Departing from the new TSC data on sanctions episodes, this chapter explores institutional learning in the use of UN targeted sanctions. Thus, lessons can be based on experiences accumulated since the early 1990s. Although there is an increase of sanctions regimes regionally, as well as by national governments, the UN remains the most legitimate international body for sanctions action universally, and hence it is the focus of the chapter.
First, it is important to note how the sanctions debate has changed over the years, and how this results in new types of sanctions. The discussion has moved from the issue of automatic sanctions to counter aggression in the 1930s, to their use in the Cold War for furthering decolonization, to the hope of building a new post–Cold War order without civil wars, with fewer nuclear weapons states, and less terrorism, all to be achieved increasingly with targeted sanctions.
Interestingly, there are now some typical differences in the aims of various sanctions senders. The contrast between the EU and the UN is particularly noteworthy, where the former focuses more on the conditions for democracy and human rights, while the latter concentrates on peace and security. The African Union has also become an important international actor in sanctions, particularly for upholding constitutional rights in African countries and thus actively signalling that military and political coups (unconstitutional changes of government) are unacceptable. (See Chapter 5 for a detailed discussion of variations in regional sanctions regimes.)
Thus, there is a proliferation of international actors using sanctions, which makes the question of sanctions effectiveness highly pertinent. There are, furthermore, several reasons to expect improvement in the sanctions record, as the sanctions debate has been vigorous, notably in relation to the Iraq sanctions and their observed humanitarian impact. It is equally reasonable to anticipate an impact of the three major efforts at reforming sanctions: the Interlaken, Bonn-Berlin, and Stockholm processes. There have been definite changes in the procedures of the UN Secretariat to improve sanctions implementation, in particular in administering more targeted sanctions measures. Today there are no comprehensive UN sanctions. Other senders of sanctions may, however, have applied more general measures, notably the recent EU and US sanctions on Iran, that affect the entire economy of the target.