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National statements

Briefing – General issues relating to Sanctions

Thematic issues

  • Conflict Prevention
  • Natural Resources
  • Peace and Security
  • Peacebuilding
  • Peacekeeping
  • Sanctions


Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

First, I would like to thank the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and the Secretary-General of INTERPOL Jürgen Stock for their very helpful and forward-looking briefings on how the United Nations system can best operationalise the sanctions decisions of the Council.

Today more than ever, sanctions are at the very heart of the collective security framework of the Charter. They are the instrument relied upon increasingly by the Council to maintain and restore international peace and security. As Under-Secretary-General Feltman has reminded us today, we now have the highest number of UN sanctions regimes in the history of the UN. And as several of today's speakers have said, they are an exceptionally adaptable instrument, bolstering States recovering from conflict, protecting vulnerable populations from the predation of armed groups and terrorists, preventing a State's natural resources being abused for the benefit of insurgents and criminal networks, and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The reason the Council relies so much on sanctions, of course, is that they are recognised by all Council Members as the only effective tool, short of more interventionist measures, to maintain or restore international peace and security. In turn, the UN membership is increasingly recognising the preventive and protective character of sanctions. It is therefore in the Council's and all Member States' interests to ensure the measures the Council decides on are implemented effectively.

Australia co-sponsored the High Level Review of UN Sanctions, together with Finland, Germany, Greece and Sweden, over the last six months.

Our contribution to this Review was to lead consultations on how the UN system itself comes together, internally and with Member States, to give effect to this Council's sanctions regimes.

We consulted primarily with Member States to which sanctions currently apply, their immediate neighbours, and those that regularly transact with the sanctions system. These states are both the key beneficiaries of an effective sanctions regime, in terms of delivering peace and security, but are also pivotal in making the sanctions effective in the first place.

It remains Australia's intention to put to the Council shortly a resolution that draws from the experience of these Member States and other stakeholders to formulate a blueprint for the improvement of the implementation of Council sanctions that would allow cross-cutting discussions of sanctions issues, as well as facilitate the provision of technical assistance to Member States.

Under-Secretary-General Feltman's briefing demonstrated how the Council and the Secretariat are already moving in the direction sought by Member States during our consultations over the last six months, towards a simpler, more consultative and more transparent sanctions system. And a more coherent one. Briefings of the Council are increasingly in public, Committees are more actively engaging with key stakeholder States, and the Secretariat has made implementation simpler by standardising sanctions lists.

As described by USG Feltman, the new Interagency Working Group on Sanctions within the Secretariat – created to coordinate and provide UN inputs into the High Level Review from the 20 UN entities that contribute to sanctions implementation – is itself a highly productive legacy of the Review. It has the potential to further improve the effectiveness of the Council's sanctions measures. But clearly there is scope to do more.

We see value in building the Secretariat's capacity to further support the Council and Member States. There is untapped potential in the Secretariat to identify best practices; mobilize expertise within the United Nations system relevant to effective sanctions implementation; and support efforts by the Security Council and its Sanctions Committees to provide practical guidance on sanctions implementation issues, and capacity building and technical assistance for Member States. As USG Feltman noted today: "we need an effective UN system delivering as one".

More broadly, we see value in the Secretary-General's reports to the Council on specific situations discussing in more detail the coordination between sanctions and other UN conflict prevention, mediation, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding activities. We would also welcome periodic reports from the Secretary-General on Security Council practice and Member State challenges related to sanctions generally, including recommendations for better support to Member States in their implementation of sanctions measures.

To use Rwandan Permanent Representative Gasana's expression in his statement today: Expert Groups assisting the Council's Sanctions Committees are "our eyes and ears on the ground". They have proven an indispensable asset to improve the effectiveness of sanctions. While it is essential that these Groups receive the necessary support and cooperation across the UN system and from all Member States, the way that Expert Groups engage with the key Member States for a particular sanctions regime is particularly crucial.

A more interactive relationship between Member States and Expert Groups, and between Member States and Committees – and as our French and ROK colleagues pointed out today, with the private sector as well – would build trust and confidence and break down barriers to cooperation.

Looking beyond the UN itself, INTERPOL Secretary-General Stock's briefing highlighted how international and regional organizations and inter-governmental bodies can provide both Member States and the Council with better tools to implement Security Council sanctions measures.

The Council's relationship with INTERPOL is long-standing – dating from 1949 – and continues to evolve. It provides a model for how the systems and networks of relevant international organisations can enhance the effectiveness of the Council's sanctions measures, while at the same time, building key capabilities in stakeholder Member States. The Council needs more such partners.

To conclude:

Ultimately, the key to the effectiveness of the UN sanctions system remains how it engages with Member States. It is Member States that are obliged to implement Security Council decisions on sanctions after all.

Australia will work over the next few days to reach a Council consensus on our resolution to put in place these and other measures. We firmly believe that our resolution would improve Member States' access to information and assistance on sanctions implementation; as well as enhance the transparency and responsiveness of the UN sanctions system generally, and the relationship between Member States and this Council's Sanctions Committees and Expert Groups in particular. This would benefit us all.

We encourage the Chairs of Security Council Sanctions Committees to continue to engage Member States and other stakeholders as partners in the implementation of sanctions. And we encourage Member States to demand greater transparency and interaction with the UN sanctions system if it is ever not forthcoming.

Under the collective security framework of the Charter, sanctions are a shared responsibility between the Council and Member States: and the more we engage with each other, the stronger that framework will be.

Finally, as Chair of three of the Council's Sanctions Committees, let me endorse the practical recommendations today from the Permanent Representative of Rwanda on better ways to ensure professional continuity in the work of the Committees as the new Committee Chairs are identified and transition to their roles.

Last Updated: 4 June 2015
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