UN Sanctions and Mediation 2.0: Moving from Evidence to Impact


  • Project Status:
    EXTERNAL RESEARCHERS: Dr Rebecca Brubaker, Dr Thomas Biersteker, Dr David Lanz

    Mediation and UN sanctions are two essential policy instruments used by the United Nations in its efforts to prevent and resolve conflict. These two tools are almost always deployed in conjunction, although the degree of their overlap in time and the sequencing of their application vary. The project “UN Sanctions and Mediation· Establishing Evidence to Inform Practice” (a.k.a “SMP 1.0”) established an initial evidence baseline on how these tools interact and identified instances of complementarity and complication. Moreover, SMP 1.0 brought the sanctions and mediation expert communities together to begin to build a common knowledge base and to overcome entrenched misunderstandings.

    As an immediate follow-on from SMP 1.0, UN Sanctions and Mediation 2.0: Moving from Evidence to Impact seeks to achieve two broad goals: first to help translate the evidence established through SMP 1.0 into more effective policy and practice and second, to continue to bridge the gap between the sanctions and mediation communities through awareness raising, support and training. SMP 2.0 proposes to do this through a three-pronged approach: policy uptake and substantive advice, training and assistance and dissemination and research.

    The project leadership team is composed of Dr Rebecca Brubaker (UNU), Project Management Lead and UN Dissemination Lead, Dr Thomas Biersteker (IHEID), Sanctions Lead, and Dr David Lanz (swisspeace), Mediation Lead.

  • Policy Memo Series

    Paving Pathways to Peace Talks through Sanctions Exemptions?

    The majority of UN sanctions regimes are designed in support of a peace process or to protect an existing agreement. Most of these peace processes involve talks that take place outside the country or region in conflict. Often, however, key stakeholders in the conflict – whose participation in the talks is necessary for a credible and even a durable outcome – are under UN travel bans and asset freezes. These targeted measures are among the most frequently applied of all UN sanctions. Thus, it is often assumed that mediators face a dilemma: exclude listed individuals from talks held abroad or include them and risk violating the existing travel ban and adjoining asset freeze.

    Or do they? In all but one of the existing UN sanctions regimes, there are little known and rarely used exemptions that would allow sanctioned individuals to participate in peace talks. The language varies in specificity and scope and the process for applying differs between regimes (and even within regimes). But the overall message is clear: mediators possess a formal option for requesting an exception to a sanctions measure in order to enable the successful convening of parties for peace talks.

    This memo, the first in a series, outlines the existing constellation of exemptions related to peace talks, examine how they are meant to work, share insights on how they actually work, discuss implications for policy practitioners, and propose actions aimed at improving these exemptions’ attractiveness to mediators.

    Negotiated Settlement through Sanctions Relief: Options for the Korean Peninsula

    The possibility of nuclear proliferation, and indeed nuclear confrontation, emanating from the Korean peninsula remains a serious threat to global security. The United Nations and major states have thus taken strong actions to counter the nuclear program of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Their response has vacillated between diplomacy and pressure, with sanctions as a key component. While the US has had a broad range of restrictive measures in place against North Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s, the UN Security Council only imposed sanctions on the country in 2006. However, it has since expanded sanctions “by an unprecedented number and scope of restrictions,” which have “effectively rendered the DPRK sanctions regime comprehensive.”

    The policy memo makes concrete suggestions for a pragmatic middle-of-the-road approach, where some sanctions relief is granted in exchange for progress towards de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, with full termination of sanctions and the creation of a nuclear-free zone as the end goals.

    This piece, written by Professor Thomas Biersteker, Gasteyger Professor of International Security at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, and Dr David Lanz, Co-Head Mediation at swisspeace and Lecturer at the University of Basel, was published by the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network For Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament as part of this project.

    UN Individual Sanctions Listing and Delisting Patterns and Their Interaction with Autonomous Measures: Considerations for Mediators

    Sanctions listings and delistings can alter the conditions under which negotiations take place. They can serve as warnings and incentives, stigmatize (or rehabilitate) stakeholders in negotiation processes, inhibit (or facilitate) logistics such as travel, and attempt to stabilize peace settlements. Despite the many ways in which sanctions listings and delistings can affect mediation processes, relatively little is known about the general listing and delisting patterns employed by the UN Security Council or their interactions with autonomous measures. However, an understanding of the listing and delisting of individuals is crucial to the strategic application of sanctions, and particularly their potential use by mediators.

    This report aims to inform UN and other mediators, providing them with a better understanding of the broader listing and delisting dynamics of the UN and interrelations with autonomous sanctions by other authorities. In so doing, the report provides data previously unavailable or difficult to access and of potential interest to practitioners and analysts. It concludes with a set of considerations for mediators who may contemplate delistings as a tool in mediation processes.

    March Panel Presentation at International Studies Association (ISA) Conference

    In Spring 2018 the team submit a proposal for a panel at the 2019 ISA.  The panel was accepted and took place on Thursday 28 March 2019.  It featured the project team, a current SMP Project Advisory Board Member, Professor Peter Wallensteen, Professor Jennifer Welsh, and SMP Project Researchers, Dr Joanna Amaral and Dr Zuzana Hudáková.

    October Planning Workshop

    In early October 2019, the project team gathered in Geneva to plan out the remainder of the SMP 2.0 activities.  They developed a provisional Programme of Work for 2020 – 2021. 

    Dissemination Activities

    The project team members jointly and individually engaged in a series of additional dissemination activities, most of which fall under Prong III:

    • Presentation of SMP report and findings to South African Delegation in NY (January 2019)
    • Presentation of SMP findings at “Bridging the Gap” workshop, Center for New American Security, Washington, D.C. (March 2019)
    • Presentation of SMP report at the swisspeace training “Mediation in Peacemaking” (March 2019)
    • Briefing to the UK Foreign Office on the SMP project and findings (May 2019)
    • Presentation on elements of SMP Report with applications to the DPRK, Jeju Forum, Korea (May 2019)
    • Training session on sanctions and mediation in the framework of the MAS Mediation in Peace Processes, ETH Zurich (June 2019)
    • Presentation of SMP report and findings to participants of 2019 Swiss Peace Mediation Course (Gstaad, July 2019)
    • Presentation of SMP report within FDFA (October 2019)
    • Presentation of SMP findings to International Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Belgrade (October 2019)
    • Presentation of SMP report and findings to Norwegian Delegation to NY (November 2019)
    • Presentation of paper on sanctions relief at Sustainable Peace conference organized by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (November 2019)
    • Presentation on elements of SMP findings in SWP Briefing, Berlin (December 2019)
    • Presentation of SMP report and findings to Kyrgyz Republic Delegation to NY (December 2019)
    • Presentation on elements of SMP Report with applications to the DPRK, Foreign Ministry of Korea and the Diplomatic Academy of Korea (December 2019)