a need for the discussion of time and location characteristics of the applied sanctions. The reason for this is that some sanctions remain imposed for decades leading to the fact that the targeted countries adapt to their existence. Thus, throughout the recent fifty years, the US has applied its sanctions to Iraq, Cuba, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, Myanmar, and Iran in order to change its policies. Apparently, the longest terms among them are for Cuba (since 1960), Iran (since 1979), and Sudan (since 1997). Some experts suggest that the extension of sanctions for such long periods affects the poorer population of the targeted countries more than any other groups of people. Moreover, these sanctions were predicted to be the causes of “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” (Michaels), which has been proven to be true in the course of years. At the same time, the imposed sanctions vary regarding their geographic location. Thus, they are by no means restricted by any destination or geographical position. The example of this is the simple analysis of the scope of countries, which incorporate such continents as Aisa, Africa, as well as North and South America. However, one may notice that Australia and Europe are excluded from this list. Consequently, this fact may lead to the presumption that these regions are either initiating sanctions or supporting them. Therefore, the performed analysis suggests that sanctions are one of the most inefficient ways of international pressure towards certain political groups. They tend to be ineffective and deteriorate the humanitarian situation in the targeted states, which can be classified as unethical and requires substitution with more democratic measures.
Summarizing the presented information, one comes to a conclusion that sanctions are a tool designed for making pressure on certain power that holds communities in different countries. The performed investigation demonstrates that they may vary in their forms, terms of application, and geographic location. However, it is evident that the predominant parts of them have a negative impact on the local and global economic and political situation. Likewise, applying sanctions against LEDC’s is unethical because it leads to a humanitarian catastrophe. Consequently, there is a need for substitution of sanctions with more relevant measures of political influence. Therefore, a democratic dialogue with the countries worldwide and the establishment of diplomatic connections would be the best toolkit of successful impact. That is why sanctions should be substituted by political dialogue and diplomacy, which prove to be more efficient and humane.