International Order & Conflict
Issue Brief

Tracking Bad Guys, Small Arms, and Illicit Trade: The Role of United Nations Panels of Experts

in Program

To address civil conflict in Africa, the UN Security Council uses many tools, including the imposition of targeted sanctions. These measures—arms embargoes, restrictions on the trade of key commodities, asset freezes and travel bans—try to constrain those responsible for continuing war and threatening peace. In contrast to more comprehensive UN sanctions, these “targeted” sanctions are designed to affect specific individuals—such as corrupt or militant leaders—and to hinder networks of illicit activity that sap public resources or arm rebel forces. But mechanisms to monitor compliance with these targeted sanctions, to introduce accountability, and to support improved state capacity for enforcement are often missing or lacking. As a result, systematic violations of targeted sanctions persist.

This issue brief looks at the role of Panels and their efforts to strengthen the implementation of targeted sanctions in Africa. Panels draw attention to measures for improving that implementation, but also face challenges in carrying out their work. The effectiveness of these Panels, however, could be increased with better integration and support within the UN system, including cooperation with UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions. Panels could further enhance efforts to support fragile peace in war-torn societies, since they highlight gaps in capacity for sustaining the rule of law. This issue brief considers these challenges and suggests ways to improve the effectiveness of UN Panels.

This Issue Brief was produced in conjunction with the above workshop. The event was one of six held as part of Stimson’s series, A Better Partnership for African Peace Operations, made possible by a generous grant from the United States Institute of Peace. The series examined progress, challenges, and potential steps forward in expanding national, regional, and international capacity to lead and participate in peace operations in Africa. The six issue briefs produced in conjunction with this project provide background and analytical context for the insights gained through the Better Partnership workshops. Each brief also highlights workshop findings and identifies recommendations for the US, UN, regional organizations, and policymakers.

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