International Order & Conflict

Targeting Spoilers: The Role of United Nations Panels of Experts

in Program

United Nations Panels of Experts are small, civilian, fact-finding teams appointed by the United Nations (UN) Security Council to monitor the effectiveness of the targeted sanctions it imposes on those who threaten peace in war-torn regions. The Security Council has increasingly tried to hinder these spoilers with limited sanctions-travel bans, asset freezes, and embargoes on trading arms, diamonds, and timber. In turn, the Council has also sent these investigative Panels to report on the implementation of those sanctions regimes in various regions, as well as to offer analysis on the nature of the conflicts, the exploitation of natural resources and the grounds for lifting sanctions. Panels, however, demonstrate that targeted sanctions are far from being implemented. The valuable information they offer does not necessarily translate into member state or Security Council action. The reports of Panels also vary in their quality, depth, and usefulness; but in lieu of other such systematic report to the Security Council of this nature, it remains an open question as to what other mechanism can provide such information and analysis on the specific subjects.

This report takes an in-depth look at the role of Panels of Experts and examines their history, the evolution of Panel roles and the challenges they face, as well as documents their recommendations across all such Panels. The study makes the case that Panel efforts deserve greater attention from and use by the United Nations and member states to maximize their potential to improve implementation of targeted sanctions. In addition, this study considers the relationship between Panels and UN peace operations and their potential for better coherence with other peace support efforts. The study looks in-depth at the case of Liberia, which offers a fascinating and useful example of how Panels helped support a longer-term effort to support Liberia’s transition to a more stable peace, with improved governance and a peacebuilding strategy in that country. Key recommendations are offered for improving Panels, the implementation of targeted sanctions and of Panel findings, and for harmonizing these roles with UN efforts to support sustainable peace and the rule of law.

Additional materials from the report include a set a spreadsheets that describe Panel mandates and recommendations for the Panels on Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan.

This report is one of five FOPO studies on essential aspects of improving rule of law in post-conflict states. Other studies focus on improving border control and border security, fighting corruption in war-torn states, increasing accountability for non-military personnel in peace operations, and using UN Panels of Experts more effectively to combat spoilers and monitor targeted sanctions. Information on FOPO’s Rule of Law project can be found here.

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