Sanctions Sans Commitment: An assessment of UN arms embargoes

Tasneem Jamal


David Cortright George A. Lopez and Linda Gerber

Working Paper 02-2

This paper was originally presented by David Cortright at the Forum on international arms embargoes and the case of Iraq held in Toronto in November 2001. The Forum was co-sponsored by Project Ploughshares and Kairos (Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives) with funding support from The Simons Foundation.

An impeccable logic makes arms embargoes a potentially powerful instrument in the array of United Nations (UN) peace- and security-building mechanisms. By denying aggressors and human rights abusers the implements of war and repression, arms embargoes contribute directly to preventing and reducing the level of armed conflict.

There could hardly be a more appropriate tool for international peacemaking. Moreover, in constricting only selected weapons and military-related goods and services, and in denying these to ruling elites, their armies, and other violent combatants, arms embargoes constitute the quintessential example of a smart sanction. Not only do arms embargoes avoid doing harm to vulnerable and innocent civilian populations, but the better the embargoes’ enforcement, the more innocent lives are likely to be saved.

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