Suvarna Garge (Editor)

International sanctions

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International sanctions are actions taken by countries against others for political reasons, either unilaterally or multilaterally.


There are several types of sanctions.

  • Diplomatic sanctions – the reduction or removal of diplomatic ties, such as embassies.
  • Economic sanctions – typically a ban on trade, possibly limited to certain sectors such as armaments, or with certain exceptions (such as food and medicine)
  • Military sanctions – military intervention
  • Sport sanctions – preventing one country's people and teams from competing in international events.
  • Sanctions on Environment – since the declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, international environmental protection efforts have been increased gradually.
  • Economic sanctions are distinguished from trade sanctions, which are applied for purely economic reasons, and typically take the form of tariffs or similar measures, rather than bans on trade.

    Reasons for sanctioning

    Sanctions formulations are designed into three categories. The categories are used to differentiate between the political contexts due to the global nature of the act.

    First category involves such sanctions that are designed to force cooperation with international Law. This can be seen in the sanctions placed on Iraq in Resolution No. 661 on August 6, 1990, after the initial invasion of neighboring Kuwait. The United Nations placed an Embargo on the nation in an attempt to prevent armed conflict. Resolution 665 and Resolution 670 were further added creating both naval and air blockade on Iraq. The purpose of the initial sanctions was to coerce Iraq into following international law, which included the recognized sovereignty of Kuwait.

    The second category of design is those sanctions with the purpose to contain a threat to peace within a geographical boundary. The 2010 Iran nuclear proliferation debate is a contemporary example. The current United Nations Security Council passed on June 9, Resolution 1929 providing restrictions on missile and weaponry materials that could be used for the creation of destructive weapons. This principle of restriction is to contain the possibility of Iranian aggression with in the neighboring region.

    The third category involves the United Nations Security Councils condemnation of actions of a specific action or policy of a member/non-member nation. The white minority declared a declaration of Rhodesian Independence on November 11, 1965. The General assemble and United Nations in a 107 to 2 vote took to condemning Rhodesia on all military, economic, as well as oil and petroleum products. The international display of disapproval forced sanctions onto the Rhodesian people, but without a clear goal as to a remedy for the economic sanctions.

    The three categories are a blanket explanation on the reasons sanctions are applied to nations, but it does not go as far as to say that voting members share the same political reasons for imposing them. It is often the case for many nations to be driven by self-interests in one or more categories when voting on whether or not to implement sanctions.

    Diplomatic sanctions

    Diplomatic sanctions are political measures taken to express disapproval or displeasure at a certain action through diplomatic and political means, rather than affecting economic or military relations. Measures include limitations or cancellations of high-level government visits or expelling or withdrawing diplomatic missions or staff.

    Economic sanctions

    Economic sanctions can vary from imposing import duties on goods to, or blocking the export of certain goods from the target country, to a full naval blockade of the target's ports in an effort to verify, and curb or block specified imported goods.

    Well known examples of economic sanctions include:

  • Napoleon's Continental System of 1806-1814, directed against British trade
  • the United Nations sanctions against South Africa
  • United Nations sanctions against Zimbabwe
  • United Nations sanctions against Iraq (1990–2003)
  • the United States embargo against Cuba (1962–2016)
  • Since 1993 many countries have imposed trade sanctions on Burma (Myanmar).

    The case of South Africa gives rise to the typical example used for arguing for the effectiveness of sanctions, though that alleged effectiveness remains a matter of debate.

    On May 13, 1998, the United States and Japan imposed economic sanctions on India following that country's second round of nuclear tests. Japan lifted its sanctions against India three years later. The US lifted its sanctions against India in 2001.

    In 2001/2002 the United States imposed economic sanctions against the state of Zimbabwe, through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 or ZDERA, S. 494, vetoing or voting against access to financing, debt relief and rescheduling, and forcing the Zimbabwean government to operate on a cash-only basis.

    Military sanctions

    Similarly military sanctions can range from carefully targeted military strikes to degrade a nation's conventional or non-conventional capabilities, to the less aggressive form of an arms embargo to cut off supplies of arms or dual-use items.

    Sport sanctions

    Sport sanctions are used as a way of psychological warfare, intended to crush the morale of the general population of the target country. The only instance where sports sanctions were used were the international sanctions against Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 1992–1995, enacted by UN Security Council by resolution 757. The Gleneagles Agreement approved by the Commonwealth of Nations in 1977, committed member nations to discourage contact and competition between their sportsmen and sporting organisations, teams or individuals from South Africa. However, it was not binding and unable to stop events such as the 1980 British Lions tour to South Africa or the 1981 South Africa rugby union tour of New Zealand.

    Sanctions on individuals

    The United Nations Security Council can implement sanctions on political leaders or economic individuals. These persons usually find ways of evading their sanction because of political connections within their nation.

    Sanctions on Environment

    The sanctions on environment include both economic and political issues such as trade since these are all interdependent. The trade barriers and restrictions on trade are the key factors since they are engaged with the problems of endangered species, ozone-depleting chemicals and environmental laws. Although the sanctions and laws regarding the environment are relatively new, recent concerns over the environmental issues encouraged individuals and governments to actively cooperate in dealing the problems.

    Sanctions in international law

    Entities favorable to the target of another government's sanctions may claim that sanctions imposed by single countries or by an intergovernmental body like the United Nations are "illegal" or "criminal" due to, in the case of economic sanctions, the right to development or, in the case of military sanctions, the Right of self-defense.

    A 1996 report by International Progress Organization criticized sanctions as "an illegitimate form of collective punishment of the weakest and poorest members of society, the infants, the children, the chronically ill, and the elderly."

    Support for Use

    Sanctions have long been the subject of controversy as scholars question their effects on citizens, the level of ethnocentrism involved when designing and implementing sanctions, and the possibility of ineffectiveness.

    Supporters of sanctions argue that regardless of sanctions' effects on a group of people, those citizens were most likely already being oppressed by their government. Supporters also argue that sanctions are the best alternative international tool, as opposed to taking no action, and that in the absence of sanctions, oppressive regimes have no incentive to reform. On the side of opposition, it is asserted that sanctions are a way to promote American values and diminish the culture of a state. In a counterargument, support is argued on the basis that something must be done and the Democratic Peace Theory is cited, as sound reasoning for any possible traces of cultural insensitivity. It is also noted that the US has little to lose, in regards to public perception, as many around the world already have a distaste for American polices and actions. In regards to the effectiveness of the outcomes of sanction implementation, supporters concede that multilateral sanctions have been found to work 33% of the time However, it is argued that while sanctions are not a hundred percent effective,it is not the case that they are never effective.

    Dissolution of sanctions

    There are several ways to remove and dissolve sanctions that have been implemented on a nation(s). In some cases such as those implemented on Iraq in 1990, only a reverse resolution can be used to remove the sanctions. This is done when no provision is put in the resolution for the removal of sanctions. This is generally only done if the sanctioned party has shown willingness to adopt certain conditions of the Security Council. Another way sanctions can be removed is when time limits are implemented with the initial sanction. After an extended duration the sanction will eventually be lifted off the nation despite cooperation. Additional sanctions may be placed however if the Security Council deems it necessary. The practice of time limitations has grown over the years and allows for gradual removal of restrictions on nations conforming to at least partial conditions imposed by the Security Council .


    International sanctions Wikipedia