International Order & Conflict

United Nations Mechanisms for Combating Illegal Trade in Regions of Conflict

in Program

UN Panels of Experts (or sometimes Monitoring Mechanisms, Teams, Groups, or Group of Experts) are small teams of experts sent to investigate violations of UN sanctions and to recommend remedies for the violations.  They provide extensive reports to the Security Council documenting the who, what, where, when, and why of sanctions violations.  In addition to explaining the basis for the Panels’ conclusions and supplying recommendations for preventing violations, the reports often illustrate the overall political and economic climate of their country of study.  The better reports can provide an invaluable glimpse into the underlying economic geography of particular conflicts, and offer tough recommendations for putting a halt to illegal behavior.  Their effectiveness, however, depends to a large extent on the degree to which their findings are acknowledged and their recommendations implemented.

This backgrounder describes the UN sanctions and UN Panel of Experts and their role in responding to lucrative and deadly trade in regions of conflict.  It first provides a brief background on the history of UN sanctions and of how targeted sanctions became one of the UN’s primary tools for stopping violent conflict.  It then discusses obstacles to the effective implementation of sanctions, from the ambivalence of member states to the lack of sufficient enforcement mechanisms.  Finally, it addresses the menu of options available to the UN for implementing sanctions, including the Panels of Experts, and the strengths and weaknesses of each.

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