The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990's

The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990's

The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990's

The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990's


David Cortright is president of the Fourth Freedom Forum and a research fellow at the Kroc Institute.


The International Peace Academy (IPA), a New York–based independent research and programming institution focusing on conflict prevention and management, has long followed trends in the United Nations.

Security Council with close interest. The 1990s was a busy decade for us, with the Council's initial euphoria following its authorizing role in Operation Desert Storm against Iraq succeeded by prolonged disorientation and drift after several of the conflicts it tackled proved resistant to its efforts.

As UN member states became increasingly risk-averse and also hesitant to shoulder the expense of large peacekeeping operations, the imposition of sanctions, seen in the Council's limited toolkit of instruments as a mild measure (and a cheap one for those imposing it), became widespread. The full humanitarian costs of several of the ensuing sanctions regimes came to be understood only much later. As consensus within the Council on how to deal with Iraq eroded, many of its members called for the lifting or extensive modification of the sanctions regime that had been imposed to encourage Iraqi compliance with Security Council decisions on its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. However, the United States dug in its heels in defense of the regime, perhaps for lack of better ideas. These developments derailed much of the broader debate on sanctions at the United Nations, despite a great deal of thoughtful academic work and keen interest among the chairs of various Security Council sanctions committees at the UN Secretariat. An initiative by Switzerland, the so-called Interlaken process, helped focus attention on both the benefits and pitfalls of financial sanctions and proved to be a stimulus for further debate. The German government, in turn, picked up the torch in late 1999 and initiated similar work on arms embargoes and targeted sanctions.

The International Peace Academy worked hard to encourage informed discussion about sanctions on the margins of the United . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.