Academic journal article Global Governance

Division of Labor and Rule-Based Decisionmaking within the UN Security Council: Division of Labor within the Al-Qaeda/Taliban Sanctions Regime

Academic journal article Global Governance

Division of Labor and Rule-Based Decisionmaking within the UN Security Council: Division of Labor within the Al-Qaeda/Taliban Sanctions Regime

Article excerpt

Decisionmaking within the Security Council increasingly involves delegation to subsidiary bodies. Drawing on modern institutional theory, this article examines the effects of the emergent system of divided labor within the al-Qaeda/Taliban sanctions regime. The article first looks at the political economy of the process of listing individuals and private entities as sanctions targets. Second, it explores the distinct functions performed by the bodies of the sanctions regime; namely, the Security Council, the AQT Sanctions Committee, the Office of the Ombudsperson, and an expert body. Third, it analyzes the resulting incentive structures in three successive stages of regime development. The article concludes that the sanctions regime constitutes a surprisingly well-advanced model of how to commit even powerful states to rule-based governance without depriving them of their capability to adopt political decisions. KEYWORDS: Security Council, sanctions committee, targeted sanctions, smart sanctions, functional differentiation, principal-agent, counterterrorism, al-Qaeda.

THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL DELEGATES AN INCREASING AMOUNT OF DECISIONMAKING competencies to specifically established sanctions committees. This is especially true for sanctions regimes targeting individuals and private entities. The delegation of specific functions to sanctions committees introduces a division of labor within the Security Council apparatus. While the Council defines the purpose and general direction of such regimes, sanctions committees decide on listing and delisting of targets that face travel bans and assets freezes and are subject to arms embargoes. Sanctioning individuals and private entities reflects the "smart sanctions" approach, which was developed after the devastating effect of the comprehensive sanctions against Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Haiti during the 1990s. (1) Although smart sanctions against individuals and private entities are established as temporary arrangements, they require regular governance activities. (2) While a number of sanctions regimes (e.g., those focusing on Somalia, Liberia, Iran, and international terrorism) include targeted sanctions, the al-Qaeda/Taliban (AQT) sanctions regime is of particular importance. It comprises the largest list: currently 226 individuals and 64 entities associated with al-Qaeda; it is also particularly well advanced procedurally and addresses a global threat to international peace and security. (3)

In this article, we examine the emergent system of divided labor of the complex AQT sanctions regime and the consequences for its operation. The Security Council is generally considered as a forum for great-power politics. Previous research has paid little attention to the incentive structure of complex and functionally differentiated sanctions regimes on each level of the decision process, especially on the constraining role of decision criteria. As a result, the literature has treated the Council and its sanctions committees predominantly as a single comprehensive body. Few studies have addressed sanctions committees in general or provided case studies, (4) whereas the discussion on the AQT regime has focused predominantly on the civil rights aspects of individual sanctions (5) and the external pressure for adaptation. (6)

Drawing on modern institutional theory, we consider the Security Council decisionmaking apparatus as a highly institutionalized polity that defines and shapes opportunities and constraints for actors' activities. Institutional theory emphasizes that delegation of decisionmaking powers to an agent changes institutionalized opportunity structures and redefines decision situations. (7) The delegation of such powers always creates the problem that the power-wielding agent might not act as expected by its principals. (8) However, a differentiated governance structure might also create strong incentives for all actors involved to engage in rule-based, rather than power-based, decisionmaking. …

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